Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rehoboth Beach, DE ~ Part 2 ~ Letterboxing

Letterboxing is a hobby which combines navigational skills with rubber stamp artistry in an outdoor "treasure hunt" style quest. The quest is similar to that of geocaching, but how you get there and what you find are different.

To get started you will need your own personal rubber stamp, an ink pad, a log book, maybe a compass, definitely a sense of direction, and the "clues" to a letterbox. Once you find the letterbox you seek, you will find inside a rubber stamp for you to stamp in your log book and a log book for you to stamp with your personal stamp. Many people carve their own rubber stamps and the hidden stamps often correspond with something about the locale.

My brother David first told us about Letterboxing early in the summer when we talked about going geocaching while on vacation. So we looked to see if there were any where we were going to be and printed out the clue descriptions before we left. We should have taken more time to read through the descriptions and plot out where exactly they were because that was difficult to do without internet access and without a intimate knowledge of the local area. But we managed and have two adventures to our credit.

Our first adventure was a small party of myself, John, Lillian, my brother David, and his son Vincent. Vincent and Lillian are twin cousins, they were born the same day.

Here are the clues:

Turtle Hunting in Silver Lake
From downtown Rehoboth, 2nd Avenue heading South turns into Bayard Avenue. About 1/2 mile from downtown, you'll come to the white bridge over Silver Lake. From the bridge we've seen many a turtle, fish galore, even an occasional nutria. As you start along the western shore of Silver Lake, you'll see the Waterfowl Refuge sign - 'ware their leavings! At the asphalt pullover, there's a 3-sided evergreen hedge hiding the water treatment equipment. Standing with your back to the lake, in the central 3-sided hedge, locate the shrubbery at the right forefront. At about 5' high, there's a microbox velcro-strapped into the branches.

Luckily, I had remembered seeing the sign for Silver Lake on our way to the beach. So we knew right where it was, although the directions would suffice as well. When we arrived to the pullover, I stayed with the babies, while John and David went for the search. It only took a few minutes for them to find the container velcro strapped in the bushes. The stamp was of a turtle.

There was a second letterbox close by, so John stayed with the babies, while David and I went on the search. It was a little more walking then we first thought, but not too far. We passed many wild areas and docks!

Here are the clues:

Silver Lake Cat-tails
Coming south on Bayard Avenue from downtown Rehoboth, cross over the white Silver Lake Bridge.
Stop by the Turtle Hunting letterbox and continue along the lake's edge from there.
Walk past: a small grove of trees, and then a dock.
Pass another grove fronting an overgrown bit of the lake's edge.
There, a retaining wall starts with a dock about half way along it.
There's another wild area, another dock, and then the LAST wild area.
At the fire hydrant, head down to the lone tall pine.
There, take a 160 bearing and walk 14 paces to the low pine branch extending from the underbrush.
The letterbox is pushed rather far in and covered by a pile of pine cones - a pine cairn? - it's easiest to sit down in the grass and reach in.

This stamp was of Cat-tails and had it's own ink pad. Both of the logbooks had many stamps from visitors all around the country. Looking through the log is very interesting in itself.

Not all Letterboxing adventures are victorious. After these two quick finds, we decided to try one that was a series of ten, based in town. Here are the clues:

Delaware is known as the Blue Hen State because this nickname was given to Delaware after the fighting Blue Hen Cocks that were carried with the Delaware Revolutionary War Soldiers for entertainment during Cockfights. One of the oldest hotels along the boardwalk is the Henlopen. Go to the traffic island filled with pines and a piling structured fountain – probably not working. There is a bench upon which to rest and revel in the fun of Letterboxing. As you face the Atlantic Ocean spot the 3rd pine tree on left. On the side facing the 4th tree there is a bird nest on the lowest main branch. If no one is home, remove the micro box velcro strapped to limb.

This is where some prior planning would have come in handy. We just parked and had to walk the boardwalk until we came to the Henlopen, the last hotel on the boardwalk. Then we found the parking island the clues talked about. But the 3rd pine on the left? Left of what? We looked in all the trees we thought it could mean. We found a bird's nest, but it didn't seem to correspond to the clues correctly. Well, we searched and searched - every pine, but we never found this one. Not every search is a success.

Our next Letterboxing adventure was a lucky, spur of the moment, it's good to be prepared, type of outing. We had two carloads of adults and kids headed down to the Fenwick Island Lighthouse one morning. On the way I saw a sign for James Farm Ecological Preserve. I recognized it as the location for a couple of Letterboxes that we had printed out. This was good because after the long (to a child) ride to the lighthouse, there wasn't that much to do there (it was closed). So we needed an activity for the kids - fast, so off the the Ecological Preserve. This was a neat little sanctuary area that had trails through different types of terrain and a couple of observation platforms. The four year olds had a great time looking for the "clues" (some which we made up for them to find once we knew we were on the right path). And when we got to the hidden box, they each got a hand stamp! That was very exciting. There were two Letterboxes here, the second one John found first and hid some little prizes for the kids, so they had something to keep. This was a lot of fun for everyone and we never would have stopped if it hadn't been for the Letterboxes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware ~ Part 1 ~ Family Fun Time

It's hard to believe we have been back from our family get together at Rehoboth Beach for almost a week now. Even though the temperatures are still in the eighties, there is a definite feel of autumn being just around the corner. It's now still dark out when John gets up to go to work in the morning. And with the lack of rain, everything is all dried up outside. But before we welcome fall with open arms, here's a last look at summer vacation.

John, Lillian, and I left on the Friday, to avoid the Saturday traffic. Our travels took us over the magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Going over this bridge always scares me a little bit. You get so high above the water.

That evening we stayed at Heritage Inn and Golf Club. This was a really nice place to stay. The staff was very friendly and the rooms were clean and spacious. Another interesting thing was that each of their rooms had a different theme. We were in the South Carolina room. It had a corner display cabinet with all sorts of "stuff" from the state of South Carolina.

We couldn't move into the house my parents had rented until 2:00 pm, so we spent the morning in historic downtown Lewes. What a delightful area filled with little shops and cafes, very quaint and very picturesque, and all the gardens I saw were perfect. One of the shops we visited was Marsha's. Marsha Holler is an artist with a storefront. We met her while we were there and one of the beautiful pieces on display was a wall plaque of sea horses which looked very similar to one I had bought a couple of years ago at a North Carolina Aquarium. She told me that her work is sold all over, but if it is one of hers it would have her initials on it. Sure enough, when we got home I looked, and it is one of hers. How great that I got to meet her.

By Sunday morning everyone had convened at the house. It was a bit chaotic to say the least, but since that is how I remember growing up, I was able to adapt for the week. Sunday and Friday were rainy part of the day which gave us a chance to just sit around and talk or play games. Everyone had fun with the bean bag toss my brother Matt made. He did a great job, and my Mom bought beanie monkeys to toss. It was a favorite for the little and the big kids.

We spent a couple of days down at the beach. The first day was the building of the big sand castle. Construction went on for quite some time. Finally it was finished and then it was ransacked by the youngsters in our tribe.

One evening, after dinner, we went to the beach with the kites. I had mine that I had purchased at a past beach vacation, and the kids had ones my parents brought for them to color. Even the babies enjoyed watching the bright colors fluttering in the sky. Everyone had a lot of fun, but was it my Dad having the most fun of all ?

On our last night we went to the Boardwalk. There is an area with rides called the Funhouse. There were lots of rides for the little ones, and very inexpensive too. You didn't have to wait long to get on the rides and I think they were enjoyed by all.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fun the big kids had at night, after the youngest generation was fast asleep. Every night was spent watching and commenting on the Olympics (especially the announcers). This was something that we could all enjoy and the competition was so exciting. Those evenings will for sure be special memories of this Beach Week 2008.

There is still a lot more about this trip I would like to post about. I decided to break it up so the posts wouldn't get too long. Check back for posts on Cape Henlopen State Park and Nassau Valley Winery, Letterboxing, and some Rehoboth Restaurant Reviews.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Fun for the Kids

Before we left for our vacation to Rehoboth Beach, I realized that the Olympics were going to be starting while we were there. So to have a little fun for the kids (ages 6, 4, 4, 3, 1 1/2, 9 months, and 9 months) I thought I would make each of them an Olympic medal. These were super easy to make and the kids loved them. We never got around to having any specific competitions, I think the kids didn't get that part of the Olympics yet anyway. But if you want to come up with some kid friendly games, I'm sure there are lots to choose from. Some examples are a bean bag toss, hula-hooping competition, and races in the yard. You could make a medal for each child, like I did, or as awards for specific competitions.

Here are the instructions.

You will need a thin wooden circle for each medal, I bought these unpainted at my local craft store.

I used a 1/4" bit to drill a hole in each medal, about 1/2" from the edge.

Next, I sanded any rough edges.

I then used white spray paint to paint both sides.

Now use a stencil to paint a flag/star design on the front.

On the back I stenciled the first letter of the child's name and then used a Sharpie marker to print the rest of the name.

A length of ribbon tied through the hole and the medal's done!

Now, I wasn't completely happy with the back of the medal. I thought it could use something else but I couldn't think of what to do. And I don't think the kids minded. They would've been happy with anything.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A New Toy!

My new camera arrived late last week and I am finally having a chance to post some of my first shots. I chose the Nikon D60 with 18-55 mm AF-S VR and 55-200mm AF-S VR Nikkor lenses. So far I have only used the 18-55 mm lens but it's great! It doesn't have a macro lens but it does have a closeup mode which seems to work just a well (at least for my purposes). I was also experimenting with portrait mode.

Lillian has met a new friend.

This rose bud (above) was taken in the closeup mode.

This rose bud was taken in the portrait mode. There is a slight difference in the blurring of the background, but it's not that different.