Back at the DNR program on "Becoming an Outdoors Woman", I really enjoyed the game we played to learn how to use a compass. The instructor had suggested trying an Orienteering event.
As described on the Quantico Orienteering Club website:
Orienteering is the sport of navigating with map and compass. The object is to find a series of points shown on a map, choosing routes — both on and off trail — that will help you find all the points and get back to the finish in the shortest amount of time. The points on the course are marked with orange and white flags accompanied by electronic or mechanical punches, which provide proof that the point was visited. Each “control” marker is located on a distinct feature, such as a stream junction or the top of a hill.
This was my first opportunity to try it. I did a lot of reading on the website, then met with one of the organizers who gave me more tips. Many people do these events "for time", competing against others to see who can complete the course the fastest. I just wanted to complete the course. Alive. And unhurt.
I'm glad my first event was at a park that I was familiar with. I felt comfortable using a compass, and knew I could give up and find my way back to the parking area.
It was a bit challenging to get started. But luckily there were a few others who started at the same time as me, so I kind of tagged along and listened to what they were saying. After two or three checkpoints, I felt comfortable with my ability to read the special map and figure out the clues as to the checkpoints. I went off on my own and had a grand time! The very last checkpoint was off-trail and I was a bit confused on the direction of travel. But I have no qualms asking for help at this stage. I finished the course, well within the alloted time, and learned later on that I wasn't even last! I ended up loving the challenge, invigorated by the problem-solving and decision-making. I can't wait to go again!
A portion of a typical orienteering map: