Permanent White Course at Shell Ridge

Insights on the Briones Regional Park Permanent Courses

By Judy Koehler (April 3, 2009)

This is the second in a series of articles on the "in's and out's" of the permanent courses available to Bay Area orienteers. Permanent courses can be a big help to those who want stress-free practice, or those wanting more experience for upcoming COOL or scouting events.

The second park to be reviewed is Briones Regional Park in Martinez, which has three permanent courses: White, Yellow, and Orange. The course labeled "White" should be viewed as more of an advanced beginner course (instead of the normal beginner rating) due to the distance to control #1 and the lack of a defined trail on the final approach to controls #5 and #6. The Yellow course is an advanced beginner course, and the Orange course is at an intermediate level.

The first step is to print the map and the instructions from the BAOC website, baoc.org (on any page, look for the Permanent Courses link in the left-hand menu). Please note that on the maps for the Yellow and Orange courses the international symbols for the clues are displayed. But the instructions you printed with the maps have the English translations. For the White course, the exact opposite is true: The course map has the English translation, and the instruction sheet has the international symbols.

When you go to the courses, you will need a pen or pencil (crayons for children) to mark your map at each control.

The three courses all navigate clockwise from the starting post located halfway between the water fountain and the permanent restroom building. The courses do share some controls, which makes it easier to supervise children with different course maps.

While the fire roads and foot trails in this section of Briones are very distinct and in great shape, the same cannot be said for the numbering on the controls. There is a mix of original numbers and replacement plaques with letters on the posts. Some have numbers missing, some letters are faint, and some have nothing visible. The control for White #4 has lost all of it's orienteering identity, but it is at the right trail crossing and has "Orchard Trail" down it's side. Also, shared control Yellow #2/Orange #3, and the Orange #4, are on the ground. However, both fell exactly where they were standing, so with a careful reading of the map you should be able to locate the 3-foot-long 4X4 posts. So, when you come to one of these controls, just "tick" the clue on your map after first checking, of course, that you are at the right spot. After all, this is just practice. On the approach to the final control for all three courses, it is permissible to go over the gate or under the fence where it has been raised.

Be advised the park does have roaming cattle, horseback riders, and dogs off leash. There is a fee to park. A bonus awaits orienteers just south of White control #1. Tree branches from the adjoining forest fence off a stone labyrinth. Notes can be left in the logbook at the center.

For all three courses, the controls west of the Start/Finish post (except one) are in close proximity to each other, or are shared controls, allowing for easy supervision of children on multiple courses. The exception is Orange control #12.

But the first portion of all three courses is east of the Start/Finish post. Standing on the hill near Orange #5 allows an adult to see the children on the Yellow and Orange courses find their first controls. The next section for both courses is in or near the wooded areas, so may require "shadowing" through this section. Then after the child on the Orange course finds control #5, head for the fire road leading to Yellow #4. From this vantage point the child on the Orange course is visible as they go south to get control #6 and then climb to control #7 to meet up with the child on the Yellow course waiting at their shared control. From here, walk south on the trail to start the child on the White course on their first controls. Once you cross the main north/south fire road, supervision can be from fire roads and trails, allowing for a little more independence except for Orange control #12.

If you don't feel there is the time to do the full length of all the courses, doing White controls #1 and #2, and all the controls west of the Start/Finish post except Orange control #12, will give you a good taste of orienteering with less physical challenge and easier supervision of children.

Above all be safe and have fun.