Saturday, September 10, 2011

Orienteering at Chester Woods Park, Eyota, MN

Brand-new map in Chester Woods Park, near Eyota, MN, less than 20 miles E of Rochester. On a gorgeous Saturday morning I drove down there from the cities. Quite a few MNOC runners made it down here, from the looks of it a few were camping here, too. I chatted with Andrei about his August packed with a trip to Utah (hiking), South Dakota and Wyoming (orienteering). The pictures posted on FB were gorgeous and made me want to go.

After gearing up, I ambled to the start and got going. To get to CP1, it looked like I needed to round the northern arm of the lake. I am saying "it looked like" because there is a bridge from the first parking lot inside the park. I noticed the bridge where the park road goes along the lake and I even remembered having seen it when entering the park, but by then I felt it was a wash to return or continue on around the lake. In hindsight, I should have checked the map again and returned, I think I cut have cut a couple hundred meters from my first leg. Other than that, CP 1, 2, 3 and 4 did not present any challenge.

Andrei, who had started behind me caught up at CP4 and went straight up the hill where I decided to follow the trail, making a hairpin turn and climbing more gradually. I followed the left fork of the trail till where it exited the dark green on the map. here, I followed the vegetation boundary and got to CP5 without too much delay. I rejoined the trail, missing the remnants of another trail heading straight for CP6. I eventually found the trail and went straight for the CP, passing it a couple of times without seeing it. This is probably the one place where I lost most time. Instead of looking for the overgrown trail, I might have been better off to follow the contours N from the open area. but who knows, the woods were pretty thick here, too.

I also wasted some time at CP7, but not too much. CP 8, 9 and 10 weren't too difficult either. It was exhausting but also pretty cool to run through the prairie, with grasses higher by a few inches than my 6 ft towards CP9, a very obvious single tree. I might have been better off following the trail closing in and coming back out. Again, hard to tell. CP11 did not present any navigational challenges either but again, the last stretch through "open" terrain was the hardest. Here, very tall yellow flowers probably Jerusalem artichokes grew even taller than 2 m grasses I had encountered earlier. The understory was formed by some kind of golden rod, in keeping with the theme of yellow and green. More striking even than the the yellow were a few blotches of blue, soapwort or closed gentian. The air was filled by the buzzing of many bees and other insects and butterflies were lazily fluttering through the sun-heated air. All of this impeded my progress but delighted my senses.

CP12 and 13 were easy, this time I DID take the foot bridge. CP14 and15 weren't that difficult either, but I was slowing down. I had not worn my Inov-8 Mudclaws since the spring and, together with the thick socks I was wearing they started two nasty heel blisters.

All in all, I am glad that I did not completely mess up any of the CPs. One of the advantages taking it a little easier on tempo, but probably also a testament to the somewhat easier course.

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