Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Trip to Connecticut (Warning: Long Article)

My sister, LOSTGIRL, and I had been planning a trip to Connecticut for some time now. She had a conference to attend in Hartford so she invited me along to keep her company on the drive. While she was in her conference for 4 hours, I could letterbox in Hartford. Now how could I pass that up?

So we planned our trip over Columbus Day weekend in stages. First stage, we drive down to Bennington, Vermont, where my brother lives and we’d stay overnight with them on Friday. Second stage, we drive to Hartford via Brattleboro, VT, Greenfield and Springfield, Mass. on Saturday. Third stage, I box around Hartford and she goes to conference. Fourth stage, we drive back to Bennington via I-91 stopping for dinner at a Friendly’s somewhere in Mass. Fifth stage, we head for Colchester, VT from Bennington and box all the way on Sunday. Sixth stage, we head for home on Monday morning through the Lake Champlain Islands, then Plattsburgh, then home to Potsdam, NY. Sounds like a lot of stuff to do and lots of boxes to find, right?

I will start out by saying; we had a good trip, a good time, and great weather. We, the rainy day twins, couldn’t have had better weather for a whole weekend! My sister did a great job driving the whole way, even if I nagged her a little on the way. Naturally, we got lost a few times. It happens in unfamiliar territory. I won’t go into all the details here only the ones that pertain to letterboxing.

So, First Stage: we drive to Bennington on Friday. We left pretty early on Friday a little after 8 AM because I had to drop my postals in the mail before we left. I was in charge in of the trip down through NY and she was in charge of Vermont. So I saw the Mickey and Lasar series near Wilton. We were going to be getting off of the Northway here so I figured since there were lots of boxes in a general area that would be the best place to stop. However, on the way down, we went through Indian Lake and I remembered that a box was planted in a cemetery here. So we attempted to stop. I didn’t have clues and tried to remember the details. We found the cemetery by sheer dumb luck and my ragged stray pieces of clues led me to the box. We were happy to find it and felt that it was a good omen for our trip.

We then stopped to find the Wilton Wildlife Preserve boxes including Karner Blue. We had limited success. Not because the boxes weren’t there but because the trails were under maintenance and a trail for 2 of the boxes were closed. But we found three there and we quite pleased with the area. One box gave us a little trouble with a compass reading but we figured it out by using “The Force”. Didn’t see any butterflies but LOSTGIRL did see a white tailed deer.

We moved on to a brand new box posted just the day before we departed Potsdam. I luckily spotted it on Atlas Quest and printed it out. So we also stopped for “Death and Taxes” near the Saratoga Monument. LOSTGIRL knew where the monument was without even realizing it. She had seen the monument from the road many times but never knew the name of it! It was a great little find in a very peaceful place. Nice to be the first to find on that box!

But by this time we were running pretty late, and we needed to get to our brother’s place. So we skipped over the boxes LOSTGIRL had planned for Vermont on the way there. But it won’t be my last trip to Bennington so I didn’t feel too disappointed to skip them.

Then, Stage Two: Depart for Hartford, CT via Brattleboro, VT Greenfield, MA, and Springfield, MA. So this was my job. To find out where we could stop in MA to get a box or two so we could say we had boxes outside of NY. I found a couple series near Amherst and the directions were given from I-91. So we had no problems getting to Brattleboro and onto the highway. We exited but couldn’t find the roads to get us where the directions said. So we ended up using the “coming from Springfield” directions rather than the “Greenfield” directions. Once we figured out where we needed to be, it wasn’t as hard as the directions made it out to be.

Anyway, by the time we got to the trail, I knew we wouldn’t have time to do the whole series. “Finding Nemo” was a series of 8! But we thought we could at least get a couple and if not, there was another series close by. So we started out. The first obstacle was that LOSTGIRL had to cross a plank. She’s scared of heights and bridges of all sorts are iffy. But she managed to make it across and I was delighted! Box 1 was super easy and we were so impressed with the stamp that we were very disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to get all of them on this trip. But then Box 2 became very tricky. We were told to look for a boulder near some small pines on the right. So we figure we can do that. But as we were looking, we passed by a trail that led off to the left. I checked the clues to the third box to see that it was on a left side trail. So I assumed we had passed box 2. So we searched the left side trail for Box 3. After a lot of searching and rereading the clues, we decided to press on up the trail to see if anything else looked like it fit the clues. Then, LOSTGIRL spotted the boulder from Box 2…sure enough there was the box safe and sound behind it.

We were happy to find it and to see that other logs mentioned the difficulty in finding box 2. So now, I’m looking at my watch and trying to calculate how long it will take to get to Hartford from here since LOSTGIRL had to be registered by 1:00 and we were shooting for 12:30. We thought we might be able to squeeze in Box 3. The only problem was that the clues called for walking out on a “getty” which neither of us knew what it was. Then, we came up on a part of the trail that looped. We spotted an “island” you could walk out to and figured that to be the getty. But alas, we couldn’t find the box. We checked under every pine tree on that little bit of land and even under the ones that were around the mainland but no box. Now, we really had to give up. Once back across that plank, there was no going back.

So now for the Third Stage. We made it to Hartford right on time and I bid my sis a farewell as I intended to do a walking boxing tour of downtown Hartford. I had my clue sheets and my fanny pack as well as my map of Hartford sent to me by the chamber of commerce. I felt confident. But right off the start, I was lost! I realized I was reading the street signs wrong. I’m not sure how but I ended up near the river when I thought I was walking toward Bushnell Park. So anyway, trying not to look too much like a tourist, I sat down to study my map. As I glanced around from a pedestrian walkway, I noticed the “Riverfront Plaza”. I had a couple boxes there! Yeah, I knew where I was…sort of. Anyway, I pulled out those clues and headed eagerly for “Quenticut”. I took some lovely pictures of the Connecticut River and the Hartford buildings and found the box with only a minor problem. The box’s clues referenced two statues. Both had been moved. The first one was no longer first and the second one that had once been directly across from the box was now slightly askew. But using other references I did manage to get to the box without taking a swim in the Connecticut River!

Then, onto the “Path from Quenticut to the Colt Building”. I had a couple muggles on the trail with me but I ditched them. I thought this might be easy but the “road” led me to what looked like an old exit ramp…which I didn’t like the “feel” of. But I pushed on looking for the railroad tracks. I saw them and saw that they went under the overpass of a major highway and that part of it was very close to cement walls. I had no idea if these tracks were active and I didn’t want to get caught on these rails with no where to go. Not to mention that I’d have to count 140 railroad ties to get to the right one! I have a hard enough time counting 20 paces without losing track of what number I’m on! Then, as I am debating about finding an easier way to get to this box, I see a man step out of the thick bushes about 40 feet up the trail from me. Okay…I’m done! This box really seemed to be in a dangerous, creepy part of town…and the only scenic part I suppose was the very top of the Colt Building that you saw on the “exit” ramp. I’m sure you can see that building from other spots in Hartford! I quickly went back the way I came and back to the sculpture of “Quenticut”.

After that grueling sun washed “hike” and coming back up 87 stairs, I sat down for a bit and gazed at the sculpture. I was hoping for better luck but I didn’t know if I’d get it. I pulled out my trusty map and tried to figure out how to get to Bushnell Park. I started off but still hadn’t quite figured out the road thing but eventually ended up gazing at the Center Church and Cemetery. I knew there were boxes here, I thought, but I didn’t have the clues in my pack. I must have left them in the car with my Elizabeth Park clues. So I moseyed, finally, into Bushnell Park.

I had some 6 or 7 boxes for this park and had been forewarned that not all of them might be there. However, only one clue sheet had said that it was missing for sure and it was to be replaced soon. So how soon is soon? The message was posted in Aug. 2005…is now too soon to replace that box?

If I sound a little bitter, maybe I am. I will admit that I did not search as carefully as I wished I could have for these boxes. There were tons…I mean, tons…of people in that Park on Sat. afternoon. I was sure I would have looked suspicious. But I did check for the carousel box pretty well as well as the Corning Fountain, Israel Putnam, and the Memorial Arch. Unless the Arch box was very small, it wasn’t there. It may have been micro sized…but I had nothing to go on except that none of these boxes had logbook but one. It was tough to avoid muggles but I did pretty well in snapping pictures while gazing into hiding spots. Stealth is not my big thing but I think I can do it. I try to behave as casually as possible and just sort of go about my business. Anyway, eventually, I had to give up on the whole thing. The Bushnell series was too tough to do on a Saturday afternoon with the weather being sunny and warm. The one box that I thought might still be there was the Pump House one but I was too well observed and would look too suspicious reaching up into its hiding spot.

So I was disappointed with Hartford, CT. Now I shouldn’t be harsh since I knew some of the boxes were missing and I did get to see all of Bushnell Park and take some lovely pictures. I read almost all of my first Edgar and Ellen book while sitting on a bench near the Corning Fountain before having to go meet my sister back at the Civic Center.

There was no boxing on the Fourth Stage as it was getting dark but the Fifth Stage began on Sunday. We headed out of Bennington at about 10:45 and LOSTGIRL had the route all planned out. We went right for “Spirit in Nature”, a box she had added as an afterthought. It was good thing she did because it was a lovely little box. Practically a drive by with a nice little walk. A simple donation was all that was required and we scored a nice Vermont box. Then, it was on to Robert Frost 1 and 2.

And herein, lays more trouble. One of the boxes was at a rest type area and another was on a well used trail system. Both were very nice areas but also had LOADS of people around…Columbus Day weekend in the Vermont mountains, yeah, LOADS of people. Anyway, we thought we had the clues to 1 figured…3 compass bearings from landmarks at the area. Triangulate to a single point…bingo, box. Only we couldn’t get the three bearing to intersect. Of course we weren’t sure how far back into the woods we could go. We didn’t figure it would be that far. So we had to give up on it mostly because our compass skills suck.

The other Robert Frost one was a different story. We found the referenced bench very easily but no box was behind it in the woods. We looked near and around every moss covered tree back there but no luck. So we were both very disappointed. The reason we had taken this route to get to Burlington was so we could stop and do these boxes. So we continued on to the box I had brought along for Vermont…The Graveyard.

We found this box with little problem but once again…it was covered with people!!! We couldn’t believe the people around…and we got there around 4:30 in the afternoon. It was overwhelming. We did manage to get the box but then we just wanted to hit the hotel and get something to eat.

So the final Sixth Stage of our journey turned out a little better. We headed back to NY via the Lake Champlain Islands. I was a little concerned about bridges as LOSTGIRL doesn’t like to drive over them either, but all was well in the islands. We had a series we wanted to do at Knights Point State Park but the park was closed on Monday. Closed??? Anyway, we didn’t assume that the trails might be open even if the park wasn’t and headed on our way. We had a couple others but they were off of our beaten path so skipped them. Before we knew it we were back in NY! My sister had a HH she wanted to drop in VT and it didn’t work out really well. So I had a few boxes to do in the northernmost reaches of the state near lovely Lake Champlain…and we had much better luck with those.

We stopped to do highly recommended “Lake Alice in Wonderland” series. It is a lovely spot for a walk and bird watching. We saw lots of little butterflies, wooly caterpillars, and naturally, lots of Canada Geese and seagulls. In fact, we were very impressed with the numbers of birds flocking together in this area. The geese had to number into the several hundreds and the seagulls…I can only guess and at least that, maybe more. Their squawking could be heard from the parking area and it was just a wonderful awesome sight. It reminded me of all the animal shows that show that migrating birds flocking together in Africa…just birds wherever you look and when they took off, it was like a swarm of insects hitting the air.

We found all the boxes here, despite a little trepidation with a small garter snake. Lovely stamps, wonderful hike and great wildlife make Wyvern a happy boxer.

Also found “Welcome to NY” and “Point Au Roche Amphitheatre”…both also well done. We were the first to find the Amphitheatre and were happy with that. Saw where “Sailing on Lake Champlain” was but too many people eating in their cars to score the box so we saved it for another trip to Plattsburgh.

That was the last box. It seemed unusual to us that the most boxes we found successfully were in NY. Apparently, we don’t have to leave the state to get good letterboxes and wonderful experiences. So that sums up our Adventure…but this inspires me to write more articles for this blog so stay tuned for more stuff from our trip.


  1. Nice article, so sad about the the unlucky boxes. I have to say, when i'm in a new place I tend to "panic", or rush around, nervous about the area, who is watching, and getting careless when trying to go to fast. I miss little things, maybe this happened to you too. Point Au Roche huh? Knights Point Park? hmmm, those sound interesting.

  2. I get like that, too, and there was some of that. But I had been warned that alot of those Park boxes were I think that's why I didn't devote too much time to really search for them. Those that weren't in an "exposed" spot, I tried to check carefully. I'm usually not this bad and finding letterboxes...but then I'm not much of an urban boxer!