HomePublicationsTrue TracksSpring 1999

True Tracks - Spring 1999

Spring 99 True Tracks



The Tracker School gets involved in escaped tiger case - by Dan Hirshberg
Grandfather's camp is reopened - by Mack Barnes
Making your own "True Tracks" - by Nancy Klein
Coyote Camps filling up fast
"The Way of the Coyote" pilot class - by Nancy Klein
The Principles and Techniques of Skills - by Ninja Joe Lau
"Ninja" Joe is going, sets lance workshop - by Joe Lau
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - by Ruth Ann Colby Martin
The nitty-gritty of back-tracking a tiger by our "team" is reported in full detail - by Kevin Reeve
Cooking With Nettles (Urtica dioca) - by Mark Tollefson
Tracker Wilderness Experience a Success - by Hilary Lauer
Scout 'Protector' class new name, same course - by Paul Bonner
Jon Young classes offered
Sticks & Stones



The Tracker School gets involved in escaped tiger case
Dan Hirshberg

This article is on the Wildwood Tracking website


Grandfather's camp is reopened
Mack Barnes

The students of the October Grandfather class were honored with the task of reopening Grandfather's camp in the primitive camp.

In the days of Grandfather, when the primitive camp was used , Tom and Rick's camp was located near the main camp and Grandfather's was situated further to the southeast.

So we set out to clear the 100-foot circle of scrub oak, blueberry, etc. that had overtaken the area. With axes, hatchets, saws and shovels, the path was enlarged, the above ground growth was removed, roots were dug and the ground leveled. A firepit was dug in the center. The process went so smoothly, it was as if Nature herself cooperated with us.

In remembering the many plant people who gave their all, a portion of the Scout prayer comes to mind:

"Honor me by allowing me to die for my people, for I love my people beyond myself and I will sacrifice my all for my people, my Earth and for you."

Each item we placed in Grandfather's camp has its own unique history. An archway, woven of grapevine cleared from the farm, stands as the entrance. A pine stands to the left as you enter the camp. Grandfather's debris hut stood in that area. An alter and bench were erected on that ground. They were constructed, as were the four directional poles, from a cedar log that lay in the swim area back when it was originally dug out by Grandfather, Tom and Rick.

The fire ring was created with rocks placed by each participant - several pieces of bog iron Tom located at an old sweat lodge site near the Medicine Waters and a few rocks from last year's final Standard's sweat lodge. The circle was completed with backrests built by the students.

Grandfather's camp was officially opened Wednesday evening with a pipe ceremony. The celebration was enhanced with the arrival of Brandt Morgan, Tom's co-author on many of his field guide books, who made a surprise visit to the Pine Barrens for the first time in many years.

It was an evening that all who were there will remember with awe.


Making your own "True Tracks"
Nancy Klein

At Tom's recent pilot class, "The Way of the Coyote", one of the points he stressed was the importance of keeping a personal journal.

In past classes he has emphasized a journal also, but never more strongly as in this class. When we began reading Tom's books, we all felt his excitement and passion about life. How adventures abound in daily living; all you need do is to open your eyes to the possibilities.

Tom has, since childhood, kept such journals, containing the adventures, the skills ... the frustrations ... of learning about life in the wilderness. Although he had no idea at the beginning where this would lead, he still felt the urgency to communicate with someone who would listen - his journal. Drawing from this wealth of information, we have a teacher who shares his, and Grandfather's lifetime of knowledge with us. At times, we've all felt this loneliness, but we have a tool to help us, a personal journal. Coming directly from my notes "...the journal is to grow, to learn, to live like Grandfather, to find excitement, adventure, insights; to go out and look and experience life. Use your journal to reread, relive something in the future, to draw insights from your written experiences. When you write, go beyond mediocrity, don't write 'I wore a blue shin, I saw a bird.'... write with zest, excitement, detail. Look at things with a Tracker eye for detail."

You could write with detail (92 pages), as Tom did once for school, about the intricacies of lighting a match! Extreme maybe, but everyday living can unfold multitudes of things to write about, to learn from, if only we look. And a journal is the best way to guide us to understanding our physical and spiritual universe.


Coyote Camps filling up fast

After a very powerful "Way of the Coyote" pilot class in the Pine Barrens this winter, Tom Brown and Jon Young are even more excited than ever about the Tracker School's newest program, Coyote Camps.

The camps, which will be held at a picturesque site in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey, are for children ages 8-12 (with parent or guardian) and for teens ages 1317. Run in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club, the camps run six days each.

The 13-17 year old camps are scheduled for July 25-30 and Aug. 22-27. The 8-12 year old camp is set for Aug. 15-20.

The camps are quickly filling up, especially the 8-12 year old one (a second 8-12 week may be added at a later date).

This young lady can't wait for the Camps to begin this summer The staff that is gathering behind the scenes, the volunteers that are requesting space to help, and the amazing coyote culture and mentoring style promoted by Young's Wilderness Awareness School are building into a great energy as preparations continue. The synergy of the Tracker School joining forces with Young and his school's cultural training team, and with the help of Deep Wilds' Mark Morey and Hawk Circle's Ricardo Sierra, is a great sign for the future of youth mentoring in awareness and survival skills nationwide.

We are very excited about the energy. We encourage all of you parents to register your children soon.

At these camps, kids will be doing what they do best; playing, creating, and following the unlimited trails of adventure that Mother Nature has to offer.

The skilled instructors will be facilitating a learning culture which guides students into experiences that will nurture their natural connection to the Earth. Students will work together in tight-knit groups with the instructors, learning and sharing the skills that allow them to feel at home in the natural world: Fire, shelter, water, understanding the language of the birds, animal tracking, wandering, living and working with others, and much more. The children will come out of these camp experiences with a burning passion to learn and grow.


"The Way of the Coyote" pilot class
Nancy Klein

The week of Jan. 31 - Feb. 6 saw Tom and the Tracker School presenting a pilot class, "The Way of the Coyote" and indeed, it was very a very special class.

In it, Tom taught students how to integrate the skills they've learned at their Tracker classes with their own unique abilities as teachers to inspire their own students in the same way as he does in his books and classes.

What made the class more exciting were the lectures by Jon Young, Tom's first student, taught truly in the way Grandfather had taught him. By sharing his own experiences and those of his instructors, Jon showed the class firsthand what they, too, are capable of doing with, and for, their students.

It was a class on learning where to begin, how to gently guide the student's interest in the study of nature, to seek their own answers, going beyond the physical aspects of learning and touching on the part that spirit plays in our love of, and desire to save, the wilderness.


The Principles and Techniques of Skills
Ninja Joe Lau

Tom often says that part of his vision is to simplify. In Grandfather's journeys, he collected skills from both coasts and as far up as Alaska and as far down as South America. Grandfather had to find the common denominators between skills, philosophies and cultures in order to pass down what he learned to two young boys. Tom has had the nearly impossible job of simplifying this even more, in order to get this information taught to as many people as possible for our future as a life-sustaining species.

I wish to share with you what I feel works best for clarifying and simplifying the learning and teaching of skills. First, I would like to reiterate how important that learning as a student and transmitting experienced knowledge as a teacher go hand in hand. The transmission of skills is a flow which should not be broken. Picture a river, if you will, that does not flow well ... or at all. The water is stagnant and unhealthy. However, a free flowing river is a much better provider of sustaining life. Such are the lineages of martial arts where the teacher transmits to the student. The teacher also guides the senior student on how to teach students, which is also part of the learning process. The student must teach in order to keep learning as a student. Great teachers will also add to the lineages what they feel works well in their adaptations in their generations.


Joe Lau makes a point during Philosophy 1 in November


Anyway, my advice comes from my sensei Jack Hoban, who taught it to me in order to help my learning as a teacher. It was taught to me to use in martial arts instruction, but I notice that it helps me magnificently in teaching wilderness and other skills.

You should learn to recognize what is the "principle" and what is the "technique." Now, I need to clarify the difference between the two for you, so I will use the example of fire by friction. In the bow drill "technique," the "principle" that gets you fire is the fact that whirling a wood spindle back and forth on a board with a notch can get you a coal. The "technique" is the variation of how the principle is applied! The bow drill is a technique, because the whirling wood principle is applied by using a handhold and a kneeling bow form. The hand drill is a technique, because the whirling wood principle is applied by you being the downward pressure and spinning the drill with your hands. The fire crutch is a technique, because the whirling wood principle is applied by use of a large arm rest and a standing bow form. The fire log is a technique, because the whirling wood principle is applied by lashing a log "handhold" to some trees and using a sapling for a bow.

Get the picture?


"Ninja" Joe is going, sets lance workshop

Hello everyone, this is "Ninja" Joe Lau. Just to let all of you nice folks know, I'm leaving the Tracker School.

I have been thinking a lot about continuing my martial arts training in Japan lately and after meeting with Tom and Deb, it sounded like the right time to make this decision. I would like to say that these last three years have truly been some of the best years of my life and I hope to see a lot of you in future classes. I will be updating my website (http:Hwinjutsu.com/WP/lau.htm) soon with new addresses and phone numbers so we can stay in touch.

Also, I will be running a 3-day Lance/Spear Fighting and Ethics Workshop before Scout class. Open to all students, there will be a limited number of spaces so I can give personal attention. My background in this field covers 14 years of training in Bujinkan Budo/Kuki Shinden Ryu Sojutsu (Japanese Battlefield Spear Fighting). In addition I have a 6th degree black belt. This workshop will go beyond what is taught in Scout class.



Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Ruth Ann Colby-Martin

Everyday we see more recycling stations across the United States. Thumbs up. What I do not see very often is our fellow Americans, even environmentalists, making the effort to reduce or reuse. Thumbs down.

I am continually inspired to honor the "three R's" by observing others role modeling. Thus, I thought it might be helpful to continue passing on some thoughts and ideas in hopes of inspiring you.

Modem America is a throwaway society. In a primitive lifestyle, you walk up to a Spruce tree, scrape off some gum and chomp away - yum! In America, you buy a package (throw away the receipt), open one package to find seven smaller packages inside seven more foil wrappers. Not to mention the resources that went into producing, transporting, and advertising that product. Everything we buy is as such. Think about the amount of waste. It hurts, doesn't it?

The planet needs to think like survivalists. Think of everything you use as a raw material. Utilize every piece of thread, artificial sinew, cord, string, rope, etc. as if you had collected the plant/tendon yourself and made the cordage yourself. In the winter. Naked. Realize that, although there is a lot of thread on that spool, every bit you waste, wasted a lot more in its production, transportation, and marketing. Think about that.

The web of life and its interconnectedness applies to the dump as well. Everything you do affects your water, air, food, and quality of life, not to mention your children.

My challenge to you is this:

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING THAT COMES INTO YOUR HANDS. Do it for a week; anymore and the grief of it will probably kill you. Every biggie fry you gobble leaves you with the responsibility of a container. What can you do with that? You could drop it into the landfill, which in reality is the same as putting it under your pillow. It's just not going anywhere fast. Not in your lifetime. And as it does, it will leach dyes and chemicals into your bed.


Turn off the water. Honor water as the lifeblood that it is. Think of each drop as if you had hauled it from the river itself.

Why? The water you pull from the reservoir and do not use, must be treated with more chemicals (that go into the ground) and is water that just won't be there when your children need it.

"If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown then flush it down." Each flush requires many gallons of wasted water. Tell your friends you have septic problems. Better yet, pee outside. Tear your toilet out and and install a composter. Or an outhouse. Don't you think it's weird we crap in our houses?

Buy in bulk - from food to supplies, especially from health food stores and coops. (Cheaper, too!)

Think in terms of "refillables," from pens to liquid soaps to motor oil.

Buy fresh meat (or hunt), veggies (garden), and fruits (forage).

Realize that fast foods mean a LOT of trash that will be around when your great-grandchildren are born.

Eat all you order at restaurants, or leave it if your only option is to take it home in Styrofoam.

Smudge, instead of Lysol.


Bags. Wrap gifts with them. As stuffing for packages instead of "peanuts." Trash can liners. As bags. Better yet, get cloth bags to reuse.

Buy holiday cloth (especially Christmas), and sew a simple pillow case with a drawstring to "wrap" your gifts. These get passed around the family each year. Now, that's a gift.

Mend your things (while your sitting on the phone or watching t.v.) Most everything can be sewed, patched, glued, riveted, etc. Turn pants into shorts or into bags... Turn your children's favorite worn out clothing into a quilt for when they are older. In my house, I am under rule to retire my socks and underwear after being sewn three times. After that they are quite threadbare, but ready to become children's stuffed dolls (the socks).

Women! Use reusable pads or the Keeper (contact Ruth Ann for details).

Wash your children's diapers. There are even services to do this for you, and I hear the cost is comparable to Pampers. Or be adventurous and try sphagnum moss and buckskin!!

Wash your ziplocks! That's a lot of plastic to be putting in the ground. So don't! You can even buy a "bag drying rack!"

Fall in love with an insulated mug and/or a waterbottle and carry them with you to refill at gas stations, McDonald's, etc. Buy soda in two liter bottles and refill your cup.

Carry a handkerchief. I can't express the coolness of this item. It's soft, dries with body heat, doesn't multiply to fill your pockets and thus, the dumpster, and doesn't tear. I carry my great uncle's and it brings me great joy to use it. It lives in my pocket. No worries. Washes with my pants.

PAPER. If your heart weeps for the great Redwoods and rainforests, then start turning your paper over, and REUSING THE OTHER SIDE! Staple your receipts together and put them next to your phone as a notepad. Or use for scrap paper. Put a stack on a clipboard. Or put together with three rings (office supply store) and a cardboard cover and use that notebook for class. When both sides are exhausted, retire paper to your necessary bum pile next to your woodstove/fireplace, or recycle it.


By all means, recycle what you cannot reuse: plastic, glass, tin, steel, aluminum, batteries, oil, paper, cardboard, etc...

Happy 3R's!!




The nitty-gritty of back-tracking a tiger by our "team" is reported in full detail
(The following report was filed with the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game & Wildlife by Kevin Reeve, Tracker School Director, who led a "back-tracking" expedition in the case of an escaped tiger in Jackson Township, N.J.)

This article is on the Wildwood Tracking website


Cooking With Nettles (Urtica dioca)
Mark Tollefson

This article is on the Wildwood Survival website

Cooking with nettles



Tracker Wilderness Experience a Success
Hilary Lauer

The whole week was "brilliant," "fantastic," and "the lessons learned really struck home after living them" were some of the comments we received regarding the Tracker Wilderness Experience (9/2710/4/98) in Wisconsin.


The Tracker Wilderness Experience was a rousing success


Sixteen students ventured to the Kickapoo Valley Preserve in western Wisconsin for a week of survival living. The four instructors were Seth Recarde and Hilary Lauer, two former Tracker instructors, Bob Barr, veteran Tracker student and seasoned helper, and Chris Whitten, another Tracker veteran who has spent many weeks in survival living around the country.

The Tracker Wilderness Experience offers graduates of the "Back to Back" an opportunity to put zffl their skills together, and spend a week in "survival" with the support of instructors, helpers and fellow participants. Students brought only a knife, a thick blanket and the clothes on their back, and received a few basic food staples for the week.

The class is a balance of structure and free time. Each day there is a short class on a relevant topic, such as shelter from local materials, water purification, local wild plants, cooking containers and others. The rest of the day students are free Lo loragc for plants, make needed tools, work on shelters and other activities. Rick Stahlhut, a returning student from the 1997 pilot class, summarized it well: "Just the right amount of structure to help me learn, but enough freedom to allow me to make mistakes safely."

The Kickapoo Valley Preserve is a lush valley with diverse plant life and lots of wild edible plants. The Tracker School had a "special use" permit from the preserve office to camp on that land, and was so well received that the school will be able to hold future Wilderness Experience classes in the same place. We hope to see you there!



Scout 'Protector' class new name, same course
Paul Bonner

It is an honor to have been asked by Tom to develop a class that mirrors all areas of Scout training and combines the Survival, Tracking and Awareness ability with the Peaceful Warrior skills, into the Ultimate Scout! This class was formerly called the Scout Martial Arts Class. The name was changed to emphasize that although the instruction centers around martial arts training, it is not a martial arts course. The focus is on the physical protector skills as they relate to the Apache Scout. This class, which I teach with George and Vanessa Larson, is possible due to Tom's desire to take the Scout Class to another level and to Big Frank's insight in seeing the void that this class fills.

According to Tom, the "Apache Scouts were the best survivalists and trackers. They were masters of escape and evasion, stalking and countless other skills. These 'other skills' included developing warrior and 'protector' skills." Grandfather taught Tom and Rick "wolverine" fighting techniques of the Scouts. This combined the use of various weapons and empty hand skill development. The Scout was that of a peacemaker, always the last one to pick up a lance.

The course is scientifically designed and will include lectures as well as the physical instruction. In an injury-free and non-intimidating environment, you will learn and be provided with the adequate time necessary to develop the additional physical skills that helped to build the reputation of the Apache Scout.

For returning students, new training methods and skills will be added to each session of instruction as well as a discount on the course fee. Note: As in past years, we will be assisting Tom at this year's Scout Class also.



Jon Young classes offered

Imagine yourself with a group of well-trained and highly focused trackers interested in advancing their skills and gaining forward momentum in their tracking and awareness training.

Jon Young will be there, on foot, leading this powerful week that follows up on the skills offered by Tom in his classes. This will be a fantastic dirt-time experience that will really nail down the tracking skills of participants and guide Shikari Tracking Program students farther on their own quest. We will be exploring cedar swamps, traveling on foot by the twisting, mysterious dark and sacred waters of the Pines. We will track on the pure white sands in the golden early morning sun, when the deep shadows will reveal the stories in the fox tracks leading to the water. Please come join us. Space is DEFINITELY limited.



Sticks & Stones

Karen Sherwood, former long-time Tracker instructor, was at the California Standard in March. She taught the class section on Edible and Medicinal Plants.

Comings and goings: Brian Gooding, one of our Pine Barrens caretakers, has left the New Jersey woods for Georgia where he and his fiance are preparing to have a child. In addition to his duties as caretaker, Brian was doing a fabulous job as our community education outreach representative. Meanwhile, Marion Chappel has moved into the Pines as our newest caretaker. And for those of you who missed it, veteran caretaker Michelle McCann left us in January. Mack Barnes has officially joined Tracker Inc. as our Maintenance Technician and part-time instructor. Sorry to see you go Brian and Michelle, glad to have you aboard Marion and Mack.


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