Vamping & Camping

Pawtuckaway – the big fall camping weekend of the Northeast and such a great time. Three races in two days, the chance for a night time adventure, and perhaps even a canoe-o if one wanted to paddle around the lake.

Day one this year was a National Ranking Event, and with the NRE came a lot more people than normal. For me, this was awesome because it meant even more people to compete against and hang out with compared to other years. I was also just so excited to see how some of my teammates did their first time out at Pawtuckaway.

There ended up being eight national squad members there, as well as many others who pushed the competition further.

Day one was mainly on Big Island, which is well-known to be extremely difficult. I always have a mess on the island, and this year was no exception, but perhaps for other reasons. I sadly had a dnf day one due to health issues, but many others really enjoyed the day!

Holden loved the courses on day one because ” of how challenging it was and how much [he] learned through trial and error”. Ali felt like she “had a pretty good race” on Saturday as well, which led to Saturday being the more fun day (along with activities that will be talked about later).

Danny said day one was his favorite too: “Two orienteering races > 1 orienteering race, it’s as easy as that.”

Day One Maps:

The most noted difficult leg from the weekend was 2-3 on the green (Anna, Oriana, and I all had an interesting time on it).

How might you have done it?

After the first race on Saturday, some of us (aka Danny, Kirsten, and I, and many others in different groups) headed to the beach for a dip in the lake.

A picture looking at the islands we swam to

It was then time for the potluck/grill dinner! This is one of my favorite parts of the camping weekend because there are so many people about and you can have such interesting conversations. There is also a lot of awesome food – Tori and Jon Campbell made a cherry brownie over the fire that I heard was absolutely delicious.

Now, you can’t have the Night-O when it isn’t dark, and there is no better place to wait for it to get dark than a big rock on the edge of the water where you can watch sunset.

The time she spent on the rock with me, Kirsten, and Danny was tied for Oriana’s favorite part of the weekend with the Vampire-O!

For reference, the Vampire-O is a mass start score race, where there some teams start out as “vampires” and have to “vamp” other teams to switch control cards. The vampires cannot punch controls. It ends up with a lot of running away from people, some hiding in the woods for other teams, and lots of laughter. Typically meant for kids ages 8-12, this year it was heavily populated by the West Point cadets, which made it all the more fun to spectate. Oriana noted that she was a bit older than the target age: “Kirsten and I were far too competitive for a race full of 9 year-olds but it was so fun.”

76 teams started out (which blows my mind as someone who did it as a kid with probably about 20 teams), including Ali, Eddie, Holden, Oriana, and Kirsten. For all five of them it was their first Vampire-O!

When asked what her favorite part of the weekend was, Ali said: “Hah, gotta say doing Vampire-O with my then-4, now-5-year-old daughter. It was a blast. I’d never done it before because I’d always gone out on the Wicked Hard Night-O, but going with Sylvia provided a good excuse. =) And she did great! I think because of fear of “being vamped” she ran faster and for a higher proportion of time than on her actual course…”

Just in case the Vampire-O explanation wasn’t complicated enough, there are three objects hidden in the woods that can protect teams from getting “vamp-ed”: the Holy Ghost ( a big, white sheet), the Cloak of Darkness (a large, black cloak), and the Holy Water (an open gallon of water that has to stay full). For some reason a number of team members said that the Holy Water was the best of the three, despite the fact that it means running with a gallon of water? But to each their own I guess. Anna said she likes the idea of the Cloak of Darkness, and I agree.

Almost as fun as the actual orienteering is the awards after the Vampire-O. As Ali so correctly put it, “Steve Olafsen is a *master* at [giving the awards].” Every prize is some nonsense object that always is given a story. Ali’s daughter, Sylvia, said the best prize was the horse stickers her team got. Holden thinks the best one was a buoy and Oriana said “the little girl in heels and a camo bucket hat won [her] heart so [she has] to give it to her.”

A couple of us sadly missed out on the Vamp-O experience, but instead we got to do an equally fun (ok maybe not equally but still fun) Wicked Hard Night-O.

There were a lot of adventures on this WHNO to say the least. My big headlamp died on the way to three so I was relying on my back up and the lights of others for the rest of the 6k course. On top of that, as I was adjusting said back up light I managed to drop my compass. Now, if you have ever done a night course you know how important it is to have a compass. It was rough. But luckily Alex Jospe was around and so I basically used her as my replacement compass. Thank you Alex for dragging me around the woods- it was so fun wandering with you.

While I was hanging onto Alex for dear life, Danny and his group (maybe just him and Nils?) were having an absolute blast on control 8. At one point they said maybe we should just hike the mountain off the map instead? And up they went. Eventually they realized perhaps they shouldn’t be climbing so high and got themselves back out of what appeared to be completely flat, rockless, white woods on the very edge of the map… You can imagine why Danny said this was the hardest leg of the weekend.

In the end Brendan Shield came first, Compass Alex and I came in second and third, and Danny and Niels came fourth and fifth. Danny said “finishing side-by-side with Nils during the WHNO and knocking over the printer as [they] jostled to punch the finish first” was his favorite part of the weekend.

Day two was my favorite race of the weekend, probably because I had the cleanest run I’ve had in years on Blue which was extremely satisfying. Seems like I’m the only one that enjoyed day two more though.

Along with many other questions, I asked the team members what takeaways they got from this weekend that they would bring with them to future events. Here are their thoughts:

Ali – It’s hard to run fast through hemlock forest! I found it took a lot of mental energy to figure out how to run fast, dodging this and that and looking for gaps, so it made simplifying super-important. Simplifying is always really important, but Pawtuckaway provided a good reminder of just how critical it is!

Oriana – You’re not too smart to take the trail. If it’s the better option, it’s the better option. And you love trails.

Danny – A good functioning compass is important, don’t ignore problems during warmup and assume you’ll be able to cope on the course. (Editor’s note: his compass was broken the first day so he spent a lot of time going in circles – believe it or not it seems like that wasn’t a fun experience)

Anna –  It was a good reminder that sometimes slowing down at first and getting a feel for the map is more important than trying to be fast from the get go. Even after waiting until things started looking like I expected, I still had plenty of time to pick up the pace and tire myself out, and get back to making dumbish decisions in the final 2 controls

Holden – I need to slow down in order to maintain contact with the map in order to avoid another 40 minute error that I experienced going to point 11.

Bridget – If you’ve had a headlamp battery for over two years it’s probably smart to replace it/charge it. Also if you are using two hands to fiddle with a headlamp, put the compass somewhere you cannot drop it….

Then I also gave them a chance to note anything else:

Ali – It was sooo fun to be back at Pawtuckaway and especially at the magical event that is camping weekend. Thanks so much to all who put it on!

Anna –  I didn’t find any snakes, so in that aspect the weekend was a bit of a failure, all though the race would have turned out very differently if I’d happened upon a garter snake in the first bit when nothing was going like it was supposed to and I was moving slowly enough to hear/see one…I did get to see an owl really close up pulling controls with some scout buddies, about 12 feet above me, and looking around. It was a neat experience and I sure wish I’d brought a camera.

Oriana (and I second it) – Using this space as a plea for the non-EddieTylerHolden WP cadets to talk to us please we’re not that scary. (Okay maybe Danny is.) We could expand the social circle of orienteering so much more if we joined forces. Please.

And that’s it for the Pawtuckaway Camping Weekend recap! Coming next will be an update from a number of team members about how the beginning of their fall training is going!

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