Results – FernLeaf Wilderness Campus Orienteering Race 2024

Saturday, March 30, 2024

A record-setting event on an absolutely perfect day, Saturday’s inaugural Orienteering Race drew an unprecedented crowd – upwards of 150 people. It was probably double our previous attendance record. Thank you for making it happen!

This was a fundraiser event to support FernLeaf Community Charter School‘s burgeoning adventure and outdoor programs, and the unveiling of their newly updated orienteering map. Until now, the students had been using a remotely produced LiDAR base map (with great success) for their orienteering and land navigation studies, but Saturday they got their hands on the fully field-checked maps for the first time. It was great to see!

A combination of soloists and teams competed to find controls flags around the very steep, very rugged Wilderness Campus. Five classic courses were offered, requiring participants to locate control flags in sequential order. While these courses may appear to follow the IOF’s standards, it’s a rather loose interpretation. Distances were short but elevation change was considerable, making for undoubtedly slow, laborious travel.

  • WHITE – Beginner Short – 1.1Km and 8 controls
    • Mostly down the road and back, following clear trails
  • YELLOW- Beginner Middle – 1.7Km and 11 controls
    • Similarly following linear features, but with off trail route choices
  • ORANGE – Intermediate Middle – 2.5Km and 19 controls
    • The beginning of meaty navigation problems and burly climbing options
  • RED – Advanced Long – 3.3Km and 21 controls
    • A difficult day in the woods
  • PLAID – Ludicrous Long – 3.9Km and 25 controls
    • The same exact course as RED, but with an unnecessary detour just past the Finish line (twice) before being subjected to an additional five controls in the densely overgrown “green sector” of the map in the north.

Firstly, it’s imperative to convey the grandeur of this location and its outrageous view. Still in development, the campus sits atop a small mountain (let’s not call it a hill) near the town of Fletcher and you can see just about forever. Not too shabby for an orienteering race finish line.

A line of people checking in through the building would turn into a bit of a log jam outside. The upside to my taking the full hour-long start window to get everyone onto the course was that a lot of folks got to chat and get to know one another. I got to personally give last minute map instructions to all, which is always important, especially with so many newcomers.

It was here that a long-time orienteering friend came through and really helped speed things up when I got bogged down. Doug Launius volunteered to be my invaluable assistant at the start, and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that. That’s him in the orange shirt, sitting down. He was thinking he’d be one of the first runners on the course, and wound up being probably the last. Thank you, Doug. I’ll have a better system next time.

Also, special thanks as always to Nicole, Alyssa, and Will from FernLeaf for your support and assistance in making this event such a success!

Afterwards, the typical scene was of people socializing, pointing at their maps and comparing their stories, splits, and spills.

Charlie Roberts had a rough time on his 29-minute effort searching for control 21 in the “slap in the face” section of the PLAID course. According to his report, he went through an apparently really-ruined section of the ruined boundary fence, leading him who knows where. He made it back, of course, muddy and bleeding in a number of places and smiling like a kid.

Val Hardin’s spectacular 47-minute ordeal in search of the very first control warrants special mention as well. As she related the story afterwards, she “thought she could take a shortcut.” Well, the fact that she pulled herself together after that demoralizing start and FINISHED…. finished PLAID….. well done, Val…. we are not worthy!

After everything had been packed up and just before leaving, I found a nice surprise. While grabbing the very last control at the bottom of an earth bank near the entrance, a bunch of roadside trash had been gathered up by (I have to assume) FernLeaf students and packaged up neatly in a bin for me to dispose of, which I did. That’s the mentality, message, and vibe of FernLeaf’s students in a nutshell, and it never ceases to amaze me.