California A-meet report

By Anndy Wiselogle

When I get the chance, I like going to a nationally-approved orienteering event, for three reasons. One: They’re at terrific places for excellent orienteering, good views, and new adventures. Two: The courses are impeccably designed and mapped, so any errors in navigation are mine to fix. And Three: I get to do three orienteering events in three days. What could be better?!?

In March, a total of eight CROC members went to the A-meet (as these nationally approved events are called) put on by the Bay Area Orienteering Club in California. We all perhaps had different goals and reasons for participating. I went to hike in a new interesting area, with the mental challenge of navigating. 

A lot of logistics and volunteers are needed to host an A meet. A participant has to be ready to start at an assigned time. You may have to walk a flagged route (not always on a trail) to the start location. You can’t keep your map after you finish, to make sure it doesn’t get seen by others who haven’t started. But once I got used to all these hassles, I can have fun on a good course.

While most participants are competitors who want to finish fast, I like orienteering as I like a good restaurant dinner. Who would want to rush through a good meal, or eat faster than their companion? There’s a handful of us at A meets that may take photos of wild flowers (as Rolf did), or pause to watch the lizard scamper up a tree (as I did), or take several minutes to figure how to avoid climbing the steep hill and still get to the next control.

In fact, my proudest moment was on the leg where I spent a total of 38 minutes. I didn’t find the control as soon as my pacing would expect, and I thought I re-oriented. But after another attempt to get to the control, and observing that my sense of north did not agree with the compass pointing east, then I realized I really did not know where I was. Here’s where the real navigation skill is needed, along with enough self-confidence and determination. So I studied the hills, studied the map, hiked to the top of the hill, looked around, and figured exactly where I was, and exactly how to get to the control. That’s the triumph I like.

So it’s awkward every time someone asks me “How did you do,” meaning did they beat me. (Answer: Yes, always.)  But I always add: But I probably had more fun.