“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
Your 4 walls:
The world can be such a small place if you shut down, if you occupy just the 4 tiny walls of your cubicle. As the world recedes away from you, you lose sight of yourself. Of what makes you amazing, unique, of the strengths and capabilities that you could develop- if only you reached out.As your world shrinks, so do your spirit and mind, until all that is left is a shell of the life you could possess.
But if you decide to stand up, to rise out of your chair and set foot on the path to travel and adventure, oh how the world opens up! It widens until it is unimaginably large- So immense that you may never hope to explore all of its beauty and grandeur. And as the world widens so do your mind and spirit. You learn to understand yourself in new ways. You grow and renew yourself, your purpose and your motivation to strive for more every day. This is my source, my motivation for adventure, travel… for life.
It’s Saturday morning. Pulling into the dirt upper parking lot at Simpson Park I swerve around the large puddle left from the rain the night before. It’s time again for our yearly tracking training.
Just this winter we had a frustrating search in the rugged terrain at the back of the expansive park. Dogs and helicopters combed the area to no avail. A “ground-pounding” by our foot searchers yielded results only after a long and exhausting night.
Now, in an odd coincidence, we’re returning to the scene to learn skills that might help us find the subject faster on future missions. For the next 2 days Fernando Moreira, a highly respected tracking expert, will be giving us in-depth Search and Rescue Tracking Training.
It’s a cloudy day, the sun showing through only intermittently. Fernando takes this opportunity to show us how varying light conditions can affect the visibility of the tracks. With direct early morning sun at a low angle, the tracks he has laid for us stand out in sharp relief. But as a cloud covers the sun the contrast fades. The print disappears into the ground. The effect would be the same around noon with the overhead sun obliterating contrast. Fernando explains that we can counter this by shading the area and shining a flashlight at a low angle to create shadows and reveal the prints.
The class dives immediately into practical experience for the SAR tracker. How do you estimate the height and weight of a person from their shoe size? Predict the path of their travel? Where their foot will fall next? How can you tell the age of the tracks? How can you measure and use knowledge of their stride length to your advantage?
The location is perfect for our purposes. To put it plainly- it’s confusing. Simpson Park is a popular mountain biking, running and dog-walking destination. With so many tracks and current activity in the vicinity it can be vital to have several tools that help you to distinguish the track of your subject. Quite often you wont get a clear print- only a series of scuffs. How can you tell if this is your man? Knowledge of their usual stride length (measured from prints at their last known location) can help you rule out many prints and keep on track.
Focus on the Details: Micro-Tracking
Those who have gone through the class the year before are enlisted to help guide the new trackers in the basics of Micro-tracking. The slightest of clues; the transfer of grains of wet dirt up onto vegetation, a broken leaf, and pebbles shifted slightly forward from their positions are the language of Micro-tracking. We line up across a vaguely level hillside about half the length of a football field. Tracking sticks in hand (trekking poles with a set of adjustable rubber bands to mark print and stride length) we kneel down to read our first tracks of the day.
The ground is already covered in tracks from daily usage of the park, but after a few pointers from Fernando and his aides the subject’s prints start to announce themselves. As my eyes warm up I see the telltale slight depressions, transfers, and subtle shifting forward of pebbles that signal that we’ve discovered the next step.
The next couple days are full with practical exercises and live scenarios designed to help us find our subjects more quickly and efficiently. We learn leapfrogging or ‘cutting ahead’ in boxes and half moon patterns to speed up the process of tracking. We learn to look for natural “Track Traps” along the path of travel. Tracking at night had once seemed impossible, but if you angle the light just so the patterns of slight depression in the ground can become a path pointing directly towards the subject.
Fernando discusses how to most efficiently set up and work tracking teams. We learn to read the story that tracks are telling us- did the subject shift their weight to one side to look back? Throw something? Trip and land heavily? “The tracks don’t lie”, he states.
Several live scenarios are staged to test our growing tracking skills in the field. The team responds successfully to a search for a missing hiker. Another person is “lost” and we learn to track from a central location such as a car, determining a Direction of Travel. We measure the prints leading out from the car, mark the stride length on our tracking sticks and move out in a spiral pattern, careful to not destroy any prints we encounter.
In our final live scenario slight scuffs on the ground, dirt transfer, drag marks and a broken quail egg under leaf cover lead our team to the ‘body’, an orange team shirt. We return proudly bearing our prize and a newfound confidence in our own practical tracking skills.
After a weekend of practice with Fernando, what before had seemed a series of hints in the dirt transformed itself into a clear trail pointing to our subject. After this weekend I’ve come away with an entirely new respect for the value of tracking in Search and Rescue. We’ve added a valuable new skill to our arsenal as a team, one that we can use on missions to come.
RMRU Members at Training: Glenn Henderson, Gwenda Yates, Carlos Carter, Helene Lohr, Craig Wills, Rob May, Nick Nixon, Mike Herman, Roger May, Michael George, Matt Jordan, Alan Lovegreen, Paul Caraher, Joe Erickson, Lew Kingman, Pete Carlson.
I rediscovered the green biscuit tin this morning. Heavy with paper and coins, it had been wedged in the bottom of a box of old photographs, buried under pictures of faces and places long faded from memory.
Each note of currency has its’ own face, with a history that every school child in the nation knows. As we examine the long, thin features of Lincoln, the owly wisdom of Franklin, the determined set of Washington’s eyes, we connect them with our national mythos … the log cabin, the kite, the cherry tree. Without thinking we tie them to our triumphs and defeats- the Revolution, the Civil War. The stories well tell about ourselves as a nation are linked to these faces and shaped by the values we hold dear, by the things we would like to believe about ourselves: our honesty, truth, determination, resourcefulness…
The currency of other lands is no different. Engraved in wild colors across the surface of thin paper rectangles, these faces and places are tied tightly together with the stories of their nations, their national identity. These strange people that stare back at me from the faces of the notes are everyday names in their own countries, so well known that thousands of fingers have traced their features in passing every day.
As I travel through foreign lands, the faces streaming through my hands change. As my fingers grasp the notes, they handle the history of the land, the stories becoming almost tangible. This stream of strange faces fascinates- it is a cracked window, a view into the people I visit and what they truly value about themselves, what they believe about their nation. The rasp of one paper note against the next as I pull it out of my pocket signals value not just by it’s markings, but by it’s cultural baggage. Who do they choose to honor and why?
I reach into the green tin and pick up each note in turn.
Maria Montessori‘s half smiling face graces the crinkled Mile Lire note… Capital text proudly proclaims: BANCA D’ ITALIA. An Italian physician and educator, she was the founder of the Montessori method of education used throughout many of the world’s schools. Her story speaks of creativity, her dedication to open minded education continuing in the vein of the Italian Renaissance.
On Austria’s compact green and brown Hundert Schilling note the Economist Eugen Boehm von Bawerk’s face stares out from behind delicate spectacles and a neatly trimmed beard. All capitals again, the Austrians announce that this note comes from the OESTERRICHISCHE NATIONALBANK. The nation’s pride in his precision and dedication as the councillor in the ministry of finance reflects it’s own virtues.
The passionate eyes of Endre Ady the Poet peer out from a purple, gold and green engraving on the 500 Otszaz Forint from the MAGYAR NEMZETI BANK of Hungary. A fiery poet, heavily politically involved, he both celebrated the need for rich cultural life in his country and laid bar the realities of the cruel Hungarian peasant world in his writings.
Teacher, economist, poet. The people these nations have chosen to grace their currencies speaks volumes about what their cultures value most. If I let it, the money I carry in my pocket will tell me volumes about the people I encounter and how their view of life, their priorities may differ from my own.
Life changes and so does our currency.
The Euro has swallowed up many of these paper notes and changed them to reflect it’s own newborn mythos. Old currencies and faces are consumed by the inevitable march of time and politics…
Humans have a long history of honoring our heroes and the stories we tell about ourselves by carving their semblances into buildings, sculpting their countenances in clay and stone, tracing them onto paper and stamping metal coin as money. We decorate with and trade in the currency of our own stories and beliefs about ourselves. This is what holds true meaning and value in our bank notes- not just the slip of paper that it has been printed on.
As we slide into the convenience of plastic cards and money, I find I miss the comforting rasp of paper money, with its’ tie to the history of the land I’m visiting, the intimate connection between the faces, places and the story of their people. Still, we always find a way to honor those values important to us, to tell the stories that mark our identities… One manifestation of mythos may shade into another, but as a nation and as a person, we will always find a way to mark those ideas and stories that we feel define us.
Here’s ‘Into Forever’- a textile painting piece I just finished up for a joint show I’ll be having at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild with the amazing Dave and Trish Charity of fromedge2edge.com , Quilts on the Wall, and Textures Fiber Arts fame. The Show will be hung this Wednesday evening and viewable thereafter.
This and other of my Wilderness and Adventure Travel related works, including a homage to the hiking the PCT, and some Pen and ink studies from the streets of Florence will be gracing the walls for the next 2 months. Come by, take a look and hopefully pick up a piece for your living room to inspire you to get off your butt, get out and travel!
We’ll delay an official opening night for about 2 weeks until I’m back from Wilderness Ranger Academy, but we’d love to see you there anytime you can make it out! I’ll make an announcement when we have the official opening night info.