Years ago, I was told by my good friend, Tom, that I am forever banned from giving directions. I have been told to say “I don’t know where it is” to any and all who might ask me for help.
Evidently, I am geographically challenged.
I like to think of my directional (lack of) prowess as an invitation to adventure, a trip to the unknown, a vacation from order. Anyone can follow a map (I am told), but if world is round, can you ever really be lost?
With that history, of course one of our themed days for Camp was Orienteering Day.
Armed with compasses (silva and mariners), maps, symbols, orienteering info and lots of games, the boys and I spent the morning making a compass out of a cork and needle, learning about cardinal points, taking a bearing, magnetic poles, true north and “Red in the Shed”. I’ll be more specific at a later date, but I must say I am rather proud of all we accomplished.
Our first task was to map our little city.
Prior to our trip, I made symbols that were specific to our town (not every town needs a duck, and our town doesn’t have a stop light), and printed out a map of our main street.
Mr. H. took the three older boys for this task. They headed off with their maps and symbols and evidently no understanding of what they were supposed to accomplish. They thought it was a scavenger hunt and went all through town trying to find each of the symbols on the sticker sheet. That hadn’t been my original idea, but it worked out fine.
I took the other boys and we walked around the block to map what we saw on our trip.
With several stops along the way (for every flower, tree and bench), it took our group just as long to walk around the block as it did for the big guys to cover the entire town.
We met at the little restaurant in town to have tacos and burritos as big as our head. We compared notes and high-fived our first mapping expertise.
After lunch, we traveled to a hiking trail located in an environmental preserve a few miles from town. I had visited the preserve a few days before Camp and hid buttons along one of the trails with directions to test the skills of our campers. I also took pictures of each of the button hiding places.
I needn’t have bothered.
My first direction read “From the large rock located at the South end of the Parking Lot, walk down the hill and turn North”.
Turns out the large rock was at the West side of the Parking lot and North would take you into the pasture with the buffalo.
Once I got us going in the right direction and on the trail, things went a little smoother.
Until Path Marker #3.
Evidently, I was getting tired, or hallucinating or had sunstroke. After all my preparation, I couldn’t read what I had written.
It’s hard to know what I was trying to say, but it looks like we are supposed to look for a bald man on the right side and give him some green tea. That’s probably wrong.
Over time, I was able to puzzle out my directions and the boys found nearly all the buttons. I wasn’t able to take many pictures, I was too busy trying to retrofit the directions. Charlie was helping me out, though, so I was able to quickly snap his sweet (although lid shaded) face.
The only other picture I took was of Kevin finding buttons in the prairie grass. Except for his Tervis water bottle, he looks like a scene from Little House on the Prairie.
After a brief interlude in the lake (it was 100 degrees with high humidity), we got ready for our last orienteering adventure.
Carson, bathed in sunshine.
Enough resting. Back to orienteering.
During my research on orienteering, I stumbled on to an orienteering club in the “big city” near our home. They were having an “event” on the night of Orienteering Day. Perfect!!
We packed up our water bottles, our compasses and headed out to orienteer!!
A very nice volunteer met with us and gave us some directions on map reading. I excitedly waited for her to go over compass basics. I just knew the boys would impress her with their compass skills.
The conversation went something like this. “Oh, you only need a compass to find north. Mostly, you just want to turn the map so you are always facing the right direction”.
On the other hand, they did give us a cool electronic gadget used to check in to the various points along the route. In this way, we were able to measure the time it took to get from marker to marker. I was assured we would not be mocked.
We were happy to hear that there was a beginner’s route. We had watched some “serious” orienteerers (is this even a name?) check in and take off at a dead run.
I was getting a bit nervous.
The boys were anxious to begin, so we headed out for our big adventure.
Each of the kids led the way. It was easy to do. We had no idea where we were going.
Shortly after we began, Charlie asked if we could do the hard course when we were done with the beginners course. I was still trying to figure out if we could just go from the 1st marker to the last marker and disregard the other check in points, so another course wasn’t even a slight consideration.
Fortunately, it took us almost 30 minutes to find our first marker. This ended the conversation about another course … for awhile.
Somehow, when I imagined an orienteering “event” I thought … water bottles, arrows and a paved trail.
Do you doubt for even a moment that the boys loved this?
They leapt from rock to rock like gazelles and hardly broke a sweat.
I was decidedly non-gazelle-like and broke a sweat like a … well, like a sweaty non-gazelle-like creature.
It took us an hour to complete the course.
Our map started out like this.
and ended like this.
Much like a 60 year old orienteer I know.