I’ll agree w/ Luke about getting up at 5am; I’m not a morning person and I can usually think of at least 12 reasons to stay in bed on my day off. But.. knowing that I’d be hanging out with The Dragon and running through the woods was all the motivation I needed to get out of bed with a smile on my face.
Add to that, I knew today would be the first time I got to try some solo orienteering. Luke and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we decided it was time to take the training wheels off if I wanted to get any better at orienteering.
I don’t think either of us was truly ready for how beautiful Hawn State Park was going to be. I mean seriously, I didn’t know we had these kinds of places in Missouri. The rock formations, creeks and pine trees were awesome. The first 10 minutes of being in the park was worth the drive. I’m already planning a trip there w/ my ladyfriend.
When it was time for the race to start, Luke and I made a point of letting the other racers go ahead so we wouldn’t be tempted to follow them. We got to the 1st checkpoint about 5 seconds apart from one another and then it was off to #2.
By my figuring, if I headed North for a short bit I would cross 2 creeks before coming very close to the next CP. I didn’t want to ride Luke’s coat-tails, so I got a quick bearing and took off running. I needed to space myself out so there would be no temptation to follow.
5 minutes later I was laughing out loud knowing full well I would not be influenced by anyone for the rest of the day.
I was already lost.
Somehow I had gotten all the way to the Northern border of the park. Not sure how that happened, but hey, this is what I wanted. I found a landmark on the map, shot a bearing and found CP 2.
The trip to CP 3 was going to be a lengthy one, so I decided to take it a piece at a time. About 1/4 of the way there I got to descend a massive rocky hill making my way down to a creek. I’ve used creeks in the past to find CP’s and I figured today would be no different.
Pictures never do justice, but this is a look at the hill I came down.
I’m so glad I decided to follow that creek, because it was one of the prettiest sections of running water I’ve ever seen. I was really angry at myself for not having a camera, and made a mental note to never do an O-race without one again.
This race was a heaping dose of reality for me. I had a lot of trouble finding CP 3, and from looking at the map it seemed like I should have been standing on top of it.
At one point I was convinced that my compass was wrong, so I put it in my pocket and went where I thought I needed to be going. Not smart.
I eventually found it while I was trying to find a landmark reference. Talk about a relief. CP 4 was almost a straight shot through the open pines and I found it with no problems.
So, I’m sitting there in the woods looking at my map and deciding what to do next. CP 7 had water, and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to find all the controls before the time cutoff. I decided to skip 5 & 6 and develop a route to CP 7. It looked good on paper, run next to the road a few miles, cut in next to an old barb-wire fence until I hit the trail, and then start looking for boulders.
The route worked beautifully until I ran out of trail and there were no boulders to be seen. When I actually did find boulders they were on the wrong side of the trail and I knew I was lost again.
Where the hell am I? That was certainly my theme for the day. I never got too worried about it though, cuz I knew if worse came to worse I could just hike North until I hit the highway.
Every now and then I could feel a bit of negativity creeping up my spine…just itching to get in my head. When that happened I’d think about what I’d be doing if I were at work, and suddenly things were great again.
After a few hours of wandering aimlessly I decided my race was over. I still didn’t have a clue where the hell I was, but it was a beautiful day and there were still plenty of hours left in the day. All trails lead somewhere, so I found one and started hiking. I hiked and hiked and hiked, enjoying the day and taking it all in. Eventually I found my way back to the trailhead, got an idea on where the hell I was, and started the trek back towards the start/finish line.
When I got back, quite a few people had already finished and were lounging around waiting for the award ceremony. I grabbed my Beaver Stik and Luke’s camera and set back out to take some pictures. Along the way I met a lot of cool people who were out enjoying the day, and even made friends with some drunk guy who had a mohawk.
Hey, I may be a shitty orienteer but I know how to take pictures and have a good time.
Who knows, maybe next time I’ll find 5 out of 26 CP’s…..
A few pics: