Monday, October 12, 2009

University of Maine Forest

Columbus Day - October 12, 2009
Back in Maine, Peggy joined Agent S. and OnTheCorner in the hunt for some new letterboxes close to home, at the University of Maine hiking trails in Orono. A beautiful autumn day provided great letterboxing weather and scenery. Today's target was the UMaine Series just planted by AdventureCrafter and Aiphid.

Along the way we stopped so Peggy could find the older boxes on this same trail - some of our first finds & our own plants. First up - The Giving Tree by Mickey at the intersection of Trails 3 and 5. Here we also found a well traveled hitch-hiker called "Jump Start Juice" (may sound familiar to Peggy's family, they are loggged in it!) Actually if we'd properly followed directions for the UMaine Series (or rather if the start of Trail 3 were marked better) we wouldn't have come this way, but it was nice that we did.

Next up on our impromptu stops, Bananas T. Bear. This friendly UMaine mascot was one of my first carves and plants! It is hiding behind the red pole on Trail 3.

Following the trail further we come to a 4 way intersection of trails 7, 8 and 9. Once upon a time searching for A Horse Named Chip we got very lost in the woods on trail 7. We saw lots of wild animals that day, inspiring the planting of "Oh Deer! How did I get here"and "While Lost in the Woods" - both of which Peggy found today!

Here we are at While Lost in the Woods, it hides behind this stump under a suspicious pile of sticks.Now that the boxes we know have been found, it was on to the new ones - Trail 9, here we come! Box #1 - 1865 (that is the year of UMaine's founding) we found without any trouble. Peggy sits on its hiding spot here below.
also she gets a better look from above
Here we had a picnic lunch and then continued on in search of Box 2. The clue said we could take a short cut to bypass part of loop 9, but we first thought this was a bad idea for us - we tend to miss the turn-offs if the trails aren't marked well. After walking part of the very swampy long-cut trail we realized why there was a short cut, so we turned around and took that. Thought we were doing pretty well at following directions ... until we found ourselves back where we'd started at the 7,8,9 intersection! No signs of where we went wrong looking for trail 6. Pictured to the left is a long stretch of trail 9 - yes that is the trail, not a river (supposedly!) - and perhaps why we did not backtrack to figure out what we did wrong. But we did manage to locate Box #3 - Athletics (a much fiercer version of our mascot Bananas than the one I planted).

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bronze Age Footprints

Bronze Age Footprints
The Vanhalinna hill fort in Lieto is one of the 70 reliably known hill forts in Finland. People have lived on the hill since the Bronze Age (1000-500 B.C.) until the 14th century, in the beginning of which the fortress was destroyed by battles.

In the view which opens from the hill can be seen the Oxen Road of Häme, which acted as a trade route from the south-western coast towards the inlands already in the Viking times.

The hill is for example a good place for a picnic on a warm summer day and on a comfortable cycling distance from Turku.
Start your trip from Vanhalinna manor.

Drive from Turku about 5 km to the direction of Hämeenlinna on the road nr. 10 and follow the arrow sign to "Vanhalinnan museo ja linnavuori".

On the top of the hill are some slippery, moss covered rocks, so take good shoes. There are wooden stairs on the way up. They might be slippery during winter time.

Look into the juniper on the second highest place.

Here we are, looking into the Juniper on the second highest place at Vanhalina! Hanna is a natural at this letterboxing stuff - she spotted the canister dangling from a piece of string tied into the branches! (also she knew which bush was juniper, a useful piece of information!) - Lodju-ing success in Finland!!
And this one had a stamp!!! Here we are signing in, and stamping our Finnish letterbox - so exciting! Peggy got a friend for this adventure - Noora's kitty came along. Later in our visit Noora (my most favorite 8 year old) staged a show in which Peggy and Kitty starred - they got married and then were attacked by an evil baby seal.

Letterboxing adventurers at the top of Vanhalina hill-fort - Hanna (Smarty Smurf), Sara (Agent S.) and Coco the Frog (Noora)

The entrance to Vanhalina and inspiration for the stamp carving. Peggy and Agent S.
Peggy and the view from the hill top - scenery in this part of Finland is so many trees and lots of farm land.
Agent S. and Peggy at the top of Vanhalinna on a most excellent and successful Finnish letterboxing adventure!!

Pyhän Katariinan lodju

Tervetuloa! Welcome to Finland!

Here Peggy was introduced to Agent S.'s Finnish friends, Hanna and Noora, and they in turn were introduced to the game of letterboxing!

Our first letterboxing (lodju-ing) adventure took us to a hiking trail (retkeilyreitti) in the town of Kaarina. The trail named Pyhän Katariinan (Saint Catherine's trail) is home to 2 letterbox-geocache hybrids. Here Noora reads us a hiking trail sign - Finnish words are often very long!Hanna leads the way and proves to be an excellent trail finder! The clue for this box is only in Finnish, but roughly translates to "Suffering maiden/ who perhaps died for her beliefs/ and in Lemu one wanders / on paths holy / a small treasure is hidden/ following the path / on the same side as the heart / though nothing is seen / don't go into the swamp / instead look for a pine tree on an island / and a cross / and under a birdbox / the letterbox is hidden.

We walked through lovely woods for some time, eating lingonberries and late blueberries and "Fox bread" (wild clover leaves). Eventually we came to the swamp mentioned in the clue, and we found a bird box - but there was no letterbox by it. We walked through the woods all around the swamp, found 3 bird boxes in total, looked under rocks and leaves and stumps and roots, but there was no sign of any letterboxes. Finally we gave up in frustration. We decided to climb up a rock to get back to the trail, though there was an easier opening we could have gone back to. As she was climbing up the rock however, Hanna happened to spot the letterbox tucked into a crevice by her hand! It was entirely unexpected, but so exciting!!
Here we are opening our first Finnish letterboxing find!! Unfortunately there was no stamp. I suspect that is a result of the geocache/letterbox hybrid - sometimes geocachers don't understand our game and take the stamp.We didn't have anything to leave in the box, but we tried to stamp that little figurine's feet in place of a stamp (it didn't turn out so good). It was still an exciting find for us, and Noora proudly displays the mark of a letterboxer - yellow ink stains on her hands!After finding our first box we moved to another part of the trail, did a little bit of climbing and came to a campfire area where a second letterbox was supposed to be hiding. At the campfire we roasted sausages on sticks over an open fire, a very Finnish thing to do (delicious too!). The letterbox clue said that 7 meters from the fire ring there was a box hiding under a rock. Unfortunately for us, the entire 360 degrees surrounding this area is all rock, and a 7 meter circle is harder to search than it perhaps sounds, especially not knowing how precise the clue was.

Here is a shot of Peggy searching in the rocks.

Poking into rocks is a dangerous business - we did not find any letterboxes there - this is what we found instead!!

Eventually we gave up the search and headed back down the trail. We climbed up this observation tower to get a view of the area. Here's Peggy in Kaarina, Finland.
And all of Peggy's new letterboxing friends - Sara (Agent S.), Hanna (Smarty the Smurf) and Noora (Coco the Frog) -