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Orienteering finding its way back to Cumberland County


Twenty-three vessels carrying 31 paddlers navigated the Pugwash Basin

PUGWASH, N.S. – Orienteering lost its way in Cumberland County but is starting to find its way out of the wilderness.

One big step in the right direction was The Orienteering Association of Nova Scotia’s canoe and kayak orienteering event in the Pugwash on July 12.

“We did it for 10 years in a row up to 2008. There hasn’t been one here since 2008,” Greg Nix, who helped organizer of the event, said.

Nix lives in Pugwash and used to teach at E.B. Chandler Junior High School in Amherst.

“We used to have a club in Amherst called the Amherst Finders Club, and we had about 200 members, most of who were my students and their families.

After he retired, the Amherst Finders Club faded but now there is the North Shore Adventure Club, and it’s growing.

He says orienteering is easier now than it used to be.

“When I started orienteering there were very few trails and you were out in the woods and you really had to understand what the topography looked like,” Nix said. “Now it’s easier to get into orienteering than is used to be because they’ve gone to a lot of park events, so the maps are more friendly to participants than they used to be.”

They also have electronic punch cards.

“Participants get a dibber, a jump drive that goes on the end of your finger,” Nix said. “When you come to a control you dip it in a box and it records your time and where you are and gives split times. Kids today enjoy it more.”

Twenty-three vessels carrying 31 paddlers navigated the Pugwash Basin in their quest to reach a total of 20 checkpoints, 12 on the water and eight on Victoria Island. The entire course was about four kilometres long, three on the water and one on land.

Paddlers from throughout Nova Scotia and, also, from PEI took part in the event.

“They drive throughout the province to take part in it. The more events you get to the more points you get, and they have award ceremonies every year.,” Nix said. “And it’s a cheap sport to get into too because all you need is sneakers and away you go. It’s usually about $10 to register.”

Nix started orienteering in the late 1970s, when he was 14-years-old. His physed teacher, Dave Bushen, got him into it.

“My favourite thing about orienteering was is that I could be at the Canadian championships, not that good at it, I didn’t even have to try out, and I’m at a starting line with an international champion,” Nix said. “You don’t get that in other sports.”

In one of the first events he ever entered, he competed against Pam James, a girl who would go on to win several provincial and national championships.

“I was 14-years-old, and this little girl with pig-tails walks up behind me, and I said, ‘excuse me, I think you’re in the wrong course.’ She said, Oh no, ‘I’m alright.’ I was concerned she would get lost,” Nix said. “We started in two-minute intervals and by the time I got to the third control and she punched the control beside me and blew right by me. She beat me by five minutes.”

The event at the Pugwash Basin was organized by the North Shore Adventure Club, with the $500 raised going to Cumberland Trails, who cut the trails on Victoria Island.

“Cumberland Trails came out two weekends ago and spent the whole day with power saws on the Island clearing the trails,” Nix said.

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