Bishop Ranch Navigation Training Saturday 11/01/2008
Course Notes and Preparation Instructions

Event Information and Directions | Register online | Waiver form | return to terraloco home

If Las Trampas Regional Wilderness is Austin Powers, then Bishop Ranch Regional Preserve is "Mini-me." And "Mini-me" is not potty-trained - there are no bathroom facilities available here, although civilization and strip malls are a stone's throw away. Funny, the cows just seem to go all over the place - I saw lots of fresh pies - but no cows. Also spotted: wild turkeys, deer, and various little birds. But it's the plants that are vicious - there are a few wide swaths of star thistle - long pants and gaiters are recommended for the off-trail courses. As are cleated or spiked shoes - don't event think about going off-trail without shoes that can grip on the steep slopes! Some slippery spots with loose dirt, and some spots of quite hard-packed ground. Poison oak? Some of that - mostly leafless now - some tall bushes of it - avoid tall, leafless bushes. Easily avoidable. Watch out for the odd ruined barbed-wire fence fragment. Don't cross any fences, or you'll go off the map, out of the park, and onto private property. Pack your own water for the course - we'll also have some at the registration area before and after your tour, along with some bananas. Bring a whistle if you have one; I also have them available at registration.

Let's talk about the new map - drafted in OCAD by me after field-checking with a USGS topo base and a Google maps aerial photo, specially made for this event. While it is not meticulously done, it's generally accurate and fine for training. So far, I've only surveyed and drafted the areas around the four training courses. Thus, beware of straying too far from the course - the contours and official park trails are there, but nothing else to guide you. The map scale is 1:10000, and the contour interval is a whopping 40 feet - almost twice the interval at BAOC's Las Trampas event the next day. Because of this, the contours don't catch subtler landforms. I've drawn in a few drainages, some of which are in quite pronounced reentrants. Kinks in contours can mean uncrossable reentrants, and sometimes there's no kink to show you a steep reentrant. Usually you can go a little higher or a little lower and find a crossing point. The wise bovines have provided cowpaths to help you through some of those reentrants, and there are numerous unmapped cowpaths elsewhere.

This is unique terrain - although the elements are all common to bay area parks, the mix is different. It reminds me most of Shell Ridge in Walnut Creek. The bread and butter here is sparse oak woodland and grassland, with a low density of point features. The oaks are glorious, large, and splendid. Very few rocks and boulders. A cliff or two. Some stony ground. And dismantled vehicle sections, I kid you not. The runnability is very good - the vegetation is not often thick enough to trap you. Very few bushes and thickets. On the ridge top, visited by all courses, the views are fairly awesome from Mount Diablo to the Livermore Valley.

Course Sequencing: The Trail and Route course will get you to the top of the ridge; from there, the Downhill course or the main trail can get you back to registration, and you have the option of doing the Contour course, which finishes near the Downhill start.

Trail Course: 1.8 km, 7 controls, 195 m climb

The basics - equivalent to a "White" orienteering course. All checkpoint control bags are accessible from a trail.

Route Course: 2.2 km, 7 controls, 220 m climb

This is like a Score-O. Grab as many as you want to get, and head to the finish at the hilltop by the main ridge. It's called the route course because you'll need to practice map reading and route planning skills to choose an efficient overall tour through all the control checkpoints.

Downhill Course: 1.0 km, 6 controls, 15 m climb

This is similar to a Sprint course, with large changes in direction and short legs. More decisions to make in less time. It's harder to get lost because the course is tightly bound by fences and major trails, and it heads "back to the parking lot." Since it's almost 95% downhill, you can get the feeling of fast-paced orienteering without expending too much effort on your running. It's fun.

Contour Course: 0.9 km, 5 controls, 25 m climb

You will be given descriptions of 5 controls; the first will be marked on the map, and the rest will not - but they will be at the same contour level. Continue until you get just beneath the Finish location marked on the trail. Sometimes, you may have to go a little higher or lower when crossing reentrants, and that's part of the challenge. It's easier physically and mentally than the Briones contour course, but don't take it for granted. Watch out for the star thistle on this one!

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