Not everyone wandering through central Ohio's parks and forests is lost.

In fact, they may know exactly where they are.

Several weekends of the year in a variety of locations, members of the Central Ohio Orienteers can be found traipsing through the wooded areas of parks. Orienteers use a map and compass to move from one location to another, completing different courses with the aim to set a quick time -- or simply enjoy the process.

Asheville resident Earl Reisinger, 73, is the president of the central Ohio group, which was born from a similar club in the Cincinnati area in 1994.

He prefers a slower pace, as opposed to the "sprints" that are completed by members looking for speed.

"It can be a casual walk, or you can run and go as fast as you can go," he said. "It can be really competitive or just an outdoor activity. I'm more of a walker."

While Reisinger said the group has only about a dozen "actual" members, he said it attracts up to 30 or more at various events.

"It's an international sport," he said.

"It's bigger in Europe and other countries than in the United States, but there's an international organization and (nonprofit organization) Orienteering USA here in the States."

Reisinger has been participating in orienteering for decades.

Though he said there's no set demographic for those interested in the sport, he often meets engineers and teachers and assumes "it's just the way their brain works."

Most who participate in orienteering don't have any particular background in navigation or compass use. For Reisinger, like many others, interest in orienteering came from being in the Boy Scouts and a lifelong love of hiking, which "snowballed" into orienteering and other outdoor pastimes.

"I don't have any real background except I always liked to hike and do outdoors-type things," he said, "so when you hike and backpack, it's just another step. It's just a natural thing."

Another longtime member of the group is Clintonville resident Shin Shimizu, who has been orienteering in Ohio since he arrived from Japan in 1988.

Shimizu said the pastime is largely niche in Japan as well but is more popular among college students, which is how he got into the sport.

At 63, Shimizu likes to "understand direction" and "win the race," rather than take Reisinger's casual approach.

"I participate in the races as much as possible, and each time I make many mistakes," he said. "So next time, I'll probably correct the previous mistakes. That creates the experience.

"I'm orienteering for a sport, and usually, I'm running."

Membership has dwindled a bit in the club, and Reisinger said he would love to find some more younger faces who are interested in revamping things.

"As far as the core group, in several years, it hasn't changed a lot," he said. "We're really looking for new people to help out."

The Central Ohio Orienteers has several gatherings set for 2019 following its most recent meeting May 5 at Whetstone Park in Clintonville.

Future venues include Sharon Woods Metro Park, June 1; Three Creeks Metro Park, Sept. 14; Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe, Oct. 13; Highbanks Metro Park, Oct. 26; Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park, Nov. 10; and Alley Park in Lancaster, Dec. 7.

For more information, go to sites.google.com/site/centralohioorienteers or visit the group's Facebook page.

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