"Wanda's Wanda-rings" Letterboxes


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351.     "WANDA'S WANDA-RINGS" (30+ boxes to represent 30,0000+ miles of solo long-distance backpacking!)

A letterboxing series planted in the Arcadia Management Area of Exeter, RI, depicting Wanda's amazing long-distance "backpacking career", formerly with stamps by carvers from all around the country and route planning by Pete. Since this large series covers over six miles (30,000 plus feet for my 30,000 plus backpacking miles), we've divided the series into two main loops with several "bail-out/ re-supply points". However, folks doing the whole series at one time will probably gain a better understanding of just what my actual "backpacking career" entailed at a ratio of one foot for each mile I backpacked, so we leave it up to individual preference on how best to cover these tracks. Just follow the clues carefully and count about "5 miles" for every two steps/footfalls so you don't get lost in this maze of trails, and please don't forget to wear orange if you go to this area in hunting season, which now includes not only the regular deer-hunting season from October through February, but may also include turkey-hunting season from April 25 through May 30.

UPDATE NOTE: As of May 4th, 2017, all of the original boxes in this series have been pulled to be transplanted to their respective "trail homes". Most of these former box locations have been replaced with token button stamps (either on the back of small stones or in little film canisters), a few have been added or subtracted and several minor location changes have been noted.



Wanda Backpacking

So, now, how did it all begin??? Well, I had first seen the sign for the Appalachian Trail on an excursion up Mt. Moosilauke in NH as a kid in the Community Chorus of RI when we were having a break from learning to sing Brahm's Requiem in German at the Lake Ogontz Choir Camp. As it does for most folks, the idea of a trail stretching all the way from Georgia to Maine really sparked my imagination, and I thought I'd love to hike it someday. However, while serving in the military, a serious accident that fractured my spine and could very easily have killed or paralyzed me made that seem highly unlikely. Several years later, though, after I had made a remarkably good recovery and was getting off Veteran's disability, I jokingly asked the doctors if that meant I could now backpack the Appalachian Trail. They just laughed...

The seed, however, had been planted in my mind, so off I went the following spring of 1982 to test out my "backpacking legs". I'd already hiked all of the blue-blazed trails in CT (some 800 miles) before my accident, so that seemed the logical place for me to try out my plan. I only did a couple of hundred miles of actual overnight backpacking on CT trails from the Pachaug to the Tunxis, the Metacomet to the Mohawk, but it was a start. So, to find the kick-off stamp for this series, go to the little parking lot on the left less than a quarter mile down Bates Schoolhouse Road off Arcadia Road south of route 165 and north of the Browning Mill Pond picnic area. Bearing in mind that every "foot" stands for a "mile" in this series, just walk a couple of hundred "miles" down the trail from the red metal gate and find the replacement for CONNECTICUT BLUE BLAZED TRAILS, a lovely map carved by ASTRII of CT, in a small cave between two rocks on the left after a large pine tree. (Remember, it is now just a small button stamp glued on the back of a 1 or 2-inch stone in the same place where the box used to be, and counting 5 feet for every "2-step" pace may help you estimate your mileage.)

Encouraged by my backpacking progress, painful but hopeful, I next hopped on up to MA to hike the Warner Trail, the Midstate Trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock, plus the Taconic Skyline and Crest to extend my backpacking range in MA by about 300 miles. Taking steps to represent that mileage (again remembering that 2 steps equal about 5 "miles"), you should see a tree on the left with a hole at its base. On the right side of this tree, between it and the boulder behind, rests the replacement for MASSACHUSETTS TRAILS, carved by ARF! of MA with a DCR symbol that nicely represented the many MA State Parks I passed through on these early little backpacking adventures of mine.

By the late summer of 1982, I had also gone up to Maine and backpacked the so-called "100-Mile Wilderness" section of the AT, and then hoped to tackle the whole AT the following spring. So, on April 16th, 1983, I began my first approach to Springer Mt. from Amicalola Falls down in the mountains of Georgia, and almost got struck by lightning before I even got to the official starting point of my first AT! MAMA WOLF of NC carved a very appropriate stamp regarding starting out on a trek like this ("A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"), which is now planted down near the southern teminus of the AT in GA original stamp. However, to find this replacement button stamp, continue about 500 "miles" along the wide path, and then turn right onto the narrower yellow-blazed trail (remembering, of course, that I certainly did not resort to any "yellow-blazing" on my trek, but stuck strictly to those AT white blazes the whole way!;-). After about 1000 "miles" (500 being on yellow), which would be around the AT "halfway point", see a cut log resting between the limbs of a two-trunk tree on the left. Then pass through a stonewall which continues along the right side of the trail. You're getting close to the AT finish in Maine when you pass two large boulders with a bit of stonewall between them. Continuing about 175 "miles" further brings you to a boulder on the left with a yellow blaze on its far side. Look behind this boulder on its southwest side under a small rock for the AT#1 replacement stamp.

Now, most backpackers might have been glad to hang up their boots for a while after a trek like that, but not I! No, I was just so thrilled that I had been able to backpack all that way in spite of my injuries that I wanted to keep right on backpacking! So, off I went back to Vermont to backpack the rest of the Long Trail on up to Canada through some pretty rugged northern mountain terrain. To add these LT "miles", just continue on until the stone wall departs from the trail and you start up a short incline. About halfway up there is a log on the left, a short log on the right, a cut log ahead and a stone in the middle of the trail. Look behind the short mossy log ahead where it perpendicularly touches another log for the replacement for LT#1, one of four custom stamps created by BLUEBIRD of CT.

Still not content to stop backpacking that year, but searching for a warmer clime before winter set in, I then took the train down to Florida to hike what was then available of the Florida Trail. The flat-walking and swamp-slogging seemed somewhat anti-climactic after those northern mountains, but it certainly kept me going for a while, so just continue several hundred more "miles" to a large pine on the left with roots in the trail. The FLORIDA TRAIL stamp by KIRBERT of FL, was once nearby, but has now been transplanted to a newer section of the FT in western Florida. The replacement is currently missing.

Turns out after all those miles I ended up with foot problems, and had to have surgery that winter. However, it was really hard back then to stay off my feet, so by the early spring of 1984, I was "off and running" up the Long Path backpacking straight from the George Washington Bridge in NYC on past the Catskills, with many side trails like the Devil's Path thrown in for good measure. So, continue on the yellow trail a couple of hundred "miles", descending a bit, crossing a foot path with a boulder and a 5-foot stump in the middle of the junction, and stopping at the foot of some root "stairs" near a large yellow-blazed white pine on the right. From the north side of this pine, go about ten steps at 40 degrees and look under the mossy sloping northwest side of a large rock for the replacement for LP logo stamp carved by LIGHTNIN' BUG of PA. The original LP stamp is now in the Catskills along the LP not far from Kaaterskill High Falls and North/South Lake.

Now I hoped my newly healed feet would hold up for a long haul, so off I headed on the bus to California to backpack my first Pacific Crest Trail. Good thing I started off fairly late in the season, since it had been a very heavy snow year, and pockets of deep snow persisted all the way up through Canada! To simulate at least the "foot-mileage", if not the actual terrain and extreme conditions of this first of my "journeys along the crest", continue on the yellow blazed trail to a junction with the white blazed trail. This junction is at about 1/3 of the total PCT distance of 2650 "miles".

(Those who choose to go out to civilization for a "re-supply" or "pizza drop" at this point could continue straight on yellow where white goes left. Cross a couple of small bridges and go a total of 600 "miles" to a clearing near a road crossing. From the wood line of that clearing, look right (east) for a 2-foot high stump in front of a stone wall. Between the 3rd and 4th rocks to your right of the stump and below the high point of the wall, look behind a small stone for a little slice of pizza. Then return to the aforementioned junction.)

Turn west at this yellow/white junction to continue on the white blazed trail for the remainder of the PCT distance, which takes you to a dirt road crossing. Across the road is a metal pipe adjacent to an aqua metal disk set into a square of concrete. Look behind the pipe near the end of the stonewall on the second layer right side between two small stones, for the replacement for PCT#1, carved by DON from CA. The original PCT#1 stamp, now transplanted to the southern terminus of the PCT near Campo, CA, shows just the CA portion of the PCT, but - make no mistake - it stands in for my whole first PCT: From the Mexican border through the mountains of CA, OR and WA all the way to Canada!

Well, once again this would probably have been enough backpacking for most people for the year, but not for me! With one AT and one PCT in quick succession under my boots, I was now at that point where many backpackers might feel that "once was enough" on each of those big trails (and in fact there is another "bailout point" here just down dirt Bald Hill Road to Summit Road and route 165 for those who might want it!;-), but for me, as it turned out, this was still just the beginning of my "going the distance" another five times over - that is continuing to backpack for about five times as many miles as I'd already completed! So, after that first PCT, I ended up taking the bus all the way back east across Canada, then taking another bus from Montreal to Lake Placid to finish off the fall with some backpacking and peak-bagging in the Adirondacks, including the NORTHVILLE-PLACID TRAIL. Continuing another 150 "miles" or so from the PCT#1 marker on the trail with the stone wall now on your left (ignoring the white trail and the dirt road), then looking under pine needles and a couple of stones directly behind the medium pine near two smaller dead trees a few steps off trail on the right should get you the round black 1.5 inch replacement rock stamp for the NP logo, another stamp carved by LIGHTNIN'BUG of PA.

The following spring of 1985 had me once again "in gear", heading down to backpack all of the many trails in the Harriman-Suffern-Bear Mt. area of NY, as well as other trails in NJ, from the Batona Trail of the Pine Barrens to the network of trails around High Point. So, just continue another 150 "miles" or so on the trail you are on to two rocks and then a root in the middle of the trail. The root points left to three co-linear trees. Behind the second tree is a SPOR, under which you will find the replacement stamp rock for NJ TRAILS, another carving by ARF! of MA.

By early summer I had decided that I wanted to backpack the whole AT again - this time southbound for a different perspective. So, for this trek, continue along uphill about 1100 "miles" and cross a tree barrier lying across the trail at about the AT "halfway point". After another thousand or so "miles", step over a log (update: 2016 - log is now gone) and find another log paralleling the trail about 10 feet off to the left. That log ends adjacent to an oak tree with a broken off partner. Look behind that tree under a small rock for the replacement for AT#2, carved by ELECTRIC of SC. The original stamp is now transplanted not far from Fontana Dam, the southern AT exit from the Smokies, which were indeed beautiful as I passed through there in the fall this time.

So, by late fall, I was finishing up my AT#2 back on Springer Mt. in Georgia, but once again I was not quite ready to quit backpacking for the year, so before going back home to RI, off I headed on the then newly created BENTON MacKAYE TRAIL northwest from Springer on a different route back towards the Smokies. Continue a short distance to a large tree across the trail and then about a hundred "miles" or so. You should be near a grey birch on the left edge of the trail. Face the woods and walk to the right of the tree about 5 steps to a rock housing the replacement for the box and log prepared by Beachcomber of GA with a cool stamp carved by Spitfire of GA showing the "Gut-swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River", near where the original stamp is now located.

The next spring, after a bad bout with Lyme Disease, I took the train down to DC, and backpacked straight out from the railroad station, past the Vietnam Memorial, and down the C&O CANAL all the way out to Cumberland, MD, with a big loop in the middle for the brand new (at the time) TUSCARORA/BIG BLUE TRAIL, which I was the first person ever to backpack. In memory of this, continue on a few hundred feet to a 2-foot tall rock off trail on the right with three 1-foot stones sitting atop it. Tucked on the north side of the nearest 1-foot stone is a small 1-inch rectangular stone with C&O on its back. Just a few more "miles" further on, pass between cut logs, and follow the cut log on the left to its end, then look on the south side for a 1-inch rock with BB on its back.

By that time in the spring of 1986, I'd already decided that I really wanted to backpack yet another AT northbound, so off I went on the train south again to Georgia to start on AT#3. By now you know the drill: get ready to log in another 2100 "miles", continuing on through a laurel grove to a trail junction among young white pines. Go left and up over a slight hill to a cut log at just around the 2100 "milepoint". Look behind the piece to the left next to the root end, noting perhaps some cool white fungus on an adjacent tree, for the former home of AT#3, carved by MSTRWNDL of TN, depicting one of the check point cabins near the Smokies that also remind me of some of the shelters in VT and NH that were considerably nicer than most of the AT lean-to's along the trail back then. The original stamp is now near the northern exit of the AT from the Smokies, while the replacement is unfortunately currently missing.

One of the really cool things about my AT#3 was that I also got to have a real "pizza drop" (dropped by parachute from a plane) courtesy of Jumpstart (the guy who started his first AT by parachuting onto Springer Mt. when he was in his late 60's!) at Beauty Spot in TN, and then he shuttled me off the AT briefly so that I could go and backpack a short but very sweet trail called the ART LOEB TRAIL in the Shining Rock Wilderness near Cold Mt. in NC. To find the replacement of this stamp carved by KAY of THE LITTLE FOXES of NC, just walk maybe 30 "miles" along the right hand piece of that same cut log and look under the rock in its fork! The original stamp in now back in western NC along a lovely section of the ALT.

So, after I had backpacked my way up to Katahdin again on AT #3, it was time for me to go back to VT to finish up another LONG TRAIL up to Canada. Toward that "Journey's End", continue on for 150 or so "miles" and spot a substantial three-trunk oak about 15 feet off trail to the right. Look to the left of the front trunk within a mossy semicircle and under licheny bark for a small triangular stone that is the replacement for LT#2, another custom-made stamp by BLUEBIRD, who used to have a vacation home in southern VT.

By the following spring of 1987, I couldn't wait to get back out to the PCT for a second round on that gorgeous crest trail under vastly improved conditions, with much new trail having being built since my first time through. So, off I went on the Desert Wind, the California Zephyr, or whichever of those Amtrak trains whose names I no longer remember, to LA, San Diego, and then by bus to Campo to head out again from the Mexican border to Canada! You know the drill on this one, too: 2650 "miles" starting by continuing onward, then going left at the next trail junction. Stay left again and wind through the woods until you get to a wider dirt road and turn right, then left at the nearby road junction. Bear right at the fork in the road and pause at the next road junction. Proceed slowly to the right to the second boulder on the left side of the dirt road. Just beyond that boulder under the eastern face of a smaller rock is a replacement rock stamp for the lovely crest stamp showing the Oregon PCT route for PCT #2, carved by FUNHOG of OR.

Across the way, about 40 "miles" away at 140 degrees (to account for my taking a slightly different route on my second PCT, to include the Oregon Skyline Trail, Crater Lake, Sisters, Eagle Falls, and the longer route around Mt. Hood on the Timberline Trail), find a tree with a rock beside it. Between rock and tree under a "Y" shaped stick hides the small flat pear-shaped replacement stone for the gorgeous stamp depicting those above-mentioned Oregon features, carved by SAHALIE of NY, who "honeymooned" along the trail there years ago. I feel especially blessed to have 2 such lovely stamps to represent my PCT#2, and once again remember that, although they feature connections to Oregon, they still represent another entire Mexico to Canada backpacking trek along the PCT for me!

And then after backtracking from the Canadian border to hike awhile out on the Olympic Peninsula, off I headed cross-country all the way back east again on the bus (those were the days when you could go anyway you wanted in one direction for $59!) to northern VT for another Long Trail backpack southbound! Continue down the dirt road for a couple hundred "miles" now back on the blue-blazed trail. Find a rock on the left about 10 feet off trail with two humps on its top edge that reminded me of Camel's Hump, a prominent peak along the LT, with the replacement stone for LT#3, another custom-made stamp by BLUEBIRD, lying behind under a bed of pine needles.

Well, since I was still in this northwestern neck of the woods, I figured it would be a good fall wrap-up month to climb all the "4000 footers" in New England, and work on backpacking as many of the "side trails" in the Whites as I could, too. Toward that end, continue downhill on the blue-blazed dirt road about 230 or so "miles" to a large rock about 8 steps off to the left of the dirt road. Behind that rock at the base of a 3-inch diameter beech which is hugging the rock on the right, find a SPOR. A small 2-inch stone shaped somewhat like the Granite State, tucked under the middle rusty colored stone of the SPOR, is the replacement for "NH TRAILS", graciously carved by NEET of MA, formerly from NH and the northern White Mountains!

The following year, after getting through a particularly painful post traumatic stress situation, I decided to spend a couple of weeks backpacking all the trails in Baxter State Park and elsewhere in Maine before heading south again on my AT #4. So, continue on downhill about 200 "miles" to a big chunky rock behind three small white pines just off the left side of the dirt road. Tread your way behind this knee-high boulder to find the replacement for "Wanda-ring through Maine", carved by TEACUP of Maine to represent all those MAINE TRAILS.

So, why not do one more Long Trail the length of Vermont while still up that way, I figured? Continue on the dirt road about another 250 "miles". Just before a trail crossing there will be a two-trunk tree on the left with a blue blaze on it and a pair of rocks behind it. Look behind those rocks, in the niche formed where they abut with three small stones, for the replacement to LT#4, yet another custom-made stamp by BLUEBIRD, with the signature hat and three pine trees that had by now become my trail "trademark".

If you wish to take a break now almost halfway through these wanderings, continue on the familiar dirt road back to the parking area. (You will have a slightly longer walk to return to pick up with AT#4, but a shorter walk if you go on out now to get the final CDT stamps by lionsmane, so the mileage should just about even itself out.) Otherwise, take the unblazed trail to the right and head southwesterly for more of "Wanda's Wanda-rings"!


MORE OF WANDA'S WANDA-RINGS

If you are starting here, park about a quarter mile up on the left on Bates Schoolhouse road off Arcadia Road, pass around the red metal bar-gate and take the old dirt road into the woods. Pass a yellow-blazed trail going off to the right and continue on the dirt road until an unmarked trail crosses it as you start to climb up a slope. Take the unblazed trail to the left and head southwesterly.

So, now it's time to mark my AT#4 in 1988! Please make sure you have read all the reminders from the first part of "Wanda's Wanda-rings". Then wind your way along the unblazed trail, crossing a muddy dip in the trail at about the AT "halfway point". Upon reaching the old dirt road, turn right and continue until a very small trail (update: almost invisible as of 2017) appears on the left. It leads to a beech tree on the right in about 25 feet. Look behind the beech for the replacement for a special sign carved by MAMA WOLF of NC for my AT#4. I used to joke that it took me four times through on the AT to finally start having some typical backpacker's "trail town" experiences, since I hardly spent any time at all in towns on any of my previous treks. So, when Elmer of Hot Springs, NC invited me to dinner at his hostel "The Sunnybank" to share some of my trail stories while backpacking through southbound again in 1988, I finally overcame enough of my shyness to do that, and this is the sign marking that location, where 20 years later - for the 10th birthday of letterboxing in North America in 2008 - we also planted a letterbox with Elmer's permission!:-)

Well, now it seems I'd almost forgotten to include the miles that I backpacked in Alabama in the Sipsey Wilderness and along the PINHOTI TRAIL around that time after my AT#4, as well as still working on my "All the Side Trails to the AT Project", so I'll just add in a few hundred "miles" for those trails here. Just walk ahead to the next grassy junction and look behing the 30-foot barkless snag on the left for a GA/AL button stamp on the back of a small stone. There's still plenty more hiking to do, though, so fast forward to the summer of 1989, where I once again got to spend time backpacking in that wondrous "Range of Light"- the High Sierra! From the grassy junction with the snag, turn left and continue 400 or so "miles". Ahead the old dirt road seems slightly more open as light filters through a bit of a clearing. To the right, a pair of large pines, to the left about 20 feet off the road a clump of 5 slender oak trees with moccasin flowers/pink lady slipper plants usually growing around here in June. Look behind the 5-tree cluster under deadwood, atop a small pink stone, for the replacement for CALIFORNIA REDWOOD SORREL by THE 3 FORAGERS of CT, standing in for the three glorious CA trails I backpacked that summer as alternatives to the PCT: the JOHN MUIR, the HIGH SIERRA, and the TAHOE-YOSEMITE TRAILS.

Another spectacular trail that I got to backpack that summer as a short alternative bonus to the PCT further north in the Cascades was the WONDERLAND TRAIL, which I backpacked counterclockwise round all those cool glaciers of Mt.Rainier up in WA! To represent this wonderful trail, just continue about 80 "miles", noting that you are now on the far side of the more open area, with a large rock on the left side of the trail. Angle off trail left another 20 "miles" to a medium pine with a cluster of small maples around it. Look behind the pine/ maple combo in the duff between some short blueberry bushes for a flat rectangular rock stamp sitting on another pink stone that is the replacement for a "curious PNW critters combo" stamp carved by BLACKVELVETRAV of ID! (Blackvelvetrav also provided a rather big logbook, so I used quite a large box to accommodate everything here, which means this spot can also function as the "Wonderland HHH", so please feel free to drop off any of your extra large hitchers here as well! ;-)

Taking the bus back again through Colorado, I decided that backpacking the brand new (back then) Colorado Trail would be just the ticket! I had a fabulous highly-elevated time, got my picture taken with the National Geographic Team climbing "fourteener" San Juan Peak (yup, that's me in the background on page 140 of the book "Pathways to Discovery"), and marveled at the golden aspens against a backdrop of snow and bugling elk. To recreate this adventure, continue on the old dirt road another 500 "miles" and see double pines on the right and a baby beech tree growing on a rock on the left. The replacement micro box for the beautiful COLORADO TRAIL stamp carved by Esmerelda of CO is nestled under needles between the two pines on the right, while the original stamp is now out on the Colorado Trail near Twin Lakes, between Leadville and Buena Vista!

The following spring of 1990 saw me heading south for some more "warm-up" backpacking before taking off west again. A fellow backpacker from SC had offered to put me on a fairly new (back then) trail heading west from Table Rock north of Greenville, so off I went into those southern Appalachian foothills. Continue on the old dirt road about 130 "miles" and look under the "beak" of the second rock on the left where once was a quite detailed stamp of the FOOTHILLS TRAIL by ELECTRIC of SC that could almost be used as a mini-trail map! I recently came across one of my old trail maps, and it scarcely showed any more info than what is on this small stamp, but fortunately it was very easy to just follow the blazes. Anyway, the original stamp can now be found along the Foothills Trail in SC, while the trail logo "button stamp" is currently missing.

I also figured I might as well hike the CHATOOGA RIVER TRAIL and the BARTRAM TRAIL while I was down that way, making a sort of open-ended "figure eight" up from the northwest corner of SC through northeast GA to Wesser, NC, and then back down the AT to reconnect with bus transportation west for the next leg of my journey. And, wouldn't you know, FIGUREEIGHT of SC, who has roots in this area, just happened to carve a beautifully intricate stamp depicting a portion of the trail that also can actually be used as a map for where this box is currently located just over the border in GA! The replacement button, however, rests about 100 "miles" down the trail under sticks behind a rock that is behind another baby beech on the left.

Now I was ready to head on out (still using one of those same $59 Greyhound tickets!) for another PCT - my #3!!! Same drill to reach upwards of 2650 miles. About halfway, you may notice a nice "frog rock" sitting on a good-sized rock jumble on the right. At around 2100 "miles" there is a trail crossing. (This is about 250 "miles" before the next dirt road junction.) Turn right on the narrow path at this trail crossing and continue until the path widens out, starts downhill and has a tree in the middle at around 550 miles. From that tree in the middle of the path, there used to be three boxes with stamps for PCT#3, which came together to create a wonderful triple-layered image by MUSIC WOMAN of CT:
1) 30 feet at 330 deg. behind a larger than most pine tree under aqua-colored lichen-covered sticks: atwo-part stamp that needed light blue/aqua and tan ink.
2) 30 feet at 30 deg. behind a pine tree under pine needles: a stamp that took brown ink.
3) 30 feet at 130 deg. behind a pine tree under 3 rocks: a stamp that required dark green or black ink.
Now only one replacement stamp remains on a small dark gray roundish stone sitting atop a piece of milky feldspar behind the pine at the first mentioned location: 30 feet at 330 degrees from the mid-trail tree.

I loved the WONDERLAND TRAIL so much that I just had to go around it again - in the other direction, of course - while passing through on my PCT#3! Continue about 93 "miles" to a stone in the middle of the trail, near where perhaps we will remember to drop off the button stamp next time we pass through...

Meanwhile, the following spring had me back out backpacking part of my fourth PCT, as well as hopping around on trails in Arizona, including several descents into and out of the Grand Canyon. Continue 500 or so "miles", passing a foundation on the left, until you see the top of a large boulder visible about 40 feet off trail to the left. At 340 degrees from this boulder is a clump of smaller rocks. Look under the "beak" of the left hand side of the rightmost rock in that clump for a stamp on the back of a small black parallelogram stone to replace GRAND CANYON TRAILS by MIM of MA, who also included a message about hiking smart (which means don't try to go from one rim to the other in less than half a day, like I actually did a few years ago!;-)

Anyway, I really can't remember how many "miles" came next for what I thought was to be my last big prenuptial backpacking fling on the PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRAIL before marrying Pete (after breaking up with a professor who didn't want me to ever go backpacking again at all!), but just go about 500 or so "miles" and there should be a large pine on the right that has a root reaching out into the trail, while to the left is a mound which appears to be a needle-encrusted boulder with small beech trees growing on it. Just look behind the pine on the right for PNWT on the bottom of a little light gray stone.

After the PNWT between Glacier National Park and the Pacific Ocean, I hopped the Alaskan Ferry up to Skagway and backpacked the incredible old Klondike Gold Rush route of "White Fang" fame, the Chilkoot Trail, along with several other short trails in the area. So, in memory of my Alaskan backpacking adventures, continue about 75 "miles" to a large rock that stretches all the way across the trail. Step up onto it and then just go a few more "miles" and look behind the pine just ahead on the right for the replacement to the stamp for the CHILKOOT TRAIL carved by DENISEROWS of AK, which now rests peacefully near my last campsite in Skagway!

Well, turns out that marriage to Pete wasn't the complete end of my "backpacking career" that I had thought it might be (and would have been had I married that professor I had been engaged to right before that!) Pete actually encouraged me to keep on backpacking when I was now almost ready to stop on my own by buying me more maps for the Fingerlakes Trail and its several off-shoots near where he was working at the time in upstate NY! So, noting Pete's contribution to my continued backpacking, continue on the trail, passing through a large mossy trail-cut fallen tree, about 600 or so "miles" to where there are groups of rocks on both sides of the trail and a 4-foot stump on the left. From that stump, look to the right at 330 degrees or a double birch about 30 "miles" away. Look behind that tree near a piece of white quartz for the small slender spikey triangle rock that serves as replacement to the FINGER LAKES TRAIL stamp map carved by SCOUT of NY.

That same year I also got to go out to hike the CENTENNIAL TRAIL through the Black Hills of South Dakota, and saw lots of buffalo on the prairies, big horn sheep in the rocks, and bear by the flowing streams. Continue on 100 "miles" from the 4-foot stump to a large boulder abutting the left side of the trail and take a brief pause to assimilate the Spirit of Bear Mountain. Then walk left off trail about 50 "miles" to an artfully weathered stump and look behind under a mossy cap near a 6-inch stone for a much smaller rectangular SD stone replacing the CENTENNIAL TRAIL carved by MAIRE'S FACETS of CT.

So now by the next spring I was ready to start my fifth and final AT northward to Maine. Continue on the trail. When you pass a large low rock on the left side of the trail you are about halfway. When you reach a trail junction, take note of the old road crossing just up ahead on the left fork, but you bear right. Proceed just about another 30 "miles" and spot a 5-foot stump about 25 "miles" away at 275 deg. Look behind the stump under pine needles and a wooden hat for the replacement to an absolutely amazing 3-layer stamp for my AT#5 carved by 3 BLIND MICE of NY. I don't want to give anything away on this one, but the image should be vaguely familiar if you've been paying attention, so watch it spring to life as you add your ink layers. There is a large pine just beyond the stump where you can sit in relative comfort and work on coloring this multi-stamp, so please take care to use the colors provided in the proper order and line them up for best effect.

Now, I still wanted to do one more Long Trail to make 5 to go along with 5 AT's, but my knees were starting to give out and fibromyalgia was starting to kick in, so the best solution seemed to be to backpack my last time through "the length of Vermont on skis" on the then newly being created Catamount Trail that parallels the Long Trail. In fact, some sections had not yet then been completed, so I did end up a few times actually skiing parts of the AT/LT and winter camping at some of the old AT/LT shelters. So, continue on the path and cross an old dirt road. After 300 "miles", come to 2 mossy rocks (little "green mountains"), one on each side of the trail. A few "miles" off trail to the right is a fallen tree that almost parallels the trail. Look in its fork for the replacement(dark triangle stone under a light rounded stone) to the CATAMOUNT TRAIL carved by GREENMOUNTAINHIKER of VT.

Over the next few years, I had to take it somewhat easier, but still managed to accumulate quite a few backpacking miles. In 1995, I went down to backpack the ALLEGHENY TRAIL and GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL in WV, so continue a few hundred miles until you are standing on a flat rock in the middle of the trail. From that point, go just about thirty more "miles" to the root end of a rotting log on the left, which from the back side, looks a bit like a lop-eared rabbit head. Look behind the left ear for the former hidey hole of "Peter Rabbit", carved by BLUEGOATZ of MA, which fits in well here because the southern terminus of the ALLEGHENY TRAIL is on Peter's Mountain near its junction with the AT! Now continue just another 80 or so "miles" and see a mossy green log on the right side of the trail. Follow it towards its upper end to where its branches divide almost directly under another fallen tree, and here your can find the former den of "Buster Bear", also carved by BLUEGOATZ of MA, representing my hike along the GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL. These stamps were later additions to the series, so I completely forgot to make replacement buttons for them.

The following year, 1996, on my way back home from Glacier National Park and a big chunk of the Continental Divide Trail, I stopped to hike along Lake Superior in MN, as well as a few parts of the North Country Trail in the Great Lakes Region. So, continue a few hundred "miles" to a trail junction. The left hand trail has a cut fallen tree on its right side in front of a 3-sister oak. In the fork of that tree formerly were two stamps of the SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL carved by RMN SD, now replaced with a trail logo "button stamp". Originals have gone to Pincushion Mountain in MN and Split Rock Lighthouse in MN. )

Next in 1997, I backpacked both the OZARK HIGHLANDS TRAIL and OUACHITA TRAIL in Arkansas, so continue down the left trail a couple hundred more "miles" to a junction with a dirt road. The decaying log nearby that used to house "Mr. And Mrs. Whitefoot the Wood Mice", carved by BLUEGOATZ of MA to represent my backpack of the Ozark Highlands Trail, seems to have disappeared completely, but if you turn left on the dirt road and walk until you see a 4-foot stump on the right side of the road, look directly across the trail from it, note three pines in a crooked row and dig gently behind the third one, you can see where "Digger the Badger", also carved by BLUEGOATZ of MA, used to be, strangely putting me in mind of the bad case of chiggers I got my last day out on the OUACHITA TRAIL near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border! I also forgot to make replacements for these stamps, but maybe sometime in the future...

Then in 1998, I did lots of short backpacking trips in PA, from mere "overnighters" on trails like the Old Loggers Path and the Loyalsock Trail, to longer jaunts further west from the Susquehannock to the Laurel Highlands. Continue on the old dirt road. Pass a trail on the right and then see a grassy road ahead. (Yup, the one with the 30-foot snag now housing the GA/AL button!) Nearby are some rocks in the woods to the right. Look behind the rock group that is closer to the trail, behind a fallen, rotting tree and under some loose bark, for a light gray rectangular stone atop another light gray stone replacing LIGHTNING BUG's "KEYSTONE WANDA-RINGS", which not only showed the location of the many PA trails I hiked (as well as, of course, "Alientown"!;-), but also ended up lending its name to this series!

Finally, 1999 was the year that I completed my last missing link on the CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL, that "King of Trails" that follows the Great Divide from the Mexican border to Canada through the Rockies for over 3100 miles, making it about 500 miles longer than the PCT, or at least that is what it will be when actually finished as continuous footpath, since when I backpacked it, and even now, it still requires some bushwhacking and road-walking to pull all of the pieces together! Anyway, to find the former site of last 3 boxes of this series, expertly carved by lionsmane of NM, continue to that grassy road junction ahead and bear right. Bear right again at the fork. Then turn right at the familiar road junction and follow the blue blazes, then blue and yellow, back to the red gate. Jog briefly right along the road, then bear left back into the woods. Carefully cross the paved road and continue until you reach a large rock in the trail that bikers seem to enjoy doing a jump over. An alternate footpath leads around to the left of the rock. From this rock, go about 100 "miles" more, crossing over a log in the trail, passing a blue and yellow blazed tree on the right and reaching a junction of stone walls. This was the area that formerly housed lionsmane's 3 CDT pouches, but they have all now made their way back out to CO and NM, so only one replacement trail logo "button stamp" remains to mark their spot between a cut log to the right and the 8 foot stump next to it. You can also get to this point by taking the blue/yellow trail north from the east end of the boardwalk, as mentioned in the "Still Dreaming of Trails" clues.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this series! Now just imagine, if you can, putting on a fully loaded backpack (daypack hiking miles are definitely not to be included in a backpacking mileage count!), increasing the elevation, weather extremes and difficulty of the terrain you just covered many times over, and multiplying the mileage you just hiked by 5,280 and you might just begin to get some vague idea of what it was really like to do "Wanda's Wanderings"!;-) Many Happy Trails!!!


400.     Happy Trails, Wanda & Pete A new home for the event stamp carved by Lenny of the Compass Cuties for our "retirement party" in Exeter, RI in the spring of 2010.

CHECKED - OK on 9 April 2011

To find the new hiding spot for the colorful "Happy Trails" stamp carved for us by Lenny of the Compass Cuties, simply find your way to the pavilion just north of Browning Mill Pond in Arcadia Management Area where we had our "F26,000 and done counting" retirement party on May 16, 2010. From there, walk the dirt road north a short distance to its loopy end near a large rock sitting on pavement and blocking what was once the continuation of the road. Come back about 10 steps to oak tree #406 at the eastern edge of the road. Behind the tree is a discontinuous row of boulders with the "Happy Trails" box sandwiched in on the southeast side of the 8th boulder!


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