NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) — If Hansel and Gretel had honed their orienteering skills before heading into the woods, they could have avoided a lot of unpleasantness.
Had they used a map and compass to find their way back home rather than leaving a bread crumb trail the birds ate, they might never have ended up at the wicked witch's house.
This more sure method of finding your way around in the wild is also a competitive outdoor sport, with meets around the world.
Of course, topographic maps, contoured to show elevations and other geographical features, weren't available when wicked witches lived in the woods, while today, you can find one that covers almost any corner of the world.
In organized orienteering meets, those maps are enhanced and enlarged to bring into close-up such features as streams and ravines along with other, man-made landmarks that might include old cisterns or abandoned cabins, The Herald-Times reported (http://bit.ly/1bRBrfs ).
Competitors are armed with only a map and a compass, racing to the finish line as quickly as possible while also passing designated checkpoints along the way.
Orienteers must interpret the map, figure out where they are and find the best or fastest way to the checkpoints, which they must visit in a certain designated order. Each checkpoint is marked by orange and white flags, said Eric Tullis, publicity director for Indiana Crossroads Orienteering.
"You use what the map is telling you about the terrain around you and you look around to figure out where you are," Tullis said.
The special maps are used when orienteering groups, such as Indiana Crossroads Orienteering, based in Indianapolis, get together for meets.
A meet scheduled for Yellowwood State Forest in Brown County later this month is a standard "cross-country" style meet, so it will have a variety of courses from beginner to expert, and first-timers are not expected to interpret a map to navigate. A beginner course could be all on trails, Tullis said.