Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - New York


Index to Our Other Letterboxes


BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..


37. OPUNTIA IN NY A 4 mile loop in the Hudson Highlands with a steep 1 mile spur to the top of Sugarloaf to find the Opuntia letterbox.

RETIRED

For this hike in the Highlands on the east side of the Hudson River (across the river from West Point), find the Appalachian Trail (AT) crossing at the junction of routes 9 and 403 just north of Graymoor Monastery. Park along the roadside there as best you can, or park north of the old gas station complex along route 403.

Start your trek by heading west with the white blazes of the AT over the newly rebuilt (July 21, 2002) wetland boardwalk and onto an old woodland carriage path. When the AT bears steeply left uphill (your return route), stay straight on the gently rising carriage path, sparsely marked with yellow plastic discs. Turn left at the crossroads at the top of the first rise and bear left again later as you continue following yellow discs, until you notice a blue blazed path coming in on your left (your return route) with blue blazes also straight ahead. Stay straight on the cart path to pass a lovely cedar gazebo at a righthand curve, and then drop down to another 4-way junction. Straight across with the red plastic discs will take you up the very steep slope of Sugarloaf, named for its similarity to the cone shape of the sugar that used to occasionally grace the center of 18th century tables. This Sugarloaf was also supposedly the site of one of several Revolutionary War cannon redoubts commanded by General Israel Putnam of CT to watch over General Kosciuszko's "Great Chain" which stretched across the Hudson to prevent any further British attacks up river. Also at the northern base of Sugarloaf was the Beverly Robinson House where that infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold, was to have met with George Washington for breakfast on the very morning that he was almost caught "red handed" for delivering strategic West Point war plans to the British!

History aside, though, what also interests me in this area is the opuntia at the end of the red trail. It just always seems so amazing to me to see it up here where I'm not really expecting it to be. Perhaps it will surprise you, too. From the top of the rocky opuntia viewpoint, with a tall cedar at 210, Anthony's Nose around 230, and the middle of Bear Mt Bridge around 240, take about thirty steps at 255 to a large squarish sitting rock near an oak tree. Beneath the rock's SW corner, if you bring your own ink, you should be able to get a small stamped impression of opuntia as a memento of your excursion.

To return to your car, go back down the red disc trail, pass the cedar gazebo, and take the blue blazed trail south about a mile to the AT junction. You may want to continue south on the white blazed AT a bit to the White Rock Viewpoint which is also marked with blue blazes (especially if you have worked out some related mystery clues!) Otherwise, just turn sharply NW back down the AT to the original carriage road, turn right, then left, and "walk the planks" back to the highway.


IV. "SILLINESS" AT CHAUTAUQUA GORGE

MISSING

As Wanda was driving west for her 2003 trailwork trip on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado, carrying some of RTRW's boxes to plant along the way, she noticed a gap in boxes along the southern tier of western NY. So, since the Chautauqua box seems to have gone missing she placed one nearby at Chautauqua Gorge. To get there from Mayville, just north of Chautauqua on Rt 394, go 1.6 miles south on Rte 430, then double that distance west on Hannum Rd to its end (2.6mi paved plus 1.6 dirt), passing several picnic shelters along the way. From the turn around at the end, take the trail heading southwest about 1/4 mile down toward the gorge. Somewhat surprising to see "posted" signs near the water, since this was one of the listings in the "Fifty Hikes in Western New York" book, but no matter - simply take a peek down at the gorge from above and backtrack about 100 steps from the first "posted" sign you got to, and find a tilted, flat-sided rock on the left side of the trail. Behind this rock, tucked discretely under a couple of very small stones (you do not have to move the slightly bigger one) you will hopefully find some silliness.


155. GOOD LUCK LAKE A one mile round trip walk on a flat pleasant path to a lake in the southern Adirondacks.

Not long ago, Bruna, our 85-year old friend from church gave us another stamp to plant. It said "Good Luck" and she thought it was cute, so we didn't have the heart to tell her that some people don't like looking for bought stamps anymore. Instead, we assured her that we'd find it a good home whenever we could, and soon the occasion presented itself. We were heading to Canada for Memorial Day weekend for the "Rocks, Docks and Locks Gathering" in Kingston, Ontario, and, in looking for a place to camp on our way out, we noticed that one of the hikes from our "50 Hikes in the Adirondacks" book was called Good Luck Cliffs. Since it was only a short stretch out of our way heading north, we decided to plant her stamp at the associated lake, which was a mile or so closer to get to than the cliffs, and it had a designated campsite, too!

To find the boxes and the lake, drive north on route 10 about six miles from the intersection of 29A north of Caroga Lake, to the parking pullout on the east side of the road, just north of a bridge over the Sacandaga River. Directly across the road to the west, follow the trail to the lake that has the sign about camping in designated areas only. A half mile of easy walking will get you to the lake, which is quite pretty, although the campsite area itself is rather trashy. Just before you reach the lake you will see a large boulder to the right with a fire ring nearby. On its southern side, just west of two 3-foot high stumps, a small camo covered box for "good luck" resides under the boulder's bottom edge, covered with leaves, just inches from a small hemlock.

After you've found "good luck", head around to the other side of the boulder and find the little handcarved "lake" we added to be stamped under it - tucked in a film container behind the birch that is hugging the boulder, under a small stone and some leaves. Please rehide everything carefully so that campers in the area don't mistake it for trash! If you have time for exploring, you might want to take the other marked trail that leaves the parking area about 50 yards north of the one to the lake, and perhaps even leave a box there at Good Luck Cliffs, a 4.4 mile round trip reputed to be one of the finest short hikes in the Southern Adirondacks.


202. MONTAGNA AZZURRA A short, sweet climb to a lookout with seasonal blueberries in the Northern Adirondacks, about 2 miles round trip.

This lovely little mountain had been on our "to do" list in various old hiking guidebooks for decades, but somehow, until recent years, the long trails and high peaks had always taken precedence and grabbed more of our attention. Even when a letterbox was planted here by Jackbear a few years back, we still never managed to find time to make the long drive there to do the climb and to find the box before it went missing. Well, now perhaps this microbox can serve for a while as an additional incentive for others to make the trek, although assuredly, the short (2 mile round trip) hike itself is its own sweet reward!

To locate the Adirondack mountain that we have listed here with its "Italian cognate" title, you could start by driving about 7 miles east from the small town whose name might make a catchy headline for a certain millionaire talk show host if he had been "canonized" and then took a mighty tumble in the popularity ratings! If approaching the mountain from this direction, you would turn right (south) on a road that is an "Italian translation" of the above box title. After about 3 miles of pavement, the road will turn to dirt. Continue on this same road about 4 more miles to a large parking area on the right (west).

Follow the well-marked trail to the west picking up a stone or two from the big pile near the trailhead to take up with you to the lookout. This seems to be a very popular trail with some people going up and down the mountain several times just for their morning exercise! If, however, once is about enough for you, you could pretend that you are about to collapse, drop your rocks on the big pile before the lookout, then drop your weary bones on the large low flat rock that is right smack under the fire tower, just a step or two north of the survey marker. Sitting there facing back down the trail you just came up, reach with your left hand under the low flat rock for a small stone tucked in there between the moss about 5 inches from the rock's northeast corner. (You should even be able to see it, if you walk around towards the north side of the fire tower's legs and peek down there under the rock first, but please don't be obvious about it!) The tiny black microbox makes its home discreetly behind that small stone. Stamp in and re-hide carefully. Then climb the tower, get your bearings for the other mountains, and, if you're there in late summer, enjoy the blueberries!


203. THE CANONIZED MILLIONAIRE
          (or the genitive case of the Latin king!)
Another pleasant but somewhat longer climb in the Northern Adirondacks, about 6 miles round trip.

Those who have just found our "Montagna Azzurra" box will know exactly where to go for this next adventure. In fact, after suggesting to another "senior" (a lady from Canada doing multi-climbs for exercise) going "down the road" to climb a different mountain, we ended up hiking them both that morning, and just getting there can definitely be part of the adventure! If coming from the "Montagna Azzurra" parking lot, continue south down the main well-graded dirt road for about another 10 miles of cool wilderness terrain (negotiable by ordinary car in season, May-Oct) before the road reverts back to pavement and houses. Somewhere along the next six miles of hardtop, the road name apparently changed to something reminding me of a chocolate peanut butter factory, but I was totally unaware of that at the time and was only looking for a big brown trailhead sign on the right (south) side of the road with ample parking for quite a few cars.

Due to rerouting, apparently because of a private camp down the way, the trail now starts a couple hundred yards down the road at a kiosk on the right (west). I forgot to note exactly what the mileage is listed at now with the relocation, but the route to the top is probably about 3 miles of mostly moderate hiking, with just the last half mile or so being steeper and rockier.

Once you get to the top, you can no longer climb up the firetower here because the lower steps have been removed, but you won't need it to get phenomenal views because they are all around you anyway! However, to find the microbox, simply walk over to the firetower and stand on the rock in the middle beneath it, near the concrete pillar. Note the low-lying rock on a line halfway between two geodetic survey markers immediately to the south and SSW. The rock is only about 3 steps from either one. When no one is looking, check out the cubby hole under this rock's NE corner, behind two small stones, noting how the rocks are placed so you can replace them the same way when tucking back this microbox as you get ready for your return trip back down the way you came. Hope you feel like a "million"!

P.S. Rte 30 at the roadside Adirondack shelter is only about 2.5 miles further east, past a cute little Presbyterian church, if you wish to come in or leave via that famous outdoorsman's college, and a nice visitors center with a lovely little butterfly garden is just 1 mile further north from there, too!


204. STILL STANDING TALL
          (aka "Requiem for an Old Growth Tree")
A very long clue for a very short walk (but hopefully containing an important message!;-)

This little box was a spur-of-the-moment "afterthought" that I just couldn't resist putting in when I reached my 15,000th letterbox find on July 31st, 2007 near the eastern shore of beautiful "Tupperware Lake" in the heart of the Adirondacks! I had just spent several delightful days (and nights!) climbing mountains, visiting waterfalls, camping with the loons, and even attending a wonderful all day and night letterboxing gathering just north of the Adirondacks, wondering where and when I might be reaching my next big "letterboxing milestone".

It seems I didn't have long to wait at all! That morning on the last day of July, I had climbed a few northern mountains to plant some new letterboxes, strolled through the trails and lovely little butterfly gardens at the Adirondack visitor center north of Paul Smiths, and even found a phone there to call Pete at work on his lunch break, thinking I'd probably be reaching F 15,000 later that afternoon atop Mt. Goodnow.

Well, plans change. It turned out a new letterbox had just been planted along my route to "Smores". Pete read me off the brief clue over the phone, so, naturally, after several other afternoon letterbox side trips, that new box became my 15,000th letterbox find! And as I "happy danced" my way back towards the car, my eyes lit up on a marvelous sight: a huge lopped-off pine tree still standing tall by keeping its mossy old contorted legs firmly rooted to earth around a great big rocky base!

Suddenly, surprisingly, I felt a tremendous sympathy for that vulnerable yet still venerable old pine, trying to keep its feet on the ground and its broken-off neck headed towards the heavens, despite odds seemingly being against it holding up any lofty standards! Essentially "lobotomized" by some cruel fluke of "Mother Nature", then left prey to opportunistic biting and chewing insects, gnawing and clawing rodents, and other such ravages, I did indeed sense a kinship with that tree. Having suffered various concussions, fractured spine, PTSD, and other head injuries, both as an abused child and later in life, I still tried for many years to keep my legs strong, my back straight and my head in the clouds, backpacking over 25,000 miles of long-distance mountain trails along the backbones of America, including 5 AT's, 3 PCT's, the CDT and much more! ( and, of course, that mileage number would have to more than double if I counted all the miles I've hiked over the years with only a daypack, but those weren't the hard, "backbreaking" long-distance mountain trail miles" I was counting !)

Even now with my backpacking days long behind me, just like for that grand old tree still strangely and strongly attached to its rocky base, so too did those experiences long serve as my rock solid foundation. And even if the amount of hiking I am still able to do nowadays for letterboxing is only the teensy tiniest fragment of what I could once do in my backpacking days, at least I am glad to now have Pete as my "rock", since we met and got married on a rock rather late in life, and decided to hobble off into our golden years together!

But getting back to that gnarled old pine with the top knocked off of it, I think that is probably the way I would most like to be remembered when it comes my time to finally "keel over" - like that tree: taking years and years of sparse and harsh conditions to attain its unusual growth patterns, stretching out sinewy, convoluted legs in various directions in an effort to maintain its balance with a toehold on earth, "vertically challenged" and without branches, having weathered many a storm, yet still holding its own, uniquely imposing albeit subject to attack by any number of worms, gnats, termites and rats... nicked, gouged, carved and even stoned, judging by several pebbles poked into a hole right near where one knee of the tree sports a scraped scar of peeled bark. (Can you just imagine what deep wound or ugly "critter cut" those small stones might conceal?)

Yes, it seems that there are even those who just can't wait for this tree to die and who would gladly take an axe to it! Some ("king-of-the-hill" types) simply don't want any tall trees in "their forest" at all! ( not even "headless" ones that barely cast a shadow!:-) Others ("we're-all-equal" types), perhaps because they feel insecure with trees more than one standard deviation from the "norm", try to cut everything down to their own size or shape, to create pseudo-monoculture forests. Some ("flamers") have been known to target an extraordinary tree like this by spewing forth false allegations (like suggesting that it's a grotesque headless "wolf tree" that eats up small children and spits out their bones!:-), while others ("detractors") seem to think that if they go around trying to chip away or undercut an old tree like this, they will somehow make themselves bigger and the old tree smaller, but they too are only largely deluding themselves, for that wood be harder than they think!:-)

Seriously, though, old growth forests can topple or be toppled in various ways, but I think the saddest thing to see is when new growth advocates, with no respect or understanding for what might have been there before, simply go and "clear cut", or '"slash and burn", all the old growth to level the field and create a "dog hair forest"! Oh, sure, now there's plenty of room and sunshine for all kinds of new little seedlings to grow at breakneck speeds, some quickly pushing to crowd out others and replicate themselves, like bunches of birches or aspen clones, yet having nowhere near the character and dignity of some of those majestic old oaks or ancient bristlecone pines that once took long years of slow growth, often under conditions of great adversity, to attain their unique shapes before being cut down to make way for saplings!

So, sadly, in that great headlong rush for "logging" that has occurred in recent years, has our once marvelous old hobby of letterboxing been vastly undercut and devalued by the rapid new growth of the "dog hair forest", with its cooties, parasites, and other personal, postal and virtual infestations that simply did not exist in the old forest! Anyone who has experienced the old growth forest, before it got "logged" to make way for extensive "drive-bys" and other garden-variety or new exotic species will know what I'm talking about - the sense of adventure and anticipation as one simply wandered off into the deep woods, wondering if a box was still there or not, and if so, only then getting to have the pleasure or surprise of finding out who else might have visited by reading the logbook in the box itself! (We never dreamt in those earlier 'boxing days of spoiling someone else's fun by blabbing about when and where a box was found, and we still largely play the game in that same old original manner, so anyone wanting to find out which boxes we may have visited will just have to go and see for themselves!

At any rate, we have been deeply saddened in recent years to see letterboxing turn away from its original focus on being an "Adventure with a stamp" (what I have dubbed an "AWS") to being a mere excuse for stamp collecting or swapping what I call "SWOH" ("Stamps without hikes or hunts"). We have even heard recently that there are some promoters of "logging" who, rather than fostering a decent normal growth of real plants, are actually encouraging newbies to produce and find more and more "SWOH" (even including stamp collecting gatherings, pub crawls, and "SWOH Halls of Fame" that are turning some of the newer letterboxers of the past few years into wild-eyed "stamp addicts", some of whom rarely even leave their homes or seats!) So, of course, we feel that this new turn of events and "re-programming" of letterboxing history has considerably cheapened and trivialized what was once a wonderful and respectable adventure hobby - or at least that's how it started out in this country!

Hopefully, however, the tide may now finally be turning back towards the "AWS"! I see evidence of this most everywhere lately, as people eventually get "fed up" with "fast food finds", and start looking for things with more "nutritive value and sustenance". After all, in the end it is usually the adventure we tend to remember the most, not the stamp, and even one single "AWS" is generally more memorable than a whole cartload of "SWOH"! Otherwise, one could simply collect thousands of stamp images without experiencing any real sort of adventure at all, and what would be the point of that???

So, if there is anything for which I would like to be remembered in letterboxing, it is that of fighting to hold the line against having our hobby devolve into mere "logging" and "stamp collecting", and of attempting to preserve the dignity of our old growth forest! Of the over 15,000 boxes that I personally have now found, 95% of them have been truly "AWS-ome"!!! That's right, folks, in my F-count, there is not one single "virtual", as I simply do not consider that to be letterboxing. Nor do I regard sending boxes back and forth in the mail as letterboxing (but I am glad to visit former "postals" and count them as finds after they have been planted, as I try not to hold their former status against them!;-) We still basically count our finds in the "old style", by the box hunt, not by the number of stamps in it - as in one "dog-hair"box I found recently containing dozens of stamps, but which I still counted as only one find! As for personal travelers, tabletoppers, and other such "novelties" of recent years, they also simply did not exist in the far greater portion of our earlier letterboxing experience, so we only participate in that type of "extraneous stamp excess" if we're trying to be "sociable" and have put in enough "legwork" before and after any such event to counteract the possible pernicious "fattening effects" of such a "sedentary stamp preoccupation"! Thus, we manage to keep our total percentage of "SWOH" - including all those hitchhikers we still love finding out in the wild - hovering only around 5%, and thereby preserve at least 95% of our total count for all those "AWS" boxes we so love!

Anyway, my friends, that is how this old tree stands! Perhaps it really is on its last legs, and won't be left standing there much longer, but whenever you've had a truly awesome letterboxing adventure, please remember the legacy of the old growth tree, how it grew on good solid legs on a rock solid base! And if you ever have a chance to get up to "set sail" on "Tupperware Lake", please check out this special tree to see if it is still standing!!!


205. SMORE SMORES An add-on / bonus to another mount that is good now to climb if you're in the central Adirondacks, about 3 miles round trip.

This is a microbox that I had planned to add after my 15,000th find, which ended up being #15,001! I had thought that there was going to be a bonus to that box, since it was listed as two, but there wasn't, so this is it! I've always loved the way Oliver Twist was brave enough to just come right out and say what he wanted ("Please, Sir ... I want some more."), not because he was greedy (as some folks are for stamps!), but because he was hungry (as some folks are for adventure!). So here's a little twist on that theme for those who just can't seem to get enough letterboxing adventures (or stamps!:-) and always want smores! (Just check the logbook under that old ranger station for smore smores right nearby!) N.B. Apparently the logbook I wrote the clue in originally is gone as of 2009, so this microbox is now simply tucked "cluelessly" into the other letterbox! If we ever get back up there, however, we'll "re-plant" and "re-clue" the micro so it can once again be considered a "bonus" find, not just another stamp!


302. TRUCKIN' ON HOME A drive-by planted near a popular gas station stop when crossing the Delaware.

RETIRED

This box was totally unplanned, and is, in fact, what some folks might call a box planted "on demand". However, who could resist planting something for a couple of kids with a hitchhiking spider? Here's the back ground story ...

On my almost annual trip down to the Smokies in the spring of 2009, I took a short detour off I-84 to look for the Tri-State Letterbox located near the junction of NY/NJ/PA, and happened to pick up a hitchhiker there. Having a long standing arrangement with hubby Pete that I wouldn't pass along any hitchhikers I find on solo trips until after I'd shared them with him back home in RI, I barely looked at the the thing, except to note that it was a spider.

Well, almost a month and over 500 TN/NC/VA/PA finds later, I was heading back north with literally dozens of hitchers that I'd picked up along the way stuffed into my backpack. (It was a particularly prolific season for them down south, it seems!) Anyway, I dumped them into a separate bag to get them ready for Pete, and what did I notice but a small piece of black shoelace that had become untied, a little laminated notecard and a teeny tiny piece of rubber stuck in the bottom of my pack!

The notecard and shoelace belonged to that first hitcher of my trip - The Dancing Spider - that I'd picked up near Port Jervis, NY, so in tying it back on, I read the note. It said something like "Do not remove this hitchhiker unless you plan to plant a box for us within 10 days and 10 miles of where you found this". Well, I'd seen plenty of hitcher requests in my travels like "please get this hitcher moving west, to my sister in Arizona, to Costa Rica", or whatever; but never before had I seen one attached to a demand for a letterbox plant!!

I started thinking, however ... why not plant a box near Port Jervis, NY? The "spider folks" were probably just a couple of kids looking for something to do who couldn't travel very far, and I'd be needing to stop for gas soon off that exit anyway. Besides, even though I hadn't brought along any extra stamps or my carving kit to carve anything, there was that tiny unknown piece of rubber I found at the bottom of my pack that looked like an intricately carved little truck or something, so why not leave that in one of my old pill containers over at the truck stop?

So that's just what I did! If you want to find this little box that I planted on my way home (not within the allotted 10 days, but definitely within the requisite 10 miles!:-) just take the first exit after crossing the Delaware eastbound on I-84, then very briefly south on 22 into NJ. This is usually where we find the cheapest gas anywhere between VA and MA right off the interstate anyway, so turn into the Citgo on your left, get some gas if you need some, then exit by the side curving north through some boulder-lined tall bushes. You can probably park briefly in the gravel lot across the street, where sometimes you might even be able to pick up a Sabrett at the hot dog truck that is sometimes there. Then casually stroll back over to the second big black boulder (the next to last one on the left when exiting the service area towards the north), sit on it as if taking a break and gently roll away 2 small stones and a piece of concrete at its base. Don't forget to tuck the little box back in and cover it up as carefully as you found it!

Sera and Doobie, hope this fits the bill!


508. Little Crow A sweet little blueberry climb with some lovely Adirondack views

We planted this box while on a 7-mile loop hike along the newly refurbished Nun-da-ga-o Trail that circles the Soda Range from Lost Pond up and around down to Big Crow, then over to Little Crow, down to Hurricane Hill Road, and back up to the Big Crow Clearing parking lot at the end of O'Toole Road. However, if you would like to get this box "as the crow flies", it can be reached, according to the guidebooks, in just about .7 of a mile! To do it that way, drive a couple of miles up Hurricane Hill Road off Route 73, just east of the Keene library near route 9 north. Park on the right along the road just before the "30 mph" sign near pole 305 (about 1/4 mile before O'Toole Road turns off left ahead), and find the small trail sign pointing the way north a bit further east up the road past house #391 across the street.

Follow the red circles up the top of Little Crow in less than 3/4 mile, enjoying blueberries in season and some fine southerly views of the High Peaks from the rock outcrops. When you start to get your first good northerly views of Big Crow ahead and Hurricane Mt. with its fire tower to the right, step up onto the last "raised sidewalk" on Little Crow before the trail turns sharply right and begins to descend the col between the Crows. Take about 14 steps along that flat rock platform and stop where there is a thin right-turn arrow scratched onto the rock . Instead of turning right, however, to find the little crow, turn left and step over a spiky branch in 4 steps, plus about 10 steps more to a medium spruce on the right with an 8"x8'" squarish stone on its north side. Look under the rock and bits of forest debris for the little crow in its little film canister. You can return the way you came (for about a 1.5 mile RT) or continue on to Big Crow, down to the clearing and follow dirt O'Toole Rd. back to your car for a 2.7 mile loop.


BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..

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