Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another First: Orienteering

First off, my quad: feeling fine. Topaz and I headed off to the Blue Hill Trail for a couple of hours this morning, no pain. An easy run through the woods good enough for 15 miles. I called the chiro who performed the ART upon me and told him how well I was doing. He told me it sounded like I really didn't need another session. Good.

After trying to coerce each of my human family members into attending the Sand Dunes Orienteering with me and finding myself unsuccessful I went to Topaz. He eagerly agreed to be part of my first experience of compass and map reading.

The Sand Dunes State Forest is a few blocks from my home. The whole area is thick with trails, trails that I have never really navigated. There are snowmobile trails, horse trails, single track trails, bike trails. All dirt, all great for a trail runner. Glad I finally went over to investigate.

I explained to the registration girl that I had never tried this before and that I wasn't acquainted with the trails. She suggested the "White" level. I paid $8 fee, plus $1 for compass rental and $1 for a really nice detailed map of the area and a whistle. I was able to keep the map and whistle. I gave her my keys for collateral for the compass.

She gave my my paperwork and told me after she said 'go' I was to go to the white map board and copy down the trail I was to take as well as the 'control points'. I had to be sure I wrote in the correct way to go and labeled the control points. I didn't realize copying down the map correctly onto my map was part of the event. Luckily I was able to copy it correctly.

I removed Topaz from the car, strapped on his leash and off we went. Then I realized I didn't know how to read the compass. A man was on his way out and must have seen I was scratching my head and looking confused as he walked right over and began to help me out. I had no clue. He showed me how to line up the edge of the compass with the line of the trail on the map, then move the dial on the compass to match the compass lines on the map. Remove the map from under the compass, put compass at stomach and move around until the red arrow is in the designated place. Then follow the arrow. Alrighty then. I did it a few times for him until I was sure that I knew what to do.

The first control point wasn't too difficult to find. We came up to it, I used this little punch thing to punch on my card labeled "1". Each check point had an individualized punch so that the control center would know you approached the points in the correct order. OK, onto 2. Well, I did my little compass ritual and Topaz took off after a wolf. Or a fox. A gray big fox? I think not. I called him back and followed N on my compass. Straight through the brush and a big pile of pine trees. Are you serious? I should have worn pants. Eventually I came out to control 2. Well, here I could have taken a horse trail to the same spot-but I wasn't looking at the horse trails on the map, I was just cutting to the next point...even if it was through thick woods that I could barely get through. Fun!

Control points 4 and 5 were along the sandy horse trail. Topaz stayed pretty close to me, not knowing this area. He was a bit leery, wondering what we were doing. Pretty soon we were deep in the woods again and I noticed a person taking a long way around on the horse trail. Oh, I didn't notice it again! Apparently you can take the easy route to the control point, via trail, that meanders here and there and eventually gets to the control, even though the route I drew on my map was through the woods-the straight line between the two controls.

Pretty soon I could hear the set up area and sure enough, there was control 9 and I had completed my first try at this. I was going to try the next level but then decided one was enough for the first time! It took me an hour to go 2.2 kilometers!

The trails here are just beautiful for running upon. There are thick pines, plenty of low water areas for Topaz, nice steep hills, lots of sand; tomorrow we can run right from the house over there. I'll have my map along with me!

I had a blast. It was good to learn to read a map and a compass. I'm anxious to give it a whirl at the next event. Maybe I'll try the next level - orange!


Carol said...

Cool, Julie! That sounds fun! My sister and I keep saying we are going to try it next time we see it offered at a State Park. We just haven't done it yet. I think it would be a bit overwhelming at first. I bet a person feels kind of proud of themself when you get to the designated area!

Kel said...

As a long time member of MNOC, I'm a little disappointed that nobody offered some basic instruction before sending you on your way :(

You can usually run more than one course without having to pay twice if you reuse the same map. If you were comfortable with navigating on the white/yellow course, I would absolutely recommend moving up to orange next time. I would also recommend getting comfortable with each level before continually moving up - you will improve your skills quicker in the long run (I hope that made sense).

Sand Dunes is one of the tougher local areas to navigate (lots of sand, poison ivy, and prickly ash if I remember correctly. Also lots of very shallow depressions for control points which almost require controlled hallucinations), so if you did well there you'll do fine anywhere else!

Congrats on your first (?) O-meet!