O Log - Top 10 Favorite Maps

[31-Jan-03] 

    J-J asks in the latest ONA to list your top 10 favorite North American maps. This is really hard for me, and in my case, the maps that make the list do so mostly because they mark some sort of progress in my learning of O, or I have fond memories of them for some reason. Of course, they have to have other stellar qualities -- for example, my first win on M21 was at Raven Rock, and that map did not make the list, even though that win is one of my fondest O memories.

    There are some problems, notably Harriman, Laramie, Whitehorse, and Northern Virginia. These areas are great areas for O, Northern Virginia being my favorite in North America, yet no one map can make the list. I wish we could put areas. (Prince William Forest would have been a shoo in before the US champs, but the fact that the map's declination lines are wrong, and I had a bad run kick it off the list (still the prettiest woods in the world, tho)).

    • 1. Hickory Run Carbon County, PA
      This is my favorite map. Always has been. Fun, technical contour terrain, and a decent amount of it. Not alot of linear features in the technical terrain, making penalties big. The way I like it. Other parts of the map feature interesting rock and vegetation features, and the map is big enough to host a mini-rogaine, and there are technical areas everywhere. On top of that, there are pretty meadows, unspoiled streams, and you feel like you're in the wilderness, especially on the west part of the map. This is also the first map where I feel I "got it", I remember going along this ridge and seeing these small hills, and seeing these little brown ovals on the map, and a light bulb going off. One of my fondest O memories, where I feel I "graduated" into reading contour features.

    • 2. Sandy McNabb Alberta, Canada
      My first A meet win. I had been orienteering 2 years, and won M35-44 by a time of 36 minutes, I think, in a field of 18. I was somewhat shocked, but also felt I had potential. I didn't run that fast, but was in contact with the map the whole time. Many of the people I beat were in better shape -- I wasn't in good shape back then, so I learned something real important about orienteering. The map was over-generalized; alot of smaller contour features not mapped, (like, IMO, many Canadian maps), but this is made up for by the absolutely stunning views as you run across high alpine meadows with the towering Rockies to gaze at. I got caught in a brutal hailstorm on day 1, near the end of the race -- I figure I did so well because the rest of the field had the hail to contend with for their whole run. This was also the first A meet in North America to use e-punching.

    • 3. Spackman Creek, DWG NRA, PA
      This is the day 2 map from the 2000 US Champs at Delaware Water Gap (PEEC). I had a nearly perfect run, at a speed I had never done before. I think statistically it is still one of my best runs ever (which is sad, meaning in all this time, I haven't gotten much better, only more consistent). I believe I would have medalled had I not made a 14 minute error on day 1. I still wasn't very good in those days, but I was good on that day. I was in a zone, as they say. Not only that, the terrain and the mapping are fantastic.

    • 4. Red Top Mountain, somewhere in, GA
      I was third in a field of 59 on red. I had been O'ing for one and a half years, and was not in very good shape. Those few people who knew me were shocked that I had such a good run. This was my first A meet in M35, and I ended up medalling. I was excited because I had no real prior running or navigating experience before starting O, and when I started O'ing I was 70 pounds overweight. It was some sort of accomplishment. I remember running really hard, and remember the woods being "lollipop terrain". Beautiful open woods. I've never lived up to the potential I thought I had in this race.

    • 5. Pond Mountain, Kent, CT
      My first A meet, Oct 1998. Beautiful fall colors. I was totally clueless. I went up there alone, and didn't know what to do. I had never been in a running race, and had no idea what to do with the bib number and safety pins. I remember thinking they should have a newbie guide to A meets. I was running (more like walking) M-green in those days. I didn't know how to navigate. The terrain was rocky and technical, unlike anything I had ever seen. All I did was follow bearings. Leg 2 was a long leg, I seem to remember 800m or so, and I tried to follow a bearing. I got lost. I didn't know what to do, so I figured I'd head to the trail. I stumbled onto the control on the way to the trail. It was destiny. I finished the race, and decided to learn how to navigate. It is still an absolutely stunning map in a beautiful area. In later years, I've driven the 4 hours just to go back there, and enjoy that map.

    • 6. Fishtrap Lake, Sprague, WA
      My guess is that this will be the only vote for this map on the list. One elite runner I talk to says -- "how could you like that map". I dunno, why do I like punk rock, and hate classic rock? I guess its just taste. This map is south of Spokane, WA. Driving there, I remember ponderosa pine forest slowly giving way to prairie. I remember being disappointed, as I like running in the forest. But it was alot of fun running in the prairie. It was the first time doing that, and the whole experience was alot of fun. Also, there are pockets of technical areas, and the excellent visibility made it easier than usual to read them. At that stage in my development (I was running M-red in those days), it was much appreciated as a learning experience. The best thing about the map, tho, is its untapped potential as a relay venue. Of all the maps I've ever seen, I believe this one has the best potential for a relay. There are big hills that would make excellent spectator locations, allowing a view of the whole map, yet the terrain is not so simple as to not be a challenge for the runners (in contrast to other open maps). Moreover, the fast terrain would allow setting longer legs, which I think would be a good thing. I guess I am a minority of one singing the praises of this map, especially as a championship venue, but check it out for relay potential the next time you are there.

    • 7. French Creek Central, Elverson, PA
      My first ever O meet was on this map, in 1998. I did a yellow course in 96 minutes. My first course setting was also on this map. Were it not for an injury on this map last year that killed my aspirations for the season, it would be ranked higher. There are also too many linear features on this map for my taste, but its hard not to have a fondness for your first O map.

    • 8. Morgan Territory, East Bay Area, CA
      This is an absolutely beautiful area. Beautiful golden hills the Bay Area is famous for, with pockets of technical rock and forest. This was my first WRE (I think, anyway). I met my goals in this race, which was to score more than 600 WRE points, and beat some "elite" people. I ran a pretty clean race, and held up in a long, physical course. I think I'm in better shape now, both physically and mentally, and which I could re-run this race, as it is my kind of terrain -- open with lollipop features. In any case, this is one of those races where I felt I moved up another level.

    • 9. French Creek East, Elverson, PA
      My favorite French Creek map, forgetting the circumstantial attachment to Central. French Creek is a great place to learn to O, and that is where I learned to O, for the most part. Its a shame they don't make many maps like this anymore, big 1:15 maps with few linear features. Now, most maps tend to be smaller, 1:10, with lower penalty terrain.

    • 10. Pakim Pond, Pine Barrens, NJ
      My second race was on this map. It was an hour an a half drive from my house, in pouring rain. I show up in heavy cotton pants, with no rain gear. I moved up to orange, and remember not knowing the IOF symbols. In those days, I carried a laminated card with all the IOF symbols on it. I really enjoyed orienteering in the rain, and remembered thinking the orange course was too easy, even tho this was only my second meet. I knew I was hooked at this point, and moved up to green soon thereafter. Since then, I've always enjoyed coming back to this map -- I love the pine barrens, and its a great map, subtle yet readable contour features that you have to pay attention to. I know alot of people hate this map, but I think its fun, and success on this map, I think, translates to success elsewhere.

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