The Hippo


Jul 15, 2019








Photo by Angie Sykeny.

Go orienteering 

Up North Orienteers is New Hampshire’s only orienteering club. It hosts recreational and competitive orienteering events and activities in central and southern New Hampshire and offers support for beginner, casual and competitive orienteers. It’s an affiliate of the U.S. Orienteering Federation, which is the governing body for the sport in the U.S. The annual membership fee is $20 per household and includes discounted rates at UNO events, email reminders and voting in annual meetings. For more information about the club and its events, visit
Annual orienteering events 
UNO’s Annual Camping Weekend
This two-day camping and orienteering event takes place Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, at Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham. It features beginner and advanced orienteering activities including the “Canoe-O” canoe-based course on both days; the “Vampire-O”, a family-friendly nighttime course on Saturday that blends orienteering with flashlight tag; and the “Wicked Hard Night-O” and “Not-So Wicked Hard Night-O” nighttime advanced courses on Saturday. The cost is $5 per any course for members, $10 per advanced course and $5 per beginner course for non-members, and $2 for an extra map. Check-in and registration will be at the Group Camping Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday. 
2017 Boulder Dash 
This three-day Orienteering USA-sanctioned national meet takes place Friday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 15, at Burnt Mountain in Hanover. It includes orienteering classes, timed competitive courses and recreational courses with beginner through intermediate difficulty levels on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a downhill forest sprint on Friday. The cost is $10 for the Friday sprint; $32 per day for adult members (21+), $18 for junior members (age 20 and under) through Sept. 29, $42/$28 from Sept. 30 through Oct. 7, and an additional $4/$2 for non-members. For recreational courses only, it’s $10 per adult and $5 per junior. Register online at 
Other UNO orienteering events 
Fort Rock, Exeter - Sunday, Oct. 1 
Urban Forestry Center, Portsmouth - Sunday, Oct. 29  
Beaver Brook Association - Sunday, Dec. 3  
Permanent courses 
UNO also provides free permanent orienteering courses anyone can walk through on their own at any time. Maps and instructions are available on the UNO website. Permanent courses are located at Sewall Woods in Wolfeboro, Tucker Brook in Milford and Beaver Brook Association in Hollis.

Finding your way
The sport of using a map and compass

By Angie Sykeny

 The sport of orienteering has just two components: a map and a compass. The goal is to use the map and compass to find a series of specific landmarks, known as “controls,” which have on or near them a flag or marker of some sort with a number corresponding to the control’s number on the map. 

Pete Bundschuh of New Hampshire’s only orienteering club, Up North Orienteers, manages a permanent orienteering course, one of a few in the state, at Beaver Brook nature center in Hollis.
On a recent morning, I met  Bundschuh at  the course for a walkthrough. He handed me a compass and a laminated map of the course and started walking me through the map’s numerous colors and symbols. 
“The yellow spots are open areas and fields. Blue is water. Green is woods. Dashed lines are trails and stone walls,” he said. “Everything is on here, even individual rocks. These are enormously detailed maps.” 
The fun is in the challenge, he said, of using your own resources and problem-solving to find your way in an unknown place. 
“There’s a satisfaction that comes with being able to figure out the map and find the markers and being able to say, ‘I got it!’ he said. “It’s so fun in that regard.” 
After covering the basics, we headed over to the trail opening. First up was No. 2: a rock pile. 
“This dashed line is the trail in front of us,” Bundschuh said, pointing to the map. “Looks like we’re going to walk down and go left, then cross a stream and we should see our rock pile.” 
Sure enough, we found the rock pile at the exact point indicated on the map, situated in front of a tree with an orange marker labeled “#2.” 
We went on to find No. 1, a trail junction, and No. 3, another rockpile. No. 8, a bend in a stone wall, required some light bushwhacking as we followed the stone wall off-trail and into the woods. 
“Once you start doing it more, you get a feel for it,” he said. “It just takes a while to get used to.” 
Orienteering is a game of observation and attention to detail. The compass may be used to orient the map so that it’s facing the right way, and to help you get back on the right track if you get lost, but the act of navigation itself is centered on using the map. 
“It’s not really about the compass or about going in a certain direction and hoping you find [the control],” said Deb Humiston, membership director for Up North Orienteers and founder and owner of Ultimate Treasure Hunts, an Exeter-based business that organizes orienteering and treasure hunting activities for corporate and school events, private parties, civic programs and town-wide celebrations. “It’s about paying attention to the real things around you and finding those things on the map.” 
Every orienteer may get to a control in a different way, depending on the direction they’re approaching it from and what landmarks they decide to look for and follow. 
“There is no right way to get from one place to another. You just go by what you see and what you know and what makes you feel confident,” Humiston said. “It requires each person to use their own judgment and understanding and competence to get somewhere.” 
There are three permanent orienteering courses in New Hampshire including the one at Beaver Brook and courses in Milford and Wolfeboro. The courses have a dozen to two dozen marked controls with varying levels of difficulty and usually take an hour or two to complete. As an added challenge, each marker contains a letter or group of letters that the orienteer can use to decode a secret message after he finds all of the controls. Orienteers can do a self-led walk through of the courses at any time, either to practice their skills or just for fun. The maps and instructions for these courses can be downloaded and printed from the Up North Orienteers website. 
“At the permanent courses … you can walk around and teach yourself,” Humiston said. “You aren’t comparing yourself to other people. It’s a personal challenge to improve your own ability.” 
While permanent courses are one aspect of orienteering, the sport itself revolves around live events, for which the courses are uniquely designed. Events are more structured than permanent courses in that they are timed, and orienteers must find the controls in the order specified on the map, but there are multiple courses to choose from, ranging from beginner to advanced.  
Beginner courses include controls that are easy to identify, such as a trail junction or a rock pile, and are located on or in close proximity to a trail, or can be found by following a stone wall or a stream. 
“They’re focused on getting you used to the map and helping you learn how the map works, not so much about finding things,” Bundschuh said. “We don’t ask you to figure it all out at once.” 
The more challenging courses include controls that are smaller and less noticeable, such as individual rocks. They’re typically located off-trail and may only be found by following landmarks that are difficult to observe, like a slight change in the contours of the topography. 
At an event, orienteers also have the option of participating recreationally or competitively. The goal of the competition is to complete a course in the fastest time. Courses can take anywhere from an hour or two to a whole day to complete. 
“Certainly there are people who come and just want to have fun doing it. It’s not like you have to graduate to being competitive,” Bundschuh said. “I feel like orienteering is intrinsically fun, but it’s another challenge, if you’re experienced, to say, ‘How fast can I do this?’ and try to have the fastest time on your course.” 
Up North Orienteers hosts several events in the spring and several in the fall each year, including some national Orienteering USA sanctioned events. Creating the maps for these events is a meticulous process that involves flyover images of the landscape and a person walking through the course and mapping out every landmark. 
“The main requirement for orienteering is a detailed map,” said Bundschuh, who walks through the Beaver Brook course once a year and updates the map with any new or altered landmarks. “So a lot of work goes into making these maps.” 
If you’ve never been orienteering and would like to give it a try, the best thing to do is to attend a live event, Bundschuh said, where you can walk through an easy course and receive instruction on how to read the map and compass. 

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