Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 20
Orienteering ﬁnds a path
to fun outdoors
"That is what I really like about it, when you have
to play that mental game of 'what do I want to do?
harging off the beaten path may be outside Do I want to risk it?,' " Kevin says. With a laugh, he
the comfort zone of most folks when it comes adds, "That gamble has paid off for me sometimes,
to taking a walk in the woods. For orienteers and other times not at all."
The difﬁculty levels of orienteering courses rank
like Kevin Minton, taking the road less travfrom white for novices - something a newcomer
eled is where the trail ends and the fun starts.
"The thing about it is, especially starting out, could accomplish in quick fashion without leaving an
you're going to get lost," Kevin says, hitching up the established trail - to red and blue, for experts, which
straps of his backpack and preparing to bail off into typically involve more than a kilometer between each
the understory of Hawn State Park. A member of the point and are usually reserved for upper-level meets.
St. Louis Orienteering Club, Kevin's childhood love of Kevin considers this new course at Hawn to be
the mid-90s expedition racing show "Eco-Challenge" orange, which is somewhere in the middle in terms
led him to adventure racing. When he and his team- of difﬁculty. Adding to the challenge on some courses
mates realized they needed to be better navigators, are loops, where racers are given the same general
they tried their hands at orienteering. For a group of path but a different set of checkpoints.
"That's something that gets a lot of new orienteers,
avid mountain bikers, hikers and paddlers, ﬁnding
their way through the woods using only a map and is following somebody," Kevin adds. "Never follow
compass proved sufﬁciently challenging and surpris- unless you're 100 percent sure you are going in the
The trick to improving is learning topog"I was hooked from that point
raphy, speciﬁcally how to read the topo maps
on," Kevin says, recalling his ﬁrst
which other navigators have created over the
disastrous but enjoyable course here
years. In the hands of an experienced oriat Hawn. "Then it was all about, 'how
enteer small pits, ruins of old fences and
do I get better?' "
seasonal waterfalls all have an exact
Using his father's lensatic compass
symbol that corresponds to their
from survival school and a map of the
Hawn State Park
place in the course. The minutely
park, Kevin lines up his position at the
detailed maps will put an experistart of the would-be course. He takes
enced orienteer across the ﬁnish
a reading, mentally ﬁles away a few of
line of a red course in under an
the landmarks he's looking for, and in no
hour, according to Kevin.
time at all is headed through the woods well off the
Winter is a great time of year for newcombeaten track.
This point-to-point plan of attack is what orien- ers to the sport, as lower temperatures and
teers refer to as collecting features, or checking off fewer insects make extended periods of offdistinct qualities of the physical landscape. With no trail travel more bearable. A lack of cover,
bootprints or trail blazes to follow, heeding direc- too, helps rookie navigators ﬁnd points
tions such as "go left at the big rock" or "cross the that would otherwise be covered during
second spur" can mean the difference between ﬁrst- three seasons out of the year. Estabplace and hopelessly lost. Either way, the uncon- lished orienteering courses are availventional guideposts give travelers the glimpse of able at Knob Noster, Cuivre River and
unseen wilds. Kevin ﬁnds such a landscape - a long Rock Bridge Memorial state parks.
limestone cave - in the backcountry of Hawn while The St. Louis and Possum Trot
scouting the lay of the land between his second and Orienteering (Kansas City) clubs
hold multiple meets per year and
"That's the fun thing about orienteering - ﬁnd- also have contacts and resources
ing stuff like this," Kevin says, taking the scenery in online for beginners.
"It involves spending a lot of
before adding, "Point two is deﬁnitely getting moved."
The course Kevin is plotting on this particu- time in the woods with a map
lar jaunt is called a Row Gain, in which navigators and compass going, 'what,
proceed from the starting place through an ordered where?' until the topography
number of points to the ﬁnish. The orienteer with the starts to make sense," Kevmost points wins, with the completion time used as a in says. "But it's good fun.
The more you try it and the
The less straightforward type of meet is called more tips you pick up, the
Score-O, in which points are spread out across a better you become at navigating."
map and orienteers have a set amount of time to rack
For more information on orienteering,
up as many as possible. In this scenario, the more
distant checkpoints have a higher score value than go to www.orienteeringusa.org, www.
those that are closer, but also are more challenging stlouisorienteering.org or visit the St.
in terms of terrain and navigation. And if grabbing Louis Orienteering Club on Facebook
a far point puts you at the ﬁnish line after time has at www.facebook.com/stlouisorienteering.
expired, points are deducted as a penalty.
by Zach Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
RURAL MISSOURI | JANUARY 2019
Kevin Minton checks
a course the St. Louis
Orienteering Club has
set for Hawn State
Park. The activity tests
a navigator's skills at
reading compasses and
Rural Missouri - January 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2019
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 7
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 8
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 9
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 10
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Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover4