Orienteering at Gay City State Park

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Sep. 17, 2013
West Hartford residents Britt and Jonathan Housum are ready to head off on the orange trail at an orienteering event sponsored at Gay City State Park by the Western Connecticut Orienteering Club on Sept. 14. Photos by Melanie Savage.
West Hartford residents Britt and Jonathan Housum are ready to head off on the orange trail at an orienteering event sponsored at Gay City State Park by the Western Connecticut Orienteering Club on Sept. 14. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Richard Nietupski and Jim Henderson, from the Western Connecticut Orienteering Club, sat in the shade under the trees at the edge of a parking lot at Gay City State Forest on Sept. 14.  The duo were checking in participants for an orienteering meet, held in honor of Connecticut National Orienteering Day. There were five separate trails laid out for hikers, progressing from beginner to advanced, according to distance and degree of difficulty. There was also a separate trail for bikers.

The organizers handed out a topographical map and a compass. The map identified landmarks such as hills, bodies of water, distinctive trees and large rocks. Also identified were the locations of various checkpoints, known as controls, to be located by hikers/bikers as they progressed along the course. There were 40 different controls involved in the Sept. 14 course.

“We go out in the middle of a thunderstorm, sometimes in the dark, to hang them,” said Henderson. Participants wear a sensor on their finger, which is inserted into a control at the starting point, at each marked location, and at the finish line. “So I will know when you got to each location, how long it took you between locations, and how long it took you to do the trail,” said Henderson. Participants navigate from point to point using the map and the compass.

Orienteering draws people from many walks of life, said Henderson. Many Scouts participate to gain navigation experience and to earn merit badges. Families participate for fun or for sport. “It’s a competitive sport for some people, and it’s a fun walk in the woods for others,” said Henderson. Some people travel from meet to meet, and focus on finishing with speed. “It’s an addiction,” said Henderson. “For most people they enjoy the forest, they enjoy hiking. This adds an additional measure to it.” Enthusiasts call orienteering “the thinking sport,” said Henderson. “Instead of just walking through the forest enjoying the view, there’s a challenge involved,” he said.

Jonathan Housum and his young son, Britt, travelled to Gay City in Hebron from their home in West Hartford to participate in the Sept. 14 event. Dressed in orange, they planned to participate in the orange trail, an intermediate course. “I like to be very visible in the woods,” explained Jonathan. He said he has participated in numerous orienteering events. For the duo, this was the fourth trail they’d be navigating together.

Britt said that for him, the best thing about orienteering is the challenge of locating the flag. “One time, there was one near a stone wall,” he said. Dad and son spent some time looking for the well-hidden control. Finally, they found it. Britt grinned as he recalled the memory. “I was like, yes, it’s the right one,” he said excitedly.

There is a Sept. 22 orienteering meet planned for Hurd Park in East Hampton. For details, go to http://www.newenglandorienteering.org/events-schedule/eventdetail/316/-/.... http://www.newenglandorienteering.org. Meet check-in is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  See the New England Orienteering Club website at http://www.newenglandorienteering.org for information about other events and about orienteering in general.


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