The Tom Brown School Wilderness Training

An in-depth look at this New Jersey-based wilderness survival school. The Tom Brown School has classes in wilderness training for homesteaders who want to experience a truly special outdoor experience.


| March/April 1988



110-051-01

The closer I look, the more I am drawn into life in this grass forest, and the more I see.


PHOTO: WILLIAM WALDRON

An in-depth look at this New Jersey-based wilderness survival school. The Tom Brown School has classes in wilderness training for homesteaders who want to experience a truly special outdoor experience. 

Wilderness Training Schools, Part III

I'm standing at the upper edge of an overgrown hillside, a few sloping acres of knee-high grasses and brush in rural western New Jersey. Above, half a dozen raucous crows play in a blue sky—the definitive blue sky, cloudless, crystal clear. Along the lower edge of the field huge oaks and willows rise above lesser foliage, their boughs arcing over a wide river, dappling the water in leafy shadow.

A typical countryside scene—unless you include the 40 or so human posteriors and pairs of legs grazing in groups scattered across the field. The bodies to which they're connected are thrust out of sight into bushes and briars and grasses, heads hidden like—well, no, not a bit like ostrich heads hidden in the sand. Hardly evading the world, these people are deep in discovering it.

This is the next-to-last day of a six-day Standard (introductory) course at the Tom Brown School of Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival.

An excited voice emerges from somewhere in a clump of sedge. "Tom! I found something! I think it's a weasel hair!" A hand pops up, then a head. "Wow, look at this!" another voice, belonging to a bluejeaned backside, shouts. "Hey, I think I found a sleeping chamber!" someone else hollers. "Look at all these trails!" an awed voice exclaims, its legs snaking deeper into the vegetation.

The excitement of discovery is contagious, and, dropping to my knees, I gladly shed my role as observer/journalist, part a layer of matted grass, poke my head downward and join my fellow students in a heretofore unseen world. "I'll be damned," I whisper to myself as I immediately uncover a tiny, well-worn path—too small for rabbits, probably a vole run—winding around a sapling and meandering downhill. "Would you look at that."





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