Volunteer Retreat 2003
As part of the Girl Scout Council of Greater Long Beach's 2003 Volunteer Retreat at Skyland Ranch (their mountain property), an event requiring people to get up and wander about the place had to be found. In previous years, a camp-wide scavenger hunt and an orienteering event were used. This year, it was decided to try letterboxing.
A more thorough introduction to letterboxing can be found at Getting Started, but briefly, after having made a personal stamp, and carrying paper, paper towels, an ink pad, and written clues, one sneaks about the landscape searching for letterboxes. Such a box contains a stamp, a small notebook for "stamping in" at that box, and some paper towel for cleaning the stamp.
When (IF!) the box is found, one stamps one's own stamp into the book in the letterbox, and stamps the letterbox stamp onto one's own paper or book. The stamps are cleaned of ink, and replaced, taking care to hide the letterbox at least as carefully as it was when you found it. During all this, one must be careful not to be observed -- waving the letterbox in the air and screaming "I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT!" is distinctly bad form. (Can't let the Muggles know what you're doing!)
If this sounds intriguing, a more thorough description and details (including lists of letterbox locations in places other than Skyland Ranch) can be found at the Letterboxing - North America web site.
In order to prepare the "letterboxes", stamps had to be carved. In all, 9 were created and placed in letterboxes.
The boxes themselves were peanut butter jars, thoroughly washed and soaked to remove odors.
Since they were placed on Friday afternoon for a Saturday event, we didn't have time to prepare copies of the clues (we didn't know exactly where the boxes would be placed!) The clues were written on sheets of paper, and taped to the walls for the participants to copy. We suggested they go out in teams, so they each didn't have to copy all of them.
The boxes were all left in place, but the ink pads were taken, since the ink would freeze in the winter and dry up quickly in the summer.
Volunteer Retreat 2004
The 2003 event was so much fun, we decided to do it again! Seven new stamps were added, for a total of sixteen, and when we left, we left the inkpads in the letterboxes. No guarantees here -- you mght still want to bring your own ink pads and paper towels -- but your troop should have a lot of fun if you try this.
Using the Boxes with Your Troop
You'll need to bring supplies for making stamps, some sort of paper to record the stamps you find, and paper towels. Depending on their age level, plan on taking your troop around in groups. You'll also need the clues to the nine letterboxes, which are listed below and which can be downloaded as a Word document and in Adobe Acrobat format. They're divided into four groups:
Letterboxes near Duncan Lodge
Letterboxes north of (toward the flagpole and downhill from) Duncan Lodge
- "Skyland, O Skyland" Clue - Walk around the outside wall of the Lodge until you find the stone marking the "Country Livin'" Time Capsule. Or at least it once did -- the paint's faded! It's a square paving stone between "Dog Face rock" and the Lodge Chimney. Face the chimney. About 20 feet to your left, there's a low patch of evergreen. Your goal is hidden in there.
Letterboxes toward Wishhaven
- "Feelin' Crafty?" Clue - "Crafty Corners" is the old craft lodge and is the solitary building that can be seen below you to your right from the Duncan Lodge flagpole. Go to the door you can see from the Lodge. Behind you is a strange-looking group of moss-covered rocks. Looking at them, your goal is under the left edge of the largest, mossiest rock.
- "Container of Sweetness" Clue - Walk down the road going past the Director's Cabin ("Wooney Hollow") 'til you come to the sign that says "Sugar Bowl". Note the large boulder with the lid. Your goal is behind the Sugar Bowl, and up against it.
- "Starry Nights" Clue - From the Sugar Bowl sign, take the unmarked road heading east. This eventually goes to Skyloft, the old Science/Nature Study area. As you walk into the area, you'll see two pairs of two logs mounted on concrete structures. These used to support cantilevered roofs (see the painting on the wall of Duncan Lodge). Your goal is in the manzanita bush next to the south (right) "cannon" of the first pair you come to.
- "Prim" Clue - Far from being "prim and proper" young ladies, campers in "Prim" (short for the primitive camping unit) had only those camping facilities they could lash together themselves. (This was a real incentive to master those skills quickly!) Go past the OLD archery field and continue down the road to the Prim unit. As you travel down the road, you will pass through some tall brush, and then enter a meadow with trees - this is the old Primitive Unit. Follow the road and look for a wooden post to the left. Look to the nearby tree for your goal.
Letterboxes near Wishhaven
- "Hide-Away" Clue - Enter Hide-Away from the road, not the base of the unit, and go right on the trail past the piney. Look for the "Lounge Chair" rock formation on the right. (Is a lizard sunning itself on the rock among the moss? Must be a "lounge lizard"!) Your goal is in the base of the "V" tree.
- "Bonkey" Clue - Take the road up past the infirmary toward Wishhaven. (As long as you're walking, not driving, you won't be going the "wrong" way!) You'll see a sign on your left that says "Hideaway" and "Pioneer". About 65 feet past this sign, there's an unmarked road on your left. (If you come to the "One Way" sign, you've gone too far.) The remains of an old, wooden corral will be found on your left if you proceed up this road. Once you find the remains, enter the corral. Walk to the base of the large pine. Your goal is at the base of the corner post with metal on it. While you're there, note the place where Bonkey chewed the wooden boards that made the walls of his corral. Bonkey himself is shown in the painting of Skyland on the wall of Duncan Lodge.
- "The Meeting Place" Clue - Walk up the road to Bonkey's Corral (see the "Bonkey" Clue) until it turns right and you come to a large open area that looks up toward the water tanks and Timber Peak. Go to the pine tree on the other side of the concrete fire pit in the center of the old Amphitheatre. Your goal is hidden next to the large nearby stump.
- "Drink 'Til You Gurgle" Clue - A basic rule for maintaining health and comfort in the mountains is to drink enough water - and then drink some more! In other words, "Drink 'til you gurgle!" Proceed up the hill to where the camp's water is stored. Your goal is at the circular hatch at an even-numbered container.
- "Little John Squared" Clue - Take the road to the right at the bottom of the water tank hill and enter Sherwood Forest, the old CIT Unit. One of the denizens of Sherwood Forest was of course Little John. Look for where water was heated for his "little john". (Little John's little john - that's "little john" squared, isn't it?) Anyway, that's the location of your goal.
- "Timber Peak Trail" - Walk up the Timber Peak Trail (don't panic -- we won't take you all the way to the top -- yet! This box is for the trail, not Timber Peak itself) to the first large rock in the middle of the trail. (Okay -- slightly to the right of center for you nitpickers!) In front of the rock is a log placed as a diversion dam. Your goal is in the bush to your right.
- The "I Peaked" Clue - Of course, if you choose to keep going& This is it. No humor. Climb the rest of the way up Timber Peak, following in the footsteps of thousands of Girl Scouts before you. Just before you step on the stepping rock up to the main rock, you will find your goal. Didn't put it at the top, since some people - me, for instance - are afraid to go on top of the final rock that holds the cross.
- "Sacajawea" - Behind Wishhaven Lodge there is an ongoing project to memorialize the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (This stamp commemorates Sacajawea, their interpreter.) When the Memorial is completed, you could paddle yourself down a river, so look to where the water line would be to find your goal.
- "Ribbet R. I. P." Clue - In years past, water flowed out of springs behind Cabin 5. These springs fed a pond complete with frogs. No longer. This water now ends up in the camp's water supply. From the back of Cabin 5, go out straight for 15 paces, then turn and head straight up the hill. Here you'll find a box to meter the flow to the water tanks. Your goal is inside.
- Pineys are Our Friends - (WARNING! This is the most difficult stamp to find.) Heading out of the back door of Wishhaven Lodge (the side without the large sliding glass doors), you will take the old access road that heads down the hill. Follow this road until you hit the remains of a fire ring (and maybe some piled up blocks from an old stove) next to several large pines. This was "Lofty Pines". From the center of the fire ring, the access road continues up a small rise to your right (290°, if you have a compass and can use it). Go in this direction for 75 feet. Your stamp is hidden inside the piney.
- "Acorn Smashing" Clue - From the Emergency Exit, follow the road up hill toward Wishhaven. You will see a large "Class A" ("you can't miss me") trail on your right. Head over the bridge and follow this trail to the large rock with holes. These metate holes were used to mash acorns. If you stand at the rock and look downhill, you will notice a large stump to your right. (18° if you have a compass.) This is where you'll find your goal.