by Albus Du
Have you ever sat back in a chair on your porch, sipping a lemonade, and thought to yourself, “Hmmm… I wish I had somewhere near my home where I could camp comfortably, hike exciting yet family friendly terrain, and do other interesting activities such as orienteering,”. Well, I haven’t because I have been to Little Bennett Regional Park. Little Bennett is an excellent site just off I-270 in Clarksburg. It offers large open fields for group camping, smaller pods for single families, and even yurts and cabins you can stay in if you don’t want to pitch a tent. Around the park, there are also various attractions that you could take advantage of during your stay, from historical sites, to an orienteering course, and a playground for any young’uns that you may bring. Ultimately, Little Bennett is known mostly as an excellent family camping site, and that it is, but I think the most exciting part is the orienteering course.
What is orienteering?
Orienteering, to put it simply, is finding your way, be that with a map, a compass, both, or neither. The most primitive form of orienteering is having a set of instructions, (“Walk until you hit a stream, then turn to the left, and walk until you get to the road,”) then following those instructions. The most advanced form is GPS, but (in my opinion) the most fun form is map and compass orienteering. As the name suggests, the only thing you have is a map, such as this one, and a compass. On the map is drawn your start/end point, the posts that you have to visit, and detailed topography and geography. In an orienteering course, there are wooden posts, or plastic flags stuck in the ground, your job is to visit all of the posts that are marked on the map. To do that, you have to find out which way is north, orient yourself, carefully read the map, correlate it with what you are seeing in real life, and plot a course. For example, if you are going between post 1/10 and post 2 on the map, you’ll see that the map says you should hit a crossable stream inside of a small valley, then you should start going uphill and see post 2 at the top. If you cross the stream, and you start going downhill, then you’ve done something wrong. There’s more to it than I can get into here, (how exactly to read topography lines, how map scaling works, how to use a compass, etc.) but I will leave some links to relevant media.
Little Bennett is an excellent family campground, with amenities and attractions for everyone. Its orienteering course is quite superb, offering options for easier, and more difficult courses. Whether you want to simply sleep under the stars for a night, or go for a short hike through the woods of Eastern Maryland, Little Bennett Regional Park is the place to be.
P.S. The internet tells me there is good mountain biking there too, although I have never done that before.