This blog chronicles my letterboxing adventures. It includes posts that share my travels that are letterboxing related, the letterboxes I have found and planted as well as the people I have met along the way. There are also photos included to help give a complete picture of the fun I had.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Following Your Gut Instinct

Recently a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal contacted me about doing a story about letterboxing. I was hesitant at first because I was unsure if the publicity would hurt the hobby. I eventually consented and the article appeared in the February 15th Sunday Edition Living Section. You can read the article on Astro D's blog at 15 Minutes of Fame. Well this week I realized that I should have listened to my gut instinct and not done the article. It seems that I violated some rules and placed a letterbox too far off the trail. I received an email from a Specialist with the City of Albuquerque's Open Space Division. You can read the General Rules and the Geocaching Guidelines (which also apply to letterboxes). So I have now retired my Los Vaqueros letterbox and removed it from the park. This letterbox already went missing once when planted close to the trail and I felt it needed to be further away for the safety of the box but then that meant putting undue stress on the landscape. I did try and find a place that fit the guidelines (no more than two feet off the trail) but it just didn't work out. Now I am not saying that the article was the problem - I actually broke the rules but the box had been in place since March 2007 and there had been no problems. By making the hobby, box and location public it brought undue attention to it and thus compromised it. Well no more interviews for me and I will definitely be extremely careful about where I place boxes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Year Letterboxing Anniversary

Today marks three years that I have been letterboxing and even though I have now found 1147 letterboxes I can still remember that first find like it was yesterday - Santa Fe Trail Microbox by Silver Eagle. After finding that box I knew I was hooked. So in three years I have found boxes in 18 states and in Canada, I have visited tons of places I probably would never have gone to and I have met some of the nicest people around.

To celebrate this anniversary I pretty much did only things related to letterboxing this weekend. On Saturday morning I planted a new letterbox - Siddhārtha Gautama and replaced a missing letterbox - New Mexico's Eternal Flame. Later I joined Astro D and rubberpeace for lunch. We talked about rubberpeace's recent letterboxing trip to the Oregon Coast and some of the neat letterboxes she found and we talked about the upcoming trip to Texas that Astro D and I are taking to T.A.L.E. 6 - Texas Heritage (You will be able to read about it at Texas Heritage Letterboxing Trip).

On Sunday I received a call from Astro D asking if I had read the letterboxing article about us in the Albuquerque Journal (I knew about the article but hadn't yet picked up the paper). So after hanging up I went to the store and got a paper and after reading the article I talked again with Astro D. We both thought they did a great job with the article - thanks Carolyn. If you go to Toast Ranch Ramblings you can read about our 15 Minutes of Fame from Astro D's point of view. The rest of the day I did some carvings and looked up clues for the Texas trip.

Today - the actual anniversary date of my first find - I went out to letterbox. The first place I visited was Camel Rock in Tesuque. In January Fantastyk Voyager placed a letterbox there and I patiently waited until today so that I would have at least one box to find. So I found Camel Rock, stamped in, took some pictures and then headed south to find one more box. I drove the Turquoise Trail (Hwy 14) to Tijeras. I was looking for the Monkey Cave letterbox placed by TwinvilleTrekkers. This box is placed off of Hwy 337 at a man made cave that was created by UNM Geology students as a test pit. The cave got its name from monkeys that escaped testing in 1973 from Lovelace Foundation at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and ended up living in the cave. I parked at a pull off on the east side of the road and I could see the cave from my car. I got my letterboxing stuff and walked down into a little canyon and then back up to the cave. A short and easy hike (except the last bit to the cave - a lot of loose rocks made for unstable footing) up to the cave. I peeked my head into the cave but didn't actually crawl in and I took a few pictures. Then I turned my attention to the letterbox. It was hidden by a big boulder near the cave. I stamped in and rehid the box. Then I just sat there and enjoyed the peaceful morning.

I had contemplated finding other boxes but decided that I was done for the day. I still had an hour drive back home. So I headed north on Hwy 14 and arrived home a little after 1:00pm. It was a great way to celebrate my third anniversary of letterboxing.

Letterboxing Stats for lionsmane

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Forest and The Crosses

Friday, January 30, 2009

Today Thomas and I headed south on I25 for a little weekend getaway and a letterboxing journey. We decided to head to Bosque del Apache to see all the birds wintering there. I have lived in New Mexico going on 20 years and even though I have been to the Bosque many times I have never been there in the winter. I am really looking forward to it. We will spend Friday night and Saturday morning at the Bosque and then head to Las Cruces for the day on Saturday and Sunday morning.

So about noon today we left home and made our way to Socorro. We had an uneventful trip getting to Socorro and we decided to find a hotel immediately. After checking in we headed west on US60 to The Box - a recreation area and a letterbox. After parking we followed the clues and found New Mexico in a Box quickly. I stamped in and thumbed through the logbook, then I rehid the box. Before leaving the area we decided to explore a little. So we walked through the arroyo and climbed up to a few small caves. The area really is beautiful and we enjoyed a nice, relaxing walk. We then headed back into town and made our way to the Socorro Cemetery. We were searching for Socorro Bandito. We found him easily, stamped in and then put him back in his resting place. Unfortunately, the area was pretty depressing (I know I was in a cemetery - it is supposed to be a little depressing), the place was just unkempt and well, depressing. So needless to say we didn't stay very long.

We wanted to get to the Bosque for the sunset and we wanted to get something to eat before that. At first we thought we would go to the Owl Café but then Thomas remembered that someone from work said that there was another restaurant across the street that was just as good or better. So we opted to go to the Buckhorn Tavern and it was pretty good. Thomas had a Taco Burger and I had a Bean and Beef Burrito and it was really tasty. Now it was time to get to the Bosque. We drove down NM1 and stopped at a pull off and saw a few Sandhill Cranes and a lot of geese. Then we drove to the Visitor Center and got a little information and then headed out to the Wildlife Drive. So we drove slowly around the loop and made stops every once and a while to look at some birds and take pictures. We also stopped at the Farm Deck to check on my Sandhill Crane box - happy to report that the box is still there but unfortunately the sign with the information about the Sandhill Crane is gone. The uprights for the sign are still there so I think people will be able to find the box. We then stopped at the Flight Deck to watch more birds fly in and watch the sunset.

We are now back in Socorro and in our warm hotel room. We plan on getting up early and going back to the Bosque for the sunrise and to watch the birds take off. Then we will head out to Las Cruces.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What a morning we had today! It all started about 4:45am. We woke to the alarm and reluctantly got out of bed, showered, dressed, packed up everything and loaded the car. We wanted to get some coffee and get to the Bosque early for the Fly-out. Lucky for us they had coffee in the hotel lobby, so we filled our travel mugs and hit the road. When we arrived at the Bosque it was still dark and we were a little early for the birds. So we decided to drive around and see where we would have the best view. We originally thought that we would go to the Willow Deck but once there we found it to be a bit small and thought that it might get crowded, also there were a lot of trees close to the deck, so we continued around the loop. Along the way we saw two coyotes and one deer. We arrived at the Flight Deck and parked. We decided to stay in the car until we actually saw some light from the sun because it was frickin' cold (somewhere in the high teens). And the deck actually projects over the water so we figured that might drop the temps a digit or two. Eventually we strayed from the comforts of the heated car and went to stand on the deck with about 20 other crazies. Watching the sun come up and reveal all the silhouetted birds asleep on the water was priceless. I took some pictures (although it was too dark for me to actually get anything great) and Thomas paced (trying to keep warm). I would take one or two pictures and then put my hands in my pockets for warmth. The birds seemed to move slow this morning, where small groups would take off and then a little while later more small groups - nothing major until after about 20 minutes. Then one large group of geese took off all at the same time - what a sight and the sound was amazing. Another ten minutes later and a group of snow geese took off - this was even better since this group was about 3 times as large as the first one. After that it was just two or three birds at a time taking off - a little boring and all the while my feet and hands were getting colder. The sandhill cranes seemed to be content with standing there sleeping because very few took off while we were there. We lasted about one hour and then the cold got the better of us and we headed out. Even though we were cold it was still incredible and I would love to return next year.

Once back in the car we turned the heat up and waited for our toes and fingers to defrost. Our next stop this morning was to be the El Camino Real International Heritage Center (isn't that a mouthful). So we drove down NM1 and 22 miles later reached the turn for the Center and then drove another 3 miles before we actually arrived there. The staff there (one woman and one man) were very friendly and talkative. We decided to look at the exhibits and then go out on the viewing platform. It was all very interesting - unbelievable as well - traveling 1500 miles from Mexico City to Santa Fe across mostly desert in 1598 - I don't think I would have done it. We spent about 45 minutes there and finally left so that we could continue on to Las Cruces.

We stopped for a quick breakfast in Truth or Consequences (nothing exciting) and then stopped again in Garfield (for dried red chiles and pecans) before arriving in Dona Ana. This was our first stop for letterboxes of the day. And thankfully the temperatures were now in the high 40's. There were clues for three boxes in this area. For the first box we had a pleasant walk up a wide trail that was a little hilly but nothing major with a short but steep climb at the end. We found the box easily and stamped in to Blow Mountain Letterbox. Once hidden the next set of clues had us look west and make our way to a cinder cone with green cinder at its base. So we found a little trail that went in that general direction and followed the clues through the green cinder to a gravel road and in a short time we found the second box - Hawaiian Petroglyphs Letterbox #1 - "The Honu". I stamped in and then rehid the box and then took a few pictures. The views were actually pretty nice - you could see quite a bit from up there. Now the third box - Roadrunner on The Emerald Trail - had us heading back toward the base of the green cider from which we had just traversed. Finding this box was a little tricky since the clues actually had us coming from the first box and we really didn't want to go back and start from there again. So we thought it out and on the second try we found that darn roadrunner - woohoo! And in this box we found a hitchhiker that we took with us. I stamped in and rehid the box - a few more pictures - and being three for three letterboxes we headed back to the car. And now the temperature was in the 50's. We drove to another spot in the same general area and we were going to try for another box but the hike length was vague and the clues seemed a little off and from where we were parked we could hear gun fire and it looked a litte far and it was already after 3:00pm. So we opted to wait for this one on another visit. So to round out the day we chose two easier boxes. First we took a drive down to the Texas border. Azroadie planted a letterbox at the New Mexico Welcome Center in Anthony, NM. I love his carvings so I had to get this box since we were so close. It was a nice drive down I10 and a great stamp. After stamping in and rehiding the box we headed back to Las Cruces to find Desert Owl - this box was actually hidden in a nice area on the edge of town. Plenty of trees and lots of pigeons cooing. This was an easy drive-by box and was a great way to end our day.

Now it was time to eat - we hadn't had anything since breakfast. We found a steakhouse and had a good meal and then checked into a hotel to shower and relax. I, of course wanted to log in my finds and write this blog and I almost forgot - log in clues to a box I planted today. First let me say that I rehid my Alphabetical New Mexico: G (Pat Garrett) box. I made sure to update the clues and mark the box as active again. Click on Pat's gravestone for the new clues. I also hid Alphabetical New Mexico: R (Roadrunner) and listed it as a mystery box. Since it was actually an easy box to find and most people (especially those in NM) would figure out the place just from the title I decide I would make a little puzzle that you would have to complete to get the clue. It really isn't hard and I hope it is fun. Tomorrow morning we plan to try for a couple more letterboxes before heading back to Santa Fe.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Last night Thomas and I decided to sleep in and not set an alarm for this morning. Even so we were awake at 6:30am. We lounged in bed and read until 8:30am and then showered, dressed and packed. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to begin our day. We drove up University to Dripping Springs Natural Area. I had visited this area in June 2007 to find a letterbox but I didn't have a chance to hike further up the trail due to time constraints. So Thomas and I headed up the trail to find Desert Spirit - New Mexico Wild Horses. It was a fantastic hike and a beautiful day. We enjoyed the beautiful views of the Organ Mountains and the lush vegetation that inhabited this canyon area. We hiked about a mile and came to some buildings - one had a sign for The Livery. That was a landmark on the clues for the letterbox. I read the rest of the clues and found the box. While I stamped in Thomas explored the three buildings at this spot. Once I put the box back in its hiding spot we continued up the trail to see the Dripping Springs Resort (aka Van Patten's Mountain Camp). It was a wonderful spot nestled in the canyon with a few abandoned buildings. It was incredibly peaceful and I can understand why people would have wanted to travel here for a little vacation. (Here are some links with great information about the area; Dripping Springs/La Cueva, Dripping Springs Wildlife Area, Dripping Springs Natural Area, Dripping Springs Natural Area - Watchable Wildlife, Dripping Springs Has Rich History)

After looking at all the old structures and taking lots of pictures we made our way back to the Visitors Center. It was almost noon and we didn't have time for another hike so we decided to stop and look for a letterbox at the base of "A" Mountain. We attempted this box in September 2008 and came up empty handed, I wrote the placer and never heard from them. I checked the clues and they were the same so we decided to give it one more try. Again we came up empty handed. The clues are simple and easy - so either we are really bad at finding boxes or the box is missing or the clues are a little off. It was now 12:30pm and we needed to start heading back to Santa Fe. We wanted to get home early and get things ready for the week. All in all we found 8 letterboxes, visited some areas we had never been to and had an incredible weekend. Who says you have to travel far and take long trips to see new things and have fun - there is plenty to see and do right in your own backyard.
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