Being a long time fan of walking, hiking and backpacking I’ve been trying my hand at orienteering; the sport of following a map to find a series of points. I’ve got two good strong skills for orienteering, that of a well developed sense of direction and the ability to read a map. So where did I go for these excursions? The Overlanders Orienteering Association, host weekly Wednesday night events, in the Edmonton area. Non-members (i.e. lurkers) like myself, pay a nominal fee for a copy of the evenings map and a complimentary pencil.
When I first began I went to two events. The first began at Dawson Park, and for myself choosing the medium length course (4.4 Kms.), I followed a map that crossed the river and went towards Rafter’s Landing, via the trails below Forest Heights and through Cloverdale (north of 98th Ave.). From the footbridge, by Rafter’s Landing, the route took me across to Riverdale and back to Dawson Park.
Sounds easy, huh? Well, no. I had to find a series of orange survey tape markers, at various points indicated on the map. Some of the markers involved a minor bush-bash to find and all involved good vision (great with my glasses!), and good basic logic (i.e. Oops! Gone too far). I was fortunate in that I knew that part of the river valley very well, so with this in mind, beginner’s luck and many helpful other participants…I did well!
My second time out was in unfamiliar territory, as I hadn’t been in the Terwillegar Park area for years. I did, however, succeed in finding all my markers and returning to the start, in about 1.5 hours, which was faster than the week before. This course involved much more open terrain, than the week before, but there were water holes to go around.
Many of the city routes, used for orienteering, are on (or about) cycle trails and in designated dog walking areas. I found the cyclists very courteous and along the way in Terwillegar Park, with it being an off-leash are, I met more friendly pooches of all breeds, shapes and sizes.
My overall opinion of orienteering is very positive and I highly suggest giving it a try. It’s a good outdoor experience that helps develop directional and map reading skills. It’s also a good way to loosen up your boots and give your feet a tune-up for summer hiking and backpacking. As well you will meet other folks orienteering the course (many run the course) and they come in singles, groups, couples and families.
Once you’ve gotten good at orienteering in the city, try one of the more difficult, and lengthy “forest events” outside of the city.