Thru Hiker Communication at it’s Best

Despite being able to catch cell service on many mountain tops along the Appalachian Trail these days, there is still one form a communication between hikers that beats out all the others. The shelter registry or logbook is the king of information along the Appalachian Trail. It is nearly like browsing the internet for the latest news in your community. It is also like checking a social media page to see what your friends and acquaintances have been up to lately. It can even be a great source of entertainment as you wait out a rain storm in a shelter or drift off to sleep at night. The logbook is a crucial part of AT culture and can come in handy during your hike.

 

nVfBZdVl

Logbooks are usually spiral bound note books or composition note books left in a shelter by the folks who maintain that particular shelter. Once a logbook has filled up, the maintainers replace it with a new one.

Logbooks or registers are found in every shelter along the AT. Usually they are in a large zip lock bag with a pen or pencil, tucked away in a corner. They are also sometimes found in other randoms places along the AT, such as tucked away in the stone of the rock on Springer, in the breezeway at Mountain Crossings, or next to the hiker box in the outfitter at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

04-Appalachian-Trail-Log-Book-Storage

The pile of stones on top of Springer Mountain bearing the historical plaque has a small metal box built into the side of the rock pile. Within this metal box is the first official logbook on the Appalachian Trail. Hikers take time out of their first day of hiking to reflect on the journey ahead of them, jot down their thoughts and read the thoughts of hikers before them.

Trail registries are a great way for hikers to stay in the loop about a particular area or portion of trail. By reading the logbook at each shelter a hiker can find out about bear activity, trail conditions headed north or south, suspicious people along the trail and even water availability. Not to mention, a hiker can also see that their friends Blue Berry and Freckles are headed into town and surmise that they can catch up with them there.

23996_orig

Salty and Waffles are headed into town and have been loving the wildflowers along the way!

Because of the sheer amount of people using and handling logbooks, they can sometimes become a hot bed for sickness. Most of the time, checking the logbook is a very smart and fun thing to do while on a hike. But in the event of an outbreak of Noro Virus, a common hiker stomach bug, avoid touching logbooks just as you would avoid sleeping at shelters and using privies. Overall, these little nuggets of thru hiking culture are a fun way to gain all sorts of important information from another. For such an outdated method of indirect communication, the logbooks along the AT are incredibly useful and wonderful tools! Be sure to check out the logbook while on your thru hiker, next section hike or day hike along the Appalachian Trail and help contribute to the colorful culture and information sharing on our beautiful trail!

Start Your Engines

Full blown thru hiker season is roughly six months away. That means many hikers attempting a thru in 2017 are readying themselves for the trail now. At least, if they’re smart they are! They are researching gear, building up their perfect gear combination and getting out on practice hikes. Some may be reading Trail Tested to learn more about different backpacking scenarios, gear, and how to use that gear in those scenarios. Others may already be reading Appalachian Trials to get their head in the right place for the life changing experience ahead of them. Regardless, the time for preperation for an Appalachian Trial thru hike is here! So consider taking your preperation even one step further and getting a Virtual Shakedown from Mountain Crossings.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.16.57 PM

What is a Virtual Shakedown, you may be asking? A virtual shakedown is your best bet at saving yourself a lot of hassle throughout the first stretch of your thru hike!!

Many people find that they learn a lot (the hard way, unfortunately) about backpacking and what not to carry during the first three days of their trip. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect when you are embarking on a 6 month hike unless you are fortunate enough to have the guidance of a former thru hiker to assist you. Of course, each person if different in their needs, but the virtual shakedown is designed to help people who would like to avoid carrying extra weight and avoid paying shipping on sending items home to do just that. Why carry 10lbs. of gear you are going to spend $30 to send home on day three or four when you can avoid it all together?

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Why carry a huge pack with too much stuff when you can have it easy from the get-go?!

Just as with a regular shakedown in store at Mountain Crossings, an experienced backpacker assists you in culling through your items and choosing what to keep, what to pitch and what to add, if needed. But with a Virtual Shakedown, you can do this process from your own home using a simple video conference technology called Google Hangout. The cost of a Virtual Shakedown is $100, but that is merely a rebate, meaning each and every piece of gear you scoop up from Mountain Crossings during your shakedown is free up to $100.

Whether you already have all your gear or need everything, the virtual shakedown is a wonderful way to make sure you are set for the trail before you leave.  Say you have everything but a sleeping bag. Think of the virtual shakedown as a personal crash course on thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and $100 towards a sleeping bag. If you have nothing, you not only get a chance to pick the brain of a gear guru and former thru hiker about what to purchase, you also get $100 towards those purchases!

virt

A Bit of Info on the Virtual Shake Down

  1. Anyone of any experience level or preparedness can participate in a Virtual Shake Down. (Whether you’re a former thru hiker looking to shed some pack weight or only have three pieces of gear, all are welcome!)
    2. A computer with video chat capabilities (built in or attached video camera and microphone) is needed for a Virtual Shakedown.
    3. Virtual Shake Downs happen over an application called Google Hangout. We will provide you with a dummy G-Mail account for use during the shake down.
    4. A Virtual Shake Down costs $100, but that cost is a 100% (absolutely full and total) rebate!!
    5. During the shake down you will have access to all the entire inventory of Mountain Crossings and we will help you locate the exact items you need to complete or update your gear set.
    6. After you have chosen what you need from the shop, you will have 48 hours to purchase these items and apply your $100 rebate towards your gear.

Big Agnes Sale Now Until August 10th

Big Agnes is one of our top selling brands and for good reason! They make quality products that you know you can count on. Two of their products take a slot as one of the most commonly used shelters on the Appalachian Trail for thru hikers. (Check out this fascinating article on Appalachian Trials about last years thru hiker gear stats!) That’s pretty crazy to have TWO different products that are so great, that many thru hikers use on or the other. And those who don’t use a Fly Creek or Copper Spur tent definitely know someone who does! Big agnes is a company that stands behind their products and their customers.

mtnglo-1

What’s even more impressive is that Big Agnes has only been on the scene for about 15 years. That’s not a very long time in comparison to other top outdoor brands like Patagonia, North Face and REI, which have all been around since the 1960’s. Big Agnes has made major waves quickly.

But the Mother of Comfort is also the Mother of Invention and Big Agnes is constantly on the updating their excellent fleet of gear. Come thru hiker season next year, many items will be slightly different. That is why we are having a huge Big Agnes blow out sale this week!

ALL BIG AGNES IS 20% OFF ONLINE!!

basalebanner2

Every other day this week we will announce a featured product on Facebook and Instagram that gets and even deeper discount than the 20% off. Everything else remains to be 20% off, so you can buy the footprint for cheap even if a sleeping pad is on super sale that day. We are talking ALL Big Agnes, here. Tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, air pad pumps, MtnGlo lights, foot prints. Its ALL 20% off all week! Be sure to be looking for online updates about particular times on sale and scoop up those coupon codes to be used during check out. Don’t miss out on this incredible sale!

 

Another Summer, Another Speed Record Attempt!

About this time last year, we were presenting you with news of Scott Jurek breaking the supported speed record of the Appalachian Trail. If you don’t remember Scott’s journey, jog your memory with this blog post from last July celebrating the vegan ultra runner’s incredible feat of running the Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. Narrowly securing the record by 3 hours from Jennifer Pharr Davis, the previous record holder.

marathon-prep-RECORD0716

Karl Metzler: third time is the charm for AT speed record!

Now, the record is up for grabs again! Karl Metzler, yet another ultra runner, is setting out to take on the task beginning in August. Karl holds the most wins of 100 mile races of any human ever and has already run 2000+ miles twice before, once on the Pony Express from California to Missouri and once on the Appalachian Trail in 2008, though no record was set. He is well acquainted with and prepared for the days ahead, to say the least.

karl-meltzer-168x300

Karl during his 2008 record attempt of the AT. He finished but did not set a new record.

Unlike Scott, who started at Springer Mountain in late May, Karl will be setting out in early to mid August to from Mount Katahdin, taking on the trail South Bound. He spent a few weeks running with Scott last summer, who a good buddy of his, and got a great feel for the world of fully supported hiking. He also has the benefit of being a full on omnivore and will be crushing steaks, ice cream and beer provided by his support team as he makes his way down trail. Not only this, but Karl is backed by Red Bull, which he claims to be sipping on nearly all day long when possible!

appalachian-trail-marathon-RECORD0716

Karl during a 2014 record attempt that didn’t work out.

His goal is to finish the trail in at least 46 days, once again shaving off the time of the record by just a few hours. If you want to follow along check out this website. Here you can learn more about Karl as an athlete and his diet on trail. Once he sets out, you can even track his progress and see his steps taken, calories burned, distance covered and much more! We found the “By The Numbers” portion very interesting: Karl will go through a new pair of shoes roughly every 2-3 days, have approximately 121 crashes over the course of the trail and listen to nearly 690 hours of the Grateful Dead and other tunes. We like this guys already!!

 

 

The Future of Resupplying?

One of the biggest hurdles of preparing for a thru hike of any long distance trail is to wrap your brain around “the hiker resupply”. Six months in the woods definitely doesn’t mean carrying six months worth of food, but how much do you carry? And what do you carry? Not to mention, how do you get that food? The answers to these questions vary greatly on the speed of the hiker, certain dietary restraints and preferred mode of resupplying.

You can carry as much or as many days worth of food as you’d like, skipping over towns or resupply points if desired. While on trail you can chow down on whatever foods tickle your fancy, even if that consists mostly of Oreos and Sour Patch Kids. But interestingly enough, there are only a few ways to actually go about the act of resupplying.

Traditionally, you either got off trail and found a decent place to purchase food locally or you had a pre-packed resupply box sent to you from back home and picked it up at a scheduled location. But these days, there is a new way! It combines the ease of having a box sent to you in town with the flexibility of choosing what you want to eat when you are currently craving it.

zdr_header_background

Welcome, Zero Day Resupply! Made by and for thru hikers, this company has a vast amount of hiker favorite online that you can sift through and create your next resupply while on trail or in town, planning ahead. Then it is mailed to you up trail, to wherever you specify. What better way to take full advantage of a zero than actually being able to relax? Why walk up and down the aisles of Dollar General grimacing the prospects when you could be chillin’ in a hostel or motel, catching a midday matinée of The Goonies because you already picked up your resupply, which you ordered from your phone when you were relaxing on your last zero day. So easy and so simple.

This new way to resupply can even open up new possibilities in your hiking arrangements. Say you and your buddies are crushing sammies at the Appalachian Deli in Garrison, NY after scaling Bear Mountain and crossings the Hudson. It’s a great convenience store and you’ve picked a few good things because you’ve heard the resupply in Stormville, NY is a bit hit or miss. No worries! Hop on your phone and get on Zero Day Resupply and jot down a little order to have waiting for you in Stormville so you know for sure that you’re getting what you want! It’s Brilliant!

fb_image

What makes this service even more incredible is that it is nearly as cheap as buying food as you go, but you save so much time and hassle. Their items are generously well priced, even in the eyes of a thru hiker. And, in the end, you don’t have to worry about wasting time or not being able to find a full resupply in a crummy location. Because Zero Day Resupply is the brain child of a former thru hikers, the selection is smartly curated for the taste of long distance backpackers. You will surely find many of your favorite available on their site.

Not only does this site make finding your food take a lost less miles over six months, it also helps you calculate the weight and calorie count of your resupply! You can save lists of foods and start each resupply out with the old trusties before adding new foods and you can even set up a donations page where friends and family and send you a resupply box!

So the next time you are heading out for a long hike or even just for a section, remember that there are new ways to resupply in our modern world! Check out Zero Day Resupply for an easy and painless experience! (Take the “tour” to see all food varieties.)

Zero Day Resupply boxes stacked up and ready to be sent out to hikers all over!!

Zero Day Resupply boxes stacked up and ready to be sent out to hikers all over!!

 

The Pitfalls of “Hike Your Own Hike”

Hike Your Own Hike is a term beloved by thru hikers. It gives validation to many of our weird little quirks other hikers may not understand. If you want to take 2 zero days a week, do it. If you want to take a blue blaze around a section of trail, do it.  If you want to carry a Katana, do it. It’s a term that helps settle any and all disagreements over these petty differences. No matter the context, it seems as if dropping the term “Hike Your Own Hike” is the cue for both sides to drop it and just enjoy the scenery. In a community where every person has their own opinions of comfort, ruggedness and everything in between, this little catch all has gone far to remind us that we don’t always have to be right.

s791751049580686635_p30_i1_w240

Origins of the term are hotly debated among hikers but many agree it came around sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Today, as the AT community grows in size with the rising popularity of long distance backpacking, this term has began to see a metamorphosis as well. It is increasingly being referenced not only to justify individual styles of hiking, but also individual styles of treating the Appalachian Trail. When “Hike Your Own Hike” becomes a cop out for proper “Leave No Trace” ethics, we as a community have a problem.

bcn-t-hyon

You know it’s big when they make t-shirts of it!

Leave To Trace is also a widely known term on the AT. It was brought about in the 1960’s by the US Forest Service as the use of and need for management of our public lands grew. Leave No Trace has grown from just a saying with great intentions behind it to a full fledge non-profit that works tirelessly to uphold it’s Seven Principles. In a time when we are fighting to both protect our precious land and introduce people to the wonderful affect of Mother Nature for mental and physical health, it is massively important that we do not allow these two hiker adages to work against one another.

static1.squarespace

Hike Your Own Hike never means it’s okay to burn your trash if you don’t feel like packing it out.

Hike Your Own Hike never means you are exempt from digging a 6 inch cat hole if you don’t feel like it. 

Hike Your Own Hike never means you get a pass on being polite and courteous to other hikers. 

The rights given to you by the term Hike Your Own Hike end where they become detrimental to the land you are on and it’s natural inhabitants. When making decisions for yourself on trail, first and foremost, go by the Principles of Leave No Trace. Only secondly, go by Hike Your Own Hike. If you want there to continue to be a Hike worth Hiking, you will gladly do so.

The Battle of De-Feet

It’s summer time, which means that everyone every where is letting their toes hang out. What a great feeling! Those poor, forgotten little digits deserve to live it up during the warm months of the year. Ditch the wool socks and closed toe shoes and get a pair of something your feet can rock and roll in all summer long! The question is, what sort of sandal do you want to wear? There are so many out there and many are vastly different. Here is a break down of the pros and cons of two sandals carried by Mountain Crossings that may help you make the best choice for you!

At MTX we carry both the ever classic summer adventure sandal, Chacos, and the new kid on the block knocking out the competition, Xero Shoes. Both these sandals are designed for summer fun in mind. They aren’t going to flip and flop around. They aren’t going to trip you up. They will seamlessly transition from hiking to frolicking in a creek to wearing around town. They are both your one stop shop shoe for summer time! But despite these similarities, they are SO different! Just look at them!

41ND0w-bH+L

Chacos

xero-shoes-amuri-x-trek-forefoot-strike-running-runforefoot-bretta-riches

Xero Shoes

As you can see, these sandals share a lot of design features, but there is one that you can can’t help but notice the two don’t seem to agree on. The Sole! Every pair of Chacos has a nearly clunky sole with a high arch. Xero Shoes have barely any sole at all and no arch support. What is a purchaser to do? Decide what kind of arch you have and buy that pair? Surprisingly, no! Either shoe you choose will become the new best friend to your feet! But let’s go over some specifications of each shoe and learn how our feet react to the different designs.

All About Chacos

As soon as you put on a Chaco, you can feel the stability and support of the sole. It is sometimes concernedly prominent. The first time I put on a pair, I immediately declared that the arch was too high and didn’t look back for years. (In the meantime, I wasted tons of money and time on other sandals that didn’t hold up for longer than a month and never did quite serve the high action, outdoor purposes I needed.) The next time around, I wasn’t so impulsive. Sure, I wasn’t used to the feel of it, but I could tell the polyurethane sole wasn’t going to compress like other sandals. I had seen friends wear the same pair for years as I cycled through countless shoes made of less durable materials. As I continued to wear them, my feet began to really enjoy the curvature and arch of the sole. Chaco calls their design the LUVSEAT Footbed and I began to see why. My foot felt cradled by the shoe! As for the straps, you have two options, one with a strap for the big toe and one without a strap for the big toe. All Chocos are designed with the straps as one long piece of webbing, making both versions  fully adjustable so your foot is perfectly nestled on the LUVSEAT Footbed and held in place by the straps. An added bonus to Chacos is the brand’s dedication to repairs. They don’t want you to have to buy a new pair. They will fix and repair any shoes they can, which is perfect because you will fall in love with your Chacos and not want to give them up for a new pair anyway!

chaco_14ss001

A diagram for adjusting the two different strap designs.

All About Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes have stepped into the footwear world and brought us a shoe unlike many others. As adventure races and ultra running are gaining in popularity in the outdoor world, Xero Shoes have come in and helped up the game of barefoot running as well. Many extreme runners site barefoot running as the ultimate form of running; the healthiest shoe for your foot is no shoe, they say. But the reality of that isn’t so pretty. It’s actually really dirty and dusty, might include a few cuts and scraps and definitely a couple bruises. That’s where Xero Shoes step in. These minimalist shoes are designed to train your foot as if it were barefoot but give you that extra edge to keep your feet safe. Contrary to what most believe, the thin sole with zero arch support is not bad for your feet, it is actually better for them. A minimalist approach like Xero Shoes actually helps build the muscles in the foot and strengthen the foot. The thin sole allows the foot to bend and move in all the natural ways a foot is designed to move. Because of the zero drop design of the shoe, meaning there is no difference in the height of the heel and toe of the sandal, the foot is allowed to strike the ground in a more natural way as well. Xero Shoes are built around a strong belief that a bare foot is already a perfect design. Now there is something out there to make it better than barefoot.

amuriztrek-rolled

 

The Takeaway

Feet are incredible and we don’t give them enough credit. They are versatile, strong, resilient and adaptive. There are many routes we can take on the path to taking care of our feet. Chacos and Xero Shoes are each a different path towards healthy feet ready for a summer of fun. Don’t cast away a good shoe option just because first appearances are vastly different from what you have seen or felt on your foot before. Trying something new may just be the best thing you could choose for you feet!

For details on Chacos and Xero Shoes in store at Mountain Crossings, call us at 706-745-6095.

Half Way To Glory at the Headquarters

Summer time has recently begun and it is rolling onward, day by day. Springer Mountain has been void of traditional Northbound thru hikers for quite a while. They are all further up trail by now and many of them have just passed or are soon going to reach the halfway point of their journey; The Appalachian Trail Conservancy‘s Headquarters.

110913252

This infamous building is actually the “mental” halfway point of a thru hike of the AT. It is actually a few more days to the real halfway point as far as milage is concerned. But the tiny historic town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia is a more receptive place to bask in the glory of a feat many never experience. This is popular place for hikers to receive visitors. Many take a day or two off to recollect themselves for the second half of their hike.

Walking into the ATC’s Headquarters is an incredible feeling for thru hikers. It is a place that 100% expects you and is waiting for you when you come strolling up. You sling your pack off as you walk into the historic building and are washed over with everything Appalachian Trail. You greet the friendly faces before you and head straight for the hiker photos. A growing book of Polaroids photos shows the face of all the hikers who have come before you. You flip through the pages in delight as you see friends you met months ago or maybe just days ago.

DSCN1249

A typical book of photos at the ATC Headquarters, as photographed by Robert Sutherland.

Then it is your turn. You stand in front of the second most iconic sign on the Appalachian Trail (after the Katahdin sign, of course) and have your picture taken.

431831_10151616162248490_1675918475_n

Mountain Crossings employee Carlie “Rainbow Braid” at the headquarters in Harper’s Ferry.

Besides the warm fuzzies that come with an incredible achievement like backpacking 1,000+ miles, visiting the ATC Headquarters is an incredible treat for anyone who loves the AT, backpacking, the outdoors or history. The history of the AT itself is greatly celebrated there but those who are keen on that topic will quickly be side tracked by the quaint town of Harper’s Ferry. It is a place steeped in American history, particularly Civil War history.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.31.46 AM

Harper’s Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and after walking through the city and over the bridge, hikers are in Maryland and continue to walk the C & O Canal for quite some time. The Harper’s Ferry experience is a special one, whether for a hiker, or a family member of a hiker or someone who is simply visiting a new, cool town!

Top 3 Sections Hikes in GA

It is SUMMER TIME!! Which means it is the perfect time to cherry pick a section of the Appalachian Trail to hike. Here is a mini guide to several popular section hikes in Georgia that offer something for all levels of backpackers. Which one is right for you?!

The Over Nighter

DSC00064

Blood Mountain Shelter on the summit of Blood Mountain.

Not everyone is ready for a hike that will test their limits. For those who are wanting to get out there and try their hand at backpacking for the first or second time, the over nighter is the perfect section hike. We suggest hiking from Woody Gap to Tesnatee Gap, covering a 16.17mi stretch of trail. To set shuttle, drive up to Tesnatee Gap and drop your first car off, then drive down to Woody Gap. This breaks down into two 8mi. days and requires a two day food carry. Start at Woody Gap and take the slow and steady way up to the summit of Blood Mountain, staying at the shelter and taking in the views of the beautiful summit. (Remember that camping on Blood Mountain requires a bear canister from March 1st to June 1st.) On the second day, you will descend the mountain into Neel Gap and be able to get a refreshing cold beverage at Mountain Crossings. Continue on north, taking a break at both Wolf Laurel Top and Cow Rock to soak in the wilderness around you before dropping down into Tesnatee Gap to your car.

The Georgia Classic

img_1832

Pop into the shop at Neel Gap for a cold drink before you head home!

For those who have a couple of days and are looking for the classic Appalachian Trail experience in Georgia, hike from Springer Mountain to Neel Gap. This 31.7mi. hike takes 3 to 4 days for most hikers. Drop your first car at the Bryon Reese Trailhead Parking and drive down to the Springer Mountain Parking Lot. This hike requires 3+ days of food to be carried and you can break down the 30ish miles how ever you would like, whether you choose to shelter hop for the social aspect of it or camp at more secluded areas. This hike ends at Neel Gap, where you can pop into Mountain Crossings for some refreshments and to spruce up before you drive home.

The Full State

GA14-4209252

This camp site just past Neel Gap is called Wolf Laurel Top. Be sure to stop for a snack, if nothing else!

If you are looking to challenge yourself and have the time to set aside for a week or so in the woods, hiking the full Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail is for you! Drop your first car at Deep Gap and drive down to Springer Mountain to begin your hike. This is an 85.4 mi. section of the Appalachian Trail that traverses all of Georgia and takes you just into North Carolina. There are two spots to resupply along this 8 to 10 day trek. The first portion requires carrying 3+ days of food to Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap where you can get your first resupply. From there, carry 3+ days of food to Dicks Creek Gap, where you can get a ride into the town of Hiawasee, Ga to resupply again for a final 2 day food carry to Deep Gap in North Carolina. Don’t forget to get your Appalachian Trail Georgia Patch for a souvie!!

Good Things To Know

If you don’t want to bring two cars along, consider calling a shuttle driver to help you set shuttle before you hike. We suggest parking your car at your final destination and having a shuttle driver drive you to your beginning point. That way you can be on your own time schedule and when you finish your hike, you can head home immediately. Need help finding a shuttle? Call us up and we will give you a list of folks in the area who do shuttles!

Always allow yourself extra time when planning a hike so that it can be a leisurely and fun hike. Also, always pack an extra meal or so in each resupply just incase!

Bring a map! But don’t go over board. Anti Gravity Gear make the most perfect section hiking maps. The Georgia portion gives you all the info you need on a small, water resistant strip of paper. Your shelters, camp sites, water resources and road crossings are all marked and there is even an elevation profile. Pick one up before you go!

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.39.33 PM

Your Orienteering Cheat Sheet

So you want to run the Blairsville Extreme Adventure Race, huh? That’s awesome! But you don’t know a thing about Orienteering… No worries! We will get you started in the right direction to learn everything you need to know by the time the race comes around in September!

Bear01

In this post we will only cover the basic the basics but you will fins several resources to further your knowledge. For orienteering, you need a detailed topographic map of the surrounding area (example) and a baseplate compass. Be familiar with the compass, its working parts and how they work with the map. If you are not sure about the different parts of a compass and want a quick and easy introduction, watch this short video that makes remembering the names and functions for compass parts easy.

cub_navigation_lesson05_fig3

After knowing the parts of your compass, familiarize yourself with your map. In a race like the BEAR, the map given to you is a special map of the area with stating point (marked by a triangle) and ending point (marked by a circle within a circle). Every adventure race has several “control points” (each within a single circle). A control point is a stop along the race route that is both easily identified on a topographic map and is highly visible. In an orienteering race, participants travel from one control point to another using their map and compass and collecting proof or signing in, signifying that they reach each control point between the start and finish of the race route.

static1.squarespace

The triangle indicates the beginning point of the race. The circle within a circle indicated the ending point of the race. This example race starts and ends at the same location. The numbered circles are each a control point along the race route.

To get started, hold your map and compass parallel to the ground with the compass flush to the map. Align the orienteering lines of your compass with the line between the starting point of the race and your first control point. Then, make sure the North arrows on your map are pointing in the same direction as the North arrows on your compass. This will require you to spin around until the two are aligned. This action is called orientating the map. The video below demonstrates this process.

An adventure race is completed by traveling from one control point to another in this way. Of course, there is much technique involved in being a proficient orienteer. This is merely your basics to get started. Here are a few tips and tricks that will make learning a little bit easier as you go.

  • Plan Your Route: The quickest way to anywhere is a straight line, unless that straight line involves steep assent when you are already worn out. Study your map to look for quicker, easier ways from one control point to another depending on your needs and the terrain.
  • Know Your Map: The less you have to look back at your map, the more time you save. Study major features that will be helpful to you and don’t pay attention to tiny details on a busy that will not be used. That being said, don’t forget to check your map often enough to maintain a good sense of where you are.
  • Don’t Go It Alone: The consequences of making a mistake while learning orienteering can be massive if they happen in a remote location. Take an experienced orienteer with you on practice runs. If practicing alone, practice in well known and inhabited places like your neighborhood or a local park.

 

For further resources check out Orienteering USA’s page on Getting Started. For a good practice run before the BEAR, look into the Georgia Orienteering Club’s list of Permanent Courses. Several state parks in Georgia have orienteering courses with all the maps needed for a practice run.