Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Outdoor Challenge

 A couple of weekends ago we had our "orienteering challenge" that my friend Ralph put together.  He has been working on this for at least a year now and I joined him something like 8 months ago when I accepted his invitation to be the head scoring judge since I have participated in similar "free for all" orienteering events.  Now for the 99.99% of you out there that do not know what orienteering is, understand it is a game played with a map and compass.  Not the compass you used to draw circles in class or stab people in the hands with but a liquid filled device with a needle in it that points to magnetic north.  I refer to these events as running for smart people, or walking with a purpose.  So what happens is everyone gets a map and each team gets a punch sheet 30 minutes before the start.  This gives everyone an opportunity to strategize before the start.  The the buzzer goes off and each team is on their own for 3 and a half hours when the time stops and each team has to come in to the finish line before the end buzzer with as many points as they can get or if they are late there is a penalty given for each minute late.
What made this event different than the other ones I had been to is that Ralph had some people from our local orienteering club come out and show everyone the gear for the serious orienteering nerd.  They wear gators on their legs, polyester knickers, breathable long sleeve shirts and in their hand they carry these odd compasses.  Now I love me some map and compass but have never really been around these super gurus and when this guy pulled out his compass and showed me the difference between the one I use and his, it was like night and day of a difference.  I have seen expensive compasses on the inter-web going up to 300 bucks and the gentleman told me the one he had cost 85 dollars.  Now that is alot of dough for a needle that tells you where north is until you see this thing in action.  The red north on the needle never moves no matter how fast he moved the compass.  It looked as if the compass was just a piece of plastic and the needle was on the table.  The thing simply never moved and I pulled out mine and there was a solid three to five second lag when I moved mine.  The one he had is in the picture above, a Silva 6 Jet Spectra with a thumb thingy and a cushion as well.  I have always thought a compass is a compass weather it is five bucks for fifty bucks until now, now I know what a real compass is and trust me, it is on my list of must have items for the next year (I just have to scour the inter-web to find the lowest price).  In the end if there is one skill I would say is one of the best skills to have when being an outdoors-person that is to know how a topographical map and compass work.  This may seem like me being old man, old school but I have seen where cell phones don't work, and navigation devices go on the fritz, and a map and compass never need batteries, nor do they break (yes you can tear the map into pieces and a bear can eat it, and a compass can break but the needle always points to north).

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