Yesterday I went to Priest Point Park down in Olympia to participate in Cascade Orienteering Club's O' Series #5 orienteering event. (What is orienteering?) My brother came with me and here's an overview of our day. The event started at 10am but we had a few things we wanted to pick up as the weather called for cold, rain and possibly snow. So we left the house at 8am to stop by storage and grab some of the colder weather gear. Then we headed down I-5 to make our way to the event.
It was easy to find the starting area as the COC had placed many helpful signs to guide us along the way. They could have used a few starting area pointing to the registration table and which line we needed to use for registration. There was a public event and a Washington Interscholastic Orienteering League event. The first registration person kept asking us questions using terminology that I didn't understand. Once I explained we were complete beginners she pointed us to the other table who quickly got us registered and then setup with an "e-punch," which is an electronic gadget to record each point we find.
Next we asked around to find the person who was giving out beginner instructions. We found Patrick who gave us the rundown of the how to run the course, how to read the map and how to use a compass. On his recommendation we switched from Course #1 to Course #3 as the #1 course was short and setup for elementary school children. In the end I think his suggestion was a good one as the course we ran wasn't too challenging but did test our skills in a few places but wasn't so hard as to be frustrating. In fact the only real problem on with the course was some of the elevation gain for this out of shape hiker.
After our instruction we headed for the starting gate, got in line and when it was our turn to start headed out and punched in at the starting marker. The first marker was easy to find as it happened to be in plain sight and I found it when using the restroom before starting the course. The next two went pretty quickly. We got turned around and it took a bit to find point #4. Point #5 was another quick one. I misread a bit of the map (more on that later) and we took a bit to find point #6. Point #7 was a challenge because we both struggled with the elevation drop and gain in the ravine we had to pass across to get to it. We missed the point and I had to backtrack a bit to find it, hidden under some greenery. Point #8 was hidden out of sight and well off the trail. ragnorokt found it by being smart and noticing some trampled leaves that led off the trail. Points #9, #10, #11 and #12 weren't too much trouble though there was a long distance between #9 and #10.
Point #13 was literally my downfall. Twice. First we I was making my way down a steep trail and I started to feel my boot slip on the ground. With that warning I just laid back and slid down the hill instead of trying to save myself from the fall and hurting myself. I ended up covered in mud but uninjured. I had gotten pretty good at reading the clues on the map and had a good idea where the marker was hidden. As I stepped over what I thought was few branches and leaves my foot caught on what was the remains of a wall and I fell forward into the ruin and wrenched my ankle, back and landed pretty hard on my hip. Still there was the checkpoint so I tagged it and made my way back up the trail. During this adventure ragnorokt had found a different way to the marker and didn't fall where I had.
The final marker (#14) was another easy find and just a short distance from the finish line. So I tagged the stop marker and then we went through the registration booth where our results were read from the e-punch and we were presented with a printout that showed our course time and that we finished in 6th place out of eight. However the course is timed from your start to your finish so the final result showing us in 8th place out of 10 with the last two being disqualified as they didn't complete the course. I'm happy with the result as while I might have been last I did finish the course.
In the end I had a lot of fun and will be going out again. I learned a few key things and here they are for you all:
- Don't panic. Orienteering was a fun walk in the woods and we only used the compass a couple of times to orient the map to the landscape.
- Bring a map key. The basic map uses all the familiar symbols for the terrain but uses a specific set of symbols to finding the checkpoints which weren't included on the map. I'm sure once I have a few events under my belt I won't need it but for now it would help.
- The map scale is much smaller (?) than I'm used to reading. The map was a 1:7,500 scale with contours every five meters. As such we walked farther than we should have a few times as I didn't realize we had reached the turn until we had passed it.
Finally I need to get some better trail gear for the colder weather. My coat, while warm enough was very bulky and during part of the course I was so hot I removed it. That hindered me as it wouldn't fit in my pack and kept getting in my way. I know what I need and now that I know I'll use it I need to go out and buy some.