New Compass, some Orienteering, and a Wildlife Surprise

I decided it was high-time I got back to compass exploration and refresh my orienteering skills. The last time I used a topo map and compass for “serious” navigation was in high school, as part of my Air Force JROTC course. I had purchased a Silva Ranger CL and it worked fine for awhile, but when I took it out again towards the end of July this year, it proved to be defective. I put it in the freezer for a day to be sure it could handle cold temperatures for winter navigation in the near future, and upon removal, I found the needle wouldn’t move – it had “frozen-up”…NOT good. All decent liquid-filled compasses should be able to withstand temperatures below freezing and a few thousand feet elevation without defects. So was it worth the $60 I paid for it? I certainly don’t think so.

Silva used to be a top brand decades ago, but that doesn’t seem to hold true anymore, at least for me. Since 2008, all Silva compasses sold in North America are made in Indonesia, except for the Silva Lensatic 360, which is made in Taiwan. Not to say that all Silvas in the US and Canada are junk, but quality control can be hit-or-miss…just something to keep in mind. Silva compasses sold outside North America are currently made in Sweden and seem to be a lot more reliable from what I hear.

I ended up replacing it with a Suunto MC-2D ($40) after reading many favourable reviews online. Suunto is a Finland-based company with an excellent reputation for making quality compasses, including some that can be used all over the world, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, using what Sunnto calls their ‘global needle technology’. These special compasses have a “G” (for “global”) designation, such as the MC-2G and M3-G. Since I don’t plan on extensive travelling, I opted for the MC-2D. It is a mirror sighting-compass, and I must say that I have a slight preference for this design over the simpler base-plate models, for not only can I take more accurate readings, but the mirror itself is multi-functional. I can use it to look over myself for ticks, to guide me in removing something from my eye, and in a pinch, for signaling. Now, this post is not intended to be a review, but I am definitely pleased with the MC-2D so far.

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Here it is in action :) . The topo map I’m using shows 30 or so orienteering markers to look for in the field. As you can see, I have the declination on the compass set for my location, approximately 13.5 degrees West.

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This is one of the orienteering markers, not in good shape and in need of replacement.

This time of year, Black Walnuts and hickories are starting to drop their nuts, albeit prematurely, and the woods are full of excited squirrels and chipmunks anticipating the coming of Autumn.

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I found these beneath a Mockernut Hickory tree. It’s wonderful to smell the spicy fragrance of the green outer husks, a harbinger of the changing season.

Of course, you never really know what you may find bushwhacking off the beaten-path. I reached a marshy area and discovered the remains of a deer carcass.

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Nothing left but the hip bone, part of a shoulder, and a femur 20 yards away. My guess is that the deer died from disease and was scavenged by coyotes. Coyotes rarely attack healthy adult does or bucks.

And further along, much to my displeasure, I found lots of litter left behind, presumably by a group of drunken teenagers.

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Beer bottles, Gatorade bottles…all kinds of rubbish. Inexcusable for them to leave that stuff behind, but this is why I carry a plastic bag with me. Leave no trace ;) .

As the day was coming to a close, I passed by a reed-filled swamp and caught sight of a once common herbal folk remedy, the plant Boneset.

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It gets its name from being used to treat what was then called “break-bone fever” – we know it today as Dengue fever. Apparently, sufferers would be in such pain that they would contort their bodies drastically, making doctors think that their bones would break.

And now for the surprise…on my way back home, I spotted a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk perched on the branches of a Black Walnut tree on the edge of a meadow. It silently swooped down to grasp a field mouse meandering in the grass, and then flew back to its branch.

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This one was not camera-shy in the least, and didn’t appear to be concerned about my presence at all. The hawk was about 25 feet above me. I’ve often heard Red-tails calling to one another, but seldom seen them, especially that close. More often than not, Turkey Vultures will be the ones prowling in the sky.

It was gorgeous weather to be out in – a cool day freshened by a brief morning rain shower. Compared to previous years, this summer is turning out to be a mild one…I can’t wait to see what autumn will be like. :)

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