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!


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.


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.


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.

Blairsville’s Own Adventure Race!

Blairsville is nestled in the midst of the beautiful North Georgia mountains. Nearly any and every outdoor activity you could seek out can be found here. That’s why we were not at all surprised to find out that Blairsville, GA is the home of it’s very own adventure race, the BEAR, or Blairsville Extreme Adventure Race!


Adventure races have become increasingly more popular in the outdoor community over the last several years. These races are a spin off of triathlons with a little bit more of a mountain twist. Instead of sections consisting of a swim, a road bike portion and a road race, the sports involved are tailored for the terrain.

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The BEAR will consist of two races: an elite 10hr race and a 4 hr sport race. The adventure race will require contestants to complete several different sections of race including stints of trekking, biking, paddling, navigation, and orienteering. The race will be held on September 17th, 2016 so anyone interested in participation has plenty of time to begin training for this extreme and fun event. Still, early bird registration has already up a running!

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The race is surely going to cover some of the more beautiful portions of our gorgeous county. Check out this teaser video of the race and see some awesome footage of Blairsville!

Check out the video here!!

Every Pretzel Has It’s Day

Today is  Pretzel’s last day at Mountain Crossings. He is on to a new chapter of devoting his life to America’s long distance trails. We secretly hope that he may return one day for another thru hiker season at MTX, but he is also on the track of becoming a career trail maintainer.

Matt “Pretzel” will be leading several of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Trail Crew over the next few months. From early June to late October, he will be leading a group of the S.W.E.A.T. Crew in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew is a volunteer based trail crew lead by a professional trail maintainer. The volunteers that Matt will be working with are housed and fed for the extent of their time spent volunteering and all tools and equipment needed are provided as well. Volunteer stints are a week long but you can stay for as many of the seven weeks of S.W.E.A.T. Crew sessions as you’d like. Volunteers arrive in Gatlinburg, TN to prep for a week in the backcountry working in very remote places. When the S.W.E.A.T. season is done, Matt will be moving on to be a trail crew leader for the Rocky Top Trail Crew from late August to late October. Rocky Top is a little bit less intense than the S.W.E.A.T. Crew but because it is still a remote location within the Smokies, the volunteer stints consist of five sessions that are 8 days long. Just as with the other crew, the Rocky Top Trail Crew is provided with food, tools and equipment needed for the volunteering period.

If you are looking for an awesome way to spend a week or so this summer, think about volunteering with the S.W.E.A.T. Crew! Learn More Here!



If you are looking for an awesome way to spend a week or so this fall, think about volunteering the Rock Top Trail Crew! Learn More Here! 


After Pretzel finishes up the next five months of trail maintenance, he is headed out for a bit of fun. In late October he will be hiking the AT/BMT Loop, which is more of a figure 8, really. This loop involves hiking the AT from Springer Mountain, up thru the Smokies, where the BMT ends and taking the BMT back down to Springer Mountain. You can also choose to reverse the process and hike the BMT to the Smokies and hike the AT back south!


We are sad to watch Pretzel go and to loose our resident gram weeny, who can turn a kitchen sink packer into an ultralight backpacker in an afternoon. Still we know, that even if Pretzel’s new path in life takes him to new places, we can count on his friendship. Keep in connection with all the cool things Pretzel will be up to this summer and fall, as well as his AT/BMT Loop hike (and maybe a 2017 CDT thru hike?!) by following him on Instagram @firexneck. He is always up to something interesting and has the beautiful images to back it up!

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Walking the Walk: For the Love of the AT


Here at Mountain Crossings we stress Leave No Trace Practices on trail and encourage people to take personal responsibility of the trail they are hiking. We don’t mean to be a bummer to the group of college kids on spring break who want to build a new fire pit or to the hiker who doesn’t care to dig a deep enough cat hole. (Okay, really, we don’t care if we bum them out because their actions bum us out and many other hikers, too!) But for as much as we gripe about mirco trash falling out of pack pockets, or trashing being left or burned in fire pits, we do take personal action against such things. We just don’t feel like its right to preach one way of being and not live it out it out. That is why this year we set a challenge for ourselves inspired by the Packing It Out guys who we met last thru hiker season! So naturally, we decided that this thru hiker season, we would pledge to pack out as much trash as possible during our personal adventures out into the wilderness. The friendly competition not only got us out on trail more, it also resulted in a surprising amount of trash being hauled out of the woods!


Weighing up trash that is no longer in the woods is a super fun use for a pack scale!                                 


Silent Bob weighs up a haul from a day hike.

Thankfully, we have easy access for weighing up bags of trash! Our pack scale worked double time this season as a scale for weighing all of our trash.


The winner of our challenge this year!!

The winner of our challenge this year was Jason!! Jason packed out just shy of 150 lbs. of trash in the first 4 months of 2016! Those of you who have been in the shop may be familiar with this awesome guy! Even before we came up with this fun little game, Jason would spend his off days out clearing trail after storms or collecting trash. If you don’t know Jason well, you can read about him on another blog post.


Our clip board after the end of thru hiker season.

Altogether, we packed out just over 350 lbs. of trash!