Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dead Raccoon

Went to finish the "boat house" area today and saw that raccoon again. It was lying next to the same tree he used to hide under. Dead.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mapping in Fred G Bond Metro Park. Part 1

As I promised before, here is the first part of my "mapping in the Bond park" saga. Comparing with the map refresh I did in Schenck forest a year ago, this one (though a refresh too) proved to be much more difficult. I think I already spent as much time in the Bond park as I did in Schenck forest and I am only about 50% done. There were several things that complicated this map refresh work for me:

  • The base map was indeed very old and outdated. Not only the trails has changed, but also vegetation and terrain.
  • There were several big construction projects completed after the base map was created. Community Center, Seniors Center, new boat house, new parking lots had to be added to the map along with appropriate changes in elevation lines.
  • This time I decided to map vegetation (white/green/dark green areas as well as fallen trees), which I didn't do in Schenck forest.
All these factors made an impact and slowed me down considerably, but I am still confident that the new map will be ready in time for the next year sprint event.

Anyway, here is what I did (step by step):

1. November 5
Went to the park and talked to Tracy (park's manager?). She gave me permission to map the park and in general was very supportive. She would love to have a new map with a set of their fixed controls plotted on it. She also gave preliminary OK for our sprint event next year.
Then walked around the park and compared it to the base map. Oh, boy. So many new constructions! Also noticed that the dam at the lake was plotted on the base map 5-7 degrees off! Here is a portion of the base map which was updated the most.

2. November 6 - 13
Spent the next week by working with the aerial image of the area and moving new features to the base map. 5 most affected areas were:
  1. Community Center
  2. Seniors Center
  3. Fenced area with tool shacks and equipment
  4. Additional parking lot
  5. Restrooms by the parking low
Note how elevation lines are all wrong by the Community and Seniors Centers.

Here is an aerial image I used (it is a few years old). I took it from Cary Parks web site (I checked Google maps too, but it had "summer" picture, which is hard to use because of tree shadows).

3. November 17
I went to the park and compared my "aerial like" map of the Community Center with the real Community Center. It was clear that the whole block with the Community Center and parking lot was somewhat misplaced:
  • It was too close to the road on the left
  • The building was too big
  • The building wasn't aligned with the trails intersection (see arrows on the map)
This day I fixed the building's size and readjusted the whole area, but not enough as my future trips to the park proved.

4. November 23
I finally was able to place the Community Center "block" correctly, so it would correspond to the western road and eastern trails.
Also fixed the outlines of the fenced area and reduced the "garden" south from the fence. The "garden" was actually plotted on the base map with a "25 yards" mistake. After that my trust for the base map accuracy completely evaporated and I started to double check every feature on the map. (Jumping ahead, I indeed had to fix several similar errors in other areas of the park later on)

5. November 24
With Community Center properly is place, I was able to do more refined work in that area. Put new trails and open areas on the map. Note though that the elevation is not fixed there. I haven't done it before and didn't even know where to start, so I was putting it off.

6. November 25
More refining work (still afraid to touch elevation lines):
  1. Mapped intricate details inside the Seniors Center (I wonder why, we shouldn't be running there anyway)
  2. Added the "greenhouse" area
  3. Made the first pass on vegetation south west from the Community Center (as you will see, I re-did this part a few weeks later)
  4. Mapped the scary "impassable" area (again re-did it later)

7. November 30
My first attempt to put correct elevation lines in place!
Not the final one, but it was a big step for me. From that point on, I at least wasn't afraid of doing it. And practice makes perfect, right?

I guess it is enough for the first part :-) More to come...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dying Raccoon

Was mapping the "boat house" area at the Bond Lake yesterday and found a dying raccoon concealed under the roots of an oak tree. So sad and disturbing was the encounter, I simply can't shake it out of my head. The raccoon was half-hidden under the roots and I probably wouldn't have noticed it if not for its heavy gurgling breathing. The sound gave me a start, I stopped and saw the poor creature no more than a yard from where I stood. The raccoon was old and undoubtedly very ill. It was visibly shaking and its heavy breathing was painful to watch. When the raccoon noticed me, it uttered a low growl, but didn't even make an attempt to hide or escape. It just lay there. Dying.

I let it be. That's how it works, right?..

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec 13 event at Piedmont Environmental Center

Tanya and I went yesterday to COK event at the Piedmont Environmental Center in High Point. This is the one Josef always organizes in December and it is the one (from COK's events) closest to the Raleigh area (only 1 hour 20 min drive for us). We've tried it once 2 years ago and liked it very much. The place is small (so the map has 7500:1 scale) and the forest and terrain are somewhat similar to the Johnson Lake area.

There is no place for Red course, the highest one is Green. But not "regular" Green. The way Josef sets it up is that the course has at least 20 controls on ~4.5 km. It's like a "long" sprint. Definitely feels like sprint. I like sprints - I like this place.

Unfortunately, I don't have a map for the course (as it is COK's event), so no picture today. I'll just say that I ran the course almost cleanly. In one place I missed the control (because of the map deficiency) and lost about 4 minutes. Also overran by two other controls (yeah, 7500:1 scale makes you do that :-) ) - another 2-3 minutes. The rest of the numerous controls were just fine. Ended up spending 48 minutes and getting (I think) second place.

Will COK team do this event next year when Josef is back to Czech Republic?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 7 event in the North Umstead Park

It was rather cold. After all it was a December meet, right?..

Actually, I should rather say that it was hot to run, but cold to walk. I am glad I had spare cloths I could change into at the finish.

Tanya and Michael walked the Orange course and I ran Brown. I thought I would do Green, but changed my mind in the middle of the course - after 3 weeks of nurturing my right leg and non running, I was terribly out of shape... I have to do something about it, even if I can't run I should at least ride the bicycle between the meets.

Anyway, to the course. First of all, I liked it: many controls, short/medium legs, clear forest. Thank you, Artem!

All in all I made just one 3-4 minutes mistake, everything else I took the way I intended to.

#1: down to the creek, up to the road and almost straight shot to the re-entrant and gullies with the control.
#2: up the hill, then down to the north-east side of the clearance, which I used as an attack point.
#3: to the "horse" parking lot, then through the camp, crossed re-entrant and went over the ridge to the re-entrant with control (left from the control), then simply ran right till I found it. The reason I went through the parking lot and the camp was that I was looking for an easy terrain to run. I am not sure it was the best decision but I don't regret making it.
#4: up the hill and watched re-entrant on the right side without going into it. Then up to the road.
There I realized that that hill took nearly all my strength and stopped to decide whether I really want to continue on Green or cut to Brown. I decided to cut to Brown.
#5: used the road, didn't see the trail on the left, but saw the re-entrant, went into it and over the hill to the second one and reached a creek. At least I thought it was a creek, in reality it was a ditch - I was 100 yards more to the left than I thought... Naturally, I went left along the "creek" to find the control, but the "creek" disappeared and I realized my mistake. Returned back, reached the true creek and took the control.
#6: walked all the way up to the road, then ran to the control keeping the power line on my right side.
#7: ran west, noticed the small hill on my right, reached the road and navigated to the hill, then ran down the hill till I reached the small cliff with the control.
#8: to the road and used the road's bend as an attack point. Also watched small re-entrant on the left to find the control.
#9: very easy, using small parking space as an attack point.
#10: used the road all the way, then cut across the creek and used trail to get to the control.
#11: used the trail as much as I could, then walked up the hill to the finish.

Spent 40 mins (according to my watch) or 37 mins (according to the printout).

After the finish I sat down with Mihai, he is going to help with Bond Lake park mapping, which is great. I already did some work there (and will write about it later), but there is plenty of work for both of us for this winter.

Tanya, Michal and I also stayed and helped with controls pickup, so I got the chance to take some of the remaining Green/Red controls.

Here is my route. Click on the image to enlarge. Blue - mostly running, yellow-brown - mostly walking.

From Orienteering