Running In Circles
Saturday, January 24th -- Pt. Defiance OrienteeringI competed in an orienteering race this morning at Point Defiance. Angie and the Little Dude came with me, and we met up with my parents at the park. The start area moved to a new location, and it involved quite an uphill hike from the parking area to get there.
Some terrible navigating and a lot of hills led to a slow time. The worst leg for me was from Control 2 to Control 3.
In looking for the control, I ran the dogleg back past Control 1, headed down the road, swooped around the train tracks, and dashed into the woods. I expected to see the control easily, since the knoll was mapped as being in open forest. In all actuality, it was in waist-high undergrowth, just off a small game path .
I lost a LOT of time looking around because my safety stop -- something to let me know I'd gone too far -- was not there. (Okay, it was there; it just wasn't a fence like I thought it was. Same effect.)
The description sheet covered what may have been a viable route to the control. It looked like a big trail runs toward the road at the south end of the park, which is straight shot onto the big path that passes very near the control. That route choice, if nothing else, might have made me realize that the dark line through the forest was not a fence, but a small power line.
I spent a long time wandering around in the woods wondering where the hell I was. "If I'm going the right way, shouldn't I have run into a fence by now?" I asked myself several times. Even after I found the control, I was still severely disoriented.
I took some umbrage with the placement of control 5. The single tree it was on was part of the forest! That, and I couldn't make out the marking on the map -- you have to look pretty close to see that green X.
There were also two distinct single trees in the clearing that weren't mapped. I checked them first, of course. The marker was hung low and out of sight, so I didn't notice it until I saw another orienteer coming out of the control. Seriously, this should have been marked as a vegetation boundary, and the single tree designation should come off the map.
After the meet, we had lunch at a nearby greasy-spoon restaurant. We ordered milk for Little Dude, but they didn't have any. The waitress said the owner had left to buy some, but he wouldn't be back until about 5:00. It was 1:30. I kind of had to wonder where he went to get this milk.
Saturday, January 10th -- Shoreview Park Orienteering
It seems that whenever I go orienteering, I do pretty well until I make a huge blunder that costs me way too much time. Sometimes it's a couple minutes, sometimes it's a couple dozen. I've decided to outline went wrong at today's event by plotting my actual course in red on the map segment below and commenting on my blunders.
Things started going awry on the lead-up to Control 13. I plainly saw a control flag at Point A, but it seemed too close to the gravel road I was sprinting down. I glanced at my description sheet and saw the control number should be 119. I glanced at the at the number on flag and saw 110--it was wrong.
Sprinting into the trees, I scanned for an orange and white flag. I arrived at the trail junction at Point B and realized I'd gone way past my control. Checking my description sheet, I saw number 119 was for Control 14. Number 110 was for Control 13 after all. D'oh! I'd sprinted right by it without breaking stride.
The run back to the missed control was, of course, uphill. I lost an easy 30 seconds committing possibly the stupidest navigational error I've ever made.
On my way to Control 14, I should have just turned onto the trail at Point B, but the trail up to Point C looked shorter, if more indistinct. With all the storm damage in the woods, though, the trail I had already found would have been the safer bet.
I found an indistinct trail and started up it. I'm not sure if it was the one marked on the map or not. All I know is I stumbled upon a raggedy tent hidden in the trees. It looked like a hobo camp to me. I didn't feel like getting stabbed with a broken beer bottle, so I turned around and headed back to the main trail, progressing until I reached Point D.
At Point D, I knew for sure where I was--the distinct trail leading down to the stream bed was a dead giveaway. I decided it wouldn't take any longer to keeping going forward than to turn back, so I pressed on, heading to Point E. Point E is where disaster struck.
There was a huge pit right before the trail intersection, so I knew I was in the right spot. (I had a little bit of doubt because the trail I came up wasn't in the greatest of shape and I'd already gone astray once.) From here it was pretty obvious all I had to do was turn left and run until I saw the flag on the vegetation boundary just before the four-way trail intersection.
But I didn't turn left. For some inexplicable reason, I went straight. I reached the trail intersection at Point F and pulled up in confusion. The trail wasn't supposed to T, it should have been a four-way intersection.
Thinking maybe a trail was obscured, I made a right turn and started scanning for the control. I wasn't seeing any open forest, but I knew the map was old, so I paid it little mind. Finally, I stumbled upon a flag--but it was on a fallen tree and only about a foot off the trail. I checked the number. It was for Control 17. Oops.
I ran back up the trail and turned towards Control 16. It looked like the shortest route. Now that I knew where I was, I hoped to find Control 14 quickly.
Passing a marker, I checked the number to make sure it was Control 16. It was. I was finally back on track. I continued up the trail and made all the correct turns. Spotting a marker at the edge of clearing from a good distance out, I made a beeline for it.
I checked the number and gave a small sigh of relief when it was indeed Control 14. I turned and headed back the way I'd come to get Control 15.
Finding it quickly, I punched it and started to move off. From below, it had looked like there was a small trail through the blackberries that would dump me right on the path to Control 16. Trying to find it, I poked around the edge of the clearing. Nothing looked promising, so I retraced my route out and pounded to 16. I lost a few seconds, but it was nothing compared to what I'd already lost.
Since I already knew where 16 and 17 were, I collected them quickly. From there I had little trouble with the rest of the course, but it was damage done, so I didn't fare nearly as well as I would have liked.
Tuesday, January 6th
Wind blasted rain into my face and tore at my clothes as I set out on an easy four-mile jog along the Green River. Keeping the bill of my hat low to keep the rain from my eyes, I couldn't see much further the tips of my feet. Along the way, though, something caught at my peripheral vision, something white and glistening. I took a more focused glance and saw two large bones. Long and straight, they rested in the grass just a few feet from the asphalt. It looked for all the world like what was left of a person's leg.
I jogged on, hoping that I'd seen the remains of an animal. But the bones seemed too big to be a dog, or even a deer. I decided I would take a closer look when I passed them on my return. If I could determine they were animal bones, I wouldn't worry about it anymore. If I couldn't, I would call the police.
So, on the way back, I stopped and studied them carefully. They laid end to end, perfectly parallel to the road. Their tips touched, but I didn't see any tendons joining them. They were completely bare, no meat at all. One bone looked like a femur, and the knob at the end had a pinkish hue. The other bone was split, like one would expect from a tibia and fibula. At the "ankle" end of the bone was a weird notch that looked too regularly shaped to be natural. I didn't see anything that looked like a foot or a hoof.
The bones looked too thick to be human—but what did I know? My only experience with human bones was the anatomy skeleton tucked into the corner of my high school science lab. And it wouldn't have been the first time that human remains had been found along this stretch of road. (Yes, it was THAT Green River.)
When I got back to my car, I called 911. I decided that even if they weren't human bones, they should probably be removed. I gave the details to the dispatcher and did my best to describe where I'd found the bones. They didn't ask me to stick around, so I drove home.
Just as I pulled into my garage, the police called. The officer was having trouble finding the bones and wanted more details. I described some landmarks and hoped the bones were still there; I didn't want to be seen as some kind of crackpot. He called back again a few minutes later and asked me if I could come down and show him where to look, as he still couldn't find them. Saying I would, I headed back out, still dripping wet from running in the rain. I was about two minutes into my drive when he called for the third time to say he'd finally located the bones.
"Yeah, they're pretty big," he said. "I don't know if they're cattle bones, or what. I'm going to have to call my sergeant. He'll probably send out a medical examiner. You know, someone who can tell what he's looking at in about thirty seconds. I can let you know what they find out, if you want."
"I'd appreciate that," I said. "I'm kind of curious."
He took a few more details from me, including my birth date. He noted that I was "barely" older than him, which I found a little depressing. I don't feel mature enough to be older than a cop.
A few hours later he called back. "They're horse bones," he said.
"Horse bones," I said. "Weird."
"Yeah, it is weird. Well, it's out of my hands from this point. I don't think we need anything else from you, though, so I guess that's it."
I thanked him for letting me know. It's doubtful that I'll ever get any follow-up on this, which is a shame, because I'd really like to know how those bones got there. I think someone was perpetrating a hoax. The bones were big, easy to spot, resembled human leg bones, and seemed purposefully arranged—not mention their conspicuous proximity to an infamous river. But, I guess I'll never know.