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.