Monday, January 12, 2009

A bad day Orienteering is still better than a day playing Golf….

Saturday January 10, 2009, opened quite brisk here in north Texas. I picked up Mr. G at his house at 7:30 AM and we headed north towards Lake Texoma and the James Ray Boy Scout camp. The North Texas Orienteering Association had their meet at the camp.

We got to the camp in good time, about 9:15. The registration area was being set up in a pavilion that is about the highest point in the camp. And it is totally exposed. The air temperature was probably about 28 and the wind was about 20 MPH out of the north, from over the lake. The wind chill was something! Mr. G and I talked with a few people and then paid our $7 each to pick up our registration card. We decided to head over to the start area and see if we could get a start time. Yes, we could. In fact, we both got “zero zero”. That means we were first to start. I was doing the Brown course, which is technically advanced but the shortest of the advanced courses. Mr. G was doing the Green, which is the medium length advanced course. Once we had our start times, we only had about 25 minutes to get ready, so we headed to the camp men’s room and then back to my truck to decide what to wear. I choose an Under Armour athletic shirt my daughter gave me for Christmas, then a zip up long sleeve athletic shirt and a knit cap. We had to put on our gaiters, and I also gaffer tape my shoe laces. That prevents them from getting snagged on vines, brambles and twigs and getting untied. Then, it was time for the fanny pack with the water, the thumb compass and RF finger stick that would record my times and off to the start. We had about 5 minutes to spare, which was a bit cold waiting in the starting block. We spent the time “clearing” and “checking” our finger RF sticks. Clear, erases any data on it. Check, then verifies that it is empty.

The start then proceeded. I place the clue sheet into my arm protector, where it is easy to just glance at it and see the clue to navigate to the control point. Advance to the next start box at the next minute interval and pick up the map and place it into the Zip-lock bag and shoot a staple into it to try and keep it in the bag. Wait the next minute for our start and then insert the RF stick into the official “start” RF recorder. We then proceeded down the path to the official start “triangle”, turn over the map and start figuring out how to go find the first control point in the woods. My first point was a boulder past a building just about 150 meters NE. Off I went. I found some boulders and then found the correct one. First point checked off, which is always a good feeling. I’ve been known to totally mess the first control! Talking with another guy in my age and course this meet, he did mess up the first several points. The second control I again just shot a compass bearing and went almost straight to the control. I navigated to the third control by following a water channel to a path. I was heading down the path when out in front of me, stepped a coyote! He took one look at me, did a 180 and heading back into the brush. I figured that was a good sighting being first out on the course. Once I got the third point, I followed a power line to get near to the fourth point. To the fifth, I followed the wrong water channel and found a “man made object”, just not the correct one. I noticed on the map, an identical water channel and man made object, so headed that way. After the event, I spoke with two others who made the same mistake I had. From the fifth, I chose to pop out on the main road, cut across the parking lot and then follow a well graded trail down to the Boy Scout shooting range. My control was a ruined fence to the north. I was working around the fence and manage to trip myself and bruise up my elbow pretty well. My seventh control point was a bit worrisome. There really wasn’t a good way to navigate to it, so I took a very precise compass bearing and headed into the forest. Thankfully, it was fairly open and not too bad to get through it. I shocked myself, and gave myself a false sense of well being, when I walked right up to the control. Seven controls down in good time with no mistakes! I shouldn’t have gotten so cocky! The course was about to bite me, and hard. At the seventh point, I noticed that I could go out of my way a bit to the west and hit an indistinct trail. I’d been on that trail a year ago and it was OK. Plus there were houses along that trail, which would have been good at “catching” me from going too far. But then to the north, I knew about where a marsh area was, as I’d been there the year before. I chose to take a compass bearing and start stomping through the forest, open areas and such. Except this was the second longest distance to go, about 750 meters, or .4 or a mile. A few minutes into my march, I hit a clearing with a wrecked sailboat, which I’d seen before and was on the map as “man made object”. SO far, right on track. Relax, let the mind wander…..NOT a good thing to do. I got to the area which I thought was the marsh, and there wasn’t much marsh left. But it has been a dry year in north Texas, so I figured I was still doing OK. But then I come across a house in the distance and a bird feeder, which would also be a man-made, X marks the spot on the map. I find what I THOUGHT was the X on my map and decided I’d overshot and was a bit to the west of the gully I needed to find. WRONG! I wasn’t far enough. In fact, I now realize, I was about 200 meters short! I spent the next 20 minutes, stomping around in the gully. I then decide that I’ve screwed up and perhaps pop back to the road and try and determine which house is which black box on my map. Except that we’d also been warned that the houses were out-of-bounds and were NOT mapped correctly. OK…but I figured I’d try it. Except then I picked the wrong house, since I wasn’t far enough still. I then come across a trail. A fairly big trail. So big, it had fresh ATV tire tracks in it! I check my map and there is only one trail noted and it shows as indistinct. I decide I’ve been looking almost an hour, I’m messed up, but following the trail should lead back to something I can navigate from. I follow it a bit but then hear two people coming from behind me to the north and south. I asked one of them to show me where they are on their map. Most orienteers will help out by showing you that, and the one did. But then, I also determined that it wasn’t exact enough and decided to head to the next control, which was actually closer! I got to the ninth control, still having missed the eighth control. I looked at that control for a good 30 seconds, got mad at myself and decided to NOT forfeit yet and try and navigate backwards to the eighth control. On the way back, lo and behold, here is Mr. G! He’s making good time and considering his course is longer, he is way ahead of me. He confirms that I was on a good bearing to back up to control eight. I get over to the general area and find about 7 people standing around, checking in different gullies for the control! Finally, we find it and I hook it back to the ninth control. I would find out at the finish that I’d spent an hour and 13 minutes on the ONE control! That was longer than I’d spent on the first half of the course. But I was also still within the three hour time limit and had a new grit in my teeth to finish the course. Actually, I did have grit in my teeth, from falling down. And leaves in my pants, and twigs in my pockets. One twig was so bold as to squirm down under the elastic band on my finger holding the RF reader! I hit nine and then navigated up to the tenth control, which was on the same water channel as the ninth point. I tag control 10, three more to go and my confidence is heading back up. I pull up my map to figure the next control, and find about 75 percent of my map and zip-lock, are gone! Torn off in the woods! The top photo is of a 1:7500 map of the park. The torn map and zip-lock below, was what I had left. I had enough map left to navigate to point 11. A nice lady had followed me to control 10 and offered to let me look at her map after point 11. Point 12 was the only other “real” point, as point 13, the final point, is always near the finish and is the same point for all the different courses. So, we hit 11, 12 and 13 together. I was just happy to finish the course. I’ve finished every course I’ve attempted. My time of 2 hours and 37 minutes was horrible. Until I check the results after lunch. I was in sixth of the seven in our class that finished. One or two, didn’t finish. I was only about 20 minutes behind the person who got third place. It seems that all of us old folks had trouble on the course. Myself, one other on Brown, and another guy who had done Red (longest and hardest), sat and discussed where we messed up, how we messed up, what would have been a better way to navigate.  It's a great way to learn from mistakes and learn new ways to think about navigating.
(The other courses are White, which is all on trails and the clues are both in English and orienteering symbals, Yellow, mostly on trails, but some not, also in english and symbals, Orange, some route choices will need to be made, not all on trails and no English, just the symbals).

I took some ribbing from a few people, including Mr. G, who took a look at what was left of my map and announced that I must have tried to eat it, as I was out there lost so long.

The course setter and I work for the same company, and she was nice enough to give me a new map. I like to mark my route and then mark what I SHOULD have done. They are good to learn from.

So, let’s review the bodily injury report.
Sore ankle, sore muscles. About 40 scratches on my hands, included a good cut in the palm of my right hand. About 20 scratches on my thighs. Four scratches on my face and neck. Some rash on my belt line, where my fanny pack had collected up some leaves and forest duff that caused a reaction. A bruised elbow from the ruined fence that decided to trip me. And the crowning injury, I took a tree branch to my left eye! And I wear glasses and the tree still attacked. I attempted to get the trees name and the name of his insurance company, but all he would say was “cedar tree 438763A……stick it…..old man”. I asked around at the finish, who I should report tree-assaults to, but they just looked at me like I was some loony.

Mr. G and I ate some great burgers, fries and onion rings at the local convenience store. Mr. G got a third place and then we headed back to home.

I had trouble sleeping that night, as my poked eye continued to water and hurt. Around midnight, my wife handed me some eye drops and pointed out that they had an anti-biotic in them. She then informed me that they were veterinarian drops! I put two drops in my eye anyway. My eye doctor goes to the same church and I figured if it was worse in the morning, I’d just ask him if he’d consider taking a look. It was much better, so I didn’t bother him.

My wife just keeps looking at the wounds and the tales of orienteering and saying "And this is fun......again just HOW????"

I’m still on the look out for Cedar Tree 438763A. I have a hatchet with his name on it.

And a day in the woods, even when I’ve “lost map contact”, still beats a game of golf.

No comments: