Tracking Reading List, Highway Cameras, Spring Break Planning, Zion Fugitive

More About Our Tracking Practices- 
When Nicolai and I are out in the bush, we make it a point to observe any tracks we come across, even our own. We make careful examinations of our own tracks whether they be footprints in a canyon bottom, the sign left behind after a lunch break under some juniper trees, or all the tracks and sign left by us as we leave a campsite in the morning. We practice Leave No Trace principles on all our adventures, but as trackers, there is always plenty to see at a campsite no matter how careful and clean we are. It is especially interesting to examine the campsites and break areas, not to mention the tracks and sign, of others. Building a tracking picture of a group of hikers might include the number of people, their gender, if they used tents or slept on the ground, what kind of food they ate, and how conscientious they were of cleaning up and leaving absolutely nothing other than tracks. If you haven’t tried this before, and are interested in tracking, give it a try the next time you are out. It can be a fun exercise.

I have been meaning for some time now to add a bibliography of tracking books to the website. Following is a list of books we have read, or are in the process of reading, and a few that are on the list to buy. Many of the titles that are specifically about tracking cover a lot of the same material- the technical aspects of tracking and how to go about learning the process. But each one has something to add. I follow each title with a brief description of the book (or books). We will post this list in the Tracking Pages at the Desert Explorer website, and update it periodically.

  • The SAS Guide to Tracking– Bob Carss- our favorite, great all-around guide on learning to track
  • Training in Tracking– Gilcraft- A book written for the Scouts (the Boy Scouts) early in the 2oth century
  • Tactical Tracking Operations- David Scott-Donelan- great guide, great stories, military or police applications
  • Tracking- Signs of Man, Signs of Hope– David Diaz- another introduction to tracking
  • Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking- the book I started with
  • The Tracker– Tom Brown- great stories about hsi tracking adventures
  • Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee detective novels- real tracking information embedded in most of the stories
  • Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories- Holmes teaches us about observation and tracking
  • The Dobe Kung (The Dobe Ju/’hoansi)- Richard Lee- the Kalahari bushmen are considered some of the best trackers in the world
  • The Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers– Richard Lee and Irvin Devore
  • The Old Way– Elizabeth Marshall-Thomas- about the Kung/San/Ju Huanse
  • Kim– Rudyard Kipling- where “Kim’s game” comes from, a memory game used to build observation skills
  • The Rhodesian War– from the Stackpole Military History Series- about a brutal conflict; trackers were vital
  • Footwear Impression Evidence– William Bodziak- a very technical manual written by an FBI footwear scientist for investigators
  • Shadows In The Sand– Sisingi Kamongo- accounts of trackers and soldiers during the late 80’s Angolan/ South West African bush war

    coyote tracks in mud along the Escalante River, photo by G. Trainor

    Coyote tracks in mud along the Escalante River


Highway Cameras for Trip Planning
For those interested in nearly up to the minute data on climate conditions in southeast Utah, the Utah Department of Transportation maintains a number of cameras along the roadways around the state, including a few in canyon country. One of my favorites is the camera on Highway 95 right at Salvation Knoll, on the north side of Cedar Mesa. Click here to visit the website, drag and resize the map so that you can click on the cameras in the southeast corner of the state. There is also one down near Monument Valley, a few on Highway 191 between Blanding and Moab, and a number of them in the Capital Reef area. The cameras are a great way to add to pre-trip data collection.

First Trip of the Season
This is about the time of year that Nicolai and I start preparing for our first trip of the season. We will head to Utah at that end of March, as we do each year. This year we will spend another week in Poison Spring Canyon, near Hanksville. We have plans to explore some of the side canyons, work on our primitive bows and arrows and associated skills, search out rock art, and just enjoy the quiet of the canyon in the spring. We’ll make a stop at North Wash for a little canyoneering on our way to Cedar Mesa where we also plan to spend a few days. We will post a trip report once we return, and try to make a post or two from the road.

In The News
Southern Utah is in the news once again with yet another “fugitive”. Robert sent me the following link this morning. It concerns a “mountain man” who has been using and abusing vacation homes in the Zion National Park area for as long as the past five years- the story says “he’s roamed across 1000 square miles” (not a radius of 1000 miles, as I first wrote). There is no mention of any kind of reward in the present story; no one has been harmed yet. But it does mention him being armed (see photo), and dangerous. Lets hope we don’t have a repeat of the recent Moab ranger shooting, or the mess we had in 1998. I will research the story further and post more info in my next blog. Click here to see the full article at MSNBC. Larger photos can be seen at the Iron County Sheriff’s Office website.

For more on our adventures, tracking, and trip planning, visit the Desert Explorer website.


6 Responses to Tracking Reading List, Highway Cameras, Spring Break Planning, Zion Fugitive

  1. Paul S says:

    That’s 1000 square miles…not a radius of 1000 miles…a radius of 17.8 miles.

  2. This isn’t exactly a ‘tracking’ movie, but you might enjoy it. It is by the same Russian director who did ‘Solaris’, remade in the US with George Clooney. It is called ‘Stalker’, it was Tarkovsky’s last film and evokes Chernobyl which the film shortly preceded and his death shortly followed.

    I’m actually in Monticello, and it looks like I’ll be in the North Wash Canyons just a bit before you. The so-called ‘Irish Canyons’ are technical, but they look worth a peak from below. There are also some larger canyons closer to the lake I might look at. (Marinus – sp?)

    • Hi Doug, Thanks for the movie recommendation. I have added it to my Netflix queue. Definitely sounds interesting. I have been up and down some of those canyons in North Wash; went a couple years back with a group of people. We dropped in from above first, ropes and harnesses required there, then climbed up a few of the side slots on the way out. Also went up a couple of them from the mouth just for fun, without any ropes or gear. They are definitely good ones to start with (perfect for me and my son), and fairly safe, not requiring any technical gear if you come in from the bottom. Enjoy Monticello and the canyons. Gerald

  3. North Wash Beta, etc-

    It’s been great to be out, even with a couple of quick melting snow storms. I ‘found’ (unpublished) **large** (Chaco sized) Pueblo in Montezuma Canyon, which was incredible. I think there is some real potential to develop that area for tourism in such a fashion as to give it more of the balance that SE Utah folks would like to see. It will never be Moab, but that the Montezuma road down from Monticello is a great scenic route to either Hovenweep or Blanding – and there are lots of historical old roads for challenging 4 wheeling.

    I stopped in at Hite, refilling water and talking with the Ranger there – whom I first met a couple of years ago when she was just starting. I have to say I’ve like the Glen Canyon Feds better than any others in Utah, or SW Colorado.

    Just before North Wash I went up the Dirty Devil Road, which has been repaired since the October 2010 flood – now a good 2WD High Clearance, aprox 4 miles to River access. Their were folks with shuttle vehicles there, out of NM. The lake level is right at the top of the mud flats, perhaps the worst possible level as the river looks braided, and very shallow, through that concrete muck.

    The first 3 Canyons coming up North Wash have Uranium Roads, into the Moenkopi and Chinle. I went up the third of those, right at the NRA boundary sign. I got up 45 minutes or so and highly eroded with loose stuff, even on the old road. I probably wouldn’t do it again, but I probably would check out the other canyons at some point.

    Marinus, the first canyon below the Hog Springs Rest Area, is in the same formation, but it is a larger canyon and the stream bed hiking was rugged and challenging, but as everything was pretty well consolidated, fun. There are a few places where there are houserock sized Wingate in the bed, but nothing blocking and the funnest part of the scramble hike. I made it up 1 1/2 hours, to a confluence where it pretty much splits in two. It will definitely get more challenging above here in one or the other canyon, but I didn’t even start. as I already had gone farther than I’d planned and rain was possible.

    Hog Springs was a good hike, but the trail is really not maintained at all. Still for a wet hike with vegetation it was very nice. I made it up a few bends past the dryfall/beaver pool – probably the best part of the canyon. The huge Navajo walls on the West side are incredible and those side canyons worthy of exploration. Here in Escalante someone mentioned there are some ruins up in there somewhere, but I didn’t get specifics. It would be great if you could get up on top of that Trachyte Ridge Navajo, either here, or elsewhere.

    The best hiker canyons **might well** be Stair and Butler, both originating at a place on my Delorme called ‘3 Forks’, in the Wingate. I did not go up either of these.

    The so-called ‘Irish Canyons’ were a bit confusing. There is a sign/kiosk at the mouth of what I’d guess is Leprechaun – also one of the best, and most social, campsites in the constrained North Wash area. I believe I went to the mouth of each of these 3 Navajo canyons, though it wasn’t clear from the display.

    The only one worthy for hiking is, I believe, ‘Blarney’ – which was superb, even better than Little Wild Horse canyon, though shorter. If you are comfortable, and skinny enough, to go further where ‘Blarney’ splits it would be worthwhile to look at the other canyons, elsewise I wouldn’t even bother. ‘Blarney’ is right at MP 28 and has the single best (farthest from the road) campsite.

    Blarney is outside of the free range area and the flora going up to this canyon is superb, and likely gorgeous in bloom. ‘Shellegah’ (sp?) is just in the Free Range area and the contrast is vegation is perhaps the most interesting thing about this Canyon.

    Although Leprechaun is the least hikable, from below, that campsite area has good access to the top of some interesting looking Navajo – though a ways a way, access to a Dirty Devil Overlook would make for a great hike. It might also be possible to loop into either Butler or Stair.

    There are additional Navajo canyons above and below these 3, which I did not look at.

    I took the ‘Little Egypt’ scenic route up to Hanksville, starting from the 276 intersection, and also an access route to the Henry’s – a good camping option, and not a whole lot more miles than the main highway. I ran into the Hanksville Ranger, a new guy and talked with him awhile. Although he (Josh?) still hasn’t figured out the difference between being a Ranger and a ‘bad boy’ cop, as seems to be typical he does seem like he has potential – hopefully he figures it out.

    He mentioned that the sign board at the Irish Canyons is due to be replaced, and that there were 15 tents there that first, nice, weekend of March. I talked with him about acessing Trachyte Ridge from 276 and he mentioned a nice, large, ‘green’ pothole type feature, but I didn’t get directions.

    When in Capitl Reef I talked with some folks there about the whole Ranger/Aggressive Federal Cop thing, and they blamed it on a change during the Bush Administration – something that would coincide with my Colorado Forest Service experience – and that agencies domination by Texas, Federal, Lawyers.

  4. mike says:

    PS Canyon is awesome! If you drive East, you can make a loop and check out the Waterhole Flat area. Then, drive back along the HIte Road. Camping just outside the Park boundaries too.
    Just a thought…Enjoy!

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