Boxing with Mark & Sue
Our Awesome Oregon Adventure
What a vacation Sue & I had in Oregon in September of 2008 while visiting to attend the Live & Breathe Letterboxing event!
It sure made a quite a splash in our lives and will remain with us for many years to come!
The wonderful Oregon Coast making quite a splash!
Thursday - September 11
Deanne & Dave and Sue & I arrived at PDX a few minutes ahead of schedule at 11am Pacific time. We collected our luggage, our rental car for the next 10 days and gave the Hog a little jingle. We had previously arranged to have lunch with Funhog and Azobox at Dan & Louis Oyster Bar in Portland, a Portland institution for over 100 years.
After a nice lunch, the 4 of us headed to see what we thought was a display of Dale Chihuly's art glass at the Portland Museum of Art. Dave's father, an artist as well, knew Dale Chihuly and we wanted to see this exhibiton that we noticed in a book that was in the library of the Letterboxing Cruise ship from several months previous. It was then that we made these plans; not realizing that the book was an older vintage and the exhibition was now on the road.
We then made our way to the famous Powell's book store, where we wandered amidst towers of books in every subject imaginable. After some time roaming around, we then headed to our overnight accommodations (and return visit) to McMenamin's Edgefield in Troutdale.
After getting settled, the four of us enjoyed a great, casual dinner out back on McMenamin's patio restaurant. We then made our way to a new attraction next to the spa - a soaking pool. "You have to try it" the young lady told me as we checked in. And was she right!
The best way to describe the soaking pool was that part of it was shaped like a lazy river ride at a water park, landscaped with nice greenery in the center island. And this river joined into a nice sized pool. But the best part was that the water temperature was hot tub-like - perfect for soaking away those tired muscles and also had a "shelf" to sit on that was enough below the surface of tha water so that you could submerge your body while sitting! Add a brew or a cocktail from the convenient shed bar next to the pool while watching the setting sun, and we all felt like we had died and gone to heaven!
All four of us turned in early because we had gotten up about 3am for our early East coast flights. And we had a big weekend ahead of us at the Live & Breathe gathering - with night boxing to boot!!!
Friday - September 12
We registered at Live & Breathe about 11:30. We were greeted by a bouncy, energetic volunteer as we drove down the drive into Camp Adams. As Sue rolled down her car window to talk to him, he looked in the window and said "You're Mark! Great to meet you!" as he stuck his hand in the window past Sue to shake my hand.
"I'm Wassamatta-U!" he said. It was then my turn to say "Pleasure meeting you!"
"Are you Mark & Sue?" became the preface to a weekend filled with exchanges and ways to meet fantastic boxers from all around the US. Apparently people do read this blog and they do look at our picture! And we so enjoyed spending a few minutes talking to each and every letterboxer we met.
The re-created LBNA main page courtesy of Der Mad Stamper
We registered where we renewed friendships with Camp Fire Lady, Buppsters, Marmalade and Mitch/Der Mad Stamper & Raqs Enigma. Mitch was in the process of putting the finishing touches on a number of displays that included a re-creation of the old library desk that is the image that we all recognize on the main page of the LBNA web page, which Mitch designed back in the day! Mitch had told me many weeks previous in an email that he was very excited about some of the items that would be on display at this event.
He was looking around his living room one evening, he told me in the email, and noticed several of the items that he used in the photo for the main page of the LBNA website design. The light bulb went off and the attendees of this gather got to see the real items used on that webpage that we all visit so many times a day - and the site that started it all! A real part of letterboxing history and so appropriate at this 10 year anniversary celebration.
Congratulatory Card from Dartmoor 100 Club
The blue stamp of the Yorkshire Terrier belongs to Godfrey Swinscow
But the history didn't end there! Other displays included Dartmoor 100 patches and other special Dartmoor collectible patches - several of which Sue & I were pleased to see that we had earned in our two trips jumping across the pond. Also on display was a congratulatory note from the Dartmoor 100 Club signed with sig stamps of many of the members, including our friend Godfrey Swinscow and others that we have met over the years.
Located here was the event stamp of the gathering's logo. This stamp was amazing and we made sure that we told Raqs, the carver, how much we enjoyed and admired it. She told us later that weekend that she put in about 80 hours creating this stamp, realizing the importance of the gathering. And boy - did it show!
The registration packet all attendees received included several items like a wonderful commemorative brochure (that contained a clue on the full color front cover!) a clue book to the event boxes and a commemorative travel mug with some goodies stuffed inside that included a Live & Breathe patch, a mini flashlight (for night boxing) and some candy. This committee thought of everything!
Also given us was a green wristband that was made of a waterproof and tearproof synthetic paper that contained a unique 6 digit number imprinted on the end. This number was to be used for all of the many raffle drawings that were done at meals and other times. Sue & I won a great bottle of Oregon wine that we enjoyed later in our trip on the coast and a logbook.
We then set out to our cabin. Other private room mates included Dave & Deanne, Moonstone from RI, Heyoka Man from OR and Maiden from OR. Each cabin was equipped with a refrigerator, kitchen, coffee pot and other items. The committee had placed a pound of Oregon coffee, several bags of trail mix and snack bars for us. Again - they thought of everything! After a quick unpacking, we set out to get some of the boxes in the clue book and we headed up to the most difficult, farthest trails in hopes of search of an area that might not have too many people.
Organized chaos in the dining hall!
Speaking of too many people - never was there a time on this property of over 200 acres did we encounter more than a handful of people on the trails. And with about 300 participants, it was really amazing. After returning to our cabin, we prepared for dinner - spaghetti that made this Italian American a very happy boy! The committee even had my favorite meal - they thought of everything! :-) Meals lasted about 2 hours to allow all of us the opportunity to eat. And it was like organized chaos! Boxers exchanging, eating, talking, laughing, working cooperatively in groups to solve the multitude of puzzle-like clues for which Der Mad Stamper is known.
I don't think Sue & I ate one meal without stopping to exchange with boxers who came up to us and asked "Are you Mark & Sue? Will you exchange with us?" It was our pleasure to spend some time with everyone we met - some who we have corresponded with over the years and some whom we never had met. People had such nice things to say about our blog and our trip reports that we post. "They know our whole life" Sue would say. "That's OK - they're nice people" I would say!
The very first people we met that weekend was Yiker, Spike and Coondra. After some exchanges, they asked us to let them know if we wanted to box with them when we went to the coast later in the week. Sue & I took their phone number and off we went. Funny how you feel a certain immediate comfort level with some people that you meet. We did eventually call Yiker and family and spent a wonderful day with them. You'll read more about that later.
Sue & I always steered away from coded or puzzle type clues until we visited the Portland area a few years previous to attend Camp Funhog. There was no way we could find many of DMS' boxes without first biting the bullet and attempting to solve these codes. And, because of that, we discovered that we enjoyed solving them - there was more satisfaction to solve the clue and then hunt the box. This gathering also featured a very nice mix of more difficult clues (not too difficult but not straight forward) and boxes hidden on upper trails that required some hiking and for that we were grateful. While there were some easier boxes located in the lower section of the camp, we believe that the majority were more difficult in clues and location, which was most fitting for this historic gathering.
Singing around the campfire at letterboxing camp!
After dinner, we all set out for the campfire and s'mores. Since this whole event had the feel of a letterboxing camp, it was very fitting to sit around the campfire on rustic plank benches, sing and watch the talent show that was put on by the committee and the attendees that included everything from bagpipes to Wassa's letterboxing song that probably has both Gilbert & Sullivan spinning in their combined graves. Find them below and we thank Wassa for allowing us to preserve them!
I am the very model of a modern stealthy Letterboxer
Always sneaking, always hiding from a muggle or a noxer
I take great pride in clever hides, and clues that promise to deceive
I'll double up my P-F-X count while I'm here at Live and Breathe!
I am the very model of a finder of hard Letterboxes
Always searching, always looking out for SPORS and under rockses
Seeking high and low in logs and trees and bushes on the ground,
And Always Always Always Always rehide better than I found!
I am a Letterboxer, though some people think I am insane
Because my best friends really only know me by my trail name,
Like Buppsters, Maiden, Marmalade and CFL and Raqs and Mitch and
Hope like hell that Science never finds a cure for my addiction!
We're Letterboxers One and All and though our spouses may think bad
About our focus on carved rubber, Lock and Locks and new inkpads,
We really love the feeling that we get when we can sally forth,
And through the woods our cry will echo: "Do You Know Which Way is North?"
And now we're here at Live and Breathe, the boxing anniversary,
Despite the hardships, cost, and time, and other such adversities,
We're here with friends and other folks with whom we have a common bond,
You could have been out Boxing, while this song had gone on far too long!
Saturday - September 13
We woke up to a beautiful, cool morning. Sue & I were amazed at how cool the nights were and how warm it got during the day. Breakfast of pancakes really fit the bill - as well as more exchanges and greeting people coming and going.
Dave, Deanne, Sue & I headed back to the highest park of the park to visit the Enchanted Forest, home of the gnomes and special magical things! On the way up, climbing over a very large downed tree, a branch that I was using for support broke off in my hand and I was lifting up and over and I took a very bad fall; probably the worst fall since we've been boxing. Scraped and bruised, we all sat a minute and we made our way up the trail to Eagles Nest - a project of a local Eagle scout that also held a box by the same name. We sat on the bench overlooking a great panorama. Boy, this camp was just perfect for a gathering with over 200 acres of old growth forest, great views and trails for all aptitudes!
Sue was enchanted with the forest. Fairy doors at the bottom of stumps, gnomes standing on top of stumps - it was all pretty magical. And, this location also held a very special, historic box called Fool on the Hill by Sandibox from TX. It was dedicated to Erik Davis. The logbook contained an ongoing journal of the initial posts on the LBNA talk list as that group of pioneers charted the course for all of us that followed. Sandi paid us the nicest compliment by asking Sue if we would like to hide the box permanently in VT - Erik Davis' home state. Sue knew I'd be honored. Look for that box to be planted in VT at a very special gathering Sue & I are just beginning to work on called "Back to Our Roots" which will occur in May or June of 2009 in southern VT. You will hear more about that as time passes. It will be an old fashioned type of gathering that will feature history-based boxes, a BBQ dinner, a hayride and even a bonfire with smores as dessert!
We also spent time on the lower trails hunting down the fairy lamps that meant a box was located at some point beneath the lamp. Later that night we heard that the lamps actually lit via solar power and at night the trail looked very much the part of a fairy trail.
The Pinecone Pair
Saturday night was Der Mad Stamper's Masquerade Ball. Instructions were to dress as your letterboxing name or in any other costume. The costumes were amazing. While we dressed up as the Pinecone Pair for the first half hour or so, we had to change so that we could participate in the night boxing, which was done by sign-ups at specific times. Our first venture at night boxing was different and not as successful as we had imagined but it was really fun walking the trails with a flashlight and searching for glow-in-the-dark trails or reflectors. We passed the GA contingent who had there humungoes blue torches held in the air. I even think I smelled some beer on their combined breath! My word!
Sunday - September 14
Sunday began with a little regret. Letterboxing camp would be over today and we'd have to say goodbye to all of our campmates. The letdown was pretty tough after having looked forward to this event for a year. At least Sue & I had the OR coast awaiting us and some quiet time!
Lazy Letterboxer, Letterboxing Ham, Mark & Sue - Geisha Style!
On the boxing menu was the fabulous Geisha Series that were fantastic. The four of us even found some time to pose for a picture while hunting the boxes. We hopped over to the mess hall for a nice lunch and more exchanges. We would say "we'll exchange with you later" during the weekend but this was it so we exchanged like crazy and met so many nice people.
After finding a few more boxes (Sue was rabid to get as many as we could, knowing they would be gone forever,) we headed back to our cabin and packed the car up, said goodbye to the organizers and people we met along the way and especially to our travel mates, Dave and Deanne. They were headed back to McMenamin's Troutdale for the balance of Sunday and leaving PDX for a flight home on Monday.
Sue & I headed to the coast and the nice condo I found on the internet in Newport. The condo was located across the street from Agate Beach, just up the road from the trendy Nye Beach section of town. We arrived, looked around, unpacked and took a quick walk to the beach before sunset. We had never seen the Pacific and there was no stopping us!
Lone Driftwood at Agate Beach
It must have been low tide because the water seemed so far away! I was fascinated by the way the light played on the water-swept sand. I started snapping pictures like crazy of Sue, the sand, the water's edge. As the sun faded in the sky, we witnessed our first of what was to be many beautiful sunsets over the ocean. But this night was special since it was our first sunset. We headed back to the condo, jumped into the rental car and headed to Nye Beach for supper.
Our first Pacific Coast Sunset at Agate Beach
There we ate in a very eclectic restaurant. We were the only customers in the place and the owner/chef came over after dinner to ask how our meals were, could he improve it in any way, etc. We started talking to him and Sue asked about agates since we had heard they were plentiful in the area. He showed us some agates but told us the real collectible items were the fossilized items like shells. He proceeded to dump out a cup that he had by the cash register to show us and found a prime example.
"Here" he said to Sue. "Take it" as Sue's eyes lit up. This was the first of many special encounters we would have here on the coast. Normal people - strangers - who would impact our lives and make this a vacation to truly remember.
Monday - September 15
Partial View of Condo Kitchen
After a leisurely breakfast in our new digs with a designer kitchen, Sue & I decided to head north on Route 101. From Agate Beach the previous night, we could see the Yaquina Light House so, armed with some clues, we made that our first stop. After striking out at our first attempt - we assumed that the box was gone - we headed down to see the Quarry Pool wiht the tidal pools and handicapped access ramps.
Yaquina Head Rocks & Sea
Since Sue is a physical therapist, she was just amazed at this project that was 2 years in the making. There were paved roads and ramps that lead right to the water during low tide so that wheel-chair bound nature enthusiasts could experience tidal nature first hand. Along these ramps are several raised tidal pools that fill with water and creatures during high tide and are left there during low tide. This allows amateur oceanographers the opportunity to touch and see at their own level these mysterious creatures of the deep. What a wonderful way to allow access to those that might not get that experience.
Seal Lion Pup Checks Out the Pinecone Pair!
While we were looking at these raised tidal pools, Sue spotted a bunch of sea lions who wandered their way into the area. We were both excited to make our first encounter with these playful creatures - especially the inquisitive young pup that came close to the railing to investigate us! Every so often he would pop his head out of the water, take a look at us, go back under and swim away. He repeated this dance several times.
On the way back to the car, we encountered a few people with dogs who asked us to be on the lookout for one of the dogs leashes that was lost along the way. If we found it, they asked, could we turn it into the rangers station. Sure enough, not 15 minutes later we found the leash and brought it over to the education center. After wandering around the gift shop and the displays, we noticed a pamphlet that read "Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area HISTORY QUEST." We picked it up and looked through it and decided to give it a go. It was very similar to the Valley Quests that Sue & I search for once in a while in upper VT and New Hampshire.
After finding the quest box, we noticed that it was very close to a mystery box. In fact, it was a matter of 2 feet away but without having the clues or knowing of the whereabouts of this mystery box, we felt it would be almost impossible to just happen upon the mystery box. We made an extra effort to move it slightly further away and disguise it even better than we found it.
Young Octopus Tree with Stump inside
Mature Tree without Stump
Our next stop was Beverly Beach and several boxes there. We were fascinated by what the clues called "Octopus Trees." These are stumps of former trees that end up becoming a host for tree seeds that are left by the wind or by bird droppings. At L&B we encountered a term in a clue that called these "nurse stumps." Makes sense, right? These new little trees eventually take over the stump contained within and the new trees roots end up surrounding the old stumps. As time goes on, the stumps end up deteriorating; leaving these wonderful high "doorways" in the new, now fully grown tree.
We moved on to Cape Foulweather where the fog was starting to break and I took a few pictures of the smoky landscape. Otter Creek and Devil's Punch Bowl came next where we happened on a nice little beach that we combed for rocks and hopefully an agate or two. We met a 3 generation family on the beach and started talking to them. Sue asked to see an agate and the woman ended up giving Sue one of them. These kindnesses found their way into our lives almost every day here on the coast. When they found out we were from the east, they asked where we were eating that night and they suggested the Tidal Raves but told us that we should make a reservation since it was not only popular with the locals; it was a favorite spot for tourists and condo owners as well.
Large Piece of Driftwood with Rocks
Sue and I continued to find rocks of unusual smoothness and color and kept stuffing the zip locks that I packed purposely to house them for the trip back. Later in the week, while looking through a reference card of agates in a local gift shop, we discovered that, in our ignorance, we had gotten some very nice agates and jasper in colors that were slightly unusual. Beginners luck, I guess!
Further on heading north on 101, we stopped at Rock Creek. These little pull-offs dot the Oregon coast and offer picnic tables, the consistently cleanest bathrooms that we've ever encountered, a hiking trail or two but most importantly, a stunning view point at which to gaze at the Pacific. Each stop we thought was nicer than the last and all seemed to house a letterbox or two to sweeten the pot.
At Rock Creek, we noticed an older couple sitting on a promontory bench gazing at the sea. We didn't pay much attention because we were more intent on finding a place to plant a box! The wife finally came over to us and asked if we spotted the whale. Whale??? Thus began an hour visit with Roy and Kay, two retired volunteers from the Depoe Bay Whale Center just up the highway, who ended up showing us our very first whale. We learned a few tips on how to spot whales that came in handy later that week, traded our life stories and left two more friends along the way!
We were starting to get hungry. Searching we found the Tidal Raves which turned out to be a very popular place. At a time when you could walk into most restaurants, we saw the overflow of cars parked on the street alongside the restaurant. Sue & I had to wait about 20 minutes for a table but the views were stunning. Sitting almost on a point the whole side of the restaurant was glass that opened onto the ocean. And the food - it was fantastic! Sue & I were pretty high on such a perfect day and decided to celebrate by ordering a bottle of wine with our meal which was terrific - Trinity Vineyards Oregon Syrah 2006. The waitress told us that if we didn't finish the wine, Oregon law allowed us to take it home with us - which is what we did. It was the end of a picture perfect, wonderful, exciting day in an area that took our breathe away at every turn. And the leftover wine proved to be an excellent nightcap!
More to come . . . .