Hundreds of youth and adults spent a weekend in mid-February on Whidbey Island honing their navigation skills while getting a great workout at the same time.
With maps and compasses in hand, members of the Cascade Orienteering Club explored Fort Casey and Fort Ebey State Parks, maneuvering their way through a series of checkpoints. The club’s annual Winter League Championships took place at the picturesque state parks.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to show the skills they’ve learned over the past three months,” said Club President Bob Forgrave. “This is the best of the best showing their skills.”
Located on the western shores of central Whidbey Island, both parks were former military bases. Fort Ebey was constructed during World War II, and Fort Casey was built in the late 1800s. Visitors explore the gun emplacements still in place at both parks. Those camping and hiking enjoy spectacular views of Admiralty Inlet and Olympic Mountains.
“It’s amazing to see the kids take off in different directions,” Forgrave said of the start of the race, which was staggered during the weekend.
Volunteer Julia Morse said about 360 people participated in the championship races. Families often join the competition.
“A child will learn about it, and then the whole family gets into it,” Morse said. Several school groups participated, including an NJROTC group from nearby Oak Harbor High School.
A Scout group heard about the championships while camping at Fort Casey. They got a course in orienteering and then participated in the event. “It’s kind of like a public education service,” Morse said.
Both parks provide different challenges for participants. Fort Ebey, which hosted the first day of the competition, provides a combination of woods, open areas, and man-made emplacements.
“It’s a combination of everything on one map,” said Forgrave said of the Ebey course. Depending on the level of course, people maneuver through a course that is between 1.7 to 4.8 kilometers in length, with a climb between 50 meters and 240 meters.
Fort Casey offers a more open course, with distances between 1.2 kilometers and 4.5 kilometers and an elevation change between 15 meters and 100 meters.
The Cascade Orienteering Club has been organizing events since 1977. Based in Seattle, it is one of the most active orienteering clubs in the United States and holds events throughout the year.
For more information, go to www.cascadeoc.org.
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