Locals who take advantage of the crisp temperatures to explore Harrison Bay State Park's wooded areas or take in the changing scenery can also take advantage of an offering unique to the park: an orienteering course.
The next-closest place with a permanent course to help visitors brush up on their map and compass skills is at Red Top Mountain State Park near Atlanta.
The local course is the result of a yearlong project by Eagle Scout Joshua Bowers of Ooltewah Troop 147.
"If you just rely on current GPS technology, you're kinda in trouble if something were to happen to it," he said. "It's good to have analog technology that is reliable in case something happens so you can expect the unexpected. Knowing how to get from point A to point B is crucial."
Joshua has a history in adventure racing, the competitive form of orienteering, and came up with the idea for the course with his dad. Harrison Bay State Park was chosen for its accessibility and popularity, said Joshua.
"We thought it would have the most impact at Harrison Bay," he said.
Working with Park Ranger Matthew Vawter to coordinate where the points would go, Joshua spent a year organizing and planning the course. His Scout troop, family and friends helped to set up the 12 posts, which serve as wayfinding points.
Those interested in using the course can visit the camp store to pick up a map and then head out with their compass to find the 12 check-in points.
"The course can take an hour or more, depending on your skill level," Joshua said. "It was designed as a figure-eight, so if you get tired at any point, you're not too far away from a road to get back. We designed it with all skill levels in mind."
He encourages those headed out to the course to wear hiking boots, bring water, sunscreen and bug spray, and not to go alone.
"We designed it for people to check in when they are using the course so we know how many people are on the course at a time so no one ends up just following the people in front of them," Joshua said, adding, "Checking in is also good for safety. It maximizes people's experiences to get new skills and minimizes the chance of something bad happening."
For more information about the orienteering course or Harrison Bay State Park, call 344-6214 or visit tnstateparks.com/parks/about/harrison-bay.
Email Heather Newlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.