Geochaching is fun, but if you want to ditch the GPS, letterboxing is the way to go.
One of the perks of writing for OFC is we keep discovering new and exciting things to do. To wit, letterboxing. While surfing the web for nuggets of geochache nirvana we stumbled upon letterboxing, sort of a second cousin to the geocache movement.
Imagine geocaching but replace the annoyance of using a gps while your kids ask you what “F%$&ing 3G!” means, with a list of treasure hunt-esque instructions (think: walk 20 paces north and look for the big ‘W’). You can print out the instructions or just email them to your smart phone for in-the-field reference. The idea is to collect unique stamps in your log book from each letterbox and to bring a stamp of your own to leave your mark (and comments about the hunt) in the letterbox log book.
Photo Credit: Connie Weiss
What you need to get started
Not much, go to letterboxing.org and find a few letterboxes you like. We copied and pasted the directions for a few into an email addressed to ourselves, and then used that email as we tramped around Marblehead looking for the boxes. Grab a small notepad for each kid and if you have a stamp or two in your rainy day project box, bring that as well. If you have one, you may want to bring an ink pad in case the one in the box is missing or dry. Also, why not make a day of it and pack some snacks/lunch?
If you aren’t familiar with Marblehad, the Neck is a small island off its eastern coastline reached by a short bridge. Just before you head onto the bridge, take notice of Devereux Beach on your right. It’s a great beach with free parking this time of year and it has the added bonus of a playground. If the kids still have some energy left in them after a day of letterboxing, this might be just the place to let them burn off the rest of it before the drive home.Your first stop is at the Chandler Hovey Park and Light Tower. Park(free) in the lot and follow the instructions until you hit pay dirt. With a little luck, you’re kid(s) will find the tupperware box, and the scene will unfold to look something like this:
Photo Credit: Chris Crandall
Tip: This park is right on the ocean and if you happen to visit during the spring or fall, be prepared for some blustery weather. Even if you think it’s plenty warm, pack some sweaters or fleece so the little ones can cover up if they get cold.
Photo Credit: Chris Crandall
Letterbox #2 – Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Believe it or not, even on the tiny, exclusive chunk of land that is Marblehead Neck, where the houses’ garages give our houses square footage envy, they’ve managed to preserve a sizable trail system inland that provides a completely different experience from the rugged shoreline you will encounter at the light tower. Grab the instructions for this letterbox and drive the 1/2 mile to the trailhead. If you are like us, you’ll follow the instructions to the pond pictured above, walk up and past it a few times, scratch your head, re-read the instructions more times than you need to, look for the rock with the plaque on it, and eventually realize…it ain’t there no more. Oh well. What can you do? Sometimes these things work out, other times they don’t. But guess what? We were on a hiking trail, in our second outdoor spot of the day, as a family. So we challenged the kids, can you hike the entire loop? We hiked around the loop, found some great marshy bridge walks…
sat down, shared some apples, used the sun and a magnifying glass to burn a leaf(bad parenting?), listened to the birds, and watched in amazement as a group(flock? formation?murder?) of dragon flies descended upon our picnic. It was a tremendous moment. We couldn’t get over how cool it was to have these iridescent insects all around us…it was quite a moment, and it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t failed to find the letterbox.
In truth, it wasn’t a great a moment for all of us. Our eldest isn’t all that fond of bugs these days (we’re working on it). But some day, she’ll look back on that experience and smile….Good talk Rus.
The point is, even if your forray outside doesn’t go exactly according to plan, there are still opportunities to enjoy the experience of being outside with your family. And showing them you can roll with the letdowns and still have a blast anyway is probably the best lesson they’ll learn all weekend. Assuming, of course, they aren’t preoccupied with fleeing the dragonfly infested marsh you brought them to.