Eric Mayer

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Today I was out orienteering at Hickory Run State Park. I performed abominably. The important thing was just getting to a meet for the first time in a year and a half. Usually my goal is to finish. Today it was to start, so finishing was a bonus.

I love to orienteer but hate driving and a meet these days involves a lot more time in the car than in the woods. My work doesn't like to see me taking entire days off either. But I wanted to get back into the sport. In the past I've found that hiking around with a map energizes me enough so I soon make up for the lost day.

Orienteering isn't exactly like riding a bicycle, at least for me. After so long a period of inactivity I felt discombobulated wandering through the thick, end-of-summer vegetation. My compass kept insisting I was facing north when I knew damn well I was facing south. I guess I need a new compass.

The creeks and water holes didn't cooperate either. They were dry, if you could spot them at all. The water features on the map were practically useless for navigation. Hickory Run is glaciated terrain, a confusing jumble of gouges and bumps, with no apparent pattern. All detail. Nothing large. I need all the help there I can get.

Mostly I attempted to hit the control features by going straight to them, missed miserably, relocated to a trail and then found the features by popping off the trail. I did manage one good leg, hit a nearly dry creek just about perfectly, not far from the flag at the stream junction, exactly as I'd planned. That's always a thrill.

But isn't that just like writing? (Now you knew I'd have to bring writing into this, didn't you? Or if you didn't guess you probably haven't read this far.) You spend so much time thrashing about, feeling lost, not quite saying what you mean, but it's worth it for those sublime moments when you do manage to get it just right.

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