Greetings citizen, yesterday DJ, our friend (but not blog-writer) Luke and I went on one of our weekly hikes and boy-howdy was it a good one. What set this particular hike apart was that I learned a new skill: the ability to track. As of now, I am a bonafide tracker. I can track most anything. You name it, I’ll track it. I’m a regular trackster. But, before I start getting into all the technical mumbo-jumbo, let me start with a definition (most critically acclaimed essays begin by stating a definition directly borrowed from Wikipedia).
Tracking, in hunting and ecology, is the science and art of observing a place through animal footprints and other signs, including: tracks, beds, chews, scat, hair, etc. Specifically, mapping a changing landscape and soaking up sensory data like a sponge.
Wow, exciting right? Let me explain some of the ways I’ve already begun tracking in my everyday life.
I’ll start at the beginning (most critically acclaimed essays begin in the beginning). On the hike yesterday we were forced to tackle a 300 foot cliff (mostly a lie), as we were halfway up, I found myself spread-eagle between two enormous rock edifices. It was at that moment, as I was balanced between life and death, 200 feet above the ground, that I realized I was a tracker. Not only was I a wind’s blow away from certain doom, there was also a small footprint in a nearby patch of snow. Upon closer inspection I was able to deduce that the footprint had come from none other than a chicken, arctic fox, earthworm or baseball. Can you imagine? Me, a typical guy, standing on a cliff were once a chicken, arctic fox, earthworm or baseball had left its mark. If that’s not nature, I don’t know what is.
Obviously, I had to follow up on this discovery. I traced (or tracked) the footprints further. I realized that this chicken, arctic fox, earthworm or baseball was not ascending the mountain, it was moving downwards. I found a broken twig, then a speck of hair, further down, I found a broken egg, then a soda can, further still there were more footprints, then I saw DJ eating a sandwich, then there was some patted-down grass, another broken egg and finally I found it. Though careful observation I was able to track this animal all the way down the rock face that it had, evidently, fallen. As it turns out it wasn’t a chicken, arctic fox, earthworm or baseball, it was a red fox. Dead as a doornail, poor fella. But let’s not talk more about the dead fox, let’s talk about me.
After yesterday I have learned that I can use tracking in all situations. If I keep my eyes peeled I can get to the bottom of most anything. In fact, I’ve spent most of today doing some pretty serious tracking work. Let me explain:
This morning I woke up on the futon in my apartment. I guess this is a little weird, why didn’t I wake up in my bed? I could have speculated all morning, but instead I thought I would just do some tracking. I found my cellphone about three feet away, I check the past outgoing calls and texts. None, good thing. I tracked a little further and found my wallet. Not much money gone, interesting. I found my clothes on a path from the doorway. It seemed pretty clear that I had gotten home and, removed my shirt and pants, dropped my wallet, dropped my phone and landed on the futon, the nearest place to sleep.
But my tracking wasn’t done yet. I had gotten to the bottom of my story, but where was DJ? We share an apartment and he was nowhere to be found. I thought we had arrived home together, but he was nowhere to be found. Let the tracking begin:
-I followed a thin trail of scat out our front door.
-There was vomit in our hallway, but from the feel of it, it was older than 48 hours, so it was likely not DJ’s.
-There were several holes in our stairway walls, it seems DJ had fallen down the stairs, crashing against the walls along the way.
-I was able to follow his footprints in the snow outside. He was moving on all fours.
-The footprints led to the laundromat, where the gumball machine had been thrown against an industrial dryer. Gumballs were strewed against the floor.
-I found DJ’s bandanna stuck on a branch, leading into the woods.
-Amount a half mile down the trail I found a puddle of urine in the snow, about 11 feet in diameter. I recognized the smell as distinctly DJ’s
-A few paces further, I found a carton for an inflatable inner tube and a second puddle of urine, 3 feet in diameter.
After that I gave up because I’m pretty sure DJ is floating down river in an inner tube and, honestly, I have things to do.