Saturday, February 28, 2015

Orienteering in the Snow

I really had three choices for hiking today - well, four if you include not going anywhere as one choice.  One would be to pick a hike on my own, two would be to join the ODATC on an 8 miler in Lake Anna State Park, and three would be to go orienteering at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA).  My Meet-up Group had organized our participation at the orienteering competition.  Because I have wanted to try orienteering again, that is what I decided to do.  There were two others going from my group, but I didn't run into them.  So it was like taking a hike by myself after all, just with specific goals.

What is orienteering?  Well, you find your way with a map and, if needed, a magnetic compass.  Leave the GPS behind, which would be cheating.  The FUMA Orienteering Club had four courses, and I choose the second easiest, being pretty new to it.  Maybe I should have stepped up and tried for a harder one.  This didn't seem as difficult as the first time I did orienteering in 2013.  The goal is to locate a number of points, each marked by a numbered flag with a paper punch.  You punch your sheet of paper - there is a distinctive pattern for each punch - to prove that you actually found the objective - and you are timed.  So it can be looked on as a competition if one wishes.  In my case, I just wanted to enjoy a walk in the woods and fields, and locate all of my flags, of which there were 12.

The topographic map is pretty detailed, with each flag location marked with a number and a circle, the course essentially following a circuit hike of a couple of miles.  The distance turned out to be 2.9 miles in my case, including some detours and a bit of wandering trying to find a few of the flags.

Here is a close up showing where flags #1 and #2 on the course that I did were located, and also #12 at the end:

Does this look like Virginia to you?  Not to me!  The snow cover was pretty much uniform, and was just a few inches deep, having compressed considerably over the last few days.  Temperatures were in the low or mid-twenties during my walk, and have rarely been above 25-35 for the past 12 days.

This was one of the prettiest spots during the entire orienteering course, with a lovely little stream flowing along.

Here is an example of a marker, each of which has a number that you compare with the list on the back of your map to make sure that you are at the right one - since it is easy to get confused, and there are four different levels of course to cover.  Note the hole punch hanging under the bag.  This flag was in the middle of soggy little wetland.

This is actually a small lake, totally frozen over.  We don't see a lot of this down this way, but when temperatures stay below freezing most of a time for a while, the laws of physics are going to be obeyed.

I enjoyed being outside in the fresh air today, and working on something challenging.  As it turned out, I only needed to use my compass a couple of times, because the map was so detailed.  I don't know if the snow made this easier or more difficult.  It made walking harder, but at the same time, there were lots of tracks that sometimes gave directional clues.  In any event, it was a fun and somewhat challenging way to start the 2015 hiking season out.  My goal is to hike 200 miles this year, so I still have 197.1 to go!

Friday, February 13, 2015

My 2015 Hiking Goals

Here we are, a month and a half into the new year, and I have yet to take a hike. I was planning for a little hike today, a day off from work, but our cat just had some surgery, so I decided to stay home with her for the most part.

Here are my hiking goals for this year.  I have a couple challenges going on right now - a moderately sore left ankle that I cannot figure out, and partial tearing to my rotator cuff.  The latter has been a problem for 8 years, but was made a lot worse in late September when I took a very hard fall while hiking in West Virginia.  I probably should have had surgery, but am trying a lot of exercising to strengthen the shoulder and stabilize the joint.  That won't heal the torn tendons, but maybe I can make it for a while longer.  The ankle is just a mystery - it started suddenly but not after any traumatic event that I can remember. 

My goals:
  1. Hit the trails for 200 miles.
  2. Go backpacking at least three times.
  3. Join my friend Dick for his annual hike - at age 90 this year - up Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  This will be scheduled at the last minute by Dick, and I will join him if at all possible.  There is thought that Dick may be the first nonogenarian to summit Mount Washington, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi and north of North Carolina.
  4. Take a week-long hiking vacation - I have scheduled one in Oregon for this coming summer, a state that I have never been to.
  5. Lead at least two group hikes.
  6. Master my (fairly) new DeLorme Inreach Explorer.  This one will be a little difficult to measure, but it has a lot of capabilities that I don't know how to use yet.
  7. Take hikes in at least five of Virginia's wonderful state parks.
This seems like a pretty good list to me, with some challenges.  Among the backpacking trips, I would love to see if I can get into Ramsey's Draft Wilderness, McAfee Knob, and/or False Cape State Park.