On Friday, I got an email from the Meetup Group that I sometimes go hiking with, Richmond / Charlottesville Adventurers, asking if I would be interested in orienteering at Powhite Park yesterday. I have never done formal orienteering on a course before, and it sounded like fun, so I replied "yes." And yesterday being a really nice late fall day, I showed up at the park, compass in hand.
My compass and route finding skills are pretty rusty. How rusty? Well, let's say if I had the same skill level for my job, I would have been fired long ago. Especially since the advent of handheld geographic positioning system receivers, the compass pretty much stays in my emergency gear bag buried in my pack. I always bring it when I hike, but it never sees the light of day. And that is bad. Anything electronic, like a GPS, can fail at any time, and having a compass that I have forgotten to use is not really a backup, is it? So I think I need to make a goal of relying less on the GPS and relearning those orienteering skills - and improving significantly on what I used to know.
It turns out that the founders of my meet up group, Alec and Ellen, are also very active in the Central Virginia Orienteering Club, who put on events like this every month or so.
Here is a section of the map showing more detail. The paths (which are unmarked) are the dashed lines and the 3 meter contour lines are the narrow orange lines. The numbered purple circles mark the locations of flags we are to find. You can see number 3, 4, 5, and 7 here.
After our orientation, I signed in to get my time marked down - people do this competitively as a race - and started moving to find the first "flag." The woods are still lovely this time of year, even without many leaves.
Some of the paths are very easy to follow, like this one. Others, because of leaf fall, are obscured and hard to find and see. That is why I ended up at flag 13 instead of 8. I knew I was going in the wrong direction but couldn't find the intersecting paths. So I backtracked all the way back to 7, my last known exact condition, and tried again until I found it.