Reconnecting With Nature, On All Fours

by John Darling for the Mail Tribune

It's night in the Cascade foothills and they're blindfolding me and telling me to walk a mile uphill through the woods, telling me to get to where I hear a drum beat once every 30 seconds.

It's a challenge to the self-confidence and a lot of other inner qualities, such as plain old courage. Do I have any? We'll soon find out.

No Child Left Inside: Coyote Trails is a camp where adults can learn as much as kids

by John Darling

Coyote Trails has all the arts, crafts, hikes and fun games you would expect from a summer camp, but it goes beyond that, into building self-confidence through learning primitive living and survival skills and reconnecting with the rhythms of nature.
Running six weekly sessions in the Cascade foothills above Ashland starting Tuesday, the camp teaches kids and adults how to make fire without matches, find drinking water in leaves, build a cozy shelter out of sticks and brush - and achieve its tongue-in-cheek goal of "no child left inside."

Survival 101: Coyote Trails School of Nature teaches kids primitive living skills

Roughing It Feature

by Julie French

In the hills of Earth Teach Forest Park is a bear den that will hold 19 campers and counselors sitting should to shoulder. After getting their faces painted with black stripes, they crawl in one at a time and form a ring around the fire pit. Instructor-in-training Amanda Smith leads them in a slow, chanting song, then asks, "Do you want to howl like a coyote" Let's howl like a coyote."

On the count of three the den erupts in howls, the hole in the ceiling fills with light, and the students reach a consensus that their howling woke up the sun.

Learn to survive in the woods

By Robert Plain, Ashland Daily Tidings


Photos by Orville Hector | Ashland Daily Tidings

051905back3Scott said there will be classes for all sorts of skill levels and ages. From a family class that some of the younger students could participate in with their parents, to a 21-day wilderness expedition in which some of the older students can really test their mettle.

"We don't like to teach directly," Scott said, as he explained how to create a fire with no match or lighter. "Rather than force feeding them what we want them to learn, we try to inspire them to want to learn. We're not teaching anybody anything. We're trying to make an area where people can teach themselves."

He said learning to create fire without modern man's advantages is just one of the many skills students will learn at Coyote Tracks West.

"When that first kid makes a fire this energy goes through them that is unmistakable," Scott said. "They immediately realize that connection that runs through all things. It's an instant reconnection with the natural world around them."

Scott said the instructors don't like to refer to the Coyote Tracks West Program as either camp or school. "It's an experience," he said.

There will be several programs offered this summer in Ashland through the Coyote Tracks West program. Programs for children 7 to 12 require a parent or guardian to be present. Teens do not require adult supervision. Programs will run throughout the summer. For more information, call (541) 482-0513 or look on the Web at

Staff writer Robert Plain can be reached at 482-3456 x 3040 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

051905back2Coyote Trails School of Nature: dba Coyote Tracks West. Tom Brown is the world's foremost tracker. He has worked with all kinds of enforcement agencies in helping to find people who have been lost in the woods or hiding from the law. He runs the largest tracking school in the nation and has authored 16 books on the subject of wilderness survival and know-how.

He was taught these time-honored skills of paying close attention to the natural world in order to better understand what is happening in it by an Apache elder named Stalking Wolf.

Starting this summer, area children and teens will be able to join in this lineage that began with the ancient teachings of the Apache shamans, continued through Brown and will soon be taught in Ashland by some of Brown's ex-students.
Bow drills are a traditional way to start a fire without the aid of matches or a lighter.

Coyote Tracks West is a version - for children and young adults - of the Tracker School that Brown operates in New Jersey.

The program, which will be open to youths between the ages of 7 and 17 and begins June 19 at the Earth Teach Park on Dead Indian Memorial Road, will be run by two students of Brown himself.

The program "exposes children and teens to the wilderness through primitive living skills, tracking, awareness, nature study, storytelling and performance," reads the company's brochure.

"One of the primary goals of Coyote Tracks West is to rekindle kids' relationships with the Earth that many of us lose in our childhoods," Gordon Scott said. Scott, an Ashlander, is not only a former student of Brown's but has also used his tracking skills when he was a member of the Navy SEALS. "One of the things missing from our society is a right of passage. It used to be a teenager was given a Vision Quest. Imagine the confidence it instills in a kid knows they could survive in the woods. It's about passing on that vision, really."