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.

8 comments:

Bee said...

I've never heard of letterboxing! It sounds so intriguing from your description. I will have to visit again when I have time to make some notes.

Alyson said...

So interesting! I've heard of this, but didn't know any of the details. Sounds like you guys made the most of your vacation, having adventures.

Cindy said...

Bee ~ Here is a more complete description of letterboxing. It actually started in Dartmoor, England over 150 years ago. The English are much more secretive about it though. I'm not sure where you get the clues from if you want to try it over there.

Cindy said...

Alyson ~ For us, adventuring is the vacation. I'm not one to just go sit somewhere, that drives me bonkers. LOL.

Eve said...

I have a dollar bill being tracked all over the world but letterboxing is new to me. It sounds like super fun. Whree do ou find the letterbox list? I wonder if anyone does it on the Gulf Coast. I hope if anyone has a stamp here now, it is in a place where it won't get blown away. : )

Cindy said...

Eve ~ That's cool about the dollar bill. How far has it gotten?
You can find the letterbox lists at www.letterboxing.org or at www.atlasquest.com
I bet they do have it on the Gulf Coast, although the person who placed the boxes would probably have to go and check them to make sure they are still there.

Sarah Laurence said...

Cindy, thanks for that link and blogging about Letterboxing again. You remind me that my son might enjoy it. The stamps are very beautiful too. You are so good about finding fun family things to do.

Cindy said...

Sarah ~ Letterboxing and geocaching are fun and a means to explore new areas. And it doesn't hurt that it's relatively inexpensive. I hope your son has a chance to try it out.