What if  illustrations taught more?

How many trails? Who? Last one was?

Dirt time … On a trail brings all the layers together and, along with a knowledgeable instructor, is the most helpful learning tool.

Some parts of the process that creates a track, and ultimately a trail, are hidden by the foot or occur too fast to be seen as they happen, yet are useful to understand.   The wave, for example.

The information carried by tiny details can be easy to miss, especially in tricky lighting conditions, such as the imprint of claw tips in sandy gravelly soil.

How does the student learn the unseen?

How do you teach that?


Time … Traded from your life’s limited budget for knowledge and experience.  Each of the overlapping stages in the learning process requires a little more of that resource … Good thing there’s no other places it’s needed!

Learning to identify who made that track? … Doesn’t cost much time.

Learning to read the story in one track, pair, or set? … Is subtler, with more layers, so more time must be spent.

Reading trails? … Much progress can be made quickly and it’s a learning process one can spend a lifetime in … You see, it combines all the other layers.

Other limitations may become more obvious as a student progresses … Preconceptions – about animal behavior, or how many layers are revealed in a track or trail … The amount of time one has to spend in learning this art … No trespassing boundaries.

Identifying and interpreting tracks are skills necessary to seeing more of the trail’s layers … Even with lots of dirt time and longer tracking sessions it can take quite a while to develop the ability to assimilate all the info in a series of tracks.  (“Layers” … now there’s an illustration!)

And since every trail is different, how many trails does one have to read before they’ve seen every possible layer, or movement?  Yeah, greater ‘time required to learn’ … And if the student has already chosen to spend big chunks of their lives at work or parenting, or in some other day-consuming way?  Should they give up on tracking … or work … or parenting?

Where is all this going?  It boils down to, “The student is always trading time for knowledge and experience.  Might illustrations that teach processes help the student gain more progress for their time spent?”

Are existing illustrations fully developed, and helping the student make the most progress?  How does the student resolve the need to compromise between making their way thru the world and studying tracking?  What happens to the learning curve when student trackers have a chance to assimilate the skills by seeing the tracking process through the eye of a master tracker?  How many ways are there for that to happen?

The intent for this website comes from looking back at the limitations on the process of learning to track … finding a need to create complete illustrations as learning tools … and exploring ways to do that.  To develop these illustrations to their full possible usefulness a group effort is needed, along with the experienced tracking perspectives of many.  This site is an effort to stir interest among other trackers in accomplishing that.

If you are at all tempted to give it a go please, please do!  How many future trackers (and a few current?) might be really glad you did?  If you are a tracker but not an illustrator, and want to share your insights about tracking and the learning process … Would working with an illustrator be a useful way to accomplish that?


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A Starting Place: The Human Trail

The Goal:  Build an initial scene where some kind of trail is created.  To create this human trail rigid body physics were used to control the interaction between feet, sand objects, and gravity.

Yes, the example is drastically limited (by the processing power of the author’s PC) and the animation desperately needs help, and that’s ok for now since this page concerns what to illustrate as much as it is about, eventually, developing full and complete illustrations.

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Finding the Next Track

The Goal: Illustrate one way to use a tracking stick for finding a hard to see track.  Of course it needs refinement, that’s half its interest value!

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Links to other pages …

Page: The Concepts of Tracking…
Testing Sand
The Translucent Foot
Whole Track: Red Fox – One Forward Step

Page: Foot Movements …
Canine Claw Tip Leaves Track in Fine Sand

Page: How To Find Tracks …
Controlling Lighting to Increase Visibility of Tracks
Finding the Next Track
Track on ‘Bare’ Rock (Red Fox Front Foot)
Using Stone Rolls to Find Tracks

Page: How To Read Tracks …
Dust Compressions (Dull on Shiny by Canine Toe Pad)
Simple Tire Track and Direction of Travel
True Track (Canine Toe Pad)

Page: Species …
Deer Foot – One Walking Step
Red Fox Front and Rear Feet – Side Trot

Page: Track Features …
Pressure Against the Track Wall (Canine Toe Pad)
Simple ? Wave
The Ridge Between Canine Front Toes
The Layer of Sand in Contact With The Foot