How often, while hiking, have you see the backside and tail of an animal disappearing into the underbrush and thought, “What animal has that tail?” One cold, December evening in 2008, Lynn and I were walking home from our volunteer jobs at the Grand Canyon Park Service Library. The Canyon had received lots of snow so we were all bundled up, wearing crampons to make the two-mile hike to our house. Although the walking trails had been plowed, the paths were still snow covered with deeper snow off to the side of the trail.
A crisp twilight was just settling in as we puffed and crunched our way up the hill. I was cold, even in my purple parka, so I hurried slightly ahead of Lynn who was carrying the flashlight. Suddenly, in front of me on the snowy white trail, I saw some long dark legs, the backside, and the tail of an animal—it definitely was not human! I pulled up short and softly called back to Lynn for the flashlight. He flicked on the light as he approached and we found ourselves facing the tail end of a large cow elk. She turned her head and snorted at us because she certainly did not want to move off the trail into the deeper snow—she was cold too! Finally, after a little encouragement, she snorted again and stomped off the trail into the trees. That evening, after I had thawed out, I considered all the times we humans only see the disappearing tails of animals as they run away from us and thought how much fun it would be to write a children’s book in verse about identifying animals from the tail end. It was this incident that gave me the idea for the book, Whose Tail on the Trail at Grand Canyon?