Get Stoked Rogaine 2016

Last weekend I met my buddy Philip down in the mountains of Virginia for a 24 hour rogaine.

Start/Finish area

Start/Finish area

It was a long drive from Milwaukee, but I made it in Friday evening and got a decent night’s sleep in the back of the Honda Fit.

Maps were handed out at 0700, and teams were allowed to start any time between 0800 and 1000. Our goal was to start right at 0800, since Phil had a flight to catch out of DC on Sunday afternoon and needed to be back early.


After some deliberation, we decided to concentrate mostly on the southern half of the map, where the points seemed to be concentrated a little more heavily.

We started by heading southeast to #32, which we found without any difficulty. Since Phil had never done a rogaine before, I was in charge of the navigation…and probably made a poor impression by immediately screwing up on the second control. I didn’t look closely at the map when leaving #32 and inadvertently took us up the wrong spur, overshooting #43 and forcing us to double back. We probably lost 20-25 minutes all told.

From there, we dropped back down to the stream, followed it up to #62, then climbed up to an old road where we made much faster time.

On the trail, after bagging #62

On the road, after bagging #62

We moved pretty quickly up and down the hills during the first few hours. I worked up a good sweat despite the cool weather. We quickly grabbed #52 – only 100 feet or so off the trail – then bushwhacked our way down to #42. Again, we found this one without any issues.

It had been 18 months or so since my last rogaine, but at this point I was starting to feel more confident in my navigation. So confident, in fact, that I somehow took us directly past #33. We figured out pretty quickly that we’d missed it, but opted not to double back since it was only worth 3 points. So we continued uphill until we ran into the Lookout Mountain trail.

We’d been working off a rough outline that we’d put together before starting, but at this point we called our first audible. Rather than continuing south and west, I took us north to grab #61. (I had initially been “saving” this control for our return trip, but now felt that it was too close to pass up. This ended up working out well, since our return trip ultimately brought us back to camp via the road, rather than hitting the 61-51-41-31 combo I had been planning).

We made it to #61 a little over two hours after starting. We’d been pushing things a little hard following our early mishap, so we took advantage of the well-marked trail toward #85 to slow the pace, re-hydrate, and have a few snacks. After the long climb up to #85, we stopped for a short break before heading down to #98.

Descending Lookout Mountain, northwest of #85

Descending Lookout Mountain, northwest of #85

Here we had another small navigational mishap. I took us a little too far north while descending the spur, and soon realized we had probably missed #98. Unfortunately, without an altimeter, I couldn’t be sure how far we’d descended…and of course the hillside was densely overgrown. It made for poor visibility and slow going. Ended up taking us a little over an hour to make the ~800 meter trip from #85 to #98, but we did eventually find it.

The navigational side of things went much more smoothly after this. We descended the reentrant from #98 directly to #72, then waded across the North River to meet up with a trail. We then followed this southwest to another ford, where we backtracked a short ways up the river bank, climbed a steep embankment along the side of some cliffs, and followed another reentrant up to #64.

#72, near the river

Control #72, near a creek feeding into the river

Control #64

Control #64

The trek from #64 to #84 was mostly uneventful, with one major exception. Immediately after crossing the river, as I was looking down at the map and compass while walking, I noticed a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. Then I heard a THUMP followed by a sharp rattling sound, and reflexively jumped backwards. Turns out I had just been struck at by a very large rattlesnake. It miraculously didn’t break skin, for which I can probably credit my hard-shell pants.


We pressed on to #84, then took another short break to reevaluate our plan. There were several high-value controls in the area, but we still needed to decide which ones to target, and in what order. After a few minutes, I decided to take us to #73, #94, and #81. It was a tough call skipping #92 (and in hindsight, it would have been worth making a detour for). The trip to #73 was straightforward from a navigational standpoint – directly south at the same elevation – but it involved nearly a kilometer of awkward side-stepping along a steep slope. Rough on the ankles, and slippery in places due to the near-constant light rain throughout the day.

The trip from #73 to #94 was a bit of a navigational challenge, with control #94 tucked away in one of several nearly-identical reentrants. I led us northwest through the forest, trying as carefully as possible to minimize our net elevation gain. I knew the destination was ~ 180 feet above us, and wanted to avoid confusion by intentionally approaching it from below. (The worst feeling, of course, is when you can’t tell if you missed a control too high or too low.) I also left Philip in charge of counting aloud each reentrant that we crossed, to help track exactly where we were. We found #94 without any mishaps, then backtracked downstream a short ways to filter some water and eat a snack. From there it was a short climb up to #81, followed by an easy descent back down to the main trail and then out to the road.

Another river crossing on our way back to the road

Another river crossing on our way back to the road

Our next destination after reaching the road was #83. A long and steep climb, but we made relatively quick work of it. We then backtracked to the road and followed it northwest toward an intersection. Before reaching it, we turned off the road to our right to bag #96. I initially took us up the wrong reentrant, but we immediately caught the mistake and corrected course…maybe costing us 3-4 minutes of lost time.

Control #96

Control #96

We were running out of daylight at this point, and the rain was starting to pick up again. We made quick work of #88, then continued north, followed the ridge to the highest point of the hill, and hit #55 and #45 on our way back down to the road. We were forced to bring out the headlamps just before reaching the road.

We followed the road east for 50 minutes or so. It was around this time that we agreed to head back toward the finish area, grabbing a handful of controls on the way. As I mentioned, Philip had a flight to catch the next day and wanted to get some sleep. We aimed to be back around 0200 (~6 hours early). There were a number of controls within striking distance that WOULD have been attractive targets had we had the time (46, 66, 95, 35, 78, 63, 71, 54, 34, 91, 87, 51, 41, and 31). Instead we just went after the low-hanging fruit (i.e. close to trails and roads, and/or near easily recognizable geographic features).

Our first stop was #46 – a low point value control, but attractive because of its close proximity to a side trail. Only a few of the controls had reflective tape, incidentally, and this turned out to be one of them. We found it without difficulty, and continued making our way eastward toward #35.

Control #46

Control #46

Without light, we had to rely heavily on my compass for navigation. A slight curve in the road was our cue to head south, and I led us up another steep, soggy, thickly overgrown embankment. I wish I could say it was skill rather than luck…but either way, I led us directly to #35. No reflective tape, but we didn’t need it. We then followed the ridgeline eastward to #63. This took us almost 40 minutes (despite the short distance) thanks to the heavy undergrowth. We got stabbed by plenty of thorns, and almost walked into another large snake. Luckily I caught the reflection of its eyes with my headlamp, about 10 feet away, and we were able to give it a wide berth. After finding #63, we headed north again, waded across another river, and bagged #54.

Wading across another river

Wading across another river

This required an extra kilometer or so of hiking in order to get above some large cliffs…but fortunately it was all on trail. Control #54 was found easily and we continued north back to the road. I tried convincing Phil to chase after a few more controls, but no such luck. We followed the road back toward the finish area, and I made another blunder by missing #31 right at the entrance to the campground. A number-less control had been left there to direct cars to the correct turnoff, and I mistakenly thought this must be #31 (my fatigued brain assumed the number-punch must have fallen off). Oops. I learned later that the REAL #31 was a short distance away, closer to the river. I did successfully track down #41 near the edge of the campground, then we called it a night. It was 0145 when we arrived back at the campground. Soaked and shivering. We each caught a few hours of sleep in our respective cars, then turned in our score card and grabbed some breakfast and coffee.

Our route, with corresponding times

Our route, with corresponding times


Our goal before starting had been to place in the top half, and we (barely) did so. We finished 10th out of 21 in the 24 hour division, with 24 controls and a total score of 146.

Overall this was an excellent event. Definitely hoping to do it again next year.

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 7:48 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great summary of your experience! It is nice you and Phil were able to catch up while spending the day together competing in a Rogaine.

  2. I agree. Great summary, Matt. I always enjoy reading them. I’m amazed at what goes into being a participant in these events. You must love doing this! I’m exhausted just reading about it.

  3. Thanks for reading!

  4. Just amazing, Matt. I agree with Steve that you do a great job summarizing the process. I always like reading these and am in awe of what you go through (for fun!).

  5. Grandpa and I (Grammy R.) love to follow you and your events.

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