Western Connecticut Orienteering Club Sponsors Event at Gay City State Park – Hartford Courant

Orienteering is an activity that can be practiced by a wide audience. Since most events have a number of courses of varying difficulty, the activity can accommodate participants with varying degrees of physical strength, knowledge and experience. There are serious and dedicated athletes who participate regularly, and there are others who only participate occasionally and only for fun.

A Sept. 14 event at Gay City State Park, sponsored by the Western Connecticut Orienteering Club, exemplified this variety. While a number of athletes raced the courses quickly and paid close attention to their time, there were others who raced the trails at a more leisurely pace, coming out of the woods in friendly conversation, their canine companions in tow.

“A lot of times people are in competition,” said George Walker, host of the event with his wife, Lyn. “They’re gearing up for major competitions,” added Walker, noting that the US National Championship and North American Championship are just around the corner.

Walker said the pair started preparing for the meet a month ago, marking out the courses with yellow streamers. On Saturday morning, they placed many flags and electronic recording devices, in preparation for the start of the event on Sunday morning. The WCOC often hosts meetups at Gay City State Park, although the routes change each time. “Part of the fun for us is going out and trying to confuse people with something different,” Walker said.

Orienteering involves the use of a compass and a topographical map to navigate the woods and locate a number of different landscape features. Each station contains an electronic check-in box. Many compete to try to achieve the best time. “So the balance is to maintain physical activity as much as possible, while maintaining the ability to navigate the woods,” Walker said. “It’s a combination of skills.”

WCOC has a number of different upcoming events. On Saturday, September 20, there will be an event at Huntington State Park in Bethel/Redding. The event includes a route traveled by mountain bike. For more information, contact Joe Brautigam at [email protected]

On Sunday September 28 there will be an event at Tarrywile Park in Danbury. The event includes standard courses of all levels. For more information, contact Tony Muffatti at [email protected]

For more information on WCOC and other events, visit http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/rdewitt/wcoc/.

Dino J. Dotson