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Orienteering is kind of a race, treasure hunt, and navigation test. Here's how to join in.

"A cross-country Easter egg hunt." That's how one panting neophyte described orienteering. An off-trail sport import from Sweden, orienteering is catching on in the West. With family-oriented clubs forming and a permanent course in Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park, there are several ways to join in the fun. Anyone can try orienteering after a few minutes' instruction. "A lot of people worry about using the compass," says Gene Wehunt of the Bay Area Orienteering Club, "but on beginning courses, the compass is necessary only to orient the map and make sure you're facing the direction of travel."

The key to the sport is map reading. Marked with contour lines and symbols for natural and manmade features, each map has circles indicating the location of control points (we show one kind of control in the big photograph above).

The object is to walk or jog from control to control, stopping at each to punch your scorecard. As you go along, recognizing landmarks gets easier. Beginner's courses have 5 or 6 of the red and white controls scattered through gentle terrain; advanced routes have 15 or more through rougher terrain. Most novice courses are 1 to 2 miles long and take than an hour to finish; at a meet, you might want to try a slightly more advanced course as well.

Wear sturdy shoes for scrambling up and down hillsides, and long pants to protect against poison oak or spiny plants. A permanent course in Oakland, a class in Sacramento

You can take a class in orienteering at Sacramento's American River College, April 16 through May 11. Fee for the five-session course in $20. To register, call the college's Community Services Department at (916) 484-8643.

One place where you can orienteer any time is the permanet course at Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland Hills. Set up last year, the course has three levels of difficulty; it takes less than an hour to finish the easiest course, which winds through the redwood forest.

You start at the gate near the rest rooms at the park's Sequoia Arena entrance, along Skyline Boulevard. Get maps and instructions free at the park's ranger station, off Joaquin Miller Road across from Robinson Drive; or send $2 to the Bay Area Orienteering Club (see address below; include a stamped, self-addressed envelope). Clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and Colorado

You can also compete in meets held by area clubs, with members of all ages. Visitors are welcome at all meets. Novices get quick instruction before heading off in a race against the clock (some beginner courses are untimed). You pay $1 to $3 to register, about a dollar to rent a compass. Meet courses usually range in length from 1 to 7 miles.

We list two well-established clubs: one in northern California, one in Colorado. We note their April and May meets; some dates are tentative. Annual club dues average $5 for individuals, $8 for families. If you call, telephone early evenings or weekends. If you write, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Bay Area Orienteering Club, Joe Scarborough, 3151 Holyrood Dr., Oakland 94611; (415) 530-3059. Meets from San Jose to Santa Rosa usually held the fourth Sunday of each month; two-day event on May 18 and 19. Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club, Mark Rowan, 2795 Stephens Rd., Boulder, Colo. 80303; (303) 499-2075. April 18 near Denver, May 19 in Colorado Springs. Ten meets, late April to early November.

The California Orienteering Association can provide information about clubs throughout the West and informal groups in areas such as Sacramento, which don't have a club but do have occasional meets. Write to the association at Box 30144, Oakland 94604, or telephone Bruce Wolfe at (415) 834-3027.
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Date:Apr 1, 1985
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