By Lindsay VanMieghem
Over the past few weeks, I have been introduced to the world of winter tracking by local expert Ann Christensen. Even though my skills are about as advanced as recognizing a hole in the snow as a possible track and I rely heavily on the help of my Scats and Tracks of the Rocky Mountains guide book, I am becoming infatuated with unlocking the stories that these tracks have to tell. It is becoming clear to me that once you are introduced to this secret world that presents itself in the snow, it is nearly impossible not to take notice of the tracks everywhere you go.
On a recent Sunday, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed up north to hit the trails on my Nordic skis, and it became evident to me that I have indeed been infected with the tracking bug. Everywhere I looked I couldn’t help but get distracted by what I saw. Who was sleeping under that evergreen? Where was that snowshoe hare coming from? Where was it going?
My first discovery was that us Nordic skiers are not the only ones taking advantage of the impeccably groomed trails around the valley. And even though I was the first human to make tracks in the corduroy, I was definitely not the first one out and about that morning. As I made my way around the Prairie Creek Loop I followed the trail of a small herd of elk who had walked the same path not long before me. And I can’t blame them for wanting to take a break from the exhausting work of romping through the powder and take advantage of a path of packed down snow, that for all they know, was meant for them.
It was around the end of my ski as I was heading south on the Harriman Trail that I noticed some scat on the edge of the trail that intrigued me. As I kept skiing, I noticed some tracks camouflaged by the corduroy. That section of the trail is dog free, so I had a feeling the tracks belonged to the same animal who was responsible for the scat. At the time I didn’t notice any claw marks in the paw print so I thought it could be from some sort of cat instead of a canine. But I made sure to stop on my way back and snap some pictures of both the tracks and scat, even though I got a few weird looks from fellow skiers wondering what I was doing.
It was after consulting the scat and tracks book that I was able, to the best of my ability, identify the tracks as that of a coyote. It was also a good reminder that we are not the only ones who call the amazing wilderness around the Wood River Valley home.
Want to catch tracking fever? Join us for our final Winter Tracking Workshop of the season on February 16, 2019! To register, call (208) 726-4333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.