Tag Archives: Adventure

Hiking Vision-to See or Not

Before I dig into the subject of hiking vision and the ability to see the eyes of the forest that are watching you, I want to reintroduce you to a coming event.

I have not said much about the Haunt lately nor have I gotten in-depth into the process of discovery for the last few months. The Haunt, by the way, is both a location on my website that has been up, to now, empty and a bit of a magical location where Rupert Walker lives and where Dr. Jon Jonathan, his hiking companion, and scribe, hangs out. It is from the stories that Jonathan has written and will be writing, about the exploits of Rupert Walker that we will learn far more than I can teach you about the enormous delight and wonder to be found in becoming fully engaged in adventure hiking.

Jonathan will have one of his first narratives available in coming weeks. I am presently doing some prep work to assist (Editor Work) in getting the first adventure published. “Published” does not mean, at this stage, going public but because of the ties to my work on adventure hiking, Dr. Jonathan is developing each narrative for us with an attachment that will demonstrate the tools of the process used by Rupert to record his discoveries and the discovery methodology. These will be available on our website. I will keep you posted.

I will also post on the website and in the Haunt section an introduction to Dr. Jonathan and his chance meeting with Rupert Walker. It will introduce you to the two men and give you a glimpse of what is coming.

But the question before us is: Hiking vision, the concept of seeing? When you get into discovery hiking from the perspective of what Rupert sees as compared to what I see or you see we will discover that we really don’t see well at all.

And the reason we don’t see well is that we have not trained our eyes to focus. To train our eyes to focus means we have trained our brains to focus and therein lies the issue.

Our brains are like an attic’s content or furniture. The attic’s furniture are those things we have taken in from life and that we’ve experienced in our lives. Our memories. Our past. So when we see something our knowledge base and experience and discipline come together to decipher what we are looking at. And that is where purpose must come into the development of our attic’s furniture to construct the content and the habit of seeing.

I have, in earlier articles, spoken about the necessity of asking in our minds the: who, what, when, where…questions as we experience events through our five senses while hiking.

Asking questions such as, what is going on about me? Who made that noise? What did I just hear? Where did that movement come from? And who or what is there? Asking those questions is a habit that you must develop to start seeing what is happening about us.

Our attic needs content to apply the questions in context to the activity we are sensing. Thus my advocacy in the “Have You Hiked Today” blog post about your getting to know the fauna and flora that live in the habitat you are hiking.

This knowledge base is critical to your truly seeing what is before you. I know this is an elephant to eat but by doing it purposely and one bite at a time you will build an amazing system in your attic with furniture that will fit together and give you incredible insight. This insight into what you are seeing happens because you experience events or activity in the context of what you understand or know about them. So as you build content and have relational experiences through your senses in the context of your knowledge about the object, you strengthen the process of analysis and your understanding and seeing.

For example, you are hiking and the wind is coming at our face and all of a sudden you smell something putrid. If you are unfamiliar with the flora and fauna, your first thought will likely be something is dead up ahead. You have discovered in the past that dead things stink. However, if you are familiar with the inhabitants of the habitat you are hiking, you are aware that there are brown bears about and you know that brown bears often roll in rotting and putrid things to disguise their scent. You, all of a sudden, will see in your mind a different alternative that has very different implications.

Another example is the squirrel in my blog post “Listening To Your Hike“.

If you aren’t familiar with the activity of squirrels, you would not know that they get active with chatter when something new or concerning is wandering through the neighborhood and that they can also go berserk with chatter when in danger. I saw or comprehended that the chatter was unusual and, by being present but not manifest, I was able to introduce myself into the scene and see the great horned owl that was the object of “Mr. squirrel’s” anxiousness. It is about having the content in the attic to fit the context of the moment. And this builds in your attic exponentially as you experience more seeing. The events while hiking start relating together and insight becomes almost instant as you see the signs before you.

It is all about taking your hiking to the next level and being purposeful in developing your brain attic. By chucking out the irrelevant furniture and adding the relevant furniture we can develop a keen sense of seeing that will open the door to whole new experiences in your hike.

Check out the Haunt for an introduction to Rupert and Dr. Jonathan.

I hope to see you on the trails of adventure.

With hiking stick in hand,

Scott

Have you hiked today?

This is the question that elicits our desire not only to say yes I have hiked today, but also to tell our story.

We are a community of comrades bound by our love for the out-of-doors and particularly that of hiking, backpacking, trekking, etc.

As many of you know already, my particular niche in this wonderful lifestyle is adventure or discovery hiking.

It is to that end that my hiking this last week has been focused on what I originally thought was trail riders (horse people tramping the trails). I was aware that there were some range mules roaming the thousands of acres of open country where I was hiking but their presence was not apparent except for the find of an occasional neck bell. These critters apparently often have large bells attached around their neck to make their presence known.

During my last two hikes this week, I was, as always, asking myself what I was seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.

Continually striving to perceive what was going on around me. One of the inquiries that often open my mind to seeing more clearly is to ask myself what is incongruous about what I am seeing. I had been hiking  two days this wee and seeing lots of horse signs but what I was not seeing was man signs. Not only no man signs but the horse travel was often through brush and in areas not normal for the trail riders.

My prior supposition, based on little to no evidence, was that the occasional bell sounds usually far off were the singular ringing of a small band of range mules. My proper deduction should only have been that there were range mules in the area with no hypothesis as to their number, their activity, etc.

This week I went off trail, which is my particular delight in hiking and particularly in investigating the activity in the habitat. I followed a spoor of prints so obvious and plentiful that you would trip over them. As I came around a blind of trees I saw movement. One of the key principles in adventure hiking is to be present but not manifest. So I dress in colors that blend with the habitat that includes my pack, hat and shoes. I am cognizant of the noisemakers in my hiking and I am constantly asking what am I hearing, seeing, perceiving, smelling, etc. Over time I have found that the questioning becomes a behind the scene activity taking place in my head and almost unconsciously. I am often even aware of the wind direction.

As I was following the tracks before me I saw a slight movement, which at first I could not discern. It was 6:30 AM and I was in a relatively heavily wooded area so it was dusk like. As I watched and waited a large mule appeared, it was grazing within 40 feet me. As I was taking a picture, which turned out quite indistinct due to my turning off the flash, I saw further movement behind the mule. To my delight I was in the midst of some 20 to 30 mules and horses milling about in a treed area. I did not hear a single ding or jingle.

After taking some further pictures, I passed on intending to revisit the site later in the day. After further review of the trails throughout the area, most of which were shared both by the equus caballus (horse/mule) and the mule deer, the evidence further demonstrated that it was a rare occurrence that trail horses were ridden in this area. Most all this activity was from a range version of a solid-hoofed plant-eating domesticated mammal with a flowing mane and tail.

It is in this arena of seeing, not just looking, that is so important as we hike the hills with the purpose of entering into the activity about us.

There were two distinct clues as to what I was looking at that I did not immediately see. Part of that takes place in us because we often don’t spend time studying Ethology…the study of animals and their behavior in their natural environment and Botany…the study of plants. I am here not talking about some formal education but that of being aware (studying up a bit) on the animals that live in the habitat we are hiking and also understanding the various plant types and their interrelationship (who eats what). For example, when I am hiking in an area that I am aware that porcupines live, and I hike in the early morning (porcupines are largely nocturnal but often feed in the early morning) I am automatically looking for signs of porcupines. If I see small fresh prints in an area where there are willow or similar deciduous stands of trees about or I see fresh nibbles on new shoots of low greens or grunt sounds, I am likely seeing the signs of a porcupine. By following the grunts or prints you may just be invited to observe their breakfast meal that is if you can be present but not manifest. It is also a great help if you have a basic animal prints and scat chart with you for reference.

The two signs I alluded to above were first that the hoof prints did not display any sign of shoes (horse shoes). The second, as I noted earlier, was that nowhere were their signs of man associated with the hoof prints. I found no shoe or boot prints, no paper or other associated debris or signs. Lastly, the movement through heavily brushed or treed trails with downfalls etc. isn’t the pattern for the normal trail rider.

The goal is to think through all of the alternatives to what you are seeing. Eliminate all that are not confirmed, and likely the remaining alternative is the correct one.

If you keep working on your seeing, your evaluating, and your discerning, you will likely enter into a world of activity heretofore unavailable to your past hiking experience. The eyes of the forest are watching but it is to our cunning to discover who they are and what they are up to. This is what hiking is all about for me.

I hope to meet you on the trails of adventure.

With hiking stick in hand,

Scott

 

Packing your Backpack

Packing your backpack is a follow up to last weeks discussion on how to choose, fit, and adjust a backpack to meet your needs.

You now have chosen a backpack and you are ready to embark on a journey. What do you put into the backpack and how much do you put in, where do you put it and why do you put it where you do? These are the next key questions you want answered to be assured that you will have a great experience and that you are prepared for an adventure. These same principles apply to the day hike because all of the above attributes are our desires for every trip. We want to be comfortable, not painful; safe not short sighted, and prepared not to miss any opportunity to engage in the providential adventures offered on each trip out.

In addition to how and why to pack what you pack, we will discuss the care and feeding of your backpack, storing it, and waterproofing. I will also discuss hydration, though it is not directly a part of the backpack question; it is an optional item that can be included in your backpack selection and packing preparation.

Last, but by far not the least, I want to impart the concern of weight. The lighter the gear and supplies the lighter the pack, the lighter the pack the lighter the shoes/boots required. The issues of balance in difficult terrain goes down and the stamina goes up and so does the experience of freedom. The process of going light is developed individually by evaluating your gear and supplies after each trek. First, always include the 11 essentials. This is your safety net. Then make two piles of your gear and supplies. One pile for those items you used and one for those you just carried around. Decide if you really need all of the items in pile two and discard what you can. When your next buying season comes around evaluate what you can replace that is lighter and more efficient. Over time you will discover two things. The first is you will develop a list of gear and supplies that are essential to you and likely must be on every adventure. The second is that you will discover you can become quite creative in meeting your needs and going lighter. A lighter backpack makes hiking a ton more fun.

PACKING YOUR PACK

Loading an External-Frame Pack. The major consideration in loading a pack is how best to distribute the weight.

There are two basic principles: for trail hiking over flat ground, the weight of the pack should be high and relatively close to the body. The heavier items should sit between your shoulder blades. For consistently steep or rough terrain, carry the weight lower to give you better balance and avoid falls from having a higher center of gravity. In this case, heavier things should be placed more toward the middle of your back. To achieve either arrangement, load the heavier, bulky items into the large top compartment in the position where you want most of the weight. Then fill this and the remaining compartments with lighter items. Tents and tarps can be lashed to the extender bars at the top of the pack and sleeping bags can usually be lashed to the frame at the bottom of the pack. In either case, the horizontal weight distribution should be balanced so that the left side of the pack is in balance with the right. A woman’s center of gravity is generally lower than a man’s. So, for women, the heavier items should be placed close to the body but lower in the pack, as in the case for rough terrain, described above. Packs designed especially for women take this into account by lowering the pack bag on the frame. Load these packs as described above and then lash sleeping bags and tents or tarps to the extender bars at the top and bottom of the pack.

Loading an Internal-Frame Pack. The key thing to remember is that you can’t fight the basic laws of physics. Try and keep the heavyweight as close to your body as possible.

The further the weight moves from your body the heavier it feels and the more difficult it is to control. For easy, level hiking, a high center of gravity is best. To achieve this, load bulky, light gear (e.g. your sleeping bag) low in the pack and stack heavier gear on top of it. For steeper terrain, a lower center of gravity is best because it lessens the chance of falls from a top-heavy pack. In this case, place heavier items a little lower in the pack and closer to your back than normal. Women may prefer this arrangement under all circumstances.

Backpack

A well-loaded pack is as skinny as possible. A skinny pack is easier to carry and control. Use every compression strap and pull it as tightly as possible. A poorly loaded pack will cause you to spend far more energy and endure unnecessary pain.

Packing a backpack

PACKING TIPS

Develop a color-coded packing system. There is nothing more frustrating than having to go through your whole pack to find the gear you need.

I suggest you use colored stuff sacks. Red is for an emergency. Pack your medical kit and survival kit in red bags and mark them on the outside. Put clothes into another color, food into a separate color, etc. This not only identifies your contents but it helps fill all the voids and avoids content shifting.

  1. Develop a pocket strategy. My day hiking backpack, for example, has about 8 pockets. I carry the same gear in the same pockets all the time. Within the pockets are stuff sacks where practical. So my navigation gear is always in X pocket, my snacks, my camera, etc. Most often the priority is based on a need-strategy so, for example, in my case, I have my camera in my most accessible pocket.
  2. The horizontal weight distribution should be balanced so that the left side of the pack is in balance with the right side.
  3. Avoid hanging things all over the outside of your pack—no one wants to listen to you clank and clang your way down the trail; also, all that junk can snag branches. If you find yourself having to tie things on all the time, either your pack is too small or you are carrying too much (or both). This is also a direct violation of the principle of stealth. Being present but not manifest.
  4. For protection from rain, line your sleeping bag stuff sack and main pack compartments with plastic garbage bags. They also work as emergency shelters.
  5. Fuel bottles should be placed below any food items or in pockets on the outside of your pack.

HOW MUCH WEIGHT?

How much weight you should carry depends on your size, weight, and physical condition. It also depends on your need and hiking strategy.

The general rule for a multi day backpacking trip is to carry no more than 15 to 25 percent of your body weight. On longer expeditions or trips with more gear (such as winter camping), this figure may go up. The bottom line is, don’t carry more than you need or more than you can handle. Many a hiker has blown out knees, ankles, or backs by hauling more weight than they could handle. Here are some things to do to make your trip as comfortable as possible:

TIPS…Before you hit the trail

  1. Try on your loaded pack at home before you leave and, if possible, do a mini hike to evaluate. An hour climbing through some brush and up a hill or two will tell you a lot about your pack weight.
  2. Fiddle with the pack and adjust it at home (you probably won’t take the time to do this at the trailhead while your friends are waiting).
  3. Weigh your pack and compare that to your body weight. Figure out the percent of your body weight that you are carrying. Is it too much?
  4. Take a good look at what you are bringing. Prune out the nonessentials.
  5. Look and see what other people are carrying and how the whole group can share the load in a way that makes sense for each member, given size, weight, physical condition, and experience.
  6. Checking Your Pack Before a Trip:
    1. Take a look at the shoulder straps, hip belt, and other compression and load-carrying straps. Check all buckles, zippers and seams.
    2. Check the pack itself for rips or tears.
    3. If the pack is an external frame pack with a pack bag mounted onto the frame, check the attachment pins (typically clevis pins and split rings).

CARE AND FEEDING YOUR BACKPACK

With this in mind, when the season is over, place your pack in the tub with warm water and some scent free laundry detergent and let it soak for a while. Rinse it and hang it upside down so it can air dry. This is the perfect time to inspect the pack for any loose strap or signs of problems. DO NOT PLACE YOUR PACK IN THE WASHING MACHINE OR THE DRYER.

STORING YOUR PACK

After each time the pack is used, turn it upside down and shake out all the crumbs and other remnants of all things edible. During a long cold winter, mice will smell those little morsels. (FYI, we only have one documented case were a mouse has unzipped the pack to enter.)

WATERPROOFING YOUR BACKPACK

Your pack, unless it is made of rubber, is stitched together. Normally off the shelf a backpack will have the seams and zippers sealed and taped, and reasonably waterproof. Reasonably waterproof means, in most cases, that they can withstand rain for 1 to 3 hours and then things start getting wet. If you have an older pack, you’re in trouble likely within a half hour. The reason is that your seams are made of threads and threads act like small wicks which absorb water and eventually soak through and, guess what, you have wet gear, clothes and food. The plastic bag liner I mentioned earlier will assist to keep things dry and the stuff bags, if water repellent, will also be a good line of defense against moisture. But tramping along on a multiday trip with a wet bag is just asking for trouble; extra weight and dirt sticking to everything. So, each season as you pull your backpack out in preparation of that year’s adventures, spray it, spray your stuff bags, and anything else that needs it (like boots and clothing, tents and hats) with a nonchemical waterproof spray. The key here is to get a waterproof spray that smells like dirt! If you don’t do the dirt smell you’re going to have a tough time being present but not manifest if you smell like daisies. I am not here discounting your first line of defense, which is to put on your waterproof cover that most modern internal frame packs have built in. The trouble in relying solely on the cover is that it can be a pain to work with when you need to access your gear or while taking a rest break and forgetting to put it back on or putting your pack down on soaked ground. The opportunities for forgetting to adequately protect your sponge, which is what an unprotected non-waterproofed backpack becomes, is not worth the potential impact on your trek. You may need to recoat your backpack during the year if you are using it a lot, especially under wet conditions. A dry pack interior is a bit like dry clothes, for then everything works better.

HYDRATION

Dehydration is one of the most preventable backcountry problems but also one of the most ignored. Do not allow yourself any excuse to keep you from proper hydration and proper hydration properly.

Failure to stay hydrated can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems including heat-related illnesses, hypothermia, hyponatremia, and death. Stay Hydrated. So what does that mean? We will get into an extensive discussion about hydration in another venue but as related to picking a backpack a good standard is 10 to 12 ounces of water every 1/2 hour. But taking it properly means you don’t just stop every half hour and drink down 12 ounces of water and then press on. You will feel crummy and it is not meeting the bodies need. You really want to be consistently taking in water with the goal of consuming the allotted quantity of water every half hour. The most efficient means of doing this is to use a water bladder. Consider getting a backpack that has a bladder compartment built into your backpack. Not only is it accessible for constant use but also moving back to one of our key principles of discovery hiking and that of being present but not manifest, water bottles are noisy particularly when half empty along with being inconvenient. Remember our pocket strategy! See if you can find a pocket that allows you to conveniently, and without lots of movement including taking your pack off, access your water every 10 minutes without undue noise and distraction.

The ultimate goal of adventure hiking is to have your equipment be a facilitator of discovery, not a deterrent.

You want that pack to fit comfortably both on the trail or in the backcountry where there is no man made trail and you are laying on your stomach watching porcupines (baby porcupines) enjoying their morning munch.

I hope to meet you on the trails of adventure.

With Hiking Stick in Hand,

Scott

 

 

 

 

Discovery Hiking means hiking with purpose!

I want to discuss the process of discovery hiking because it is the key to making hiking an adventure.

The adventure in discovery hiking starts when you turn your attention from the trail to what is happening on and or off the trail; seeing what is there but not necessarily obvious, listening to what you are hearing and learning to understanding what is being said. Thus, attitude is of singular importance as you hone your skills at discovery hiking because you are hiking expectantly and using all you senses to discover what is happening around you. This will come natural over time but, during your beginning hikes, it will take focused attention.

The most practical way to begin the process is to determine something specific you want to discover (this may be a bird, an animal, a location, etc.) and prepare before your discovery hiking with a little research on where you might find your objective. My suggestion is to start with something relatively general that can lead you to something specific and help develop your skills. That way the hunt gets more exciting the more you get into it. So let’s say you want to find footprints of the animals that live in the habitat of your hike. Your initial research might be to get a chart of the footprints of the common animals found in the habitat. You might get a trail map of the area and look for the locations of water, particularly water that is not directly on a hiking trail. All animals and birds need and congregate around water and footprints are a lot easier to see and identify if they are left in moist ground.

Thus, you have an objective to discover the location (the haunt) where you can find evidence of the animals living in the habitat. You know their footprints because you have done your homework and you have at least one area where you can start your investigation to see what you can find. In our discovery language, the footprints are the objects of your discovery. The location of the footprints is the mystery to be solved. Secondarily, the owner of the footprints is your next investigation. Whose are they? This exercise is one of the most basic and most influential you can do in developing an understanding of the critters that live in your area. Once you understand who is there, their habits, diets, and activities, you start building your knowledge base that will lead you to serious adventure.

Now that you have your objective defined, you have your research compiled and in a form that you can have it readily available while hiking, your next step is to determine what tools you need to take with you to assist in your investigation. Some basics might include:

  1. The 11 Essentials in your backpack. If you need this checklist you can get it along with a basic hiking strategy and a more exhaustive gear list  by clicking HERE.
  2. You will want to chronicle your findings. I strongly suggest you take a journal and pen for recording your discoveries.
  3. Bring along a camera to take pictures of the prints you find.

At this juncture, we have identified a basic of  discovery hiking that will introduce you to, or at least give you some clues to, the eyes of the forest that are watching you trek through their habitat. Through a series of this type of investigatory hikes, you will gain understanding into the signs, sounds, and habits of the forest inhabitants. As you gain both insight and confidence in the process you will move from seeking a sign, like a footprint for understanding who lives here, to seeing a footprint or hearing an activity and seeking to find out what they are up to. I have posted a couple of blog posts that describe some of this activity. Check out: “Hiking Off Trail” and its follow up “Uncovering The Mystery”. You might also enjoy “Listening To Your Hike.”

In future blogs, emails and training’s, I will be providing you with much more detail on the discovery process along with handy tools and keen insights. Soon the investigations of Rupert Walker and his hiking cohort Dr. Jonathan will be available for your enjoyment and edification. Take a look at Dr. Jonathan’s blog post for a little history.

Concurrent with your growing skills at discovery hiking you will, by necessity and developing the skills of off-trial hiking. In the near future we will be starting the training in the basics of off-trail hiking beginning with map reading and navigation. I am inspired to be participating with you in discovering the wonderful world of nature and the enormous wealth of experience, adventure, and wisdom that we gain by engaging, understanding and preserving what has been provided to us in the great outdoors.

I hope to see you on the trails of adventure.

With hiking stick in hand,

Scott

 

An Introduction to Outdoors Adventure

I met Rupert fresh out of the ranks of an Afghanistan experience where, after receiving my degree as Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, I resided as a guest of the US military for three years. I was slow in moving through my education as my interests were deeply impacted by my love of outdoors adventure, which ultimately led me to Afghanistan and a close call with eternity.

While recovering, I set out for the west and ended up hiking through an enchanting land far north in the states of Washington and Idaho and eventually visiting the Haunt and discovering the person of Rupert H. Walker. Rupert is an extraordinary woodsman and of that particular breed that live out their convictions openly and consequentially. His zealousness for adventure in the context of the natural world is punctuated by an amazingly trained mind that can focus so intently on an issue, a mystery, or an event and deduce effect-to-cause so succinctly that to follow his course of reasoning has become an apt pursuit.

In the course of our year or so since meeting, I have grown to covet our times of hiking and outdoors adventure together. He has, for his part, allowed me into his confidence as a collaborator of sorts. I am often both a fellow adventurer as well as a chronicler of these adventures which, as consented, will be published as they provide instructive fodder for those seeking to uncover the mysteries of our creation. I have watched with wonder as this master detective and master woodsman has developed not only an unbelievable knowledge base for facts about our natural world and its workings but also his application of this knowledge to the science of discovery.

Of the bloodline and genealogy of one S. Holmes, Rupert’s grandfather migrated from England looking for adventure and fell in love with the “wild west”. This love infected Rupert and by age ten he was a constant companion of the byways and trails of the north woods. Following his linage, which comes from his mother’s side, whose grandmother was a beekeeper and, through the sting of the bee, Rupert’s great-grandfather found her an admirable companion. From that union, third generation, from the clan of the Walkers, appeared Rupert Holmes Walker. He is a master woodsman, adventurer, and detective. His mastery of deductive reasoning combined with his command of the ways of nature joins to make an adventure of even the simplest of treks.

Rupert is a musician of sorts; a strong thin man with a hawkish nose and keen eyes. He has bouts of melancholy at times, moving from excited with the flow of activity yet when not on a trail scent, capable of the dumps. He sees what I can’t even envision and puts together clues that often leave me in a bit of a mare’s nest. Though tending to be a loner and not keen on social relationships, there are some of us that have gained access to this unusual man. I, his scribe, have been allowed to publish a portion of his accounts. Soon with the assistance of fellow woodsman and editor Scott Wallace we will publish one of Rupert’s first adventures in which I accompanied him.

One insight I discovered very quickly was that knowing your neighbors and their habits can be both consequential and adds immensely to travel through their domain. One of the first and most insightful investigations when one prepares to go into a new territory or even to start really getting to know the environs of your common hiking area is to discover who lives there, their habits, traits and impact. Because, as you will see, this is foundational to many of our future exploits. Getting to know your neighbors is in Rupert’s eyes, the beginning, the starting point, and the footprints to discovery. I will keep you posted on progress as well as content. I plan, to the degree possible, to include with each chronicle, instructive tools and resources to sharpen your skills at discovery.

J. Jonathan

Listening To Your Hike

Sometimes the little guy wins. Champions come in all sizes and shapes and there is so much about life that we can learn if we approach our hike as adventures, purposely looking for the evidence of “effect” to “cause”. We often need to engage our minds beyond just observing the beauty of our surroundings and getting some exercise.

I was on a trail early one morning last week. I was traveling an adjunct trail, not one traveled by hunters, for it was bow season. Somehow, at times, it seems that the inhabitants of the habitat perceive our intent. It is so curious how the prey can comprehend in some fashion the presence and intent of the predator. The weather was overcast and the morning light was gray as I passed without disturbance 5 mule deer over a quarter mile stretch all bedded down and watching but not running. One of which was a beautiful 2-point buck.

As I hiked, one of the sentries of the woods, a red squirrel was chattering loudly and anxiously down in a hollow. A squirrel in a tree barking at you is telling everyone of your coming along. A squirrel in anxious activity not focusing on you is likely announcing the presence of something else of concern. In this case the little feller was scampering back and forth across a log and virtually screaming while watching in the direction of an apparent stump. The “effect” was anxious activity, but not so anxious that escape was perceived as immediately necessary. The cause was the point of interest. I understood the sign, a signal of great concern. I settled in to observe and hopefully perceive his source of angst. As I watched in the direction of his focus and as my eyes adjusted to the dim light I finally saw movement, ever so slight. I kept focused and still. I was, as Rupert would say, present but not manifest. Eventually I saw, not 10 feet from our furry sentry, a head moving ever so slowly in what appeared to be almost a circle. I knew instantly that there was an owl present. After careful and quiet observation I was able to get a picture of a great horned owl sitting on a stump not ten feet from the squirrel. Obviously from the squirrels perspective Mr. Owl was too close to take flight and get him but to dangerous to himself and his fellow critters to allow it to stay put without a strong discussion.

(Great Horned Owl, the squirrel was on the log at bottom of the circle.)

Great Horned Owl

The “effect” was an anxious squirrel.

The “signs” (1) an unusually anxious squirrel & (2) movement of a unique “kind.”

The “tools” were (1) awareness of the unusual character of the activity, (2) silence, (3) being present without being observed, and (4) patience that my observation was relevant and not incidental.

The “cause” was a great horned owl that liked to eat squirrels.

The “activity” was (1) to notify the forest creatures that danger lurked, and (2) to irritate the predator hoping he would move on and leave them alone.

The “hero” was a spry squirrel risking his hide to notify his compatriots.

The “results” were (1) our sentry notified me of the presence of a crafty and quiet predator that was closing out his day of hunting. (Great horned owls hunt mostly in the shadow hours before dark and just after dawn.) (2) The owl got fed up with all the publicity and moved on. I watched as his six-foot wingspan silently glided through the trees likely to find roost for the day.

As we study the signs and sounds of the woods there is often a story to enter into and a tale to tell if we are present but not manifest.

Discovering the activity?

When you discover an area of activity, the first thing Rupert would do is to gain a sense of what is going on. He looks for what is where it should not be and what isn’t where it should be. He would observe the footprints, scat and other tell tale signs of activity, what has been left behind and what has been taken. He would then seek to find the paths of coming and going and ask himself, “are there any smells or sounds? Is it quiet or are the critters of the forest active”? Investigate the activity, fact upon fact, then consider your next step. Each observation is taken in context and in consideration of the others…each adds to the understanding of the whole. Your object is discovering the activity, its source, its meaning, and ultimately its story.

With Hiking Stick in hand.

P.S.

Don’t forget to forage, there are some delightful treats out there.