Orienteering race 57:49  5.5 km (10:31 / km) +130m 9:24 / km
shoes: Inov8 Oroc 280
DVOA French Creek Day 1 Green-X. Well, this went better than expected, but I have to admit, expectations were low. I'd been to French Creek a few times, around 5 years ago, and not done well, concluding, at the time, that it was the hardest orienteering I'd ever seen. Charcoal platforms were, to my eye, faerie visions that were there one time and not the next. Or, pessimistically, locations where a control was needed and no feature existed.
So, to my growing surprise and pleasure, as the run progressed, I found that this terrain was actually navigable. I still didn't see any charcoal platforms that weren't marked with control flags, but there were enough visible cues to get around and even relocate. Maybe I've learned something in the last 5 years after all.
I liked the common control #1. It gave me time to read the map, get my distance calibrated, and think about the first real leg. I didn't know if I'd see the faint trail on the right, but it turned out to be flagged for white or yellow, so I gladly followed it to the junction with the major trail. Then a very careful bearing towards the rocky ground. As I approached it, it seemed to loom above the forest floor like a castle. Holy crap, what is that? Is that it? I couldn't have missed it if I tried! So then it was easy to #2, and now to #3.
Not much to think about here, except I decided I needed to hit the trail exactly in the middle of the bend in order not to waste any time attacking the control. So, up to the trail, spot the bend to the tower, follow the rock band (not on the rock band, as I unfortunately discovered, but beside it on the even ground), then carefully following a series of charcoal platforms and boulders to the trail, which I hit dead center on the bend, and from there the control was easy, past a couple of big rocks to the smaller ones beyond. The splits show that I was first on Green at that point, yay!
The next 2 controls 4 and 5 were easy, but apparently I was too slow. Still worried about losing contact, I guess, and not focused on the clear navigation features in each case.
Then a big mistake on #6. My plan was to hop on the trail and follow it to the bend nearest the control, but that failed, due to a combination of seeing others leaving the trail in the general direction of #6 and losing track of where I was. So I committed the cardinal sin of leaving the trail without a firm position fix, got into unrecognizable features, relocated to the trail much lower down, hit the mountain laurel and recognized it as the green on the map, then up to the control.
On #7 I got a little off and didn't see the reentrant, spent a little time making sure it wasn't below me before heading up the hill to where it really was.
Now to #8, which I figured was a make-or-break control in the middle of nowhere with very little to guide me in. So I decided to climb up to the tower and use the same old rocky ground from #3 to attack from. It worked pretty well, as it turned out, but it was slow due to the extra climb. I didn't go all the way to the tower, attacking instead from the marked charcoal platform just NW of the rocky ridge. Spotted the flat place in the contour lines, dropped down the next slope, and there it was, pretty much a bingo. I counted that as a victory. After the fact, I think there would have been plenty of features to guide me around on a contour route that would have been a lot faster.
#9 and 10 were steady and uneventful. On #11 I again let my head be turned by others who, it turned out, were on Brown and had 2 controls in between my 10 and 11. I got to admire their control placements, but I should have stuck to the original plan.
Ron Bortz and I had been within a second or two of each other a couple of times before, but this time we were tied for 4th. He's a very steady navigator, but as he told me a couple of weeks ago, anything can happen at French Creek.