Photo by Will Toppin

College Outdoors resumes open houses after dire winter storm

After postponing its Feb. 16 Open House due to the recent winter storms, College Outdoors (CO) has resumed its biweekly schedule. The second Open House of the semester, held on Feb. 23, taught attendees about navigation and how to use a compass.

Kori Rosenstiel, operations manager at CO, led the event together with Student Coordinator Abby Jaquin ’22.

“Open House always has two goals,” Rosenstiel said. “One is community building and an opportunity for people who want to be involved with leadership to be together in-person.”

The second goal of each Open House is to teach a specific skill, Rosensteil said. Past events have taught attendees how to tie bowline and trucker’s hitch knots, and how to use a backpacking stove. Open Houses take place socially distanced in the Sequoia Vehicle Yard on the graduate campus.

Rosenstiel and Jaquin began the Feb. 23 event with a presentation. They outlined the components of a compass, such as the “direction of travel” arrow, the rotating bezel, “Red Fred” (the magnetic needle) and its “moped” (a marker for magnetic north on the bezel).

Every field compass has a plastic baseplate with a travel arrow that points away from the user. The compass itself — a rotating capsule with the magnetic needle inside, filled with a liquid that dampens motion is embedded in this baseplate. The bezel of the rotating compass is marked with degrees, from 0 to 360, where each cardinal direction is 90 degrees from the last.

To navigate with the compass, the user rotates the dial so that the correct degree on the bezel lines up with the direction of travel arrow. Then, they spin their body while holding the compass until “Fred” is on its “moped.”

Attendees then moved to the South Lawn for some real-world practice. Rosenstiel taught a leapfrogging technique for low visibility conditions, where the user navigates to a partner rather than to a particular direction. The event wrapped up with a brief lesson on how to use a compass to orient maps.

Will Gattiker ’22, whitewater rafting trip specialist or “paddle captain” for CO, attended the event.

“I think it was really well put together,” Gattiker said. “It was good just for me to get a reminder of how this actually works. And it was cool just getting some hands-on experience.”

Attendees also learned how to adjust for “declination” on a compass. Declination is the angle between magnetic north and true north, and varies based on one’s location in the world and the movement of the Earth’s magnetic fields. In 2021, the magnetic declination in Portland is about 15 degrees east.

CO has been severely impacted by COVID-19, with outings restricted to “micro-adventures” near campus to avoid the use of confined vans. Though some longer – distance outings resumed last week, Open Houses have been some of the primary in person events.

Rosenstiel, however, had a positive outlook.

“College Outdoors is really fortunate to be able to be doing things during COVID,” Rosenstiel said. “We’ve had in-person events every weekend. And it’s really been a lot of fun, even though they’re all right here.” Students interested in getting involved with CO or attending future Open Houses should visit the CO website and sign up for the mailing list. While it is possible to view the events on the website, the link to register is only sent out via email before the Open House. 

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