Earth Skills since 1987
Tracking • Wilderness Survival • Plant Uses • Traditional Skills • Earth Philosophy

2015 schedule is currently in planning

Here's a preview:

February 21, Shelter Clinic with Christof Hagen
March 28, Wild Edible Plant Cooking
March 29, May 16-17, September 20 Walk with the Animal Series
April 11-12, Basic Tracking in Joshua Tree
April 25-26, Earth Philosophy 3
May 1-3, Nature Awareness at Wind Wolves Preserve
May 31, Medicinal Plant Medicine Cabinet with Tanya Jenkins
June 12-16, 5 Day Tracking Intensive at Windy Springs
August 1-8, Solo Quest
September 12-13 Earth Philosophy 1-2
October 17-18, Fall Traditional Skills: Southeast Native Culture & Crafts

Other definite classes in 2015, dates to be confirmed: Medicinal Plants with Tanya Jenkins, Moccasin Manufacture, and Summer Skills Series

2014 Class Descriptions

Below are the descriptions of the classes offered at Earth Skills. You can also download the information here. (Includes the summary schedule and the enrollment form)



Basic Tracking & Awareness

(No Prerequisite)

  • January 11 (Saturday), Malibu Creek State Park
  • April 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday) Tracking in Joshua Tree, see below
  • June 20 (Friday)*, Windy Springs Preserve
  • September 13 (Saturday), Malibu Creek State Park
  • December 6 (Saturday), Malibu Creek State 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, as well as nature awareness techniques that will make your future outings exponentially richer. 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 so that you see, hear and experience more than you ever have.

Basic Tracking in Joshua Tree

(No Prerequisite)

April 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday), Joshua Tree National Park


This two-day Basic Tracking class takes advantage of a splendid location, a private campground in Joshua Tree. We will introduce track identification with abundant field practice tracking jackrabbits, foxes, bobcats, coyotes and other desert animals. We will cover mammal signs, track interpretation and awareness skills. This class is offered through the Desert Institute. To enroll, call the Desert Institute at 760-367-5535 or go to

This class counts as a Basic Tracking class, but is also open to those who have already taken Basic Tracking. Since this is our only Joshua Tree class this year, it will probably fill up early.

Basic Tracking at the Desert Studies Center

(No Prerequisite)

October 24-26 (Friday night-Sunday), Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx
(through U.C. Riverside Extension)

$325 credit, $245 non-credit

We return to this fabulous location in the East Mojave where in the past we've taught many beginning and advanced tracking workshops, working on badger, kit fox and gray fox, bighorn sheep, ringtail and bobcat among many other species. The sandy substrate near Soda Lake affords excellent practice. Enrollment details through UCR will be posted here as soon as they become available.

Walk with the Animal Series

(Basic Tracking Required)

March 23 (Sunday), Malibu Creek State Park
May 17-18 (Saturday-Sunday), Ft. Tejon SHP
September 14 (Sunday), Frazier Park area
All three dates are required.


“Walking with the animal” means stepping beyond the analytical, and having a conversation with the animal that left its prints, allowing it to show you where it went and how it moved. 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. Last year our intuitive tracking series demonstrated what can be accomplished; one student told us, “[The] class…has totally changed my way of tracking and I look at tracks…totally differently now. They are alive. My tracking went from black and white to very vivid colors.”

We are continuing this series in 2014, and expanding it to three sessions, the second of which will be an intensive weekend of practice. Our goal is for you to come away with specific skills that you’re confident in and can apply in all future tracking, as well as apply elsewhere in your life (tracking in the larger sense). This means, though, that each session will be demanding and there will be take-home assignments between them. If you are a beginning or advancing tracker with a strong commitment to learn something new and practice the techniques, you will find this series very powerful and we look forward to working with you.

Session 1 (One day): Making contact with the trail, from evaluation to communication.
Session 2 (Friday night to Sunday afternoon): Silencing techniques, dialing to the right channel, reading the intuition, debriefing, journaling and lots of practice.
Session 3 (One day): Reviewing completed take-home assignments, discussion, further practice and transitional ideas.

Enrollment includes one copy of Jim's book, "Walk with the Animal."

Five-Day Tracking Intensive at Windy Springs

June 20-24 (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 spectular 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; participants bring their own breakfasts and 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 20-22* (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 23-24 (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 2011 and 2012, 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.

The Day Scout Class

(Basic Tracking Recommended)

March 22 (Saturday), Santa Monica Mountains


We admit that morphing from the civilized urban person into the indigenous scout, who perceives everything, moves like a shadow, and blends with the natural environment, is a challenge if you’ve got only a few hours to spend in your local park. How do you quickly leave your “other world” behind, physically and mentally, to get the most out of every wilderness experience even though it might be only an hour long? The answer lies in silencing, attitude and quiet movement, and this clinic provides practical methods with some valuable practice. We borrow and adapt techniques we use in our weekend Nature Awareness class. Learn to move quietly and unobtrusively, take advantage of simple camouflage techniques, and fully access the rhythms of nature by widening and deepening your awareness. Expect a rich and eye-opening day!

Dirt Time Workshops

Because dirt time is so varied, we offer Dirt Time Workshops that will enable you to get out in the field to learn from different approaches in different locations. These workshops are one-time only, or at least will not be repeated often. Some require only the Basic Tracking class as a prerequisite; others require Advanced Tracking. (The prerequisites are there for a reason, but we make occasional exceptions for those who've had training with other schools.)

For 2014 we are offering:

Winter Tracking Clinic

(Basic Tracking Required)

February 23 (Sunday), Frazier Park area


If it’s late winter and you’re itching to go tracking, we know just how you feel, so why not join us? Think snow, because if we’re lucky we’ll do some snow tracking in the local mountains near Frazier Park. Plan B is to hit the muddy washes and seasonal creeksides locally that attract coyotes, foxes, bobcats and deer, making plaster casts when we can and interpreting and following trails. This will be good practice if you want to shake the rust out of your tracking skills or just have a refresher on track identification & interpretation. Enjoy the brisk air with us and be prepared to learn a lot!

Of Gaits & Wolves

(Basic Tracking Required)

Gaits: October 11 (Saturday), Frazier Park area
Wolves: October 12 (Sunday), Lockwood Valley

$75 / $115 both=$180

We’re offering these two one-day clinics back-to-back because the subjects intertwine so nicely and will bring the tracking student to an entirely new level of track appreciation; read on.

Gait study clinic, Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm. When you can look at the track pattern before you and visualize precisely the mood, speed and posture of the animal that created it, you’ve opened a new level of tracking for yourself, not to mention made track identification easier, and this clinic will help you get to that place. From our successful pilot workshop last November, we learned how important it is to combine role playing, videos, photographs and field work to learn to picture animal movement from tracks. We’ll begin indoors and move into the field later in the day where you will reinforce what you learned with fresh tracks of coyote, bobcat, deer and fox.

Wolf study clinic, Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Wolves are poetry in motion no matter what gait they are using, thus are wonderful teachers of how to read track patterns. Because there are no wild wolves in our state closer than the Oregon border, we will satisfy our passion to track them by observing wolves at Working Wildlife as they move through a nicely prepared tracking box (as we did very successfully with a cougar two years ago). We’ll film the gaits and study track patterns in the morning; then in the afternoon we’ll spend some time analyzing wolf track patterns in photos especially sent to us from wolf researchers in eastern Germany. And we’ll spend some field work in the nearby forest, looking at cousin coyote’s tracks so that we leave with new track interpretation skills.

Wilderness Skills

Wilderness Skills

(No prerequisite)

July 12-13 (Saturday 8:30 am-Sunday 4:00 pm), Los Padres National Forest*


Two full days of projects and information will give you a solid grounding in wilderness survival priorities of shelter, water, fire and food. With many individual and group projects, we will cover debris huts, bow drill firemaking, cordage, uses of fire, stone tools, traps and primitive hunting tools among other essentials. Some students will have a chance to sleep in a primitive shelter. Many novices as well as experienced outdoorspeople have taken this class, and it is likely that one or more of the skills will become a longtime pursuit for you, increasing your confidence and enjoyment in future wilderness travels. The purpose of the class is not to test how tough you are; however, there is a fair amount of physical work. We hold the class at a car campsite, enabling us to bring in a variety of materials for practice and demonstration.

* Under permit from LPNF. We operate on a non-discriminatory basis.

Medicinal Plant Workshop

(No prerequisite)

February 22 (Saturday), Frazier Park


You will love learning from instructor Tanya Jenkins, who joins us for the third time to share her passion for plants and their uses. This workshop will have a lot of hands-on projects, including making salves from pine resin and rosemary, and making horehound drops (all entirely new projects). Her medicinal plant workshop last February went to a wait list, so be sure to enroll early. You’ll learn about harvesting, preparing and using plants for everyday medicinal purposes. Held at a cozy indoor setting in Frazier Park, all the more comfortable if we’re looking at snow outside.

Edible Plant Cooking

(No prerequisite)

March 29 (Saturday), Frazier Park


In this class, you work in teams that each prepares a number of dishes using native plants, so that we can feast on the results by mid-afternoon. Each year the dishes are different, and our excitement begins to grow as our co-instructors, Barbara Drake (Tongva), and Tanya Jenkins (plant enthusiast) plan the salads, main and side dishes and desserts we will make. We already have on hand rose hips, elderberries, acorns, madrone and toyon fruits, and mesquite flour, and we’ll collect nettle and other greens before the class.

Class size is limited and the workshop always goes to a wait list, so enroll early!

Arrow making with Gary Baugh

(No prerequisite)

April 12-13 (Saturday-Sunday), location TBA


Learning to make arrows with Gary Baugh is to enter a world where the practical and sublime merge seamlessly. That is, there’s a lot more to this skill than just straightening a stick and putting feathers and a point on. What materials do you choose, when do you harvest them and how do you season them? What arrow materials match what archery purposes, and which bows? Why are some arrows fletched differently than others? Why and how are arrows tapered? When can the fletching process be streamlined? Why do some arrows have tall fletching and others narrow? What is the proper weight ratio between the front and back of an arrow and how can that vary with the situation? What are different nocking styles? How does the stiffness (“spine”) of an arrow affect its flight with a given bow?

Well we could list another 30 questions, but we think you get our point of why you’ll learn so much as you make numerous arrows with different materials, from phragmites to horsetail to golden currant. What if you haven’t yet made your own bow? Well sooner or later you’ll have to learn both skills to embrace archery and primitive hunting, so this is just as good a starting place as bowmaking. Gary will demonstrate a little flintknapping also. This is a great class for those interested in local ethnography also!

Participants are responsible for their own food.

Traditional Skills Weekends

In the Traditional Skills Weekend, which we have taught since 1995, we honor the Old Ways by working on many traditional hands-on projects including the preparation of indigenous foods. Every class has a different theme and most rely on Native American co-teachers. There is a real community atmosphere wecloming veterans and newcomers, adults and children.

Fall 2014 Native Culture Weekend:
Algonquin Crafts & Food

(No prerequisite)

September 27-28 (Saturday-Sunday), Wrightwood

$170 adults / $50 children

Elder Jacques Condor returns to share stories, songs and dances from his Algonquin heritage, and will lead us in making traditional turtle shell rattles, baskets and decorated gourds. Included is our usual Saturday evening feast featuring roast fowl, sweet bannock bread, 3 sisters vegetables and an Algonquin dessert called otette. We're joined by our other First Nation friends in welcoming you to this rich and fun weekend. There will be activities for children as well. Accommodations are in shared cabins. Space is limited, so enroll early.

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 no cost except for the direct expenses of food, materials and location.

Note: The cycle begins in the fall of 2014, but this year we’ve scheduled Earth Philosophy 3 and 4 earlier in the year to accommodate prior graduates.

Intuitive Skills Workshop + Personal Skills Workshop

September 6-7 (Saturday-Sunday), Los Padres NF

$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

(Personal Skills Workshop required)

April 26-27 (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

(Personal Skills Workshop required)

June 7-8 (Saturday-Sunday), Los Padres NF


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.

Solo Spiritual Quest

(No prerequisite)

August 2-9 (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 eighteenth 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 60’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 2012 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 15, 2014. If you have any questions, please contact Jim or Mary at any time and we would be happy to talk to you.

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