Tuesday, May 5, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

People follow many trails in search of fun

MarionFranckW

By
April 1, 2011 |

I was about a third of the way through a morning of learning to identify animals from their tracks when the group leader told us something unexpected about the place we were exploring.

“People like us, we’re the first to arrive,” he said. “Then the off-roaders. Then the paintball crowd.”

The location was outside Nevada City where my husband and I had come to spend the weekend with friends. These good people know me well enough to propose entertainment they wouldn’t choose for themselves, in this case, a tracking class.

I jumped at the chance. Ever since my husband and I bought property in the foothills, I’ve been curious about the animals who share our land.

We got up early for the class and drove through a confusing set of back-country roads following directions that had arrived by email. I knew we would end up in a woodsy area and I expected it to be beautiful.

I hoped the hiking wouldn’t exhaust me: It was a three-hour class.

At 9:30 a.m. we found our destination, parked the car and joined the tracking group who were standing together at the edge of a vast field of mud. All around us the ground was brown, a lake-sized ring of earth, compacted in some places, squishy in others and crisscrossed by car and truck tracks.

Our hosts explained that it was the site of a former airport. The mud expanse was ringed by large pine trees and I figured we’d head into the woods soon.

We began by examining the mud. The group consisted of about 15 people, the four of us, attracted by a newspaper announcement, and the regulars, a group of serious and semi-serious trackers. By “serious” I mean that some of them work for search and rescue. By semi-serious I mean that even the amateurs carried animal identification charts, measuring devices and books.

As soon as we started looking at the mud, we saw tracks. The most obvious and plentiful were dog tracks, but the experienced trackers identified fox, skunk — even a frog and a tiny millipede. They could tell which way the deer had been running and how fast. They took out rulers and calipers and confirmed their guesses by measuring the size of the tracks and the space between footfalls.

It soon became obvious that this was not a skill I could pick up quickly. Tracks of the same size looked all the same to me. Even when I began to see differences (longer toenails, wider central pad, deeper impression), I realized that the animals’ movements disguise their tracks. If the fox or skunk is running, turning or pausing, the tracks will look different.

Just as I was discovering the difference movement makes, I heard unexpected movement: the sound of a unmuffled car accelerating. A man had just driven his jacked-up Ford pickup onto the mud field and gunned the engine. Then he veered off into a woodsy area at high speed and starting turning in circles.

For five minutes, we heard a rumble but we couldn’t see him. Then the truck reappeared on the edge of the mud field, limping and drenched in mud. The driver had rolled it. A tire was flat, the windshield shattered, the cab crushed.

The driver was OK because he had a roll bar. I saw him stand and talk on his cell phone. Minutes later, a buddy showed up and they hauled the truck away.

We weren’t paying much attention to them, having moved to the far side of the mud, where someone had found a perfectly symmetrical one-inch circle. It came to a peak like a volcano and was surrounded by tiny mud bubbles. This wasn’t an animal track, but what was it? We discussed it at length. A burrowing insect?

Finally, the group leader said, “Maybe it’s a paintball.” He scratched at the mud, applied a little pressure and pulled something out. Bingo.

I’d never seen a paintball, and I know nothing about the game except what I learned later from Wikipedia. I gather that players, wearing protective masks, shoot at each other with paint-filled pellets — basically, war simulation for fun. Playing on a field like this would be called “outlaw ball” because no safety regulations are in place.

Around this time I realized that we weren’t going into the woods at all. Tracks are clear on mud, not on the leaves and pine needles you find in the forest. Our destination was here, as it was for the off-roaders and the paintballers. Our destiny was to look for nature in the same place where people shot, caroused and destroyed.

We spent another hour padding around on the mud learning from the experts and trying to read cues from the animals who, like off-roaders, paintballers and trackers, leave traces of their presence, although the animals are more subtle.

Although track identification is way too complex for me to learn in a morning, I did learn about people.

“Takes all kinds” doesn’t begin to grasp the diorama that emerged at the mud field. I wonder how many similar places I’ve never seen.

— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at [email protected]

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Sexual assault awareness campaign recognizes teens

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Mother, daughters killed in crash caused by wrong-way driver

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    New comic allows readers to ‘Carpe Diem’!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Fire damages Woodland apartment

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Watering bans, conservation mandates on tap for regulators

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    A blessing of the bikes

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A2

    Capitol drive collects essentials for young lives

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Sunrise Rotarians honor student role models

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Vet Med Large Animal Clinic has a new director

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B3

     
    Party celebrates release of Lescroart’s new novel

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Grace Valley hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B3

     
    Indoor Fun Fly comes to Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Learn to use walking poles effectively

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Davis families take a spin at the Loopalooza

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    Davis Municipal Fiber will give people a choice

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Independent study enrollment underway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Faulkner featured at Poetry Night on Thursday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Sunset Rotary hosts Thursday-afternoon bingo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Winters agri-tour visits Four Winds Nursery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Fresh cherries at Sutter market

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Speakers cancel for health reasons

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Special KDRT broadcast celebrates Grateful Dead’s 50 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    Tour de Cluck participants can get here by train

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Dance, dance, dance for a great cause

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A10

    Information offered on city tax refund program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

     
    Monthly tour set at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Think long and hard about our town’s future

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Whom will our council represent?

    By Michelle Millet | From Page: B4

    Weeds pose a threat to pets

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Is your bike waiting for you?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Tips to reduce student stress

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    John Cole cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

    New rule: No dough, no art

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Ready to cut her off

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    .

    Sports

     
    DHS celebrates Senior Day with a fun victory

    By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Visiting Eagles edge Blue Devils

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Majors roundup: Thompson, D’Angelo lead Brew Crew rally

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies baseballers fall in 13 innings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Student filmmakers showcased at UCD Festival

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Stellar acting brings home Capital Stage’s dark comedy

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Student choreographers, dancers stage festival at UC Davis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    From Bach to rock, Regal Beezers will entertain

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Emma Sallie Wing Hale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Robert Simpson Loomis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7