Orienteering Is Kind of a Race, Treasure Hunt, and Navigation Test. Here's How to Join In

Sunset, April 1985 | Go to article overview

Orienteering Is Kind of a Race, Treasure Hunt, and Navigation Test. Here's How to Join In


"A cross-country Easter egg hunt." That's how one panting neophyte described orienteering. An off-trail sport import from Sweden, orienteering is catching on in the West. With family-oriented clubs forming and a permanent course in Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park, there are several ways to join in the fun. Anyone can try orienteering after a few minutes' instruction. "A lot of people worry about using the compass," says Gene Wehunt of the Bay Area Orienteering Club, "but on beginning courses, the compass is necessary only to orient the map and make sure you're facing the direction of travel."

The key to the sport is map reading. Marked with contour lines and symbols for natural and manmade features, each map has circles indicating the location of control points (we show one kind of control in the big photograph above).

The object is to walk or jog from control to control, stopping at each to punch your scorecard. As you go along, recognizing landmarks gets easier. Beginner's courses have 5 or 6 of the red and white controls scattered through gentle terrain; advanced routes have 15 or more through rougher terrain. Most novice courses are 1 to 2 miles long and take than an hour to finish; at a meet, you might want to try a slightly more advanced course as well.

Wear sturdy shoes for scrambling up and down hillsides, and long pants to protect against poison oak or spiny plants. A permanent course in Oakland, a class in Sacramento

You can take a class in orienteering at Sacramento's American River College, April 16 through May 11. Fee for the five-session course in $20. To register, call the college's Community Services Department at (916) 484-8643.

One place where you can orienteer any time is the permanet course at Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland Hills. Set up last year, the course has three levels of difficulty; it takes less than an hour to finish the easiest course, which winds through the redwood forest. …

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