Real Life Video Game, comes to life in Alpine County
Woodfords, Alpine County, Ca – The sound of compressed air discharging among the tall pines of the Eastern Sierra is not a sound that you hear often while walking the trails in Alpine County or climbing along the ridge outside of Markleville. Alpine County by all means is marketed as a place where there are “2 people per square mile… and you!” But on an occasional Saturday Morning a group of Carson Valley and Carson City residents go full force into a unique recreational sport that utilizes the natural qualities of BLM land in the Sierra. Trees, rocks, ditches, streams, snags etc… Better know to this group as “Cover” in a Military Sim Type War Game called Paintball “Woodball Style”.
Alpine County – Two People Per Square Mile … and You.
The sport of Paintball is relatively young. In fact, the first paintball game ever played was 34 years ago, in June of 1981. It took place near Sutton, New Hampshire and had 12 players armed with “Markers”. The notion of shooting a projectile of paint (paintball) from a gun (marker) was first pondered back in the mid-1960’s by Charles Nelson, the co-founder of the Nelson Paint Company.
Game-day was June 27, 1981. The 12 players were armed with Nel-spot 007 markers and played near Charles Gaines’ house. Half were avid hunters and the other half consisted of a stock broker, a writer, surgeon, golden gloves boxer, venture capitalist and forester. Over drinks, the prediction the night before was that the hunters would fair well and the city boys wouldn’t be worth the price of a case of beer.
The first paintball game played was “capture the flag” and played on an 80-acre cross-country ski area, which was filled with second growth forest. There were 4 flag stations, each with 12 flags of the same color, one for each person playing. Each station had a referee, armed with a whistle, which they blew every fifteen minutes (for the city boys who were assumed to have poorer map skills). After many heated battles and exchanges –and even some moldy onion throwing – it was a man named Ritchie White (the New Hampshire forester) was victorious gathering all his flags first – and winning the first paintball game ever played.
So here I was 34 years after the first Paintball games, being invited up to Markleville to experience first hand a unique recreational sport that was taking place in the Sierra. Paintball Nevada, a local group that uses Facebook to connect and communicate has been building a base of players for several years in the area (43 Members officially listed on Facebook Group), and on this Saturday in September it was time to get together, show off their new markers, put on their camo gear, test the velocity of their ammo, dawn a few protective elements such as a face mask, chest protection and a cup. And launch their very own Military Style Sim Game in the Sierra. This Skill base recreational event would draw 10 individuals to the mountains today, a gorgeous Saturday morning in Alpine County.
They call this style of Paintball “Woodball” (Meaning it is played in the woods), and it included the use of teams instead of the capture the flag style. 8 men and 2 ladies pulled into the parking lot today. Several of the guys had brought new “Markers” so the excitement of “show and tell” was cool to watch as they prepared to divide the teams up and start a few hours of “Real Life Video Game Playing”.
In 34 year’s the invention of advanced Markers has added its own set of safety precautions for this sport. Each Marker is Calibrated before they start the games using a Chronograph, measuring Speed and Accuracy like a stopwatch, Harry (one of the leaders in the group) explains to me that a measurement of greater than 300 means that your marker could break someone’s finger. And Since every guy/gal loads their own marker and each marker has its own set of variations such as barrels, triggers, and “power” (CO2/Compressed Air/ Nitrogen Tanks) it is imperative for the safety of everyone that each gun is checked for a safe rating on the Chronograph. Most on this day are set in the 250-280 range, no broken fingers, but it might leave a little mark.
So here we are, standing in the tall ponderosa pine and aspen trees that lined a section of BLM land outside of Woodfords off HWY 88. Included in today’s adventure were Harry, Jen, Sam, Gabe, Chris, Shane, Jamie, Hilary and Micheal. As the Markers are filled and ready to go, the teams draw paintballs (White and Green) to choose teams for the first couple series. In this series of woodball the white team today “takes a walk” meaning they head into the forest first and get set before the green team enters the designated arena area. I had checked out the arena before the game just to get a sense of how this game might be played here in the Sierra. The Arena was lined with large boulders, a few downed snags a mix of aspen forest with long grass and large ponderosa pine trees in which to hide and duck behind. As the White team took its walk I asked if it was like an ambush when the next team entered the arena., to my delight the team explained that the white team actually walks past the arena area roughly the same distance as the green team then by walkie-talkie the teams communicate a go signal to start the “war games”.
It’s like a real life video game. Probably the most polite way to shoot a friend ever created – Harry of Paintball Nevada
The sounds of the first battle were surprisingly compressed into a very small area of the forest ahead of me., sounding remarking similar to the video games played in my living room by my youngest son and his friends. Rapid Fire Compressed Air shots rang out in the woods for several minutes, some in short bursts others in machine gun type action. After 5 minutes, the first victim would reappear from the forest, Jen had been tagged in the little finger and was upset because she felt it, but the paintball did not mark her, so technically she was not hit but is a game of honor systems, once you call yourself tagged, you are automatically out of that game. So Jen took the walk out of the arena back to base to fill her gun and start telling the stories of battle. One by one they started to appear from the forest, some with green paint marks some with white. Does the paint come out of your clothes? I asked… “Yeah the paints are based out of biodegradable substances, mostly fish-oil, and sugar.”
Awkwardly I felt a little out of place asking that question. I was being such a nerd interviewing this group of people dressed to play Military Sim Type Games and being worried about stains in the clothes.
The sport itself is fascinating, it really doesn’t take that much to play, the Sierra and the surrounding desert obviously gives players a remarkable variety of game
locations. The Equipment I found out costs between $85 and $140 to get started (includes Marker (Gun), Protective Facemask, Compressed Air Pack and Basic
Cartridge for paintballs) and the protective clothing pieces are stuff you might find in any outdoor closet at home. Long sleeve shirt, Long pants, scarf to protect the neck area, gloves, etc..
I did discover that there are restrictions regarding location of field play. You have to use designated BLM land area, the Forest Service frowns of the use of paintball games on public land because of the safety factors involved and the variety of people that might be in the area. So buying equipment and just heading out wherever is not a recommended event. (Side note here, a few years back I spoke with a ranger out at the Grover Hot Springs Campground, they explained they use Paint Guns to scare off the Bears sometimes. Found it to be a humane way of getting the bears to move on and keep everyone safe.)
The Paintball Nevada group played this way for about three hours on Saturday. Each game a different result, stories would be told, guns would need adjusting, but overall this was just a great day with friends enjoying a unique recreational event in the Sierra. Paintball Nevada, welcomes new-comers and beginners to their group and looks forward to their next adventure in the Sierra.
The Sierra provides so many traditional recreational opportunities. Events like paintball are not something that I generally would think of, but it is a classic example of how these mountains can bring out the creative outdoor adventure in all of us. Some Climb the highest peaks in some of the craziest locations, others backpack in with bare necessities and try to survive off the land and yet others look into the forest and see a game developing with friends. No matter what your experience in the Sierra we here are Sierra REC wish the greatest of joy in discovering and experiencing the Sierra mountains in a fun and safe manner. Let your creative adventurer out to play!
Sierra REC Magazine is dedicated to sharing the events, news and adventure opportunities that exist in The Sierra Mountains. From Lassen Volcanic National Park to the North down through the Central Sierra and the Lake Tahoe Basin through the rugged eastern slopes of the Mono county and Yosemite National park to the southern tips near Sequoia National Park and the PCT trail. We invite you to share stories, tips and photos from your adventures in the Sierra. If you have a group or club event that you think would make a great story please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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