Saturday, August 31, 2013

L&BXV - day 2 - dinner thoughts...

It's so hot and gross, it seems like this is turning more into a filth convention. I am filthy. And now I want to see how much dirtier I can get! 

L&BXV - day 2 - the Viking strikes!

L&BXV - day 2 - bkfst

How many boxers do you see? (It's a trick question)

L&BXV - day 2 midday...

Lots of boxing in 100% humidity... Still gorgeous!

L&BXV - day 2

Yes, yesterday was fantastic. Lots of ink all over the place. Over 300 boxes planted - no hope of ever finding even a nice fraction of those... Buy it will be fun trying!

Friday, August 30, 2013

L&BXV: day 1


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Live and Breathe XV - now departing

Here I am at Union Station in downtown Toronto, packed up for my trip to Massachusetts for L&BXV! Just about to get on a train to head east (I'm aware it's the wrong direction) where I am meeting up with Fiddleheads to drive down. 

My packing job is a thing of beauty. 

Looking forward to meeting lots of letterboxers!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Planning ahead for We Live & Breathe XV

We're just a little over two weeks away from We Live & Breathe XV - the fifteenth year of letterboxing post-Smithsonian in North America.  I'll be heading down the day before the event starts, staying in Boston for a few days after, and my head is a whirl of thoughts, lists, and questions as I start to get ready.

Travelling while letterboxing on the way has become one of my favourite things.  It couldn't be cheaper - so long as I bring my gear it's free - and by their very nature, letterboxes are usually planted in awesome places to visit.

One of my favourite days of letterboxing was in Charleston, South Carolina.  I was down in the area on a trip with my band and we were given the option of a day trip into Charleston.  I hadn't been feeling well and decided to spend the day alone, letterboxing.  I had an amazing day! I saw pretty much the whole area, went on a couple architectural tours (I love American heritage preservation practices, btw), and nabbed a number of letterboxes along the way.  When I met back up with the bus, others had spent a lot of money and didn't see much and grumbling about how little time they had.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy on my home.

So, I'm looking forward to both the event and some letterboxing in Boston afterwards.  I've been to Boston before so I'm not looking to "see the sights" as I've pretty much done that.  Also, Boston reminds me a lot of Toronto - both great cities, but there's not much left that I feel I need to see.  So letterboxes and shopping (gotta make use of that duty-free allowance and get some fall clothes while I have the chance!).

I've started going through the clues of boxes that appear to be close to where I'm staying.  I figure I have to determine what sights I want to see, where I want to shop, and what boxes are in those areas...  Once I figure that out, clue printin' time!

Hope everyone will be joining in Groton at the end of the month!

Happy trails!

Monday, August 12, 2013

My top five...

This is a purely self-indulgent post.  Purely.  You should leave now if you don't want to hear me rambling about my favourite letterboxes from my own collection of plants.  Yep. Just leave.

I've recently hit 200 letterbox hides.  If you look at my online log at AQ, it might indicate otherwise, but there are various reasons for that.  Nevertheless, I've hit 200 and just wanted to look back at some of my favourites from my own collection of boxes.

My top five favourite clues:

  1. The Numbers Station - runner up, The Numbers Station: Atencion.  Why?  It's my audio clue, that's why.  Little puzzley, not as hard as people might think it is.  I put a lot of work into these - still a little sad that not many others have found them, hence why I planted another in the US.
  2. The Devil's Advocate.  Not really killing the mystery that this alias is one of mine. Why? There are bits of clues everywhere and you have to sort them all out to get enough clue to find this one.  Really fun, I think.
  3. The Purloined Letter.  Why?  The clue took me a lot of digital skills to make, but to crack the clue takes a mere second once you catch on.  I'm not as big a fan as cipher clues as I am steganographic ones, and this one ranks high for me.
  4. Letterbox Cliche.  A recent plant - this one had germinated during discussions with Vivian the Viking and Starhexen about terrible clues.  Again, I love me some steganography.
  5. Hic Sunt Dracones.  I love maps, so I made one of my own.  I still have the hard copy of this - I hand drew this map and the clue online is just a scan of it.  Perhaps I should frame it or something...

My top five favourite hiding spots:

  1. Polar Bear, Polar Bear. Why? In the side of a building, that's why.
  2. Toronto Skyline. Why? Although it's a very basic carve, I really love where I've placed this one.  It's in a tiny key-holder on the back of a greenhouse sign.  It's still there any no one has discovered it.  Crazy.
  3. Whoooooo Are You Looking For? Why? One box part of my first series, this was in a magnetic canister in plain view.  I still haven't been able to do that since.  However, the box itself fell apart and rolled down a ravine.  Ooops.
  4. Annandale House.  Why? I know some people don't like (read: hate) planter's pouches, but sometimes, with a perfect spot...
  5. I'm Just a Worm. Why? I gorgeous old stone house - in ruins - hides this little guy, which is the perfect Labyrinth tie-in. Was 'cached once, might have happened again, but I refuse to relocate...

My top five favourite carvings:

  1. And a Bottle of Rum.  Why? I left this one down in Key West last year and wanted to leave something well carved in my wake.  This image was super-fun and I used the stamp in an earlier post about ink qualities.
  2. A Touch of Voodoo.  Why?  Sometimes you just find a perfect image to carve who's subject is perfect and style matches your carving technique.  The clue and the hide where so-so, so I can only imagine it was the carve and the logbook that earned this box the purple diamond.  
  3. Legendary White Squirrel.  Why? Not really a hard carve, but I love how the whole thing came together.
  4. James Perrot.  Why?  Hasn't been found by anyone yet, but this one was sent to We Live & Breathe Letterboxing XV and will hopefully be making a return trip to be permanently planted in Ontario.  Lots of work went into this one.
  5. The Merchants of Florin. Why? I just found images I loved and they turned into a great mini series.  

My top five favourite locations:
  1. Albion Falls.  Why?  One of my very first letterboxes, this one was planted in Hamilton at one of the most amazing waterfalls.  It truly must be seen to be believed.
  2. Siste, Viator: Key West. Why?  One of my favourite letterboxes (by someone else) is planted in this same area and something truly marvelous to go see.
  3. The Scottish Letterbox. Why?  Stratford is so lovely, I wanted to leave a box in a quiet spot that should be protected.  It wasn't.  Seems it might be gone already.  Sheesh.
  4. That Old Tin Can. Why? I love the Distillery District in Toronto and wanted to place a box that would help others -particularly visitors - discover this cute area.  Mission accomplished.
  5. The Hawthorne.  Why? Actually planted in a historic hotel in an amazing little City.  One of my favs, even though it didn't last long (nor did I expect it to).
My top five international boxes:

  1. The Hawthorne.  Why? My first box planted internationally, in Salem, Massachusetts. 
  2. Sunny Days. Why? I planted this one while on a trip to Myrtle Beach.  In my view, it was a poor hide, but nonetheless I ended up with a steady list of finders until the wooden staircase it was under was replaced.
  3. Love in Suraksan.  Why?  Although I suspect this box will never be found by a letterboxer, this is certainly the farthest away I can get from home to plant.  The image is a heart around a maple leaf and part of the Korean flag as well.  Great memories from an amazing trip.
  4. And a Bottle of Rum. Why?  A great carve as indicated in my favourite carves list, but just a great box all around.  According to the finders, it would appear that it is not hidden where I left it and has been moved around quite a bit.  Sigh.  But I still love this one.
  5. Get Your Geek On. Why? I love Comic Con.  And I'm such a big nerd. And letterboxing is quite nerdy as well.  Putting that all together? I don't even care that this one got just a few finds before disappearing...

My top five all-round favourites:

  1. The Numbers Station 
  2. The Devil's Advocate
  3. The Merchants of Florin  
  4. Letterbox Near a Postbox
  5. The $1 Tour of Hamilton

BONUS: My top three worst boxes:

  1. The Suits. Why? Quick carves on the back of erasers, not well done.  Little duct tape pouches which were easily lost.  No connection of the theme to location.  All around pretty sucky.
  2. Bottoms Up. Why? This one was carved - poorly - on a mounted lino block. Uh. 
  3. Little House in the City. Why?  Well, really, what was I thinking?  Ugh.  Glad it only had one finder.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The perfect present?

A constant wonder I have is the question of how to spread the word of letterboxing in a responsible way.  I was browsing through my copy of the Letterboxer's Companion the other day and, though none of the material was new information to me, thought that it was quite a perfect book to give to a non-boxer.  Right price, right content, perfect presentation of the topic.  That, coupled with perhaps a "starter set" of the things one might need to get going with letterboxing... the perfect gift?  

Letterboxing is somewhat of a complex activity - at least in explanation - so I find myself stumbling over explaining it to friends or family. And, in fairness to my lack of ability to persuade, I usually come off like a wing-nut because I'm all over the place.  But to give someone the info and materials they need...

All year is birthday season, and at the end of the year, Christmas.  Perfect gift for a mother/father, or for the right kind of adult...

(I see, however, that the new edition of Letterboxer's Companion is sold out at Amazon and at Chapters.  Wut?)

Food for thought...

Happy trails!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to leave awesome comments *or* the post where I do some comment shaming

So, I've been letterboxing for over three years now, and about four summers.  Somehow in Ontario along the way I got spoiled: the core community of letterboxers here are frequent and generous commentators on their letterbox finds online.  In support of this opinion, I provide you with evidence here and here.

But some folks don't comment.  Or comment with just, "thanks". This is baffling to me.  Particularly in the boxes I've found/planted in the US: really hard work going into some of these boxes (the carve, the book, the hide, the clue) and nothing.  That's just the local culture.

There's no rule, of course, saying you need to leave comments.  Nope. So, Bumble, stop yer whinin' and be thankful for what ya got.  There's no rule against me farting on your breakfast either; it's just good manners that I don't. My view is that it's just good manners to leave comments for planters and future finders.

But you know what, I'm going to go even further: you should be leaving good comments.  Not just "thanks". Of course "thanks" - that seems to be a holdover from our geocaching cousins who regularly leave "tftc". Shudder.

So, here's my helpful gift for you if - like me - sometimes you're at a loss for what type of comment to leave. I present you with an acronym.  Everyone loves an acronym.  Mine is CHAT.  Cuz remember, you always want to chat with the planter...

C stands for clue.  All you need to write is one sentence about the clue.  Basically you can just try to answer one of these questions about the clue: Did you like it? Was it accurate? Was it straightforward? Was it new or interesting? Were you able to follow it properly? Was any research involved?  Anything new that you learned?  Did you have to figure it out before hand or on the trail?  Are there any errors or problems with the clue that should be noted? Just one quick word about your thoughts on the clue that was given (or not given, as it were).

The next letter is H.  This stands for hide.  Again, just a sentence will do. The important part of this one relates to letting the planter know additionally if there is a problem with the box (ie. missing, in bad shape). Try and just answer one of these questions: How was the hide? Was it interesting? Was it well hidden? Was it tricky? Was it a cool or novel hide? What did you think of the hide? Were there any problems with the hide?  How was the box? What was its condition? Is everything still secure/dry? Did you like the hide?

The next is A.  This stands for art.  No matter how artistic the planter is or isn't, there is still some pride that goes into putting together the carve and logbook.  Keeping in mind that there is a wide spectrum of abilities, all you have to do is try and make a comment or two.  For example: How was the logbook? Was it handmade? Did it match a theme? Was it full? How was the carving? Was it large or small? Did you like the theme/style? Was it intricate? Just your quick thought on the book and carve.

And finally, T, which stands for trail. This means the trail, the indoor location, or basically the locale of the hide - as you know boxes can be placed just about anywhere.  Answer the question of: Did you enjoy the trail? Was it a good location? Was the weather good/bad? Did you see any wildlife? Get eaten by bugs? Were there muggles?    Was it a new place you would have never been to but for the box? Was it in a cool indoor location? Was there anything special about the locale?

There you have it.  Easy-peasy.  Just remember to CHAT with the planter and mention the Clue, Hide, Art, and Trail. Give a good comment and your karma will thank you - and in a world where there is a dearth of comments, you will certainly endear yourself to the planter (which may be useful if you come upon a clue of theirs you just can't solve...).

As always, happy trails!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Letterboxing in Guelph, Ontario

I'm here! I swear! I didn't go away, I've just been busy with life and unfortunately after PAL, letterboxing just seemed to slide low on the priorities.

Luckily, I broke an almost three month letterboxing fast with a trip to Guelph to letterbox with Vivian the Viking.  It felt really good to get out on the trail again.  Really, really good.  My latest logbook is now almost filled... Only a few more pages to go - so clearly I have new impetus to get it finished before my upcoming trek down to Live & Breathe.  Very exciting.  I have a new book all lined up and ready to go.

But, for now, Guelph.  I love letterboxing in Guelph.  Since my relocation to the Toronto area I haven't been able to get out there as frequently (distance/time), but every time I do, I'm very happy.

I had scheduled a time to meet up with Ms. Viking, but since I'm used to getting up so early in the morning and running on autopilot, I miscalculated what time I needed to be out and ended up in Guelph exactly an hour earlier than I needed to be.  Oops.  So I did what any good letterboxer did: I letterboxed, of course.  

What better box to break my fast with than Lone R's The Eagle Has LandedWhat a great hide, but I'll spoil things if I go into any detail.  Lone R has done similar hides (or at least one off the top of my head) and she's really helping to raise the bar on the types of hide styles that we have in Ontario.  So I highly recommend this box!

The location was great and I think I've been down in that area for a number of other boxes.  The specific location it took me to was in the midst of a beautiful evergreen forest, with the morning rays scattering down through the trees and silent with the bubbling sounds of the creek nearby.  Very serene.  

Coffee and some time at the Chapters at Stone Road Mall which happened to be open on a stat holiday.  Weird.  Bought a replacement logbook - still in its wrapping and waiting in my car for the upcoming L&B!  Vivian the Viking arrives and we're off!

We head out to the trail head for Early Bedtime Essentials: Canadian Content by Fiddleheads. The clues for this series had myself and Ms. Viking running around in circles. Man, were we rusty. The clues themselves were fantastic, I think we were just off our game. Nevertheless, a fantastic tie-in to the theme and I know I'll be back to snag the two we missed.

The trail was actually one that I lived really close to during my time at the University, but one I'd never taken the opportunity to walk along. Thank goodness for letterboxing for righting all those wrongs (note: I lived in Guelph and went to the University for four years and didn't end up visiting the Arboretum until five years later when I started letterboxing. That is a sin. Thank you, letterboxing.)

The carves were perfect: it was great seeing something from nothing, the Paper Bag Princess was flawless, and Stanley was sure getting his party on...  The trail was great and we saw a lot of walkers and mountain bikers.  And dogs.  We had a really nice snugly visit with a lady and her two British Bulldogs - which I love.  

So what do you do when you're in town?  You get invited to Fiddlehead's home, of course.  Ms. Viking and I stopped by for a lovely visit with our lovely host and talked shop for a while.  She also told us where we went wrong for at least one of this series' boxes. Oops. Sometimes you feel real dumb after you miss a box.  Nevertheless, we headed out for another of her bedtime series!

We hit the trail for Early Bedtime Essentials: Old Favourites at the end of a dead end road.  Who would have thought that it would have led to one of the most beautiful trails in Guelph? 

This series again had perfectly linked-in clues that match perfectly to the theme. Great stories, missed a couple of the boxes, but again, we were not on our letterboxing game.  I also have some health troubles that act up from time to time and I ended up in some quite horrid pain about halfway through... Didn't have my usual drugs with me, so after this series, I headed home for the comfort of prescription drugs and a dark bedroom.  I feel better now, no worries!

Nevertheless, all in all, a perfect day of letterboxing.  The weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold - and all said over 10 boxes to add to my collection.  Got a little eaten by the skeeters, but thems the risks of going out in the woods.  

Hope everyone is getting out on the trails now that the weather has cooled off!

Happy trails!