Pumpkin Scramble IV: Widowmaker’s Revenge
Santa Monica Mtns, CA
Team And Then There Were None on sunrise kayak
Pumpkin Scramble CP Marker
On October 28, 2006, 18 teams of 47 athletes came out for the fourth annual Pumpkin Scramble adventure. If you’ve never heard of the Pumpkin Scramble, it is an underground 'training event' with very wacky Halloween overtones, where athletes search the wilderness for small plastic pumpkins or Halloween-themed checkpoints…participation is free (just bring a dish to the potluck post-event party!) and all by word of mouth. This year’s course was designed as a 6 or 12 hour Rogaine format that included ocean kayaking, mtn biking, trekking, navigation and a car rally element, and covered three quarters of the 90 mile Santa Monica Mtn range in Los Angeles. Teams are encouraged to compete in costume and it’s always fun to see unaware onlookers scratching their heads as polypro bunnies and lycra pirates pass them on the trails!
Team Clayboy Bunnies at the kayak start
Pumpkin Scramble IV: Widowmaker’s Revenge was designed to put a premium on strategy and teams’ ability to think thru and plan complex multisport logistics in order to garner the most points (not necessarily the most CP’s) within the time allotted. Winning would necessitate equal parts speed, tactics and navigational acumen.
Andy Petranek, Devil in a kayak TA
Team Petranek Fitness at kayak TA
Because there were so many points to plot and strategic decisions to make for this Rogaine course, UTM’s were sent out on the Wednesday before this Saturday event. Solos and teams received UTMs to 36 CPs, 12 TAs and the finish line. CP’s were assigned a point score dependent on the CP’s difficulty. Out of the 12 TA’s, teams could choose to start at any 1 of 5 TA locations (to spread teams out and increase the strategic decisions possible). Teams could stage gear anywhere on the course two hours prior to their start time and change non-mechanized modes of transport anywhere on the course, as they wished. They could also drive one car per team during the event but only park and access trails from specified TA’s. Teams could work together (but receive no outside assistance) and their one car did not necessarily have to be the same car throughout the event. This was put to great effect by the winning team, And Then There Were None, who staged 3 cars along their chosen route and leapfrogged with bikes and trekking between these cars to lessen elevation gain and move them farther and faster than their competition.
Team And Then There Were None points to kayak CP
Solo Steve Moore proves he was at a kayak CP by photographing his feet, along with the landmark on shore.
A minimum number of CP’s needed to be acquired in all three disciplines—kayaking, biking, trekking—to be considered a full course finisher. Team were required to take digital photos of their entire team, the numbered CP marker, AND any bikes or kayaks to prove they found the correct CP with all their members in the sport designated. This made for some really funny photos as the solos put their fingers or a foot in each picture to prove they were there! Many teams needed a few tries to get their bodies AND the CP marker in the same shot…lots of forehead pics!
Wonder Twins getting the hang of CP picture taking
Wonder Twins up the creek without a paddle
We had a great mix of experienced and novice teams come out to the Pumpkin Scramble. This was the first AR for many of the novice teams and they had their work cut out for them to navigate this complicated course; but all enjoyed the day’s experiences and vowed to come out again.
Team Petrified Four-Sam Sawyer’s first time on a mtn bike—at the TA!
Andy at Couch with a View CP
At the front of the pack, Team Then There Were None, Petranek Fitness, Menage A Deux, and Sleeping on the Couch all battled for winning honors. With teams starting at different locations and able to get CP’s in any order, there was no letting up on your speed if you wanted to come out on top. No team knew how they stood until they crossed the finish line and points were tallied.
Team And Then There Were None at CP Marker
A Clayboy Bunny not happy with her hop up to this spectacular viewpoint.
Most teams started their day on kayaks in the pre-dawn darkness of 6AM. Clear skies and midday temps in the 90’s meant calm ocean waters in the morning. While most waves were ankle slappers, one boat each from And Then There Were None and Petranek Fitness seemed to find the only large wave of the day, which catapulted them to a near vertical surf entry, and caused dropped jaws from their teammates. Both boats recovered fine though, and these teams were off without further incident. No team had the same routes or strategies, so the kayaks went in various directions in search of beach landmarks to photograph.
Can you find the pumpkin??
The teams who chose to start with trekking had some dark scrambles (appropriate for this event!) up to hidden ghosts and ghouls on the slopes, streams, canyons and peaks of Zuma and Solstice Canyons.
Running with a CP marker...run, Forest, run!
Lisa Bunny praying she can hop, not slide, down this steep slope.
Most teams chose to start at the West TA’s and work their way East along the Santa Monica Mtn range towards the finish line, which was East of this range in Santa Monica. A few teams had the opposite strategy though and ran the trails of Temescal Ridge and Rustic Canyon all to themselves early in the day, before hitting the water at Topanga Beach and kayaking NW to the more Western TA’s and CP’s. You could see teams going every which way, in all manner of transport, all during the day. It was very exciting to watch teams popping out of the trails to the TA’s from every which direction—sometimes with bikes, sometimes without, in run shoes or bike shoes, with kayaks or not—throwing things on a vehicle and dashing off to another TA for more of the same.
Steve Moore on PCH with map and pumpkin talisman
Kayak points were nearly double other sports’ CP points because of the time it took to get to them. Bike points were usually farther with more elevation gain and garnered more points, but trekking points were clustered together and with less mileage than bike points. All CP’s could be looped together or attained via out and back routes. There were innumerable ways to attain every CP. Some CP’s could be attained via bike or trek and the team had to decide whether these bikeable downhills were worth the hike-a-bike uphills, or if it was more time-effective to run to them. Multiple teams used Google Earth in the days prior to the event to analyze the terrain and decide which CP’s to go for. Team And Then There Were None went so far as to figure out points per hour for each route and decide their day's plan based on these calculations. Several teams had to re-strategize mid-event when their planned route didn’t exactly work out. Team Smashing Pumpkins had a Plan A through Plan Z just in case they needed to rethink mid-event.
Team Smashing Pumpkins with maps
Team Just Finish at boat drop, before their boat sprung a leak and sank!
Teams were given bonus points if they brought back CP markers found in the last hour of the event. But teams were also penalized 1 point for every minute past 6PM that they arrived at the finish line. So it was a mad dash to gather CPs and get over the line for many teams. Some teams saw their bonuses erased by penalties for crossing the line a little too late. We also threw in a few twists as we suspected teams would try to sweep up the CP’s closest to the finish line, so one of the CP markers in this area was a 7’ tall blow-up Frankenstein, that needed to be deflated and returned unharmed to receive the bonus points…no team accomplished this (much to the dismay of the RD, who had to go retrieve it the next day, and got poison oak to boot for having to lay on it in a bed of the dreaded weed and get the air out!) and Team Menage A Deux dropped a couple places after seeing other teams ahead of them pick up the other CP’s and leave them only big Frankie to try to wrangle back to the finish…time they didn’t have.
Team at abandoned 'Nazi Camp' in Rustic Canyon
As an underground event, there is always some comedy. Inquisitive lifeguards tried to suss out why people in costume were launching kayaks from their beaches. Families were seen taking photos by some of the CP markers, not knowing what they were for, but enjoying Halloween decorations found in the middle of a wilderness park. One team was asked by trail users how they could get involved in this 'scavenger hunt' and were told unequivicably, "You Can’t!" as the team quickly ran away, leaving them wondering what the heck was going on. As I was putting out CP's in the days before the event, the Arson Watch patrol started to follow me--I'm sure I looked suspicious running into the wilderness with a full pack, coming back out 20 minutes later with an empty one! And when my brother, Andy, and I hiked right past a ranger with Frankenstein and a big Sevylor pump to blow him up, the ranger just waved-we waved back, lalala, nothing going on here...woosh, that was a close call! CP’s were put in some strange locations to keep them from being stolen, so teams got to do a bit of rock scrambling, climbing under bridges and such to get to the pumpkins, skeletons and other CP markers.
Frankenstein CP Marker
Every participant seemed to really enjoy this rendition of the Pumpkin Scramble, and I look forward to next year’s version. The next Scramble will be in April 2007, somewhere in Southern California, so if you want to participate in it, please email me to be added to the email list for more info. You will not see any other web postings on it…we grow by word of mouth.
A huge THANK YOU to all the course testers and event volunteers for helping out. Without your time and effort, this event would not have be possible.
RD Little Miss Muffet tries not to flash anyone as she checks Team Petranek Fitness' photos at finish line.
Overall Winners, Team And Then There Were None
Solo Winner, Steve Moore, Team Pumpkinox
1 And Then There Were None, Heather Moothart, Aaron Matzke, Todd Webb
2 Sleeping on the Couch, Derryl Halpern and Jody Mason
3 Petranek Fitness, Patrick Watson, Andy Petranek, Brian Duff & Michelle Duff
4 Menage A Deux, Sylvie Maracci and Dale Blankenship
5 Pumpkinox, Steve Moore (solo winner)
6 Sea Donkeys, Danny Trudeau, Lee Szromba and Brad Beaven
7 Endeavor to Persevere, Shawn Cohen
8 Newlywed Adventure, Heather Curwen-Flebbe and Cary Flebbe
9 Clayboy Bunnies, Clay Niccum and Lisa Matwijiw
10 Team Wallies, Georgina King, Marius Rocher and Slater Fletcher (6 hour course)
11 Married and Slow, Charlie Sieg
12 Smashing Pumpkins, Pam Bierce, Mike Gabor, Michelle Bearmar & Sommer Moore
13 Petrified Four, Doug Taylor, Sam Sawyer, Carmen Iberra & Jim Calkins
14 Rockin Mullets, Ben Brown and Jeremy Wolf (6 hour course)
15 Team Zissou, Chris Aedo, Jay Williams and Dustin Riley (no kayak)
16 Wonder Twins, Rose Roman and Becca Borawski (no kayak)
17 Just Finish, Beth Dressel, Corry Fitzgibbons, Jennifer Todd & Heather Picquelle (6 hour course), DNF
18 The Phantoms, Brad Agron, Kym Levy, Freddy Tyson & Stein Husoy, DNF