Outdoor skills taught at High Desert Museum
by Yoko Minoura / The Bulletin

As 10-year-old Emmett Burby watched Saturday afternoon, instructor Eirik Moergen blew softly on an ember until orange flames bloomed in the tinder in his hands. “It was pretty cool,” Emmett, of Portland, said, adding that he would like to try starting a fire on his own sometime.

Moergen and his wife, Rebecca, also an instructor with Coyote Trails School of Nature, demonstrated techniques of using a bow drill to start a fire Saturday afternoon at the High Desert Museum, just south of Bend. Eirik Moergen also led visitors on hikes on museum grounds Saturday, to search for tracks left by squirrels, raccoons, deer and other animals.

Coyote Trails, a wilderness awareness and survival skills school, teamed up with the High Desert Museum to encourage visitors to explore and experience the Central Oregon landscape. Coyote Trails will run another wildlife tracking workshop at the museum, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Saturday’s demonstration seemed to inspire more than one person. After watching Moergen, Emmett’s father, Brian Burby, 54, said he wanted to put together his own bow drill set. A bow drill starts a fire by using a bowstring to spin a wooden spindle, creating friction that ignites an ember. “I take these guys on fishing trips, so I’d like to try it (then),” he said, indicating his sons.

Although Burby said he has seen people use drills to start fire on television before, it was a bit different watching it live. “Even though you know it’s going to work, watching that thing blow up into flame – it’s amazing,” he said.

Although 8-year-old Sequana Schafer also watched the fire-starting demonstration, the Bend girl said her favorite part of the day was tramping through the snow, tracking wildlife.

Bend resident Everett Giffen, 9, said he, too, liked tracking animals through the snow. He said finding raccoon tracks, in particular, was interesting.


“It’s how they walk, they kind of weave through the trees,” he said, adding that Moergen showed them how different animals moved to leave behind a certain pattern of tracks.

“The instructor was kind of funny, in a way, because he did all the walks of the types of animals we tracked,” Everett said.

Ingrid Jennings, 9, of Hermiston, who was visiting Bend for the holidays, said she liked looking at the tracks left by squirrels, which showed up clearly in the snow.

“I just like the prints,” she said. “Like, the toes.”

Ingrid said she liked learning about how to identify different tracks and learning how different animals moved. She had only one complaint. “I didn’t like that my toes go so cold,” she said.

Ingrid said deer often come through the backyard of her home in Hermiston, which is on the banks of a river. She said she might try looking for animal tracks at home when she returns. Ingrid’s mother, Julie Jennings, 44, said the tracking experience was eye-opening. “It’s just so interesting to see where all the animals go,” she said. Jennings said it also gave her a different perspective on what the museum has to offer, even in the winter. The grounds cover an area of roughly 135 acres, with nature trails throughout, according to staff. “(It) gave us a different look at the museum, because we usually stay on the path,” Jennings said.

Photo by Melissa Jansson
Published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc. Copyright 2008.

For more information about the High Desert Museum, call 382-4754 or go to www.highdesert museum.org.
For more information about Coyote Trails School of Nature, call 541.482.0513 or go to www.coyotetrails.org.