Calero County Park
Date: (Sun.) Apr. 2, 2023
Location: San Jose, CA
Event Director: - 408.688.4482
Course Setter: Rich Parker
Type: A; Standard, Classic-distance event for beginners through advanced orienteers; this will be our annual, 1-day, National Ranking Event (NRE) with standard fees (i.e., not normal NRE fees)
Course Setter’s Notes
By Rich Parker
We have interesting and challenging courses. I worked extremely hard to create interesting and challenging courses, with reasonable amounts of climb. Calero is known for its steep terrain, and our events there usually have courses with lots of climb. The amount of climb on this year’s courses is less than usual. I also worked very hard to include as many long legs as possible (for the advanced courses), to provide lots of route-choice options. That is a challenge at Calero, because of the topography, and also because of the number and layout of the trails and roads. I invite you to come out on Sunday, to see for yourself how well I might have done.
Please select the most appropriate course. We want everyone to have a great time, to fully enjoy their orienteering experience. For most people, that means completing your course successfully, without making significant navigation errors, or getting “momentarily confused about where you are”—e.g., without getting lost, even for a short time. There are several keys to being successful: (1) selecting the most appropriate course for your amount of knowledge, skill, and experience; (2) understanding all the relevant map symbols (i.e., all those used on this map); and (3) understanding the control descriptions. At this event we offer 8 courses, which all differ in significant ways. Some people select courses for which they are not well-prepared. This can result in frustration and disappointment, and even in getting lost, if only for a short while. For a detailed guide for what you should know before attempting a particular course, see the Course Selection section of these Notes below.
If you might do the Yellow course, you should understand that generally the controls will be placed behind the feature, not in front of it, as they are for the White course. The purpose of this is to require you to navigate correctly to that feature, and then go around that feature, to locate the control. For example, if you are approaching your tree from the southeast, and the control descriptions show, for that control, that the bag (control) is on the northwest side of that tree, then you will not be able to see the bag from where you are; you will have to identify that tree as the one you want, and then go to that tree and go around it. This makes the navigation more challenging. Some course setters like to place the bags for Yellow courses in front of the feature, to make it easier for the orienteers. I believe this is a disservice to orienteers, in the long run, because that makes it more difficult for them to move up to the next course, Orange—they will be less prepared. The step from Yellow to Orange is the biggest step between all the courses, in terms of skills required, and so, making it easier for Yellow orienteers now, only makes it even more difficult when they move up to Orange.
There are many signs in the park, such as “TRAILS CLOSED TO ALL USERS”, “ALL PARK USERS MUST REMAIN ON POSTED TRAILS”, and “Do Not Enter – Not a Trail”. You may disregard all these signs, except for the signs blocking off an indistinct trail that orienteers created years ago as a shortcut. Orienteers who have been to Calero before will probably be looking for that trail. The rangers have erected a long barbed-wire fence at the near end of that trail (the eastern end, near parking), and fence posts at the far end (the southwest end), and placed signs at both places. We must obey those signs—they are for us! You must not use this old shortcut. Our ability to keep using this park depends on no one taking that shortcut. It will also help us keep our ability to use this park by being fastidious about cleaning up after ourselves, everywhere in the park, including the portable toilets. Also, out-of-bounds areas are clearly shown on the map by vertical red lines. Be sure to not go into those areas.
The map is great. I spent a huge amount of time at Calero, using this map to navigate. Almost always, I went to exactly where I wanted to go. But you have to know what the symbols on the map represent—all of them, really, not just a few. The White and the Yellow course maps have Legends on them, which define the symbols; but those definitions are very brief, and it would be very helpful if you had a more comprehensive understanding of their meaning. The other six course maps do not have Legends on them. We plan to have separate Legends at registration, which will be available for you to study. The person doing the Beginner Clinics will also have some—that person can also answer questions you might have about the maps and symbols.
To be able to successfully navigate on this map, it will also help greatly if you are fully aware of the following:
- It is an old map—most of the vegetation features are still quite good (particularly groups of trees [white areas], which can be of huge importance in navigating through mostly open spaces), but some vegetation features, such as green and green slash, are out of date, and you cannot rely on finding small clearings, or using them to navigate.
- Winter storms have resulted in many downed trees. You cannot go through them—you have to go around. I have added some to the map in critical places, but many remain unmapped.
- Winter storms have also caused a great deal of erosion. Many of the mapped small erosion gullies—lines of small brown dots on the map—have become full-blown gullies, some of which are full of water right now, and some of which can be dangerous to cross in a few places. Small erosion gully is the name for this map symbol in the current orienteering mapping standards (ISOM 2017-2 [PDF/985KB]). The Legend on this map describes that symbol as a dry ditch; others have defined it as a seasonal water channel.
- Some map symbols are confusing. The Legend on this map shows:
- A green × = a “ruined tree”: This could be either the remnants of a tree that are on the ground, or a standing dead tree, which could be very tall, or very short, the rest of the tree having fallen over.
- A brown × = a “rootstock”: This is the root system of a tree, exposed because the tree has fallen over.
- A green T = a “long ruined tree”: This is generally a large tree that has fallen over, so you have to go around it. The long shank of the tee points in the direction that the tree has fallen.
- Thus a “ruined tree” can be represented on the map in three different ways. So you need to be flexible when you have a control that is on one of those mapped features. For example, if the control description shows Rootstock (the ×-in-a-circle symbol), you should look at the middle of the circle to see how it’s mapped so that you will know what you are looking for.
- Regarding mapped trees on this map: Some mapped trees have fallen over or died standing, and some mapped downed trees have disappeared. I have re-mapped some of these, where I thought it could be critical. If I had tried to re-map them all, I would still be out there now.
- International mapping standards specify minimum sizes for objects (on the ground) to be shown on an orienteering map. But those standards allow for some leeway. For example, boulders should be at least 1 meter high, but there are boulders on this map that are half that size. That means you should not assume that the boulder you are looking at, on the ground, is actually on the map—although, if it’s at least a meter high, that’s a pretty safe assumption. But it is not a safe assumption for smaller boulders.
- Similarly for trails: old, mapped, indistinct trails could have disappeared on the ground (or be very hard to see). Animal trails are not on the map, though they can be useful while navigating, since they often go along contour lines.
- The symbols used on orienteering maps are a standard size. The size they appear to be on the map is often somewhat different from the size of the actual object on the ground (such as trees, bushes, boulders, cliffs, and roads). And many symbols cannot appear on top of each other, because it would make them unclear at some map scales; thus there needs to be a gap between many symbols. If you have a tree and a cliff that are actually 5 meters apart on the ground, and on the map you measure from the center of the tree to the center of the cliff, this distance would appear to be much greater. The point here is that the size of objects, and the distance between objects, may be different on the ground than they are on the map. So you should be careful in estimating distances between objects.
- Most orienteers will not need to know this, but advanced orienteers should know that this Calero map does not meet the International Orienteering Federation’s current mapping standards (ISOM 2017-2 [PDF/985KB]). I can discuss this with anyone who is interested, in as much detail as you might want.
There is a remote Start. The path to the Start will be marked with red flags. It will follow roads from the parking lot to the Start. You must follow this marked route. It is about 1250 meters long, with a climb of 100 meters. That is a lot of climb—while you are enjoying this climb, remember that you are doing the climb now, instead of while on your course (and on the clock), so you can enjoy it more now. You should allow 20 to 30 minutes for this walk. Do not take any shortcuts.
The walk to the Start goes by the Finish. You might take this opportunity to check out the final control (the “GO” control) and the actual Finish. I expect to be at the Finish most of the time, until 1 PM. If you have any questions about orienteering skills or how to acquire them, or mapping, this would be a good time to ask me—before you go out on your course, rather than afterwards. Afterwards, you may have questions also; please feel free to ask me, at any time you can find me. You must take the same route from the Finish back to the download station and the parking lot—no shortcuts are allowed.
There will be water on the courses. And we might have water at the Start (which will depend in part on how much help we get). If you think you might want water at the Start and/or the Finish, we encourage you to take water with you on the walk to the Start, and leave it near the Finish. Then you can drink just before you complete the walk to the Start, and also immediately after you finish.
Here are the details of the Start procedure:
- You will get your start time from the person staffing the Start.
- The start interval is 2 minutes. The start interval is to separate runners on the same course, to reduce following, which is discouraged and against the rules. So you may be able to start shortly after you arrive at the Start, or you may have to wait a while since there may be others on your course starting ahead of you.
- Remember to CLEAR and CHECK your E-punch stick before you start.
- Your actual start time is recorded (in your E-stick) when you punch the Start unit, so you do not need to punch exactly at the clock time.
- You can pick up your map and put it in a map case, if you want, just before your start time, but you are not allowed to look at the map until you have punched the Start E-punch unit. Be sure to pick up your map from the correct bin—ask the staffer to check it, if you want, since you cannot look at it before you start. Otherwise, you can check it immediately after your start.
- Separate control descriptions are provided.
- SI-Air mode is active on E-punch units at the controls and the Finish—however, you might need to actually punch the START unit.
As noted above, there might not be water at the Start—please plan accordingly.
You are allowed to warm up along the road leading to the Start, but not off the road.
There is a common first control—all the courses have the same first control. That control is out of sight from the Start. This is a common practice, so that starters cannot see which way their competitors run, and thus get an unfair advantage from that.
The courses close at 2:00 PM. This means we will start picking up the controls (removing them) at 2:00 PM. If you are still out on a course as 2:00 approaches, please come directly back to the Finish or to the parking lot, whichever is closer for you. If you stay out longer “just to get that last control”, you will likely be very frustrated and search for it forever, because it may have been removed by the time you get there. You can avoid this happening to you by starting early, allowing yourself plenty of time to complete your course.
At the Finish, we will not collect maps until the last starter has started. (That is done at national events to insure that no one will gain an unfair advantage by seeing a map before they have gone out.) Accordingly, please do not show your map or discuss your course with anyone who has not yet gone out on their course.
Be very sure to go to the E-punch download station before you depart from the event. This is particularly important if you did not punch the E-punch unit at the Finish. If you do not download, we (and Search and Rescue Teams) could spend the night searching for you in the park.
Rangers have placed pink and orange streamers and flags throughout the park. They are not ours. Please do not be distracted by them.
Be Alert for Hazards
You could encounter the following hazards on your course:
- Poison oak: There is a significant amount of poison oak in the park, but it’s easy to see this time of year (if you know what to look for), and thus it’s fairly easy to avoid in most places.
- Ticks: There are ticks in the park—not a great many, but definitely some. You should check yourself for ticks within 48 hours of doing your course.
- Barbed wire, from either existing, standing fences, or fallen fences. Most are clearly mapped. Just be careful when crossing those places.
- Footing: Be particularly careful when crossing gullies and streams, and on steep hillsides. Do not try go over cliffs that are mapped as uncrossable, or take other such risks.
- Horses: As of this writing, the park is closed to equestrians, so this should not be a problem. If that changes, and the rangers open the park to horses and riders, you should understand that they have the right of way, and be careful not to startle the horses.
Here are the course details:
Course Length Climb Controls Map Scale Navigational OUSA Winning-Time (km) (m) (%) Difficulty Guideline (min) White 3.0 135 4.5 12 1:7,500 Beginner 20 – 30 Yellow 3.0 115 3.8 12 1:7,500 Advanced Beginner 25 – 40 Orange 3.3 140 4.2 11 1:7,500 Intermediate 35 – 50 Brown-Y 2.5 80 3.2 8 1:7,500 Advanced 40 – 50 Brown-X 3.1 100 3.2 8 1:7,500 Advanced 40 – 50 Green 4.5 165 3.7 12 1:10,000 Advanced 45 – 55 Red 5.8 290 5.0 13 1:10,000 Advanced 60 – 75 Blue 7.4 375 5.1 16 1:10,000 Advanced 70 – 80
- In addition to the usual seven courses, we have added a short Brown course, Brown-Y, for those orienteers who might prefer a shorter (less physical) Brown course.
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 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 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 many 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, controls in sequence, Finish); and (c) what the control descriptions mean.
- How to find your current location on the map.
- How to figure out where to go next.
- How to fold the map and use it to keep track of your location and progress on the map (folding and “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 [the appearance of contour lines]).
- 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 go around the boulder (or tree, 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.
- Have completed at least one Yellow course without significant navigation errors.
- 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—backwards! (That is, think from the next control back to where you are.)
- 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 further guidance about this—explanation or clarification of any of these items—please ask the person doing the Beginner Clinics, preferably, or at Registration or E-punch—both of those later two places are likely to be busy, so the Clinic person would be better.
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 until 1:00 PM. It is helpful for me to understand what problems people might have on my courses, and that is also a great way for you to learn 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 that error. That’s a potent tool in becoming a better orienteer.