Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - North Carolina

Index to Our Other Letterboxes


235. OH HAPPY DAY! Just a short hop, skip and jump over from the picnic tables at Murray Branch to celebrate North American letterboxing's 10th birthday!

Now here's a little flower that even the most avid of "stamp collectors" should be able to pick up at the BABE (Birth of American Boxing Event), if only they are willing to leave the "cootie table" for a short couple of minutes! I also thought this stamp, an early RTRW eraser-carved sunflower, would do well to remind us of North American letterboxing's wonderful traditions, from those first little commercial stamps seeded on Max Patch and elsewhere, through the eraser carvings of the following years, to some of the intricate carvings of recent times, yet always preserving the true letterboxing focus on the hunt and not the stamp!

So, to do this very quick and easy letterbox search, simply roll on downstream with the French Broad, 4.6 miles down River Road from the Hot Springs bridge and just a hundred or so feet from the "cootie pavilion", to the first spot where you would have to rock hop a little creek if you were to continue along the river. Stop and look on the north side of a good-sized two-trunk bearing tree. Yup, there in the groove about three feet up, tucked well behind leaves and bark, find a little flower to mark this happy day and to remember what makes it so special!

236. GOLDEN WHEAT A somewhat longer walk up Jack's Branch from the River Ridge Loop at Murray Branch (to further separate the "letterboxers" from the "stamp collectors"!:-)

This stamp carved by RTRW of CT I had initially intended to plant somewhere out in the "bread basket" of the midwestern plains, but not knowing when I might ever get out that way again, I figured the mountains of NC would do, especially since this was the place where the first letterbox in America was seeded that got the hobby growing over here in the great mountain tradition of hiking to scenic vistas!

So, to find this stamp, go 4.6 miles down River Road from the Hot Springs bridge to the spot used to celebrate the "Birth of American Boxing Event". Follow the loop trail directly across from the picnic area exit until you reach the blue-blazed Jack's Branch Trail, where you might hear some singing! Continue up Jack's Branch Trail about another 15 minutes (less than a mile), winding around a couple of lovely deep hollows, until suddenly you crest the saddle, and see a view of Hot Springs spread out before you about 5 miles away. With that view at about 150 degrees, a fire ring at 210, an old charred stump at 295, and a blue-blazed tree at 55, the box should be at your feet, tucked near the mid part of a long gray log behind a trap rock door. Please take care to replace the box exactly as found, so that others might be able to enjoy finding wheat up here for many years to come! Thanks!

466.     Bounding through the Mountains A very short leg stretcher, less than 1/4 mile round trip, on the Benton MacKaye Trail in western North Carolina.

This box got its beginnings from the "Simple Gift" personal traveler by Blue Delft of PA. By obtaining that particular stamp, we also got to pick out a logbook that was meant to be planted in our upcoming travels. I picked out one with trees and a bounding deer on the cover, carved a very simple stamp to match, and decided to plant it along the Benton MacKaye Trail, which had in recent years been extended from Georgia to the Great Smokies through Tennessee and North Carolina, the extension of which I was finally getting to head back down to hike in the spring of 2012. (I had certainly been waiting many years for this, since I had backpacked the original BMT from Springer Mt. in GA to back near the TN border after my second "thru-hike" of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia way back n 1985!)

Anyway, my first thought had been to plant the box about midway along a 5-mile section of the trail that starts out by straddling the TN/NC border, shortly above a place where bikers frequently mount a campaign to make "deals" to "slay the dragon". However, the second half of that particular trail section turned out to be rather fire-ravaged and scruffy (although there was some evidence that trail maintenance could be coming soon), so I decided to leave the box close to the other end of that section near the "Fugitive Dam", so called because it was used in the 1993 film by that name, starring Harrison Ford - giving this box just a touch of mystery to figure out exactly where to go rather than having it all spelled out!

Once you have found your way to that place (which also has the same name as one of the main mountains along the Appalachian Trail between Wesser and Fontana Dam) park in the small parking area along the road near the spillway. Carefully cross the highway and head to an old partially cemented road starting northwards up the hill. Where the old road makes a sharp hairpin left, look for a green BMT sign on a tree uphill to the right. From there, spot a large dark "double layer chocolate cake" boulder just across a tiny little stream. Go gently off trail to its right side (avoiding the poison ivy on the left side) and look down behind several small stones to find a deer "simple gift". Hope you enjoy "bounding through the mountains" and thanks for replacing everything with care.

728.     Hopping through Halifax A quick little detour off I-95 for an important bit of NC and US history

For years we’d been hearing about this now quiet little town of Halifax in northeastern NC that had a resounding impact in the past, but no one we talked to seemed to have ever visited it, even though a date on the NC state flag relates directly to what happened there on April 12, 1776. To find out exactly what that was, if you didn’t already know, take a short loop back through time, catch a short orientation film at the visitor center, latch onto a free tour or two with a period-costumed guide, and then wander off a bit on your own to check out the tavern that once feted Lafayette and now contains many interesting tidbits of historic information.

Sorry to say, as so often happens in our travels (and sometimes in history, too), as soon as we had hopped through to drop off this little bunny, we moved along to other things and forgot about it. So, a few months passed before we realized that we had misplaced the clue. However, the clue is so simple that even a few words from memory should suffice. Just head to the back (northwest) side of the old jail that is east of the aforementioned tavern, and find a downspout. A few inches east of that downspout in a small “cave” at the bottom of the jail wall is where we tucked this tiny bunny on the back of a little gray stone that we hope will keep it from running away. Not much of a “carve”, to be sure, just a little foam “travelin’ light”, but as most people know about the way we letterbox - for us, at least, it’s not about the quantity or quality of the stamps we manage to find, but the many different places we get to visit as we go “hopping through”!

738. Wanda's Wanda-rings: AT#4 Drive-by along the AT north of Hot Springs, NC

To represent my 4th AT “thru-hike” from Maine to Georgia, Mama Wolf carved the sign from what ended up being one of my most memorable experiences from that particular trek of mine from so long ago - meeting a gal named Trudy who was to become my good friend all these years later! At the time, I was still very shy and hardly talked to anyone on the trail. In fact, I had for years had a reputation for mostly avoiding people and towns altogether - just slipping into town during the middle of the day to resupply and then getting back out on the trail as fast as possible! So, my shyness had led me to miss out on what might have been considered normal town experiences and social interactions for many people hiking the AT.

However, when I met Trudy on the AT just outside of Hot Springs, NC in the late fall of that very quiet southbound year of 1988, I hadn’t spoken to anyone in quite a long time and was probably ready for a good chat, so we hit if off really well! She seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and said she was day-hiking in the area and staying at Elmer’s Sunnyside Inn. I told her that I didn’t usually stay overnight in towns when I was out long-distance backpacking like that, but I was planning to get a shower at the Jesuit Hostel, and might consider staying there if no one else was there this late in the season. Sure enough, no one else was there, so I decided to stay over, showered, then all by myself started sorting and stocking the church hall for a clothing drive the next morning, and then - who should come in but Trudy with an invitation for a free dinner at the Sunnyside Inn! It seems she had told the owner Elmer about meeting me on the trail and he wanted to offer me free dinner in exchange for my telling my story - about why I was out there hiking so many trails so many times!

Well, I honestly didn’t know if I could do that! I really thought that would be way more “socializing” than I could handle back then, but Trudy convinced me that there would only be a half dozen or so quiet, friendly people at the table, and that the food was really good, so I went! And that is why I credit Trudy with not only helping get me “out of my shell” a bit to actually talk at the dinner table, but also helping me get the kind of regular “trail town experiences” that most backpackers have on their first AT hike, but I had to wait for 4 or 5 times through to have some of them myself! As for Trudy, she always likes to tell me now how meeting me changed her life. She went on to backpack the AT herself the following year, then worked as a medic at Yellowstone, where she helped me through a difficult time along the Continental Divide Trail, then she moved to Nome, Alaska, and eventually switched over from the medical field to becoming a full time state and national park ranger before retiring back to NC! So, I’m dedicating this letterbox to Trudy for our serendipitous meeting on my AT#4 and our continuing friendship through the years!

As for the sign that used to be at the site of my memorable dinner at the Sunnyside Inn so long ago, I didn’t see it while passing through Hot Springs recently, some 30 years later now, but I left the Mama Wolf carving of it just a few miles north of Hot Springs near the first AT road crossing of route 25 near Tanyard Gap. There is a rather sharp dirt road turnoff on the left just past the bridge that carries the AT across the highway here. Park on the west side/dead end portion of the road near the bridge, and take a sharp right to start heading north up the AT. After going up a few log steps to a reach a campfire landing, the trail horseshoe curves left to cross a very small gully. From the gully, take about 20 steps more on the trail to see the rock face on your right, then go about 8 steps north toward the rock face and look in the lower right corner under a larger rock with a mossy lower edge, a layer of leaves and another smaller rock. Please replace the box accordingly in hopes that memories like this may last for many years yet to come!


You can find information about this hobby at Letterboxing North America (LbNA)

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