Summit Trails Middle School is surrounded by over 300 acres of forest land dedicated to King County Parks after a history of railroad and logging use. The park area is known by many names depending on where in the complex you are: Danville-Georgetown Open Space, Rock Creek Natural Area, or Summit Trails Middle School private land. Over 14 miles of trails exist, and are primarily used and upkept by The Backcountry Horsemen of Washington. Additionally, the area is home to herds of elk and deer, spotted owl and many other wildlife. It is highly likely you will encounter some of these while on the property. This past and present history has shaped the landscape in the park.
Much of the vegetation in the forest is thick with vegetation. However, due to the extensive elk and deer herd that call this area home, a vast network of elk trails exist and most have been accurately mapped within the last year. These elk paths are represented by white stripes on the map, meaning it is not a maintained trail, and subject to natures adjustment should it occur. Typically, very dense vegetation is flanked by runnable deer trail because the deer do just what a human would…avoid the dense stuff. This creates the beaten down wandering paths you see on the map. Since the herd is so prevalent, the animal paths are more robust than usual forest.
This area was logged in the not-too-distant past. As a result, many stumps were left behind to rot. There are thousands of them. Most of these stumps have degenerated into a half knoll, half stump concoction. In these situations, it is always mapped as a knoll. The only stumps mapped at Summit Trails are very large. These are undeniable stumps. Most smaller stumps were not mapped. On the map, these stumps are marked with a brown X.
Rootstocks greater than 1m and visible from all directions are mapped with a brown triangle.
There are a few linear contour features that can be useful when navigating off the trails in the park. Almost all of the hills are fairly straight. Often times this is coupled with good elk trails that can make for decent shortcuts if you have the courage. Careful though, because it is very easy to get lost in the dense vegetation and relocating becomes very difficult in these non-descript trails. Vegetation navigation is much more tricky than it might seem!
Lastly, it is recommended you wear pants! You will be presented with many off-trail checkpoints at this venue, testing your use of contours as handrails, compass for maintaining direction in flat areas, pace counting for distance estimation, and finding oneness with the elk as you bash through the brush. Enjoy.
WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR: PANTS ARE VERY NECESSARY! Eye protection can be useful too.
This will be very hard. I promise. Getting lost is a high probability. Embrace the challenge. Let this warning guide your risk and speed level on the course.
Every course except elementary will be going off-trail. The harder courses will be nearly exclusively off-trail. This will require entry into the forest. If you choose your path wisely, you will be able to use elk paths to find your controls. However, these trails have a tendency to wander and create directional confusion. If you end up on one you didn’t intend, you will likely be lost and need to work your way out of the situation by relocating to a known spot. Ending in thick brush at some point is likely.
All courses are short, however, I expect they will be slow. For the amateur, it is highly recommended that you enter the forest from an absolute known position with certainty of both where you are, and the direction and distance you plan to go in the forest. Keep that invisible vector in your eyesight if possible. Simply wandering into the forest will almost certainly result in getting very confused.
There are a few open areas in the forest that can be seen by looking up to the canopy. These clues can be handy.
Control placement will not be done to fool you. There will be as little hide-and-seek of controls as possible, with the exception of controls on features that are quite visible themselves, and occasionally on the advanced course. I have no desire to make this any harder than it will already be.
If you do not know how to use your compass, I highly recommend you learn now. There will also be a small compass course set up to practice your skills before the race.
Again. Wear pants.