Croom Wildlife Management Area
Saturday Feb 11, 2023

Staging at Tucker Hill Parking Area
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FLO Civilians:
Registration opens about 9:00 AM, first starts at 9:30 AM
All courses close at 3:00 PM

Central HS will be hosting
Starts will most likely begin at 0930
(environmental briefing at 0900)
We expect all JROTC units to have pre-registered


Welcome back to live orienteering - the original socially-distanced sport!  This month we are travelling to the Tucker Hill trailhead at Croom Wildlife Management Area near Brooksville.  This is a bit of a hike (literally and figuratively) for our east central FL participants, but it's well worth the drive!  The Croom tract has some beautiful orienteering terrain filled with lots of runnable forest, shot through with various multi-use trails.  There's also some nice elevation (by Florida standards) to play around in.

We'll be using the map on the south side of Croom Rd for the first time in 3 years, staging in the shady area under the trees east of the car parking area at Tucker Hill.  

Croom WMA has numerous multi-use trails for visitors to enjoy, including horseback riding, hiking, and, famously, mountain biking.  The forest area to the east of Tucker Hill is home to some of the best mountain biking trails in central FL, so if you're a MTB person, think about bringing your bike for a ride after your course.

This event will have both civilian orienteering and also a standard JROTC competition.  A variety of courses will be offered from beginner to advanced (see course list below).

We will stage on the south side of Croom Road east of the fire tower.

Staging Area:
Bus parking: ///riders.spate.borders  (grassy area right in front of the fire tower)

Park Web Site

Swamp Mountain Bike Club Web Site:

Venue Notes

One thing that makes Croom so attractive as an orienteering destination is the fact that so much of it is "whitewoods" (runnable forest shown as white on an orienteering map).  There is some thicker vegetation in a few areas, but for the most part you can go almost anywhere off trail and will have wide latitude in your route choices when navigating.  This allows for creativity, strategizing, and lots of learning.  There are also more hills here than in most FL parks, so you can get some good practice in making use of elevation cues.

We're into the Florida "winter" season now, so some of the off-trail underbrush has died down a bit.  There are still occasional vines and briars to keep you on your toes however, and some tall grass in the open low-lying areas.  We recommend that you wear leg protection (jeans or gaiters) to prevent scratches if you're going to do an intermediate or advanced course which will see you spending time tromping through the terrain off-trail.

Keep your eyes peeled for deer, turkeys, and other wildlife.  While vetting, I scattered a herd of about 20 whitetail deer at one point!  Look down frequently to watch for gopher tortoise burrows, which are plentiful throughout the area, and are sometimes quite large (watch for the "aprons" of sand around the entrances, and try to stay off them).

FLO is in the process of doing a full digital redraw of the Croom South map, but it is not yet complete enough to use for an event.  Consequently, this event will be run on the old map with some digital edits made during the course vetting cycle. Some trail changes have been made, which includes both addition of a few new trails and deletion of a few old indistinct ones that have faded out.  The map in general has seen minor updates in the areas around the controls.

Please be aware that this is a popular park and others will be enjoying it as well while we are there. Mountain bikers and equestrians make use of the trail network and you may encounter them.  Always be courteous to other park patrons - respect their space, smile, and say hello.

Be especially careful when horses are present!  Many of the trails here are narrow and winding, and horses are more likely to spook when they feel confined.  A spooked horse is a danger to everyone around them, so make every effort to steer clear of them if you see them.  Yield and get off the trail, move slowly and quietly until you and the riders pass each other.  Also, our staging area is right across the road from the equestrian loading area at Tucker Hill.  Stay on the south side of the paved road and not disturb those using the equestrian area on the north side - folks here have been known to be a bit touchy about this, and we don't want any complaints (whether well-founded or not).

Similarly, be watchful for mountain bikers on the trails.  Bikers move quickly and are often necessarily intently focused on what's immediately under their wheels.  They may not always look far ahead, and from their point of view you as a hiker/runner can appear in their path suddenly.  Nobody wants a collision or to be responsible for a spill.  You can easily get off the trail and they can't, so be the one to yield right-of-way in an encounter.


  • White - for beginners. Course is mostly on trails with control points a short distance into the woods. There may be opportunities for those who feel able to take short cuts through the woods. Length 2.9 km.
  • Yellow - for beginners. Course is mostly on trails with control points a short distance into the woods. There may be opportunities for those who feel able to take short cuts through the woods. Length 3.4 km.
  • Orange - intermediate difficulty. Mix of on- trail and off-trail, generally relying on the more obvious mapped features. Length 5.2 km.
  • Green - advanced course off trail and reliant on the subtler features of the terrain. Length 6.0 km.
  • Blue - the longest advanced course. Length 8.6 km.
  • Violet - Adventure racer trail runner course (Long trail run with easy to intermediate level navigation).  Length 9.4 km.
Note that the course lengths mentioned above are measured straight-line from point to point to point.  Your actual route on the ground will often be on more winding trails or diverted around obstacles like ponds or dense tickets, so your actual distance traveled will often be 25-50% longer than the stated course length.

If you are new and/or unsure of which course is right for you, ask us at registration and we will be happy to advise you.  Precise course lengths will be on display at registration to give you an idea of how far you'll be travelling to complete a course.  When in doubt, choose an easier course.  If you complete that one too fast and haven't had enough fun yet, you can trade up to the next harder map and go out again!

As usual, there is a 3 hour time limit on all FLO courses, and all courses close at 3:00 pm (1500 hours).


Safety Bearing for all courses is north to Croom Road (paved), and then back to Tucker Hill along the road (watch for traffic!).

Typical FLO registration fees are in effect: $7 per Map for FLO members, $9 per Map for non-members and $6 per Map for Groups such as JROTC and Scouts whose leaders register, and pay for, all their groups at once (this group rate minimizes the crowd and the confusion at the registration table and is well worth the discount to FLO registration volunteers!).

In addition to the FLO map fee, there is a $2 PER PERSON day use fee for the park, which FLO will collect at the registration tent.  Obtain your “Fee Paid” windshield ticket when you register.

We hope you all enjoy the day and this lovely venue. Thanks for coming out, and bring a friend!
Course Design: Ray Bruneau (ray@floridaorienteering.org)
Vetting & Map Update: Blaik Mathews (blaik@floridaorienteering.org), Joanie Haas (joanie@floridaorienteering.org)
Invasive Plant Bulletin: Caesar's Weed

Every Orienteer who's ever set a toe off-trail in FL knows about one of our most annoying invasive plant species: Urena lobata, commonly known as Caesar's Weed.  You may not know you know this plant, but you do.  It's the one that does this to you:

In the woods, it can be recognized by its medium to tall stalks, broad rounded leaves with minor scalloping at the edges, and of course, during the winter season, by its "business ends" - the stalk ends presenting its hitchhiker seeds that end up covering your clothes.

These plants are a creeping botanical disaster, as they grow like... well, like weeds, they propagate like crazy, and they shade out and outcompete our native FL understory plants.  Not to mention that they drive orienteers and other woods enthusiasts nuts with all the seed-picking we have to do at the end of a day's activities.

The secret weapon of Caesar's Weed is its clingy "hitchhiker" seeds.  The fibrous hooks surrounding the seed pod are like velcro - they latch onto animal fur, clothing, body hair, or anything else they can get their little hooks into when brushed up against.  The unwitting taxi service then carries the seeds to new territories where they can start new colonies. The seeds have a very high viability rate, which means that every seed successfully relocated and dropped to the ground is a potential future Urena lobata colony in the making.

Park managers are in a constant state of war with these invaders, and as their allies we must do our part!  The good news is that the seeds do their hitchhiker bit almost too well - they grip to man-made fabrics so tightly that we end up carrying a HUGE number of seeds out of the woods with us.  If we dispose of them properly - trapped in a plastic bag discarded in regular trash (not yard waste) - then we can help break the plants' reproductive cycle.


THE TAKEAWAY: When you come out of the woods covered in Caesar seeds, DO NOT PLUCK THEM OFF AND TOSS THEM RANDOMLY AWAY!  That's giving aid and comfort to the enemy!  Find a trash can with a plastic bag liner and dispose of the seeds in the bag. The seeds are not sharp and so can be removed with bare fingers, but it is often easier to stretch the fabric a bit and then brush them off with a comb.  Just remember to do this over a trash can or at least a paved surface where it's easy to retrieve any seeds that fall.  Remember, even one seed left behind can start a new invader colony, so don't let any escape.

Smartphone prep for orienteering participants:
For safety and event management reasons, we strongly suggest all participants and support staff get the following 2 apps installed and set up on their phones prior to coming to the orienteering event:

Incredibly useful app for conveying precise locations anywhere in the world using a 3-word address.  Such addresses can be easily communicated via voice or text message, and can be fed into navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps to obtain turn-by-turn directions to the corresponding locations.

W3W Elevator pitch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNp-divt_50

We use this app for:  

App for recording your GPS track during your course which will overlay on your map when you're done.  Allows us to track real-time runner locations during the event for safety and operational risk management. Review and debriefing based on the recorded tracks is also one of the best ways to train!
How to install and set up the app: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OY8nzr6prk
  • Check the weather before coming and bring appropriate clothing.  This includes layers during colder weather, cool moisture-wicking clothing in hotter months, and a waterproof jacket or poncho if rain is a possibility (FLO events run rain or shine!).
  • We recommend wearing supportive shoes with a upper tougher than fabric, particularly if you plan to do a course beyond novice level.  If you plan to do an advanced course, you will likely spend significant time off trail.  Covering your lower legs with outdoor pants or even gaiters will protect you from scratches.
  • It's Florida. Bring sun screen and bug spray as appropriate.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO BRING WATER.  Each competitor is expected to carry their own water or to be sufficiently hydrated before competing.  And let’s not kid ourselves about this hydrating thing: Plan on carrying your own water even though it’s an option, because if you become lost or disoriented, you may be spending more time out there than you planned. Stay hydrated. It may be warm and there will be no water on the courses. Carrying a little extra can also let you be a hero to someone else who didn't plan ahead as well as you did.
  • When registering a group, make sure you tell us the exact number of people who will be in that group.  FLO absolutely needs to know how many people are in each group and what the individual names are. Do not treat this as a choice; this is a safety issue. We hope never to use this information as part of a Search & Rescue effort, but if it is neglected and a search becomes necessary, you can appreciate how vital it may be.
  • The Safety Bearing for all courses will always be PRINTED ON YOUR MAP, and will generally lead to a road or fence that will guide you back to the finish.
  • If you become severely lost or injured, or lose your map and/or compass: If you are at a control, stay there until help arrives. Bail out to the Safety Bearing ONLY if you are CERTAIN you now know which way is the way back.
  • Carry a whistle and know how to use it: If in trouble, give 3 short blasts on the whistle, and repeat every few minutes until found. If you hear another wistle answer back (single blast), respond with your 3 blasts every time they signal so they can home in on you.
  • If you have a smartphone, carry it with you and use the Livelox app to record your hike (see info below).  With Livelox and cell signal, event staff can monitor your position and movements in real time, which is VERY handy if you should become lost.
  • An emergency contact number will also be printed on your map.  If you get in trouble or see someone else who is, call in for help.
  • At some of our venues, there may be horse trails with riders on horseback.  Running toward or past a horse can spook it, leading to highly unfortunate events (or at the very least, angry riders who will complain to park officials).  If you encounter horses, STOP RUNNING, yield right-of-way, and be courteous.  Play nice in the sandbox.
Florida Orienteering is a non-profit entity and our entire operation runs on the efforts of volunteers - people who love the sport, love the outdoors, and love sharing the experience of enjoying Florida's unique and beautiful natural spaces.  We are always on the lookout for new friends who share these interests and are willing to help - so if you have some time to share, please volunteer!

We always need people to help out at every event - even an hour or two really helps.  We will train any skills needed.  Possible duties include setup or take-down, registration, start table, finish table, Livelox monitoring, and control retrieval (starting at 3pm).

Contact the event coordinator listed above or email Blaik at 
blaik@floridaorienteering.org.   Let them know you can volunteer for a few hours either early (9:00 to noon) or late (noon-3:00), and whether there is anything in particular you’d like to do. 

SPECIAL NOTE - Volunteering for Control Retrieval at the end of the event is one of the best ways to learn the skill of navigation!  Adventure Racers and JROTC Cadets, especially the AR’s who like to run two or three courses, should consider Retrieval as an alternative training exercise.
SportIdent “e-punch” timing is now the required method of timing at all FLO events.  In addition to providing more information about your course, it also lightens the workload of accurate record-keeping, scoring, tracking, and results posting for FLO event staff and volunteers.  If you don’t own an e-punch finger stick, one can be easily rented for $3 at registration.  E-punch sticks can also be purchased for $30 (or $27 after rental) and used at orienteering events worldwide. For more information on e-punch timing see the intro video linked below:

 Training Video on “E-Punch” Timing & Finger Sticks:
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