True Tracks →
True Tracks - Summer-Fall 1996
California a Hot Venue
Though temperatures soared to over 100 degrees early in the week,
the heat couldn't melt the enthusiasm of the students. The 1996
Standard Class offered in California in August proved to be a huge
hit with the students.
Students gathered from around the world for this first west coast
standard, coming from as far away as New
Zealand, Japan, and Austria.
The class was held at Camp Lindblad near Boulder Creek in
Northern California. Set among the redwoods, the camp provided a
wonderful background for learning.
Despite record temperatures of 104 o on Tuesday of the class,
participants were able to focus on the workshops and work on their
newfound skills. The class broke ground in another way. With 150
participants, it is the largest Standard Tom has ever taught. To
accommodate that many students, a total of twenty assistant
instructors helped students with their skills and gave lots of
Special thanks is due to those who helped make it all a success,
including instructors Richard Cleveland and Joe Lau who came out
from New Jersey, and local instructors Mark Weinart, Joe Slattery,
and Kevin Reeve as well as all 20 of the assistant instructors.
Julia and Lucille Parker who live and work in Yosemite also
presented a special lecture on Acorn preparation in the Miwok
tradition. This class will be held again in California in 1997, so
sign up your friends.
Tom teaching in the redwoods
From the Farm
Greetings! WELCOME to the fifth edition of the True Tracks
Newsletter! We're all very happy you have enjoyed them so far! Many
of you have called about receiving past issues, but the only extras
we have are from issue #4, the last one. If you didn't receive it,
call the office and we will send one. Please - there are no more
copies of the first three newsletter, so we cannot send any. Perhaps
you know of someone who can make a copy of theirs. There are always
glitches in large mailings so we apologize if you haven't received
CALLING All SHADOW SCOUTS
Each year we allow a limited number of Scout Class graduates to
return as Shadow Scouts to stalk and challenge the skills of the
current Scout students. In order to participate as a Shadow Scout in
next year's Scout class, you must be a Scout graduate, and you must
register in writing with Richard Cleveland. Unfortunately, we cannot
allow drop-ins and non-Scout graduates to participate in the
experience. Spaces will be filled on a first-come first-served
basis. Once you have reserved your place, you will be sent a set of
guidelines that you will be required to observe. If you are
interested, please drop Richard a line.
CARETAKERS TAKE NOTE
Thanks to those who expressed an interest in caretaking the Pine
Barrens property. Due to your overwhelming response, we will not be
accepting applications for some time. Thank you.
A MESSAGE FROM TOM
Dear Tracker Students,
As many of you know, Frank and Karen Sherwood have moved to
Washington to begin teaching their own classes full time. They have
been my instructors for over 15 years. Yet they are like family to
me, valued friends, and a big part of the Tracker Vision. Though
their moving away is a big loss, I know that they must follow their
vision and I support them fully in that decision.
I Frank and Karen's class are a dynamic complement to the Tracker
classes. I just cannot recommend them enough to any student looking
for a tremendous learning experience. Both Frank and Karen teach
from their vast experience and not from just theory, which shows in
their lectures and workshops. Though their move is a great loss to
the Tracker School, I feel their move also expands the Tracker
Vision. Even though we are separated by many mile, Frank and Karen
will always remain a vital part of Tracker Vision.
All good Medicine;
WELCOME AND HELLO
Say hello to new instructor, Joe Lau or as we all know him -
Ninja Joe. Joe has been a part of the Tracker School as a student
for many years, having taken his first class back in 1985, and since
then has been a helper at more classes than we can count. He brings
with him unique experience and expertise in fire making, knapping,
and Scout skills.
It is now possible to contact the school using email or visit the
by Ninja Joe Lau
I would like to start by giving thanks to the entire
Tracker Family for making me feel like I'm home. I hope I can now
give as much as I have received. The Scout classes have always been
my favorite. The new Advanced Scout Class retains much of the
challenging workshops that were in its formerly "by invitation only"
predecessor. The stream float, tree travel, and the ever popular
swamp crawl gymnastics are well rounded with the unique Scout
awareness and philosophies.
But what fascinates me is being able to balance the
physical skills with the philosophical values of the Scout
lifestyle. Truly, the Scout lived more for others, the tribe, than
for himself. He was the eyes, the ears, the provider, the protector
of the tribe.
So many martial artists come through the Tracker
School and many with wilderness skills start practicing martial
arts. I believe it is because these people can feel that the
greatest value is the value of LIFE. As in the ancient Scout
societies, the lives of others were just as important as their own.
It was dishonorable to be detected and have to engage an enemy. This
rule exists to dissuade unnecessary violence. It would be more
dishonorable to take a life unnecessarily or cause hardship to those
under their care.
I feel this dual-life value of self-preservation and
preservation of the species which arrives martial artists,
wilderness survivalists, and "Scouts" alike. Though I have only been
working here a short while, I think my best teachings are simple
reminders -- "your skill may be good enough for you -- but is it
good enough for those who you are providing for or are under your
protection?" I keep trying to remind myself of this. Ask yourself:
What is the worst thing you can imagine? Is it not being able to
provide and protect those whom you love and who are counting on you?
Conversely, what is the best feeling you can imagine? Isn't it being
able to provide for and protect those whom you love?
by Hilary Lauer
The other day while out running (fox running, of course), and
pondering just what I could write about for this issue of True
Tracks, the earth reached out and tripped me. In that rolling
tumble, there lay two messages, and, bonus, an article for this
newsletter. Where I fell was ridiculously flat and rock free, except
one small toe catcher. Before I knew it I had completely rolled and
escaped unscathed. What was neat was that my body had responded
before I could think. The first message I understood was how
important it is to train our bodies to think for us, that is, to
ingrain these skills into our body-minds. And that's where
practicing these skills and blindfolding one's self is so important.
I had practiced Aikido-type rolls just enough that my body knew
what to do when I fell. This relates to every skill you know.
Practice skill -- bow drill, stalking, throwing stick, fox walking
-- and ingrain them into your body's mind. Blindfold yourself while
you practice these and other skills, and really feel yourself doing
them instead of just thinking yourself through them. This will help
The second message I got from this tumble (which thankfully, by
the way, did not land me in any poison ivy), is we all need to let
the earth teach us. When one is moving too fast, or not paying
enough attention, the earth will let you know. These are golden
moments, pay attention and you will learn so much. When I fell I
realized I was too mental and needed to expand back to wide angle
vision. The next time you run into something, or a branch snags your
hair, stop, breath, go to wide angle vision and understand what this
is telling you. The earth is a wonderful teacher, by just your
slowing down, she'll teach you grand lessons.
Lastly, for those of you who have not learned the fox run, find a
rocky trail and it will teach you how to do it. Like those big,
pointy driveway rocks on bare feet teach the fox walk, a rocky trail
will teach the fox run. Feel how instinctively you shift onto the
balls of your feet and bend your knees. That is the basic elements
of the fox run. Play with that, and have fun.
"NATURE" CLASS A GREAT MIX
by Nancy Klein
This year, the Tracker School ran two new classes, Nature and
Advanced Scout. The Nature class, along with being very exciting in
itself, saw the birth of Tom and Deb's baby, River. The class
studied in great detail, and analyzed fur from the various parts of
different animals, as well as their scat and individual feet. Along
with the fur and foot analysis, students dissected several of the
animals to study what they'd eaten and to look closely at their
anatomy. In the overall sense, it expanded the students' awareness
of the animal physically and how it responds to its environment.
Many of the students taking the Nature class were graduates of the
Advanced Philosophy classes and those that wrote to Tom expressed
how much they needed what he taught in this class. "It was exactly
what I needed to balance my awareness of both the physical and
spiritual realms the animals live in", was what many write when
asked for their response to the class.
Tom also took them into the field to introduce them to the
"caretaker attitude". To look at the land, see the damage man had
inflicted upon an area (also storm damage), and to repair it to its
natural, balanced state. In this case, it was the lower pasture,
down towards the river. For many years it was a pasture, with
natural vegetation being replaced by prairie roses, thick, thorny
and impenetrable for many animals who once lived in the area. Many
such areas were trimmed back, and some eliminated with the cut
branches piled to become cover for many of the smaller animals
forced out by the roses. Students were shown how to look at an area
where they live, and to adapt this "caretaker attitude" and the
steps to take to return it to its natural, balanced state. One
evening, Tom's brother Jim, who is Assistant Commissioner of Health
for the State of New Jersey, gave a slide presentation and lecture
about the bacteria, viruses and other related microbes living in the
wilderness environment, and their effects, both good and bad upon
humans. The response to Jim's evening workshop was overwhelming
positive, and we hope that he'll be able to repeat it next year. The
Nature class will again be offered in '97, and we look forward to
seeing many of you there!
ADVANCED SCOUT LIVES UP TO NAME
by Kevin Reeve
This year, Tom offered two editions of the Advanced Scout. Both
were hits with the participants. Both involved students in typical
scout activity. I was privileged to participate in the second
offering held this past September.
From the start, it was clear we would be doing advanced skills.
We were formed into five man scout teams. We were drilled in the
area of team movement, group dynamics, and the importance of the
scout mentality of "playing the game." In addition, the class
received instruction on the techniques of being a Shadow Scout and
the essentials of booby-trapping and ambushing aware scout teams.
Throughout the week, Shadow Scouts challenged the participant's
skills and helped keep them aware to a state of near paranoia.
Incoming water balloons launched hundreds of yards from Shadow Scout
positions posed a risk to anyone moving on the landscape.
Tracking instruction included cluster tracking - reading a set of
tracks as a group with a single meaning, or reading whole sections
of trail as a single track.
Tom took the class through a number of excellent and sometimes
extremely challenging exercises that were a blend of physical and
spiritual skills. These activities became progressively more
challenging and culminated in one of Tom's famous "Psycho-tours," an
unbelievable traverse of the swamp (without getting even our feet
wet). That, combined with tree-to-tree work, and the advanced Scout
Philosophy, made for a class that will not soon be forgotten.
SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT
by Karen Sherwood
The first time I gathered and prepared acorns and brought them
into flour, I knew it wouldn't be the last. It is a spiritual
experience that brings one back to the roots of our ancestors. As we
approach Autumn, we are reminded of what that season has to bear.
One of the first things I am reminded of is that it is acorn season.
As the leaves on the trees change from a deep green to fiery reds
and yellows, it is time once again to don our harvesting baskets in
search of the acorn. Approaching the great oak and giving thanks, we
carefully search out the good healthy acorns which are heavier,
smooth and lacking any holes. Imperfect ones are left behind to feed
the deer and squirrels and nourish the earth in the upcoming months.
Returning home, one should prepare the acorns right away, or dry
them thoroughly for future preparation. Those acorns not dried
suitably will soon mildew, putting to waste all your efforts. Next,
comes the task of shelling. Choose your favorite dimpled stone and
place an acorn in the depression. With a comfortable hand stone or
mano, tap the acorn and the shell will easily split. After removing
the nut from the shell, you then want to peel off the thin skin
surrounding the nut. This skin is very bitter and makes for an
inferior flour if left on. To loosen the skin, split the acorns in
half along the groove, and gently roll them between your hands. The
skins should now easily come off.
Next, you must leach nearly all the species of acorns of their
tannic acid to remove any bitterness. There are many different
techniques, but probably the easiest way is to simply boil the nuts
for about 5 to 10 minutes. The most important part of this step is
to make sure your water is to a full boil before adding the acorns.
Many people have neglected this step, only to end up with bitter
flour. It may take up to three changes of water to bring all the
tannic acid out of the nuts. You may taste the warm acorns to see if
they are very bitter and require additional boiling. Make sure that
with each fresh batch of water, that you bring the pot to a boil
before adding the acorns. Finally, with that completed, you are
ready to make flour. Choose your favorite grinding method, whether
it be mortar and pestle, or "survival Quisinart." By grinding the
soft, wet acorns you make your job much easier. I used to dry out
the leached nuts, then grind them, only to be at the metate or
grinding mill for what seemed an eternity. Out of necessity one day,
I found an easier way, so I now pass that on to you. Wet acorns make
for easier grinding. You now have a wonderful rich, dark brown flour
which you can use damp or dry thoroughly for future use. Acorn bread
or muffins are some great ways to use your new flour. One of my most
used recipes follows. I hope you will seek out the wondrous oak in
your neighborhood, and enjoy one of her many gifts, the acorn.
A wonderful book on acorns and their preparation is It Will
Live Forever, by Bev Ortiz, published by Heyday Books, Berkeley,
CA. It describes the Yosemite Indian tradition of acorn preparation.
Not only is it a thorough description of the techniques involved,
but it gives due respect to the tree and the people whose lives
depended upon this wonderful plant. I highly recommend it.
Cranberry Acorn Muffins
2 cups acorn flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
I tablespoon baking powder
I cup milk
I cup maple syrup 2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup spicebush blossoms or dried clover blossoms
Mix together all dry ingredients then stir in wet ones. Add
cranberries and blossoms. Pour into oiled muffin tins and bake at
400 degrees for 15 minutes.
NEWS FROM ASSOCIATES
by Richard Cleveland
Another summer has come to an end, and that mean our
childrens' programs are over also. This past summer we held two
programs again. One in the Poconos Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania
and the other in New Mexico. It was a busy summer for me, and I'm
both grateful and sad that it is over. Children hold a special place
in my heart and I miss them already. Our future is so dependent on
them and I pray that we planted a few seeds in their hearts this
year. Their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn always
amazes me. This was the first year that I ran a class for 14- 17
year olds. I found this age group to be very capable, in fact, in
the first four hours after demonstrating fire to them 10 out of 13
of them made bow drill fires on their own. That's better than most
adults do. I was very pleased with this class and intend to run
another next summer, probably out west somewhere.
I'd also like to thank all of the people who helped
Rob and I run these programs. Without their help these programs
would not be possible. So thank you to Hilary, Seth, Mark, Renee,
Nal1cy, Peter and Adam. And a special thanks to Wanda DeWaard for
all her hard work and genuine love for children. Wanda was an
instructor here during the mid 80's and her expertise with children
is truly remarkable. And of course, these programs would not be
possible without the love, guidance, and support of Tom and Debbie
and their commitment toward the greater vision.
Dates and locations of the 1997 programs will not be
chosen until January, so please be patient. Information will be
mailed February 1, 1997.
EARTHWALK NORTHWEST, INC. FRANK a KAREN'S SKILLS CLASSES
P.O. Box 461 . Issaquah, WA 98027 (206) 746- 7267
. Four day Herbal Studies Course
. Advanced Skills Course
. Wild Edibles Weekend
. Big Frank's Brain Tanning, Primitive Skills, & Wild Gourmet Foods
Course . Brain Tanning II
. Skills Refresher Course
. Edible Vegetable Course
. Log Cabin Building
. Primitive Bow and Spear Fishing
. Semi-survival Treks
To Register, please give us a call.
we have just received word that the House and Senate
have passed bill #1973 on October 4, 1996. This is the bill that
will force the relocation of numerous Hopi and Navajo from territory
they have occupied for centuries. There is a enormous bed of coal
that is being sought by Peabody Coal. The Government agreed to shove
down the throats of the two nations over $50 million to purchase the
land that the Hopi consider sacred. Hopi elders have been openly
opposed to the sale of this mountain. However, it seems that a new
environmental impact statement indicates that the sheep that have
been there for hundreds of years are suddenly destroying the land.
On January 3, 1997, all peoples will be escorted off the land by US
marshals, including elderly who have lived there their entire lives.
We are asking you to please call the White House to strongly oppose
President Clinton's signing of this bill into law. Bill #1973.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!
by Seth Recarde
The number of people attending the classes at the Tracker School
continues to grow. This has created a need for volunteers who have
taken the Standard course to act as visiting instructors for
upcoming Standard courses.
Your primary responsibilities would be to help us in preparing for
the classes and in working with the students. This includes giving
general help, especially during workshops and meal breaks, and being
available to answer student questions and assist them with skill
practice. It is a great opportunity to review the Standard class
materials, and is great fun as well.
We are looking for Standard course graduates who have practiced
their skills, who relate to the students in a caring and positive
manner, and are willing to give us a hand. You can sleep in a tent
or the barn, and best of all you can eat stew with the class. So
pack as you did for the standard, but bring all those extras you
wish you had last time, (like a thick cushion to sit on) and join
us. It will be fun to have you here. We are also accepting
applications for volunteer instructors for the advanced classes. You
must have already attended the class as a student and be proficient
in skills and techniques taught. If you are interested, fill in the
form below and send it off. We will get back to you as soon as we
can confirm your dates.
SCOUT MARTIAL ARTS
by Paul Bonner
The Second Scout Martial Arts Class was held this past September.
Thirty students attended, and the results were nothing less than
spectacular. The class was taught by Paul Bonner and George and
Vanessa Larson and included a special two-days of training from Rick
Faye of Minneapolis. Special thanks to Tom and Deb for making it
possible, to Hilary and Seth for keeping us fed and organized, and
also to Nancy Klein for all her work behind the scenes. Look forward
to another offering in October 6 - 11, 1997.
||Instructors George Larson, Rick Faye,
Paul Bonner, and Vanessa Larson (L to R)
by Bryan Myers
Greetings Tracker Relatives,
I am using this opportunity to give thanks to each of you for two
years of challenging and fulfilling experiences. In memory, they
will eventually define my experience as an instructor as a very
unique and very rewarding one. I will be moving to Southern Idaho,
near Twin Falls, this January to continue my work with adolescents
in a wilderness context. I began working with a Tracker student,
Jeremy Finkeldey, for an adolescent rehabilitation center in north
Philadelphia. We started a two day primitive skills course with a
number of exercises all in a wilderness setting. It was proven to be
successful to other faculty members, parole officers, and most
importantly, to the term. This has prompted me to accept an
invitation to join an organization in Idaho to do this type of
With the support and encouragement of the Tracker Family, I am
making arrangements to leave the school this fall. I sincerely hope
the best for the continuation of the Tracker Vision. Because of the
quality of the students that support it, the vision surely lives in
a powerful manner. Once again, I send thanks in the four directions
for the privilege of seeking this great opportunity.
Seek truth always!
by Seth Recarde
Why are shelter and fire among our first priorities in survival?
What makes them so important? Shelter and fire regulate our
temperature. The bodies of all warmblooded creatures will only
function properly in a narrow range o f temperatures. When a body
gets too hot, it experiences heat stroke, where the brain literally
cooks inside the skull. When a body gets too cold, it enters
hypothermia, where the body shuts down in an attempt to maintain
heat in the body core. These can all be prevented with proper
shelter and fire.
There are five ways the body looses heat. An understanding of
these principles will help you determine the best clothing, shelter,
and fire for any given situation. A good way to remember these is by
using the memory aid B-R-A-C-E.
B - Breathing
A - Air Convection
C - Conduction
E - Evaporation
Breathing: A fair amount of heat is exchanged through
breathing. Breathing the vapor from a cup of hot tea can greatly
reduce the amount of heat lost compared to breathing cold air.
Breath through your nose if you are hiking, stalking, etc. in cold
weather. This helps pre-warm the air before it hits your lungs.
Radiation: Your body radiates heat just like a fire or hot
rock. You can trap this heat close to your body using clothing and
shelter. You can add heat through radiation by sitting in the sun,
next to a fire, or adding a few warm rocks to your debris hut. If
you are too hot, place a barrier between you and the source of heat.
Air Convection: Air moving across the skin blows away the
heat generated by the body. Loose weave clothing or holes in your
shelter allow heat to be blown away by breezes or gusts of wind.
Wind breaks around shelters and fires will keep heat where you want
it. Put a belt on over your coat and wear a bandana or tie off the
cuffs of your pants at the ankles to prevent air movement up and
through your clothing.
Conduction: When two objects of different temperatures
come into contact, the warmer object will transfer heat to the
cooler object until they are the same temperature.
You build a thick, well insulated debris hut with a tight door,
yet fail to stuff the floor with enough debris. What happens? The 50
degree (F) earth sucks away your body heat. Insulate well the
contact points between you and any object that will steal your heat.
If you get hot, get as much bare skin as you can in contact with a
Evaporation: Moisture on the skin absorbs heat until it
vaporizes. It takes a great deal of energy to bring water to this
point, causing the body to cool rapidly. In cold weather, do your
best to avoid sweating. If you do get soaked, take off your wet
clothing and change into something dry as soon as possible. Water
absorbs body heat 25 times faster than air, making it a very
Keep these principles in mind when you build shelters, chose
clothing, or make fire. Use them to your advantage. A few simple
changes can turn a cold, miserable night in the woods in a
comfortable and relaxing evening spent enjoying nature. Thanks to
Don Paul for the BRACE info. Have fun and enjoy the heat.
FROM THE MAILBAG
by Hancy Klein
Dear "Everyone who's written Tom a letterl"
We have received your letters, and I have read them at least
once, but since the birth of River in April, its been almost
impossible to catch Tom for more than a minute to ask him for his
responses. When he's free, I am occupied, and when I am free -- ...
well, I think you get the point. Beyond the regular schedule, toss
In a trip to California, two new classes, Tom's new tracking book
(due in mid to late '97), and his other projects, and you can see
why the time has flown by. We will do our best to catch up as soon
as possible, so I again ask all of you for your patience and
understanding. We always have and always will continue to care very
much for all of you and what you write.
I'd like to talk to those I never had a chance to meet personally
at the Standard Classes. Time goes by so quickly when there is so
much to learn, that before you know it, class is over! In so many of
your eyes I see both love and apprehension as you take your
Standard, many of you coming into the class as I did, not knowing
where your life would go from there. Returning home, you may be
flooded with more information than you ever dreamed of -- both on a
physical and spiritual level. There are notes and tapes and most
importantly -- the Vision passed from Stalking Wolf to Tom to us.
But the vision goes deeper to touch the knowledge of our human
ancestry, our beginnings of life, our living with the earth...our
oneness with the Creator. All of us read Tom's books and feel the
connection, knew the words to ring true in our heart, and we came to
the classes to learn, to be guided by the teacher. It is difficult
to go home and leave the family newly discovered, but think of those
who you will guide, who you will help to become part of the large
family of the Earth. I want to let you know you are not alone, and
to help you keep the faith you gained when you worked and learned
with your new friends at the Tracker school. I see in you what I saw
in myself, and I love all of you for coming so far to learn the
skills to pass to future generations - our children and
grandchildren. I do hope someday to see you at another class. Until
then, Shona; never good-bye but to meet again.
see the Site Information & Copyright Page
This website has no official or
informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever