Greeley guide to adventure: Orienteering combines hiking, navigating and trail running | MyWindsorNow.com

Greeley guide to adventure: Orienteering combines hiking, navigating and trail running

Kelly Ragan
kragan@greeleytribune.com

Graham Baird of Greeley hates running on the road, though he used to run road races.

When the associate geology professor found out about orienteering, he was hooked.

Orienteering combines hiking, trail running and navigating, all mixed with the competitiveness of road racing.

Participants get a detailed map marked with checkpoints called controls. Racers use the map and a compass to locate a series of controls, which are marked with orange and white flags.

The goal is to find all the checkpoints in the shortest amount of time, which rewards both speed and the skill of picking the most efficient. So racers have to both outrun and outthink their opponents.

First-timers and folks looking to hone their skills can try out some of the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club's permanent courses.

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There's one at Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood fun place and Baldwin Gulch in Parker.

On a permanent course, folks can download the course map and hit the trail without the added pressure of going for a time or trying to beat someone.

Just trying it out is a great way to learn, Baird said.

"It teaches you how to convert the symbols on the map into the landscape before you," Baird said.

Learning how to read the map is one of the most important elements of the sport, Baird said. He can trace most of his mistakes back to not paying close enough attention or misinterpreting a symbol.

Baird loves the competition and races regularly. He's also one of the best in the region. He's a fast runner, even by road racing standards, but orienteering forces him to slow down and think.

"When you're on the clock, your instinct is to hurry," Baird said. "But if you don't slow down, you miss the details."

The sport is also cheap.

The cost for a one-day race is usually about $11, a pittance compared to road races, and for Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club members, they're free, said Brian Coleman, mapping coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club.

Races also have family rates.

What you need

» Orienteering map: Orienteering maps are a lot more detailed than regular maps. Bike paths, dirt roads, large and small footpaths, indistinct trails, fences, stony ground, depressions, pits, erosion gullies, dry ditches, single trees, impassible vegetation and more are labeled on the map.

"Anything that's a meter high usually gets mapped," Baird said.

» Compass: A good compass will help ensure you're heading in the right direction and will therefore save you time. For the most part, you'll figure out if you're headed the wrong way if the symbols on the map don't match what you're seeing in the landscape.

"When I first started out, I got my maps twisted around," Baird said.

He could run fast, but that didn't help if he was headed in the wrong direction.

» Shoes: Hiking boots or trail running shoes will do the trick, depending on how fast you want to go. Special orienteering shoes do exist. They're built a lot like cleats and are designed to handle a variety of terrain, but you don't need them to participate.

» E-punch: If you're competing, you'll use an e-punch. It also goes by finger stick. The device records your time as you find the markers on the course. You can buy one or rent one at the event.

» Clothes: Baird advises you wear pants. As courses get more difficult and secluded, the more you'll need long pants that help protect from scratches, cuts and allergic reactions. Otherwise, dress in layers.

» Water and snacks: Bring some water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.

Events

Orienteering is a year-round sport. The idea can be applied to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in addition to running races.

"It's a great way to explore a park and see places you wouldn't often see," Coleman said. "It makes the park more interesting."

The Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club hosts 15-20 orienting meets per year. This includes beginner meets, ski orienting meets, night meets and training clinics. Each meet usually includes beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Courses usually take about an hour or less to complete.

If you're new to the sport, events hosted by the Rocky Mountain Orienteering club offer special training before events. Experienced orienteers will work with people who've never done it before, Coleman said.

"There are all kinds of ways for people who have never done it before to get into it," Coleman said.

Meets take place in Nederland, Frisco, Denver, Granby, Littleton, Aurora, Lakewood, Woodland Park, Golden and more.

The club is also looking into starting mountain bike orienteering, Coleman said. This summer they'll have a trial run. The maps will look different, since folks will be traveling at a different rate of speed.

Closer to home

Baird's been working on making his own course for Josephine Jones Park, but it takes a lot of time.

Mappers start with a high quality topography map and incorporate air photos. After mapping to the best of their ability, they have to check it against reality.

"It takes hours of work," Baird said.

So far, there's only one outdated orienteering map for the northern Colorado area. The old map shows what Lory State Park used to look like in 1978.

The area has changed significantly since then. Coleman said the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club hopes to get some new maps for the area soon.

— Kelly Ragan covers features and health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your adventure? Call (970) 392-4424 or email kragan@greeleytribune.com.

For more information

More information on the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club

http://www.rmoc.org/index.php” target=”_blank”>Text”>http://www.rmoc.org/index.php

Try it out

Give orienteering a shot before signing up for a race by printing off a map to a permanent course and finding the controls.

http://www.rmoc.org/index.php/event-schedule/permanent-courses” target=”_blank”>Text”>http://www.rmoc.org/index.php/event-schedule/permanent-courses

Ski and snowshoe winter events

http://www.rmoc.org/index.php/event-schedule/ski-snowshoe” target=”_blank”>Text”>http://www.rmoc.org/index.php/event-schedule/ski-snowshoe

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