Lake Louisa State Park

The opportunity to take a break from the crummy November weather here in Ottawa to work on a map near Orlando, Florida was too good to pass up. Gord Hunter, who is now spending winters down there, needed help to complete enough of the 24 sq. Km park to stage an orienteering event in the early spring. We concentrated on the west side of the park where there is a good trail network and some runnable forest. Much of the east side is open land with few usable features.

The NW corner of the park is dominated by Lake Louisa, with a long public beach along the south side. We saw many kayakers on the lake when it was calm. The large parking lot there will probably be the main staging point for orienteering and Rogaine events by  the Florida Orienteers (FLO).

Like so much of Florida, there is only gentle topography and virtually no rock features in the park. So one of the challenges was to find enough mappable details for some precision orienteering. Many areas of the park that have been reforested with pine look like the far left part of this sample. Slow and featureless. However, there were several extensive open areas with distinct clusters of trees that will provide some navigational choices. Good resolution Google photos enabled us to plot most of these copses and trees before heading out to the map.

Some typical terrain: Fast woods, but watch out for those cacti in the open areas! Many of the larger trees are laden with Spanish moss. Yeah, yeah, like some "old man's beard". 

Every once in a while I would come across a lone fruit tree in the middle of the forest. Not really a surprise, as the park used to be full of orange and lemon groves.
Just a little surprising were the herds of wild pigs in the forest. Gord managed to snap a quick photo of one while running backwards! They can be aggressive. We saw herds of huge wild turkeys, many white-tail deer, lots of big box turtles, and "flocks" of vultures with wings so broad you could hear them swooping. Gord was the only one to see a 'gator at the edge of a big marsh.

And then there were the groves of palmetto bushes. The "saw palmetto" to be exact - with tiny barbs on the edges of the leaves so any inclination to rush through them is quickly suppressed. We decided to map them with the darkest green for "fight" or impassable. For the open areas covered with impassable palmettos we used a dark green cross hatch to indicate that yes, its open, but you don't want to go there!

It was a surprise to find a fast flowing stream in this flat terrain. It runs up the middle of the map and the water is almost black from natural minerals. It is also fairly deep in many places so we decided to show it with a bank line for safety.


In this map snippet you will find examples of special symbols we have used. At left is a semi-open area covered with impassable palmetto. The very dark green dots are single palmetto bushes at least 2 metres high. We had to set a height limit as there were hundreds of widely spaced single bushes. I like to white-out the middle of a large distinct tree symbol for readability. The open areas are often sandy with a bit of grass and cactus so we used the open land (401) symbol for readability. Yes, the vegetation detail is almost to a sprint map standard but there are only a few "precision" areas like this on the map.

The boardwalk to the beach from the main parking lot was bordered with an "impassable" railing. What symbol(s) would you use? A path with an uncrossable fence on either side? That combination doesn't really describe the actual object so a new special symbol was suggested by FLO. You can see it at right. Maybe it should be filled with the light brown? But then it would look like shallow stairs?

Maybe we should use the sprint path symbol but with heavier black borders to indicate the "impassibility"? What's
important is that all these special symbols are prominently displayed on the map and the course setters don't use the boardwalk to "trap" competitors on a leg of a course.

On my last day of field checking I revisited a wooded area I had passed through very quickly the week before. I came across this immense spreading tree - a species of oak I think. Anyway, just a distinct tree symbol didn't do it justice and neither does the photo because the branches spread out to almost 30 metres. I am not a big fan of extraneous "distinct boundary" symbols but I deemed it necessary in this case. : )

I stayed with Gord and Lise in Kissammee but I never went to Disneyworld because virtually every day was great for mapping. Thank-you to Gord and FLO for inviting me. I am looking forward to another winter break in the future!