Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflection on 2011

Greetings everyone and I hope you are enjoying your last day of 2011!!

This will obviously be my last post of the year, so I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my letterboxing experiences over the past year - and what better way to do that than to look at the numbers :)

In 2011, I found just over 200 letterboxes... for reference, in 2010 I found only 38.  In 2010 I had just learned about letterboxing, so there you go - that's why the numbers have changed so much.  I suspect though that next year will bring me fewer finds since I've now moved to an area with far fewer letterboxes.

I think my favourite letterbox of the year must be a tie between Norasta's Edwin Holgate letterbox and Fiddleheads'  Neoclassical Revival letterbox. Both for different reasons, but both the boxes, the clues and the amazing locations, along with my personal experiences in finding the boxes make those two stick well out in my mind as favourite boxes for the year.  I highly recommend both.

I also had an amazing outdoor experience whilst seeking Sylvie... I do have a number of amazing memories from this year's letterboxing.

This year, I also had the opportunity to do some cross-border letterboxing, starting with a trip I made to Charleston, South Carolina.  While there, I found the South Carolina State Butterfly, the Lost Ring of Charleston, and Batty for Bats. It was the idillic letterboxing/vacation trip: I had the day to spend in Charleston and spent it for essentially free, letterboxing, while nevertheless seeing all the best parts of that gorgeous city.  Perfect.

Later in the year, I got down to San Diego for the International Comic Con (cuz you know, I'm a geek like that) and while there I danced for the jumbo tron.  Great quick find despite having no time to do any real letterboxing. Finally, I did my first cross border event in upper New York state, the Boneyard Boxing tour - and nabbed a lot of cemetery boxes that day.

I also did a lot of carving and planting this year 67 in total, up from 19 in 2010.  My favourites are the Numbers Station (which I fully intend to do a blog post about the making of that clue), the Purloined Letter, and Hic Sunt Dracones. None of these have a lot of finds on them - Numbers Station has a lone find on it - likely because the clues look difficult.  When really, once you figure them out, not so much.  My favourite carve would have to be one of my most recent plants, A Touch of Voodoo, which from a clue/hide standpoint isn't the best, but it's still my favourite carve.

Anyway, it's been a fantastic year of letterboxing and I'm looking forward to some good experiences in 2012 (not the least of which are my two events, Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge, and Box ON! 2012. I hope to see you there or on the trail!  I'll leave you with a Wordle generated from the text from my blog for the year.  Happy trails!

Friday, December 30, 2011

How I made a magnetic logbook letterbox

So, with OPAL just around the corner, I've been carving away and taking on Fiddleheads' library challenge.  However, while I love the idea of having letterboxes in libraries and right on the bookshelf, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually ask a librarian for permission to do so for a number of reasons all stemming from the old addage it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission...

Since I've already planted quite a number of letterboxes in libraries, including within the library systems in which I intend to plant for OPAL, if I ask and am refused I am potentially jeopardizing the existing boxes.  After all, most of them would be very easily found once the library is aware of their presence and of the clue locations.
Here it is: the final self-contained magnetic library letterbox

My intention then is to plant my upcoming library OPAL boxes without permission and therefore they must be easily concealable.  In the past, this has meant either planting the stamps as magnets without logbooks - but I'm a huge fan of reading logs - or planting magnetic planter's pouches - which is less than desirable.

I've therefore had an idea percolating for some time for a self-contained logbook/stamp holder that would be magnetized... I've finally made one and am going to show you what I did.

First off, I had a number of things on hand: carved stamp for the letterbox, small pads of blank paper, needle and embroidery thread, cardstock, patterned cardstock, double-sided tape, felt/fleece, rare earth magnets, markers, ruler*, bone folder, scissors, gum (I can't think without gum).

Next, I cut down the cardstock to the right size and fold - there were four folds made as you can see in the image below (the signatures for the logbook and the stamp are above). 

Next, after I have the folds right, I covered the card stock in the decorative stuff.  You'll see that I used double-sided tape for pretty much everything in this project.  I also added two small bars of rare earth magnet - you can see them in the middle below.  I lined those up so that where they would be in the final product is at the back where it would serve to attach properly to a metal surface.

You can see the magnets a little better in the image below.  I covered them with double sided tape as well to make sure they wouldn't slip around between the card stocks.  I've used these little magnets very successfully in the past in letterboxing - they are very powerful, and because they are so small, they are easy to use to convert a stamp into a magnet or to made a pouch magnetized.

Once the card stocks were taped together, I then taped in a piece of felt which is where the stamp will go once the thing is complete (I really should come up with a name for this thing - any suggestions?).  I then sewed in signatures I had prepared out of pieces of paper I took from a small pad of paper. (I hate cutting paper for signatures, so why bother?)

Then it was pretty much done, just had to add the name and typical info I include in boxes (although minus my usual geocache warning). 

Below, you can see it folded with the stamp in place from the top to understand how it works.  I initially used the embroidery floss to tie it closed, but decided on a colour-coordinated rubber band instead.  In the future, I would incorporate an elastic right into the design (like moleskin books).

And that's it.  There will be more of these made and used for OPAL (and likely other places).  I'll probably get a better feel for proportions in the future boxes, but for now I'm really pleased.

*Yes, I use a ruler, but for its straight edge, not as a tool of measurement.  I eyeball everything and generally won't make something if it requires me to measure things too precisely. Also, this explains why I am a terrible cook, can't sew to save my life, and why my lab marks in undergrad where subpar.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter's here, time to carve!

Winter has finally come and we've finally gotten snow.  I don't ever remember a wintertime that had such a late onset - the latest I ever remember snow coming was shortly before Christmas.  I suspect this has been Mother Nature's way of apologizing for the long, wet spring (and mosquitoe-y summer)... or global warming.  One or the other.

So since I hate snow and the cold, time for more carving and plotting.  Just as an update to the carving process, I have 4 finished carves waiting to be planted and about a dozen images waiting to be carved. I'm also carving for this year's OPAL, but having brain blocks for clue ideas... Which reminds me, I need to go find some earth magnets on eBay...

For an update to the plotting, there is the ever-constant plotting of new hides/clues as well as my first two letterboxing events, Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge, and Box ON! 2012 which will be in Markham.  Only slight angst about that...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy (letter)Boxing day!

Yes, I'm Canadian, and yes, we have a holiday called Boxing Day, and no, I have no idea what Boxing Day is meant to celebrate.*  So it must mean that it is meant to celebrate letterboxing.  I will endeavour to update Wikipedia shortly.

In celebration of this underwhelming holiday, I present to you a tidy roundup of some recent blog posts of those I follow... Some may be letterboxing blogs, others, well, not so much ;)  Enjoy!

It's never too cold to box, go do some winterboxing: Brush and Barron: A little more chilly cheer.

A Krampus?  Yes, finally a Christmas demon in dire need of being carved: Black and White: Gruss vom Krampus.

Favourite winterboxing travelogue (though, minus a few points for lack of snow, plus a few points for noting that I screwed up my last letterbox search): Lone R: Letterboxing, Commuting and Chickadees.

If you can put the $$$ together, Dartmoor winterboxing: whoisthechallenger: When the going gets tough...

Favourite start-to-finish video carving tutorial, with a fantastic, festive result: eraser carving and printmaking: The process of eraser carving.

Hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday!

*Although, secretly, I think the day is truly meant as a day to celebrate cardboard boxes. Because really, can you imagine a world without them? Just think about the awesome impact of the cardboard box on your life. All great things come out of boxes.  And so I wish you a very happy boxing day and may your boxing day be full of numerous and sufficiently square boxes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spoiler Alert: FINALLY, a good transfer...

Not withstanding all the crazy moves in the last few months and the lack of carving/letterboxing, I've been having a terrible time finding a proper printer for doing my xylene transfers. And now, FINALLY, after lots of searching, I have found perfection.

A little back story: As you may not know, I almost solely use a xylene blender pen for my transfers.  I originally started with acetone, and I've experimented with an iron, but the xylene has consistently won out in the ease of use category, as well as best transfer. (I've also seen wintergreen demonstrated by the wonderfully talented Fiddleheads, but fled the room as the smell hit me... I even feel sick sometimes if I don't air found letterboxes that were done this way...)

Anyways, when I first started experimenting with transfers and finding out what worked for me, I lived near a little convenience store that had this old (read: ancient) photocopier that I think was run by hamsters.  It actually chugged and spewed out smoke when you hit "copy".  It gave beautiful transfers, no matter the method.

And then...

                        I moved.

And no printers would work.  I spent a number of hours one day driving from library, to corner store, to copy centre - on and on, zigzagging through town with a hunk of pink stuff and my blender pen, tossing nickles and dimes wherever I went.  And nowhere did I find a printer that would work.  As a result, I've come to an unscientific conclusion that one's carving ability is directly proportional to one's transfer abilities.

I've moved again, and I tried my new work's printer - and was actually taken aback when... It worked!  It wasn't perfect, but it gave a nice clear transfer for me to carve my new signature stamp:

And then, today (after sudden inspiration for a new letterbox that needs to be planted) I tried a printer that is really close to my new home, and PRESTO! a flawless transfer.  It's gorgeous.  I love it.  I don't even want to mar it by starting to carve it.  So I will share it with you, dear reader... [Spoiler alert: this will definitely be planted, so be warned and take appropriate steps if you're sensitive.]

It's beautiful, isn't it.  I have an urge to frame it and stick it on the wall.

For your reference, here is my process for this flawless transfer:
  • Find a suitable image and print on an HP P1102 laser printer
  • Take acetone and thoroughly rub down a new piece of Webfoot's NZ Cut
  • Cut out image, and tape it image down on the acetone-scrubbed NZ Cut
  • Within 10 minutes of printing, take your Chartpak Blender Marker and with firm pressure quickly scrub back and forth so that the image appears to bleed through so you can easily see it, from one side to the other and back again (two full passes).
  • Immediately take a burnisher/bone-folder and continue scrubbing back and forth across the whole image until all of the xylene has evaporated and you can't see the image any more.
  • Untape and remove the image. 
  • Stand back and admire.

Postscript: My very first transfer involved me pulling an image up on my laptop's computer screen, putting a paper over top of it, then tracing the image with a pencil.  True story.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Carving for fun and profit: Christmas cards

Every year, one of my favourite things to do in advance of the holidays is write and send out Christmas cards. Every year, I go to Chapters or some other shop and find a cute set of cards, then send those out along with that year's Canada Post holiday stamp (postage stamp, not holiday stamp).

This year, instead of buying what are, quite frankly,  soul-less commercially produced cards, I decided to make my own.  I can carve - so why not make my own?

So, armed with some white (and a few black) card blanks I got on sale from Michael's, I sat and had a think as to what I could carve up to make cards with.  Unfortunately, this thinking process took way too long (ahem, weeks), and before I knew it, crunch time was upon me... The good news is I had come up with an idea: draw and carve a simple background of birch trees I could stamp in silver, then draw and carve a few tiny cardinals to stamp into the trees.

I drew away and came up with a nice block stamp for the background birches (using up some left over pesky Speedball Speedy Cut that you should absolutely stay away from using - crumbly terrible stuff) as well as some cute little cardinals in different poses.  As I didn't have a lot of time, I picked up some stamps with words like "Merry Christmas", "Seasons Greeting", and "Joy" on them... I know, you can't believe I actually bought stamps instead of carving them... I hang my head in shame... Once this initial carving was done, the rest of the process flew... Cards all stamped up, I decided to put some finishing touches on in the form of some nice red sparklies on the birds' wings.

The vast majority I did with the red and silver.  But I also did about a half dozen in the blue and gold and two with just the silver birches on black. Each of the cards is different, given what is stamped outside and in and where the birds are in the trees.  I think I will definitely be doing this again next year.

The girls I was making cards with that day loved watching me carve the stamps I then used, so after I finished stamping, I gave them away...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Time Flies

Greetings and salutations...

I haven't gone anywhere, I've just been living the crazy life since my last post.

I've now moved twice since my last post (yes, you heard me right) and now have settled for the time being (crossing fingers).  I'm also a member of an active marching band and as it is Santa Claus parade season, my weekends have all been eaten up.  So, understandably, no letterboxing has really been done recently... The last time was before leaving Hamilton where I replanted my HHH, along with recarving my Worm letterbox and planting a new one to make a pair. I also had a fairly unsuccessful letterbox trip to the Cambridge area - went looking for about a dozen, found five.

But, in the move, I've set up a brilliant new carving space for myself, which includes a fantastic new lit magnifier (picked up on sale in the midst of my last letterboxing outing).  All my stuff nearby, fireplace to warm my toes and a TV to keep me entertained - what more do you need? My first project will be to carve another signature stamp - my current one has Burlington as my home location, which is now two homes ago.  Sigh.

I'm now living in a bit of a letterboxing desert - certainly not as bad as other areas, but not really any nearby letterboxes that I haven't found to speak of.  In fact, in Markham there are a total of 6 unique letterboxes, 4 of which are mine.  Richmond Hill, there none.  This has to be corrected and I am up for that task!

If you're a fan of scifi/fantasy, you'll likely understand what I mean as I'm feeling fairly sympathetic to the Stark family's motto/threat/warning: winter's coming.  I spent most of last winter/early spring painfully monitoring the weather, looking for the opportunity to get back out on the trail.  Now, I'm stuck dreading when the first real snow fall is coming to bury all the boxes out there and putting any real boxing opportunities out of reach.  Snow shoeing anyone?

Monday, October 31, 2011


Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate...
First one said, "Oh my, it's getting late!"
Second one said, "There are witches in the air"
Third one said, "But we don't care!"
Fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
Fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
"OOO-ooo!" went the wind and out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Yep. I still maintain that pumpkin flesh is still the best carving medium. There's nothing like the spicy scent of cinnamon and nutmeg on the cooked pumpkin top of a beautifully carved pumpkin.  Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Happy Hallowe'en my carving friends!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!  I hope you're having a truly magical day and are eagerly awaiting the ghosts and goblins at your doorstep.

My carving is about halfway done and I will post some pictures once I'm done.  In the meantime, I will treat you to a scene from one of my favourite classic movies, Clue, which I watch every year while carving pumpkins.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The $1 Tour of Hamilton

Clue updated: October 21, 2011

The following few pages contain a driving tour of the City of Hamilton that will also lead to you six letterboxes in the Hamilton area. 

A few things before heading out:
  • This is a driving tour, so please be careful – obey all rules of the road and don’t read while driving.  Recruit a navigator to read aloud while driving or pull over to stop.
  • Print and take these directions and clues with you!
  • The driving/clue directions are in bold, the rest is information to read once you have arrived at the location.
  • The tour will take about two-three hours, or longer depending on whether you stop to explore.
  • All stops to be made to hunt letterboxes have free parking except at Princess Point which is $1 per hour – you will only need an hour here.  And the money goes to the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Win, win.
  • The stamps each represent the sight you’ve seen, but come together to form one large overall image.  You’ll need at least a half a standard size piece of paper to fit the stamps.  Look for guides on each of the stamps for indication of where the stamp goes and how to align it with other stamps.  Alternatively, you can stamp them all separately and then cut and paste them together at home.
  • Boxes 1-5 are just stamps - magnetized.  Only the final box contains a log book.

Box 1 – the City of Waterfalls

Make your way to the intersection of Scenic Drive and Balflour Drive, Hamilton, and park on Balflour drive.  Walk back out to Scenic Drive on the wide paved walkway.  Follow to the old stone and concrete barrier and look over to see the falls.  You’ll find the magnetic stamp inside the guardrail on the left where it attaches to the concrete in the top bend of the guardrail at the top.

The Chedoke Falls from the base inside the Chedoke Golf Course
The falls you are seeing are the Chedoke Falls with a view from the top.  The picture to the right shows the falls if you were to hike in from the Chedoke park.  Hamilton is known as the City of Waterfalls – there are over 100 waterfalls in Hamilton due to the presence of the Niagara Escarpment.  Most are publicly accessible and I highly recommend taking some time in Hamilton to go waterfalling.  If you do, there’s a letterbox (or two) at my favourite waterfalls. During the  winter, there are groups that go waterfalling and practice ice climbing on the frozen falls!

Though you can’t see it from this vantage point, the Chedoke Falls themselves are considered to be a ribbon-type waterfall and is over 15 metres in height.  However, you can access these falls from below by crossing the Chedoke Municipal Golf course and traveling up river to view them. 
Box 2 – the Niagara Escarpment
From your car, go back onto Scenic Drive which is one way at this location and continue on Scenic, cross the intersection.  You are now on Fennell Avenue West. Keep your eyes peeled as you pass Mohawk College on the right.  Then on the far left side as you cross West 5th Street, you will see Auchmar Estate through a chain link fence.  Continue on Fennel and turn left on Upper Wellington, about a kilometre down the road.  Follow Upper Wellington to Concession Street and turn right.  Park in the first parking lot on the left.  From the parking area, go to the right where you’ll see markings and signs for the Bruce Trail side trail.  Follow the side trail down and around to the left and to the stairs.  Continue on the stairs until you come to the sidewalk and stone barrier immediately adjacent to the road.  You’ll find the magnet again inside the guardrail at the top where it connects to the stone barrier.

Just some comments on Mohawk College and Auchmar Estate…

Mohawk College which you saw on your right is a large college with five campuses – you drove past the Fennel campus.  Mohawk College teaches an impressive 10,000 full time and 40,000 part time students each year (and they offer fantastic photography courses, if I don’t say so myself). 
Auchmar Estate prior to renovations starting

Auchmar Estate, though closed at the moment for renovations, is architecturally significant as one of Hamilton’s most impressive 19th century estates and for its exemplification of Gothic Revival style architecture. The focal point of the property is the ‘Manor House’, a long, ‘H’ shaped villa completed in 1855. Like the home of a Scottish laird the house features a rough-cast stucco finish, clustered chimneys, and various Gothic details such as pointed arch windows and label moldings. The interior is similarly styled in the Gothic taste with the ballroom displaying a highly decorative, plaster, strap work ceiling and corridors featuring vaulted ceilings with plaster ribbing. Interior woodwork repeats the Gothic motif with slender shafts and foliated plaster capitals lining the corridor walls and the pointed arch incorporated into doorway frames and door panels. Auchmar is a designated historic site and is currently owned by the City of Hamilton.

You’ve now made it to the Niagara Escarpment as it crosses Hamilton.  You can’t really go anywhere in Hamilton without facing the effects of the Escarpment.  The City has grown up and around the Escarpment and has faced some interesting mobility challenges because of it.  In the past, there were actual railways that climbed the Escarpment, and even special short rail lines that went directly up the Escarpment! For example, the Eastend Incline Railway operated from 1895 until 1936, carrying passengers from Wentworth Street below the Escarpment to Upper Wentworth Street at the top of the Escarpment.  Today, the Wentworth Stairs exist in the spot where the Eastend Incline Railway operated and have 500 steps – the greatest number of any of Hamilton’s stairs.

Today, these different modes of traversing the Escarpment are all bisected by the Bruce Trail.  If you’re a southern Ontario letterboxer – or a hiker in general – you’ve likely already hiked sections of the Bruce.  The Bruce runs from  Tobermory in the north all the way down to Queenston. As it travels through Hamilton, it runs right through the City along the Escarpment and many people, including myself, use parts of it to get back and forth to work.

In Hamilton, the Niagara Escarpment is fondly known as the “Mountain” and there are a number of roads called “accesses” that can get you from the bottom to top or vice versa.  The roadway you are looking at now is called the Jolley Cut access.  There are also the Sherman Access, Kennelworth Access, Claremont Access, etc.  As mentioned, there are also a number of stairways for pedestrians and cyclists for access in addition to the roadways. You can get an amazing view of the City from any of these gorgeous heights!

As you’re traveling by car next down the Jolley Cut, you can get an amazing view of the geology of the escarpment and to the left you’ll see the different layers that you would see in the cross cut of the Jolley Cut. Have a look at this chart before you go.

Box 3 – McMaster University
Leaving the parking lot, turn right onto Concession and then go to the right onto the Jolley Cut. At the bottom of the Mountain, turn left onto Charlton Avenue East, then left onto Queen Street South, then turn right onto Aberdeen Avenue.  Follow Aberdeen for about a kilometre and turn right onto Locke Street South.  Continue a few streets down then find a nice parking spot to pull over to read the following.

You had traveled along Aberdeen Avenue and likely saw some amazing landmark homes.  Aberdeen Avenue ends at the Chedoke Golf Course that we had seen from above earlier.

You are now on Locke Street.  This historic area is home to many antique shops and has recently developed into a very artsy neighbourhood.  Feel free to take some time to explore…

Ahead, keep your eye out as you approach the highway for the Cathedral of Christ Our King. This beautiful building can be seen from both directions traveling across Highway 403 in Hamilton.  In the tower is a set of 23 bells, the largest of which is called the “Bourdon” and was donated by a past Prime Minister.
Box 3 – Continued
Continue up Locke Street and turn left at King Street West.  Keep your eyes peeled for the Cathedral as you cross the 403.  Continue following King Street through the Westdale neighbourhood all the way to the McMaster University Campus – be careful to stay on King as a number of lanes force you away if you’re not careful.  Once you’ve reached the campus, you’ll be forced to either turn left or right at Forsyth – go left. Follow this road down and around the medical school buildings.  Turn right at Main Street West, then immediately right again on Cootes Drive.  Merge right off of Cootes and turn left at the residence building. Follow this university road up to Bates Residence and stay to the left in this pay & display parking lot.  You’re not staying long, so ignore the fare. The lot is the shape of a donut with a spoke out the top with a drive that says “Private Road”.  Go to the parking spots closest to this private road.  On the side facing the residence, there is a lone light post in the centre – you’ll find this magnet under the skirt stuck underneath the metal platform the light stand is on.

McMaster is a huge university wedged between the Westdale neighbourhood and the Royal Botanical Gardens.  McMaster is well known for its academics and its medical school.

Westdale is one of Canada’s first planned communities.  If you look at satellite images for the area, you’ll see that it’s been designed in an oval and spoke pattern, with shops located in the centre.

Box 4 – the McQueston Bridge
From the parking lot, turn right onto Westaway Road, then left onto a round road to get you back onto Cootes Drive.  Turn left onto Main Street West then left again onto Longwood Road South.  Follow Longwood for a distance, past the residential area, until you see an entrance to the left for Princess Point.  Go in and park as close to the entrance as possible – remember to get a ticket.  Although this will be the longest walk for the day, you will still only need a dollar’s worth of parking.  Follow the path over the bridge with the wood boards.  After the bridge, follow to the left and stay on the asphalt trail – watch for speedy cyclists.  You will walk for a while until you get to the fishway. (If you’re here in spring, you’re in for a show!).  At the fishway, the path goes to the right and you will see multiple bridges overhead.  Keep following the path under the bridges and you will see a set of stairs on the right.  Go to the second landing (the first landing is a perfect square, the second is oddly shaped).  Face the wall.  You will find this magnet on the bottom at the left attached under the vertical metal piece perpendicular to the wall.

Okay, confession time.  When I first came to Hamilton, I couldn’t figure out what a coote was.  Cootes Paradise – the small lake/marsh area at the very west end of Lake Ontario – must be home to many of these… cootes.  Was it a type of bird?  Fish? Insect?  No, none of the above.  Cootes Paradise was named after Captain Cootes of the Kings Royal 8th Regiment of course.  Silly me.  (Don’t get me started about what I thought the ticats were.  Let’s just say I did NOT think they were a pro sports team).  Cootes Paradise is part of the extensive Royal Botanical Gardens property and home to a huge range of biodiversity. 

The bridge currently above you is the McQueston High Level Bridge over which York Street travels. (York Street – called that originally because it took you to York, now called Toronto.  Just as Dundas Street in Toronto takes you to the town of Dundas, and Kingston Road in Toronto takes you to the city of Kingston).  Although you can not see it from this vantage point (feel free to climb the stairs to the top where you will be at bridge level), this bridge has four massive columns with niches in the sides facing the road. These niches were meant to house statues of famous Hamiltonians… To this day they remain empty.  I’ll let you ponder the implications while you retrace your steps back to your car.

Box 5 – the Waterfront
Turn left out of the parking lot and follow this road (Macklin Street North) all the way to where it ends at Main Street and turn left.  Go back over Highway 403 (you’ll see the cathedral again!) and through the downtown area.  You’ll pass Hamilton’s newly renovated City Hall on the right.  Just after City Hall, you’ll make a left turn onto James Street South. After you pass King Street, look on the right for the Lister Block which is also being restored.  Continue along James, past LIUNA Station on the right and then turn left after that onto Strachan Street West.  At the intersection with the large mast, go straight through onto Harbourfront Drive.  Follow the drive as it curves to the left and then turn right into the second parking area and park.  If you go to the right, you can take an amazing stroll around Bayfront Park.  In the summer, you can swim or sail from here.  However, for the stamp, go to the left.  Stay to the path and go past the gazebo.  When you see the marking for 200 on the trail, stop.  Look to about 10 on the clock.  You will see a cedar and a lamppost, with a chainlink fence running behind it.  You will find the magnet on the bottom of the fencepost between the tree and the lightpost.

If you continue along this trail and look off to the left, you’ll see the McQueston bridge again from afar this time. Actually, the trail you are now standing on connects directly to the trail you took near Princess Point.  Hamilton is well known for its extensive trail system, particularly along the water.

From the other side of the park, you’ll see the Burlington Skyway bridge which travels over Burlington Bay connecting Burlington to Hamilton. The Hamilton Waterfront also harbours the HMCS Haida, a World War II destroyer ship, of which you can take tours.

Box 6 – Dundurn Castle
From your car, head back out the way you came, and turn right at the mast onto Bay Street North.  Follow Bay south to Cannon Street West where you’ll be forced to turn right.  Cannon soons turns into York Boulevard.  Follow York until you see Dundurn Castle on the right and park in its lot.  From the lot, walk to the right behind the estate and pass the kitchen garden.  Keep going and you will pass a closed up white building on the left.  A little further and you will reach an open oval-shaped area surrounded by trees.  Turn left into the oval and travel to very end.  Once there, you’ll see a small foot path – going a few steps into the tree line on that foot path, you’ll see a large fallen tree crossing the path. Look to the left up this tree; you’ll find the final box tucked into and under the vee of the tree covered in bark.  Please rehide well!
Dundurn Castle is not actually a castle, but is rather the impressive estate of Sir Allan McNab,
one of Canada’s first premiers.  During the War of 1812, the British established a post on the property.  Feel free to explore the grounds before setting off.  I highly recommend the tour of the interior of the property – the tour guides are in costume and the buildings are beautiful.  If not, at least go see the gift shop so that you can see some of the interior of the horse stables.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip through the City of Hamilton.  To get back on your way, turn right out of the parking lot and you will cross the McQueston bridge and find signs to get back on Highway 403 which will take you wherever you need to go. I hope you enjoyed the beautiful architecture, the sweeping vistas, and learned about some of the wonderful things that Hamilton has to offer. Hope to see you again soon!


Still here...

Life has somewhat interfered with my letterboxing.  I ended up having to move one city over after my roommate decided to move in with her boyfriend, and days after I moved, I was offered a new position over an hour away.  So now I'm on the move yet again.  This will be the fourth move in two years.

This after a tree decided to take out my car - along with three others this past Labour Day weekend.  The insurance wrote off the car and I had to find another... I'm cursed with cars.  The  check engine light is already on in the new one.  Sigh.

Because of all that, letterboxing has moved down on the priority list.  Nevertheless, I still managed to make it to BoxON this year in Rockwood - had a fantastic time - and carve an enormous stamp for planting.  It has been divied up and planted, and I'm just working through the lengthy clue.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post it as a pdf here, which is my preference, not sure if I can do that with Blogger.  Stay tuned.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How to have a fantastic day of letterboxing

What you need:
  • Blue diamond series clues by fantastic nearby letterboxer
  • Old friend who is into hiking and could be easily persuaded to go out for a nice long walk (with markers)
  • Nearby conservation area that is ripe with views, nature, wildlife, and recreated First Nations towns
  • Bad weather forecast which you ignore
  • Forget to pack picnic lunches and instead go to a nice salad bar and pack deliciousness that you'd never be able to prepare yourself
  • Working camera that you just fixed yourself (despite Panasonic's own tech staff being unable to do so)
First, have old friend come from the US for a day-long visit.  Introduce the idea of going hiking again for old-time's sake.  Head to favourite salad bar and stock up on some delicious gourmet food that will eventually seem out of place while picnicking in the park.

Arrive at heretofore unvisited conservation area which clearly has not been promoted enough.  Find that the conservation area is not only wildly beyond expectations given nearby parks, but is virtually empty due to rain forecast.  Continue on with giant smiles on your faces.

Easily find first letterbox after viewing some amazing mushroom specimens and getting some amazing photographs with recently repaired camera.  The only thing better than a working camera is a camera that you can smugly say is working because you fixed it yourself.  Continue smiling with friend and carry on to lunch spot.

Have a delicious lunch while the "terrible" weather finally hits: get sprinkled lightly with rain as you happily catch up, laugh at funny chipmunk antics and eat amazing salads.

Next, finish the letterbox series, finding the last two boxes.  All carves are found to be fantastic and the series old enough to have many interesting old stamp finds in the logbooks.  Friend will spontaneously say, "this is awesome" and offer to return to go hunt some other long-hike letterboxes. Joy is had by all.

Then decide to take the clue's recommended trail going around the conservation area's lake. See many beautiful sights, including the lake, the pristine forest, beautiful rock mosses, and get flirted with by some saucy turtles who want to show off.

Finish the boardwalk trail and finish up seeing the sights.  Smile and laugh with your old friend and agree that a repeat day is definitely in order.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Letterboxing in Guelph

This little guy wanted to come along for the ride.
It's been a while since my last post, but in my defense, I've been doing a lot of traveling and I'm getting prepared to move, unfortunately. Looks like I will be one town over as of October and I s'pose that means I have to get to carve a new sig stamp... Same one, just change the location, methinks.

Anyways, I have a couple travelogues I want to post as well as a blog post on how I made my first audio clued letterbox... So back to it!

Last Friday, I finally got to do some more letterboxing and I got to go to one of my favourite locations: Guelph. I prepped a list of 10 clues and headed out after a half day of work. Yes, I took a half day off of work to go letterboxing.  Weekends are not my own in the summer...

First up: Big Dog by Turtlews. This was a repeat box because last November I attempted it without any success.  The clue as it read at that time referred to a bare tree.  But after the fall, all trees are bare, making that reference rather tricky.  The clue has since been updated and others have listed finds so it was time for a repeat.

So off I went to this dog park on a beautiful summer day to see if I would be successful the second time around - I was.  I was also successful in having a HUGE mastiff of some sort jump up on me. Not a surprise; it's a dog park and dogs love me.  Luckily, I was in my boxin' clothes and was anticipating getting a little dirty.  But let's face it - the unabashed, unconditional, unrepressed love that gushes out of these furry beasts can put anyone in a good mood - even if the result of said love is a muddy shirt.

And so, full of confidence with my first find and full of warm puppy love, I set off with clue two - Slide (also a box by Turtlews). A nice stroll in a school's park and a fairly easy find... I spent a bit of time at this box stamping in. It was a beautiful day and it was dead silent at this park so I stamped in in the shade of a nearby maple and enjoyed the nice breeze coming that swept by...

STOP! He who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three...
Next, off to the University of Guelph's Arborteum, one of my absolute favourite places to letterbox. Newly planted is Fiddlehead's new series, Traces of Darkness, with her fellow carvers, Prop and Earth Diver.  The Arboretum is my favourite place for a few reasons: it's the perfect size, it has  amazing variety in terrain, it has multiple various trails and gardens to visit, it's in one of my favourite Ontario towns, and it's free.  What more can you ask for? Letterboxes, you say? Well, there are some awesome ones there, including this series, so check it out.

The next letterbox was QR: Quaint Rabbit by Lone R.  Won't spoil it because it is a mystery clue, but I will say that the last finders of this box didn't close it properly and when I opened it, I ended up covered in earwigs and earwig eggs.  Yuck.  Pass.  Luckily, other than a few soaked pages and some runny ink, everything looked fine...

Next box, Ben.  I did find it.  But let me tell ya, I was none too pleased with the unfortunate state of this box - nor with another local letterboxer beating me to be the first finder on that very same day.  Sheesh.  Good box, though.  And because I took a wrong turn at one point and perhaps wandered a little farther in the wrong direction than I typically would have, I did get to randomly see a nice bat stencil on a post.  Random find for the day, I suppose.

Next I tried to find an airport letterbox, Gee Bee Z planted by Fiddleheads and carved by Kirbert.  No luck on this one - the airport seems to have been sold and there were some pretty intimidating signs up saying "danger" and "no trespassing".  Also, while I stood debating whether to make the last jog and just get the box anyway, I surly looking plane guy gave me the evil eye as he went past.  No thanks.  Moving on.

Next up was Water Lily's hubcaps series, the Acura 007.  Cute find in a place that I'm pretty sure I've been to before... The experience wasn't the best though: I ended up walking face first into a huge spider web (with very strong webbing, I might add).  The irate spider, now on my face, made a mad dash and I only just managed to fling it away from me.  It was huge but managed to hide in leaf litter.  I was literally paralyzed on the spot.  I could see the letterbox but was afraid to move in case the spider came back.  Worse yet, I was convinced that if I didn't move soon, the spider would be back with reinforcements.  Since the only thing worse than one spider is more than one spider, I stamped in and got the heck out.  (Based on my recollection, this seems to be an accurate representation of that spider. Except I was shrieking.)

Anyways, to end the day on a higher note, I finished off with Lone R's box in her Cemetery Series, the Cove Pioneer Cemetery.  It was beautiful, it was peaceful, it was perfect.

And that ended my day in Guelph.  I did a couple more boxes over the weekend - more to come on that - but all in all, it was a fantastic letterboxing day in Guelph!