Trails and Sign

The best stories have layers …

The tracking stick is marked in inches…

All stories come in layers; sign, tracks and trails do as well, and those layers make things a lot more interesting.  In the photo above, how many layers do you see at first glance, how many are there? Are you sure?  Would you expect to see tracks of a domestic cat way out in the woods?  What would draw a bear and raccoon to the same area?

Layers?  Stories make another example…

   Four layers: “He went for a run up the road.”

… or ..

   A whole mess of layers:

  “On his way to the old farm road down the hill for a morning run, he closed the weather-worn front door, crossed the porch, and stepped down the lichen-spotted concrete steps.  Life was so hard … start the day with a morning run, sun cresting the ridge to the east, and a wave of sweet flowery beauty drifting up from the massive Honeysuckle patch escaped from some old flowerbed and headed down the hill to the west.  A pause, at the ancient maple living by the front walk to rest his palm on the rough bark in affectionate greeting, some quiet time watching sunsets there.

  The old blacktop farm road was a great place to run.  The old crumbling edges of the road made softer landings for his heels.  Still shaded, the valley air was cool and damp, and a little brighter up where the early light crossed as it worked its way down the ridge to the west.  Only one or two farm trucks, a couple of waves, and he had the road to himself, well, and the birds.”

Along with a knowledgeable instructor, learning the layers is necessary.

What are the layers?  Sign is one.

Pa Jay, an old Texas farmer, was skilled at reading sign.  In the 1950’s Texas farm roads sometimes had “Stop Ahead” signs posted well before an intersection.  After grandfather discovered that these were good places to read trail sign, he would often ease off the gas as we approached one, downshifting his rusty old farm truck, and reach across the cracked vinyl bench seat to press a work-calloused hand gently back against his grandson’s forehead, “Now Bobby,  that sign says stop a head …”.

In reading trails much progress can be made quickly and it’s a learning process one can spend a lifetime at … It combines all the other layers, including sign.  (“Layers” … can that even be illustrated?)

How many trails does one have to read before they’ve seen every possible layer, or how all the possible body movements are reflected in a track or several, especially since every trail is unique?  Yeah, greater “time required to learn” … And if the student has already chosen to spend big chunks of their lives working, parenting, or in some other day-consuming way?  Which should they give up, tracking … work … parenting?  Or maybe they gave up none of those and chose to do their best to learn what they can?  And if they care that much, maybe they deserve some help?

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Concept Illustrated: The Human Trail

The Idea:  What is a trail?  Build a first attempt at a scene where a human trail is created, and use rigid body physics to control the interaction between feet, sand objects, and gravity.

Yes, the example is limited (by the processing power of the author’s PC) and the animation 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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