Thursday, September 30, 2010

Orienteering at Willow River State Park

I am fond of Willow River and I like the orienteering map for this park. I did, however, not have a good orienteering experience, due to a number of stupid mistakes I made. As usual, I did the red course.

I made a minor mistake approaching C1. I was passing a group and one of the guys challenged me that he'd make it to the control before me. Coming from W along a trail, I needed to pass between two small wetlands and then turn S to move to the E side of the southern wetland and to the control. In the heat of the pursuit, I turned S on the W side of the wetland and ended up sloshing through some water. Oh well, I did not have to worry about keeping my feet dry any longer.

C2 looked very straightforward, A depression in the middle of an embankment. I used followed the road and took a bearing form the turn-off at the first campground. It should have been a straight shot and it was. I ended up at most 20 m to the E of C2, at the beginning of another shallow depression. Thinking this was the one and followed it to the E end. No control. Instead of backtracking I searched for another depression E of the one I entered, no luck. I finally returned , I could have kicked myself it was so obvious. I think I would have seen it when I got to the first depression and looked over my shoulder.
C3 posed no problem but C4 was my worst. 24+ minutes for less than 400 m. Instead I decided to follow a bearing, which was next to impossible in this mess of ravines heavily overgrown with buckthorn. After erring through this maze for a while I decided to do what I should have done leaving C3: I headed for the trail along the meadow on top of the plateau and followed it to the corner in the vegetation border. Bingo, no problem!
I then progressed fairly well, even making some good time through the grassy expanse along the eastern edge of the park. My last mistake was C13, where I was too tentative rounding (or crossing) the ridge to find the reentrant with the control. I felt pretty dejected and humbled with my worst performance since the time I actually gave up at Sand Dunes State Forest. (Results for Willow River Meet at MNOC web page)

On the upside, the deer were thick, I saw probably seven or eight, some from just a few steps away. I also saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers. All in all a nice afternoon in the woods, but poor orineteering performance. Also, after three O-events my Inov-8 Mudclaws are getting used to my feet, or is it the other way around? No more heel blisters after 11 km in the woods.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Orienteering at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan

Finally another orienteering event. This spring, I had a dearth of races even though or maybe rather because orienteering kept me quite busy with setting the May Afton SP event.

I had family visiting from Belgium, my uncle Tony, his grandson Yannick and Yannick's cousin Laeticia. It was their last day in the States and I was glad when they agreed to come along. They even agreed to participate in the event, picking the orange course, while I did red.

I felt a little rusty ad a little rushed, though I am in pretty decent physical shape. After giving Tony et al. a quick intro into the art of orienteering and seeing them off, I started. As usual I did not take enough time to read the map, hustling instead from control to control, making a number of minor mistakes. E.g. I overshot C2, even though it was right on a stream which I crossed on a small bridge. After I corrected and knocked off C2, I followed the creek and various wetlands towards C3 almost stumbling over a monstrous snapping turtle. I literally vaulted over the beast, hoping it would decide to take a bite out of me. Fortunately it mad its long neck short, letting me pass unscathed.

Until C7, I was always very close to the control. C4 was a little tricky because of a little peninsula jutting out into Holland lake that looked just like the one on the map. I should have paid attention to the contour and counted reentrants instead. I damned the overgrow white areas, especially the brambles.

I made my firs major mistake heading for C8. All of a sudden I found myself on the wrong side of a narrow strait between two lakes, the little like just to the east of Jensen Lake and whatever is east of it.  After probing the ground with a stick, I decided to try my luck wading across. I was lucky, no bottomless muck or quicksand, but it is the wettest I've gotten during any O-meet, except maybe from sweat or from rain. To balance out this bad mistake, I followed it up with another one, while heading to C9. Must be that the dead fall, blackberry brambles, swamps and steep hills weren't enough of a challenge. From here on my mistakes, if any, were fortunately minor and I made it back in 1:49. Not a good time but at least I found all controls ... (Lebanon Hills Results at MNOC site)

As I was catching my breath I noticed the absence of my Belgian visitors. So I waited, chatting with club mates, always keeping a furtive eye on the direction from where I was expecting them. At long last I couldn't stand it any longer and started to do Orange backwards. at C8, I asked a pair of woman orienteerers whether they had seen an older man in the company of two youngsters. they had, just a couple of controls back, and to my big relief they also said that they looked like they knew what they were doing.  I decided to head back, picking up C7 on the way. Sure enough enough, there were Laeticia and Yannick, sitting at a picnic table reviewing their route. They had decided to call it a day after they could not find C8. Yannick trial and tribulation had been seeing a garter snake.

I wore my Inov-8 Mudclaws after taping my heels with hockey tape to prevent blisters from forming. It worked, and they did rather well at shedding the water from my wading adventure.