The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 152: Getting Oriented, part 1

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

You'll win this race by getting lost, least, because it's all about your navigation skills. This week on The WildeBeat; Getting Oriented, part one.

[Intro Music & SFX; 0: 7.6 and under]

News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one fifty two.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

[Intro Music: 0: 4.5 ends]

STEVE: On the list of things you should always take into the wilderness, a map and compass always ranks high. That's great advice, but it doesn't help much if you don't know how to use them. One of the best ways to develop your navigation skills is to participate in the sport of orienteering.

GARY KRAGHT: Everybody... learns how to navigate better and learns how to map-read better and learns how to make decisions better because that's what the sport is all about; you learn it by doing.

STEVE: Gary Kraght is the vice president for club services of the United States Orienteering Federation.

GARY KRAGHT: I've always considered myself to be a decent navigator, but when I started orienteering that went to another level. I became a much better navigator to the point where several years after I started orienteering, I went on a backpacking trip with my brother, and he ...commented how whenever we left camp, he could always be sure that we'd get back to camp because he was with an orienteer.

STEVE: I met Gary at an orienteering meet in China Camp State Park. The park is a thousand-foot high mountain ridge on a peninsula that juts into San Francisco Bay. It's covered by oak forests and dry grasslands. There's thick undergrowth of chaparral and poison oak in some places, and dry stream beds in others.

GARY KRAGHT: t's basically running through the woods with map and compass; and it's sport that's about a hundred years old — got started in the Scandinavian countries, both Norway and Sweden take credit for it and they fight each other over which one gets credit; and the sport is a highly competitive sport on an international level.

GARY KRAGHT: et me go through all of the levels beginning at the white level, that's the beginner level course and you can expect to go completely along trails or dirt roads, that type of thing... you still have to read your map, you have to ...make your decisions on what your routes are going to be just like any other orienteering course.

GARY KRAGHT: he next level is what's known as the yellow course, which is an advanced beginner level; and on a yellow course're going mainly along trails or dirt roads or other easy-to-follow handrails such as power lines, fence lines, that type of thing; but the controls themselves will not be on the trails...The orange intermediate level; and that's where you really start to get off trail; you go cross country a lot. The controls themselves are on generally easy-to-find features or easier-to-find features — they're not subtle; but orange is challenging for most people, even experienced hikers, experienced backpackers until they get their navigation skills up because you are going cross country a lot, and you really have to read the map very carefully and pay attention.

GARY KRAGHT: nd then there are a number of levels of advanced courses that are the same technically, they only differ in terms of length, and from shortest to longest; and in the United States we have brown, green, red, and blue.

GARY KRAGHT: or beginners we have a beginner's clinic, and the beginner's clinic is not long and involved; it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get through, ...but you'll get a basic map familiarity, basic compass familiarity, and the rules of the road of how to orienteer; but the main learning process goes on by actually doing it, by actually getting out on orienteering courses and proving that you can do it, and ...getting better.

STEVE: Like Gary said, if you're a beginner, you'll want to take a beginner's clinic. Scott Aster teaches these clinics for the Bay Area Orienteering Club.

SCOTT ASTER: e get people who are not at all in shape and who are scared of the wilderness, who come out because somebody dragged them out there; and I have to first reassure them that they're not going to get eaten by a wildlife or and get hopelessly lost and get out there; and we have the opposite, we have some adventure racers who are big on road racing — people who think they can just race through a course and they get hopelessly lost because they have no clue what they're doing as far as navigation;

SCOTT ASTER: hat I try to do in an easy, quick way is tell them what orienteering is and give them the bear essentials to successfully get out there and complete a beginning level course, and I figure after that they can move on at their own pace.So my task is to try to get all these disparate people together and teach them enough and convince them that they have the skills to complete the beginner level course, fact, the couch potatoes who come from the city out here first time are usually the most receptive to my clinics [laughter] because they realize that they really do need to know what they're doing out here.

STEVE: I recorded Scott teaching one of his beginner's clinics, first thing in the morning.

SCOTT ASTER: wind] Well, welcome to China Camp, everybody. My name's Scott, I'm with the Bay Area Orienteering Club; [wind dies] and [wind] you're here at an orienteering meet today, and what I'm going to try to do is give you enough information to figure out what you're doing out there to successfully complete a course.

SCOTT ASTER: wind dies] What I want to start out with -- nobody here's -- have you orienteered before? [No.] No. Great, we've got all first-timers. I like to describe orienteering as a treasure hunt, and in this case it's a treasure hunt out in the woods. In a nutshell what you're trying to do is look for markers out there, visit each marker and get back to the finish line; and to do that you have three tools... You'll have your map and your map's going to have your course on it;'re going to be looking for markers that are in the middle of these circles on the map that are drawn with numbers next to 'em -- like one, two, three, four -- in the middle of each of these circles you're going to find a bag like this.

SCOTT ASTER: ow we don't hide these, so if you navigate to the middle of the circle, it's going to be hanging anywhere from two to four feet off the ground, it should be in plain view, but you'll see it there. [clanking of tools] Now to help you find these markers, you've got the map which shows a lot of detail on it, you'll also have printed on a corner of what we call a clue sheet, which tells you what feature the control is on. If you look at number one here it says, "Distinctive tree, west side." Now "distinctive tree" usually means it's either like a big tree around a whole bunch of small trees, or say it's a tall Redwood in the middle of a bunch of Oak trees -- something distinctive and unusual. It can be in the middle of a forest, so don't just look for like a tree out in a meadow, but something very distinct.

SCOTT ASTER: ow, the most fun thing about orienteering that I like is the fact that it's not a course race where you follow a route. How you get from Point A to Point B is completely up to you, which I think is great...

SCOTT ASTER: ..Everybody, when you register each group that goes out gets one of these finger sticks. It's actually got a small computer chip in the tip; and what [wind stops] you do is on each of these bags will be one of these boxes with a little hole in it; and what you'll do to prove that you've been there is you'll come and you'll put your finger stick in it [beep], and you hear that beep? That means that it recorded your time.

SCOTT ASTER: nce it's beeped that's recorded your exact time as to when you were at that control, and you'll go to each control location, [beep] punch and beep, [beep] punch and beep -- that records that you've been there. When you finish you come back to this blue tent where you download, you stick it in another hole, it downloads all your information to a computer and it prints out your splits to the second, so it you know it took you exactly seven minutes and twenty-five seconds to get from three to four.

SCOTT ASTER: ..So what you're doing, you got your map, you're looking for a bag like this. You're going to punch in the control [beep], and then on to the next one...

SCOTT ASTER:'re going to be mostly on trails or roads. You don't need to use a compass. If you'd like to use a compass I can, after we're done here, I'd be happy to explain how to shoot a bearing; it's remarkably simple, if you don't know how. People are intimidated by compasses... I started orienteering with the club and somebody shows me how to shoot a bearing and say, "That's all there is to it." It's amazing... but you don't need a compass on the beginner courses because it's going to be detailed map reading, so pay attention to the map; all the trail junctions, the road junctions.

SCOTT ASTER: ..Now the idea is have fun... You'll see some people wearing fancy outfits with gaiters and special spiked running shoes, and they're competitive... Three-fourths people who come to these meets walk their courses, and they're just enjoying the the chance to [wind] get out, get some exercise, and the added challenge of finding these markers.

SCOTT ASTER: ..Take it easy, especially the first two controls. Go at your own pace, take as long as you like... Most courses, to be honest, take people between one and two hours.

SCOTT ASTER: ..So get out there- ...Whenever you're ready you start over at the starting line; you start whenever you want to; [wind] and just get in by two o'clock; and if you- anybody has any other questions, I'll be happy to answer 'em.

STEVE: Now that you're prepared for an orienteering course, it's time to experience one. Next time, we'll hear more about the experience of orienteering.

STEVE: Do you have experiences with an orienteering group? We'd like you to share them with our community, and we always want to hear your thoughts about anything else we do on the Wildebeat. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373, or e-mail us at comments at WildeBeat dot net.

STEVE: WildeBeat members can download a recording of Scott Aster's entire clinic from our WildeBeat Insider web page.

STEVE: As a free, listener-supported service, we depend on you to help support our work. You can help by making a tax-deductible membership donation to our project. Membership levels start at sixteen dollars a year, and full membership is forty eight. For a limited time, become a WildeBeat member and get a weekend's worth of meals from Alpine Aire foods, books from Wilderness Press, access to bonus audio content, and more, as thank you gifts.

[Closing Music: 0: 0 and under]

Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham and Kate Taylor, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one fifty two. Thank you for listening.

[Closing Music: ends.]

Next time -- part two of Getting Oriented.

[Powered by Blosxom] Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. (Details)