It was almost two years ago that I ran across a group on MeetUp called Land Ops. It seemed like an interesting idea and their website provided some additional, if a bit mysterious, information. I lurked on their site for a while and finally had my schedule align with one of their events, so I signed up.
That first Land Op was a Mini-Op held in an off-road park called Hungry Valley located in Southern CA, an hour into the event I was hooked. Since then I’ve been on a few more Ops and have learned a lot at each one. This trip report is from a recent extended day/night op in the California Eastern Sierra Nevada’s in a place known as the Alabama Hills.
What exactly is a “Land Op”? Perhaps a bit hard to describe but it involves GPS mapping, HAM radio based communication and wayfinding in a 4×4 vehicle.
From Land Ops’ founder Chris Doering, “We are a group of high tech seekers with a taste for adventure. We drive, we navigate, and we communicate in expedition style teamwork fashion. Land Ops can be a series of progressive instruction caches that lead to a historical aircraft crash site, a meteorite site, or a search and rescue support drill.”
For me, Land Ops is an excuse to get outdoors, explore, use (and learn to use) your GPS/mapping/etc and practice proper radio etiquette. Add in the camaraderie and team based nature of an event and you have the ingredients for a great time.
Land Ops participants are grouped into teams, and each team is given unique instructions and tasks, often needing to rely on the other team for additional information along the way to complete your task. Teams stay in touch with “Net Control” (aka base camp) throughout the op.
Given a pair of GPS coordinates, our team set out, following our GPS maps and wayfinding trails, occasionally discovering ones that were no longer passable, or never were passable, for four-wheeled vehicles.
Once you arrive at the coordinates, its time to find the cache. Typically a small brown container hidden in large brown expanse. If you’ve done any GeoCaching, this part will be very familar. Once the cache is discovered, it includes complete – or partial – instructions for your next task and you are on your way.
Land Ops uses HAM radios for primary communication, including setting its own repeater op for the operation. Naturally a number of the Land Ops participants are pretty serious HAM radio operators. (I’m enough of a novice that I keep my radio quick guides pretty handy.) One of the interesting things that Land Ops HAM operators use is a mesh network. Basically setting up an IP based phone system off the grid.
It’s an excellent chance to explore, meet some great people, camp out in the wild and best yet learn. If you’re in California and interested there is an introduction (mini-op) coming up in mid January. Sign up on Meetup