Caroline Ringo's DVOA History

Valley Forge Orienteering Events

Harald Wibye came from Norway to Canada on a job assignment, then down to the Philadelphia area where he was an engineer with the Turbine Division of Westinghouse. He was in the Philadelphia area only a year, from fall 1967 to early fall 1968. During that time he attempted to introduce orienteering not only in our area, but also made contacts with West Point and Quantico, made a map for Quantico and one for Bjorn Kjellstrom (inventor of the Silva compass) who lived adjacent to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Westchester County, NY, wrote many publicity releases and corresponded with colleges and outdoor organizations.

Valley Forge was a state park and a convenient location for Harald. Using an enlargement of a USGS topo map, he conducted three events in the fall of 1967. Many of the first attendees were work associates from Westinghouse. Attendance at the first event on Nov. 5 was 42, on Nov 26 there were 20 and on Dec 10 there were 38. A reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer attended the December event and a two-page spread, with photographs, in the Magazine section appeared on December 24, 1967. In January of 1968 Harald was invited to speak at the South Jersey Outdoor club in Moorestown, NJ. Kent and Caroline Ringo and daughters, aged 8 and 10, attended, watched the Swedish film Harold showed, and decided to try what sounded like a good family sport.

The first spring event was March 10 on the Swarthmore campus, which attracted 40 people. On April 7 an event at Earles Lake in Newtown Square attracted 41. Even then the bulldozers were in evidence on the site and the area soon became a housing development, so was never used again. (It is just south of "Skunk Hollow on the Willows map). Those were the only two spring events here, but Harald encouraged us to attend an event at Ward Pound Ridge on a three-color map he had made, and we did so, meeting Bjorn Kjellsstrom, who gave each of our daughters a compass and a copy of his book.

Harald hoped to keep orienteering alive after he returned to Norway, so George Chang, a work associate, set three events in the fall of 1968 at Valley Forge. The starting point for all of these was the parking lot behind Washington's Headquarters. George was involved in competitive swimming and could no longer continue with orienteering so he turned over Harald's records to Kent and Caroline Ringo, with the hope that the sport could be kept alive. Bob McNair, another work associate and an active member of the Buck Ridge Ski Club, continued to set events in Valley Forge while the Ringos mapped Deep Hollow and Pakim Pond sections of Lebanon State Forest in New Jersey and, along with Dave Chamberlain, conducted the first meet there in a sleet storm on December 7, 1969. Along with Dave Jackson the Ringos mapped French Creek and conducted the first event there on May 3, 1970. Valley Forge was used less frequently as we added Wissahickon in Philadelphia and Rancocas State Park near Mount Holly, NJ to our event locations. Dave Jackson conducted two events at Hickory Run, which proved to be too far afield with only 10 at the first event there. Likewise for Port Clinton in PA and Blackbird Forest in Delaware. Colliers Mill in NJ was first used in May of 1974 Dave Crimmin, a member of our club who taught in a boy's prep school near the Delaware Water Gap, mapped Allamuchy State Forest, and our club used it for several events, including the first dual meet with the Ramapo Club (later renamed-Hudson Valley).

Our club used Valley Forge for the last time while it was still a state park on May 16,1976. Permission for use after it became a National Historical Park was not granted until our A meet on the Fatlands portion in June Of 1995, nineteen years later, and only by proving ourselves at that event were we again allowed to return to the area first used in 1967.

Notes on Early Valley Forge Events

The parking lot back of Washington's headquarters was the first registration area used. It lacked both shelter house and picnic tables. Later, we used the Fort Huntington picnic area.

The map covered both sides of the stream. At the time of our early meets there must have been a footbridge that no longer exists. I don't remember, although I did several courses there. I don't think Harald would have expected beginners to wade across.

Clues were given only if it was felt necessary. "No clue" was often used. Clues were not standardized. "In the thicket" and "on the hillside" were popular. The feature often did not appear on the map, in which case the USOF rule was to use "the boulder" if it was on the map and "a boulder" if it was not.

Maps were not accurate and coursesetters were inexperienced, so often luck played a big role in how fast and how successfully controls were located. But we were hooked on the sport

Caroline Ringo