As many of you remember Saturday morning’s weather for this weekend’s orienteering course at Rockwoods Range was a little poor: windy, cold and snowing. But, as it has been said: “there is no bad weather, just bad gear”, so I geared up and headed out. As I had planned, I chose the green course and electronic scoring.
One thing I noticed was that the clue sheet was covered in some sort of hieroglyphics. Apparently on the green course they use the IFO symbols, I probably should have learned those.
Off I went. I felt pretty good, a little cold as I left but from my two previous events I knew I would soon heat up. Down the road and past the playground, over the hill and then halfway down the gully and bingo!
Oh yeah, I forgot the 45 minutes of fruitless searching, then looking for #2 and backtracking to #1, then bingo…
It had not started well. #2 was easy, because I had already been there. It was up the opposite side of the creek, then back down to the creek and back up the other side for #3, I think there must be some sadistic tendencies in those who set these courses. From #3 to #4 I really used my oxygen deprived brain. I could just follow the contour of the hillside, with the creek to my right, at a nice cut-in with a large rock, bam! Well not really, it was more like head down to the creek, jump over the water and try to land on the opposite bank, well it looked like bank. It turns out it was just some snow covered leaves and sticks that swallowed my left leg up to my knee.
A few moments later I was crossing the same creek when I landed on a rock that bent my foot like a horseshoe. Then I twisted my ankle, got a twig snapped on the side of my face, then took a whipping twig strike to the giggle-berries, tripped over a branch and found #4!
From this marker to #5 was just follow a creek, halfway back up the hill and around the bend and there it should be. According to my clue sheet marker 169 would be on top of a small knoll. There it was, right where it should be, except it was marker 166. I spent the next 45 minutes looking back and forth. I climbed to the top of the ridge, found the trail (called a handrail) followed it over a hill then cut back down the side of the ridge and found marker 166, again.
I’d been in the woods for two hours at this point and I wasn’t even halfway done.
I couldn’t for the life of me find the fifth control. The sun had melted the snow on the western side of the gully, my feet were soaking (but still warm thanks to Smartwool’s new PhD socks with WOW technology) my legs were wet, my ankle had a nice twinge and I had had enough. I checked the map and looked for the most direct route back to the start and the car.
As you probably know, while creeks are the roads of the forest the ridge-tops are the highways, really cold and windy highways. I pulled my hat down swallowed my pride and headed home, then to add injury to insult I of course got a cramp in my right quad. I got back without too much trouble, turned in my SI card and asked where marker 166 was on a map so I could see how far off I really was. Oh wait! the course setter had made an error on the clue sheet; I was supposed to be looking for 166. He was really sorry, and apologized profusely.
I got in the car, cranked the heat on my feet and headed home to think of how I could spin this in some sort of positive light, at least I had an Alpine Shop driclime jacket on. Don’t worry kids, only 33 days until the next one!