Through the Woods MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   There ought to be a stone wall around the next bend. Mybreathing becomes heavier as I wonder if I am still on course. A few more stepsand I will know.

I peer around the bend, flooded with relief at the sightof an orange rectangle swaying in the breeze. Happily, I punch my card beforeheading off to the next marker.

Orienteering survives in America through asmall number of participants. Using only a topographical map, a compass and a setof clues, the orienteer tries to locate a series of orange flags on a course in awooded area. At each flag the orienteer punches her card to prove she reached it.She must not only navigate her way to the flags, but run because the competitionis timed.

I discovered orienteering a year ago when a newspaper ran anarticle on it. At my first competition I took a wrong trail trying to locate thefirst flag, and ended up running between two points until I was able to correctmy mistake and head in the right direction. Needless to say, this mistake taughtme the necessity of precise map reading and conserving energy.

Beforebeginning a course, I feel up to the challenge. Half an hour later, alone in thewoods, my view changes. I should have been there by now. Maybe I took the wrongtrail. This is taking too long. Where is the flag?

In order to succeed, Imust suppress these thoughts and concentrate on my goal: the finish line. Alone,the humming of insects and the birds' songs creates a beautiful yet eerie effect.I want to reconnect with a trail or see a hiker. Periodically, I see an orangemarker waving in the wind, proof that someone was there before me and thatsomeone will come after me.

The finish line is in sight. A small wave ofhappiness runs through me, while thoughts from the last hour linger in my mind.Holding my compass tightly, I surge toward the line. Crossing it, I stop to catchmy breath, turning to look again at the woods I conquered.






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