Turkeys, Pickles, and Peanuts - Thanksgiving 2006

Just got back a few days ago from a mostly delightful Thanksgiving trip to Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina! We had literally stumbled upon our best ever Thanksgiving four years ago while letterboxing our way through Richmond, VA, and hoped to recreate something of that magic this year on our way down to the "Croatoan Thanksgiving" gathering at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC. Well, despite some rain on our parade, it seems we largely succeeded!

We started out our trip with some pleasant hikes through the Poconos, where we came across plenty of turkeys and letterboxes, visited our old friend the AT, checked on one of our planted boxes, and stopped briefly to chat with Lightning Bug on the way to Emmaus. The next day found us mired in mud at Daniel Boone's Homestead, where we did one of our dirtiest letterboxing hikes ever, then chuckled our way through a Greek dinner with German accordion music accompaniment, before heading out again to fly after Rudolph and the witches of Nolde Forest!

On Tuesday night we found ourselves stopping by to hobnob in the hobbit hole with the Doubtful Guests of Virginia, then getting caught in a downpour Wednesday morning as we passed through Fredericksburg, so we decided to make another short afternoon of it (only a dozen or so boxes!:-), and stay in Williamsburg. As luck would have it, the restaurant right next door was serving Thanksgiving dinner the next day, so we walked around Colonial Williamsburg that morning in the drizzle, and then had a great holiday afternoon buffet. Most of the shops were open, too, so we got to poke around in them a bit, and one of the things we saw made us laugh and grow pensive at the very same time.

You see, like probably lots of other folks, we have been slowly collecting Christmas ornaments over many years. Several of them represent specific trips or memories - an angel from Poland, a protea from Hawaii, a banana from Disneyworld, etc. It took quite a few years before we finally located a pickle ornament after attending a festival of trees exhibit in Bethlehem, PA, so we were very pleased with that particular "elusive pickle". Well, imagine how we felt when we rounded the corner of one of those exuberantly decorated Christmas shops in Williamsburg and found one whole tree decorated with... nothing but pickles - hundreds of them! Suddenly the lights went on in the stars twinkling overhead, and we couldn't help thinking, "WOW, this must be how some people feel when they see how many letterboxes we've found, and they just have the equivalent of our first original pickle!

Well, the analogy is far from a perfect one, to be sure, but I think folks can catch the drift. Needless to say, we didn't feel the need to go out and buy every single pickle on that tree just because we could, or just because such a pickle tree existed, or somebody else had one! Obviously, you don't need thousands of pickles, or any other ornaments, to make a beautiful Christmas tree, just as you don't need thousands of stamps to make a beautiful logbook. Some of my own favorite childhood ornaments are long since gone, but what remains is the memory of what made them special to me in the first place, and that is what we each should perhaps be striving to hang on to. For me, it would be the hunt (for the pickle or box) that was so special, for others it might be the beauty of the ornament (or stamp) that attracted them, but whatever it is, folks, just hang on to your own precious "pickles", and please don't feel the need to compare them to others! Each of our trees and logbooks will be uniquely decorated, each beautiful in its own way, and though I don't wish for anyone to try to come anywhere close to copying my own particularly copious and eclectic letterboxing "decorating" style, there is at least one area in which I truly would wish people were to try to emulate me, and that is in how carefully I re-hide each and every letterbox that I find. I don't know how many letterboxes I've rescued from watery graves, near fatal tree and cliff falls, attacks by wild animals, etc., but nearly every box I've ever found I've taken the time to leave better hidden than it originally was, so I must say - as proud as I am of how many boxes I've been able to find over the past few years (in spite of my recurrent bouts of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, too!), I'm even more proud of how meticulously I've re-hidden them all! So, please, folks, copy that!!!

Well, after that little epiphany of how we all need to cherish and protect those special "pickles" that we have each been entrusted with, no matter how big or small, plain or fancy, rare or numerous, I was still left trying to decide which new ornament might best commemorate this particular trip. I almost went with peas in a pod (for Pea Island and a favorite stuffed toy), but finally decided it just had to be the peanut! After all, the Williamsburg area is famous for its peanut soup, peanut butter was my staple food for years on the trail, and the label said that the peanut is the symbol for mystery, because its contents are hidden from view within its shell - and who doesn't love a good mystery, right? (and also the peanut would hopefully remind me to try to stay humble, so no one would want to throw empty shells at me from the "peanut gallery" for having collected too many "pickles"! :-) Seriously, though, I do like the idea of a peanut joining our favorite ornament series, so I'm pulling one of the old boxes that got chewed up pretty nastily by a rodent, and will be replacing it with a peanut just as soon as I get a chance!

Anyway, full of turkey, pickles in a row, and peanut in tow, off we headed for the Outer Banks, only to find that the nor'easter that had blown through earlier had left extensive damage, power outages, and flooding problems. That night we were evacuated from our hotel at 5AM when the fire alarms went off, presumably due to some water damage, and we really didn't know if we'd be able to make it down to the southern part of the island because of all the sand and water covering the road! (Scout later told us that they had been left stranded for a couple of days out there!) Well, we braved the trip down, met Scout, Eagle Eye and Maggie waiting for us right near the lighthouse, were soon joined by the Flory family and Penguin Patrol, and spent a pleasant afternoon chasing down boxes in the area of Buxton Woods.

Saturday morning we had trouble getting started because we just couldn't decide which route to take home. Originally we had hoped to meet letterboxingbee and her husband for dinner that evening in NJ, but Pete started having doubts about going anywhere near NJ on what was supposed to be one of the worst travel days on record, so we made a really wide detour all the way out to I-81 near Winchester, VA just to avoid traffic problems. We got caught in some of them anyway, and just managed to stop for a few drive-by type boxes on the way home through PA before calling it a trip, but it still will go down as one of our better Thanksgiving adventures, and as usual, we are very thankful to those who planted some fun letterboxes that we could find along the way!


Wanda and Pete
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