Saturday, October 6th, 2018
Frosty and I participated in the Wildlands Adventure Challenge in Orland, Maine organized by Strong Machine Adventure Racing. It was held on the grounds of the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust. We signed up for the 3 hour beginner’s race.This race involved hiking and paddling. Originally, there was an 8 hour adventure race planned as well, but it was cancelled due to low registration numbers. The 8 hour race would have had mountain biking as well as the hiking and paddling.
Before the race, we got our gear ready. The race website had a gear list and another gear list was sent out in an email. The email gear list was from a race by the same group in June. The email gear list was had more items than the race website gear list. We opted to make sure we had everything from both lists just in case.
The mandatory gear we packed (one per team):
- Working cell phone (this had to be kept off and used for emergencies only)
- Water and food for the entire 1-3 hour race and the means to carry it
- Enough clothing to keep you warm, even in the rain
- First aid kit containing, at minimum:
- 4 acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other pain reliever
- 4 adhesive bandages
- 1 Ace bandage
- Water purification method for entire team
- Writing utensil(s) [helpful for marking up maps
The mandatory gear we packed (one per person):
- Space blanket
- Means to carry at least 50 oz. of liquid
- Waterproof jacket
- Means to carry mandatory gear (e.g., backpack)
We packed all the items listed above. Below are some specific details on some of the items.
Notes on the mandatory gear:
Frosty and I each used a Cabela’s Merritt Hydration Pack. Our packs had bladders to hold the recommended amount of water. For a waterproof jacket and warmth layer, Frosty and I both packed Frogg Togg coats. Frosty packed iodine tablets to meet the water purification requirement. We had water with us and the time period wasn’t long, so we didn’t anticipate needing to use the tablets.
There was also some recommended gear on the email link:
- Long pants, tights or leg protection
- Sunglasses or hat with visor
- Bug spray
- Waterproof map case or others means of waterproofing maps
- Waterproof case for phone
- Duct tape
Notes on the recommended gear:
I wore pants. Frosty wore tights and shorts. I had a hat and sunglasses. Frosty wore his goggle sunglasses. I had bug spray, but it wasn’t buggy. I brought and wore sunscreen. Frosty made a MYOG map case with a gallon size Zip-Loc bag, Gorilla tape, and shock cord. We put our phones in two Zip-Loc bags and hoped we wouldn’t need to put that waterproofing to the test. We had a small bit of duct tape in our first aid kit.
All the paddling gear was provided. This included kayaks, paddles, and life vests.
There were prohibited items:
- Communication devices (other than cell phone that had to be kept off except for emergencies)
- Motorized means of transport
I wasn’t sue what to expect from this challenge. I thought we would be bushwhacking through brush and using compass coordinates. I had no idea what we would be trying to find maybe tags on a tree or special blazes?
I wore a long sleeve shirt and long pants to protect against the brush for the bushwhacking I anticipated. I was a little too warm in this outfit during the first part of the race. I was regretting wearing long clothes, since we didn’t bushwhack. But, it was windy out on the water while kayaking, so it ended up being a good choice.
We drove to the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in Orland to sign in for the race and sign the release from liability forms. An example of the checkpoints that we would be looking for was hanging on the door. The checkpoints looked like mini windsocks and were orange and white in color with a punch hanging down. There ended up being 5 teams and one solo participant in the challenge. We all piled into two vehicles and drove to a trailhead.
All the participants, as well as Shawn from the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, plus Cliff and Kate – the organizers of the challenge, hiked together to the ledges just below the summit of Great Pond Mountain. This was the starting point for the race. The challenge started at 1:40 once we had all made it up the mountain and took a group photo.
The race had three stages. The first stage was a hiking section, The Great Pond Mountain Trek; It had 7 checkpoints. You could do as many of the checkpoints as you wanted. But, once you moved onto the next stage, kayaking, you couldn’t go back to the checkpoints in the first section. There were 6 checkpoints in the kayaking section, The Alamoosook and Dead River Kayak stage. There was one special checkpoint that could be obtained either in the hiking or kayaking stage. The first two stages had a total of 12 checkpoints, with checkpoint number 7 being in both sections.
The last stage, The Craig Brook Trek, with six checkpoints was another hiking section. There were 18 total checkpoints possible to find during the race. The challenge had a 3 hour time limit. The participants had to be back by 4:40. Scores were based on how many checkpoints found. If teams found the same number of checkpoints, the tie breaker was who was faster returning to the finish.
At the start line, on top of Great Pond Mountain, maps and rules were handed out with a little time to study them. The rules were also explained. In addition to the maps, we were given a list of clues. For example, the clue for checkpoint 2 was “trail on spur.” The clue for checkpoint 11 in the kayaking stage was “island, west side.” We realized after getting the map that we wouldn’t really need to use a compass.
The first checkpoint was near the start. Everyone headed there right off the bat. Each team and the solo participant had been given a race passport. This was the proof teams had found the various checkpoints. Checkpoints within a stage could be found in any order participants chose. When a team found a checkpoint, they used the small pin punch attached to that checkpoint to punch the corresponding grid box for that checkpoint on the passport. Each checkpoint’s punch had a different design. It was of utmost importance not to lose your passport.
The second checkpoint was part way down the mountain. It was right on the trail, but Frosty and I had it in our heads that it would be hidden, so we wasted time looking in areas adjacent to the trail for the spur mentioned in the clue. We went off trail to look behind trees and boulders. After finding checkpoint 2, we realized we wouldn’t be bushwhacking.
Our big decision in the first stage, was whether to get checkpoint 7 by foot or by kayak. We decided to get it by foot. We ended the first stage with all 7 of the possible checkpoints. We then headed to the boat landing to start the kayak portion of the challenge.
This was a hard stage for us. Frosty is skilled at steering a canoe, but the double blade paddle of the two person open cockpit kayak with the wind was challenging. The kayaking section was on Alamoosook Lake and Dead River. We fought the wind and steering problems for the first two checkpoints, 10 and 8. The water was calmer after going under a bridge from which checkpoint 8 was hanging. It was a short paddle over to checkpoint 9. Checkpoint 7 was on the calm section, but I still think it was better that we went to it by foot. It was rough getting to the island where checkpoint 11 was. We decided to bypass checkpoint 12, and head back to the boat landing. The hardest part was cutting across the lake in the wind to get back to the boat landing. We finished this stage later than we hoped. We were drier than the other teams coming into the boat landing. Some teams had waves splash up over the front of the kayak.
One nice part while on the water was watching an eagle soaring around above the lake. It eventually landed in a tree overlooking the lake. It looked so big and stately perched in the tree.
We then started the last stage, a hiking section. We found all but one of the 5 checkpoints in this stage. We might have had time to get the last checkpoint, but it would have been close. I was worried about being late for the cut off. We got into the finish area with 5 minutes to spare at 4:35 with 16 of the 18 checkpoints. Frosty and I ended in second place.
After the race, everyone celebrated with pizza, chips, and beer. The beer, an IPA, was donated by Fogtown Brewery of Ellsworth. Frosty enjoyed the beer. We will have to see where it is available. Thanks, Fogtown! Each participant also got a race pint glass!
There was a prize table for the participants to choose a prize from and some free samples. Frosty picked out a Ledlenser Neo headlamp. I picked out “multifunctional headwear” from OutThere. I also picked up a sample of Tiger Balm and one of The Right Stuff, a powdered electrolyte drink to add to water.
This was a fun adventure, like an adult scavenger hunt. The challenge was different and better than I expected. We had a great time.