Camp Sweatshop - Weekend Edition: Cartography, Reading and Wildlife

I learned about
geocaching a couple of years ago and have wanted to try it for some time now. There's only been one thing keeping me from it: and that's the fact that I don't own a GPS machine thingy. I'm too much of a map geek and have been reluctant to purchase one for fear of the fact that I will never scour another map. I find the big picture view necessary when navigating the big, bad city if just to know what's near where I want to go. It's how I learned to navigate Washington, D. C. when I first moved here and if I could I would wallpaper my room with road maps, I enjoy looking at them so much. But then I learned from spending my days at Camp Stimey that there's a little more low tech option called letterboxing. For those of you who aren't inclined to click through the link,

Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art, and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp, either on their personal notebook or on a postcard, and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox's "visitors' book" or "logbook" — as proof of having found the box and letting subsequent letterboxers see who have visited. Many letterboxers keep careful track of their "find count".

I found a whole bunch of possible sites near us from this website and after church yesterday, we headed off to a park near us where there were supposed to be two boxes to find for a leisurely stroll. When we got there, we handed the printed clues to The Dormouse and had her read them and lead the way.

We headed off into the woods just like the clues described.

We crossed the creek, using the stepping stones (well, some of us refused to use the stepping stones),

past the two tree trunks...

just like the clues said.

And we finally found...

that's right, nothing.

We were pretty sure we found the site where the letterbox was supposed to be but we looked all around it, poked at the ground with sticks, dug under leaves, and there was nothing there. At least nothing that we could find. But The Dormouse was undeterred, and her brilliant mother (who had suspected something like this might happen) had chosen a site where there were two letterboxes in relatively short distance to one another. So we went off in search of the second one and...


The boxes are waterproof food containers, which is how they withstand the elements. Inside each letterbox is a stamp, a stamp pad, a notebook and maybe some trinkets. The stamp is for your personal notebook which you bring to each letterbox search. You use the stamp to mark your record of what boxes you've found and keep a collection of your escapades, kind of like a VISA. You bring your own stamp to mark the notebook in the box to say that you've found it. You can also write anything you want down alongside your stamp. We had a good time reading through all the people who had found this box going back to 2006, the farthest away being from Newark. And we added our mark to the mix as well.

Yes, it's a cheshire cat stamp... it's the only stamp I had in the house. I'm nothing if not predictable.

The trinkets in the box, from what I understand, are meant to be taken with you and replaced with something you bring.... at least I hope that's the case because that's what we did. There was a little kaliedoscope toy in this one, which The Caterpillar immediately claimed as her own. We left some pirate coins leftover from
this monstrosity and a few plastic "jewels" The Dormouse had carefully chosen for just this occasion. It took her about five minutes to settle on what color would be chosen and we finally had to put the kibosh on her intentions ("Maybe someone would like this one... and this too." "And this, I'll leave because it's such a pretty color..." "I better put two in case there are two children..." etc.) because she would have left all of her stuff and then the top wouldn't have gone back on the box.

The Dormouse did a great job reading all the clues with only minimal input ("Do you really want to walk past that LITTLE. CLUMP. OF. SIX. TREES? Hey wait, what did those directions say again?") and The Caterpillar was a good sport about all the walking, except for when Daddy wouldn't let her sit on his shoulders while holding The Dormouse's carrying case for her jewels... apparently he didn't like being knocked repeatedly in the head with a hard, sharp-cornered box. Poor sport.
Then we had to walk the long way back to the car and The Dormouse did nothing but talk about the next time we could go letterboxing and places where we could hide our own letterbox. Now she has one more thing to obsess over and pester me about. So... yeah... yay for that.

Oh and The Caterpillar made a friend on the way back.

This guy, who practically posed for a picture:

So we communed with nature too.