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Joaquin Miller Park

Date: (Sat.) Oct. 25, 2008
Location: Oakland, CA
Event Director: - 510.681.6181
Course Setters: Bruce Wolfe, Jay Hann
Type: C; FREE day of orienteering, the kickoff of our 2nd BAOC COOL season, and a celebration of the BAOC 30th anniversary

Course Setter's Notes

By Bruce Wolfe

First the Course Statistics

  Course     Length     Climb    Controls
  White      1.6 km     220 ft       6
  Yellow     2.0 km     420 ft       7
  Orange     3.2 km     740 ft       9
  "Retro"    4.4 km    1240 ft      14

Background on the Park

Joaquin Miller Park is a proper match for Oakland's diversity: it has many and varied habitats, many and varied geographical features, and many and varied man-made features. That variety, from the redwood forest "up top" down through pine, oak, acacia, and eucalyptus woodlands to "the meadow" and Woodminister Amphitheater, makes it both a joy and a challenge for orienteers. However, as an urban park, it still suffers from what many municipal parks suffer from: infrequent habitat management, uneven facilities maintenance, and uncontrolled use in certain areas—factors that remind orienteers that Joaquin Miller Park is much different from a wilderness park or even most of the Bay Area's regional parks.

Nonetheless, it is the Bay Area Orienteering Club's de-facto "home terrain", host to more event days over the past 30 years than any other club venue, and in constant use by the club for events, trainings, and social gatherings. Joe Scarborough first mapped it in 1978 for the Far West Pathfinders Orienteering Club, the group that became BAOC later that year. That 1:12000 map was based on the USGS quad, and, while in three colors, did not fully employ International Orienteering Federation (IOF) mapping symbols. The next edition, Magnus Rehn's 1982 1:10000 version, was a significant improvement in terms of IOF symbol use and map accuracy, but was produced in black/white/gray. That map was updated in 1991 to "full color", but little of the map detail was updated at that time. Map updates by Joe and others have been ongoing since then, mainly in the redwood forest "up top", so the version in use today includes updates as recent as 2003 in the redwood forest, while much of the mapping in the western portion of the map still dates to 1982.


OK, but what about the courses for October 25? Patience, grasshopper! All of the above is background to note that the courses go through many types of vegetation, past both busy and tranquil settings, and mix one of the club's nicest areas of relatively flat open forest with steeper sections and thicker vegetation. The terrain has few rock features, thus the courses rely heavily on less precise geographical features and, on the less advanced courses, man-made features. Likewise, given the age of the mapping, the accuracy of the map varies: much mapped vegetation has changed, and I've tried to have the courses go past or around the largest of such areas. In a few spots, mostly in the western part of the park, there have been changes to the man-made features. And, given the heavy use of the park, especially by mountain bikers, trail use is uneven and may not match the map, while additional paths exist in all areas of the map. Thus, while some details may not remain (or never were) accurate, overall the map remains quite useable.

The White course is nearly all on trails or paths, but if you become disoriented, head up hill until you reach Skyline to return to the parking and Start/Finish. The Yellow course is predominately on or near trails, but there are many more trails to choose from. The course does drop downhill close to the meadow before climbing back up through the redwoods. The Orange course has a mix of on- and off-trail, but never too far from major features. It drops down past the meadow, ultimately to Woodminister Amphitheater before climbing back up for a final section through the flatter redwood terrain.

Ah, the Retro course! This course was inspired by the Danish map made for the IOF 25th Anniversary in 1986, which mapped six sections of a contiguous forest to each of the six different map standards that existed during those 25 years. At the 1986 IOF Congress, we then used that map to complete a course that went through all six sections.

Thus, for the Retro course, I've combined the current 1:10000 map with the 1978 1:12000 map. The current map covers the portion of the course in the redwood forest "up top" and most of the hillsides dropping down to the meadow, while the 1978 map covers the portion of the course that goes into the western section of the map, in the vicinity of the Woodminister Amphitheater. Since the map scales are slightly different, the edges of the two maps don't fully align—but that's part of the challenge. Thus, the early and late parts of the course will rely more on precision navigation, while the middle more on rough navigation.

All the courses will use pin punches, while the Retro course even uses master maps. Hey, we did it that way for years—give it a shot!