Trails and Sign

The best stories have layers …

How many trails? Who? Last was? Any differences in soil color?

This page is about illustrations designed to help students learn the skills needed to read trails.  Layers, they make things a lot more interesting.  Take books for example;

“He went for a run up the road.”

… or …

“After locking the weather-worn front door, he stepped down the worn concrete stairs on his way to the old farm road below.  He paused at the old maple living by the walk in the front yard, and rested his palm on the rough bark in greeting.  This early, the old black top farm road was a good place to run, with little traffic and crumbling edges that made softer landings for his heels.  The valley air was still cool and damp; a little brighter where the early light crossed as it worked its way down the slopes to the west.”

The same is true for the story in a track and the trail it is part of.  Following a trail and reading the story brings all the layers together.  Along with a knowledgeable instructor, learning the layers is a most helpful learning tool.

This includes sign.  An old Texas farmer, Pa Jay was skilled at reading signs and rarely misinterpreted them.  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, when we approached one he would often ease off the gas, downshift the rusty dark blue farm pickup, and as it slowed, reach across the cracked vinyl bench seat and press a work-calloused hand gently against his grandson’s forehead, “Now, 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 in … It combines all the other layers, including sign.  (“Layers” … could that even be illustrated?)

And since every trail is different, how many trails does one have to read before they’ve seen every possible layer, or all the possible body movements reflected on a track?  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?

In the photo above, the entire area where the trail was used had been erased the evening of Aug 7, 2008.  The photo was taken the next day.  How many layers do you see?

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Concept Illustrated: The Human Trail

The Idea:  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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The Other Concepts:

Page: The Concepts of Tracking… The Essentials
The Translucent Foot

Page: The Age of Tracks… How long ago?
Color Change

Page: Foot and Body Movements … How body movement creates and is reflected in the tracks, and how to read it from them.
Canine Claw Tip Leaves Track in Fine Sand

Page: How To Find and See Tracks … Ways to reveal hard to see tracks and details
Predicting where the next track will be…
Dust Compressions (Dull on Shiny by Canine Toe Pad)
Controlling Lighting to Increase Visibility of Tracks
Track on ‘Bare’ Rock (Red Fox Front Foot)
Using Stone Rolls to Find Tracks
The Tracking Stick

Page: How To Read Tracks … (and trails) – The problem isn’t lack of information
Simple Tire Track and Direction of Travel
True Track (Canine Toe Pad)

Page: The Invisible Skills … Think you’ve gone as far as you can?
Problem Solving by Baby Steps
The Only Way to Get Anywhere Else…

Page: Species … Tracks of distinct species and track features unique to them
Deer Foot – One Walking Step
Red Fox Front and Rear Feet – Side Trot

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