Here’s another chapter in the saga of me and my new exercise activity, orienteering. My husband and I decided today would be great for trying out the permanent course at French Creek State Park, where we had gone a few weeks ago for a competition. (I wrote about it here.) So we put on our outfits, picked up a couple of sandwiches and some drinks, put them in the cooler, and set out for the park.
It was an absolutely perfect day for being outside, quite warm and very sunny. The park was full of activity, but it was concentrated on the lake and picnic areas. We located the start of the course and parked the car right there, having arrived about 10 AM after a pleasant drive into the countryside.
The permanent course (as opposed to one set up just for a competition and then taken down) circumnavigates Hopewell Lake. It covers about 2.5 or so miles with 8 controls, plus three optional ones. My husband had printed out the map on good paper and enlarged it. Detail is important.
So we set off. I fell down crawling up the side of a ditch, so I got that over with – I have to settle in a bit, I’ve found, before I concentrate well. There is always a fall to be taken before that happens.
And remember, I have a lot of trouble matching the map details with the terrain. I find orienteering very challenging because of this, and I check my position a lot. I am good at reading the map, though, and my husband is good at reading the terrain, so together, we get along great.
We worked out way through the course. The woods are not as they were originally – this area supplied fuel for a thriving iron industry in the past, and at one time this forested area was cut bare. Now it has a lot of small to medium trees and significant undergrowth. Trails and roads wind through it.
There is also a significant amount of loose rock everywhere, making footing difficult.
It was pleasant and shady in the woods. We really made good time. Here is what one of the controls looks like, in its position near Hopewell Lake.
We had nice views of the lake at many points.
We also passed the dam that created the lake. Here we are at the small spillway.
Right after this location, we got over-confident. And the pictures stop, but I’ll give you a short word-picture in tanka form:
The steep hill. A slope
that runs straight into the sky.
The climbers scramble.
The trail fades. They make their own.
Hilltop. A road appears. Go.
To put it plainly, we decided to try for the optional A, B, and C controls. We took a faint trail cutting up and across a steep high slope. It gave out after a while and we found ourselves thrown back on our map and our wits.
Never did find A, though we were close. I saw a couple of little toads hopping along and if we had been in a fairy tale, they would have helped us, but we were not, so, no luck. They went on their way and we went on ours.
I am able to climb well, but going downhill is not very easy for me with my balance issues. So, we checked the map, and we decided to keep going up in order to make for a fence, follow it, and we’d come out at a road. Which we did, with me clinging to the fence to keep from rolling downhill. I would have to say not many people try to reach these controls, since the trail was so faint and unworn – lack of traffic, certainly.
Anti-climatically, we found both B and C along this road, as we had known we would from the map – A was always going to be the hard one. Sigh. We finished the course, and had a nice picnic lunch in the shade near the car. All told, we spent about two hours on the course. You know, I really enjoyed the experience, except for about 10 minutes when I wondered how we would get out of this mess. Well, we did, didn’t we, and that’s what counts.