Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BEBUT'S TRAIL VIII: Map Reading Practicals

MAP READING IS a rather technical subject with understanding influenced greatly by the magnetic needle of a compass and by your interpretation of your surroundings into your map. I learned the basics of map reading while with the Boy Scout movement in the ‘70s under the tutelage of the best scoutmaster in the country - the late Sergio Damazo Jr.; and progress into a much better navigator while in Tanay, Rizal in the late ‘80s.

This year – 2012 – is my first time to teach map reading to a group of people and I thought it easy but it is not. It’s different when you are the recipient of knowledge instead of the one giving it. All my life had been used to receiving such valued instructions and I am very grateful for all my very patient teachers. I am not trained to be a teacher but, this time, I have to start acting like one --- even for free!

I did my first lecture about map reading on March 18, 2012 and nine individuals from the different outdoors groups came. I held my morning activity indoors at one of the abandoned buildings of the Department of Agriculture compound in M. Velez Street, Guadalupe, Cebu City. The afternoon segment was dedicated to the practicals at the hills above Guadalupe and Banawa. Critique and review came afterwards.

Aiming to improve my manner of instructions, I scheduled another session for April 29 at the same locations and I may have to accompany the participants, especially during the actual part, so all could fully absorb and understand the mechanics of reading a map in harmony with the compass. Three participants of the previous class availed of this free lecture while two first-timers join the rest.

I start the instructions at 7:30 AM inside the room where a bare wall with light blue paint became an improvised blackboard. Unhinged doors propped up with wood crates were used as benches, improving the classroom situation in a more relaxed manner. As usual, I have my set of maps that will be used as instructional aids, my chalks, my lecture handouts and photocopies of the city map under section 3721-I. 

The first order of lecture touched on the basic information found in the topographic map and the rudiments of using a compass. Succeeding instructions proceeded with how to use the grid lines; how to place and identify land shapes into the locations found on a map; how to orient the map with the compass; how to get a bearing and how to interpret these bearings into your grid coordinates.

The instructions move surprisingly very fast that, at 9:30 AM, it is over for the indoor lecture. I doubt it very much that I have mastered the art of teaching map reading to others but it is just simply that I have a present set of students who absorb all what I taught like water on sponge. I could not be more happy than to end this in lesser time than what I have expected.

So, we leave the DA Compound for the direction of Guadalupe church. We may have to eat a meal – a brunch – to better prepare us for the difficult part of the activity. By 10:30 AM, we start to head for The Portal, by way of Bebut’s Trail. Along the way, we may also have to tackle Heartbreak Ridge on a hot almost-noontime sun. Walking up a hill with a map and compass presents a good combination of brawn and brain exercise.

The sun – the tormentor at Heartbreak Ridge – gave us a wide berth and did not show face until we reach the treeline. In between, the boys tried their best sighting azimuths on reference points and drawing straight lines or the back azimuths on their test maps. One such bearing was taken at the very place where there is a tunnel vent. Participants are forbidden to use GPS.

Everybody are instructed to locate three positions using the resection or triangulation method; one location using a modified resection method; and another location using dead reckoning. The last task requires self to develop the skill to analyze and find your own position when you run out of reference points to sight upon. All were up to the challenge and manage to finish an imaginary short orienteering course in less time.

We leave The Portal at 12:30 noon bound for a small community where there is a native version of a gazebo with a good supply of water. One participant carried a camp stove, fuel and cook set. I remember us buying sachets of instant coffee from a store and so we boil water for that. After the coffee break, the participants took readings of our present location as a bonus. It seems to me that they are hard to stop when they start on to something.

We leave the place at 1:30 PM, the participants fully assured that they have complied with my map reading requirements. There is one more task to do and it will commence an hour from now. We walk down the road from Baksan to Sapangdaku crossing by a river spillway then on to Guadalupe. 

We transfer to the Red Hours Convenience Store in M. Velez Street, just across the old DA Compound, where I conduct critique and review of the participants’ test maps over glasses of ice-cold beer. Over these same glasses, I teach them how to plot and connect each position and how to read their grid coordinates. At the end of the day, my Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series about Map Reading navigate itself to good waters.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3

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