Ah yes! the tigs has been out and boinging again! This is a good thing, because two weekends in a row of sitting still and doing nothing makes for one cranky tigger. Mr Umbrella knows this, and decided to do something about it (the begging and pleading might have had some influence as well LOL).
We were off like a shot at 6:50 am, to the southern part of the state, after a hearty breakfast at . . .McDonald's. Hey - it's a tradition. He drives - he gets to pick breakfast! i ate the banana from home and some oatmeal. Then we drove. . . and drove. . . and drove some more. . . and drove. . .and stopped for coffee. . . and drove. Flying by all those boxes in the Montpelier/Barre area we're saving for later when we don't have as much time, we ended up in Putney, for a brief (took us 35 min) walk in the Central School, then to Black Mountain in Dummerston for a Bluegoatz series (find her boxes! you really should!) and then off to West Dover for a bunch of boxes from the Back To Our Roots gathering from 2009, which i couldn't attend.
Which leads me to the title of today's post: lessons learned from 3 years boxing and what to look for in old series/clues.
It's fun to go looking for boxes that haven't been found in a while. There's a real sense of accomplishment in finding something that others haven't found or hasn't been seen in a while. In this case, the trails are kind of remote, and there was this little storm named Irene that came through, changing the landscape just a tad. This made for some fun boxing! However, in light of that, there are some things to remember:
1. Look at the date the clues were written. If the box/series was planted in 2004, and hasn't been updated since then, you really need to look at the area like an archeologist. What might have changed? Stumps are probably long gone - especially soft woods, like birch and pine. If the clue says they were "mossy" to begin with, you can count on it. "Snags" fall to the ground/get a lot shorter over time. Take that into account. Trees fall over. Signs come off. Sometimes, trails themselves get rerouted - remember to really look at what you're looking at - and think about what it would look like now.
Case in point: the "four sister birch" in the clue yesterday is now a four sister, waist-high stump -with a box in the middle of it. In another series, the "series of birch stumps" is now a series of trailside piles of mush with some birch bark in them- in the middle of one of them was a box.
2. Really read the clue. i mean really read the clue. If the easy stuff is missing (four sister birch, sign on a tree, 20 ft snag) read for the rest of what's around it. Something will match up. Yesterday, we were surrounded by downed trees in a lot of woods. We were looking for "a large downed tree up a slight incline" after a second trail sign. Second trail sign was nowhere in sight (we did eventually find 1/2" of blue plastic and a nail on this skinny little tree. . .). Here's the problem: we weren't looking for a newly downed, "large tree" -we were looking for what would have been a large tree, 3 years ago, up a slight incline from the trail. That narrows the search - and led us to the right tree.
3. If the clues don't match up, keep walking. You can always come back. i don't know how many times i "haven't found the box" because i haven't walked far enough yet. This is especially true on longer hikes/series. While some people decry directional type clues, most of them are pretty accurate -so the clue will match up. If it says stone wall, it means stone wall; not the pile of rocks next to the trail. Wait for it.
4. Do your research! If you're going to hunt old boxes, do the research before you go. Get trail maps. Google the area. Know where you're going. Frankly, yesterday i screwed this one up, and we didn't get a series because i didn't have a trail map. We turned around too soon because the clues didn't match up and we got frustrated (see #3) and there were other series we could do. Don't depend necessarily on your iPhone! We hike in some pretty remote places (like, say, Vermont) as letterboxers. Take a paper copy, especially if you're going to be out there all day.
5. Be prepared to not find the box. The challenge is really in the hunt and the hike and the fun of those sweet times when you're the first finder in 3 years. ;-)
And last but not least, i also learned several lessons just for me. i learned that, no matter how warm and nice the weather, i need to wear pants. My legs look like i took a red Marvy marker to them! LOL. Grace is just not my middle name.
Now, GET OUT THERE AND BOX!!