Sitting in a classroom for several hours and then tramping through the warm, damp woods isn't most people's idea of a great weekend. But this weekend, several students voluntarily did just that.
Hawk Mountain Ranger School hosted Navigation Weekend, a two-day course held every fall where students can fine-tune their wilderness navigation skills. Subjects covered include compasses, map work (to include different scaling and measuring systems), off-road GPS, recognizing terrain features, pace counting, and celestial navigation.
This year, there was a small number of students – a total of four cadets. However, the small class size allowed each of them to receive individual attention to help them fully grasp the material.
After their classes throughout Saturday morning, the students went on the Navigation Course. The Navigation Course is a set-up of signs in the woods around the Hawk Mountain property, designating known coordinates. Students were given the compass heading and the distance to each point, and they tested their new skills to find their way there. Ranger Staff members accompanied the students to help guide them if a they were unable to locate the point. They had to go through different types of terrain, from flat, semi-open areas to steep, thorny hillsides. Their skill in following a straight line despite difficult terrain was tested, but by the end of the Navigation Course, the students learned good ways to deal with the obstacles.
Throughout the second day, students spent more time in the classroom. They learned skills such as how to find latitude and longitude coordinates on a map and spent time testing for Ranger grades.