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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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November 18, 2011

On The Trail of a Letterbox

I've been having such a nice visit with my sister.  She flew into Charleston, WV on Tuesday afternoon and we've been doing a lot of talking, walking, and eating ever since.

At some point, she got into a "hobby" called letterboxing.  Don't know how many people are familiar with that - I had never heard of it.  But it's been going on since the 1800's apparently!   The way it works is someone leaves a "letterbox" sequestered away somewhere in the world and posts clues to its whereabouts on the internet site of the group he/she belongs to.  Other letterboxers can search that site for letterboxes that might be in their vicinity or in a place they plan to visit and then try and find them.  If you find one, you open it up and there's a little book where you put your stamp, where you're from, and the date.

So, before she came to West Virginia, Chinch looked to see if there were any letterboxes near me and, by darn, there were!  Yesterday, we had our first search and will do another one today.  Yesterday we had quite a hike up hills, through woods, etc., etc., pretty much freezing cause it was cold!

This photo on the left is where we parked looking back down some of the road we just drove up.  We were way up in the hills at this point.  In the photo on the right, Chinch is started up the stairs towards that observation tower above her.  We had some trouble following the clues to this point, but finally got ourselves on the right track.  From the tower, there were two or three more clues taking you to the point where you think the letterbox should be.  We had to poke around for a while, going downhill over here, back uphill and then downhill over there, and finally...



we FOUND it!!  It really is such fun when you find it - makes you feel very victorious.  And the best part of this find (aside from the fact that we could now go back to the car and warm up!) was that she was the first locator for this particular letterbox. 

So, after stamping and dating the book in the box with her stamp, she then stamps her "finds" book with his stamp.  When her hands are thawed out, she'll add a little note about the search.  I think this was her 22nd find and, of course, as an assistant, it was my very first find.  So, feeling quite chuffed, we started back, stopping at the observation tower to take a couple more pictures.

...a long view of the mighty Ohio River

and, a picture I took trying to give an idea of how high up we were.  If you find the word "here" in red, and then look beside that and above the little red line, that dark little blob is a car on the highway.

All in all, quite an exciting morning and quite a workout for the old legs.  I think the one we're going to try and find today should be somewhat easier.  It's somewhere in Ritter Park and from the sounds of the clues, should be on flat ground rather than up in the hills.  We shall see...

I'm curious, if this was being done back in the 1800's, how it worked.  The internet makes it easy to learn where a box has been hidden and to let the person hiding the box know that you've found it.  But back then, it seems like it would all have been kind of accidental - just sort of coming across one, entering your info in the book and then figuring that at some point the "hider" would be checking the box to see if anyone had found it.  My sister's letterbox group is called AtlasQuest and there's probably more information there on the history of letterboxing which I will read sometime.  Also, if this appeals to any readers, that would be a place you could visit to see if there would be any letterboxes in your area that you could try to find.

10 comments:

Christopher said...

How neat! Congratulations to you both, for coming across the letterbox as first-timers. It does sound like a fun activity, and forces you to get out and enjoy nature... I think pre-internet, the clues were shared via mail and newsletters, perhaps? I recall reading something about the start of letterboxing...
PS--you should post an image of Chinchy's stamp-mark, as well as the stamp of the person who hid the box you found! And kudos for not revealing the location in your blog (which I understand is a no-no.)
Tell Chinchy she's got another "assistant" here, if she ever goes looking for DC-area boxes...

Elga said...

Well, I have never heard of this before, always something new to discover. Mmmm, I think the petit point and furniture making is enough to keep me busy!!!!! I wonder if anybody in South Africa do this hobby????

Mary Lynne said...

Elga - I just did a quick search on Atlas Quest and right now for apparently all of South Africa, there are two in Cape Town and one in Port Elizabeth (or is that vice versa?) Anyway, when you need a break from all that very precision work, you can get out in the fresh air and do a search.

And, Chris - it's all pretty much a no-no - I guess you're not supposed to show the hider's stamp and Chinch said I shouldn't show her stamp, so...everyone just has to find them for themselves. I think that's the point of the secrecy - don't want to spoil the surprise for everyone who comes after you.

And now we're headed out the door to Ritter Park where someone has hid THREE on a trail...

January said...

That sounds like a really fun and pleasant thing! And it gets you out tramping around in the woods or wherever, which is an added bonus. Say hi to Chinchy for me!

Jamie said...

Amazing! I never heard of this but it sounds like fun. So you guys are just having a great visit. Glad the rain stopped and you have some pretty (but cold) days. Photos are great!

Elga said...

Thanks, Mary Lynne, I had a quick look to see where they are. Both are in the Cape Province and 14 - 18 hours drive away from me, so I don't think looking for them will happen anytime soon :-)

Sha of Shalar said...

Wow! I'm so excited that our box was the first you got to find! My husband and I lived in Barboursville for about two years, and while there's not a ton of letterboxes in the tri-state area, there's a good number. The campground area of Beech Fork has quite a few, if you ever get a chance to head that way. :) I'm just sorry we weren't still in the area when you started -- we would have loved to have another active boxer to hang out with in Huntington! :) Have fun in Ritter Park -- and there's actually four boxes to be found there. One series of 3, and another by its lonesome. ;) Have fun!

Mary Lynne said...

Shalar - Thanks so much for your comment and I'll definitely let my sister know I heard from you. She's the letterboxer although I have to say I'm already looking forward to future visits both to her home (Mass.) and here so we can do some more of it. We found the series of 3 in Ritter Park yesterday and that was a much easier walk and a beautiful day. Just lots of fun!

Karen said...

Hi BFF! So glad that VA introduced you to such a fun hobby! You must join this cult of crazies who trample through the woods looking for treasures. And seeing how talented you are, you be a great carver, too! Happy you enjoyed it! Karen

Mary Lynne said...

Hi Karen! I told VA that I'll be happy to join in searches any time but I won't be carving stamps or finding hiding places any time soon. Shoot, it would take me about 75 years to finally decide I'd found a good hiding spot and then I'd have to figure out an appropriate stamp design AND make it for just that one spot. I'll stick with needlework and miniatures and searching. :)

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