letterbox1By Alicia Dziak

ASP recently held its annual GeoBash event, where people from all over gathered to geocache, an activity that involves locating hidden boxes using GPS coordinates.

Similar to geocaching, but less high tech, is letterboxing. Letterboxing uses the same idea of searching for secret boxes, but instead of using a GPS to find the boxes, one prints out clues from websites. Some clues are easy to follow (find the tree stump on your left and look inside) while others might be vague (look for the area in the woods where two branches intertwine), but in any case, the journey and never knowing what you’ll find at the end are the fun parts.

With miles of hiking trails, and such a variety of terrain, ASP is a perfect place to conceal and find letterboxes. With a little preparation, you can have an outdoor activity right at your fingertips and get some exercise in the process.

Really, the only things you need besides the printed clues are a small notebook, a pen or marker and a stamp with ink.

When you arrive at the box and open it, there will be a notebook inside, usually sealed inside a plastic bag to protect it from the elements. The notebook contains the names of all the people who have found this particular box. Sign your name (or use your stamp) and include the date. It’s fun looking through the notebook to see how many others have found this same box and how long it’s been around. It’s amazing to see that some of these boxes have remained unharmed and intact for years.

The box will also include a stamp, some store bought and some handmade out of rubber. Stamp your own notebook so you have a record of the letterboxes you’ve found. It’s nice to include the date so you can remember when you were there.

In addition to the notebook, most letterboxes contain a variety of small trinkets ranging from small toys to Mardi Gras beads to quarters. The idea is that you put something into the box and then take something out as a souvenir.

When you’re done writing in the letterbox notebook and stamping your own notebook, be sure to package everything up just the way you found it and put it back in exactly the same spot so that other letterboxers can find it.

There are various web sites out there to receive your letterboxing clues, and you can search them by city, state, or specific key words. Here is a sampling of letterboxes found in ASP, from www.letterboxing.org:

Beehunter Stingers

Go to the Red House side of Allegany State Park. Across the street from Red House Lake is the start of the Beehunter hiking trail. The entrance is by a large tree that was struck by lightning. Take the trail up the hill about 1/4 mile. You will pass some fallen trees and low-lying lines crossing over top of you (as if a storm blew through this one section and knocked down everything in its path). When the trail starts to turn left at the top of the hill, look to a couple fallen trees on the left of the trail. Inside the trunk of the tree, you will find your prize.

Celtic Crossing Reprise

Drive until you find the entrance to Diehl Camp and Cabins. Park near the entrance. Begin your hike up the trail passing an apple tree, several tent sites and cabins. Soon you will reach the Diehl Bathhouse. Now continue on the trail until you find a creek crossing. When you reach the other side of the bridge, you will see a few trees off to the left and before you reach the first cabin. In the exposed roots of a tree and behind a flat rock that leans against the tree, you will find a Celtic surprise waiting for you. Please replace all items in their zipped bags and close the container tightly. And don’t forget to place it back under the roots and replace the rock.

Rosealina the Rose Sister

Go to the Anderson Trail Cabin section. Near #6 cabin there is a bathroom. Go to the left of the bathroom. There is an “American Gas tank” behind the bathroom, stand to the left of the tank. Directly in front is a tree. Walk to the tree and stand to the right. In front of you is a three-trunked tree. Walk to the tree, stand in front of the tree and look to the right. There are two groups of pine trees right near each other, go to the group on the right. Stand in the middle of the group of trees (and under the trees). Face the three-trunked tree, look to your right at the roots of a fallen trees and look around there.

Letterboxing is a fun activity that can last however long you choose, and it’s a great way to explore the park while spending time with family and friends. To print out your clues and get started, visit www.letterboxing.org, www.atlasquest.com or search “letterboxing” online.