Tracking • Wilderness Survival • Plant Uses • Traditional Skills • Earth Philosophy

Class Descriptions 2018

We will continue to add new classes from time to time during the year.


Tracking Classes

Note for 2018: Besides the workshops listed below, we will be inserting occasional Tracking Practice days as well as programs such as nature awareness, habitat exploration, animal movement, track interpretation, human tracking and biology of individual species. They will be listed here as they are confirmed.

Basic Tracking & Awareness

(No Prerequisite)

February 10 (Saturday), Malibu Creek State Park
April 14 (Saturday), location TBD
June 22 (Friday)*, Windy Springs Preserve
July 14 (Saturday), Frazier Park

* May be taken by itself or in conjunction with Advanced Tracking and Trailing & Mapping.

$68 for all one-day classes

Basic Tracking gives you a solid introduction into mammal track and sign identification. Working closely with the instructors, you will practice identifying and interpreting tracks from clear prints and patterns, and will learn how to read signs and what they say about animal feeding, breeding and behavior. We show you how tracks are "windows" to animals' body language and biology. Finally, you learn methods to slow the mind and body to get the most out of tracking and your time in nature.

Advanced Tracking in Joshua Tree

(Basic Tracking required)

April 28-29 (Saturday-Sunday), Joshua Tree National Park


This brand-new workshop is open to students who have taken Mammal Tracking in Joshua Tree with us. (However, if there is space we will open the class to our other Basic Tracking graduates.) We will move beyond the basics and explore habitat around Lost Horse campground, looking for patterns of movement and behavior for local bobcats, badgers, gray foxes, coyotes, woodrats and other mammals. We will follow animal trails, interpret the posture and mood of individuals from their tracks and map habitat use as we also hone our awareness techniques to become part of the landscape we track in. This class is offered through the Desert Institute, but please contact us at Earth Skills to insure you are eligible to enroll.

Walk with the Animal Series

(Basic Tracking Required)

See our companion website

March 24-25 (Saturday-Sunday), Introduction and Practice at Pyramid Lake
May 19-20 (Saturday-Sunday), Introduction and Practice at Ft. Tejon SHP
July 21-22 (Saturday-Sunday) Advanced Practice and completion at Windy Springs

One introduction weekend and the advanced practice weekend are required


A two-session series that combines practical with intuitive tracking, provides abundant practice, and helps you become a more confident and resourceful tracker.

“Walking with the animal” means stepping beyond the analytical, and allowing the animal that left its prints to show you who it is, where it went and how it moved. Such tracking is intimate and connected, allowing you to understand the animal and its habitat through its own eyes. This essential and ancient dimension of tracking has been relatively lost among modern trackers, but we’ve been busy reviving the skill for ourselves and our students.

You will find this series to be eye-opening, transformative and expansive whether you are a novice tracker or a veteran. It will change how and where you track, enriching every landscape you travel through.

The methods you will learn and practice began with our own multi-year study (see my book Walk with the Animal) and were refined with several years of field practice with our students. You’ll learn how to make contact with the animal’s trail; read, trust and verify your intuition; and maintain contact with the trail even in very challenging conditions.

To complete the series, you spend one weekend (either March 24-25 or May 19-20) learning and practicing the principles in the field, and the final weekend (July 21-22) fully integrating techniques into your tracking repertoire with extensive field work. Journaling about each assignment is an integral part of the training. You will be mentored by both the instructors and past WWTA students.

“What surprised me most was the accuracy of following…tracks while being blind-folded! That blew me away!”—ET

“Developing [my] tracking skills has all been about this—to walk with the animal, to try and see the world through the animal’s eyes, to know what they know…”—EB

(You can access our students’ wisdom, as well as some cool stories, at

Enrollment fee covers two weekends and includes one copy of Jim's book, Walk with the Animal. The sessions are camping, with dinners and breakfasts provided.

Five-Day Tracking Intensive at Windy Springs


June 22-26 (Friday morning - Tuesday afternoon), Windy Springs Preserve


Immersion into the many levels of tracking, and significant advancement of your tracking skills, are the goals of this multi-day workshop at Windy Springs, a private reserve with spectacular tracking opportunities. You may join us for all or part of the week depending on your wishes and what you’ve done already tracking-wise. This class is a thankful nod to our past because, when we began to learn tracking in the 1980’s, the Kern River was one of our principal study areas. Here’s the schedule:

Day 1. Basic Tracking. Introduction into track identification and interpretation, with lots of practice in an awesome tracking area. (If you’ve taken this before you may enroll at half price as a refresher.)

Days 2-3. Advanced Tracking. Following challenging trails, pressure releases, animal sign scouting, advanced awareness and human tracking practice.

Days 4-5. Trailing and Mapping . Following individual animals for long distances (in small teams and individually), intuitive tracking, understanding your animal. Surveying and understanding animal movement patterns through large-scale exploration and mapping.

The above-listed price covers all five days and includes four dinners and four breakfasts; participants bring their own lunches. Pricing for partial attendance is as follows: Basic & Advanced Tracking, $293, Advanced Tracking & Trailing / Mapping $440; Advanced Tracking or Trailing / Mapping $225 each.

Advanced Tracking

(Basic Tracking Required)

June 23-24* (Friday evening-Sunday afternoon), Windy Springs Preserve

*May be taken by itself or in conjunction with Basic Tracking and Trailing & Mapping.


Becoming an advanced tracker means above all being able to see nuances the novice would miss: spotting tracks in pine needles, leaves or on hard-packed ground; noticing subtleties in track aging; being able to follow an animal across difficult terrain. The advanced tracker also gains confidence in reading tracks for motion and in distinguishing tracks of individual animals of the same species. Finally, he or she learns to be less obtrusive and more alert to the rhythms of nature. As real students of how people learn, we instructors know that the complete tracker must draw on the different talents of analysis, perspective and intuition. Thus the Advanced Tracking class gives you practice in all of those things. You will track animals across challenging terrain, practice reading soil movement or “pressure releases” in tracks, learn to read patterns of animal movement on the landscape, and stalk quietly at night. In teams, you will track the instructors as a final exercise.

Trailing & Mapping

(Advanced Tracking or Equivalent Experience Required)

June 25-26 (Monday - Tuesday), Windy Springs Preserve


We follow the Advanced Tracking workshop with two days of intensive tracking work based on intriguing questions that emerge there. We will follow animals' trails for long distances, interpreting their choices and learning methods to keep on track after "hitting the wall." We will practice intuitive tracking and reading the personality of individual animals through their tracks. Finally we'll expand the work we did in previous years, mapping animal trails to understand larger-scale patterns of animal use and travel, keying this to seasonal habits and biology of the resident bears, mountain lions, gray foxes and other mammals.

Gaits & Track Interpretation

(Basic Tracking Required)

One-day class under development, dates TBD


The path to visualizing movement of animals vividly and accurately from the tracks they left is made easier and more direct in this one-day workshop, because we’ve been refining our teaching methods over the past few years as well as adding more and more learning resources. Our indoor session will use video, track pattern photos, and numerous hands-on exercises to boost your ability and confidence to recognize gaits and nuances of movement from tracks. We’ll show you methodically how to approach a track pattern and verify the gait, and give you practice applying principles of soil movement in tracks. Then, we’ll adjourn to a local area where you’ll get some good field practice. We know this will cut years off of your learning curve, resulting in tracks coming alive.

May be taken back-to-back with Human Tracking and Interpretation following.

Human Tracking & Interpretation

(Basic Tracking Required)

One-day class under development, dates TBD


There is much more to a human track than shoe size and pattern. A person’s height and walking personality, as well as speed and motion from hesitation, head turns and a host of other details, will emerge clearly as long as you know the principles and methodology of track examination. We will work in a tracking box that’s custom-made for detailed study and then proceed to the field where we’ll compare and analyze human trails. We’ll make use of video to confirm our track reading also. This workshop gives you confidence in animal tracking too, since we’ll work a lot in controlled circumstances that show you how pressure releases are basically quite simple—it’s all about biomechanics.

May be taken back-to-back with Gaits & Track Interpretation preceding.

Traditional & Primitive Skills

From time to time, we will insert one-day and weekend workshops covering primitive survival and camp skills, as well as programs about Native American culture.

Moccasin Manufacture
(No Prerequisite)

May 5 (Saturday), Frazier Park


In this one day class you will make a pair of moccasins fit exactly to your feet, very probably the most comfortable footwear you have ever owned. We wear moccasins around camp, or when tracking, to become part of the environment we’re in, and to make less of an impact on the animals around us. (We’re also known to sneak around the house wearing them in summer.) We learned this moccasin from our Cherokee friend Terry, but the style is also a Salish one. Cowhide materials are included.

Native Culture Weekend

(No prerequisite)

Weekend class under development, dates TBD

$170 adults / $50 children

Co-taught by our First Nation friends, this annual gathering features culture demonstrations such as dances and songs, and crafts and traditional food projects.

Earth Philosophy Series

We consider these workshops to be our most important, and many of the hundreds who have taken them would likely agree. After all, the survival, nature awareness and tracking skills we pass on are all anchored in a wisdom and deep connection to nature and spirit well known to indigenous people but barely imaginable in our modern culture. Whether you weave a basket, knap some stone or track an animal, doing it without the sense of spirit within the skill, as it were, would be unheard of among the elders who teach us.

Fortunately, a complex of techniques embracing this dimension has been passed on to us and we will do the same to you. “Earth philosophy” means specific methods to silence the “monkey mind” (as a student recently described it), listen purely, understand our intuition or “inner vision,” communicate with things outside of us, and ground ourselves in nature—and that’s just for starters! Hardly “new age,” these techniques come from a Lipan Apache elder who was Tom Brown, Jr.’s mentor and we humbly teach them without modification.

The following descriptions provide a sense of each class, but to understand their impact and usefulness you’ll just have to experience and practice the techniques yourself—which is why we invite you to attend the first weekend at for a modest donation to cover food and materials.

Intuitive Skills Workshop + Personal Skills Workshop (Earth philosophy 1-2)

September 15-16 (Saturday-Sunday), Los Padres NF
(No Prerequisite)

$40 or what you can afford

We are waiving the usual $195 course fee in lieu of a modest donation that will cover food, insurance and materials, because we feel the skills presented here are so important.

This intensive class combines two levels of the Earth Philosophy curriculum, beginning Saturday morning and running to Sunday afternoon. In the Intuitive Skills part of the program, we show you, through many activities and lots of practice, how to own and trust your intuition. In the Personal Skills curriculum, you learn how interactions with the natural world can address personal questions and empower personal gifts that may be temporarily lost in the modern world.

Specifically we cover: Walking in Balance; Relying on Your Inner Vision; Communication with Plants, Animals and Tracks; Spiritual Intent; Empowering Personal Gifts; and Learning the Four Directions.

Community Skills Workshop (Earth Philosophy 3)

(Personal Skills Workshop required)

April 21-22 (Saturday-Sunday), Frazier Park area


This workshop is devoted to further refining spiritual communication; practicing the sacred stillness; applying earth philosophy skills in work and life; and learning and practicing healing in the narrow and broad sense. There are individual and many group activities and assignments.

Razor's Edge Workshop

(Community Skills Workshop required)

June 2-3 (Saturday-Sunday), Frazier Park


Those who complete this powerful class are committed to a personal path of awareness and of walking "the razor's edge," that is applying ancient skills in a challenging modern environment. We see in the graduates of this class a certain wisdom, balance and resourcefulness that is quite special.

Solo Spiritual Quest

Solo Spiritual Quest

(No prerequisite)

August 4-11, 2018 (Saturday-Saturday) Call or email us for details

Note on Solo Wilderness quest cost: We set the price to cover direct expenses only. Some scholarships are available.

For the 22nd year, we are pleased to offer the Solo Spiritual Quest, an experience for answering deep personal questions, balancing and grounding one's life, and empowering one's personal gifts. Our past quest participants have ranged in age from 18 to their 70’s, with extraordinarily varied backgrounds.

While the quest has roots in ancient ceremonies that have occurred in many cultures around the world, it maintains its relevance and power for us modern people. This is because the very act of being alone for four days and nights, and fasting within the rhythms of nature, brings you to a threshold of teaching and centering. The unessential tends to be stripped away, allowing you to discover what is real and necessary for you at this time. Some have quested to sort out important decisions, some to empower underused gifts, and some to shed the complicating “chaff” that modern life bestows. Some of our questers repeat the quest every few years.

Like most significant learning events, the quest does require sacrifice and usually has challenges that tend to be unique for each quester. It is not an experience to undertake out of mere curiosity because it requires a significant commitment. However, the strength you find within yourself, and your willingness to go to the edge of the unknown to learn, create an experience that you can draw on for a lifetime.

Our Solo Quest borrows from no specific tribal tradition. It is a four-day fast, during which you drink ample water. Though others will be questing at the same time, you will be alone in your personal quest circle in a pine/oak woodland. You will have no distractions (journals, cell phones, music, etc.) but will have a sleeping bag and sufficient clothing. You leave your circle only to use your personal latrine and to leave a marker for the facilitators once a day. You will see no one during your fast, though we do set up a communication system for your safety. There is a day and a half of orientation and preparation before you begin your quest, and there is a day of transition after you come out. We feed you before and after your fast and watch over the area 24 hours a day during it. The 2015 quest will be held on 320 acres of private land in the southern Sierras at about 7000 feet elevation.

The fee for the quest, $415, goes entirely to direct expenses such as lease of the land, insurance, food and travel costs for the staff, who volunteer their time for this seven-day program. Some scholarships are available.

To participate in this year’s quest you must ask for an application and return it to us by June 1, 2018. If you have any questions, please contact Jim or Mary at any time and we would be happy to talk to you.