More Ripley - Sprint and Night-O
Posted Wed, November 10, 2010 - 10:57 PM
Camp Ripley is an interesting place to orienteer. Since it's a military reservation (and the largest winter training facility in the country for all branches of the service), there are rules and regulations and procedures. As long as you follow them, everything is good. (Of course, none of us ever considered any alternative.)
It starts at the entrance - there is only one, on the south side. You drive between two massive stone pylons and are directed to a manned gatehouse where you need to state your business. "Here for the orienteering event" has always gotten a wave through, though. It's still a long ways to the start area at the far northern end of the reservation. First, there's a couple miles of flat, developed area with a square road grid and many buildings of indeterminate purpose. The speed limit is either 30 or 25 mph "strictly enforced". After that, you arrive at a gate with a building to the left with a sign "All traffic must stop." This is Range Control. As in artillery range.
Yes, much of Camp Ripley is an artillery range, where they will occasionally practice firing off big guns to hit targets miles away. So anyone and everyone going through the gate "uprange" needs to A) check in; B) state their destination with precision; and C) take a range pass and display it on their dashboard - no exceptions. There's nothing onerous about it, just stop and sign into a book, and I can absolutely understand the need for range control to know exactly who is uprange, where they are, what their business is, and when they are expected back.
The Guardsmen have a sense of humor, too. There's a full size mannequin in fatigues sitting behind the desk, with a sign proclaiming him shift sergeant (or something similar) nearby. After signing in, you can proceed through the gate and head up the road, still with a speed limit 25 mph "strictly enforced". Although the road is so badly rutted and washboarded, that's probably a good idea. Our start area was a full 15 miles uprange, which meant about a 40 minute drive at that speed. Along the way, you pass many interesting areas with names like "Fire and Movement Training Course 1". There are several areas to the left of the road with signs every 100 meters warning "Artillery Range Live Ammunition Keep Out."
But in contrast, for most of its length the road follows the Mississippi River quite closely, so the right side is a beautiful view across the river to nearly unbroken forested shoreline on the other side. And none of the wildlife seems to mind the occasional shell, although there's something amusing thinking about these how these guys might react to a nearby explosion:
Anyway, on to the courses! This was the Saturday sprint course, which I ran shortly after the middle distance course in a cold drizzly rain. It was a nicely set course, but I did a really bad job.
Like, a really really bad job. #1 wasn't a problem, but I misread the contours on the way to #2 and went looking for a spur. Why, especially considering the tag line right at the center of the circle? Call it a brain fart. So, I ended up too far south, started circling around until I spotted the marsh, and finally homed in on the control after at least 90 seconds of foolishness. Well, there goes the race, so I headed out to the trail with a simpler goal in mind than "blazing the course."
The spur and hilltop on the way to #3 was nice and open, but a bit of a dogleg, an I came out to the trail and followed it north and west for an attack on #4. This one was nice because it was on the far side of a pair of small hills, and wasn't visible until you dropped over the saddle less than 10 meters away. I went around the north and west side of the marsh to #5, probably as good a route as any, and then took the ridgetop to #6. There wasn't a whole lot of choice on that leg.
#7 was in a depression a little deeper than I though it would be, but the navigation was still easy. I got pulled a little north on the way to #8 and ended up in the WNW-pointing reentrant, but corrected to run over the little saddle to the south and grab #8 on the other side. For the next leg, I stayed low until I passed the depression on the east (which looked like a shallow reentrant) and then angled up and over the plateau down into #9.
The next leg turned out to be the joke of the course. Problem #1: taking too long to choose which way around the marsh, and then choosing north (the wrong one, in hindsight). Problem #2: planning my route to go right by #6, and then not following through with the plan. Problem #3: finding myself traveling SE onto the peninsula. Problem #4: getting pissed off at the end of the peninsula, and slopping through knee deep muck to the other side. Problem #5: well, problems were mostly over at this time, but I sure wished I had just decided to go south instead. I finished the southerly route, not with great foot speed, but I kept moving, punched the last control, and came out to the road right at my car. I briefly considered bailing out, but a DNF sucks, so I ran into the finish and satisfied myself with 7th place overall. Definitely not the kind of run I'm used to, but hey - you can't get too serious about anything, or you might stop having fun. Thus buoyed, I decided to take an easy run in the night-O and save my competition for tomorrow's classic distance.