Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - Oregon

Index to Our Other Letterboxes


263. BLUEBELLS AT BLUE BOX PASS A quick little "mystery" for anyone doing a "whirlwind tour" through the Cascades and high desert of Oregon.

Well, Blue Box Pass would certianly not have been the sort of place I would have noticed on the topo maps from my old backpacking days when, among many other things, I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail three times through from Mexico to Canada! Back then (in the 80-90s), that spot would scarcely have registered as a "road crossing blip" south of the PCT on the edge of my guidebook page!

As an AARP letterboxer in late 2008, however, hoping to have a chance to plant a box or two on a very last minute letterboxing trip to Oregon and flipping through that old PCT guidebook of mine looking for ideas, I now found that this was the very first spot to jump out at me! After all, I didn't really have time to carve anything new, and I already had a blue box with bluebells in it leftover from my last trip down south for "BABE" that I hadn't had time to plant while passing through Virginia. So, what better place to leave it than at Blue Box Pass in Oregon, right?

Well, it turns out that Blue Box Pass is rather unremarkable except for the name, an elevation sign (4024 feet), a wide and fast-traveled road, a closed trail across the road, and a beautiful mountain view heading north. However, if you want to find a quick letterbox while traveling through this area, here's how to get it: Locate the pass. Pull into the gravel road just north of the pass on the west side and park somewhere near the stop sign. Take a short launch on the higher gravel road to the third rock from the rising sun on the left (slightly shorter than the others and with a flat top slanting south). Look under the edge pointing north and watch out for prickers!

264. BLUE GENTIAN BONUS BOX A microbox film canister accompaniment to the nearby bluebells.

Now, here's the flower I really wanted to leave in Oregon, since I had fond memories of seeing gentians in bloom on my PCT "thru-hikes" of the 80s and 90s, as well as having a vague recollection of seeing a folkloric styllized depiction of them on quilts at Timberline Lodge many years ago. That was the image I wanted to recreate, but since time was so fleeting and my memory so fading, this quick carve was all I could manage to come up with. However, if anyone would like another fast find, simply locate the bluebells nearby, and examine the logbook from cover to cover, noting that the top cover (a long ago RI gathering gift) does indeed sort of resemble a blue gentian!

(SPOILER: The hiding spot should be evident to most seasoned letterboxers using the numbers, but just in case it isn't - eton ylteerctsid decalp senots yawdim gnola yssom kcor egdel, woleb dna WS fo egral llabtoor!)

265. FRIEND OR FROE? An "add-on stamp" that just by chance got to be its own "real letterbox" plant!

Well, heading out as we did into "foreign territory" on an unplanned trip to Oregon at the very last moment in mid September of 2008, several days past the big Live & Breathe event (which we had passed up on as being potentially far too intense - too many people, too many boxes in too little space and time for our usual quiet, reflective, far-ranging and free-flowing letterboxing style!:-), we were rather unsure as to whether we would find the "natives" friendly or hostile if we chanced to meet up with any of them after the event!

Anyway, with almost no time for planning, we had quickly decided to basically just follow Funhog's "whirlwind tour" to some of the more scenic areas that we hadn't already visited in years past, or while backpacking the PCT. However, we did put out a few feelers to the locals for letterbox suggestions as well.

One suggestion mentioned by Maiden and others as a not to be missed "add-on box" was Jay's Toolbox. Well, we had had "add-on boxes" for many years back east, starting with our "Favorite Ornaments" series way back in 2002 at Burlingame State Park in RI, where we had invited other folks to add boxes featuring their own favorite ornaments to our collection, thereby increasing the number and variety of hunts and boxes to be found in our area. So, we wondered what could be so special about this particular "add-on" tool box.

Well, checking out the clue, we were disappointed to find out that Jay's Toolbox was actually just one hunt for one single box that contained a whole bunch of "add-in stamps", NOT "add-on boxes" at all!!! Just as had happened in several other parts of the country - and even across the pond where folks had suddenly seemed to go "stamp-crazy", passing out bunches of stamps at pubs, prisons and such - it looked to us as if the distinction between letterBOXing and STAMP collecting among some members of the hobby (usually the comparatively newer members or the "party crowd") had once again been blurred! Whether this was due to planting/hunting "laziness", a misconception about what constituted a "plant"(finding a home for a box and/or writing the clues - not just sending a stamp off for someone else to plant!) or what constituted a "find" (one search for one box = one "find", keeping letterboxing's focus on the hunt and a single stamp so as not to get confused with geocaching's focus on trinkets in a box!:-), or a mere simplistic desire to get as many stamp images as possible with as little effort as possible, we would have been hard put to guess!

Oh, how well do we remember, the outcry that once went out years ago when people started "planting" too many hitchhikers as the "lazyman's way out", since no original hiding places needed to be found nor clues written for them! Then some people couldn't wait to find hitchers by actually searching letterboxes for them, but wanted to have "guaranteed finds" and hitcher hostels, then hostels with multiple tenants, and finally, boxes like this one, which seemed to us to be nothing but "overcrowded stamp prisons", greatly diminishing those poor rubber souls trapped, crushed and lost in the shuffle, who couldn't even have their own private quarters or the respect that a good individual hunt might have earned them! (Ah, ye poor clueless tenants!) And what about those "portable penitentiaries",full of germs, diseases and no clues at all that some newbies had begun to drag around from one gathering to another? We wondered if folks out there were really getting so "stamp needy/greedy", or so lazy about planting/hunting that this could possibly be the direction in which they would truly wish to have our great hobby of letterBOXING go? Was this what a friend to letterBOXING would do to the hobby, or was this the work of a letterBOXING FOE?

Fortunately, before I could get too carried away by this train of thought, I took a deep breathe and noticed that this particular letterbox was ... the work of a 5-year old boy!!! Moreover, it turned out to be a fairly isolated case of "multi stamp mania" at that, since most of the other "add-ons" we'd been seeing clues for lately - dogs, musicians and such - were still being housed in separate boxes so could still conceivably be considered individual hunts and finds!) So, for a youngster who would probably soon be outgrowing this phase of his stamp collecting obsession anyway -why not?- I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do "add-a-stamp" for little Jay's Toolbox, too!

As far as what tool to carve, though, the only one that I could think of right off that I had any special connection to was a FROE, because I'd once gotten to hold the actual froe used by Abraham Lincoln when I visited a museum in Indiana many years ago! So, just before flying out from Providence to Portland, I carved my crude little representation of what I thought that froe looked like, and e-mailed Maiden that I'd be adding it anonymously to her son's toolbox.

Then, however, Maiden decided to throw us a curve... even though she was the one who had first told us we should definitely look for Jay's Toolbox, several days later at the Power Station Pub at McMenamin's in Edgefield where she met us on our first night into town, Maiden revealed that the toolbox was not yet back in place after having been paraded around at the big event that past weekend, but that she would certainly have it back on "Target" by the time we finished our "whirlwind loop"!

Lo and behold, friend or froe, when we finally swung by the "Target" as our last stop before going to the airport 6 days later, there was no toolbox to be found in the treehole where we had thought it would be, so all we could think to do in our hurry to get back to the airport on time was to leave the poor little froe in a baggie on the opposite side of the trail from where we had expected to find the toolbox, tucked behind a single good-sized cedar under a nice little blanket of green moss!

The beauty part of all this is that now, simply because we didn't just toss the poor baggied froe cluelessly into the fray with the other tools in the toolbox, and because we actually took the time to write this pathetic excuse for a clue, we can now count the froe as a real plant! Granted we would much have preferred to leave it in a box, and scarcely had time to rip out a few pages of paper for a logbook, but we had no time to go back to Target to get anything! Besides, we have been seeing stamps hidden in just baggies lately, as well as boxes without logbooks, and we're still hoping that some kind soul may take pity on the poor froe and give it a real logbook and a boxy little home after all! Of course, if it goes "missing", no big loss - we're just glad we managed to make a real "plant" out of it, and even left it with a star to mark the spot!

As for that toolbox, well - even if it had been there where we looked, we probably wouldn't have had time to stamp all those inky images into a logbook and still catch our flight! At best we could perhaps have taken one token stamp image, since the box would only have counted as one search/find anyway (and pushing 20,000 finds, what's one more, right?! :-)

So, now you all know the story of the froe, and hopefully that "friend or froe" to letterBOXing is not incompatible, if you just remember our hobby's history: that letterBOXing was not originally about collecting myriads of stamps, but rather about going on a walk and finding....something similar to a BOX!


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