Monday, March 30, 2009


While standing around yesterday waiting for the start of run Larry began to hand out trail maps of the area. I didn’t even think about taking a map. I have run the area a few times each year and have taken a map a few times. They have always ended up in a crumpled mess at the bottom of my pack or jacket. One time I became turned around while running Zumbro Bottoms in the deep spring snow. I was relying on snow prints as my map. Not a good idea. Everything began to melt and the snow prints were gone. I then pulled out the map. I had no idea what trail I was upon and I had absolutely no idea how to read the map. I was scared that I would never find my way back to the start. Needless to say when I saw Bonnie and Don I was so excited and relieved that I followed them the rest of the day.

Now that I think back on this experience I wonder why this wouldn’t have been enough to get me to want to learn how to read trail maps. Nope, that would have been too much work I suppose. Easier to just follow others. This was early in my trail running experience and I really didn’t run trail alone at the time. I figured I’d just always follow others. Easier to just decide that I can’t read maps and I won’t try. That’s usually my way; if it is too difficult just don’t do it. Well, in some matters.

As we ran away from the start area and began to head to the trails the others pulled out the maps and began to decipher where we were and where we should go. 3 hours out, then back to refuel, another 3 hours out, back for the finish. They looked at the scale of miles and figured out which trail to run upon. As they navigated us along they looked at the numerous intersections, then at the map and then figured out where we should go next. They did a great job. I was clueless. I had self diagnosed myself as a non map reader and didn’t even attempt to try.

While discussing navigation and the adventure racing that Molly and Mitch do I became intrigued. Among other things I decided that I wanted to learn how to read a detailed map while out in the woods.

I missed the REI Class: Basics of Orienteering. Looks like they were held in March. Instead of going into the Sand Dunes State Forest with my own map and deciphering my way through the woods off of the beaten path and maybe becoming lost and scared and fed up with my lack of map reading skills I decided to attend an Orienteering Event with an Adventure Race Tune-Up in the Sand Dune State Forest. Something organized with people who will help me to help myself! The Forest is a few blocks from my house. I didn’t realize that there were orienting skill clinics even held at this location; or even held at all, for that matter.

On Saturday April 18 I’ll be attending the orienteering event in the Sand Dunes State Forest. It will be a blast to watch the Adventure Race Tune-Up! Who knows where this could lead? There are a whole host of orienteering events on the event schedule. At least I’ll be able to build confidence in my map reading capability! I’m ready for a new challenge. I always need a new challenge.


Kel said...

Hey Jul - this is an area where I have some experience, though I'm a little rusty. Sounds like you are aware of the MNOC site - I have it linked to my blog if you need it.

The skill clinic was just held at Hyland this past Saturday, but every meet that MNOC puts on includes beginner thru intermediate courses, and most have advanced courses of varying lengths. Instruction is always available. There is even a rogaine each summer that would probably be right up your alley (typically 2 person teams that find as many controls as possible in a certain time period - anywhere from 6 to 24 hours).

MNOC has several permanent courses throughout the greater metro too, including a brand spankin' new one opening at Afton on May 2. This allows you to go out and try a course any time you want instead of waiting for a meet to roll around ;)

Have fun "cunning running" and remember: you don't get lost when orienteering, just temporarily misplaced ;)

Matthew Patten said...

Pick up an orienteering boy scout handbook. It's all you need.

It got me and my friends through the high Sierras. (stupid scouts)

GPS has killed the great skill

Steve said...

I just signed up for an Orienteering meet at Terrace Oaks Park, just a mile or so from my house. Should be great fun and a good learning experience!