In the last two weeks, I have found myself mentally preparing for fall, which by mountain living terms means snow and lots of wind. I am repeatedly conflicted when I check the long term forecast for the warning of what I know is inevitable only to find 80 and even 90 degree days predicted. I think at this point I am ready, ready for fall.
In my preparation, I have actually thought about how I will ensure I continue to spend quality time outdoors with my daughters who are 2 and 4. This is important to me. First, I work for the National Wildlife Federation advocating for time outdoors for all kids, so they may all reap the physical and mental health benefits, perform better in school and of course, sleep better at night and I like to practice what preach. Second though, I feel it firsthand the joy in my kids’ hearts and the grit under their nails. They are mountain girls through and through. I wish I could say this time outdoors just comes naturally and we never miss an opportunity but that would be a lie, horizontal extension on the couch and a good episode of Dora comes just as naturally. Dishes in the sink sometimes drain me completely, before their even washed. (For real, no dishwasher). This brings me back to my plan for fall. How am I going to overcome the couch lure? How will I overcome the wind factor? How will I keep myself into getting my girls outdoors?
My girls and I have devised a plan. We will letterbox! We will start a town trend and urge families throughout Nederland to letterbox too! What is letterboxing? Well the basic concept is a treasure hunt. Our job is to put together our letterbox, it’s a simple water tight box, in it a notepad, stamp and ink. The supplies for our own journey are our own “unique” stamp and notepad. Given that our town is without letterboxes to find just yet, we won’t need our own stamps for much in the short term.
Our job is to hide our box where it is unlikely that anyone not specifically looking for it would find it. Then we record clues as to where to find it and share our clues online at: http://www.letterboxing.org/. For the next letterboxer it will be as easy as entering our zip code and following our clues. Once they find our box, they leave their “stamp” in our letterbox notepad-recording that they were there. The can leave other info too, should they choose. We have asked them via a note in the box to say where they are from and date when they were there. They will also stamp their personal note pad with the letterbox stamp we have left there. There record that they found our box.
So, in the midst of the still late summer weather, we did have one day where the high temperature was a mere 60 degrees and the winds, soon to be a constant were considerable. This was of course the day I had off work and the day my daughters and I were to begin letterboxing. (That is if you don’t count the two days of shopping to find the “right” note pad and stamps to represent each of us, for those of you in Ned or perhaps other small towns, it’s worth the trip to Michael’s with a coupon for the stamps). Our heart shaped box, not quite water tight is enclosed in a good old zip lock bag and its name is “feather box”. Inside is what else, a feather stamp and thanks to the 55 minutes spent trying to find just the right spot to hide it, is also filled with a variety of found feathers from our journey. While I find them kind of gross both of my girls love to collect and smooth feathers.
Our journey went something like this, “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go letterboxing, c’mon put on your shoes, you need a sweater, no you can’t bring your stuffed animals, what do you mean you’re hungry, you just had a snack and oh wait you have to pee….” and 45 minutes later actually getting out the door. I drove to the trailhead where my 4 ¾ year old daughter had told me repeatedly during our week of planning she wanted to start our treasure hunt. Upon arrival, she explained that she really wanted to start it at the play ground. We drove to the play ground. In the whipping wind we headed out of the car, box in zip lock bag in one hand and our own journal and pens to record the clues as to where we hide it in the other. We actually passed through the playground, only stopping a few minutes to slow the swings that were sailing in the wind and climb on. After a few minutes pushing each other and laughing we headed out with the box. We slowly hiked a mile both on and off trail, looking for that perfect spot. My daughters looked under every large boulder for a crevice in which it would fit and checked closely every exposed root configuration to see if her box could hide among its grip. As it would turn out, it is rather hard to find the perfect hiding place for a purple heart shaped box in a zip lock bag. After 55 minutes on the trail, my eldest announced that we should head back and that we weren’t going to find the letterbox spot today but that we should try again. She was right, we were rosy cheeked and wind whipped, it was close to dinner time and we should head out. Of course along the way, we stopped for a few more minutes at the play ground. While my daughters played, I decided to record some of my own experience and feelings at the time, we had had a great time and there was “in the moment” wisdom to capture. Of course, as it turned out both of the pens I’d carried would not write. That wisdom for the most part rolled into the greater experience and what memory only, can recall.
Following the afternoon outing, I was left to wonder had I failed? I had planned but one thing to “get done” with my daughters that day and it still sits at home on the counter, waiting to “get done”. So in that regard I suppose I did fail. However, listening to the excitement in my oldest daughters’ voice as she tried to explain our activity to her dad (who missed all the fun due to work), I didn’t feel like a failure, I was memory maker! On a normal old Thursday, our journey had made a mark. Days later, my youngest, just 2 ¼ (if you are a parent you know these quarters matter, which is why I include them) was coloring away, waiting for supper. I casually asked what are you working on Roo? She looked at me with her wide winning smile and said “I’m letherboxin mommy”. As it looks now, we’ll be planting that feather box soon, leaving clues online for our neighbors to find. Our next box is going to be a “boo” box for Halloween. Don’t be afraid, it is all in good fun. Hopefully before too long some of our neighbors will catch on and plant letterboxes for us to find. In the meantime, we’ll get out, wind and all to check who left their stamp in our box-the box belonging to owl, kitty and wolf (our respective stamps and your first clue!).
Guest blogger bio: Julie Gustafson is a certified nature nut and mother of two of the cutest little girls to ever play in a sandbox or make a mud pie. She is a passionate advocate for children spending time in nature. Julie lives in Colorado with her family.