Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tracking - Aging of Sign

One of the harder things to do in a climate that lacks noticeable changes, such as desert environments without moisture or substantial winds, is the Aging of Tracks. There are various factors and components of nature that will help in the Aging of Tracks which would provide discernible changes observable to the tracker  usually in degradation of sharp edges and the changing of the color. Some of these natural factors include:

Moisture such as Fog or Dew - will usually fluff up the topsoil (as the soil absorbs moisture and expands) and make the track appear spongy.

Rain will wash away tracks beginning with the sharp edges, however compressed tracks may leave darker areas where the moisture ran to the lowest part of the compression. Light rain may dimple or pock mark the pressure release. Rain can deliver a timeline for the tracker.

The Wind will erase gradual edges and soften sharp edges. Take note of your environment and judge accordingly.

Heat. Dries out the moisture (providing discoloration) in the ground and combined with gravity, cause the edges to crumble.

Gravity. Causes sharp, regular edges, alongside the compression of tracks/sign to deteriorate over time.

Thumb Test. The tracker, using his thumb, presses down into the soil to produce a sample that he can use to judge age of the track compared to the impression, edges, and coloration of his thumb print.

Cold. Slows down the aging process by retaining moisture.

Animal Tracks. Consider the animal traffic in the area and apply it to the analysis of evaluating the age of the sign.  In the desert during the hottest months, often lizard tracks across other ground sign indicate that the ground sign was presented no later tha the early morning hours, providing a time line to the ground sign. 

Print A at Right is 36 hours old. Note rounding or smoothing of edges defining the track. Light wind has made distinguishing print marks of the footwear very difficult to read.

Print B is 4 hours old. Note the print has retained the sharp edges of the track. With a light wind and time, this track's sharp edges will round and the depression caused by the pressure release will fill in.

One of the best things you can do is to find an area that will not be disturbed, lay your own sign each day and check the changes as it relates to the weather and environment.

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