April 4 2004

Signs of Spring, Water, Tracking

(Photos and report by Walter Muma)

Eight people turned out for a day exploring the woods for signs of spring, doing some tracking, and discussions of water (finding it and purifying it).

First off, a double gold star for tracking to TOM! (no, not Tom Brown Jr)

Tom decided at the last minute to come to today's meeting. We had no idea he was coming. He got off to a late start in the morning, so he arrived at our meeting spot at 10:20am, by which time of course we were long gone.

Not a quitter, Tom set out to find us. First of all, we had driven several miles along back roads to where we began our walk. Tom decided to circle the area we usually went into, hoping to spot my vehicle. This is a very large area, with many informal entrances, and his plan of action could've entailed many miles of driving. He persevered until he somehow found our vehicles beyond the end of a mile-long dead-end back road (he had never been there before).

His next task was to find us. We had headed off-trail fairly early on in our ramblings. Nevertheless, he managed to track us down almost 1/2 mile from our vehicles. Bravo, Tom! We were very impressed. A nice combination of the use of inner vision with physical tracking skills!

Although one of our themes for the day was "signs of spring", the day was anything but spring-like!! The temperature was -3C with a strong cold north wind blowing. Snow squalls were in the forecast, but fortunately we did not get any.
One of our themes for the day was water: how to locate it, how to purify it, and so on. Here we are at a small pond, discussing whether we would drink it, and why or why not, and what we could do to purify it.

There will be info about water on the Wildwood Survival website soon - Wilderness Survival - Water section.


The wild leeks were just starting to come up. We snacked on them from time to time during the day.
We regretted not having brought a camping stove and pot to boil some up!

One of two porcupine dens we found.

The scat at the entrance is that of porcupine.


The group trying out some wild edibles.

It felt colder out than it really was!

For more info on Wild edible plants, please visit the Wildwood Survival website - Wilderness Survival - Edible Plants section.

Trout Lilly tubers. Very tasty!!

After lunch we went down to a new beaver pond (made last fall) and watched the beavers watching us for awhile. We noted that the beavers have very strong teeth as they were able to chew into blue beech trees apparently without difficulty (blue beech wood is VERY hard).

We then made our way upstream, finding beaver sign all the way, as well as numerous deer and beaver tracks.

We found a nice "island" in the middle of a marsh and sat or lay in the sun for awhile, out of the cold wind. A beautiful and peaceful spot!!

Some lichens on a nearby rock. Some of the cups were filled with a glistening drop of water. We also found some Scarlet Cup fungus elsewhere.

After we left the "island", we followed an animal trail for some distance. We found it to be used by deer and coyotes.

A good page on the Internet explaining the difference between canine and feline tracks is here: http://www.bear-tracker.com/caninevsfeline.html

A cottontail rabbit scat found here led to a discussion of Coprophagy - animals that reingest their scat to aid in digestion. A discussion of Coprophagy is on the Wildwood Tracking website

Later in the day we met up with  "Jabba the Hut" (or "Jabba the Rock").
:)  :)

Some other highlights of the day:
  • We did some very detailed tracking with deer, raccoon, and coyote tracks.
  • We found many dried specimens of a "mystery plant" in the marshes. Research afterwards found it to be purple loosestrife (unfortunately).
  • The mystery singing bird we heard was likely a Brown Creeper (according to later research).
  • We found several beaver "scent mounds."
  • Canada geese and Mallard ducks in the marsh.
  • Turkey Vultures circling overhead
  • Walking ferns on top of limestone boulders
  • Fossils in the rocks
  • ...and much more!

We had an awesome and full day in the early spring fresh air and sunshine. We made lots of interesting discoveries, and we all learned a lot.
Thank you to everyone who came out and made it a very successful day!!



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