September 12, 2023

Confirmation Bias: Gold Rush South 2023

Confirmation bias is the innately human characteristic of seeking information that confirms an already held belief (and ignoring things that refute it). Most orienteers will be familiar with this phenomenon, having had the experience of going through all sorts of machinations to make the lines on the map force to fit the (wrong) belief in their head about where they are. In medicine, doctors are taught to combat confirmation bias in a diagnosis by deliberately asking ha"what can I look for that would prove me wrong?" (not what proves me right). 

Now, confirmation bias on the part of the navigator is bad because it sucks up time, but not horrible because the absence of a control at the location where you expect it to be forces you to consider other options. UNLESS, the confirmation bias error was made by the course setter (that was me, control #8 on the Long Intermediate course). If the navigator is good, and confident, he or she may immediately recognize the error is not their own and choose either to "guess at" what mistake the setter made and have a broader look or simply move along (as Sergey did). I don't know whether Torin & Jackson, and Kirsten, and Ted, who eventually found my wrongly placed control (not only on the wrong spur, but also too far down the spur) guessed that I was wrong, assumed they were wrong, just generally broadened their search, or got lucky. In any case, my apologies to you and anyone who ran the part of the intermediate course that included #8 (John? Innes?). 

I started my planning with an Intermediate course initially sketched out by John Murray, which, on setting, ran beautifully as 5-9, but for some inexplicable reason, I changed the order of controls for the participants, without trying it myself. On pickup, I experienced 5-6 and 8-9 as those who ran it did and, sigh, more regret. Plus the journey from 8 to 9 was made even more difficult if you believed control 8 was set at the correct location. 

Enough with the regret and apologies already!  I showed up and made it happen. It was a beautiful day. Thanks to John, we had a new map in some very interesting hydro-mined terrain with a complicated mix of dirt-bike trails to both help and hinder our task. Eighteen smiling people in 11 groups took on the challenge. Many wisely chose the Sport Course or recommended Intermediate shortcuts. I had a fantastic time getting to know Donna and Valerie, talking navigation strategy with Ted, catching up with old pals, and sharing the sunshine with everyone. And I got to go home to the best tasting tomato I've had all summer. Thanks to whoever left it! 





Rank on course

Kirsten Severud

Intermediate, Full



Torin & Jackson Ford

Intermediate, Full



Ted Smith

Intermediate Full



Sergey Velichko

Intermediate, Full

MP (1:02)*


John Murray

Intermediate, Full



Innes Wright

Intermediate, Full



Lois, Micah, Emilio, & Tyler

Intermediate, 6-9 shortcut



John Siebold & Leslie Perez

Intermediate, 5-10 shortcut



Jerry Stewart & Valerie Orr

Intermediate, 5-10 shortcut



Scott Cockerham and Christy Morris






Donna Pitzer




*Sergey also claimed 11 was wrongly placed, but my due diligence checking leads me to disagree

Thanks to John Murray for mapping the course. Thanks to Innes for helping with set up and making sure I made it home safely. Thanks to all of you who came and made it worthwhile! Hope to see you in October at Snowbank Meadow.

Meet Director,
Melanie Wright

August 7, 2023

Super Scenic

Photo courtesy of Kirsten Severud

I long ago learned that when I compose a piano concerto, design a nuclear fusion reactor, or draft an orienteering map there is always a flaw or two. As you undoubtedly suspect, the first two-thirds of that sentence are lies. However, it is true that I have actually drafted a few orienteering maps, and every map has been littered with flaws. It's inevitable. Maps are abstractions of reality, and therefore depart from that reality. Mostly the representations of the terrain's reality so overwhelm the flaws as to render them inconsequential if they are even noticed. 

 As I set controls I found four large boulders, a medium size meadow, and some forest missing from the map. One of those boulders lay right along a likely route from Int 7 to 8 (Adv 13 to 14). I drew it in on the already printed maps. I had walked within five meters of the other three during my field work. I missed those boulders in spite of the fact that I had mapped 413 features over three days in the field. The map was far from complete, let alone perfect. 
Click on Sergey's map to see the expanded version. Have a look at Sergey's route from 10 to 11. Notice how he proceeded 150 meters on a bearing toward #11 and then veered off to the south. My understanding of what drew him off course was the absence of green slashes in the meadow southwest of the numeral “4”. There was some low dense vegetation with good visibility, but unmapped in that meadow. Sergey saw that vegetation and thought it was represented by the green slashes just east of the numeral “4”. Choosing a route just south of those green slashes would have put him right on course. A major mapping omission produced enough confusion to require Sergey to re-locate to #4 and lose 15-20 minutes. Mea culpa. The map has been corrected, but what other errors lurk out there? 

 Well, after all of that Sergey was gracious: “World class area!
And amazing map considering that you spent only couple days field checking! The key was to use white wood patches, contours, and large boulders and rock features for navigation. It is very tough terrain physically but so much reminds me of mountain terrain in Switzerland!“  And thanks to Sergey for recommending that we explore Granite Peak. It was his recommendation that put this map into CTOC's growing inventory.

Three Springs at Int 7/ Adv13 --Kirsten

The terrain “reminds me of Switzerland” remark reminds me that most of the quotations about Granite Peak revolved around Karin's contribution to the meet report's title. In addition to world class orienteering terrain it was “super scenic”. Add in a respite from the heat, post-season for mosquitoes, and recent grading of the first four miles of the Snowbank Mountain Road. It was as close to a perfect day as I could imagine. 

Int 10/Adv16 -- Bill Leahy
“Super scenic” did have its distractions. If I were to be technically correct tyrant, the Advanced Course would have only one finisher and two DNFs. Bill explained that he spent a lot of time taking photos and chose to exercise his option to drop one control, Adv 14 (Int 8). I didn't know the rules allowed that option. I am grateful for the photos, and Bill is very persuasive. I should note that Kirsten took a whole lot more photos, finished first in the intermediate division, and never skipped a control. Maybe she just wasn't aware of the option. 

Melanie baled at Adv 13 after a fall resulting in a thigh wound. It turned out to be a wound she could ignore. Later she went out and picked up the remaining five controls. No way I'm going to DNF someone who saved me the time and effort of picking up controls. Deciding second and third place puts me in a moral quagmire. Bill dropped # 14 and rested his case on the photography imperative. Melanie quit and restarted after the course was closed. Decide for yourself. 

 Thank you Melanie and Sergey for the control pickup. 

 Karin had what I consider to be a very respectable second place finish in tough terrain. The two teams of Leslie and John and Scott and Christy arrived at the finish visibly more satisfied than tired. I know the terrain. I've walked up and down that mountain. I understand the challenges of navigation. Finishing this course as they did is a worthy accomplishment. I want to honor that.

October 14 is a couple of months away. It wasn't too early for Kirsten to be thinking about the Snowbank Meadows Meet. After the meet she drove up the road and took a photo looking down onto the Snowbank Meadows terrain. Keep September 10 open for our next meet. Melanie will direct that meet somewhere in the Idaho City area.

Snowbank Meadows --Kirsten Severud
John Murray
Meet Director

July 11, 2023


Bear Basin East orienteering meet July 9, 2023

It was a beautiful day to spend wandering around in the woods and those with an early enough start got to enjoy some of the cool mountain morning before the heat came on.    Sergey topped out those brave enough to attempt the challenging advanced course which made a tour of every part of the eastern Bear Basin map with varieties of terrain and lots of route choice options.  Late comer Melanie narrowly beat out John on the intermediate, dashing his hopes for a victory in their rivalry.  The intermediate runners got to join the advanced runners in experiencing a rough vague area with a control placed on a dam in a mosquito dense swamp, yet most were able to make it out of there before being bled dry.  The sport course provided a step up from a beginner course and a couple of groups were up for the challenge, and thanks to Cliff of Valley County SAR who came out for some navigation training.  Included is Sergey’s map with his route for the advanced course.
Thanks to Andy, Ole, and Sergey for helping with control pick up.

Anyone with pictures from the meet is welcome to post them on the Meet Up Bear Basin event page.

Karin Didisse, meet director

Sergey's route  











Advanced Course   7.8 km   16 controls

Sergey Velichko                          1:15

Ole Bergset                                  2:30

Andy Hill                                     2:48

Sean Howerton                            3:07

Ashley Boyd & Forrest                dnf









Intermediate Course   4.3 km   9 controls

Melanie Wright                            1:13

John Murray                                 1:14

Torin Ford & family                     1:28

Bob Didisse                                  1:47

Bill Pilcher & Dee                        2:35

Christy Morris & Scott                2:38

Jerry Stewart                                2:52

Ted Smith                                     dnf


Sport Course    2.6 km   9 controls

Maggie & Matt Vuturo               2:04

Ray & Lindsey Ramirez             dnf


Novice     1.9 km   9 controls

Cliff Steele (VCSAR)                     1:29

Intermediate Course

Sport Course

Novice Course

June 12, 2023

Ponderosa Pleasures June 10, 2023

Bill's Dog
 Orienteeering with the CTOC can be a lovely way to spend time among the flowers or intense competition or both. I believe Bill Pilcher's dog got the first option right. It was, indeed, a beautiful venue punctuated by several displays of wildflowers. Lynette and April came equipped with a mesh bag to carry the morels they hoped to find. Alas, it was not to be a fungal feast. Instead, there were places laid out with banquets for the eyes.

Photo by Kirsten Severud
Early June in the McCall area brought nearly perfect weather for orienteering and mosquitoes. It had rained the night before, so wet grass inevitably meant wet feet for early starters. Frequent rifle shots at a nearby target range shattered what otherwise would have been a tranquil day in the woods (more on that later). And then there was the confusion about the location of the start/finish after I changed it from last year's location. With those caveats in mind it might seem like maybe nearly perfect is not the way to describe Ponderosa Pleasures on June 10.

Maybe as the meet director who had to cancel this meet due to the presence of a crazy guy with a gun when it was scheduled last autumn I had lowered my bar for success. Nevertheless, I stand by my characterization as nearly perfect. We had 35 individuals participate in 24 starts. Eight people took on the Advanced Course, enough so we had more than a quorum for competition. The Intermediate Course is where the competition was. Twenty orienteers competed in 14 starts.

A quick examination of the results posted below will show why I record finish times to the second. (It's not really accurate to the second because there is no finish line, but it's probably accurate to within 5 or 10 seconds.) If those recorded finish times were accurate to the second, I could say that David Bergset beat Kirsten Severud. The one second difference was really no difference at all, effectively rendering their competition a tie. I would have liked to decide the question by applying my director's bias. But even that was a tie as Kirsten kindly provided me with many of the photos gracing this report and David Bergset along with Ole and Andy helped pick up controls. Thanks, guys. That made my day much easier.

Sergey is by all accounts a masterful orienteer. So, it's one of those unusual situations where another orienteer posted a better time. That orienteer was Isabella Mcdonaugh, who posted a time of 53:58 well below Sergey's time of 1:06:17. There's more to the story than the raw times. I probably should inform you that Sergey's time was on the Advanced Course and Isabella's was on a modified version of the Sport Course (only the first two and last two controls). Isabella is in kindergarten and Sergey . . . well, Sergey is a bit older, old enough to be Isabella's grandfather, which he is. I am thrilled anytime I see three generations (I'm including Masha here.) orienteering.

Not all is right with the Wright family. As long-time and accomplished orienteers they do tend to compete with each other. The sad state of affairs is that they can't all win unless they run different courses, which they did not. Congratulations, Melanie on not only beating hubbie Innes and daughter Katrina, but also edging out Ole by more than a minute to take top honors on the Intermediate Course. I hope Katrina and Innes didn't make the ride home undeservedly painful.

I posted Sergey's map for those of you who would like to gain some insight into how a world-class orienteer navigates. I would direct you to Sergey's routes to the first two controls taking advantage of the road and a long re-entrant to #1 and the contours, a saddle/hill and vegetation on the way to #2. In Sergey's own words: Excellent opportunity to practice bearing and reading subtle vegetation details to zoom into controls!” Click on the image to enlarge it.

Finally, I want to express my apprehensions about some of our bad luck with Ponderosa Pleasures. Last year as I prepared to set controls the day before our scheduled meet I found a family camped with their trailer on the site I had planned to use for our start and finish. A man, presumably the husband and father was outside. I introduced myself and explained what we intended to do and told him we would modify our location to avoid interfering with his camp. All seemed well. When I returned to my car to change my shoes he began to yell to nobody in particular about so many newcomers intruding into the forest. I became alarmed that he might be unstable. Subsequently, he told me that he was going to do some target practice with the rifle he was holding. Of all of the trees he might have chosen as a target, it was the one behind my car he chose. He asked me to move my car, which I did, canceled the next day's meet, and moved it to June 2023.

When I scheduled the meet for June 10 I did so having deemed the previous year's incident a one-off event. When David Bergset approached Advanced Control #3 he believed he was in a deliberate line of fire and retreated. Later in the afternoon Andy Hill collected that control. With this second incident I have become wary of further CTOC events here. Maybe these incidents reflect our increasingly troubled relationship with firearms, growing use of public lands and can happen anywhere. But I've been twice warned at Ponderosa Pleasures and do not want to risk a third and more consequential occurrence.

Karin Didisse will direct the July 9 meet at CTOC favorite Bear Basin. It's great terrain for courses of all skill levels. I'm looking forward to it.

John Murray, 
Meet Director

Photos courtesy of Kirsten Severud

Lynette and April conferring with Andy as Karin looks on.
Osborn Ranch Meadow

May 24, 2023

Did Anyone Actually See Rabbits? Rabbit Creek Annual Meet

    Our annual Rabbit Creek meet is my favorite meet of the year, and while I missed most of the meets this year, a consequence of going to a school thousands of miles away, helping to direct and set one of my favorite maps was a wonderful way to begin the summer. As CTOC has grown over the last couple years, thank you Meetup, meets that used to bring out 5-10 competitors now bring out 20-40. These new numbers make the endless hours of mapping, checking, and setting the course worth it for the wonderful volunteer meet directors. (Although, we didn’t exactly check the course this last weekend, which is why there were so many meet notes… our bad.)

    Often, meets are rather isolated experiences for competitors: racers come, run, and leave. But the annual pot-luck brings a chance to connect with fellow orienteers, and we all learn just how crazy we really are. A special thanks to Bill Pilcher for hosting this annual meet and letting us run all over his beautiful property, while simultaneously warning us about the bull snakes that often slither underfoot (the reason gators are highly suggested). For years Bill has been hosting this meet every May and even before Bill owned the property, his friends, retired professors, hosted May Day parties. For as long as the house can remember there have been excited visitors trampling through the property every May. It’s exciting to continue a tradition in such a beautiful place.

    Extra kudos to the real star of the show, my mother, Melanie Wright. Who did a majority of the course setting on Saturday (and around five a.m. Sunday morning). She consistently shows me up with her endurance and bravery around dead rattlesnakes. While she was insistent that people arrive on time for mass starts throughout the day, she is much more empathetic in person than on meetup and we only had one real mass start at 9:32 for racers deciding to do the self-punishing 3 hour category. People will be people so most racers (including my father, with some excuse about cows) trickled in late. But Melanie dutifully repeated the course notes with the patience of a kindergarten teacher. 

[I am grateful for Katrina's and Innes' help with control pickup as well as a bunch of other help Katrina provided, including this writeup and her cheerful company, and the company of Bill L, Terry, and Bill Saturday evening.]

    Overall, I would call the meet a success, and would hope all competitors feel the same. There were strong performances from everyone, whether it was one of the first CTOC meets they have attended or Sergey who ran the full course in under two hours (a course purposefully made so he shouldn’t have been able to do that [route shown below]). Thanks to everyone who came out, and I (hopefully we [yes, we]) hope to all see you out at our next meet in June… especially the group who brought us donuts (you’re my favorites [mine too!]).

        Name(s)                                                                # of Controls                     Final Time

3 Hour Category


Ted Smith




Jason and Reese Russell 




Bill and Terry Leahy




Sean Howerty




Kevin McDowell and Jon Davey




The Wanderers 




Cynthia and Jimmy B.




Micah and Friends



2 Hour Category


Sergey Valichko 




Innes Wright




Dustin Thomas




Bruce and Jerry




Scott and Christy




Cat Stauffer



1 Hour Category


John Murray



*Winner in our hearts for finding Melanie’s glasses (Thank you!)

**5 minute grace period

– Katrina Wright, Co(ish)-Meet Director

[and Melanie]

Sergey's Route: Approximately 12KM distance and 500M of climb