poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘rogain

navigation – guest post by Rob Hughes

with 2 comments

I am so pleased to welcome a guest in this post.  Rob Hughes is a former colleague and friend, now retired and keeping bees, hobby farming and trekking around the Maritimes.  In this post, Rob writes about finding your way in the landscape.  Welcome Rob! 


Rob 1

(photo credit: Rob Hughes)





In the noise of white the blurring snapped

the normal drive detached

flipped and pulled my brain on bungies

In a spin or floating


away –

disconnected, inverted, spinning somewhere –

Somewhere, in a nagual line of space.


A pinch of view, a scrap

as I groped not knowing –

a bush? Something, please – then


I see and am unswallowed, spat back out,

land again in what must be reality



I drive on frightened, woozy from the warp of time and space

The white took over.



The poem is an attempt to capture the scary vertigo that can happen when driving in a whiteout. We can lose normal visual cues and suddenly, what was familiar becomes a trip into the unknown.  While usually only lasting seconds, it can feel like dropping down the proverbial rabbit hole.   It’s a powerful lesson in how we are constantly checking where we are in the world, and how quickly our inherent navigation system can go off the rails when the inputs are messed up.


These days there are more ways than ever to help find your way around. People still get lost.  Map reading might be in danger of becoming a lost art.  Let the GPS take care of it.  Nice, but you might get disconcerting voice commands to turn here, or there, even when the maneuver is patently impossible.  The trouble is that those devices are not thinking.  Most of us know of hapless travelers sent into the backcountry mire on a short cut.  You could be better off with a map!


Rob 2

Ski orienteering in Odell Park, Fredericton. (photo credit: Jenny Hughes)


For years I have enjoyed turning navigation into adventure, exploration, exercise and fun all at once through the sport of orienteering.  There are lots of drills to help with how to visualize terrain, choose the best route, and then memorize it, so you can concentrate on navigating through the real world without having to refer back to your map every twenty seconds.  It’s a lot of fun to locate landscape features along a route deep in unfamiliar forest.


Rob 3

Rob (right) and team-mate Steve finishing the E2C, a 24-h rogaine held annually in Nova Scotia. (photo credit: Halifax Search and Rescue/Orienteering Nova Scotia)


After orienteering for some years, there came a sort of craving for more… a kind of classic addiction response, presumably.  Enter rogaining.  Yes, it really is a word, and the internet is there to prove it.  It’s a perfect fix for navigation junkies.  I have made some great map and compass buddies in this sport, in which teams of 2-4 spend up to 24 hours seeking control locations in the backcountry, sometimes covering the distance of two marathons in the process.   No electronic devices, just map and compass.  The sport has a kind of quirky mystique that draws aficionados from all over the globe to the biennial world championships, often held in spectacular settings.


Rob 4

The logo of the International Rogaining Federation. It depicts the sport well – day and night, up and down, footsteps…. (credit: International Rogaining Federation)


Spring in the Maritimes is marked by an annual pilgrimage to take part in the Eco-Endurance Challenge, held in Nova Scotia in April or early May and organized by Orienteering Nova Scotia and Halifax Search and Rescue.  This is often a very difficult and wet rogaine, but popular with hundreds of local map heads.  Who knew finding your way could be so addictive?


5. Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia.  A memorable navigation challenge!

Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia. A memorable navigation challenge! (photo credit: Rob Hughes)


Copyright 2015  Rob Hughes

Written by jane tims

May 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

%d bloggers like this: