Sunday, September 30, 2012

10 tips for hosting your first letterboxing event

Even ran into some of the little letterboxers at the Markham Fair today after Box ON!

The dust is indeed settling over this year's Box ON! event.  It was fantastic - I had a great time, the weather was perfect, and it looked like everyone was enjoying themselves.

If anyone had ever asked me two years ago when I started letterboxing whether I would host one of these events in the near future, I would have said no way.  But now, after having hosted one, here are the things I learned that might help you out if you are in the same position I was hosting your first event:
Venue: Milne Park, Markham.  Check.
  1. Breathe.
  2. Figure out the location of the letterboxing activity *before* you host.  In my case, I volunteered to host the year's Ontario letterboxing event in my hometown before I thought through where I could actually have people come and letterbox.  I had already scheduled the event and picked a theme before my mind even turned to that. There are no big parks or trail systems in Markham.  Oops. Luckily, the only place that I could possibly host it was actually the perfect place to host it, so we all lucked out and I didn't have to change the event location.  Phew.
  3. Pick a theme that you'll like.  If you'll like it, others will too.
  4. Don't do it all yourself: letterboxers are a particular type of human being: kind, generous, and genuine.  Ask and you shall receive; everyone who attended my event voluntarily contributed, either by carving stamps, giving a raffle item, helping to plot, buying raffle tickets, etc.
  5. Exception to tip 4 - things come up and sometimes the good intentions to contribute a stamp will not flesh out an actual stamp.  Just be alert to this and have a back up plan if you think you won't have a full set of boxes for the event.
  6. Clues, clues, clues.  Check 'em once, check 'em twice.  And you'll still goof some of the lefts and rights.  I went to an event a while ago and there was a right in the clues where there should have been a left.  It was fine and I found the stamp, but remember wondering if they double checked their clues.  Well, karma is a bitch, and I did it three times in my clues. Gah.  It's a lot of clues to put together at once, so take it slow and try to mentally go through each clue to keep it clear.
  7. Clues again: be straightforward in your clues to save yourself some grief.  It's a lot of clues at once... I had this great (read: sarcasm here) idea that I'd send people off to a letterbox which would contain a clue to a further letterbox - for each letterbox of the event.  Sounds great in theory until you get into the practicalities of actually planting boxes like that - compounded by the complexity of planting some like that with secret bonus boxes associated with them.  Gah!  Save yourself the trouble.
  8. Amazing shirts for raffle with art by the immensely talented Ondine, check.
  9. Venue choice: as a personal preference, I like private venues with potluck meals over restaurants.  I like the privacy of a rented venue for the ability to talk letterboxes, do exchanges, personal travelers, raffles, etc. without the prying eyes of muggles. Also, since it's potluck, it can be pretty economical when folks don't have to pay a restaurant for dinners for a whole family when done this way.  However, once you pay for insurance on top of the rental costs, it can be pretty costly to rent the venue.  On the other hand, I know from hosting other non-letterboxing events that to reserve space for large groups often requires credit card reservations and minimum orders amounts for everyone that can leave you on the hook if a lot of people drop out suddenly or arrive not very hungry.  Food for thought ;)
  10. If you are going to be putting out some money for the venue, and you probably already will be putting out money for the actual boxes themselves, a raffle is a nice way for people to contribute financially without actually asking them for an event fee or something like that.  Because of the raffle, I was able to completely offset the venue and insurance, so that was a definite plus. 
  11. Relax and have fun! People know what to do - show up, letterbox, then go back, eat, and hand out with all the cool letterboxers whose signature stamps they've seen in all the logbooks.  There's actually not much for you to do once you've reserved a venue and planted your letterboxes.  Sit back and enjoy yourself as well!
The event planning and execution was amazing, but boy am I tired.  Now I actually get to go back to the regularly scheduled carvings and work on things that actually don't have to do with mysterious things ;)  Maybe I should do something really ridiculous and carve Hello Kitty or something.

For posterity, here is the clue map I made for the event. Click on it to see it in full size.   Happy trails!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mysterious Texts

(updated October 1, 2012)

These boxes were planted for Box ON! 2012 - Mystery Markham

Since ancient times, ciphers have been used to hide text and prevent information from being given to unintended recipients. However, the battle has been waged against those ciphers, revealing the text of all but the most cryptic of ciphers.  In this letterbox series, you must solve encrypted clues leading to boxes related to texts with mysterious scripts, two that have never been deciphered… and perhaps never will…    

The Rohonc Codex

One of the most baffling of the hidden texts is without doubt the Rohonc Codex. This most peculiar script is written from right to left, and seems to mix up runes, straight and rounded characters in the style of Old Hungarian – but it defies all attempts at translation. This bamboozling manuscript is believed to have been written in medieval times. Appearing to be hand-scripted, and illustrated with crude black and white sketches, the writing is simply not decipherable in any way The paper on which this maddening text was written carries a watermark from Venice of 1529-1540, though the writing itself is thought to be several centuries older than that. This utterly mysterious manuscript may never be translated. 


The Voynich Manuscript

This is the Voynich, Manuscript, long dubbed the ‘Most mysterious Manuscript in the World’. Experts now feel that the style of calligraphy and drawing, as well as the parchment type and ink pigments, suggest strongly that this document was initially produced in the 13th century. The book is 235 pages long, full of colored images of strange astrological charts, prancing nude women, unknown plants, and even live cells that look as if they have observed through a microscopic lens. It is also written in an encoded script that nobody has ever managed to decipher. The alphabet used is thought to comprise either 19 or 28 letters, but has nothing whatever in common with any known language on Earth. With the strange zodiacal signs and the obvious recipes for herbal preparations, some think the Voynich could well be the definitive textbook of alchemy – but still, 800 years after it was written, not one person actually knows.

Clue (extra note: bookcase against the wall):

The Dresden Codex

One of the great mysteries of modern times is the Dresden Codex, one of the few surviving books from the ancient Mayan civilization that existed in Central and South America. Decoded by a German scholar in 1880, the book opened a door to discovery of the brilliant minds of the Mayans. The Codex is filled with numeric equations based upon the movement of the planets, the sun and the stars. Scholars are disturbed by the fact that the Mayan calendar stops at the conclusion of the thirteenth time period, which points to December 22, 2012.  Is the end of the world just around the corner?


Friday, September 28, 2012

No matter how many letterboxes I plant, I can still mess up my left from right

Apparently I have two right feet. Or, perhaps I'm just not an ambi-turner.

I've been going through all of my clues and adding them into Atlas Quest for tomorrow's event so that people will be able to log them as soon as they get home, and it's a good thing I did as I've noticed two errors in my clues that will mean that I have to go out into the park tonight to make some last minute fixes.  Oops.  In both cases, the clues say to do something on the right - when really it's the left.

I've actually done this before a few times, writing down right when I mean left, and usually I catch it before I post it.  And it's always that I say right when it should be left.  Never the other way.  I remember at least once I didn't with my Not Irrelephant box.  I'm slightly worried that there will be other glitches in the clues that I've not noticed yet.

So the moral of this story is that it doesn't matter how many boxes you plant, you can still mix up your left from right.  Good to know and keep in mind when trying to follow clues.

I also noticed that once these go live, I'll have planted 150 letterboxes. That's a nice round number.

I also noticed that if Jiggs nabs every box for this event, he'll hit 3000 finds.  That's a crazy number.

Eagerly awaiting tomorrow...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Box ON! Ready and raring to go!

Milne Dam is ready for Box ON!
So, the boxes have been planted, the clues have been clued.  And I have significant anxiety about boxes going missing before the event... but we're only a few meager days away... Also, the weather forecast looks lovely for the event, so I'm really excited! If you know what's good for you, know your ciphers, people!

In the past 48 hours, I planted 40ish boxes in Milne Park and got to see this lush park from a completely different perspective.  I grew up in Markham, and this park was pretty much it when it came to significant parklands.  However, despite some school trips here for ecology classes and whatnot, I never actually explored this beautiful place.

And what a beautiful place it is.  While planting these boxes, it was clear that the flora and fauna were all amidst preparations for Box ON as well.  Wildlife galore came out to greet me and find out how the preparations were going, and the trees were all clearly buffing up their leaves to show their newly blazing colours.  I love autumn.

Anyways, below some snaps of what I saw while planting.  Can't wait to see everyone this weekend...

Happy trails!

My supervisor supervising the packing of letterboxes. 
Companion ducks, keeping a steady eye on my goings on.

Vibrant new colours were everywhere.

Hard to see, but those fishes were HUGE and making huge splashes while trying to swim upstream.

The Duck Welcoming Committee, practicing.

Muskrat hard at work, cleaning house for everyone's arrival.

A hint of things to come...

Just one piece of the puzzle...

I'm wiped, but all the boxes have been planted now for Box ON!  Very exciting.  Also have half of the clues done, really just need to finish up and hit print.

Can't wait for Saturday!

Happy trails :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apartment hunting (new! with letterboxes!)

So you know you're a die-hard letterboxer when you take proximity of letterboxes/potential letterbox hiding locations into account when choosing a new apartment.

Hi, my name is Bumble, and I have a problem.

That I like.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bumble, stung by a bee

Fun fact of the day: despite being stung by bees or wasps in the past and have no problems beyond the then immediate problem of, you know, being stung by a bee, one can be stung by a bee and then develop a systemic infection that can mess you up.  

I am living proof of this.  Stung on the back of my leg by a wasp who decided crawling up my jeans was a great idea.  This happened on Sunday.  By end of work day Monday, my whole leg was on fire and I wasn't feeling too hot. I went to the Doc who said it was a good think I came in so quick because it was spreading up to my torso and I would have had a whole host of different problems if that had happened.

So now I'm on antibiotics, pramox, and benadryl for the next ten days.  As of this moment, my leg is still burning like crazy. 

And so now I respond with song.  Below you'll find the lyrics to "Bumble, stung by a bee" to the tune of "Eric the Half a Bee".


As a “Bumble” bee
I philosophically
Must ipso facto like a bee
But now I be
Due to a stinging bee
A medicated entity
D’you see?

But stung by bee?
How can it be?
So viciously
Below my knee?
And now infected
Due to this recent injury.


La dee dee
One two three
Bumble, stung by a bee
Bumble, stung by a bee

Can this wretched Bumble be
Medicated under her knee
With antibiotics taken twice daily?
Yes! Bumble’s been stung by a bee

Fiddle de dum, fiddle de dee
Bumble, stung by a bee
Ho ho ho, tee hee hee
Bumble, stung by a bee

I hate that hive employee-ee
Who stung me accidentally
One evening climbing under my jean
I hate him constantly.

She hates him constantly.
Semi constantly.

The end.

Cyril Connelly?

Muggle cards for letterboxes

I've been putting little blurbs in my boxes for some time now, such as this here.  But with the number of times I hear about people finding out about letterboxing from accidentially finding a letterbox themeselves, I've been wanting to leave take away cards for those folks to help them participate if that's what they're bent on doing.

So, awhile ago I ordered some business cards with letterboxing info on them online and they've recently arrived in my mailbox.  I love them and if you hunt my boxes, you'll start seeing them soon.

Happy trails!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Warning: a rant ahead about Michael's

Okay, so, I shop at Michael's.  I always shop at Michael's. I spend a lot of money at Michael's.  And it looks like I've been spending too much money at Micheal's, apparently.

This weekend, I went cross-border shopping in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY.  Cross border shopping is pretty much a national past time these days now that the Canadian and American dollars hover around par.  And I know there has been a lot of debate about the prices of identical things, particularly books, that you can get on in both countries - with the Canadian prices almost always being much higher than their American counterparts.  I learned just how bad the discrepancy is, unfortunately, this past weekend.

Right now, in both countries, Michael's has a sale on for all of their ink pads, 40% off.  We all know how pricey Michael's can be anyway, and I hear from both Canadians and Americans that they usually wait for the coveted 40% off coupons that come out before buying the pricier items. So sometime last week, I headed out and bought two StazOn ink pads, originally priced around $15 each.

Fast forward to this weekend, and while shopping and realizing that I am right near a Michael's, I figure I'd go in and get a couple more, probably at a better price, and better still because of the lower sales tax.  In I go, and what do I see?  This:

 Almost half the price.  Half. HALF. What the eff???

The prices were all shockingly lower than their Canadian-priced counterparts.

More, and all about half the price. What gives?  They're the same product, on the same racks, in the same stores, by the same companies.  Some will say that there are tariffs or duties or whatever that ends up with the price differential.  Okay, whatever, but does no one remember that there's this that should render that problem moot, but add this price differential on top of the difference in provincial sales tax versus state tax...  Well.  Let's just say I won't be doing much shopping at Michael's in Canada anymore.  If they keep up this nonsense and go out of business here, I'm sure DeSerres or another Canadian competitor will pick up the slack.  I certainly won't be funding this rape anymore.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Letterboxing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Last weekend I got out to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to visit Books40Boxes and see that great city. Verdict: fantastic! If I could sum the trip up in just a few words: the best things in life are free!  I did some amazing things on this trip - visiting the parks, strolling the town, visiting the art gallery, and viewing the cosmos, all for free.  Get your hiney out there and see this awesome place!

Unfortunately, not too many boxes in the city.  And none in the greater area.  The very definition of a letterboxing desert.  I did manage to plant one more, Happy Mantis, but didn't notice before carving and flying out there that there was a preexisting happy box.  Oops.  But at least there is now a whole lot more happy in Saskatoon, right? :)

On arrival the first day, I went to bed.  True story.  Jet lag is a bitch.

For the rest of the trip, I was good and raring to go.  After first indulging me in my horrid coffee addiction, we strolled around the city, visiting in particular the waterfront on the Saskatoon.  The kind city had held off in its autumnal shift and was only starting with the faintest wisps of yellow on the trees when I arrived.  The city clearly cares about the waterfront and there are some stunning trails to follow on both sides.

It was along one of these sides that I found Jay Bird's Happy Duck, at a beautiful gazebo along the water.  Second finder, hopefully to be found by many more!

Saskatoon is known for its bridges, and from one, the Broadway Bridge, you can see that folks have painted rocks along the river with cute sayings and images.  You can sort of see it from this image here, but keep in mind that those rocks are huge, not teensy which is how they sort of appear in the photo. You could easily sit on any of them, cross legged and have tea while watching the river go by. 

I'm not sure how this trend started, but there were literally hundreds of rocks that had been painted.  Loved it.  Stared down at them from the bridge for a few moments before continuing on to visit the cute shops on Broadway.

One of the fantastic things we did while I was visiting was go and see the University of Saskatoon's observatory. It is a wee little thing, and when I jumped out of the car to take some quick pictures of it, I saw that the door held a plaque stating that the observatory was open to the public and listed its hours.  By chance, its hours included time that night, so we returned after dark for a visit of the interior.  The building is fantastic and old, the telescope let us see some stars despite the overcast sky, and the basement held some excellent exhibits about telescopes and the universe. This place is just begging for a letterbox...

University of Saskatchewan's Observatory

What? Open to the public? Tonight? We. Are. In!
 Unfortunately, no night pictures - it was very dark and I didn't have a camera that would take a decent low-light shot.

Those darn geocachers; they're everywhere.
Over the course of the visit, Books40Boxes handed over a few stamps she carved for Box ON!.  They're fantastic. And then she showed me the tool that she used to carve them. I was shocked, horrified even.  She was using some rusty, dull, v-tool meant for wood carving.  On the one hand, I was impressed that she was able to carve such intricate designs with such a big blunt tool, but on the other hand, upset that that was what she had been forced to use.

Luckily, they designed this thing called "Google" to solve these sorts of problems.  After some quick searches, I found out that there was an art supply store called Art Placement.  And it was less than five-minutes walking distance from her apartment.  Cool. So, off we went.

It was fantastic.  Pink stuff, Speedball carving tools, and a book making supplies area.  What more could you ask for?  Friendly & helpful staff? Great prices? Sale on everything, 25% off?  Yes to all three.  We were both very impressed, and I went back for a second time - I couldn't pass up the amazing price of their pink stuff.  I even blogged about it on the fly, here.  If you're in or near Saskatoon and looking for some art stuff, haul your butt in there, pronto!

We headed down again to the water to find Books40Boxes' own letterbox, University Bridge, which as you stamp in, you can see its eponymous bridge and the water flowing under it.  Delightful - and a gorgeous carve.  A must see and a fantastic box for Saskatoon.

University Bridge. Went on a ride on that boat, too - also beautiful.

Speaking of art, we also headed down to the Mendel Art Gallery, free and on the water.  The gallery had a nice greenhouse garden in the one side, begging for a stroll.

Fountain at the centre of the Mendel Art Gallery greenhouse.
My favourite part of this gallery is the art room, where they invite everyone to come on in and make art with a whole bundle of supplies they left for doing so.  Magical.

Art galore.  And posted for the world to see.

Printed on the wall of the room.  We letterboxers are collectors in the truest sense.

More collecting in the Cabinet of Curiosity.
After visiting the gallery, I went off to plant my own letterbox, Happy Mantis, who now happily lives in a fantastic abode with a river-view. More than I can say for myself.

All in all, I had a fantastic time in Saskatoon.  Saskatoon was warm and beautiful (speaking about both the environment and the people), with a rich history, and a laid-back feel.  If there were more letterboxes, I would move there for good ;)

Happy trails!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Box ON! One week to go...

Slightly hyperventilating... Not really feeling well and may be fighting a head cold.  Over tired as well and mostly want to sleep for a solid day, cozy in my own bed.  I blame my co-workers and their disease-spreading schoolchildren.  Sigh.

Lots to do... Mostly planting... Now worried about the potential for rain. Isolated showers?  Isolated? How isolated?

Hopefully very isolated.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Supplies galore in Saskatoon!

It's been a really beautiful trip to Saskatoon so far, but I'm absolutely tickled at a trip into a nearby art supply store. Everything was on sale and I was able to pick up a slab of 6 x 12" pink stuff for $12, as well as two new Speedball #1 gouges and a fantastic wood-handled awl.

Thank you, Art Placement!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wet & moldy logbooks - how to dry 'em out without taking them home

Off to Saskatoon tomorrow and I'm using a new backpack I bought as my carry on - and had to pull out those little silica packs that the manufacturer threw into it to keep the bag from being wet or moldy. I've taken to collecting these in a ziplock that I keep in my letterboxing kit. I find them frequently in new bags/purses, shoes, in those cute cardboard boxes, and I think you can actually outright buy them online.

I use them when I come across those poor waterlogged boxes that we all find.  Whether they are completely filled with water or slightly damp, there's only so much you can do during the five minute stamping in to dry them out.  I keep those little silica packs handy to put into the ziplocks or into the containers to soak up the remaining moisture and hopefully preserve the logbook. The intertubes tell me that these can soak up 40% of their weight in moisture - in a slightly damp logbook, that will make a huge difference...

Wish me a fun time in Saskatoon! So long as it doesn't snow while I'm there, it will be a success!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Event planning: packing letterbox stage complete

So further finishing up progress has been made, and with an excellent trip out for some shopping yesterday, I bought, painted, and filled the remainder of the letterboxes for the event.  To be clear: all the letterboxes are packed and ready to plant for Box ON!.  [insert heart palpitations here]  There are little towers of black Lock & Locks all over - a robber might be concerned.

Also, for those Canadian boxers out there: I went to Walmart to pick up a few more boxes and the big blue Lock & Lock box is on sale for $12.95 - for 18 pieces (9 complete boxes), usually $20. That's $1.63 per box, tax in.  It's not being advertised, they just dropped the price on the shelf. I bought two :)

Next step is to get these bad boys planted; I'm scheduled to plant not this weekend but next owing to the Saskatoon trip.  Plant 'em, clue 'em, then sleep.  There will be much sleeping.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Box ON! Progress update...

T-19 days until Box ON! 2012!!
So this weekend, I made a lot of progress with prepping all the boxes for Box ON, so I'm pretty happy.  Time is a-ticking, and I've got a Saskatoon trip, as well as a Buffalo trip, between now and then.  How'd that happen? Cuz I'm a lunatic, that's how.  Anyways, here's a round up of this weekend's accomplishments:
What 43 stamps look like.
  • At this point, all of the stamp carving is done.  Done. I'm putting down the tools and there will be no more carving until after the event.
  • I've mounted all the stamps I made with the soft grey linoleum - I think about 20 of these all together.  But they are mounted and done. 
  • I've sprayed a crazy number of L&Ls for the event, still short about five.  Need to buy more boxes and spray those...
  • I've made about 10 pouches, still need another 6, ran out of duct tape, but those will be done soon.
  • I've started cutting all the fabric I'll need for the stamps.
  • The logbooks are done - all I need to finish is the logbook for the event, but I want to spend more time thinking about this because I plan to convert the event stamp into a personal traveler and want a big book.
  • I've actually assembled one of the short series, they are now ready to be planted.
Basically, I could have kept going, but I ran out of various materials I need to finish assembling everything.  Once that's done, I'm off to plant!

Incidentally, does anyone know where to get Christmas ornament hooks at this time of year?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where to get ideas for carvings: observe.

Go see this post.  I love it. It's perfect.
The thing about ideas is that they're not like the rubber I carve.  I can't say, "I order them online in big sheets and cut off what I need.  Here's the web site where you can get some, too!"  I think of ideas as more like birds - they're around all the time, but the trick is to notice them and learn to identify them.  Or perhaps a useful analogy is Sherlock Holmes's explanation of observation.  In "A Scandal in Bohemia" he says, "You see, but you do not observe.  The distinction is clear."  In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" he specifies the difference, "You can see everything.  You fail, however, to reason from what you see."  Observation, therefore, is not simply seeing things but paying enough attention to them to note their significance.  A large part of getting ideas is similar: be observant enough, be aware enough, to notice those things that might make a beautiful piece of art or an interesting element of a story.  Take nothing for granted.
Well said!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Anatomy of a letterbox

Okay, so about that letterbox I mentioned that I was putting together to take to Saskatchewan, I thought I'd take the opportunity to show you how I put together a letterbox... Although there are certainly other ways to do it - some of which might be better.  Here goes:

Okay, clockwise from the top right, here is what I have:
  • Good ol' Lock & Lock, one of the only things I use which I discuss here. Air and water proof. Very important that it be both - I haven't yet seen any other brand that actually achieves this (whether they say on the packaging that it is or not).  You'll see that this L&L is still clear; I've taken to using Krylon spray paint to paint them black before planting... However, given that this will come with me through securtiy to board an aircraft, I decided that the box would be well planted instead.
  • My little exterior box note on the lid; if you click on the image, it's large enough for you to read.  I want this little note to serve two purposes: to prevent the box from being thrown away by a well-intentioned person and to prevent over-zealous police forces from blowing up my suspected bomb. 
  • Continuing to the top of the clock, you'll see my current incarnation of the pamphlet I leave in my boxes for the curious noxer. You'll notice that the word "intriguing" is nowhere to be found...
  • Top right, a hithhiker, not one of my own, who is going to travel to a fairly unvisited province.
  • Sliding down from the top right, you'll hit my trusty Ziplock Freezer bag - more sturdy than the sandwich kind, but susceptible to theft by family members.
  • On top of the ziplock is my logbook - hastily made by covering the the covers of a standard lined pad - lots of good info is inside.
  • And last but not least, my carving wrapped up to keep it clean... I don't actually put the stamp in the Ziplock.  Paper can/will be destroyed by water; rubber will not.  One of those things I learned in grade school.
Anyways, most anyone who reads this blog knows exactly what goes into a letterbox, but for those curious visitors coming in from Google, I hope you enjoyed!

This box will now be packed on my carry on and hopefully I won't be seen as some sort of letterboxing terrorist on my flight next week.  *fingers crossed*

Happy trails!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Success! Very basic coptic stictching achieved...

Look at me! I'm awesome!
Okay, I don't sew.  So sue me. But what that means is that I have a terrible time when I'm trying to figure out the basic sewing structures for things like coptic stitching for logbooks.  Sure, I can work miracles with sticks, but have thus far kept to the basics with my book sewing.

No longer.  In putting together a logbook for the upcoming event, I actually - finally - successfully stitched myself a logbook using the coptic stitching method. Probably, one day I'll post about my fumblings in making one of these books, but for now I'm content to post a picture of the final product and let it speak for itself.  I'm inordinately proud of myself.

My first coptic stitched book - 3x4" with sparkly covers - perfect for a night time letterbox, don't you think?

I wish you all luck with your crafty ambitions!  Happy trails!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blazing trails... sorta.

So this past weekend, I neither found any letterboxes nor planted any letterboxes.  I did, however, do quite a bit of hiking in some beautiful unexplored-by-me areas of my hometown.  The reason I was doing this exploring was to get some scouting done for letterbox placements for the upcoming Box ON plantathon that I will be undertaking, but I had a wonderful day out nonetheless.

Tracking me while I walked.
I also wanted to share something I use my all-purpose letterboxing tool (read: iPhone) for - tracking trails and making maps.

The area I was investigating is actually a park with trails that have either been created or historically used, but are not marked on any map I can find.  Because of how the park is shaped and how densely forested it is, it's hard to know where the trails are going - even as you're walking them - and where they might pop you out at the end.

And so, one of the apps that I've taken to using when trekking along these unmarked trails is Cyclemeter - although there are lots of other apps that will do the same thing.  Ostensibly, the app is meant to track your cycling so that you can determine distance, altitude change, calories burned, etc, and this app is also set up to track your walks as well. However, I find mine much more useful for my letterboxing trails.  I have mine set so that after my tracked hike, it emails me a Google Maps link with the GPS tracked path I took, along with the speed, speed, calories, etc.

So as I went out on this walk to try to find letterbox planting spots, I was able to come home to a mapped trail that I could potentially use to make clues.  I also found out today that if I switch to one of my cinemagraph apps, it stops the GPS tracking and I lose some of the data.  Lesson learned.

For your viewing pleasure, you can see my trail here. Where it says my start, it is not actually my start - I started at the place marked end because that's where I parked my car.  If you look at my walk time, it was actually a lot longer than that because I found a beautiful sitting spot by the Rouge River where I stopped to take a carving break.

If I wanted to do the same path again, I could name the route in the program and see if I could beat my time.  Pretty nifty program; I used it a lot about a year ago to time myself and check my speeds while I was commuting by bike into Hamilton from Burlington. Now that I'm not doing that anymore, I found out that you can actually change the default activity (this was meant specifically for cycling) and in this case changed it to walking.  Crazy.  It would be great for plotting out a map... hint, hint.

As I said, I did pause for quite a while when I found this beautiful spot - I felt completely alone, almost surrounded by water and its bubbly sounds.  I had brought carving stuff with me in my bag for some later carving, but decided that one of the only places I had never carved before was on the trail, so I sat down and set up shop.

On the way to the perfect carving spot.
I had put some material together for a box that I plan to plant while I'm in Saskatoon later this month.  Talk about letterboxing desert!  Poor folks have been relying mostly on passing through letterboxers, but now that it looks like there may be a few who actually inhabit the area, I want to make sure I can contribute to their area.

I've got a picture of some of the carve that I did down by the water that day.  I didn't list this post as a spoiler, mostly because the folks that read this are unlikely to be out to Saskatchewan to find this box anyhow... although, to be fair, perhaps this will entice you to do just that!

Anyways, off to get some more Box ON work done... Happy trails!

Carving in my carving spot...
The perfect carving spot.