Saturday, April 20, 2013

Towers of stamps

Stamps to be planted...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Responsible planting

Yesterday, while I was out to plant my Steam Whistle letterbox I got to thinking about planting in urban areas and the recent problems in Boston... and Toronto.

A couple nights ago, a street in the downtown was closed down because of a bomb scare. All I could think when I heard about it on the news was, oh no, someone's found a letterbox or geocache.  But not, it was a smudging pot. (And who knows why that was even down there.)

The fact of the matter is that letterboxes and geocaches can and do get mistaken for bombs. To me, whether or not that's a rational reaction or not depends on the manner in which the box is planted.

For example: black sprayed tube attached with a wire somewhere near important infrastructure or buildings? Kinda irresponsible.  You're just asking for someone to misinterpret that.  But that same box out in the middle of say High Park? Probably fine.  Better if it's clearly labelled on the outside...

If any of my boxes were ever to case a bomb scare, I would be mortified. Mortified.  It would be awful.  I'd feel terrible.  I'd be rethinking each and every one of my boxes.  I never ever, ever want this to happen.

The box I planted is in a round Lock & Lock in a very urban area. I decided to leave the box uncamoflaged with clear information showing through about what the box is and why it has been planted there.

You can't control how people will react to finding a letterbox, but you can take steps to ensure that a reasonable person will not mistake your box for a bomb. (Cuz let's face it, there are some people that will see a pinecone and scream bomb.)  

However, when trying to do your best to prevent the bomb-scare scenario and given the dearth of planting spots, it makes urban letterboxing difficult.

It's times like this that I'm beginning to think that magnets are the only way to go...

I'm out today letterboxing... Hope you're all getting ready for a weekend of the same!

Happy trails!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Staycation day six: verdict awesome

Whew.  What a day.  I didn't manage to get a lot of things struck off my list of things to do, but here's a little bit of what I did do:

Little parkette at the Roundhouse Park has a little play train... cute!
I moseyed on down to the Roundhouse Park to plant my Steam Whistle letterbox and spent a lot of time searching and exploring.

It's almost cliched to say that you like letterboxing because it takes you to places you never would have been, but it's even true to say that when you're planting! I'd never been to this park - even though I have been to the brewery a number of times - but never explored the roundhouse. 

It's amazing, worth the visit, and I'm glad I was finally able to plant my box there (well, near there - that place doesn't really provide any options).
Delicious Steam Whistle - you get a free drink if you visit.  My friend's condo was nearby.  We visited.  A lot.
 Immediately across the street is the CN Tower and I went over to see if I could finally nab Big Blue Team's CN Tower letterbox that I was thwarted from last year.  Well, with the construction of the new Aquarium of Canada (I can't wait to visit when it's open, but what a stupid name), the whole area where the box was planted is gone. So, unless BBT has swooped in for an early rescue, this one may be a goner.  Oh, well.

I love aquariums, so exciting! The orange and yellow thing is the aquarium, seen from the miniature railyard in the Round House Park.

It used to say "Opening Spring 2013".  Then it said summer.  Now it just says 2013...

I headed up Spadina and nipped in to the Global Village Backpacker's Hostel and was finally able to get the box there. The bemused Aussie behind the desk almost instantly knew what I was talking about, but noted repeatedly that he didn't understand the game.  His loss ;)  Great letterbox - I was very happy to see such a nice box being left by a letterbox traveller...

Anyways, because I was already in the area, I continued north and stopped into Kensington Market for a quick visit (quick because I might be heading back in again this weekend).  Cute shops and grilled cheeses were had!

Hopped a streetcar and made my way west to the Monkey's Paw - the coolest used book store in the city.  Seriously.  I would love to know how this guy sources all his used books.  Very interesting stuff.  And this cool thing: the Bibliomat.  Then visited Trinity Bellwoods park to see if I could spot the elusive white squirrel(s) and then nipped into the Graven Feather which, based on their website and what I saw in store (gallery?), is almost like a high end letterbox making store.  They just don't know it. 

Back on the streetcar and stopped into the Hudson's Bay (they're not going by "the Bay" anymore, you know) and used a gift card I had to buy a really nice canvass Hudson's Bay tote.  I took a much needed break after this then headed out to my first culinary arts class - 12 weeks and I'm guaranteed to be able to cook something!  Then I came home and flopped into bed.  All in all, I walked over 11 kms today. 

Meanwhile, when I checked in just now to my blog to write this post, it looks like my blog was hard at work today as well! In the last day, I hit an all-time high visitor count of just shy of 150 visits.  Whaaaaat?  Usually, I get 10ish a day - higher on days I post, pretty darn high just after last year's Box ON, and my former highest just before Hallowe'en for my movie posts (lots of Google traffic). 

Not sure where all the traffic is coming from, although about 30 hits this week came from a forum on another site for my how-to post on creating a piano hinge book.  I've tried to look at the forum who has been checking out my blog so I can pipe up and say hello but I'm waiting on membership approval (really?).  If you've somehow come here from that site, let me happily say: howdy!

Anyways, I think I'm going out of town for some letterboxing tomorrow. Depends on how I feel in the morning.

Happy trails!

The carving continues...

So, it's 9:30 am on the sixth day of my staycation and already today I've carved two stamps. Time to put the tools down.  I've got a lot of outdoor things planned today, but it looks like I won't get a lot of the things that I had previously wanted to do on my list done this week.  Doesn't matter though, I've managed to do a lot as well as catch up on sleep and importantly be flexible in deciding what I want to do each day.

There is something satisfying about finishing a carve.  I tend to choose images though that end up taking a long time to carve - either because of the details, inclusion of text, or size - and I forget how satisfying it is to just churn out a stamp in a few hours.

This is one that I finished today:

Just ignore the poor transfer there...

Fourteen words in total on the image, as well as design parts that aren't text.  Took longer than anticipated (usually does) so I had to set it aside a few times in order to get it done.  But it is done and I carved another today.  Awesome.

Behind on book binding though, hmmm...

Hope everyone is enjoying the crazy April weather!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Letterboxing inspiration

Just a quick check in... My staycation is going swimmingly.  I've read about five books, carved as many stamps, letterboxed, had a sister date and a manicure...  Lots to do still, but I just wanted to share some photographs that I've collected that I love.  I don't think a letterboxer alive could look at any of these and either think, hey, I've been somewhere like that, or hey, I need to go there.


Get out on those trails!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

First day of my staycation, I did a whole lot of nothing...

 Yeah, I essentially did nothing today and it was awesome.  I slept. I read.  I carved.  I watched (bad) television. I ate. Yeah. Nothing on that big list got done.

Ah, well.  Concert tomorrow and hopefully some a.m. boxing squeezed in, weather permitting. 

But, having said that, don't you all want one of these?! So great, I'd wear one all the time.  If anyone is thinking of buying me a happy summer present, there ya go right there.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Succession planning

The recent departure of a letterboxer from the world of letterboxing in Ontario has got me thinking more about what I expect from my letterboxes in the long-term.

While I know many of my boxes will go missing (whether by muggles, wildlife, development, etc.) others will survive.  The other thing I know is that one day I will no longer be letterboxing.  Whether it's because I no longer participate in the hobby for whatever reason or because I get hit by a bus... What do I intend for my letterboxes after I leave the game?

Feel free to disagree but my feeling on letterboxes is once planted I may be the "planter" of the box but it is no longer "mine" in any real sense.  Once I planted my letterbox, I gifted it to the community.  Any maintenance I do for the box, both online and on the trail, are just a continuing gift that I have given and perhaps part of my responsibility as "planter".

As such, in the event I am no longer boxing, I have no intention of taking back that gift.  Those letterboxes will be left to be found, abandoned, or maintained as is the desire of the community after I'm gone.

Think about it this way: would we be letterboxing today if James Perrott took his jar home after he retired?

I was very sad to see that one of our Ontario letterboxers has not only left the game, but retired and deleted the clues to her long standing boxes that spanned a lot of southern Ontario.  That was her choice to make and respect that, but it still feels like a critical part of letterboxing's history in Ontario has been taken away.

For the record, if the letterboxer known as Bumble ever disappears for whatever reason... no longer finding letterboxes, no longer planting letterboxes, and not responding to communications... I hope my letterboxes continue on as part of this game - both in Ontario and wherever else my far-flung travels have taken me to plant.  Please feel free to maintain or adopt them, pass on the clues, update the boxes... even retire or pull boxes as need be when they are no longer in proper condition.

While I have no intention of leaving the game, now or in the future, I can nevertheless foresee a time when I no longer have the time or resources to play.  Perhaps I even leave the game for a while and come back. But I do intend - unequivocally - for my letterboxes to be as permanent as any letterbox is for the future benefit of letterboxing.

Post script: hmm... didn't mean to come across so grim, but nevertheless like the post and am obviously posting it anyway.  Hope this doesn't bring anyone down!  Happy trails!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Public service announcement: ziplocks go *inside* the lock & locks...

This past week, since I was in the immediate area I went and checked up on my first letterbox, Letterbox Near a Postbox.  It was there and in great condition - logbook almost full, need to add another - except for the fact that the lock & lock was inside the ziplock.  

I've never seen this in real life; I sorta thought it was a letterboxing urban myth that people did this.  I mean, how does it make any sense? Why would anyone do it?  And here it was on one of my own boxes.  The poor ziplock, hidden under a large flat rock, was full of dirt and holes.  Whaaaa?

If you're new to this letterboxing and just reading this - or if you're old hat and still didn't know - this is not appropriate letterboxing behaviour!  The bags go inside the box.

Think of it this way: the box is the best container - hard and airtight - it's the first line of defence against water.  The ziplock is only there as a secondary backup to protect against possible drips inside the box but it is highly fallible because it's so easy to puncture or not seal properly.  They go inside to protect the logbook (and not the stamp, but that's a ranting blog post for another day...).

This box is now commando.  I didn't have another ziplock with me, but I'm happy to let it go bare for a little while.

*slowly shakes head*

Happy trails!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thoughts on letterboxing in cemeteries

Last week, I did some pretty good exploring of two of Toronto's cemeteries.  It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and it was quite warm, and hence people were out in the city in droves.  However, inside the cemeteries it was quiet as - forgive the pun - the dead.

As far as letterboxing in urban areas, it doesn't really get better than cemeteries.  They are typically pretty quiet and are full of great hiding spots for letterboxes.  I have planted many graveyard letterboxes, and I have found even more.  Clearly, I have no issue with cemetery boxes.  But I know others do.

I think I can sum up the concern as follows: that it's not respectful to letterbox in cemeteries.  I don't agree, obviously, but I can understand where that view comes from.  I think it's the idea that our ancestors are buried or interred there and we should do nothing but go to "give our respects" when in cemeteries. 

But at their basic, cemeteries are beautiful places filled with art and sculpture, interesting architecture and gardens, and large open spaces filled with paths, valleys and nooks.  They are quiet but welcoming places that beckon you to come for a stroll.  And in fact, some cemeteries integrate walking and jogging paths within them, going out of their way to specifically invite people to come through - see Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto for example.

I agree that you should never disrespect a cemetery - in the same way that you should never disrespect the forest or library or park or wherever else you're letterboxing.  Different actions in those places are disrespectful: it's disrespectful to litter in a forest but it's okay to eat on the trail, whereas it's usually not appropriate to eat in a library - for instance.  In my view, letterboxing is approrpriate in cemeteries as long as you're being respectful to the cemetery - not interfering with other's visits to the cemetery, not altering or damaging stones, and planting boxes that are appropriate for the location.

Anyways. Not all letterboxes are for all letterboxers, so if you disagree, you can not letterbox in cemeteries.  It is a shame though - there are some amazing things to be seen there.  I will continue to both plant and find in them... Actually have a continuing series being planting in far-flung cemeteries, and some new series planned for Toronto ones.  I hope the boxes will be visited by many as they are some great locations for urban plants with few muggles...

Happy trails!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Staycationing in Toronto

Next week, I have the week off for a much-needed staycation.  While it might have been nice to head right out of the country, I'm trying to save my scheckles for grander things.  And since I'm living in Toronto now and it's finally spring, I've decided to take a week to relax and get out to see and do all those things I've always wanted to do but never gotten around to doing. Some in Toronto, some in the beyond.  And lots of letterboxing, of course.

So here's the big list of places I'm planning to go, in no particular order for all you stalkers out there:
  • Out of town for letterboxing (Kingston? Kitchener? Only places with a K?)
  • Toronto Islands
  • Riverdale Farm
  • Evergreen Brickworks
  • Out for a movie night with the girls
  • Spadina Museum (would see Casa Loma too but it's not open yet, wtf)
  • Mackenzie House
  • Todmorden Mills
  • Take the streetcar to the High Park loop (always wanted to do this... I love the streetcar)
  • Start my culinary class (gulp)
  • City of Craft festival
  • High Tea at the Royal York
  • Big concert at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (you can come see me!)
Phew. Lots to do.  And there will be letterboxing finding and planting in there, and some blogging to round it all out.

I love plotting.  And half the fun of vacationing is the plotting.  Fun times, ahoy!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My first international box: The Hawthorne

Shorty after I discovered letterboxing, my family had decided on going down to Salem, Massachewsetts Massachusetts, for a holiday during October. This is a favourite holiday spot for us - we are serious Hallowe'en folks and Salem is our mecca.

Salem, if you haven't been, is a gorgeous town nestled north of Boston on the coast full of a magical mix of amazing history and almost overwhelming witch-related things to see and do.  Each time we've been down, we stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, named after Nathanial Hawthorne.  It's a historic hotel and full of a special charm that only exists in the New England states.

So once I knew we were going back down to stay at the Hawthorne, I decided to pick up my gouges and give a try at carving something special to plant.

At that point in my carving history, it would have never occurred to me to carve the hotel itself (and admittedly, that would have been well out of my abilities at the time) but it did seem appropriate to carve the capital that is the logo for the hotel, which you can see to the right here or by looking at their website.

Now, at the time I was using that awful Speedball crumbly stuff to carve with and the transfer technique I was using at the time still makes me laugh.  I do not recommend it.  What I would do is this: find an image, make it the appropriate size on my laptop screen, then put a piece of paper over the screen and trace it with a pencil. I would then thicken the graphite on the paper on a table and then transfer as per usual for a pencil transfer.  Again, I do not recommend this.  Not that it didn't work - it did - but you can destroy a monitor like that.

Anyways, it took a lot of time and all my carving ability, but I did carve something that looks like it.  My intention was to plant it on the Salem Common, but once I was there I realized that there was literally no where to stash the letterbox.  Grr! I spent the whole trip trying to figure out where to plant this uncamoflaged little Lock & Lock.  Keep in mind, this was only my 17th plant, and I didn't have as much experience in urban hides.  (If I could go back, I would take a black pouch or a camo'd L&L - or at least a keyholder for a better hide.)

So where did I end up hiding it? In the hotel.  Gah.  What was I thinking?  Well, I know what I was thinking: that I was leaving the next day and that I didn't want to take this box home with me.  I planted it for Salem.  So I planted it on this old antique on the floor I stayed on and posted the clue. What can you do?

I was completely shocked when, the day after I planted it, I logged onto AQ and discover that someone had already found it. 'Round these parts, it could be months before someone finds one of your plants...

Anyways, over the next month, there were about eight finds on the box and those finders deemed the box fit for a blue diamond.  However, the box shortly thereafter disappeared - likely by hotel cleaning staff.

It was the first box I ever retired and it is one of the few boxes I planted that predates this blog. It was my first "difficult" carve, my first blue diamond, my first out-of-country.  I wanted to give the box with so many firsts for me a little post of its own.  And since it's mine, I can even post the image here.  So without further ado, The Hawthorne:

I was super proud of the little ship in the centre...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Letterboxing in Kitchener, Ontario

A little while ago, I was able to get out to Kitchener to do some letterboxing as well as to visit Ms. Viking and Starhexen.  So without further ado, here are my adventures!

My trip started with a stop in for Mmmtika's Holidays Start at Midnight for a quick find and a lovely chat with the police. A police cruiser pulled up and asked me what I was doing as I was walking back to my car. I explained that I was letterboxing and showed him the container and he said, "oh, I know what that is!" and then drove away. Huh.

Then off to find Flower Power - Sunflower.  Not sure why this particular stamp was planted in a place where there are no flowers in the summer, but it didn't matter because I was taken to one of my favourite things to see on the trail: a historic bridge.  This particular one is an old stone one which has basically degraded on the top - I'd hate to have to cross it - but nonetheless a sight I was happy to start my day seeing.  

Look at that gorgeous old stone bridge! And the water was rushing like mad.
Next I was off to Art Deco Time which was planted by Angel Treads but owned by mudflingingfools.  Couldn't really understand the clue while I was there, but I was really looking forward to finding this one so I basically brute-forced it until I found what I was looking for.  Fantastic history to this stamp and logbook, I wish we had more of these boxes - planted after travelling.

I then headed off into a forest which was still full of snow (hence why I don't live in KW) and went for a look-see for some Viking boxes.  I managed to find Sorry kid... there's no Santa Claus! (and apparently shame Viking into changing the box name...) but not one of the forest celebs that I'm sure is hiding in there... For next time! Incidentally, this was my 400th find.  Huh.

I next went out to the Huron Natural Area that had a number of boxes by different planters.  This is the kind of thing I like: a big park, lots of trails, and a number of boxes all planted by different planters.  I added to the lot while I was there, that clue will be posted in due course...

I first found Cecil Won the Race.  I nice hide by mmmtika, however I was nearly eaten by a fangarian snare-beast hiding in this box.  You know.  A big spider.  An awake spider.  An awake angry spider.  At this time of year, when there is still snow completely covering the ground, I do not expect to see a spider that big and that awake guarding a letterbox.  I just don't.  So I shrieked like a little ninny when it launched itself at me.
I know it doesn't look that big here, but believe me, it was huge. Having said that, how many spiders do you see in this pic?

I then continued on before I could go after the A Walk on the Forest Trail boxes.  This park was packed - lots of people out to see the world now that the sun was out and there were good temperatures.  So it was difficult getting this panoramic shot of the turtle look-out:

Click the picture to see full size.
 Great park - can't wait to go back in the summer!  I ended with a quick find of peek-a-boo - another snare-beast location, but I was on the look out this time and no attacks despite the occupants.  Shudder.
What a cute little fatty!
Leaving the park, I found a few more boxes while tooling around town - Ahsoka Tano (where I saw a gorgeous fat caterpillar), a couple more of Water Lily's Mennonite boxes, Sticky Take-Off (I love Gary Larson) and Think About It. There were a couple boxes that I looked for but couldn't find, though.  One that I was looking forward to was an old box by the Landmark Leapsters that started at a beautiful gazebo and ended in the cutest little neighbourhood parkette.  However, the tree that the box should have been hidden in was half-missing.  It look like lightning struck it or something. No box to be found.

I ended the outgoing part of the trip at a local gorgeous cemetery to find This Chick's An Angel.  Wonderful cemetery - I wish there were more cemetery boxes in KW...

As I said, I ended the day with a visit with Vivian the Viking and Starhexen - drinks and food were in order, and a nice urban find that I didn't actually do any of the finding for.  It's nice when you don't even have to convince the planter to retrieve their own box for you.  Heh.

Anyways, hope everyone is starting to get out for their own letterboxing!  There are some great letterboxes out Kitchener-way so hop on it!

Happy trails!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A weekend full of carving and sewing

 Okay, so I might be a hermit.  A reclusive hermit.  And I may not have spoken to anyone this weekend.  Other than my assistant.  Jeez.

So no letterboxing, per se, but lots of prep for planting.  I did some fairly extensive scouting, sewed seven logbooks, and carved five stamps.  Phew.

I don't have much to share (surprises and all), but I'll leave you with some fun pictures of what I've been up to.


Big stack of logbooks to add to another big stack.  These are all sized for the smallest rectangular-shaped L&L.

The only thing better than a llama is...

A hipster llama!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's - Google Maps

I have full intentions of recounting my journey through Kitchener last Friday, and my hope is that I can churn out that post later today.  But I couldn't not do a quick post about what is over at Google Maps right now:

The Greater Toronto Area

Look at that cute CN Tower...

Toronto and its islands

The Greater Golden Horseshoe - look at the cute icon for Niagara Falls

North America - I love that the northwest passage is marked

Ship sinking to the right and love the large compass rose to the left

Fantastic treasure maps ahoy!

I am truly hopeful that Google will make these maps an option to set in the future.  Had I known that this was going to be available, I would have tried to make sure I had some boxes in mind to take screen-caps for clues.  As it is, I'm probably going to be screencapping all night long, just in case.

Hope you're all enjoying the long weekend!