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How long do footprints last?

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How long do footprints last?

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:20 pm

I know this sounds metaphysical and/or ridiculous, but I just had to ask.

During my recent backpack over Shepard Pass, I was struck by the fact that I was constantly encountering what looked like fresh footprints, even though I was going through remote off-trail terrain. This included areas where there were hundreds of plausible choices as to how to go, as well as areas where I thought to myself: what idiot (other than me) would be going through here? I saw a total of 7 people during my 8 day trip, but anywhere in soft sandy soil, it seemed like someone had just been there the day before. :paranoid:



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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:26 pm

It depends on the conditions and the soil. Usually not very long. If it was that soft, they were pretty fresh... footprints degrade rapidly in loose soils. If they were a slightly different color than the soil around them, they were very fresh prints. I had a mantracking class as part of my search and rescue training - very fresh prints show color changes that fade as the print ages. Some of the trackers on our team could estimate in hours how old a print was....

Were you walking in circles? :)
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby quentinc » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:08 am

Thanks AT. I knew someone here would be an expert!

The only time I was walking in circles was by the east tower on Mt. Russell, but my paranoia might be spinning in circles lately. :) It's odd, because I haven't noticed this type of thing on other cross-country trips.
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby BSquared » Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:54 pm

I think it was probably a heffalump wearing hiking boots.
—B²
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:33 pm

How do you know it wasn't a woozle? :retard:
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby sierramel » Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:31 pm

It depends on who, or what made them, and what the surface is like.
I've seen deep hoofprints made in meadow mud that were there for YEARS.
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby oldranger » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:01 pm

One year I left Roaring River by going over Avalanche Pass and down to Cedar Grove. It gave me the willys the next may when I could still see the tracks of my stock from the trip out when I hiked up to Avalanche on my first patrol. I actually think it is fairly unusual once August comes around not to see people tracks in remote offtrail locations.

Off topic (as we old farts tend to get now and then) of course tracks don't last too long in the summer in the snow. On more than one occasion I saw mountain lion tracks in the snow near the top of the Tablelands. Made me wonder if I was being considered for a meal.

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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:55 pm

This is kind of eerie to have been originally started by Larry.
Could footprints/tracks that were made during the very first major snow
storm freeze and then be preserved by the subsequent layers of snow, and
possibly be visible later next summer after the thaw?
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:41 pm

Maverick

Not likely as the snow metamorphisesd uring the course of the winter. I guess if the snow was really wet and the ground was frozen and the temperature stayed below freezing all winter there is a possibility that a footprint could survive and the print was virtually an imprint in ice. More likely is the probability that the ground would be warmer and would cause the snow to melt or the weight of the snow on the footprint would squash and obliterate the footprint. Also once the snowpack reaches 32° in the spring on warm days water will begin to trickle through the snowpack thus helping to thaw and destroy a footprint before it would become visible. Having thought this out as I wrote it I would reject my second sentence.

There is a possibility of tracks remaining in dirt, mud or sand that would not be left by searchers walking over snow.

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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:48 pm

Mike wrote:
Also once the snowpack reaches 32° in the spring on warm days water will begin
to trickle through the snowpack thus helping to thaw and destroy a footprint
before it would become visible.


This Mike? So the footprint/prints may still be visible/preserved.
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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:05 pm

Maverick,

My guess is the only chance would be in the dirt not in the snow.

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Re: How long do footprints last?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:57 pm

I wouldn't count on prints still being there after snowmelt. Footprints wouldn't maintain cohesion under the water flow of melt. At this point it would make more sense to search for gear remnants or other evidence. I would ask those who knew Larry's gear what he carried, and pass out lists to everyone going out, so if they come across anything they'll know whether it's just lost stuff that fell off someone's pack.
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