As a result of various PATC and other member comments,
requests, and interest, the Charlottesville chapter of the PATC conducted a
number of beginner/introductory Map and Compass usage sessions.
As the idea/request was to start at a beginner level
training. It was decided to hold a
progressive learning type experience.
Starting with some indoor sessions to expose and develop familiarity with
maps and compasses. We would then
proceed to a “controlled” outdoor setting so as to further practice and utilize
the skills presented in the indoor session.
The intention of the last phase was to culminate the experience with an
“on the trail” experience using the concepts learned in the classroom and
initial outdoor session.
We began the Indoor sessions using a local library meeting
room to introduce everyone to map and compass characteristics, reading and
usage basics. Due to the popularity and
expressed interest we needed to hold 3 sessions. Some of the reason for holding 3 sessions
beyond the huge interest, were meeting room size limitations, and instructor to
“student” ratios so as to ensure a valuable experience. (a
note of thanks to JMRL for meeting room availability and usage). Holding multiple sessions enabled us to get
as many folks insight to and more one on one, hands on experience in order to
ensure a good explanation of the basic skills before outdoor practice. We ended
up having 28 people sign and show up for these indoor sessions.
The first phase of the outdoor sessions was held at
Albemarle County’s Mint Springs Valley Park.
Two sessions were held to accommodate attendee availability. In this session we practiced the basic map
and compass skills covered in the indoor session. Despite cold and windy weather, 12 people
were able to make these first phase outdoor sessions.
For the second outdoor phase session we were going to take
the skills learned and execute them on an out and back AT hike, starting from
Reids Gap to Bee Mountain.
Our initial attempt to run this session was prevented due to
weather conditions. Mother Nature tried
to challenge us again on the second March 12th attempt. The predicted snow forced VDOT to close the Blue
Ridge parkway. However, Reids Gap drive
was open and we had access to our previously designated parking spot. The
weather forecast reduced our group to three who ventured out into the wintery
wonderland. Cheri, Susanna and Mathew
braved the cold and minimal visibility to exercise and practice what was
previously presented. Our first activity
prior to commencing the hike, we took Long/Lat readings of where we parked, as
well as got bearings (direction of travel and back bearings) to/from Piney and
Bee mountain. We noted our location with
respect to roads and mountains we could see. Once we had our info recorded, we hiked
to Maupin Field shelter then on to Bee Mountain. Along the way we noted and ID’d map legend
info with respect to trail/road/mountain/legend symbols. We reviewed switch backs, ridge lines and
other features ID’ng them on the map as we traveled. Where we couldn’t see distant land features,
we estimated location and direction using the map, compass, parked car data we
collected at the start as well as reading the land and comparing the land
characteristics to the map contour lines and land feature layout. Once on Bee Mtn we took our back bearings and
checked them against our initial map/compass bearings (accounting for
declination etc.). We had a quick snack
and rest, but headed back as the temperature didn’t allow for extended
lounging. Once we got back to the cars,
we said our goodbyes commenting on how the day turned out to be an enjoyable and
picturesque hike (less than an inch of snow), all the while obtaining and
exercising some map and compass skills.
All in all, the session feedback was that these were useful, enjoyable
and appreciated. There has been some additional requests for all 3 phases of
the sessions, and the Charlottesville PATC will happily look to accommodating
submitted by Tony Alimenti- leader of the Map and Compass Sessions