Monday, November 9, 2009

My adventures in letterboxing thus far

This entry will also be on the long side as it is going to basically sum up anything I deem sort of interesting that has happened to me while letterboxing. Some parts will be funny or at least amusing, so you may want to keep reading =)

July 2007: The AmazinGrace as it was called, began on a Friday. I was on a team with my dad and my 3 month old son. My Dad didn't want to take any time off work to start the race early, so we were the last to leave at about 4:00 pm. The race wasn't scored by who finished first, but rather on points earned for things along the way. When we got to one of the stops, we had to climb this hill to find a letterbox. We had been instructed not to open any envelopes or you would lose points. But there was an envelope we were supposed to open but we didn't know that. The clue on the outside of the envelope just said to find the letterbox on Avalanche Hill (which is a very steep climb). Sooooo my Dad and I had no clue what a letterbox was......we were looking everywhere for something that looked like a mailbox or a comments box! When we got to the top of the hill we realized we had forgotten the clue envelope at the bottom. Back down we go. I was carrying a baby in a pack carrier (not the kind for long hiking either) and we had to climb back up the hill, then still had no clue what we were doing so came back down. The way down this time, my legs were like rubber and I tripped and almost fell face first with the baby. Finally, someone called us and were quite surprised we were still at the first spot. They said oh you were supposed to open that envelope. OOOOPS. He then just told us exactly where the letterbox was because he was worried we were taking too long. That was just the first of many setbacks on the race. It ended up getting dark, and my Dad has a pretty short fused temper and has very little patience, but is still very stubborn at the same time. He wanted to do all the tasks anyway! Finally the event planner convinced him to give up. We were supposed to find 3 letterboxes but only found the one. We got to our final destination of Brevort Lake around midnight!!!!! That was my first taste of letterboxing, and though it was pretty much an epic fail, I was intrigued. A couple weeks after that event, my family and I (including my Dad) went and found the letterboxes we were supposed to find plus a few more in the areas. Labor Day 2007, my family (including my then boyfriend/father of my son) went camping with my ex inlaws (sounds awkward but I get along with them just fine and they liked my bf). They were actually the ones that introduced letterboxing to the person that planned the event. So while camping, we decided to go letterboxing in the Mackinac City area. We found a couple but we couldn't find Shh Boy Gun! ( I found this box 2 years later with koalacat)

I didn't go letterboxing again until about July of 2008. This is because of the fact that my team tied for LOSING the Amazing Race, and thus had to plan the next one. My good friend Bonnie and her husband and our kids all went letterboxing in the Traverse City area to find possible places for our racers to find. We had lots of fun eating icecream at Moomers! Labor Day weekend, I again went letterboxing with my Dad and my ex inlaws (my then bf didn't come camping that time) and found quite a few in Mackinaw City and St Ignace.

Fast forward to the end of March 2009. I mentioned to my cousin Paula aka koalacat that I couldn't wait for it to warm up so I could go letterboxing again. "What is letterboxing?" She was very interested in it when I explained. She came up and I took her letterboxing. First though we had to go to Family Dollar and buy her first logbook and then to the True Value Hardware to buy her first stamps. (yeah I live in small town USA) I didn't really know that people actually hand carved stamps on a normal basis, or that this was the preferred method, even though I had found a few hand carved stamps in letterboxes. I took koalacat to a few of the letterboxes I had found in the Traverse City area and a couple new ones to me. There was still snow on the ground in some areas, so this was interesting.

In the middle of April, I decided to plant some letterboxes as there weren't really any near me. They were all store bought stamps and I planted them in interesting locations. I didn't want to try carving yet.

April 25th 2009 while letterboxing in the rain with koalacat (yeah I know right) I was about to grab a letterbox at the Northern Michigan Asylum in the woods. Lightning strikes as I am reaching for the box. It goes right in across my face. I have never run so fast in my life! Didn't get the box but did later on. The day before that we spent hours on this hike on Old Mission Peninsula finding The Weagus.

May 6th & 7th I went to visit koalacat, who lives in Flint, and we found several boxes. My 2 year old son fell off a boardwalk into a swamp/creek/river thing while we were looking under it for a box we never found! This is also when I found my favorite box so far "Oh, Wow!".

June 5th, 2009 koalacat was up again and we attempted to find a letterbox in cemetery in the dark! Haaaa didn't quite work out. The next day we buried my little car in the sand on a two track! Luckily some cute guys came and pulled us out! We found the cemetery box also!

July 18th - 21st I was down visiting koalacat again and found a bunch more letterboxes. We had a very creepy experience in the Plymouth Riverside Cemetery where there are 2 boxes but needless to say we only found the one! Neither I nor koalacat had ever been approached by anyone in a cemetery before for any reason. We got approached twice in this cemetery and it wasn't for a normal thing like to check the time or something like that. The first guy approached us before we found the first box. He was like "do you need help finding a headstone. I know about every grave here because I come here to meditate." That was a little odd but whatever he went on his way. We found the first box. We were following the clues to the second box and I heard someone singing in the distance. I saw a guy in the back corner of the cemetery. I didn't think much of this. We were at one of the places in the clue and this guy was like "how do you walk on the graves?" and started walking towards us. He looked about our age or maybe younger. He was wearing an army jacket thing. We didn't answer but he kept on talking. He asked if we were students and we said no we were just looking around. He was like most of the graves here are military- that's what the flags mean (we knew this of course). Then he proceeded to name off every war the US has ever been in and then he said something about some of them mean police officers or something. We were at a grave of someone named McHenry. He noticed that and said "oh too bad it's not Henry Ford that would be awesome." I was getting a little creeped out. There was definitely some screws loose in this guy. THEN he started talking about ghosts. He said "this cemetery has lots happening in it at night time." He said "ghosts come out. If you show fear to them they sense it and attack you but if you don't show any fear they just appear to be normal people and you can interact with them." He then said that koalacat and I could be a couple of good looking ghosts talking to him for all he knew. If you know me at all then you know that I laugh not only when things are funny but when I am uncomfortable or scared and when it's the latter two I usually cannot control it and become hysterical. I started walking away because I was so scared and I was laughing. He started following us!!! He then asked if we were students again. No. Then he asked if he could walk around the cemetery with us. koalacat said we were getting ready to leave. He then said he was sorry if he scared us and said he was kind of lost in the cemetery and didn't know how to get out. We showed him the road but he didn't leave he kept walking around the cemetery. We drove the car and kind of got lost ourselves. We ended up passing him again but we kept driving trying to find the way out. koalacat accidentally beeped her horn. Right after that, I thought I found the spot where we were supposed to go for the next clue so she stopped the car and I was about to get out to go see and she was like noooo get back in he is standing right in front of us! We finally left. I was disappointed that we didn't get to the second box. However I was glad we were away from that guy. I didn't know what was wrong with him. He seemed to be on crack, or someone who escaped a mental institution, or maybe he was in the military and had some serious war trauma, or maybe someone he was close to had died and he was just overwrought with grief, or maybe he was a lonely ghost! I don't know but that was the creepiest letterboxing experience I have ever had.

August 9th 2009 - I finally carved for the first time! I did two stamps. They don't look too bad either. How exciting! One of them went missing right away, so I had to redo it and plant it in a slightly different spot.

Sept 23-29 2009 - We went back to St. Ignace and found Windjammers elusive to us last time box. Then we went to Sault Ste Marie and Brimley. We watched a freighter go through the Soo Locks. We found a few boxes up there. We also did some boxing in the Traverse City area again. However on Monday afternoon we get this bright idea to drive to Cleveland, OH from Mancelona, MI. (uh huh yeah). We decide to go by way of Grand Rapids so we could eat at a Red Robin. This took us way out of the way of course. We should have just gone down I 75 as there is a Red Robin there also. I do not know what we were thinking. Anyway so we have to go to Indiana. It's around 11 PM and we are so tired. We want to find a hotel but there just aren't any at all on the side of the road even in the bigger towns! Indiana is crazy! We ended up driving around Goshen, IN at 1am which in my opinion was kind of scary. We finally decided to get on I80 and head East but we were sooooo exhausted. We finally found a hotel and crashed. We got to Cleveland/Parma around 2ish. We were there to find 20 boxes related to the Twilight Saga. We found 10. It was cold, rainy and started to get dark and we really couldn't find the area we were supposed to start the 3rd series at so we left and headed back home. Someday we will go back and find the rest. I hope it's not raining when we do.

October 2nd 2009, I planted another hand carved stamp. This one is special to me and I really hope it doesn't go missing. It's in remembrance of my big sister and younger cousin who both passed away of similar forms of cancer at very young ages.

October 20, 2009 - I decided to take a trip by myself to Manistee by way of 131 so I could get 2 letterboxes on the way. I found those, and then proceeded to follow directions to a location that had 3 boxes planted. I could only find two, but only because the third box had fishermen practically on top of it. I then went to this place in Manistee called the Big M cross country trail. I paid 5.00 to park there even though there wasn't anyone there and you just put money in an envelope. There are 16 boxes planted there so I was pretty excited. Then I realized I was the only one there and it's in the Manistee National Forest and there were bear crossing signs nearby. So I was a little creeped out by the thought of hiking in these woods alone. I did it though and found the 5 boxes that were on the first part of the trail. THEN I realized I had locked my keys in the car! OMG. I do not have AAA and I am a LONG ways from home! I called my Dad and brother anyway because that is what I do when I am freaking out about car problems. I was like can't you go look online for a tow truck number or something. They couldn't find anything helpful so I called 411 and got a tow truck to come out. Waiting for him to get there wasn't very fun. He still hasn't cashed that check either. It was getting too dark for my well being to continue hiking in the woods so I left to find other boxes that were easier. I got to see a bald eagle up close! I walked on Lake Michigan's sandy beach to find one. Then I decide to go find one in the dark since it was really easy. It was located at this scenic overlook in Arcadia. I get there and park and then decide I should move my car so the headlights will be shining where I need to look. However when I go to do that the car starts and stalls immediately. Crap! I try like 50 times..Again I call my parents FREAKING out! It's really dark and no one drives on that highway really. They had to drive a 90 mile one way trip to come get me. My Dad couldn't get the car to start either so we left it there. The Saturn dealer said it was probably an anti theft mechanism that requires unhooking the battery for a half hour. The next day we go back and do that. We climbed the stairs to the scenic overlook lots of times in that half hour. My car started though! Yay!

November 1st, 2009: I drove down to visit koalacat again. We did lots of letterboxing. We found a couple of papa's boxes. That is saying something, too. He makes extremely difficult to follow clues. koalacat is a vegetarian, and she took me to a vegetarian restaurant called Seva in Ann Arbor. It was surprisingly very yummy! While down there, I also got to meet MI Girl from SITE Slueths. She is pretty cool. I got some of her personal travelers (okay about all of them I think) and did an exchange with her.

I THINK that's about all of the fun-ness I have had with letterboxing thus far. If I am leaving anything out, I am sure koalacat will tell me :)

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