Idea in orienteering is not to get lost
Sunday, October 31, 2010
By Kaitlynn Riely, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette
Frank Delose, patrol director of the Laurel Hill Nordic Ski Patrol, takes part in an On the Trails skills refresher for the Western Appalachian Region National Ski Patrol at Kooser State Park.

Jim Wolfe, president of the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club, has more than three decades of orienteering experience and some advice on one of the outdoor activity's central axioms:

"The idea in orienteering is not to get lost," he said.

That's why he recommends that people interested in orienteering for the first time get an introduction to using a compass and a map from an experienced orienteer.

A good opportunity to get an introduction or a refresher is at the club's next meet 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 14 at Pine Lodge in Pine Ridge Park, three miles east of Blairsville on Route 22 in Indiana County. Directions and more information can be found on the club's website,

The meet is open to anyone able to walk through the woods. Wear good shoes and clothing suitable for the outdoors, said club secretary Jennifer Livingston. At the starting area, individuals or groups can purchase a detailed topographical course map for $5.

"The map will be just like the ground," Livingston said. "If you see a lake in front of you in real life, there will be a lake on the map in front of you."

Wolfe makes the maps. It's a complicated, lengthy process that involves combining real photos and elevation data, then walking the park and identifying the location and size of smaller objects such as boulders and shrubbery.

A WPOC club member will "orient" newcomers on how to interpret the maps and work with compasses.

Using a compass is the other technical part of orienteering, and although the club has some compasses for participants to borrow, they can also be purchased at stores that sell outdoor sporting goods.

"We want you to have a successful experience," Livingston said.

But for those who are not beginners or want to go orienteering on their own, a permanent course was set up in Stackhouse Park in Johnstown six years ago.

Wolfe designed the orienteering map for the park, and people can pick up a free copy at the ranger station at the Luzerne Street entrance.

Ranger Jim Pasco, who has worked at the park for 25 years, said about 200 people a month visit the park for orienteering, traveling from as far as West Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and New York.

"If you enjoy being outdoors, this is a great way to spend some quality time with your family," he said. "It's a great activity. It really is. People who do it enjoy it immensely. Once they get hooked on it, they can't stay away from it."

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

First published on October 31, 2010 at 12:00 am

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