Orienteering

Yesterday my family and I went out to the local YMCA, where we have a membership to take part in monthly activity days that they arrange. Through the summer, most of these have involved water in some form or other (canoeing, kayaking, raft-building & races, etc) and the people who run them seem to take great pleasure in ensuring that everyone ends up in the river, wet to the skin. Which is a bit of a problem for me, as apart from the fact that I’m not a big fan of being tipped in a muddy river at the best of times, at the moment I have my temperamental ileostomy bags to contend with too. So I’ve got into the habit of not going, and leaving my wife to take the kids on her own, which isn’t very fair on her, and wastes a lot of potential “quality time” I could be spending with my kids.

This month however, was orienteering, which sounded much more up my street (no rivers!), would provide me with some good exercise, and hence actively help with my recovery. So for the first time in ages we turned up as a family to the YMCA day.

Given that the event is for families of all ages, the actual orienteering itself was fairly simple, with a series of “flags” to find, each of which had a unique picture on it. However, they were scattered all over the (large) estate, which is composed of open grassland, light and heavy scrubland, and quite dense woods. The organisers had also been quite devious in hiding them, and then gave out the approximate locations of different target flags to each individual team (family) such that they kept all the teams apart, and kept all of us running back and forwards over most of the length of the estate.

Since the weather yesterday was really nice, it ended up being a great day. We managed to teach the kids the basics of map-reading; actually we only taught them to orient the map with the compass so they could more easily associate it with the features of the land around them, but lets not quibble – it’s a start! Then we tramped around the estate looking for (and finding!) the various target flags that we were given. I finally gave out after a particularly long walk all the way to one edge of the estate, only to find the next target flag was all the way to the other edge of the estate. So I sat that one out, and chatted to one of the mums from another family who was doing the same thing with her toddler, while her (ultra competitive) husband and son were running to their next flag.

After about 2 hours of this, we stopped for a 90 minute lunch and had a picnic in the sun, followed by a bit of a snooze which allowed me to recharge my batteries somewhat. Then in the afternoon we got to build marshmallow and toothpick towers, with the highest & most stable tower winning a small prize for the family concerned. The twist was that the more flags a team had found in the morning, the more toothpicks they were given in the afternoon. I was quietly pleased to note that we got more toothpicks than most, though clearly not as many as some!

So we then spent some time discussing stability with the kids, and how to make strong structures versus weaker ones, before building our tower around a series of triangular sub-structures. We did pretty well in the end, though we were neither the tallest, nor (once the marshmallows started to warm up) the most stable. But the kids seemed to enjoy it, and ate a huge number of our marshmallows too!

All in all, a good fun day out.

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