Team Stories – An Inconvenient Hoof
April 19, 2007
An Inconvenient Hoof (R.Hughes, S.Pottie)
16/36 teams in PC-24
Spring, a Friday night, it’s cold and raining and I’m in Halifax. It has to be E2C weekend. Yes. 2007, ten years since the epic and groundbreaking Maxi-Moose rogaine that got this all started, in the wild hills of Wentworth. We’ve all learned a few things since then, but some habits never change, such as the night-before pasta feed. Steve and I hungrily tucked in, listening to the rain. We chased this up with an hour or so of rummaging in the gear bins, sorting food, rigging packs and throwing stuff about, then it was bed…listening to the drumming on the roof and gurgling in the downspouts. We’d be wet tomorrow, so what, we were used to it.
Saturday early..off to Hubbards and the registration HQ. In through the door and – woah! A long line-up greeted us. As ever, we were over-eager to get our hands on the map. Dull, damp and chilly. Maps in hand, the brain-cudgelling began, what route was best? We withdrew to the inner sanctum of Steve’s van, avoiding the din in the reg. Hall. Gotta think clearly here. Hmm. more complex this year with the introduction of extra points for a couple of “series” of controls, hilltops in the north and lakes in the south. As ever, crossing the map east-west was the problem – apart from the fact that we could never cover the whole thing. After trying several trial routes we hit on a plan of an anti-clockwise loop to the north first, followed by a loop to the southweast (also anticlockwise). This didn’t include either the lakes or hilltop series (perhaps an error, on reflection), but the scatter of controls did not fit with our preferred loops and the extra points did not seem that significant, especially for the northern hilltop series. Hitting on a plan and agreeing on it is always a good moment. Now we just have to do it…
Off to the start, and something is wrong. We shift uneasily under our packs. Heck – it’s not raining. Oh well! What can you do? Off down the hill. We appeared to be at the front of the walking pack and the back of the running one. Good enough. In to punch 204. One down, 59 to go. We turned north and bagged 212 next. This was like eating peanuts. On the main track towards our next target, 211, we were overhauled by a heaving pack of runners, gasping instructions to one another as they hustled along. We came level with the small trail that lead in to 211 in and quietly turned in. The runners kept on going past on the main trail. We continued stealthily on towards the control, and it was some time before we heard the running crew panting behind us again, heh heh! They vowed this was their token mistake and it would not happen again! We stuck to our steady pace. The runners sploshed away. 195 was next, no problem. Met up with team “The Lost”, who didn’t appear to be. Finding the way in to 130 required some careful distance measurement, we used time and pace counting to locate the side trail. We were doing OK. 5 down. On northwards, we looked for the water drop marked on the map but there was no sign of it. Turned in and headed to 203. The start of lakeside vegetation-bashing, including the dreaded “wire brush bushes”, those tangly, rough, wiry things that do all they can to slow down, entangle, throw off-balance and annoy the passing rogainer. But we were still fresh at this stage and shot on through to 203 and 197. Fresh? Perhaps, but still hungry. We sat on some hunks of moss and consumed some rations. It was quiet, a bit misty, the lakes were placid and beautiful. On towards 246 and 139, together worth 1100 points. A climb in to 246 across a rough clearcut. There were The Lost again. Up the hill to 139. On
This was annoying, but soon we were cruising in to get 215, passing a team or two merrily cooking up supper on a smoky fire. A longish road leg, then in following the stream south towards 128. A big stream that inspired confidence, but it had a few tricks in store as well. Good progress, then suddenly the water was there, but all quiet. This was a cut-off meander with no flow in it. East a bit to regain the main stem. Then…bad country, as the stream spread out into a tangle of bogs and wire bushes, hard to follow. Slow progress to 128, which we found after a while in the middle of a hideous expanse of swamp. On towards 124. Another stream that went underground, and confusing terrain, but perseverance paid off and we punched in and left, although not before we both sunk waist-deep in stinking, icy black ooze as we tried to cross the innocent-looking stream across from the control. Lovely! We joined the track leading to the start/finish. The last few controls had slowed our progress greatly and we rolled in to the gear tent about two hours later than we’d estimated at dusk. Still, we were feeling pretty good and now it was change and eat time, which always gives a welcome boost. Steve grazed on his hunks of pizza while I slurped down soup and noodles. Wet socks steamed on the ground, the generators droned. We took a few minutes to lie back and recharge, leaving again at 0155. One or two other teams were gearing up and left ahead of us. First stop was 129, a measly 100 points, but should be easy. A team was hanging about on the road, having seemingly been unable to find it. Back of quarry. In we went. There’s a trail. In a bit, and there’s the control. Like that reflective tape! Steve was struggling, what was he up to?? He was floundering in a pile of slash. He had the punch card, so I waited..the other team followed in and punched too.
Then a fast haul on the road down to the southwestern lakes cluster, three controls worth 1100 points. Full darkness. We approached 175 carefully, pace counting in to the stream outflow, which was a good job, as it was underground. NE towards the control. There it is! Then round the lake (more wire bushes) and up and over a small but steep hill to get 125. There was the lake. Control on top of bluff. Some thick bush here, but found it easily enough. Now we needed to skirt Kip Hill Lake to get 138. We started off and discovered first a bridge, then, wonder of wonders, a decent ATV trail heading in just the right direction. What a break! We followed the trail gratefully, emerging almost right on the control location for 138, there’s the shore, so up the end of that cove is the control. Except..there’s no sign of it. What? This has to be it. Check everything. Yup, it all checks out. We hacked all round the shore in the area, quartering every section of bush and fighting lakeshore shrubbery. Any sign of it? No. Control description says tip of lake and we’re right there. When this happens you can start to question everything, did we do a 180? Are we on the wrong lake? And so on. But we obviously weren’t. Time passed and we went in increasingly larger search patterns, getting more and more fed up, this was 400 points and we needed to get them. The lights of another team were visible to the east, looking on a headland. Why were they there? Was everyone lost??
An hour of searching went by, still no control. Dawn arrived. Team MEC Search Engines emerged in the same area as we were in, also searching without success. Now it was light. There was nothing for it – we had to bail and get moving. On the way out we noticed some pink tape just off the side of the trail. What!? A closer look. In the woods on the west side and up a steep bank hung the control. Arggh! What was it doing there? In exasperation we punched in and left. We were relieved to finally bag the points, but our navigation had not been rewarded on this one. An hour and a half had been used up. A steep climb up a hill on the way to 233, then what seemed like a long hike in around the southern shore, pushing through dense small spruces, then more wire bushes. We were getting tired! Still, we were moving steadily. Now we were out of time to get 131, 213, 163 and 240, that had been on our original plan. We met team R squared preparing to go in for 237. Should we go for it too? A debate. We figured we had time, and set off. The going was pretty good. No sign of the R squared guys. We back-tracked out and continued on towards Skinner Lake. Here were R squared again. We went in together, clambering over deadfalls and slash. Ka-ching, another 200 points. Followed the stream towards 219, here was the lake junction, but where oh where was the control? Another treasure hunt ensued, R squared disappeared somewhere and we were joined by a SAR team who had no luck finding it either. We waded across and checked both sides thoroughly adjacent to the junction. Nada. A half hour was used up. Time to go. But wait! The SAR people spotted something, there it was half way up the hillside towards the trail. We joked that it must have been set during high water. Now there were no more controls gettable within the remaining
Controls:204, 212, 211, 195, 130, 203, 197, 246, 139, 200, 216, 241, 214, 208, 215, 128, 124, HH, 129, 175, 125, 138, 233, 237, 121, 219, Finish.