Welcome back to another rousing rendition of orienteering in Maple Valley! As in past years, the courses will take all but elementary runners off trail. While nearly all will navigate through the forest, the trails may be your best bet for traveling long distances between controls. Choosing a good attack point from which to leave the trail, collecting features along your route, and staying in close contact with the map will be critical.
None of the courses’ controls are intentionally hidden but knowing which side of the feature the control is located will help determine your angle of approach. Knowing your control code symbols and evaluating the control location before you set out on your next leg will help reduce the amount of time you spend wandering around in the forest.
The leg on the Elementary/Beginner course from control 1 to control 2 will be marked with pin flags.
Deer trails used in past races have become slightly more challenging to navigate. Downed trees and encroaching vine maples have made some of these forested passages challenging to traverse. In these areas, you will need to navigate around the obstruction and through the surrounding vegetation to rejoin the trail on the other side. Since these impediments are random and constantly changing, they are not marked on the map.
Whether you are departing the trail or navigating through the forest, verifying your direction of travel will be critical. If you do not know how to use your compass, we highly recommend you learn now. There will also be a small compass course set up in the field north of the parking lot to practice your skills before the race.
The trails of Summit Trails are also used by equestrians. When encountering horses, please move to the side of the trail and call out to the riders. Make reasonable efforts not to spook the horses and announce your presence to riders as the horse approaches.
Lastly, both deer and hiking trails within the Summit Trails venue are lined with blackberries and nettles. We strongly recommend pants and long-sleeved shirts. Please do not underestimate the amount of damage the vegetation can do to bare legs. Wear pants!!!
Have fun and enjoy the courses.
-Chris & Ing
Summit Trails Middle School is surrounded by over 300 acres of forest land dedicated to King County Parks after a history of railroad and logging use. The park area is known by many names depending on where in the complex you are: Danville-Georgetown Open Space, Rock Creek Natural Area, or Summit Trails Middle School private land. Over 14 miles of trails exist, and are primarily used and upkept by The Backcountry Horsemen of Washington. Additionally, the area is home to herds of elk and deer, spotted owl and many other wildlife. It is highly likely you will encounter some of these while on the property. This past and present history has shaped the landscape in the park.
Much of the vegetation in the forest is thick with vegetation. However, due to the extensive elk and deer herd that call this area home, a vast network of elk trails exist and most have been accurately mapped within the last year. These elk paths are represented by white stripes on the map, meaning it is not a maintained trail, and subject to natures adjustment should it occur. Typically, very dense vegetation is flanked by runnable deer trail because the deer do just what a human would…avoid the dense stuff. This creates the beaten down wandering paths you see on the map. Since the herd is so prevalent, the animal paths are more robust than usual forest.
This area was logged in the not-too-distant past. As a result, many stumps were left behind to rot. There are thousands of them. Most of these stumps have degenerated into a half knoll, half stump concoction. In these situations, it is always mapped as a knoll. The only stumps mapped at Summit Trails are very large: at least 2 m in height and 1.5 m in width. These are undeniable stumps. On the map, these are marked with a brown X.
Rootstocks greater than 1m and visible from all directions are mapped with a brown triangle.
Flowing from south to north on the left side of the map is “Rock Creek”. This creek can be traversed anytime of year, but does flow fast in winter and spring. However, there are certain places where there are logs that span across the creek, and getting on and off the log on either side is quite easy. These are marked on the map with crossing point symbols. It is highly recommended you cross at these points should you find the need to cross the creek unless you don’t mind getting wet. There are other places that logs span the creek besides these points, however, either thick vegetation or dangerous approach on and off the log makes it undesirable. These difficult log crossings were not inserted on the map as crossing points.
There are a few linear contour features that can be useful when navigating off the trails in the park. Almost all of the hills are fairly straight. Often times this is coupled with good elk trails that can make for decent shortcuts if you have the courage. Careful though, because it is very easy to get lost in the dense vegetation and relocating becomes very difficult in these non-descript trails. Vegetation navigation is much more tricky than it might seem!
Lastly, it is recommended you wear pants! You will be presented with many off-trail checkpoints at this venue, testing your use of contours as handrails, compass for maintaining direction in flat areas, pace counting for distance estimation, and finding oneness with the elk as you bash through the brush.
– John Brady