Luckily, the St. Louis area has a permanent orienteering course set up at Rockwoods Range, but while I've known this for ages and done nothing about it, I luckily have more motivated friends. Wanting to get more practice after the Hawn meet, Mickey bought a map and we headed there today to try our luck. We were supposed to meet Dave at 7:45, but we missed a turn and ended up being about 20 minutes later than we'd planned. It's always a good sign when you get lost on the way to navigation practice, right?
We set off in search of our first control and found it without too much trouble and just a slight suggestion from Dave. We weren't exactly sure how the points were marked and so didn't know what we were looking for, but eventually we found it. And now you know what you're looking for. They're easy enough to see head-on, but they're almost invisible if seen from the side. Definitely made me appreciate the orange and white bags used during meets!
|10% chance of precipitation my ass|
|Dave got the solo picture while we stood to the side wearing our orienteering dunce caps. What's cool is you can turn them upside down and make them cones of shame.|
We hiked back up to the trail, which we took around towards our attack point for the next control. I was making more of an effort to follow along, and I kind of felt like I knew basically where I was, which is something of an unfamiliar feeling. Reaching our attack point, we headed downhill off-trail. The guys are much better judges of distance than I am, so that's one area where I still just followed along like the sheep I am. As we neared where we thought the point was, we discussed the clue, pit. What's the difference between a pit and a depression? I still don't know, but thankfully we spotted the marker.
|Going from 21 to 22|
Probably the smart thing to do once we couldn't find the trail would have been to immediately attack from the creek, but instead we spent a lot of time here. Mickey went off to check things out while Dave and I waited, then after waiting a while we headed up the trail and then off where the other trail *should* be, missing him as he came down looking for us. Thank goodness for cell phones or we might still be out there wandering back and forth, and a good reminder of why in adventure races teammates are required to stay within 100 feet of each other. Eventually Dave and I made our way to where Mickey had found the next CP, just in time for Dave to have to head back towards the parking lot.
|Solo credit for this find.|
We got back onto the trail and decided to attack 23 from the hilltop the trail crosses at the bottom right corner. With all those little squiggles representing a wavy series of small ridges but nothing that stood out to us as a defining feature to use to help us, I really thought finding this point would by like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, we practically walked straight to it.
|Dual selfie fail, but so proud of ourselves for finding it on our own!|
We executed our plan well and ended up down in the creekbed, which was wide and flat and located in a pretty open area. I'd expected the reentrants to be a little more noticeable, but I didn't see anything like what I'd been looking for. We walked a very short way down the creek and I saw a little side channel. "Do you think this could be it?"
I wasn't at all sure, but the direction of the channel and the way it turned into the creekbed made me want to try it out, and Mickey thought it could be right. We hiked up the reentrant until it split. (Above, just outside of the pink #19 circle you can see how the blue line forks). "If this is right, the point should be here between the two reentrants, right? The clue is knoll...could this be a knoll?" I was nervous as we climbed the small rise. I really, really wanted to be right, and it felt right, which would've made being wrong that much more depressing. I wasn't wrong though and spotted the marker with a happy yell.
|Feeling very triumphant|
|We planned to basically follow those faint dots up to the top of the hill.|
We hiked the rest of the way to the trail and then followed it down to the parking lot. It was a great morning to be outside, really pretty with light snow and ice-covered trees. It was definitely chilly, but all the uphills kept you warm. Even if Mickey can already navigate circles around me on his second outing, it was fantastic to feel like maybe I was making some progress. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out there and practicing more, and we've got plenty of points left to find.