Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - Massachusetts
BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
|126. JUNE BRIDE ON OCTOBER MOUNTAIN||A beautiful, mellow one mile round trip ramble on a relocated section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the central Berkshires of MA, with a lovely stamp carved by RTRW.|
We actually planted this letterbox quite a while ago, but are only just now getting around to posting it. (Guess we were waiting for October to go along with the name of the area it is planted in!) To reach this scenic and fairly remote part of Massachusetts - we even saw a black bear here while planting! - it is probably easiest to start from Pittsfield. Heading east from route 7 on Williams St, bear right on Mt Washington Rd for 5.6 miles as it turns into Pittsfield Rd. Then turn right on gravel West Branch Rd (right near the house where Mrs Hutchinson used to pass out cookies to AT hikers in the 1970's), and go just over 1/2 mile west to a small parking space on the left at the AT crossing.
Hike south on the AT up the rooty trail, continuing to follow white blazes for about half a mile to the new October Mt. backpackers' shelter. After checking out the shelter area, start heading back the way you came, but stop, still within sight of the outhouse, just south of a U-shaped white birch practically in the middle of the trail. Note "Garv" carved on the beech tree to the left. From "Garv", it is only 3 steps at 210 degrees (south from the U-tree) to a small moss covered rock with a gray lichen spot. (We left a quartz cobble on top and some small pieces of wood in front of it) Tucked underneath in a snug bed is the "June Bride" in her "white attire"! Please re-hide her carefully so that she blends in perfectly with her natural surroundings. She is very close to the trail and would not like to be awakened accidentally!
|164. WANDA'S CELEBRATORY SWING||A special gift box from Archimedes Screw of MA for Wanda's F 10,000 party in the spring of 2006, finally planted out on Cape Cod near the spot where Wanda made that milestone find.|
To find this box, first find exactly where Wanda made her "historic F 10,000 find" on March 30, 2006. (Hint: it's written up in one of our webpage reports and has to do with a little red dog!) Next, go to the easternmost swing - the one that Wanda used to take her "celebratory swing" after finding that box. From there, you have 2 step options:
A. The "straight forward (bushwack)" - 16 S to #1 Heel Flex, then 16 E to foot of nondescript, medium-sized oak, or
B. The "curvaceous (non-bushwack)" - 26 S, 16 E, 16 N & 2 W behind first oak on L. (We'd hoped to make it into a Fibonacci curl in appreciation of Archimedes Screw, but couldn't quite get that to work!)
Anyway, hope you'll join in the letterbox celebration and have fun swinging!
|218. BREEZE FROM THE SOUTHWEST||A little birthday present for Justin, blowing in between trips to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico.|
Between my two trips to the Southwest in the fall of 2007, including my half day south-to-north rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon in Arizona in September, and my Frijoles Canyon trip in New Mexico in November, I briefly had a chance to breeze back east for Justin's 12th birthday party at the Moose Hill Audubon Sanctuary in Sharon, MA. Since for many years I was known in the backpacking world as the "Breeze", I thought it might be fun to carve something based on that image to share my adventure with Justin. Well, it took a while for me to get back up that way with the carving I did based on the actual bandana I was wearing when I hiked those great southwestern canyons, but the box is now finally in place. To find it simply go less than 1/2 mile north from the area where Justin's birthday party was held, turn into a parking lot on the left, and find a sign that describes what Jethro Wood and Deborah Sampson were famous for doing in the 1700s. Then look left (south) and see the end of a stone wall. Go to its north end and look behind a rock low on its front right (western) side.
|321. HAUNTED HIXVILLE RAILROAD STATION||Well, perhaps not really haunted, but it was certainly hiding under a semi-mystery "invisibility cloak" when we went to visit!|
Most folks seem to just zoom through this part of the state on their way to the Cape, but we have so enjoyed our several meanderings along the "coastal villages" of southern MA - picking up bits of history here and there, petting the animals, making pumpkin faces, etc. - that we felt like leaving a small memento of our passing through. So, we picked up a historic map of the Dartmouth area, and went in search of the cute little Hixville Railroad Station pictured therein. When you find the site, put your back to the sign that says "Hixville Railroad Station circa 1875". Look across the road diagonally at about 265 degrees, and find your wee replica tucked behind leaves and a stone under the front middle eastern side of the smaller, more southern of two large boulders. Please be very discreet in this area, and do not park on the grass - there is a parking lot nearby.
|338. A Child's Christmas in Wales (or thereabouts!)||A sweet little winter wonderland loop around an old mining area in south central MA.|
Ever since we got this stamp from Ellen of the Travelers 4 after last season's O Letterbox Tree, we've been waiting to have a chance to drive through Wales to transplant it to what we thought might be an appropriate spot around there. Well, the opportunity finally came on a snowy December day as we were driving home to RI from Keene, NH via routes 32 and 19. However, it turns out that the spot we were thinking of is actually closer to Holland than Wales, but - hey - that's close enough, right?
Anyway, the easiest way for most folks to get there would probably be to take exit 1 off I-84 just north of the CT border, follow route 15 south (west) for 1.5 miles, and then turn right onto Leadmine Road for just under a mile to a small parking area on the left for this quaint little reservation that was once a graphite mine. Nipmuck Indians got "black lead" from it for years before Governor Winthrop's son took over around the mid 1600's, and others continued limited mining here through the 1800's. It is most likely a pretty area at any time of year, but winter makes it even more special, as you might find out almost immediately after you start walking the yellow blazed trail west and see a tunnel off to the right with many lovely "ice candles" glistening on the ground just inside the opening!
A couple of minutes walk further along brings the more traditional collection of icicles of all shapes and sizes hanging off the chipped rocks on the right. Continue walking amidst the laurel as the yellow blazed trail loops clockwise, crossing a small stream and eventually bearing right again to climb the backside ridge of the mine area. Near the top of the "first landing", sight between two good-sized trees for a little knee-high "cave" in the right-hand section of the first large rock formation. In the left-hand side of the "cave", behind a few carefully placed rocks, find a camo-taped pill container with one of T-1's old Christmas stamps!
Continue the way you were going to shortly reach the top of the ridge, then head gently downhill and turn left to get back to the small parking area. The whole loop only takes about 15 or 20 minutes, but you may wish to leave some extra time for further exploring. Hope you enjoy this lovely little preserve in a less-traveled part of New England!
|340. "BCT": "Northernmost Jewel of the Emerald Necklace"||A joint venture not far from our friends' house in northeastern MA.|
|Extracting "Driftwood Man" from Plum Island dune||Posing atop bluff near northernmost point of "BCT"|
No, the "BCT" is definitely not a "backpacking trail"! This is not a trail like the PCT, the Pacific Crest Trail, which follows the crest of the Sierra and Cascade Mountains for 2,650 miles, and which, back in my own long-ago "backpacking days", I actually "thru-hiked" from Mexico to Canada not just once, but three whole times!!!
Nor is the "BCT" likely to ever generate enough interest from the long-distance hiking community to attain official trail status from ALDHA as even the much shorter BAT, the Batona Trail, which winds through the comparatively wild, wooly and uninhabited pine barrens of NJ, and is among the dozens of "long-distance trails specifically designated for backpacking" that I did in the 1980's and 90's...
No, this "BCT", with its numerous road-walks, extremely frequent road crossings, relatively short distance, and much closer proximity to "backyard barbecue" than "backcountry wilderness" is certainly a far cry from the type of experience that most "serious backpackers" crave! It is even quite possible that backpacking (i.e. carrying full pack with gear and camping overnight along the way) on most sections of this so-called trail would be technically "illegal"!
However, this "BCT" does have its own wonderful niche to fill in "society". Linking roads and suburban communities with small patches of greenery all within less than an hour's drive of the busiest, most crowded urban concentration in all of New England represents a remarkable attempt to create even a semblance of a trail in this location at this point in time when so much development has already occurred. Yes, this is the "Bay Circuit Trail" that places its "green beaded necklace" of sorts in a semi-circle around the greater Boston area!
So, what got me thinking about this particular trail? Well, Pete and I were just up at the Solstice Stones atop Holt Hill in Ward Reservation looking down on Boston the other day with our friends Arline and Chuck. We had just celebrated finding my 26,000th letterbox, appropriately enough at "Trails and Tribulations" just a short ways down the hill, which was just perfect (after an aborted rather unpleasant letterboxing experience the day before), and were discussing what to do next, besides planting a final "Happy Trails" letterboxing series as my "backpacking retrospective"...
I had basically "retired" from backpacking after putting in my 26,000 tough mountain trail miles of that particular activity about a dozen years ago (and even in all those ensuing years, only a handful of very serious backpackers have ever accomplished anything even vaguely similar - certainly no one in letterboxing having done anything but a small fraction!) Now here I was basically "retiring" from letterboxing, and all I could think to say was, " Well, if I can't backpack anymore, and I've certainly had more than my fill of letterboxing, maybe each time we come up from RI to visit you guys we can at least do a short section of this Bay Circuit Trail to try to stay at least a little bit active in our "old age", and then go dancing afterwards!" So, off we went that evening - dancing in Boston!
The following morning, we were eating breakfast up in Amesbury when Pete turned on the computer and said ,"Well, wouldn't you know - we were just talking about the Bay Circuit yesterday and now there's another new box right there in Andover, with plans for other folks to plant boxes on other spots along the Bay Circuit Trail, too" - a sort of mini-version of Lightnin' Bug's "Boxification of the AT" project started out along the Appalachian Trail in PA a while back! I had long been telling Arline and Chuck that they should plant something in their neck of the woods, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to mount a "group effort"...
Chuck was immediately recruited to go find a spare eraser in his computer desk, Arline when off in search of an old film container, I found a usable knife downstairs in a kid's toy box, Pete pulled a few leaves of paper from a notebook while Chuck found a stapler to hold them together, and within minutes our makeshift group letterbox was carved, inked, stamped and ready to roll!
Well, since we were so close to the northern end of that so-called "BCT", that seemed the logical place to put this first group effort of ours, so off we headed on the road through Newburyport down the Plum Island Turnpike to the ocean! We were somewhat surprised to see the Channel 7 news team truck hanging around near the end of that road, where there was a huge backed-up sand dune and various warning signs. Arline explained that she had been hearing on the news lately that, because of so much damage from recent storms, this area (which was supposed to be the "BCT trailhead" before the "2-mile roadwalk" back along Plum Island Turnpike) was closed to the public, and anyone trying to go into this area was subject to getting a hefty fine!
So, onward we proceeded by car to the parking lot at the north end of Northern Blvd opposite the lighthouse, which the verbal description to the "BCT" says is the best place to park in this area anyway - plus there's no fee here in the "off-season"! From there we went out past the restrooms, playground and the boardwalk, east along the Merrimack River to the breakwater, up the chunky rock steps to the first bluff overlooking the ocean, and found a hopefully safe place to leave our little microbox just about halfway between the only sizable clump of bushes and a bench dedicated to Dorothy Curry. Just wander over to southwest pillar of some old foundation ruins and check discreetly on its southwest side for something small and black tucked into the tall grasses under a flat-sided stone and a small piece of driftwood. We hope that at least a few letterboxers will make it out to this rather pleasant "alternate northernmost trailhead" and little green gem of a spot, which seems to us much superior to starting this "necklace trail" merely by walking west on a road away from the ocean!
Happy Trails from Wanda & Pete & Arline & Chuck!!!
(and if you've read the clues and are still with us this far, we'll bet you're in this hobby for the thrill of the hunt and a bit of adventure - obviously not the stamp!;-)
|435. Screaming for Leggy Ice Cream, Too!||A walk-away favorite ice cream sign along Route 16 in southern MA that always makes us laugh|
We've certainly seen plenty of ice cream signs in our travels around the country, but this one surely walks away with a prize as one of the funniest ones - the ice cream cone with legs! Traveling along route 16 between route 146 and 395 in Douglas, MA, one can't help but notice this curious ice cream concoction on the south side of the road. We've always joked that we should plant a box there, but there didn't seem to be any "safe place" nearby.
So, we finally decided to leave a little leggy memento a few miles further down the road headed west. From gate 6 of Douglas State Forest, take a few steps north and then follow the sandy trail west until it ends at a larger dirt cart path. Turn left, and immediately look left for a very low "stone cone" with several scoops of "rocky road" in it. Carefully remove the stones to get your own leggy scoop, but please be very careful replacing everything to look natural so that this strange little creation doesn't walk away!
|451. Andy Armadillo||Waiting to be found hanging out in his "hideout" off the road between Fall River and Cape Cod|
One of our favorite memories from the inter-holiday period between Christmas and New Year's Eve 2011 was meeting up with the Doubtful Guests "on the fly" between their home in VA and a visit on Cape Cod in MA. We figured that this might be a fun time to find some music in the woods, catch the "Flying Dude" and then hit a nearby roadhouse for some country western-style "dude entertainment".
Ever since A-Bear and J-Bear had introduced us to this restaurant chain out near Star, Idaho over half a dozen years ago, we'd always been happy to find it sporadically elsewhere in our travels. It finally made its way out to the northeast a couple of years ago, and this particular one we find quite convenient since it's less than a mile south of exit 12 off route 195 on our way out towards the Cape.
Anyway, we all had an enjoyable dinner of country fried chicken, ribs, roadkill and such at this roadhouse named after the state that is said to have a ranch bigger than our entire little home state! While finishing up, I dug a tiny little Christmas eraser out of my pack, sketched an Andy armadillo face under the Santa hat, sort of like the wide-grinned, be-hatted one pictured on the Christmas gift card, and Scarab carved it right on the spot!
So, to find this little fellow, simply go out to the back parking lot and head in the direction that this restaurant chain had to go in order to reach our part of the country. Find the light post closest to that part of the parking lot, suitably surrounded by holly bushes to represent the season, lift up the "shell" and look on the western side!!!
|532. Lost in Space: W & P Starship||Literally lost in space somewhere in the campground of the Dark Star in Andover, MA|
Yup, even before I'd stamped this little starship into my own logbook, it somehow managed to fly out of my color wheel, where I'd been keeping it in temporary "protective custody", out into the far reaches of "space"! It's a tiny piece of pink stuff, oval-shaped, only an inch long and less than a quarter inch thick, which I was planning to gorilla-glue it to a very small meteor and hide in traditional fashion. However, after sharing it with only one person, I stuck it in my color wheel for "safe-keeping", and promptly lost track of it! Last sighting was possibly the picnic table at campsite #30, where I vaguely remember using two shades of green from my color wheel to color some alien fairies. Could have landed on "earth" by now, or could still be waiting for take-off at some other picnic table, like that at # 108 where I also remember having taken it out of its case briefly. Please let me know if anyone finds it - it's quite a mystery to me how I'm always losing things!
BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
You can find information about this hobby at Letterboxing North America (LbNA)
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