Return to Denali: Field seminar on animal tracking

After a few days spent refueling in Fairbanks, I hit the road again, this time heading south to Denali National Park (again! hooray!) to take part in a three-day field seminar on animal tracking. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but ended up learning a lot and meeting a swell bunch of colorful Alaskans, from off-the-grid tracking guide Tim to lynx-loving knitter Susan to semi-retired German geologist/likable curmudgeon Ted to Liz the lawyer (seen here catching a snooze during a hiking rest). We camped in hard-side canvas-topped tents, ate breakfast and packed our daily lunches in a yurt, and pitched in with camp chores to help out our stellar camp hostess, Susan from Denali’s Murie Science Center. We had a blast hiking along the Teklanika River and through mountainside willow thickets–despite the rain, which soaked us daily. Everywhere we went, Tim taught us how to read the many animal signs all around us–pawprints, hoofprints, scratchings on trees, bites off branches, hair rubbed in tree bark and, of course, scat. (I have spared you the many pictures I took of moose poop, lynx poop, wolf poop, bear poop, etc. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I now consider myself to be quite the scatmaster.) Tim carried a 25-pound bag of plaster of Paris and other supplies on our day-long hikes so we could create imprints of the wolf and grizzly prints we found along the river’s banks. The giant wolf paw print I now have is the coolest keepsake I could have possibly hoped to bring home from my travels in Alaska. It’s way cooler than anything I might have bought in a souvenir shop.

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