Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

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Greg
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Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Greg » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:28 pm

Today I had the pleasure of waking up to a nice solid two inches of snow carpeting the landscape. Maybe the last of the season, who knows?

I just had to take the opportunity, since work was called off due to the weather, so I geared up and headed out with the dog to a nearby roadside access to the river.



I took my camera with me...and when I arrived the battery was dead, so you get to read. HA!



It was a wonderful outing, actually. I would have liked to snag one photo in full winter kit in the snow, but it was also very rewarding to carry no camera, and just disappear.

We began following the river, but that follows a fairly beaten walking path created by locals when fishing, so after 50 yards or so of this, Shadow and I took a sharp turn to the left and plunged into the thick woods, off-trail. We meandered through the thick grasses bowed sharply under the weight of the snow, and across piles and piles of sticks and briar burnened similarly. I located an active Red Tailed Hawk nest that'll bear watching in the top of a 60' sycamore (taking notes for spring trapping season!) and even spooked a local owl, not commonly seen during the broad daylight.

I was playing in my mind a little bit, being arrayed for a patrol rather than an overnight (left the bedroll+dry goods at home, but carried all other usual tools, mess, and essentials between my tinderbox, snapsack and need-wallet) and thought to myself that I ought to see how well I can conceal my own tracks. This led to a great many observations today.

You see, snow by its nature is the easiest material to view fresh prints in, save perhaps only certain consistencies of mud. In observing today, I was reminded just how much easier it is to track someone wearing modern shoes than it is to trail someone wearing turnshoes. Rather than leaving crisp lines and patterns, the "soft-edged", smooth-bottomed turnshoe merely compresses the snow, leaving little to go on. Thinking myself clever, I wove onto and off of the local game trails as I went, noting that the well-packed game trails were melting sooner than the grassy areas surrounding, leaving a mottled snow-and-mud texture. This further concealed my prints, and, looking over my shoulder, left satisfying results.

We went a good two-three miles in before we decided it was time to start working our way back. Then, and only then, did it occur to me to try to follow my own trail to return, and see how well I did.
One is always left to wonder...am I a better tracker than I am a concealer? Or do I just suck at both?

Lessons learned today:
- Weaving in and out of following partially melted game trails DEFINITELY threw me for a loop. Finding where I entered and exited was a particular challenge, and more than once I relied on Shadow's nose first, and then found prints later.
- Snow compression, rather than shapes and imprints themselves, becomes something to look for. The eye, after a few minutes, becomes drawn to it, and things I doubted I'd have noticed become sharp and clear. Think nobody ever looks up? Correct. Nobody ever looks down much either...do it often!
- I lost my trail completely about three times. I backtracked and came to the spot where they disappeared, and slowly cast about in a circle looking for them. I've read that's generally the way to pick up a lost trail, and now I think it is bogus. Want to find a lost track? Here, cover the area in your footprints... Instead, what I found was that if I backtracked along the trail, and then made a logical guess based on the terrain ahead of where the track ended (ie. which side of the patch of bushes is easier to skirt around, where on the hill is the easiest ascent, which side of the tree is less steep, etc.) and then head blindly in that direction, I almost always found what I was looking for again without further incident. Once, on the way in, I meandered wildly through an open field. When I came to it on the way back, my tracks were lost and confused, but there was only one logical exit to the field [which was otherwise surrounded by thick briars] a hundred yards distant. I made for it directly, and was greeted with my own prints.

It was a blast...we spend so much time working on cultural relevance and accuracy that I sometimes forget to work on skills that would aid in a pinch which are, to be certain, book-accurate. Even watching my dog for cues is book-accurate...Rangers seem to understand the languages of birds and beasts in the Bree folk's minds. Pay attention to your dog.

Kit worked splendidly for a low-30's morning with a strong breeze cutting through the trees. Wish I could share the view with you!
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Iodo
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Iodo » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:01 pm

That sounds like great skill practice, if i should try something similar, although it's more likely to be on mud than snow here in the UK :mrgreen:
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Elleth
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Elleth » Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:33 am

Oh that sounds like a fantastic day!

Tracking is a fascinating thing - it's been ages since I've attempted it, but I do remember that very-cool sensation of things you would have normally overlooked suddenly becoming blindingly obvious, to the point one could follow large portions of a trail just by walking and looking ahead. The brain is a curious thing.

Aaaaages ago I was hanging out with a Search and Rescue group, and we had a couple tracking group exercises. Interesting stuff! There was a very useful book on it as I recall. Let me see if I can find it... my memory is that there were at the time one or two good ones, and a host of near useless ones... I'll comb the bookshelves this morning.

Regarding turnshoes and prints - interesting! I'm reminded of Aragorn's observation on the prints of his Ranger kinsmen:

Rangers have been here lately. It is they who left the firewood behind. But there are also several newer tracks that were not made by Rangers. At least one set was made, only a day or two ago, by heavy boots. At least one. I cannot now be certain, but I think there were many booted feet.' He paused and stood in anxious thought.


Sounds very compatible with your observations, of course. :mrgreen:
Did you use a particular grease to seal your boots, or just live with wet feet for the day? How was traction?
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Elleth
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Elleth » Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:02 pm

Found it -


Tracking : A Blueprint for Learning How
by Jack Kearney

tracking-book.jpg
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Contents:
Ch 1: Man, the Tracker
Ch 2: Why Tracking?
Ch 3: Awareness Training (Phase 1, Exercise 1)
Ch 4: Utilizing Sun Angle (Phase 1 Exercises, Continued)
Ch 5: Sign (What to Look For)
Ch 6: Slope and Ground Cover (Phase II Exercises)
Ch 7: Aging (Phase III Exercises)
Ch 8: Signcutting
Ch 9: Track Identification and Description
Ch 10: Following a non-visible trail

This was the best book on the subject of tracking people that I could find at the time in the late 90's - I might have missed one then, or a better one might since have been released. The graphics are somewhat dated, the photos black and white but generally crisp: it definitely is a creation of its time (1978). However, the information given, and (much more importantly I think) the given method for learning is extremely good. Other books I saw at the time had lots of atmospheric woo or "there I was in Da Nang" war stories one had to comb through for anything useful. This one was quite straightforward: "these are the building blocks, this is how to practice them, this is what to look out for when training."

Very much worth taking a look at if you can find a copy I think.
I'm quite curious to hear if anyone's come across more recent works that are as well put together.



Finally... I'm thinking either a pinned thread or a wiki page of member-recommended references would be a great boon for newbies. Whaddya think?
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Peter Remling » Thu Mar 22, 2018 3:10 pm

Looks like a wonderful time Greg!

The best price around for the Tracking book can be found here:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/METHODS-OF-WIL ... SwnOVam05R

It's cheaper than Amazon by $5.00 and shipping is included but there are only a few left.
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Greg
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Greg » Sat Mar 24, 2018 6:54 pm

Elleth wrote:Did you use a particular grease to seal your boots, or just live with wet feet for the day? How was traction?


Mine are currently beeswaxed, but they don't often, even in the snow, deal with actual moisture apart from the soles. Dry powder just flakes off and isn't warmed by contact with boots. On a slushy day, even before I coated these, my feet never got wet, though the outside of the boots showed moisture. Even still, wool socks wool socks wool socks, all season every season.

Traction is different, but surprisingly functional. You trade stiff and grippy lugging for pliability and feel...your feet hug the ground rather than rely on friction for traction. Feels very natural, and is very effective, not to mention whisper quiet.
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Ursus » Sat Mar 24, 2018 8:46 pm

Even still, wool socks wool socks wool socks, all season every season.


I swear by this quote! Glad you got to get out. I may be absolutely mad, but I love getting out in the nastier weather of snow or rain and mist. There is just something great about coming home sodden and mud caked and easing down by the fire with a cup of hot tea or a glass of good ale.

I wouldn’t fret over the camera. 90% of my treks go uncaptured. While I love to share, i find it jars me out of the environment to stop and snap pictures.
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Greg
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Greg » Sat Mar 24, 2018 9:05 pm

It really was liberating to take another jaunt completely sans-technology. It only upset me in that, while I've been able to take several short hikes this winter, none had really been documented, and it's darned close to complete kit time, and I haven't been able to show how everything goes together yet, and when summer hits the kit will be pared down accordingly for weather.

HOWEVER: Since the Midwest decided to fix that problem by snowing like it's going out of style today, I briefly rectified the image situation. I don't own a full-length mirror, so I have to admit, this is the first time I've gotten to see it all come together myself, and am pleasantly surprised. I've gone FAR from film in my research, and used exclusively historical patterns on the non-leather clothing, and yet if I were to walk into a Faire, I think my goal would be finally realized, and a perfect stranger would say "He's one of them Rangers..." No more Zelda references until the heat of July!

Fell_Winter_sm.jpg
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Ursus » Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:29 am

Greg wrote:It really was liberating to take another jaunt completely sans-technology. It only upset me in that, while I've been able to take several short hikes this winter, none had really been documented, and it's darned close to complete kit time, and I haven't been able to show how everything goes together yet, and when summer hits the kit will be pared down accordingly for weather.

HOWEVER: Since the Midwest decided to fix that problem by snowing like it's going out of style today, I briefly rectified the image situation. I don't own a full-length mirror, so I have to admit, this is the first time I've gotten to see it all come together myself, and am pleasantly surprised. I've gone FAR from film in my research, and used exclusively historical patterns on the non-leather clothing, and yet if I were to walk into a Faire, I think my goal would be finally realized, and a perfect stranger would say "He's one of them Rangers..." No more Zelda references until the heat of July!

Fell_Winter_sm.jpg


It’s really came together nicely, there’s no denying what you are. The whole ensemble is the pinnacle of what we are aiming for here. Admittedly I keep two movie-esque pieces in rotation in the way of a replica leather bedroll cover, and a new made quiver with a built in bow holster for my small pack bow. I’ve always had an odd obsession with taking the elements and initial concept of Viggos pack and adding the pieces it lacks to make it completely functional, namely adding elements to carry food and water.

Side note: It took me forever to realize that your fire kit was high up on your shoulder. At first I thought it was an extra wide strap!
"Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters – but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy."
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Elleth » Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:46 am

oh goodness...

... you look the perfect picture! So incredibly well done!

I'm inspired. :)
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Greg
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Greg » Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:07 am

Ursus wrote:It’s really came together nicely, there’s no denying what you are. The whole ensemble is the pinnacle of what we are aiming for here. Admittedly I keep two movie-esque pieces in rotation in the way of a replica leather bedroll cover, and a new made quiver with a built in bow holster for my small pack bow. I’ve always had an odd obsession with taking the elements and initial concept of Viggos pack and adding the pieces it lacks to make it completely functional, namely adding elements to carry food and water.

Side note: It took me forever to realize that your fire kit was high up on your shoulder. At first I thought it was an extra wide strap!
FAR too kind, but thank you. I am not, despite the aforementioned research, completely devoid of film influences. My quiver still bears a pretty direct derivative from the original Ithilien quivers, and tonight I was wrapping a scabbard that has a byknife mounted onboard. Only real differences are beneath the surface...materials, construction, and the fact that there’s actually food in that pack! *chuckle*

Elleth, that sorta thing’s not normally in my wheelhouse, but you sold me...just ordered a copy. Should be fun! I was all over that sort of reading when I was (much) younger.
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Iodo
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Iodo » Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:04 am

Very impressive kit Greg, that looks amazing :P
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Aragorn: It's the beards.
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Re: Snowy Hike, 3.21.2018

Postby Greg » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:06 am

Well, my worn and used copy of the Kearney book arrived today. Probably read half of it in an hour...fascinating approach!

Years ago, I spent an afternoon in one of Tom Brown Jr.'s books in the library, and came away feeling like the only way to learn was to have been partly raised by a native american alongside his son who was learning 'the old ways'. Very mystical, and very time-intensive. You know...I needed to get the last ten years of my life back, drop all my hobbies, and never see a friend again if I wanted to learn the skill for real. Thankfully, this book proves otherwise. I'm looking forward to trying out some new ideas as well as new approaches to old and familiar concepts. Definitely worth it. Too bad the previous owner decided to sharpie "Spec Ops" down the side of the book...what a misuse of an already over-used term.

Thanks for the suggestion, Elleth!
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