Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 27, 2013

Life skills from 18th century focus of event

Tim Preston
The Independent

OLIVE HILL — From outdoorsmen seeking to sharpen their hunting skills to families with children whose eyes see new wonders in the woods, those with an interest in the ways man and nature once coexisted will find plenty to think about during the Woods Lore and Tracking Weekend event that begins Friday at Carter Caves State Resort Park.

“We look at all scopes of things you’re going to find in the woods. If you find something interesting out in the woods, we’ll stop and look at it. We look at all things. It’s not just tracks of mammals. We look at things left behind by insects and amphibians. We might even find some salamanders,” said park naturalist Coy Ainsley, responding to a question about the definition of a “doodlebug ant trap.”

Ainsley said discoveries made during treks into the woods often become “like a crime scene investigation,” with participants theorizing about the circumstances of everything from animal tracks to oddities. On one recent outing, Ainsley said the group had to use all of its detective skills to discern what might have happened at a spot where a combination of feathers and fur indicated a gray squirrel had been taken by a bird, which had then been taken by another animal.

“We like to do a little bit of CSI and try to figure out what happened,” he said, noting the weekend’s tracking and woods lore courses are even better when there is a small amount of snow on the ground to collect evidence of actions in the natural world.

Ainsley said the weekend’s four instructors are outstanding individuals with longstanding ties to the park who will focus on things which were relevant to life and survival during the 18th century, “when American Indians and European Americans lived closer to nature.”

The event, which runs through Sunday, will help participants learn some of the skills necessary for everyday life, as well as the cultural sharing which made modern lives more enjoyable. Guests will enjoy nature, tracking, culture and history in outdoor and indoor settings.

“Tracking and Woods Lore is for everyone interested in 18th century lifestyles, culture, wildlife and our natural environment. The instructors are experts on frontier history and life skills, such as tracking, 18th-century wild medicines and rendering bear grease,” Ainsley said, adding anyone interested in learning more about the weekend’s instructors is encouraged to visit trailsinclivinghistory.com.

“In the 18th century there was a much greater need to have or acquire these skills. We’ve kind of lost touch,” he said, adding participants can expect one-on-one interaction. “It is kind of low key. You’re not one of 100 sitting there listening to a professor. We average 20 to 40 people.”

“Past participants have said they will never look at the woods the same after attending this event,” Ainsley said, later adding some participants are taking advantage of a package deal that gives two nights lodging for two adults along with all workshops for $150, while others will utilize campgrounds with full hook-ups and other amenities.

Admission price is $25 for adults (ages 16 and older) and $15 for ages 15 and younger.

Preregistration is required. Call the park at (800) 325-0059 for more information and to make reservations.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.