Sunday, September 25, 2005

Orienteering

Discovered the awesome sport of orienteering last weekend. It combines several of my great passions: trail running, route finding, and contour maps. Last weekend I headed out to Camp Wokanda near Mossville for National Orienteering Day. I knew nothing about the sport going in, but learned how to orient a compass to the map, better read contour maps and to copy control points. How it works is you trace a predetermined route with nine control points onto your blank contour map of the forest. The maps are very detailed, showing grassy areas, open runnable forest, thicker forest, elevation, large trees and rootstock, ponds, paths, manmade structures, etc. The start goes off in staggered times, you simply try and find all controls as quickly as possible, using any route you choose. The controls all have a punch pin with varying designs that are recorded onto a control card, proving that you found each control. I started with the simple white course, finishing in 20 minutes or so.

Yellow is the next step up. I wasted a good 10 minutes bushwhacking on the hill behind the main building, not thinking the first yellow control would duplicate the first white, but of course it did. After that slight mix-up I fared much better, most of the controls were fairly close to trails, a few were off slightly into the woods on ridges, but overall not entailing much rough cross country navigating. I completed the yellow course in 51 minutes, giving up 15 minutes or so wandering around. There was also an orange course, the next level up, which i didn't have time to complete. Looking forward to trying a more challenging course that involves more route finding and forcing me to visualize the land more using the contour lines--skills that are acquired and only improve, I'm sure, with repeated practice. What a cool sport this is- give me more.

Sunday morning following the O' meet did a short 50 minute run at Forest Park. Was intending on 3 hours but the legs were just too weary. Highlight was running across a red fox bounding up a steep ridgeline about 100 feet in front of me off of Possum Path. Typically red foxes stay hidden from view, I consider myself lucky to have come over the knoll at just the right time, catching her in the middle of the trail.

I also found a great spot near Morton. Behind a public park (remaining unnamed) I found a small entrance into the woods. There is a trail, but it clearly is not maintained. There are about five serious blowdowns in the first mile, along with two foot bridges in disrepair, my best guess would date them from the 1950s or 60s. The trail climbs a ridge, crosses a grassy clearing, then almost imperceptibly enters back into the woods, down a creek ridge (dry now because of the drought) and then promptly dead ends. I bushwhacked about another half mile or so and came across a small wooden sign reading "indian headstones," marking the spot of three large rocks. This sign is on no visible trail and is quite hidden. I have no idea when it was put there or by whom, or even if they are actually "indian headstones," at all, but what a cool find. I suspect it's an old hiking path the park district abandoned at some point. Didn't look like anyone had disturbed the area in a long time, takes an idiot like me, I suppose, to tramp through poison ivy in search of secret spots. I'll be back for sure.

Keegan had a soccer game yesterday, dumping in four goals and having a ton of fun in the process. We followed that up with the Eureka College football game--they actaully won it 32-13.

Went out to farmdale this morning for a 1:34 run/power hike. Part of my taper I guess for Glacial Trail. For the first time in a long time there was a slight steady rain falling. The temps are still too warm to really feel autumnal. I love running in the rain. Started from the School St. parking lot, onto the trail on the south side of the creek, rosewood, stopped for a sec at devil's cliff, across the basin and back on Alt. Creekside trail. Beautiful rainy morning, just me and the deer.
Peoria Mtn. Bike Assoc. have a great map:

http://www.pambamtb.org/html/images/maps/farmdale.jpg

Had some slight pain in the back of my right knee, but nothing too severe. Going to agressively taper down the stretch run. Luckily, I am good at that. Glacial Trail 50k in two weeks. Can't wait to get out there.

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