An orienteering control
A "control" marker.

o-ri-en-teer-ing [awr-ee-en-teer-ing, ohr-]
–noun a competitive sport, originating in Sweden, that tests the skills of map reading and cross-country running, in which competitors race through an unknown area to find various checkpoints by using only a compass and topographical map, the winner being the finisher with the lowest elapsed time.

On Sunday an old friend from elementary school posted on Facebook regarding an orienteering meet not far from my grandmother’s. Having a natural knack for getting lost–my Girl Scout record includes multiple occasions where our entire group would be the last one in by an hour or more, having completely lost our way and my adult record for getting lost is no better–my natural reaction was just to look away. However, with 3 outdoorsy kids who LOVE being in the woods, maps, and a treasure hunt even more this looked like just the thing to do. So, not letting the whole “race” aspect get in the way, we went.

The kids started with the string course while I go us checked in and got a briefing on how to go about things. Esther quickly joined me, proclaiming the string course “boring” and deciding she preferred to swing.

Issac on the run--he just found the next control.

The other two quickly returned with their rewards for finishing the string course and we got ready for the white course. The girls borrowed a compass (Issac had along his trusty whistle with built in magnifying glass and compass–this always hangs on his jeans.) The whole cost of the event was the $4 for the map (which came with a bag to keep it safe, a paper with spots for each control on which to use the punches that hang at each control, a list of clues to where the controls were (they were also marked on the map.) We got a start time and we were off.

Taking a break.

We did NOT attempt to treat this as a race and try to get the best time. We just wanted to make it through WITHOUT getting lost. As far as the kids were concerned this was the best thing ever–real in the woods trails, some of which were steep and needed to be climbed, a detailed topographical ap, a compass, and a treasure hunt of sorts.

Esther is heading to the next control, Issac is close behind.

They loved seeing who would be the first to spot the control marker and then getting a chance to punch our sheet with the punch hanging at each control. Happiness is.

Out of the woods and on to one of the last controls--Esthjer found it.

It took us about an hour to get through and though tired and starved the kids begged to do another, harder course. On the way home they discussed how other people they know would enjoy the sport listing off who to invite to the next one we go to–so I am guessing there will be another one. 🙂

Esther is the dot at the back of the photo, stamping our paper with the next control punch.

*Note: There are no photos of the trail in the woods because I not only forgot I had my camera but we were too focused on not getting lost and taking the wrong trail to care. We did finish and didn’t get lost once–boy do I adore topographical maps! Just think–a map that has LANDMARKS on it, all of them!

Esther punches her card while Rachel and I look on.--Photo by a member of the Western PA Orienteering club.
Esther punches her card while Rachel and I look on.--Photo by a member of the Western PA Orienteering club.
DeerLakesOrienteering 001
Photo of us during training b a member of the Western PA Orienteering Club.

*Also: I did not get a photo of the rather large beaver that was hanging about scaring people at the beginning of the path. My friend said he had been there all day and rather growled at people who got to close but otherwise didn’t move. The girls climbed up the hill a bit to keep away while Issac and I just sidled by him.

The beaver--thanks Jen for sending me this.
The beaver--thanks Jen for sending me this.

Jen's daughter and best friend on the trail by the beaver.--as taken by Jen.
Jen's daughter and best friend on the trail by the beaver.--as taken by Jen.