Calero County Park
Date: (Sun.) Nov. 10, 2019
Location: San Jose, CA
Event Director: - 408.599.9709
Course Setter: Rich Parker
Type: B; Standard seven-course event for beginners through advanced
Course Setter’s Notes
By Rich Parker
Calero County Park is known for its steep terrain. BAOC events there traditionally have lots of climb, much higher than course-setting guidelines recommend. The challenge I set for myself was to design courses with reasonable amounts of climb (in other words, much less climb), but also ones that had lots of route choice. I hope you will come out to see how well I did!
For example, here are the climb percentages for the Blue course at all the BAOC B-meets at Calero since 2011:
- 2018 – 7.9%
- 2017 – 7.1%
- 2015 – 5.7%
- 2012 – 6.5%
- 2011 – 7.2%
(There were no BAOC events at Calero in 2016 and 2013; 2014 was a 2-day A-meet.)
This year’s Blue course at Calero has 4.7% climb. That pattern—a large difference from recent history—generally holds true for all the courses this year. In short, you can expect much more reasonable amounts of climb.
Another striking feature of our recent Calero events is the number of people who did not finish their courses (DNF’s). Perhaps that was largely the result of the steep terrain and amounts of climb. If so, it should be a lot better this year. But that also may have been partly due to people selecting courses for which they are not fully prepared. Successful orienteering (finishing your course, without making significant navigation errors) requires an increasing amount of knowledge and skill, as you move up in difficulty level. We want everyone to be successful, so I want to encourage you to select the most appropriate course for your level of knowledge, skill, and experience. At the end of these Notes I provide a brief description of what you should know before attempting a particular course. Please be sure to read it carefully, if you are not sure about which course to choose.
The White course and the Yellow course travel in entirely different parts of the park, so that people can do both courses without overlap. If you want to do that, we suggest you start early on the White course, so you will have time to also do the Yellow course before starts close at 12:30.
The maps will be printed at a scale of 1:7,500 for White, Yellow, and Brown, and at 1:10,000 for Orange, Green, Red, and Blue. For all the courses, the contour interval is 25 feet, which is 7.6 meters.
The vegetation as mapped is very good for an old map. Most of the bigger vegetation features—such as vegetation boundaries between open forest and open land, as well as larger areas of green slash and thickets—are generally quite reliable, but not always. Some of the green slash has grown or changed or thinned. What has changed more are the point features, such as trees, downed trees, snags, etc. Those are not always so reliable. Some have changed over time, as you would expect. I have made many map corrections, to update the map in critical places (such as in or near control circles, and along some of the more obvious routes). Thus, some trees on the map have now become fallen trees, or snags (standing dead trees), and some old fallen trees have disappeared from the map. Many of the remaining mapped fallen trees are pretty small. Sometimes you have to get pretty close to see them in the grass. In any case, there are fallen trees and snags that are not mapped, so you should be very careful about using them solely to navigate from.
The same is true with some rock features: occasionally those features are fairly small (less than 0.5 meters), and you have to get pretty close to see them in the grass.
Many vegetation boundaries that are mapped as “distinct” are no longer distinct.
There are a great many animal trails through the grass in the open land, reflecting the abundance of wildlife in the park. They are not mapped, of course, but some of them are more distinct than are some of the mapped “indistinct trails”. Be wary of assuming that they are elephant tracks, left earlier in the day by previous orienteers; they are most likely animal tracks. They can be very useful, though, in finding a fast way through grass fields.
There are out-of-bounds areas clearly marked on the map. They are not marked on the ground. It is important for you to stay out of these areas, for our ability to be able to continue to use this fine park for orienteering. (I have designed the courses so that it would make no sense to go through them.)
The footing is maybe the biggest hazard: the long dry season has resulted in conditions that can be quite slippery on the sides of hills, especially on steep hills (the dry grass and leaf litter can be very slippery, and the soil is often quite loose under trees). Thus we suggest some kind of cleated shoe for the Orange and advanced courses, and shoes with decent traction for the Yellow course.
Most of the open land is covered by various types of dead grasses, star thistles, and other, bigger thistles, up to chest high (though mostly much shorter, say ankle- to shin-high), so most people will want to wear some kind of pants or leg protection, rather than wearing shorts. And because of all the burrs and stickers, you will probably also want to wear some kind of gaiters, to avoid spending a long time pulling off burrs and stickers later.
There is poison oak in the park, but not a great deal, at least not in the areas where I have set controls and traveled. It is fairly easy to avoid, although less easy to recognize this time of year, with most of the leaves gone. (The bare stalks do still pose a hazard.)
There is barbed wire, most of it pretty well-mapped. You should be aware that some of the mapped ruined fences have barbed wire mostly lying on the ground, so it can be hard to see, and thus easy to trip over.
There is a lot of wildlife—deer, coyotes, pigs, turkeys, hawks, ducks, geese—but not much that is a real danger. This is mountain lion country, the signs say. But I have heard of none, and some people think those signs are there to protect the county liability. That said, you should be aware of the precautions to take in case you do encounter one. There are also rattlesnakes, so I am told. I have spent a lot of time out there in the last few weeks, and never saw or heard one. But the same caveat applies: be aware of the precautions to take.
You may encounter horses with riders on some trails and roads. If so, they have the right of way. Be sure not to startle the horses—for example, don’t go running at them or by them, especially from behind.
There are some orange streamers throughout the park, mostly attached to trees. The rangers have placed these; they are not ours. Do not be distracted by them. We will not leave any of our streamers in the park, except for the streamers described below.
Start and Finish
There is a remote Start. The path to it, from the parking lot, will be along a marked route. The path will be about 850 meters long, with about 100 meters of climb. That’s a lot of climb, as you will agree when you make the walk; but that’s climb that is off the clock—not on your course—so you can take your leisure. This allowed for lower climb numbers on the courses. Please allow about 15 minutes for the walk to the Start.
The Start (where your time begins) will not be at the Start Triangle (shown on the map). You will travel from the Start over a streamered/marked path, to the Start Triangle. (Everyone must do this.) There will be a bag there, marking the spot (the Start Triangle), but no punch. Please note this carefully, since this is often confusing to folks not familiar with this type of start—they tend to think that they may have arrived at the first control, rather than the Start Triangle, and are confused by the lack of an E-punch unit. This type of Start is done so that the people waiting to start cannot observe what route choices the earlier starters are making.
The walk to the Start will go past the Finish, so you might take that opportunity to check out the Finish. It is a 5-minute walk from the Finish back to the parking lot, along the same streamered path, downhill all the way!
What follows is a brief guide for what you should know before attempting a particular course. (Different coaches might provide a somewhat different list.) The goal of this (final) section is to help you select the course that is the most appropriate for you, right now, so that you will be more likely to have a successful experience, and thus a great time.
(For basic information about the seven courses offered, see the BAOC webpage What Courses and Competitive Classes Are Offered?.)
For the White course, you should understand:
- How to orient your map, both with and without a compass.
- That you should never look at a map without orienting it first.
- How to read and interpret: (a) the map legend and some of the key symbols on the map (for example, a road, a fence, a trail, a tree, a thicket, a bush, a boulder, open forest, open land, vegetation boundary); (b) how a course is shown on the map (Start Triangle, controls in sequence, Finish); and (c) what the control descriptions mean.
- How to find your current location of the map.
- How to figure out where to go next.
- How to keep track of your location and progress on the map (“thumbing”).
For the Yellow course, you should understand:
- Everything listed above for the White course.
- How to read additional symbols on the map (for example, the symbols for a standing tree, a fallen tree, a dead stump [snag], a boulder cluster, a cliff, stony ground, and a hill [contour line appearance]).
- What an Attack Point is, and, more importantly, how and when to use one.
- That, in general, you should expect to find the terrain feature that the control is on, before you see the flag/bag/control—for example, if you are approaching (a tree or boulder, etc.) from the south, the flag will normally be on the north side, so you will not see it until you walk around the feature (tree or boulder, etc.). In other words, the idea is that, by design, you are supposed to find the terrain object before you see the flag—thus you need to select the tree or boulder, based on your reading of the map, and go to it. This is totally different from the White course.
- What speed control is, and how to use it (aka Red Light, Green Light Orienteering).
- That a good Yellow leg (from one control to the next) will often have at least two route choices—one off-trail route (a shorter, more direct route), and an on-trail route (safer, but longer); you should look for and consider both routes, to be able to select the one that will be best for you. You cannot select a route that you do not see.
For the Orange course, you should understand:
- Everything listed above for the Yellow course.
- How to read additional symbols on the map (for example, erosion gully, small erosion gully [aka dry ditch]).
- When and how to Aim Off (what Aiming Off is).
- What a Collecting Feature is, and how and when to use one.
- When and how to Enlarge or Extend a Control.
- How to Plan a Route to the next control—working backwards!
- How and when to Pace Count (use Distance Estimation).
For the Advanced courses (Brown through Blue), you should:
- Understand everything listed for the three courses above.
- Have completed at least one Orange course without significant navigation errors.
When in doubt, be conservative in your choice, and move up only when you are ready.
If you would like some instruction—some explanation or clarification—of any of these items, please ask at Registration and/or at the Start. You could ask for me, if I’m available; I hope to be at one of those two places, until about 11:00 AM.
If you have any navigational difficulties on your course, please feel free to find me and talk with me about them. (I hope to be at the Finish after 11:00 AM.) I would like to understand what problems people might have on my courses. Also, a great way for you to learn is from your mistakes. The key to that, though, is to identify exactly what your mistakes were, and then you can figure out what you might have done to avoid them. That’s a potent tool in becoming a better orienteer.