• Team Backcountry

Finding The Way: Orienteering Course

A local Boy Scout turned learning a crucial outdoor skill into an 18-point orienteering course for the Backcountry Wilderness Area in Highlands Ranch.

Photo courtesy of the Jump Family


The idea of getting anywhere with a map, compass, and an internal sense of direction seems like an old-fashioned skill. And yet, a kid raised in the iPhone era thinks it's imperative for people—who recreate in the wild—to rely on something beyond a smartphone. Michael Jump, a sophomore at ThunderRidge High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 870 in Highlands Ranch, is responsible for the Backcountry Wilderness Area's new Orienteering Course.


Completed in mid-May, the course has 18 points than span about 30 acres in the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area. Each course is designed to challenge individuals and teams to utilize a map with coordinates to execute a successful path between the points, marked with six-foot, wooden posts. Michael says he wants people to be prepared for their adventures. "The skill is being able to navigate with a map and compass," says Michael. "It can teach you to find your way without a phone."

"Knowing these skills is an ultimate backup. Like all 10 Essentials, navigation prevents a bad day from becoming a real emergency." Zach Jump, Douglas County Search & Rescue

According to Orienteering USA, a volunteer-run group that focuses on the education and sport of orienteering, says that becoming fluent in orienteering starts with familiarity with maps and a compass and expands as skills become mastered. Other skills that orienteering includes are decision making, understanding the land contour maps, taking note of prominent features like a lake or high point that you can see on a map, understanding boundaries such as ridgelines and rivers, and more. Another focus, especially for Michael, is that the Backcountry Wilderness Area orienteering course can be completed as a team—such as a scout troop—and is setup to teach kids. "I got to do a couple of orienteering courses when I was 12 or 13," Michael says. "It’s a good skill for kids to learn."

Photo courtesy of the Jump Family


Michael took point on the entire project from start to finish including designing the course, raising the funds to build the point posts, and building the course—including knocking the six-foot posts three feet into the ground. He did have quite the ally though, his dad Zach.


Zach Jump has served on the Douglas County Search and Rescue Team for eight years as a volunteer. After completing many search and rescue trainings at the Law Enforcement Training Facilitya neighbor to the Backcountry Wilderness Area, volunteering as support for several HRCA Race Series events, and connecting with Backcountry Director Mark Giebel, Zach knew of the perfect place for Michael's Eagle Scout project be built and serve the community.


"I have done a lot of navigation work," Zach says. "We did this (navigation) a lot when Michael was coming up through Boy Scouts. I taught his troop, but there’s not a lot of places in the area to practice navigation skills nearby. Michael came to Mark (Giebel) with his plan. He had an idea and wanted to implement that."

Photo courtesy of the Jump Family


Zach has seen some innocent mountain adventures turn into full search and rescue scenarios. And, he says that navigation and orienteering can be way more than a skill just to keep in your back pocket—these skills can be the difference between a long day in the woods and an critical emergency.


"If you go into the 10 Essentials (of what to bring in the outdoors), navigation is one of them. The ability to navigate in the outdoors is a self-preservation skill," Zach says. "You can depend on yourself. Batteries die. Electronics don’t like water. A map works all the time. A compass works all the time. Knowing these skills is an ultimate backup. It teaches you the fundamentals so you know what the digital stuff is doing. Like all 10 Essentials, navigation prevents a bad day from becoming a real emergency."

The Backcountry Wilderness Area Orienteering Course will be utilized by Camp Backcountry campers, for local scout troops, and for community programs.


Want to try out the Orienteering Course? Join us on November 14 from Noon-3 p.m. for our Family Survival Challenge! This program is geared toward families with children ages 7+. Click here to register here. For more opportunities to test out the orienteering course, keep an eye on our Nature Programs and Camp Backcountry sessions. If your scout troop or group wants the challenge, reach out to Tara Clark at tara.clark@hrcaonline.org.

The Orienteering Course is in an area of the Backcountry that is only accessible through our guided programs. Use of the course will be through our programs, camps, and reservations for outside groups from time to time.  As with anything in the Backcountry, conservation comes first. Access to the course must be managed and controlled in order to minimize impact to wildlife and habitat.

Lindsey McKissick is the Outreach Coordinator for the Backcountry Wilderness Area. She is Colorado-born, Chicago raised, and Wyoming educated. For Lindsey, there is nothing better than waking up in a warm tent on the side of a remote river with coffee preferably made by someone else. You'll find Lindsey on river rafting/SUPing, mountain biking, or camping with her husband and two pint-size, adventure-seeking daughters


HRCA Backcountry Wilderness Area

One of the gems of Highlands Ranch is the Backcountry Wilderness Area, 8,200 acres of conservation space. 

 

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