We’ve been working on Girl Scout Try-It’s and one that looked interesting was the Letterboxing Try-It.
If you’re not familiar with Letterboxing, maybe you’ve heard of Geocaching. It’s not the same, exactly, but it’s similar, in that it’s like a scavenger hunt where one person plants a cache/box and leaves clues for others to find it. In geocaching the clues are often GPS coordinates, and then you find a box with a log and several small items. You sign the log and add something to the box and take something with you. In letterboxing the box has a log and a stamp. You bring a stamp and log with you and stamp in the log, and stamp the one from the letterbox in your personal log.
First thing we had to do was make a family trail stamp. I am hoping to lead a Girl Scout meeting on letterboxing and the Brownies need to make their own stamp, so I wanted to try out a few techniques to see which one would work with them. I used an eraser and a cuticle trimmer for ours. I drew the design on with a pencil and cut away the outside with the cuticle trimmer. I inked it and tested, then cut away a little more where needed. Ta da! I think the Brownies could handle cuticle trimmers safely and erasers are a good size and good (cheap!) price. I think we’ll go with this technique.
There are a few sites to find clues to planted letterboxes. I found some on Letterboxing.org and also on AtlasQuest.com that were local. There were about 6 listed as being in Pocahontas State Park right here in Chesterfield County. Our plans were set!
We thought we would start with a nice easy one planted by Pocahontas Homeschool Discovery. Here’s the clue:
I stand at the top of the hill and look down. The breeze blows across the stage and up to greet me. It’s quiet now, but I know soon the music will flow up the hill, too, across the crowd and into my heart. As I look to my left I see a beech tree – how many storms he’s weathered, we can only guess. But now he sings, too, and you can hear his voice lift up with the wind and the birds. Look in his mouth for our letterbox.
We’ve been to several concerts at Pocahontas, so Kaitlyn knew exactly where to direct us for this one. A funny exchange with the kids: “Do you know what a beech tree looks like?” “Um, I think it has coconuts.” (“beach” tree) I had to laugh!
We were concerned when we pulled up to the amphitheater, and our worries were well-founded – construction at that area has felled dozens of trees, and we could not find a letterbox anywhere.
Letterbox score: 0/1
We went on for a little hike on the Beaver Lake Trail (Kourey: “Oh, I can figure out that clue! The Beaver Lake Trail means a path that a beaver uses to get around the lake that they make like a wide part of a river!” We pointed out that wasn’t a clue, just the name of the trail, but that she was very clever), where there were two boxes planted according to this clue.
One and a half miles in, just as described, we found the pair of carved trees, “I love Greg”, the thin tree out of the larger tree, and then with a bit of searching, the flat boulder. Here’s Kourey with the letterbox in a gallon ziplock. Unfortunately, it was pretty damp in the bag and box. The box was stuffed with papers and a small octopus stamp. We added a bit of paper with the date and our stamp. We rehid the box and continued on, excited with our find.
Letterbox score: 1/2
The next location was easy enough to find. The clues were very clear, and Keith and I spotted the tree before the kids counted back the 47 boards from the end of the boardwalk. But all we found in the hole in the tree was a loooot of mucky mud. I guess it’s possible the box was in there (but we did poke with a stick), but we weren’t dedicated enough to try to pull it out of mud if it was there.
Letterbox score: 1/3
We finished up our hike. The hike was reward on its own, though. It was moderate, with several fun features. The spillway counted as a waterfall in the kids’ book, and we saw lots of evidence of recent beaver activity (Keith and I both realized we could not remember ever seeing a beaver felled tree before).
There were several piers and lake overlooks, bridges and boardwalks, going all around the lake. Kaitlyn found a walking stick we called her Moses staff (also doubled as a Merida bow and Kourey’s sword), and what she dubbed the “Rainbow Tree” – a tree bent all the way over. The lake had lots of marshy, reedy bits, with lots of fluffed out cattails (mostly blown off). The weather was great, holding at 55-ish degrees, with a bright sun bouncing of the lake.
We stopped by the gift shop on the way out to buy a few patches. Everyone picked a different patch – Kourey picked a yellow fishing patch and Kaitlyn picked a round patch with Pocahontas on it for their “fun patch” collection on their vests, and Keith picked an oval patch featuring the spillway for our family patch collection.
Stay tuned for more adventures in letterboxing!