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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cold Harbor Cattails

Stamp carved by The Merry Pranksters

Hike length: short route = 1 mile; long route = 4.6 miles
Terrain: mostly flat & easy; part of long route trail has lots of roots & rocks, and some narrow boardwalks
Clues: Easy (hopefully)
Kids: great hike for kids (short route)
Hitchhikers: No room in box
Pets: Allowed on leash

Please take your own markers or ink pad (there is no ink in the box).

NOTE: This area can be very muddy with a lot of rain, and actually flooded with a whole lot of rain. There are plans for new boardwalks & bridge extensions & improvements—hopefully that will happen soon!

Northborough Trail Maps: choose Carney Park/Cold Harbor Trails

Cold Harbor Brook

For more information about Cold Harbor Brook, including a map of the brook, a pictorial tour, historical information, and water testing results for 2007, visit: Assabet River StreamWatch

One historical tidbit I enjoyed from that site related the "traditional account" of how Cold Harbor got it's name:

"Cold Harbour Meadow, in the western part of the town, so called from the circumstance of a traveler, having lost his way, being compelled to remain through a cold winter's night in a stack of hay in that place, and on the following morning, having made his way through the wilderness to the habitations of man, and being asked where he lodged during the night, replied, 'In Cold Harbour!'


This box is planted along the northern-most part of the Cold Harbor Trail. The trailhead for just this section is at the corner of Cherry Street and West Street, Northborough MA (you can just cut-n-paste that into Google Maps or whichever map site you prefer). If you wish to park at this trailhead, please park on West Street (not Cherry), and just pull onto the shoulder. The hike from this access point is 0.5 miles out & back, for a total distance of 1 mile. It is an easy, flat walk

If you are up for a longer hike, however, I suggest that you choose to begin your journey at the main trailhead at Carney Park, and pick up Mim’s “Winter Dawn” letterbox along the way. Carney Park is at the intersection of West Main Street and Davis Street, Northborough MA (again, cut-n-paste). The hike from this access point is 2.3 miles out and back, for a total of 4.6 miles of pleasant, interesting, and easy walking. The access road is directly across from Davis Street, and is a gravel road that climbs a small hill. This access road is on the WEST side of the Carney Park sign (as opposed to entering the parking lot for the commercial building on the East side of the sign), and is just East of the Agway (big rooster—you can’t miss it—until Agway closes, which it is rumored is pending). At the end of the gravel road is a parking area & the trailhead kiosk. Follow the trail along the dam, through the mini-woods, across the field, along a second dam, through the woods, and across the next field on the boardwalks. This section ends at a road (Cherry Street). Turn RIGHT onto Cherry Street—a small, minimally trafficked country road—and walk 0.2 miles until you reach the intersection with West Street. The trailhead is right ahead of you.


Follow the trail to the pontoon bridge (very cool when there is enough water for it to be floating). It is deep at one point in this bridge, so monitor young children appropriately. Notice all the beaver activity! Cross this floating bridge and turn right onto the trail as it runs alongside the brook. After walking for a bit, notice the VERY large 3 trunked pine tree abutting the trail on the right (you can’t miss it). Continue on the trail until you reach another bridge (this one does NOT float). You have a beautiful view of the wetlands here, stunning in any season (cattails are in their glory now).

Walk to the end of the bridge, step down, and stop. Sight in front of you the first dead, stripped-of-bark tree abutting the trail on the left. From the edge of the bridge, count your steps (average adult-sized steps) as you walk to that tree. Let’s call this number “NN.” You can continue a bit further from here, staying to the left at the first fork. The trail will empty into the back yards of some homes & travel along the property line to Church Street. You needn’t go that far, though, since you actually need to…

Turn around and return to that VERY large 3 trunked tree. From this tree, take NN steps down the path (you are headed in the direction of the pontoon bridge). Stop. Now look to “3NN” degrees (note: this is three-hundred and NN). There should be 2 pine trees flanking a smaller (?maple) tree. Leaning against the back-side of one of those pine trees is a hollowed-out log with the Cold Harbor Cattails. You may want to return to the stable bridge & sit there, go to the bench at the pontoon bridge, or find a cozy spot on the pine needles to stamp in.

After stamping in, please be sure the log is securely leaning against the pine, and the box is well hidden within. Then back-track to your car.

Please let me know if you see any problems with the trail itself (e.g., trees fallen over path, weeds growing over trail, etc.) so I can get it cleaned up. Thanks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Yellow Springs Descendants’ Art Series: ZD & SD

Glen Helen Nature Preserve
405/505 Corry Street
Yellow Springs, OH

Clues: Easy

Terrain: easy to moderate. Some hills, cliff-side trails, and stepping-stone brook crossing (NOT the one on the trail map; don’t get disoriented).

Time and distance: Didn’t measure these (oops), but 4 & 5 year-olds managed it well.

What you need: bring markers/ink and a pen; boxes have only stamp & log.

You will not need to leave the main trail more than a few steps. NO BUSHWACKING is needed to retrieve these boxes. Walk softly (read the sign at the Glen entrance).

Glen Helen has a rich and interesting history, of which only small remnants can still be seen now that the area has been allowed to return to it’s natural state. We provide for you a VERY minimal outline of this history, necessarily leaving out SO MUCH great information. Caveat provided, here it is:

Identifiable human history was dated to 1000 BC when the remains of Neolithic peoples were identified in calcium found in the glen. Evidence of the Hopewell Indians, a mound-building culture from 500 BC, is still evident in a burial mound left behind, from which human skeletons and contemporary artifacts were excavated in 1953.

The well-known Bullskin Trace Indian trail--which ran from the Ohio River to Lake Erie—passed by the Yellow Spring. The Shawnee Indians had a village a few miles south of the spring, and they believed that the water of the Yellow Spring was healthful. Tecumseh, a leader of the Shawnee, was born in this village, and it is believed that he drank from the spring.

Then came the white settlers. Lewis Davis bought the land around the spring in 1803, and shortly after opened a tavern near the spring, advertising the “medicinal qualities” of the spring water (note the upgrade from “healthful”). The land passed through the hands of several owners, who revamped and embellished the original tavern to create a hotel. A stone dam was built just below the spring, creating a pond for swimming, boating, and skating.

In it’s heyday as the “Second Neff House” in the 1870’s, the once-tavern had become a thriving spa resort, centered around the Yellow Spring. A hotel had been built that was 4-1/2 stories high and had a 3-story high balcony around two sides. It had 246 rooms (including suites), 11 private parlors, a main parlor (75 x 45 feet) and a dining room (156 x 45 feet). The resort also had a boathouse, six bowling alleys, a stable with 125 stalls, a dairy, a garden, an orchard, a bandstand, and it’s own fire department. The hotel could expect 18 trainloads of visitors on a summer Sunday, and it was not unusual for 5,000 people to be enjoying the glen at one time! Lots of stuff happened, but we’ll leave the rest of the history now to get on with the hunt.

There are several plaques in Glen Helen with interesting info. Take the time to read.

YS Descendant’s Art: ZD, age 5

Park at the Trailside museum

Enter the glen by descending the large staircase behind the Trailside Museum. After crossing a bridge, you reach a fork in the road...Go to the right but don't cross the river.

Up, up up...be careful for this stretch of the walk—keep small children under close supervision because the path is very close to the cliff.

You are looking for a gateway in a fallen tree...be sure to pick the right way. Down, down, down…as you walk along Birch Creek, you are looking for another gateway in a tree. When you reach this gateway, stop, and turn around. Take 10 steps back on the trail from whence you came. To the left is a break in a small fallen tree. This path starts you on your way to a tree near the river’s edge. In the base of this tree is ZD’s art. Be discreet & rehide well.

YS Descendant’s Art: SD, age 4

Continue ahead on the path until you see a large waterfall (The “Cascades”) just past a few smaller ones. The Cascades is reported to have been the “favorite trysting place” for Shawnee lovers. Continue straight for a little diversion off the main path to sit on the bench and enjoy the falls. After resting here, return to the main path, and head to the right up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, take the trail that moves away from the river.

Notice Helen’s stone at the base of a massive white oak…a fitting tribute to the namesake of this park.

Further on, notice the mound on the left of the trail. This, we (the LB planters) think, is the old Hopewell Indian burial mound we mentioned in the history above. The whites built a bandstand on the mound during the spa days.

Stop at the small shelter and learn about the old oak tree.

Continue on to the Yellow Spring (you’ll know it when you see it). Take a drink of the medicinal waters to cure your ills…what does it taste like to you? (When we were here planting these letterboxes, there were two people filling big jugs of the water to take home. Yummy!)

As you leave there is a small cave on your right. Beware, for we are told that bones may lie in there.

As you circle down the path, you are looking for a large sycamore V. Stand at this tree. Notice the dam on the right. Ponder the history…

Back to the hunt. Standing at the V-tree, take 14 steps and look to the rocks on your left. Within these rocks lies SD’s art. Look deep inside for a hiding spot. Don’t worry…this is not the place of bones. Again, please be discrete & rehide well.

To return to your car, take the bridge across the Yellow Springs Creek. Be careful, because one of the stepping stones is loose. Notice the pieces of “old” stone dam, which was washed away in a flood, and the structure of the “new” concrete dam, that leaked badly and couldn’t be repaired. Note that the pond that was created by the dam for recreational purposes later got polluted and filled with silt, and could not longer be used for swimming & boating. It was still used for ice-skating for a while, but, well, then structural and financial issues got in the way & the pond was no more.

Take the path to the right up the hill, following this path as it turns to the left & then summits the hill. Stay straight past the fallen trees. You’ll go through another gateway in a tree. At a trail intersection, continue straight. Another tree gate, then pass to the left of the Glen Helen building. Continue on to the bird blind, and take a rest here to learn about birds and try to spot some. Continuing on along this path will return you to the Trailside museum.

We highly encourage you to explore more of this beautiful land. There are 25 miles of hiking trails in the Glen.

Please let us know about your experience here, and how the boxes are doing. Clue & history suggestions are welcome.

NOTE: Before you set out you must read and agree to the Waiver of Responsibility and Disclaimer.

In Perpetuity Letterbox

Glen had been pining for Helen for a long time. Helen had always enjoyed the companionship of Glen, but she chose to leave him for another mann. On her journey, she was struck by doubt, torn between the two. Disinterested in celebrating, she turned her back on the Christmas trees. Confused, broken, hollow—trapped between two vibrant beings—she remained, in perpetuity.

NOTE: Before you set out you must read and agree to the Waiver of Responsibility and Disclaimer.

Children’s Memorial

Distance: A minimum of 2.3 miles, you may choose a longer hike
Terrain: Moderate at times (hilly)
Time: You can probably complete the whole thing in about 1-1/2 hours, if you are hustling. I encourage you to plan for 2-3 hours, however, so you can enjoy the location of your hike.

The “Children’s Memorial” letterbox was inspired by the loss of two children in my life. My first baby, Haylee Theresa, was stillborn in 1999. My best friend lost her first baby, Beck Postel, in December 2006, three days after he was prematurely born. The helplessness and despair you feel in the midst of such tragedies is immeasurable. You want to DO something to soothe your soul a bit, and the souls of the others touched by this grief. Some soothing comes from sharing sorrow with others; there is comfort in that. Some soothing also comes from taking stock of life’s blessings. Although difficult to deal with, the sorrow we feel in the face of such a devastating loss is the reflection of something beautiful. Ironically, that which provides us with our greatest joy, which inspires and elevates us to become better than we otherwise would be, is also the source of our greatest sorrow. The greater the love, the greater the grief. We can be grateful that we have a love that can produce this kind of grief. How meaningless our lives would be without it.

This box is my way, right now, to soothe my soul a bit by memorializing my lost babies and all children who have died. It’s also a celebration of our capacity to love, in all its exhilaration and recklessness. I’ve chosen a location for the letterbox that should be conducive to a relaxed and unhurried opportunity for reflection.

The idea to plant a box like this came from Spastic Reader’s “Father of the Bride Letterbox” in Framingham, MA. It’s a lovely tribute to her father, and how amazing that so many people who never knew him in life, stop by now to say hello. Say hi to Haylee & Beck for me, will you?


This is a two-part letterbox. Part 1 is a drive-by; Part 2 is a hike. For Part 1, you need to visit the “Children’s Memorial” in Northborough, MA. Here you will find out where your “starting point” is for Part 2, which is also in Northborough. Part 2 is about a 10 minute drive from Part 1, and the “starting point” is NOT the trailhead.

There are two options in Part 1 to get the needed information. Option 1: Decrypt words from the inscription on the memorial (see below). This option is helpful if you cannot find the LB in Option 2, if the muggles are swarming, or if there are no maps left in the box. Option 2: Find the LB in the woods behind the memorial; there are maps in there that will reveal the starting point. The trailhead kiosk has a map, and there is almost always a pile of maps there to take along (it is regularly re-stocked). Maps for all Northborough trails can also be downloaded from the website: http://www.town.northborough.ma.us/ntrails/aboutus.htm

Part 1: Children’s Memorial

The Children’s Memorial is in Assabet Park, which is at the corner of Gale Street and South Street (Rt. 135) in Northborough. From Rt. 20 (coming from either direction), turn East onto Rt. 135 (it’s actually your only option). A block down the road on Rt. 135 you will see a playground on the right. Turn into the road just before this playground (Gale Street), then turn left to get up to the parking lot. The lot is divided into two sections, lower & upper. Park in the upper lot, and start walking toward the playground. You will NOT be walking down the hill. Rather, step over the little fence lining the grass, and the monument is in the corner here at the top of the grassy hill.

NOTE: This is a nice playground for kids aged 3-6.

Option 1: Decryption

For each letter you take off the memorial, you will use an associated math statement to determine the “true” letter. The math statement tells you how far forward or backward in the alphabet you need to go to arrive at the target letter e.g., (A+1 = B); (A+4 = E); (L–2 = J); (T–5 = O).

For example:
Inscription = “a-p-p-l-e”
Math = (+5) (+2) (+5) (-3) (+15)
Solution = “f-r-u-i-t” (a+5=f; p+2=r; p+5=u; l-3=I; e+15=t)

The top of the plaque says, “Children’s Memorial.” Below these words you’ll find a short inscription, printed out in four lines. Write down the first four (4) words on the third (3rd) line. (So you can confirm that you have the correct words, the surrounding text is “...they and…”). Use the following math statements to reveal the starting point for Part 2.

(+4) (+0) (-3) (+2) (-8) (-6) (+4) (-6) (+3) (+12) (+3) (+21) (-9) (-15) (+4)

If you know the place, you can go right there and start the hunt. If you do not know the place, look for the LB described in Option 2, where you can find a map. Or, visit the Northborough Trails Committee website.

Option 2: Hidden Maps

This can be a very busy park, so if you are going to find the letterbox, please be very discreet—it is only about 10-15 feet off the parking lot in the woods.

Stand facing the Children’s Memorial so you can read the inscription. As you look straight over the memorial and into the woods, you will see a tall, thin evergreen tree close to the edge of the parking lot. Just beyond this tree is another evergreen—this one much mightier, with four arms heading upward from its large trunk. The back of this mighty tree is hollow. The letterbox (a water bottle wrapped in camo tape) is hidden in the hollow—reach back and to the left. In the bottle is one copy of the map that is laminated. PLEASE do not take this one! This should always stay in the box, in case the paper versions are depleted & I haven’t re-stocked. If a paper map is there, feel free to take it with you. PLEASE let me know if there are only a couple of paper maps left, so I can restock.

Part 2: The Letterbox

When you reach your destination, there is a place where you will want to pause, you’ll know it when you see it. When you’ve finished your pause, turn around and take the first trail to your right (north). At Y intersection, stay to the LEFT. As you start a noticeable incline, you’ll see a very large boulder off in the woods on your left. Next you’ll come to a 4-way intersection, and you need to go to the RIGHT. As you walk along, you’ll see two “speed bumps” in the path (parallel roots 2-3 feet apart). Continue on and the trail will cross exposed bedrock (flat) that spreads approximately 8 feet. Further along on the trail you’ll see a notable “thing” abutting the trail on the left. Further along still, you’ll see a similar (larger) notable “thing” abutting the trail on the right. As you pass this second thing, stop at the first trail blaze you see.

Look carefully for muggles in both directions of the trail, so nobody sees you heading down to the letterbox site. Also, if there is snow on the ground, please take the time to create distracting footsteps when you finish, to avoid having your steps lead anyone directly to the box.

Go approximately 14 steps at 150 degrees and look down. You’ll see a perfect “bench” on which to stamp in. The “bench” is roughly 20 feet long and 2 feet wide. Go down and stand on the “bench.” Walk to the south end of the “bench” and as you go allow your gaze to look ahead (south) approximately 25 feet or so from the south end of the “bench” (please don’t fall off!) You will see another thing very much like your “bench,” except it wouldn’t be remotely as comfortable to sit upon. Please be very careful as you hop down and approach this new target, because it is quite slippery here with leaves, and probably even more so if wet or snowy.

Approximately half way along the length of your new target is a small tree on the right, with a few rocks sitting between the target and the tree. (These rocks can be used to improve the hide, if need be, and may not be there if they have been used for this purpose by others before you visit.) At the far (south) end of this “pseudo-bench,” on the left (downhill) side, the box rests on the ground below a small ledge & behind some loose rocks.

Return to the comfy “bench” to stamp in. It would require someone to leave the trail and come stand over you to see what you are doing here on this “bench,” so please take your time and enjoy your visit.

In addition to the usual stamp and logbook, we have included a zippered pouch in which we have put some marbles. THIS IS NOT A GEOCACHE. The marbles are meant to be symbolic. If you have someone to memorialize, please feel free to add something small to the pouch (marble, button, bead, stone, etc., but please do not leave food or scented items). If your grief is still burning, please feel free to take something from the pouch (you do NOT need to leave something in its place) to carry with you, so you know that you are not alone, and to remember the beauty and grace of a life filled with love.

When you return the letterbox, please use the utmost care to not be seen, and to hide it well. As you can imagine, this box is very meaningful to us, and it would be unfortunate if it went missing.

As with all of our letterboxes, we encourage feedback so that letterboxers will enjoy the hunts, and not get frustrated by poorly written clues or unintended hazards.

NOTE: Before you set out you must read and agree to the Waiver of Responsibility and Disclaimer.