Jim Mullins drafted me a couple of months ago to set courses for a MNOC meet. I recall he gave me two options: The dreaded Sand Dunes State Forest, a little NW of Elk River, MN or Afton State Park, just E of St. Paul. I was glad I could pick Afton, because Sand Dunes is not only far from where I live, it is also the toughest terrain within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities.
Afton may have been easier to reach, but it has its own set of challenges. The terrain is characterized by several deep valleys opening into the St. Croix River to the east and relatively level prairie on top. I found that the white and yellow courses were quite difficult to set because the trail system is either too long or too short for a self-explanatory course. Likewise, the steep grade around the park presents the need for compromise between distance, physical challenge (due to the climbs) and technical difficulty of the control placement. I did not help that this is the first full event for which I am the setter.
After checking in with the ranger to make sure that I did not place any controls in sensitive areas, I started at 8:30 with the white, yellow and orange courses. I was able to use a bike for part of this portion, in general, the park has very limited bike trails.
I immediately notice numerous geocaches in the southern half of the park. Fortunately, only very few corresponded to locations I had picked for the event. As it went, I relocated all but two controls away from the geocaches.
I decided to take advantage of the single bike trail to place a few controls on brown/green/red as well. Here, the steep terrain was much more in evidence than on the easier course. The sunny weather and very dry air made me wish I had brought my water bottle along, but I knew I would soon return to the car for a break. After 3:22 I was back in the parking lot, getting ready for the second half of my job.
I drank my fill, ate a little and grabbed my black lab Mellie, who had been patiently waiting for my return. We took off and hit the remaining controls on brown/green/red. Again, not too much trouble finding the locations I had picked. I am hoping that my courses are not too easy and that my lack of challenge is only a reflection of having spent so much time with the map. I am sure that Erling, my vetter will provide me with feedback.
Mellie and I got to see plenty of wildlife, more thoroughly recorded in my wilderness blog. We were both exhausted but happy with this days activity. For obvious reasons I will not publish the track log generated by my Forerunner 305 till after the Afton meet on May 16.