Friday, November 6, 2009

Letterbox Planting at Great Bear Springs

Richard Drosse, member of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council and coordinator for Friends of Great Bear, contacted me after reading my previous letterboxing blog. He asked me to help him place a letterbox at Great Bear Springs in Fulton. Great Bear is a trail system in Oswego County made up of over 450 acres along the east side of the Oswego River; owned in part by the City of Fulton and the Town of Volney. (To learn more about Great Bear and see some gorgeous photos, read Kelly’s blog here)

I was honored and excited to help hide a letterbox! I met up with Richard and his wife, Naneen, early last week. It was a misty fall day but the trails were gorgeous nonetheless; blanketed with bright yellow and orange leaves.

You can get the clues on the national letterboxing website,, or you can get them directly from this post:

Great Bear Springs Information
Great Bear Springs is a NON-MOTORIZED multi-use recreational area located aprox. 3.6 miles south of Fulton, NY on the west side of Rt. 57 and the intersection of Hawthorn Rd. Great Bear features a network of nature trails connecting with the old Oswego River Canal Towpath. Great Bear Springs is comprised of over 450 acres.

A map of Great Bear is necessary to follow the clues. Information and a printable map can be found on the Great Bear pages located here: Great Bear Map . To contact, e-mail

The Legend of Great Bear
According to Native American Legend, a young brave, some say the father of Hiawatha, was attacked here by a large bear. Whether the brave was attacked while drinking from the springs or drank from the springs in thirst from his exhausting struggle, upon vanquishing the bear, the brave named the springs “Mishemokwa”, meaning great bear, in honor of his victory. The springs have been called “Great Bear” ever since.

Facts and History of Great Bear Springs
Great Bear Springs has been a source of spring water for over 150 years and became the primary source of water for the City of Fulton in the 1970’s. As early as 1885, several companies derived water from the Great Bear Springs for commercial purposes. Fulton Water Works Company (1885), Great Bear spring company (1888) bottled water from the springs for distribution throughout the northeast and Pure Water Supply Company (1890) distributed bottle water in Syracuse. Several ruins of former wells and pump houses can be seen in the southwest quadrant of the property. The name Great Bear brand still exists today, owned by Nestle, but the water is not drawn from Great Bear Springs property.

The property also contains the historical Hinmansville Lock #2 and old towpath that was part of the original Oswego River Canal.

Besides producing spring water, Great Bear was a working farm with orchards. In 1930 the Civilian Conservation Corps planted red pine acreages. After the farm was sold, in the late 1970’s, Boy Scouts and civil service work crews made trails, built lean-tos, and bridges, which were not kept up and went into ruin. Friends of Great Bear is a group formed in 2007, at the invitation of the Town of Volney and the City of Fulton to help maintain their recreational properties. Friends has also joined with the NYS Canal Corporation’s Adopt A Trail Organization and has partnered with an adjacent landowner acting as land stewards for the combined Great Bear Springs properties. Since 2007, Friends has cleared and marked over 6 miles of trails and built 11 new bridges.


  1. Make no mistake, Yellow is the one to take.
  2. Leave the quarry to your right, then quick up hill and down with all your might.
  3. Over the bridge, up we go, make sure you pass blue, don’t you go.
  4. Continue on through Red Pine wood, this is where it does get good.
  5. You’re on track when you pass the rubble. Not much further, it’s no trouble.
  6. Rocks will pass under your shoes. Stop, you’ve crossed over, final clues.
  7. Try about 10 paces west, three sisters and big brother, stand tall, at their best.
  8. Turn your back to them and look below. Stones lay about, above the stream that may flow.
  9. The treasure is there, find it now, but go with care.
  10. If you come to Orange, no, no, no. Turn around and back you go.

If you search for this letterbox, please leave a comment and let me know!

The entrance to Great Bear has a fence in front of it. Don't let that discourage you. You can still get in through the walking entrance!

Naneen and Richard following the yellow trail to go plant the letterbox.

A beautiful day to hike!

Crossing over one of the many wooden bridges at Great Bear

When you're done finding the letterbox, take a different color trail back and you may stumble upon the historical Hinmansville Lock #2 and old towpath on the Oswego River Canal.

Naneen and Richard - the letterbox planters!

A misty fall day on the Oswego River.

The trails are stunning in the fall!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Pirate’s Life for Me

I always wanted to be a pirate – well, the fake kind that you see in movies and cartoons. They dress way cooler than real pirates and they seem to have a lot more fun, except when they get chased by crocodiles (tick - tock).

When my dreams of becoming a pirate and sailing away with Johnny Depp dwindled, I found a new hobby to fill the pirate void…


Hi my name is Jessie and I’m addicted to letterboxing. I blame my addiction on my coworker Kelly. She introduced me to it while she was learning about geocaching, which is similar but requires a GPS. You can learn more about geocaching in Kelly’s blog.

Letterboxing is a fantastic outdoor adventure that is a mixture of hiking and going on a treasure hunt. You get the clues online at and follow them to find the letterbox. The clues usually tell you where to start, then they tell you to walk a certain number of paces, turn to a certain degree, look for a specific tree, walk up a hill, walk down a hill, look under a rock and take crazy pictures (the last one is just what I do and is not a requirement when letterboxing).

Letterboxes are typically Tupperware containers filled with a log book, pen, rubber stamp and ink pad. You also must carry your own log book, stamp and ink pad. When you find the box, you stamp the provided log book with your personalized stamp and sign your “letterbox” name (a name you create for all of your letterboxing adventures). This is where you can come up with something super cool like “Twilight Lover” or “Harry Potter Fan”. Ok maybe those aren’t super cool but it’s all I could come up with for examples. Don’t judge me.

You can also add the date and where you are from, and maybe a comment or two about the hunt. Then you use the provided stamp and stamp your own log book so you have a record of all the boxes you’ve found.

I have done it a few times now and I’m never turning back! I’ve found letterboxes in Parish, Mexico Point, Derby Hill and the Salmon River Falls. There are many more hidden in Oswego County and I intend to find them all and eventually hide my own!

The kids love it too. If you’re nice, you’ll share and let them find the letterboxes. If you’re me, when the kids get sidetracked and chase frogs around the forest (this happens… trust me), you can use that opportunity to accidentally “stumble” upon the letterbox yourself.

The only thing you ever have to pay for when you letterbox is the log book, stamp, ink pad, and the fast food you inhale beforehand, because you’ve convinced yourself you’ll burn it all off when you walk to find the letterbox.

If I haven’t sold you on letterboxing yet, just check out my photos below!

This is Hunter, my 11-year-old letterboxing partner, finding the second box on our clue sheet. (We couldn't find the first one because someone had probably taken it - or due to our inability to follow directions. This happens from time to time, but don't let it discourage you because there are always more to find!)

Letterbox #3!

My trusty sidekick Gidget waits with bated breath to see what the third stamp looks like!

We finished the adventure in Parish and headed to Mexico Point to find the Spy Island letterbox. Hunter stopped and asked for directions.

We finally found this tricky letterbox, and then found time to pose for pictures.

When you letterbox, you discover beautiful locations, such as this beach at Mexico Point. This sunset was so unique with the bright stripe across the sky.

Letterboxing day 2 at Derby Hill Bird Observatory! Ashleigh brought her friend Lexi to join us.

Ashleigh found the first "micro" box. When someone hides more than one box at a location, they will often hide smaller boxes that only have a stamp in it. This person got creative and made their box camoflauge!

Lexi and Hunter stamp their log books.

Hiking over the wooden bridge at Derby Hill to find the next letterbox.

Lifting this big rock proved to be quite a challenge for our two young sleuths.

My huge muscles were needed for assistance.

They were SO close to finding the next box but the frogs nearby quickly distracted them (perhaps a ploy created by the hiders of the letterbox... we'll never know). I took it upon myself to finish the hunt. Adults 2, Kids 0.

Hunter found letterbox #3!

This letterbox had a log book in it. Ashleigh thought it would be fun to read EVERY SINGLE page. Although I admit, it was neat to see people were from as far away as Texas and Georgia, it still took a LONG time to read every single page, so long that...

...Hunter and Lexi had time to take a nap.

We had one letterbox to go and Lexi was the only one who hadn't found one yet. Would she find the last one? Or would Hunter beat her to it?

Lexi found it! A successful adventure for all of us!

Our most recent letterboxing trip was at the Salmon River Falls. It was the perfect fall day!

The clues led us along the path to the falls for some great photo opportunities.

Hunter led the way, determined to be the first one to the box.

And she was!

My friend Mel joined us for this trip. She was just as excited as we were!

Hunter stamping her log book.

"Cowgirl10" and "Top Model" (and Gidget too!)

We couldn't leave without one great photo in front of the falls!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Project Healing Waters Comes to the Salmon River

SSG Shaun Outwater holds a 17-lb. king salmon he caught during the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing weekend on the Salmon River. Guide Norm Normandin stands behind him. Outwater released the salmon. (Photo by fellow blogger Spider Rybaak.)

Something very special took place on September 19 and 20 on the Salmon River. Something involving the beauty of a river, the excitement and thrill of fighting a trout or salmon, and the peacefulness and joy it brings to a wounded veteran. 15 wounded soldiers and veterans lined up the Salmon River all thanks to an amazing non-profit organization called Project Healing Waters.

Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings.

It was a beautiful mid-September weekend and for the second year in a row, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery donated the use of their private access on the Salmon River. Last year the group came in early October, so they were catching Salmon, while this year the run was mostly browns.

I was fortunate enough to attend this event both years. I arrived taking photos for Fred Kuepper, PHW Oswego County and Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator, but I left with a knowledge that something special happened in each veteran’s life. Each veteran or wounded soldier was paired up with guide to show them how to cast and fight the fish. Not one vet was lacking a guide because so many generously volunteered their time. The community also stepped up and donated supplies and food for the entire weekend. For exact details on the event, read the official news release here.

I could go on and on about the impact of such an amazing program, about the friendships that are made and about the good time that is had, but instead I will leave you with some photos that tell the story of Project Healing Waters on the Salmon River.