Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - Alaska
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|512. Wanda's Wanda-rings: Chilkoot Trail||This well known logo of the Chilkoot Trail, carved by deniserows of AK, has now left the "Wanda's Wanda-rings" Series in RI and is back in its home state, overlooking the docks of Skagway, where many of the Klondike Gold Rushers of 1898 first came into town!|
This famous image of the Klondike Gold Rushers toting their 2000 lb. required load of
survival goods in multiple trips up the "Golden Stairs" and over Chilkoot Pass first
caught my fancy while watching the movie "White Fang" many years ago - (the 45 degree
angle of that icy staircase is actually considerably more daunting than it appears on
the logo!) - so naturally this was one of the trails I most looked forward
to backpacking in the 1990's, long after it had become a historic ghost town trail.
And I'm so glad that I got to backpack it back then, too, while it was still free,
unrestricted, and relatively quiet, since the crowds, permits and fees currently required
for hiking this trail would now probably greatly put me off!
Anyway, backpacking the Chilkoot Trail in 1992 was a real "dream trip" for me, even though it only lasted a couple of days, since, at scarcely 33 miles long, this was definitely one of the shortest backpacks I've ever done in my life! Still, there was plenty of ice and snow even in August, as Canadian Royal Mounties awaited visitors at the top of the pass just as they did during the Gold Rush. Unlike the hordes of 1898, however, on the day I passed through there were only a handful of other hikers from places like Germany, Italy, and Australia - no other Americans - quietly waiting out the snowstorm. On our 2013 Alaskan cruise tour, Pete and I didn't even have time to go the extra dozen or so miles back and forth from Skagway to the ghost town of Dyea, where the Chilkoot Trail officially begins, let alone think about re-hiking the trail itself. So, we decided to drop off this stamp near where I camped on my last night in Skagway before getting back on the Alaskan ferry to head home and marry Pete!
To find this general area from the Skagway cruise ship docks, go toward the railroad crossing near 2nd Avenue and follow the signs for the Dewey Lake Trail. Cross the green bridge to the Dewey Lake Trailhead kiosk. Head up the trail to the right of the kiosk, and then, after curving a bit left, turn right at the junction with a sign for "Lower/Upper Lake Trail" and "Sturgill's Landing". Go down the steps, cross under the large pipe, and head up towards a rocky ledge overlooking Skagway harbor. Standing on the trail, with the lookout off to your right, find the tree directly ahead harboring both a blue/silver trail marker disc and black-outlined white arrows, with a couple of rocks in front of it. Position yourself to the left of the rocks, take about 30 steps straight ahead (south) on a smaller "unofficial" path, zig-zag right (west) five steps to avoid the "blow-down", then go another 30 steps south from "just under the wire" to an old campfire circle with a tumbled down chimney just a tad further south. Carefully opening the little camo pouch stashed in a nook at the foot of the rock at the foot of the birch with the foot-long rusty hook protruding from its base (about 4 steps west of the campfire ring and 7 steps north of the chimney remnants) just might yield, well, if not actual gold, then perhaps at least a small impression of the Chilkoot Trail and the Klondike Gold Rush! As usual for us now in our "travelin' light mode", we did not include a logbook here, but please feel free to let us know if you find "treasure", and make sure to reseal the pouch and re-hide it with consideration for other "treasure-seekers", too!
|513. Alaska Travelin' Light Rocks||A series of small "stamp rocks" without logbooks planted during our 2013 Alaska cruise tour (all but one carved and donated to us by bluegoatz of MA!)|
Introduction to our Travelin' Lights: As many people know, having found over 40,000 North American letterboxes over the
past dozen or so years, we have become quite concerned with the proliferation of
plastic boxes in various places around our planet. Granted, so many boxes "go
missing" on a regular basis (most likely picked up and thrown away as litter) that
the number of boxes out there at any given time does not as yet seem to have become a
real problem for our environment. Sometimes we've even been glad to hear that some of
the over 500 boxes we've planted over the years have "gone missing", as it means we
won't have to worry about tracking them down later or leaving them behind as trash
when we're gone. However, we still love the idea of collecting stamp images in "wild
and wooly places", so from now on we personally have decided to mostly go with a
compromise solution we call the "travelin' lights" - stamps stuck on the back of
stones that can be discreetly hidden almost anywhere and that "travel lightly" on the
environment as well as on trips!
The idea for "stamp rocks" actually came to us over a dozen years ago, while planning a hike in the Adirondacks of upstate NY. We had stuck a piece of foam onto the bottom of a rock and poked the letters "Vanderwhacker" into it, as a sort of prize/memento for those who reached the top of that mountain. Somehow we decided not to leave it up there, but often wished we had, as that could have been our first "official letterbox"! Years later, on a trip to Nevada, where only one other letterbox had been planted at that time (over 300 miles away!) we also brought with us some stamps stuck on stones and considered leaving them hidden just like that, but the convention to try to protect logbooks in boxes was so strong and the stamp material so weak that we naturally just put the "stamp rocks" in the boxes, too. (This was long before online public logging of finds even existed, when the only way to find out who had been to a particular box was to go there yourself, so traditional logbooks were much more valued back then.) Later on, we planted another series in RI with "stamp rocks" and mini-scrolls in film containers, but the "big leap" came after someone we called "the box thief" started confiscating boxes in certain CT state parks. Sort of as a joke, we stuck a stamp under a rock and called it "Calling Your Bluff". Some people complained that they "couldn't find the box", but that was the whole point - there was no box for the "box thief" to steal!
Anyway, even if "stamp rocks" don't take hold as a concept others might care to follow, they do seem to work for us. We like planting them, and have been pleasantly surprised with their longevity so far even in some pretty precariously planted places! Since we ourselves still don't go in for public logging of finds (we love that old-timey touch of "mystique" in not knowing when or by whom a box might or might not have been found!;-), we do hope that most letterbox plants will still include traditional logbooks. However, between those like us, who simply love "the hunt" without the need for publicly logging finds, and those who love to log their finds online anyway, we don't expect that a few logbookless rocks should upset anyone, especially with the precedent already well set for logbookless magnetic boxes and such. The only question remains to see how the carving material under the rocks will hold up to being exposed to the elements. Yet consider, even if a stamp disintegrates outdoors after a short while, it could still have a survival rate as long as many boxes, and it would certainly seem likely to have a much more "natural demise" than a plastic box! At any rate, we feel that even if one person might have fun looking for any of these little "stamp rocks", whether they log them or not, then they will have served their purpose! So, here comes the next installment...
1. This is a Stick Up!
In Ketchican, famous for its totem poles, find the one called "Raven Stealing the Sun" near the Tongass Historical Museum. To the right of that totem is a wooden overlook abutting Ketchican Creek. Step down to the right of the totem to the northwest corner of the overlook, as if to take a peak at the giant salmon across the creek. Sit on the lower flat stone and reach under the corner of the overlook for a 1-inch small light gray-colored wedge-shaped stone with a surprise bluegoatz carving on its underbelly!
2. Rainy Day Mud Critters
After climbing up the muddy trails of Juneau's Mt. Roberts in the rain, we were in a hurry to head back to our cruise ship for a presentation by musher Libby Riddles, first woman to win the Iditarod, so we didn't have time to find a very good spot for these little bluegoatz "mud bubbles". However, if you're really discreet, you may still be able to find them hanging out near Dock 6, southwest of the designated sign and a handicap parking spot, where the yellow curbing bubbles out towards the dock, huddled between a half-footlong triangular stone and a large chunk of "sitting rock". (Among the thousands of small stones scattered about the general area, this should be the only 1-inch tan squarish stone with curious-looking "mud bubble critters" stuck to its backside in this precise location!;-)
3. Silly Little Bearhead
Making sure not to stick his head even the tiniest bit into Denali National Park, this silly little bear got left behind as we hopped on the tour bus from the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge heading into the park. From the 3 flags at the bus stop in front of the lodge (south side), head south to a birch which has a green power box below it to the south. On the south side of the birch, under a 2-inch round gray rock, find a flat 1-inch brownish rock and turn it over to see why we ourselves don't usually care to carve!
4. Fairest Fly in Fairbanks
This bluegoatz fairy princess butterfly decided to show off her skirt in Fairbanks, Alaska, so she could be the "fairest in the land"! So, she landed at the Princess Riverside Lodge off Pike's Landing Road just a mile or so north of the airport. She fluttered out towards the scenic old cabins between the lodge and the yellowline bus stop, pausing briefly to examine the bear cache. Then she flew up to the far right corner of the more northerly of the two cabins, and setled down there under the eaves. If you stand on the lowest of the protruding cabin corner logs there and reach up onto the highest one (7th level), you may be able to find her there still, carefully pinned down beneath a small stone under two larger ones to keep her from flying away with the far north winds!
5. Birchwood Bunny Hop
This bluegoatz bunny began its life as a hitchhiker, but after returning to its maker, got sent out with us on a much longer adventure. So, at the very tail end of our 2013 Alaskan trip, on our last short layover in Anchorage, it decided to hop off on its own to a scenic spot at the end of Postmark Drive, just a mile or so northwest of the airport. After carefully crossing Northern Lights Boulevard, turn west on the bike path a very short distance towards a row of birch trees on the south side of the path. Before reaching the birch tree line, spot a large slanted dark gray rock on that same left side of the bike path. Take a seat there looking out at the wondrous view of Cook Inlet with the Alaska Range visible beyond in clear weather, reach down with your left hand to a small dark stone protecting a shallow cave on the northwest side of the rock you are sitting on, and carefully extract a tiny bunny hunkered down on the backside of a 1-inch black and white speckled stone!
|749. Catch a Can in Ketchikan||Just a little addition to Ketchikan’s letterboxing “hot spot”|
Nope, not much in the way of letterboxing currently going on in Alaska as far as we could tell on our last cruise through, and the little “stick-up” guy we left near a totem pole on a previous Alaskan trip is indeed gone. So, we decided to add another little “travelin’ light” in what now appears to be Ketchikan’s favorite letterboxing “haunt”, where most tourists probably wouldn’t want to go, so we’re hoping it’s a safer spot for leaving a little something behind, as well as keeping company with a couple of other boxes still hanging out nearby.
Anyway, just mosey on up to this place south of town with a view of the bay and look for a picnic table with a trash can. Yup, it’s in there, up where you might not be expecting it, east of the flag on high, up a few wooden stairs sort of set back leftish on a flat spot near the woods. The trash can is presently on the northeast side of the picnic table in front of a row of border rocks starting from the left side of the woods there. Directly behind the trash can is a large flat mossy rock with a slightly uplifted back side. If you carefully step over to the far side of this rock, we hope you can find the small 1-2” light-colored, trashcan-shaped stone that we left sitting on a longer, darker “shelf rock” behind a thin half-cut pear-shaped trap-door. As usual with our “travelin’ lights”, the trashcan stamp is glued on the back of the small stone, and would probably look best in gray with a blue or green background. Please replace as found so that this poor little stamp has a chance of surviving however briefly in a very damp environment and doesn’t end up in the trash too soon!
|750. Sitka Bell||A short stop on the way up Castle Hill in historic Sitka, AK|
When visiting Sitka, many people like to climb up the small promontory called Castle Hill, located on the north side of town just before the bridge to the airport, to see where battles were fought between Russians and native tribes in the early part of the 19th century and where the American flag was first flown after Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867. One might also like to catch a view of the onion-shaped dome of St. Michael’s Cathedral from up there and check to see if a bald eagle is still perching atop the the Orthodox cross, as it was when we visited. And since bells were historically such an important part of Russian Orthodox culture, we thought we’d add a little “travelin’ light” bell along the paved walkway going up the hill as well.
So, to find this little bell glued on the back of a small bell-shaped stone, just stop and sit on the first bench at the first hairpin turn of the paved walkway very soon as you start up the hill. Look left just beyond the railing to see a 3-foot long, 1-foot high flat rock with a 6-inch long, 2-inch high flat stone blocking a crevice under the lower right side of the larger rock. Gently reach behind this smaller trapdoor stone when no one else is around to reveal the 2-inch sideways-placed, light-colored bell stone with pink stuff on back. Please make sure that no pink is showing when you carefully replace the bell behind its trap door to help keep it “ringing” hopefully for other letterboxers to come!
|751. The Gypsy||… “swept off her feet” to join us on another cruise to Alaska!|
We figured the Gypsy had already spent quite a bit of time visiting the east coast of the US over the past few years, but hadn’t gotten to wander around out west yet at all!. So, we decided to pick her up in PA on our way home to RI since we were flying out for another cruise to Alaska the very next day. She had so much fun visiting the different ports in Alaska with us that she didn’t want to get left behind, so we had to drop her off rather unceremoniously and anticlimactically in Anchorage just before flying back home to RI ourselves. Now we’re only hoping that some other “summertime cruisers” will come along soon to rescue her from Anchorage before winter sets in because it seems that there are hardly any active letterboxers up there in Alaska, and the only one currently living there that we remember meeting before had already visited with the Gypsy years ago while living back east!
Anyway, to give the Gypsy some temporary summer shelter before she can hopefully make her way back soon with some kindly-disposed visiting letterboxer to a nice hiding place in the lower 48 or wherever her travels take her next, here’s what we had to do:
With achy knees - from too much cruise dancing, glacier hiking, or just plain old age - and not much time to wander around on foot again this time in Anchorage anyway, we hopped on “People Mover/Bus #40” from the Anchorage Airport to downtown Anchorage a few miles northeast, then took the Gypsy with us northwest a few blocks to see the Captain Cook statue near the curve of 3rd and L. Then we headed back south a bit down to 5th and west to Elderberry Park, where we picked up the Tony Knowles Coastal Greenway along the railroad tracks. We saw a sign saying that “soiled doves” had once set up tents there along the mudflats, but we didn’t want to leave this Gypsy around there, so we continued walking south along the greenway another fifteen minutes or so, passing another trail junction near a lagoon, crossing back under the railroad bridge and curving left to just before the Fish Creek bridge. There on the north side of the last large spruce on the left before the bridge is where we left the Gypsy tucked under a rock and a spruce branch. We hope that she can stay there safely until some fortunate fellow traveller from afar can come and rescue her, since, of all the boxes we found on our last couple of trips to Alaska, all but a small handful were planted by people visiting from other states! So, it would seem only fair that someone from afar should come to carry her away again next, too. And unlike some of the other areas that were too far off for those like us short on time or “sans wheels”, this was only a short walk back to the lagoon and then east a bit to a #40 bus stop to get us back to the airport with plenty of time for dinner before flying back home to RI! So, here’s wishing the Gypsy a short, safe stay in Alaska, then once again “bon voyage”!
You can find information about this hobby at
Letterboxing North America (LbNA)
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