Track casting is still the gold standard in footprint preservation, there are a number of new technologies becoming available including 3D scanners.
Casting is a great way to preserve a track for later observation but there are multiple ways to tackle this and a lot of opinion on the best to use. There is no right or wrong way yet some methods will help on the preservation and be more durable long-term.
Here are the basics to making your own authentic Sasquatch track casts.
- Gypsum cement or patching compound
- 2″ wide plastic strips (cut from a bleach bottle or other round plastic jug)
- Paper clips
- Camera or Phone
- Mixing bowl (cut-off beach bottle, tupperware, or even a large ziplock bag can suffice)
- Measuring cup
- Wire whisk
- Latex gloves
- 1″ soft paint brush
- Light plastic sheeting
- Paper grocery bags
- Flagging tape
- Cheap hair spray
- Tape Measure
- Snow impression wax
- Using the paintbrush (I like to have a pair of tweezers as well to pull out stray leaves/twigs/grass, etc.), clean the footprint while being as careful as possible not to modify it in any way. Then, spray the footprint with the hairspray to help maintain the structure of the impression during the casting process.
- Paperclip the plastic strips together in a circle, and press it into the ground surrounding the track.
- Mix the water and casting compound together in your container (Dr. Meldrum suggests adding the water first), and stir (don’t whip) to a consistency of pancake batter. Tapping the container on the ground can help remove any air bubbles which can create weak spots in the track. The patching compound should tell you the appropriate amount of water to use, but usually it’s around 2 parts compound to 1 part water.
- Gently pour the casting compound into the track, filling all parts of it and up to the plastic border you’ve created around your track.
- Allow the material to set. Time will vary depending on temperature and humidity and the substrate your mold is in. At this point, you may want to write the date and location into the top of the plaster so you don’t forget where you found it… Especially if you go on to find many more! Once it hardens, dig around the border and pry up with a trowel.
- Wrap the track in newspaper and allow to dry for at least 48 hours before gently washing it to remove remaining substrate.
- You should now be the proud owner of your very own Sasquatch footprint cast!
A Few Notes
When casting in snow, the exothermic reaction melts the snow and dilutes the mixture. To counteract this, first lightly coat the track with 3+ layers of Snow Impression Wax forming a waterproof seal. Pour a thicker mix of plaster than you would use in a different substrate, and cover with newspaper and cloth to insulate.
Obviously, when you’re hiking out into the woods this full kit can be rather cumbersome, and maybe just too damn heavy to be realistic. Some good alternatives are insulating foams, but be very careful to select the minimally expanding types. Many foam-and-fills expand quite a bit, and this could possibly warp your track beyond the point of recognition.
I also like to have a tape measure on me at all times, as to get accurate measurements of the track (and stride if possible) before and after the casting process. It also helps to have one for the photos you’ll of course be taking of your find. Nothing gets your photos dismissed quicker than not having at least a scale item in your photo.