Sunday, June 1, 2008


Two recent trips to the Zone revealed its richness in track and sign, and species. Here are series of pictures. They don't include the newborn fawn found by Chris Schooley, and the little red fox seen by the Harris family as they explored the Zone.

First set: On this very sunny Wednesday tracking afternoon, the two boys, Nick and William, and I travel down to the Zone with Chris Schooley and Nate Cunningham of Stonehaus. They have a little device along to measure how far the trails are down to and within the Zone. It is a little orange wheel on a stick. We stop every half a mile so Nate can mark a tree; he is creating a running trail for Belvedereans. I tell the two boys we need to teach these grown men about tracking, and they are pleased to be charged with such a sacred duty. The five of us set off:

The road to the Zone, down the sewer line.

Just to illustrate the richness for animal trackers, the next series of photos illustrate several animal species in the mud at the entrance to the Zone down on the flood plane. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to walk down the sewer line to get to the Zone:

Raccoon, or as Chris tells me, 'Coon. (you're in Virginia now, he says, speak Virginian)

The smallest deer footprints ever, probably those of the baby fawn we saw during our walk with Chris and Nate.

Red Fox prints, hard to make out but you can clearly see one print. Almost a direct register, this animal is in a baseline gait.

Squirrel or Raccoon?

The kids play in the mud, a great "loose parts" experience for good brain development!

The Frog experiences in the Zone are extraordinary . The next series are about tree frogs, and at one point, we emerge into a living carpet of the tiniest frogs, hundreds of them, that have emerged from a large puddle. Bret tried to capture it with the camera, but there was no way to relay the incredible experience of being surrounded by frogs smaller than a penny.

This gray tree frog thinks we don't see him. Nick saw him! This frog's survival strategy is to blend in with its surroundings. Doesn't he look like a leaf or a piece of bark? We undoubtedly caught him in mid stride going from one green spot to another.

We come across a kill site, an opossum, or 'possum, as Chris informs me. The Big Mac of the forest, says Chris.

There is some scat at the site. Either Wild Dog or Coyote has come this way. The tracks are plentiful and Bret and I engage in the kind of discussion I love around a track. Dog tracks are wider than coyote. Coyote tracks have a tell-tale round heel pad. But what about the X you can see in the track? says Bret. The track is too wide for coyote, I say. But doesn't mud make tracks expand? asks Bret. Well, yes. Look at the nails, they are so close together! Anyway, it could go on and on. Makes me want to go tracking right now!

We head on down the path to the river.

There are two great places to hang out next to the river, one with a small set of rapids (or falls):

And one with a rocky beach that would make a great fishing hole, and swimming place, too:

The boys (big and small) skips stones. The Big Boys Mentor the Smaller Boys in how to do it, a quintessential boyhood moment. We need more of those these days, as childhood is so changed from what it used to be.

If you head around the path beyond the turn up to go back along the railroad tracks, you can access to railroad bridge. Here is a photo of Chris and Nate:

Two Developers on the Right Track


Elizabeth said...

I am really enjoying your blog, especially posts like this! I love hearing about animals you have seen and about your adventures with tracking!

KateRCST said...

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I love to hear from people.