If you like being outside and exploring nature, then try orienteering–a sport of navigation. Not only does orienteering provide the physical challenge of exploring nature, but satisfies participants with the mental exercise of navigating to a series of checkpoints using a detailed map and powers of observation. Orienteers use only map and compass to navigate, but compass knowledge is not needed to get started.
At group orienteering events, it is not unusual to see entire families orienteering, either together or on different levels of courses. Orienteering is also an easily planned outdoor activity for youth groups.
Cascade Orienteering Club is the largest and most active orienteering club in Washington. Based in Seattle, the club hosts orienteering events year-round throughout the Puget Sound region. They offer free orienteering instruction to beginners, in addition to events that charge a small fee.
Participate in group orienteering events for a fee. At an orienteering meet, participants are seeking obscure features, such as a boulder in the middle of the woods, that is otherwise of no interest to daily park users. The destination lasts for only one day, since all the checkpoints are removed at the end of the meet. Most group orienteering events are on Saturdays around the Puget Sound region, in locations such as Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, and Kenmore, as well as farther out in Gig Harbor and Moses Lake.
For group orienteering events, check the event schedule. Events are around $20, more or less. Check each event for registration details. You can get a discount on fees by joining Cascade as a member, registering in advance, or volunteering.
Don’t worry if you have no experience with navigation or a compass. You don’t need to know a thing. Most events feature a beginner and intermediate course, or are otherwise adjustable to your ability. Plus, every event is staffed with a newcomer instructor who hangs out near registration to get you started. There’s a lot more info on the Cascade OC FAQ.
Try orienteering on your own for FREE. A regular orienteering meet uses orange and white flags that are present just for a day, but a permanent course features wooden posts or signs that remain in the venue year-round. A permanent course is a beginner-level orienteering course that can be done anytime.
For free orienteering courses, find a permanent orienteering course throughout Puget Sound, and try orienteering at your leisure. Follow the instructions and download a map. A compass is required in order to navigate the course successfully.