Imagine being lost in the woods with nothing but a compass and a map to guide you to your next point. This situation would seem like a struggle for many, but for Meg Everett and Rachel Silverstein, finding the right path back is actually a hobby.
This particular act of navigating through the woods is called orienteering, and it is an activity that many UC Davis students are taking an interest in.
“You use a map and compass to locate a series of points on a topographical map [and] your goal is to find all of the control points and finish in the shortest amount of time,” said Everett, history and international relations double major.
Orienteering is found in areas ranging from rural to urban, and serves as somewhat of a scavenger hunt for its participants.
“Orienteering is like solving a puzzle, learning to interpret where you stand on a map and how the symbols correspond to the landmarks surrounding you,“ said Silverstein, senior biotechnology major.
What sets this activity apart from a mere race or scavenger hunt though, are the instincts needed.
“It’s not just about how fast you can move physically,” Everett said. “Instead, allow your primal instincts to choose the best course that will get you there in the least amount of [time by choosing] a smart path.“
Orienteering started in the 19th century and has slowly gained more popularity in the athletic world. Everett and Silverstein learned about this age-old sport for the first time through an event sponsored by the Bay Area Orienteering Club in San Rafael, California.
“Not knowing what to expect, we donned out pants, shoes, hats and sunscreen and headed west for our first introduction to orienteering,” Everett said. “You can only imagine our surprise when we arrived to find course racers decked out in full orienteering uniforms and cleats.“
Despite their unfamiliarity with orienteering protocol, Everett and Silverstein quickly adapted and finished their first course quickly and decided to move onto a more challenging one.
“This time we got lost,” Everett said. “In fact, we didn’t even finish, but with the help of our map and compass, we did make it back to civilization.“
This type of teamwork is a crucial factor of orienteering, Everett said.
“Finding your way in an unknown area with a map and compass probably isn’t something you usually do on the weekends. It takes a lot of communication and teamwork to locate each control point,” Everett said.
Along with helping with communication skills, orienteering has helped many to build on their sense of direction. Participating in the sport helps improve one‘s ability to read topographical maps and navigational skills.
The last event that the orienteering club planned was August 16th at Lakeside Park in Oakland.
“The course was located right next to Lake Merritt and it took us through the park, next to the dock, into a beautiful garden, and next to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland,” Everett said. “Some ran, some walked and we all enjoyed locating the 27 different control points using our maps.“
Although the turn out was small, two members of the club ended up winning awards for finishing the course in 33 minutes.
While Everett jokes that joining the club won’t improve your GRE scores, she does encourage new members to still join.
“Students should join the Orienteering club because it’s new, fun, challenging and [gives you] a chance to meet new people,” Everett said. “It offers opportunities for all different skill levels.“
Silverstein encourages all interested students to check out the club.
“We just got official club approval from SPAC, and will set up meetings soon. In the meantime, check us out on Facebook,“ she said.
INDU SUDHAKAR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.