Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer hike at the Johnson Ranch

On Tuesday,  07/15/2014, I got off early from work and decided to catch a quick hike on the Johnson Ranch Trail. The trail is part of the City of San Luis Obispo Open Space . It was sunny and only 76 degrees, but the humidity was making it feel hotter as I started up the trail. I made my way to the end of the canyon where the trail dips down to a seasonal creek. A little puddle of water was remaining in one spot:

Seasonal Creek
Continuing on, I watched for tracks and managed to spot an old canine track in the dry, rocky dirt. I could not tell whether it was made by a domestic dog or a Coyote:
Canine Track
A little further along I came across a large pile of Bear scat full of  berries, right in the middle of the trail:
Bear Scat
Throughout the hike I'd gathered litter into a bag I'd brought. It never ceases to amaze me how inconsiderate people can be of our natural resources, such as this coffee cup someone discarded which contained a dog litter collection bag:
Litterbug spoor
Back at the trailhead I paused to collect more litter. I ended up with about 2 pounds of trash:
 Big bag of trash
It vexes me to have to pick up other people's litter, but then I have to ask myself, "If not me, then who will do it?" Our wildlife friends cannot do it and are counting on us to help protect their natural home. Friends, I challenge you all to help make a difference and carry out what litter you can on your outings. By our example, maybe we can influence others to help.
Also, please visit LEAVE NO TRACE Center for Outdoor Ethics and U.S. Forest Service Conservation Education webpages for additional information and resources. Help do your part and be part of the solution to the trail litter problem.
Happy Hiking,

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tracking on the Bog Thistle Trail

On Saturday, 07/12/2014, I went tracking on the Bog Thistle Trail, Irish Hills Open Space, San Luis Obispo. The trailhead is located at the Perfumo Canyon parking lot. Before starting I checked the bulletin board for any trail condition updates and noted this warning:

Rattlesnake warning
Of course, you should always be careful and watch for rattlesnakes when hiking, but the warm weather tends to bring them out, so it's wise to be especially watchful. 
Like a lot of trails around the Irish Hills, the Bog Thistle is rocky and rough with few patches of sand for track traps. Consequently, tracking can be very difficult. It's wise to watch the sides of the trail where animals tend to walk close to cover. Starting up the trail I first came across some small deer hoof impressions, about 1-1/2" in length, so probably made by a fawn:
Fawn hoof impression
Another fawn impression
Further up the trail I came across an old, faint impression about 3" made by a larger [adult] deer: 
Adult deer hoof impression
It's also wise to watch for runs and game trails that intersect the trail. These are often good locations to find impressions:
Game run
An interesting impression I found had me puzzled for awhile. After awhile I concluded that it is probably a partial impression of a Wild Turkey track:
Possible Wild Turkey track
As a comparison, here is a complete and clear track I photographed on another trail several months ago:
Turkey track
Not all spoor is tracks on the ground. Some signs indicative of an animal's passing can be observed in vegetation, like this bent Teasel stalk:
Bent Teasel stalk
The final track of the day was old and very faint in a sandy patch on the side of the trail. I could not see it very clearly but with some mirroring my impression was that it was a canine track, possibly from a Coyote:
Possible Coyote track
It was interesting to me that all the impression I observed indicated the animals were heading up the trail toward higher elevation. I was pleased to find some impressions, albeit faint and/or old, amid the tracks of countless hikers who had passed along the trail.  The best part of tracking is just being outdoors enjoying natural surroundings and fresh air.
Happy Hiking!