Wynken and I both learned to use a compass, read a topographical map with control descriptions as well as put it to practical use by scrambling about the forest looking for the control flags.
A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control sites that are marked by circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish. The control site circles are centered around the feature that is to be found; this feature is also defined by control descriptions (sometimes called clues). On the ground, a control flag marks the location that the orienteer must visit.
The route between "controls" (refers to the flag or the site) is not specified, and is entirely up to the orienteer; this element of route choice and the ability to navigate through the forest are the essence of orienteering.
Most orienteering events use staggered starts to ensure that each orienteer has a chance to do his or her own navigating, but there are several other popular formats, including relays and events in which the orienteer must find as many controls as possible within a specified time.
The boys went on the orienteering course as a troop all by themselves -- never do for a Scout what he can do for himself. Some of the men and I followed surreptitiously about 20 minutes later. After performing over half the course and six control points without overtaking the boys, we doubled back off-trail to see if we accidentally passed them.
It turns out that they misread the map after reaching the first control point and got lost off-trail. But they learned a great lesson in how to stick together, make decisions as a group, follow their Patrol leader, and get back to where they started.
We found them all hale and hearty and in good spirits. We glimpsed them through the trees, and I whistled with my fingers to attract their attention. Wynken said, "We have to go back that way, my Dad's calling." When asked how he knew, he replied, "I've heard that whistle all my life!"
We accompanied them through 3 more control points and then headed back for a late lunch. They are all a bit foot weary, but much the wiser.