Saturday, March 28, 2020

By Molly Deis, Founder

Spring is upon us and it is the perfect time to get outside for plant ID and harvesting seasonal greens. One of my favorite things to do when plants start unfurling leaves and blossoms bloom is to go on wild wanders with my kids for forest browsing. Some of our favorites are…

Dandelion Some see this as a weed, I see this as the base for my salads. We also pick the flowers, dip them in pancake batter sweetened with honey and fry them up for what my kids call Dandelion Donuts.

Stinging Nettle Yes it stings when it’s fresh, but after steaming, boiling or frying, you have a plant with more flavor than spinach. We use bread crumbs, eggs, garlic and chopped nettle to make Nettle Patties we fry on the stovetop or bake in the oven.

Oregon Oxalis This plant is a tasty trailside nibble. It’s got a tart taste to it, a little bit like a green apple. My kids eat it fresh while playing in the woods.

Remember, when harvesting any wild plant its important to get a good field guide to properly identify the species as some plants have toxic lookalikes. Here are a few guides we like to help learn proper identification skills:

See You In The Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

All Locations for Parents

By Molly Deis, Founder

We’ve come a long way since our first eclectic location directly across from Oaks Bottom Park. I often have conversations with many parents who don’t realize there’s a Trackers in their neighborhood. They get really excited when I tell them. So I wanted to review all our pick-up and drop-off options for Portland Area and beyond!


SE Portland

4617 SE Milwaukie Ave Portland, OR
This is Trackers Central, where you will find the most camp offerings. It also includes our nearby Annex.

Portland Waldorf School

2300 SE Harrison St Milwaukie, OR
We’re excited to offer camps at PWS to all families of the Milwaukie and beyond. Pro-tip to parents, parking is great here!

NE Portland

2727 NE 54th Ave. Portland, OR
Based out of St. Rose of Lima school, our NE Portland camps are in their 6th year with one of our fullest camp offerings.

N Portland

4822 N Vancouver Ave Portland, OR
New this year! And just off Williams Avenue, this site is a convenient option for many families in North Portland.

Cedar Hills

330 SW Murray Blvd Beaverton, OR
Right near the Nike Campus and only 1 minute from the Sunset Hwy, our new Cedar Hills site has proven very popular.

W Portland

5656 SW Humphrey Blvd Portland, OR
Close to our original W Portland site, this is more convenient for parents near both Schools Ferry Rd and the Sunset Hwy.

Happy Valley

16581 SE Hagen Rd Happy Valley, OR
Located at Pendarvis Farm, not too far from New Seasons in Happy Valley and site of the famous Pickathon festival.

Vancouver

10606 NE 14th St Vancouver, WA
You can find us at the Cascadia Montessori School. This is our 2nd year in this welcoming community.

Sandy

41515 SE Thomas Rd Sandy, OR
Day Camps are now available to families in Sandy. Now I drop my own kids off with a much shorter commute!

Overnight – Camp Roslyn

Thomas Rd Sandy, OR
Our new overnight site includes a newly remodeled historic school with a full-fledged dining hall.

Overnight Basecamp

Marmot Rd, Sandy, OR
Camp Trackers, our original residential site, is now our Basecamp for adventures in climbing, kayaking and more.

Overnight Expeditions

Adventures in the Pacific NW
Expeditions travel the Pacific Northwest. We visit the San Juan Islands, Oregon Coast and even backpack the Cascades.


I hope this review is helpful in knowing all our Portland sites. Also, don’t forget, Trackers has been in the Bay Area since 2008 and this year you can also find us in Denver and the Seattle area.

See You In The Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

By Tony Deis, Founder

Tracking is the original education. The Tracker learns from seeing their entire environment. Yes, the study of Tracking includes secondary resources such as books and other media. Yet at its foundation is an insatiable curiosity developed through routines of observation, and by mapping the most subtle details we see in the world around us.

Tracking is a gateway to a lifetime of adventure. Education should be an adventure, and real adventure is always an education. Learning Tracking is a course of study framed through service with 3 Connections:

Family & Community
Nature & the More-Than-Human-World
Many Generations Beyond Our Lifetime

The most relevant skill to the Tracker is the art of tracking. It teaches more than how to trail and follow animals, it’s about how we see and map the world—identifying patterns through layers and details both small and grand.The education of a Tracker offers teachings in our 4 Guilds:

Rangers The study of Forest Craft, Animal Tracking & Nature Awareness.
Wilders The study of Wildcrafting, Plants, and Wilder Gardens (Horticulture).
Mariners The study of Fishing, Boating, and Ecology (with Economics).
Artisans The study of Handcraft, Storytelling, and Sociology.

The skills of each Guild are learned by going outdoors into Nature, and by applying the core awareness of a Tracker along with hands-on skills of foraging and Forest Craft in nature.

Training in the skills of our Guilds teaches the routine of always mapping what you learn, and, to a greater extent, how you learn. Ultimately, Tracking is how all humans, all our ancestors, first learned about the world. It’s a way of learning and seeing that can benefit both the children of today and many generations beyond our lifetime.

Keep On Tracking,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

At Trackers, the entire point of a day in the woods is not for our teachers to teach, but for nature to lead the way. It’s a chance to learn, as uncontained by the human world as it can be. Too often, that is not the case in the day-to-day world our kids live in.

I don’t have a problem with video games, except that I’m really bad at them. I was the kid that went over to my friend’s house, promptly died on my first turn, and watched them play for the next 2 hours… until I died again. I’m fascinated by their innovative storytelling and technical scope. I also understand many games are altruistic and educational. Nevertheless, when my 9-year-old son goes to a friend’s house and plays video games, I sometimes troll him when he returns.

Dad: Why don’t we play video games at our house?
Robin: (sighs) Because they are other human’s ideas.
Dad: Bingo! I give you 1000 power up points.

We continue the debate about how his brain is growing and patterning, and what things could influence the person he will become. I stress that I don’t mind occasional exposure, just nothing structured in a way that can lead to addiction. Please note, I find it useful for every 9 year old to be well versed in behaviorist theory and evolutionary biology, just to make such conversations practical.

My primary concern is less about the medium of games, and more about where kids spend the majority of their time learning (which they do every second). Robin and I don’t stop at his obligatory family coda (which both annoys and amuses him). We discuss how games are designed to reward a particular course of behavior, for better or worse. Eventually, he brings up the point that TV does similar things (we like our Gravity Falls) and even books are “other peoples’ ideas”. Though, of course, he recognizes none of those possess the same fully-reactive experience of video games.

But nature is a very different teacher than human-produced media. And it builds a very different kind of empathy. When you play a video game, you have to understand human thought. When you track a red fox, you’re required to address an intelligence far more foreign and less domestic. The video game programmer wants you to eventually complete their puzzle. The fox, with the entire forest and seasons that hide it, is not so generous. Social media reinforces us to always be seen—it’s how we collect our “likes” denoting approval. Meanwhile, the Pacific Wren, a small brown bird, will aggressively scold you, alarming for the rest of the forest to run away, if your presence is even mildly obtrusive to their day-to-day foraging of spiders in the sword ferns.

The best rewards in the forest, in nature, come when you are seen less—not more. The lesson learned is never narrowed to one person’s programming objective, philosophy or set of ideas. That does not mean a Tracker is unsocial or avoids learning from their human community. On the contrary, they are often far more open to new ways of thinking because most of the trails they follow are naturally open-ended and mind-blowingly subtle.

This is what I mean by kids learning with nature, and not with teachers. We are guides who keep kids safe and help them overcome any limitations they may have in following the fox. Sure, sometimes those transitions into a more wild place still looks like a program—our camps, after all, have a schedule and curriculum—but they only have enough code to bring us to the freedom of the other side.

Also, of note, my kids are much better at video games than me.

Keep On Tracking,
Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

We can all agree, it’s important for kids to get outside. And we need to do more than simply go hiking or paddle a river: kids need connection!

Another word for connection is empathy. Children track and trail animals naturally. They have an innate curiosity to finds squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and more. Trees and plants are wonderful, and I know many budding botanists, but animals most directly remind kids of themselves. Animals walk, forage, and need shelter. Our forest friends see and sense the world as we do.

Tracking also serves as an inspiration for a child’s imagination. What would it be like to forage and live in the wilderness like the elk? How would it feel to hunt like the cougar? Or to have the close friendships of the wolf pack?

Animal tracking means constantly asking those questions. You see a subtle clue that becomes an empty space to place one moment in time. It is a story of an animal very much like ourselves, but also fantastically different. It harkens to a kid’s desire to live free and in the wild.

At Trackers, whether we are weaving a story of wizards and elves or embarking on a rock climbing adventure, we try to bring the empathy of animal tracking into every moment. In our camps, outdoor skills are simply vehicles that get us further into the wilderness, while it is tracking that helps a Trackers Kid truly see and connect with the wider and wilder world around them.

Keep On Tracking,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

1142

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. For me, it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I call any place with Western Red Cedar Trees and Pacific Wrens my home.

For me, joy is in picking salmonberries and thimbleberries every Summer, hunting for chanterelle mushrooms in the Fall, and embracing the grey rains of Winter while waiting for the first young nettles of Spring. All across our region, people have a love for the outdoors and nature. We are connected by the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

That is why, after many years of parents asking, I'm thrilled to announce Trackers Earth is coming to the Seattle area for Summer 2020. The schedule is now posted (with a 15% Early Discount). You'll find all our old favorites teaching outdoor lore and skills with our Rangers or Mariners guilds. Plus, story adventures of Live Action Role Playing (LARPs) with Elves, Wizards and even Secret Agents.

Camp Drop-Off is available in Lynnwood and Kirkland. Let me know if you have any questions and we look forward to seeing you there!

See You In The Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

Help Us Connect With Families!

You likely heard the news. For Summer 2020 Trackers is going beyond the Bay Area and Portland. We now offer camps in Seattle and Denver! Everyone here is excited to bring a deep connection to nature, community and many generations beyond our lifetime to more kids and their families.

How we connect at Trackers is unique—it is more than simply a visit to the woods. It is a profound relationship that empowers children in every aspect of their life. Nature becomes a friend who is always there. Allow me to illustrate this with a simple story.

Mystery Feather

A long, long time ago, Before Trackers (circa 6 BT), I was a seasonal outdoor educator. It was a Saturday—one of my few days off in the summer. Most of my time, day and night, was spent teaching in the forest. Coming back to the city was a culture shock.

I was tired, mulling over a hard week of camp (that happens) and trying to balance my personal checkbook.* I resented being back in the city where everything was more complicated. Walking with my head down I noticed a swath of light feathers lying on the sidewalk. My Trackers brain kicked in. Pulling out my pocket journal I drew a map of the whole area, noting buildings, curbs, rose bushes, trees, people sipping coffee outdoors, and flocks of pigeons mulling about.

Then I narrowed in on where I stood. How was the track and sign strewn across the landscape? While drawing it, I found the feathers had fallen into a pattern. The lightest feathers scattered in a concentric ring further South/Southeast along the sidewalk. The feathers on the street were pushed into the curb by passing cars.

The heavier feathers did not float as far, but still followed the same flow. I tracked the Wind That Once Was, walking only 12 paces North/Northwest to find the heaviest clump of a partial wing just below the Stumptown Coffee sign, where a hawk had temporarily rested in the early dawn with her fresh kill.

Looking up again, I sighted the nearest trees one could fly to and walked West towards them. Three blocks away, in the middle of the street, I found the rest of our pigeon prey, flat like a pancake from the morning traffic. “Why did she drop it?” I asked myself and was immediately answered by the caws coming from a nearby maple tree. The Hawk would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those Meddling Crows!

Later that afternoon, my hypothesis was confirmed by a friend who lived in the neighborhood. Without knowing about my Tracking Adventure, he relayed seeing several crows mobbing a hawk very early that morning—just over where I found the remains of our Pigeon Friend.

Nature Awareness & Connection

This little quest got me out of my head and back into my senses. I opened up the wilderness in the middle of the city. We hope to share that unique form of nature adventure with more families in many other urban areas. No matter where kids live, we want them to see through the eyes of a Tracker. It gets them through challenging days and gives them a superpower to see what most modern people do not. We want to help share a deeper connection to and awareness of community, nature and many generations beyond our lifetime.

Please help us connect. Share the news with friends and family from Seattle and Denver who you feel can benefit by learning and growing with Trackers. Also, we are looking for ideas for activities and local sites to run programming, along with parents interested in becoming ambassadors for our programs in their area. Who knows, Trackers Pittsburgh?

Reply to this email to contact Molly, our Founder, directly. We will both be personally responding.

Keep on Tracking,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

Our Winter Break Programs start today! They are often my favorite camps. From Ninjas Save Christmas to Vikings & Valkyries, the holiday themes seem to bring out the kid in everyone. And I believe that is what makes Trackers unique—we remember what it's like to be a kid.

We write our camp descriptions with kids in mind or the kid inside every parent. That does not mean we act like a kid (usually). Instead, we root what we do in that "call to adventure" and the creative power of seeing a world of possibilities. We want our campers to be like those kids over 50 years ago: running down creeks, catching crawdads and coming home for dinner wet, dirty and exhausted just after sundown.

I wish that for my own children, but I can't always provide it. I have to help them with math. I have a mortgage to pay. Plus, I'm ardently following that next election. Sometimes it feels like there's an entire world working against childhood and the parents who steward it. Screens can control our focus, comfort can dull our resiliency, or classroom walls can box our hearts.

The remedy? At Trackers, we know nature as a very real friend. A wilder companion that serves as an antidote to these modern challenges. The outdoors becomes a mentor and guide to childhood, preserving that spark of adventure that helps kids grow into healthy, caring adults.

So as I visit our camps with pirates stealing Christmas and flaming archery arrows they serve as stories that make this village called Trackers a place for teachers and parents who truly remember what it is like to be a kid.

From the Trackers Family to your….
Happy Holidays!

Molly Deis
Trackers Founder & Mom
Wilders Guild

Animal tracking is a great activity to get the family outside and in nature. Through tracking, you and your kids can solve wildlife mysteries together. You learn the stories of animals secretly hidden beyond human eyes. From backyards and playgrounds to public parks and forests, animal tracks are all around us. Use this guide to begin learning about the comings and goings of our animal neighbors.

A quick note on staying found. If you’re searching for and following animal tracks, chances are you’re headed off the beaten path. So the first thing to remember is how to stay found.

  1. Tell somebody where you’re going. Tell them when to expect to hear from you.
  2. Bring a compass and a topographical map of the area
  3. Memorize landmarks, especially ones just behind you.

Ok I’ve found a track. Now what?

There are five questions We ask that help us investigate tracks. We call them the Five Fingers of Tracking.

The Five Fingers of Tracking

Thumb of Tracking – Who is this animal?

So you found a track! The first step is to identify which animal it belongs to. Start with the size of the track—for example, a house cat will be smaller than a cougar. Next, observe its overall shape and detailed features. Match the following observations with the examples in one of the animal tracking field guides listed below!

  1. Count the number of toes. But be careful! Not all toes register (show up) consistently. Look at other tracks to confirm your observations.
  2. See if there are claw marks. Dogs show claws, cats do not. Porcupine show long claws.
  3. Look at the shape and size of the heel pad.
Index Finger of Tracking – What is this animal doing?

Each animal has its own unique way of moving. Finding a line of tracks helps you understand the gait (how an animal moves). This line of tracks forms its own pattern, depending on the animal’s speed. Your field guide is a great resource to sort out the front from the back feet, the first step (pardon the pun). After sorting fore from rear, try and move like the animal, recreating the gait with your own tracks. Gaits can be complicated, so play with it at first. Later, those same field guides can help you go more in-depth with this topic.

Long Finger of Tracking – When was it here?

“When” the animal passed by can be a challenging but fun question to master. There are a few tricks that can help us “age” a track. Pay attention to the weather. Has it rained recently? Was there frost that morning? What other elements can wear away that track? MISSION: Press your finger into the ground near the track. If your fingerprint looks similar to the track, the animal may have passed by recently.

Ring Finger of Tracking – Why was the animal here?

“Why” an animal visits and area is often directly tied to something they need for survival. In order to understand this, we need to look at an animal’s habitat—where it lives. What food is in the surrounding area that the animal may eat? Is there shelter from inclement weather or even a way to hide? Is it breeding season? Even the wind direction, which carries scent, affects why an animal moves through an area. Read about each animal’s survival needs and connect that knowledge to the water, trails, plants and trees you find right around you. MISSION: Find a place in your backyard or nearby park that you visit every day. Sit in this place anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour, and map the plants and trails around you. At first, it might look like a wall of green, but very soon you begin to notice the busy town of mice, raccoons, and birds who share your neighborhood.

Pinky of Tracking – Where is it going, and where did it come from?

Following and finding the animal—this is known as trailing. Start with how many tracks you can find in a row. But trailing goes beyond the tracks, too. Bits of fur stuck on a branch are great clues. Use all your senses to find the animal. Smell for urine posts. Listen to the birds. The alarm calls of robins and other feathered friends call tell you if a bobcat or coyote is passing by. With practice and knowledge of the landscape, you can learn to predict where you might find an animal based on its needs. If it’s really dry, they might seek water. If the weather is challenging, they might hunker down in sheltered areas. MISSION: A fun game to learn trailing starts by dragging a stick through the forest. Start with an obvious line and slowly make it harder to find. Go back to the start and follow your kids, friends, or family as they try to follow your trail and find the prize at the end.

This sounds like so much fun! But where should I go?

Head to floodplains and areas near rivers. The softer surfaces like mud, silt, and sand, are great for capturing tracks. Here are some of the places we love to go:

Oxbow Regional Park

Dabney State Park

Sauvie Island – Warrior Rock

Mary S. Young Park

And what about those field guides? We recommend:

Mammal Tracks and Signs by Mark Elbroch

Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracking by Olaus Johan Murie

Mammals of the Pacific Northwest by Chis Maser

At Trackers, we teach animal tracking for both kids and adults in our camps and classes. Check out TrackersPDX.com for upcoming options for all ages!

 

If your kid is a Tracker, there is code. It describes what it means to be a Tracker and gives guidance as we all connect to community, nature, and many generations beyond us.

Code of a Tracker

Pay Attention Most people go through life with tunnel vision. Trackers Kids learn to see the entire picture, to always look for details both small and great. We teach this through wide-angle vision, animal tracking, and sensory awareness. Students learn nothing is ever what we assume on the surface. Through tracking they learn to travel subtle trails few choose to follow.

Be Truly Helpful For the Tracker, this starts by Paying Attention. We are only TRULY helpful when we listen and empathize with others. A Tracker never assumes what they are doing is right, instead they act thoughtfully to meet to the needs of the village and nature.

Appreciation Awe is often missing from our modern day experience. A Trackers Kid seeks out a great new adventure everyday, feats of respect originating from the beauty of community and the wilder world around us.

Adapt A Trackers Kid always seeks out new answers and layers to the puzzle, to which there is never a finish. Trackers are always learning, growing, and adapting. They improve not only for themselves, but to help support others from friends and family to wildlife, from elders who come before and many generations into the future.

These lessons are shared by all of us as we care for community and adventure with nature. They are the heart of our programs, helping every kid learn what it means to be a “Tracker.”

Keep Growing,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad