one of the items on the 2015 venture vermont challenge is to "Use a map and compass or GPS to place yourself on a topographic map."
now, i do this sort of thing all the honkin' time, so the hardest part of that is choosing which instance of that to use.
this year it's kind of a no-brainer, since it represents for me an opportunity to show off some of my best map and compass work ever.
i've talked some about the bitter pill, but what may not be at the front of your recollection is that for this entire race you navigate by MAP AND COMPASS so it's not so much a matter of locating yourself on the map, but locating yourself on the map and then using it and your compass to somehow get yourself to another predetermined location approximately a mile away and on rough terrain without the benefit of a trail.
you'll know if you did it right when you come out at an orienteering checkpoint hanging gaily in a tree.
if somehow you do this wrong and you have misidentified your location, it may be a LONG time before you see another checkpoint.
if you are doing this with a number of teams on the same course, when you leave a checkpoint there will be a good deal of herdpathing for a little while, but not too far along people's paths spread out and you're on your own until -BAM- the glorious moment in which you arrive at a catching feature and all of a sudden you see bootprints and broken ferns and you know other teams have come this way.
your plan may sound something like this: let's follow this ridge until we get to 2400 feet and then hang a right and try to go uphill by the gentlest slope, keeping uphill on our left.
it's not really as simple as it sounds because on rough terrain just following a ridge can take some guesswork. and you keep in mind which direction you should be heading just in case your bearing isn't completely accurate over the mile of travel, because a fraction of a degree a mile later can make a big difference so you have to figure out how to make your planned route more forgiving of mistakes.
sure, this route is a little longer, but if you made a mistake you end up just short of the checkpoint instead of trapped against a cliff.
so anyway, here's our route more or less from the transition area at waterbury dam to checkpoint 6. we made a small navigation error and ended up topping the ridge before checkpoint 4 a little bit to the west of where we planned, but no harm was done.
about halfway between checkpoints 4 and 5 (right about at the forest boundary) some 50 or so feet off to our left we spotted a board in a tree, so we went over to look.
it was two boards in two trees, and lucky we found them, because they were trail signs. actual honkin' trail signs. and they marked the place at which the woodward trail starts being blazed, which is a great deal sooner than the woodward trail is marked on the topo map, so that is one lucky discovery.
it's a ski trail and not really a hiking trail, so it's not worn in, but you can see the blue blazes well enough to follow if you keep your eyes sharp. you have to look sharp for the blazes, too, because they're really intended to be seen when there are no leaves on the trees.
so there we are, slotted in on an actaul honkin' TRAIL that we believe will take us more or less right to checkpoint 5 and eventually 6. we are happy.
high fives all around.