Highland Forest Orientation Event Attracts Scouts From Around The State

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Over 400 boys, girls and Cubs from across the state were in Highland Forest at Fabius this morning, participating in the 20th Annual Scout-O Orientation Event.

Orienteering instructor Mitch Hansen goes over the basics.

“It’s just fun. It’s great to get out there and see nature,” said scout Alex Allen, 12, of Troop 80 in Baldwinsville. “These are skills you will always use.”

The two-day event is hosted by the Central New York Orienteering Club.

Orienteering is a timed outdoor activity involving the use of a detailed map and compass to find the fastest way to the finish line. Competitors compete in a predetermined area, choosing their own routes through woods and other terrain. They are required to stop and check in at “checkpoints” along the way.

Failure to register at all checkpoints in the correct order may result in disqualification.

Today’s schedule included a morning teaching the basics of orienteering, followed by a 1 AAAA1/2 mile hike led by an instructor who reviewed what was taught. During the afternoon, the young people and their adult leaders embarked on longer and more demanding courses at their own pace.

On Sunday, the scouts will face off, with the team leaders receiving instructions from 9:15 a.m. and the shot at 10 a.m. There will be two categories of teams: small (3-5 members) and large (6-8 members). The competition is also open to experienced orienteers. Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers in the all-male, all-female and mixed categories.

The competition will last 90 minutes and take participants through Highland Park. Due to the size of the competition area, teams will need to split up and decide how they will attack the course.

A compass and a map are enough to participate in an orienteering race.

A competitive orienteer can cover a course in about 10 minutes per mile, said Mitch Hansen of Clinton, a club member who served as the scouts’ instructor this morning.

“I’m not so interested in competing. I just like being in the woods and the mental challenge that entails,” he said.

Hansen has managed the orientation session for several youth groups, including Boy Scout Troop 80 and Cub Scout Pack 248, both of Baldwinsville.

He gave the Scouts an introduction to reading an orienteering map, noting the meaning of the different symbols and colors. For example, he said that yellow or orange signifies an open area, black rectangles are buildings, blue signifies water, and dark green signifies “impassable vegetation.”

One of the control sites during the Highland Forest Orienteering event on Saturday.

Orienteers use a compass to see which direction “magnetic north” is, then use that knowledge to orient their map to the terrain.

It does not hurt to notice in which direction the sun is, if it is off.

“Right now it’s in the southeast,” he told scouts. “Knowing this will help avoid a major mistake.”

Stacy Pendell of Locke pointed out that orienteering and competitions take place rain or shine. This adds to the challenge.

“We held this event on hot sunny days, during snowstorms and showers. Orienteering is rarely canceled due to weather,” she said.

Boy Scout Daniel Watlington, 14, of Baldwinsville, says he’s attended more than half a dozen orientation events.

“It takes you into the forest. I love being in the woods,” he said.

Learn more about orienteering:

To learn more about orienteering or to participate in Sunday’s competition, visit cnyo.us.orienteering.org.

Upcoming contests:

The Central New York Orienteering Club is hosting its annual Turkey-O rendezvous at 11 a.m. on November 24 in Highland Forest. The competition is open. All levels of competitors are welcome. For more information, visit the club’s website.

Dino J. Dotson