Reflections on "Bramble Ramble —Extreme"
Pete Curtis, Minnesota O Club
article with photos)
"Bramble Ramble - Extreme" was the nickname for a national
A-meet held by the Chicago Area Orienteering Club on the weekend
of April 26-27, 2002, and the name would prove apt. A number of
MNOC members took time off to head down there and we all enjoyed
the event. In fact, it was the very first A-meet for me.
It was held in Palos North, a large triangular area of heavily
wooded forest preserve southwest of Chicago. Palos North is moderately
hilly, with few open areas, a small number of lakes and marshes,
and many parallel stream-cut ravines. The understory vegetation
was well on its way to leafing out, and there were some areas with
very dense, prickly vegetation. A good route choice turned out to
be important for comfort as well as for time.
We drove down early Friday to take part in the model event that
after-noon. This event was held at Cap Sauers Holding, a smaller
nearby wooded area that proved to have some pretty vicious brambles.
Ian later remarked that the light green areas on this map should
have been mapped as fight—the brambles would let you in, but
not let you out!
Friday evening we decided to drive into Chicago for a little sightseeing.
Richard was our impromptu tour guide, since he used to live in Chicago
many years ago. He took us down Lake Shore Drive, past Soldier Field,
Buckingham Fountain, and Navy Pier. We got off near Lincoln Park
Zoo and walked around the Lincoln Park area, unfortunately looking
like some out-of-town tourists who stumbled into the middle of a
happening nightlife scene.
Saturday started out cool and cloudy. On this day, we were all
regis-tered for the Red course, so it was going to be a head-to-head
comp-etition. We found our way down to Palos Hills, and since we
had a pretty large MNOC representation, we set out our big club
banner next to the shelter to act as a meeting place.
Ian and I were the first to start, and immediately afterwards,
the rain started to come down. The heavy downpour left standing
water on the trails and made the leaf-covered slopes muddy and slick.
Most of us took at least one awkward tumble, and no doubt got up
hoping no one had seen. Those of us with glasses were particularly
affected by the rain. I had to run a good portion of the course
without my glasses on, and Ian had a tough time of it as well.
The Day 1 Red course was 15 controls and 7.8 km. Ian and I
had an exciting finish, as we bumped into each other looking for
the 14th control. We had a dead run to the finish, but Ian got a
clean punch on the 15th control and came in ahead by about six feet.
Richard and Julia had the latest start times, and there was another
exciting finish as they both emerged from the woods at about the
same time and ran for the last control.
Carl Sack and Roberto Cattaneo were both on Red as well, so we
stayed nearby to cheer them on and snap a few photos. Since we were
all tired, cold, and wet, going back to the hotel to dry off was
a priority. As usual, everyone checked their route and analyzed
the mistakes they made on their runs.
The next morning, the rain had stopped but a gusty northwest wind
had picked up. It wasn't wet, but still just as cold as the day
before. It turns out that we had it better off then the folks back
here in the Twin Cities—at least it didn't snow on us! But
there was standing water on the ground from the previous day's rain,
and the trails were churned into a sloppy, muddy mess.
The Day 2 Red course was 17 controls and only 7.4 km, and
with the improved weather, everyone finished with significantly
better times than the day before. However, I joined Owen to brave
the 10.9 km, 21 control Blue course. Because the Blue and Red
courses were set mostly in the same area, but in opposite directions,
runners on each course got to see people on the other course coming
straight at them. It made things a little more exciting than the
typical run, where you can go for several controls without seeing
Unfortunately, we weren't able to put our collective feet up on
this second day, since we had a 7-hour drive ahead of us. We made
a brief stop at the hotel to get cleaned up, and left Chicago right
Altogether, "Bramble Ramble" was a fast and exhilarating
weekend. Thanks to everyone who came down and made it a great time.
Next time, I hope we can convince more folks to come with us, to
travel, socialize and "ramble" through the woods, wherever
they might be.