Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oregon Dunes Weekend

My seventh visit to Eel Creek campground resulted in the same conclusion as the previous six—tracking is cool. It’s hard work, it’s rewarding, it’s fascinating and eye-opening. And hey, we saw peregrine falcons, so the trip was totally worthwhile!

Back to mammals, we got some insight into aging tracks as the rain poured down on us for most of the weekend. You’d think that sand would drain well, but an impressive pond formed in the kitchen on Saturday night as we told stories of our day’s adventures. Plaster casts of mysterious creatures decorated the kitchen table. We got to ponder questions like: Do ravens have a different number of toe joints than crows do, resulting in a different number of dots in their tracks? Do any squirrels have five toes in both front and rear? How unerringly can I tell the difference between gray and red fox tracks? And where the heck did that red fox go after one group scared it up out of its day bed?

Despite the rain, sinuous sand dunes held lines of tracks stretching from oasis to oasis. Monday morning had some people out in the early light, trailing animals using the guidelines Dave had inspired us with the night before. From the perspective of ancient hominids, debating claw angle and number of toes doesn’t get you any closer to actually seeing (and perhaps eating) the animal. I thoroughly enjoyed blending the skills of the modern naturalist and the ancient scout, solving mysteries with as many parts of my brain as I could muster.

There’s still plenty of grit in my clothes and beds to remind me of the Dunes. “Sand time” is an inspiring start to a year of solid dirt time.

Alexia inspecting the trail of a species of mammal we were quite surprised to find roaming the dunes. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on it!

Hardy Pacific Northwest trackers diligently studying the same trail in the rain.

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