Blue Mountain

LOCATION:  Blue Mountain Ridge, PA

CHALLENGE:  2.5 stars

DATE/NUMBER:  31-Dec-2000/30



They say that the Mountain never gives up its secrets, so I took the only remaining piece of Grandpa Dean's old map, and went up to find out why. He had often been heard to mutter something about the left foot of Mountain's fourth letter, so that is where I started on this cold, windy day, not another soul in sight. Nothing there but hardwood trees and some footprints in the snow, the sort made by those yuppie "outdoor" boots, that, like luxury SUVs, you rarely actually see near the outdoors.

I followed the prints as they went in a northwesterly direction, idly counting them off as I ate the M&M's from my trail mix ... 88, 89, 90, huh?

There she was, in the boots that belonged to the bootprints -- twentysomething, cute, and fit, though definitely out of place (and prolly a bit chilly) in her tight-fitting Guess bluejeans and neatly-tucked white Tommy top.

"Thelma Kennedy", she offered. "What brings you up on the ridge today in this cold wind?"

"Uh, from Hyannisport, I presume?", was what I managed to dumbly mumble. I then managed to follow with the most clever "just doin' some hiking, you?"

"No, I'm from the Virgin Islands, and my purpose here is much more obscure. What we seek is different, yet the same. Now that our paths have crossed, I believe we can help each other."

"Cool", I said, as I offered her some trail mix.

"No thanks", she replied. "But would you mind showing me your map?"

"Sure, you can have it. The trails are all wrong, and it doesn't show me how to get where I want to go anyway. And I've been forced to navigate by contours, for the most part."

I watched her as she gazed at the map for a while, while I kept myself occupied adjusting my gear and whatnot so as to not get caught staring.

She reached into her hip pocket and pulled out a small laminated sheet of paper. "Here, you may borrow my map", she said, "if I may borrow yours for a bit."

"Sure", I said, "does it show you what you're looking for?"

"I think so, if you read the contours right."

"Cool", I said dully. "Is there anything I need to know from it that you saw?"

"Not really, at least not that can help you up here."

"Cool", I said again, as I glanced at the borrowed map. All it showed was a "T" and two small pine trees at 287 degrees from there. Pretty much all that was around here was hardwood, though.

"Thanks alot", she said, as she turned, waved, and headed down the trail towards the south.

Sheesh, I thought. Why does everyone else seem to know the right thing to do in any given situation? After standing dumbfounded for a moment, I grabbed my compass and headed into the woods to find the pine trees. I wasn't too far in, about a third of the way, I'd guess, when I spotted a nice hole in the side of a tree, about chest high. Wow, there's a place for a mountain to keep its secrets, I thought. I reached in, but the hole was bottomless; alas, it was not going to be that easy today.

I bushwhacked the rest of the way there, and spotted the first of the trees, just about where the mountain was really starting to fall off to the north. Hmm, that's nice, I thought, pine trees. I looked at the map again. What? It no longer showed from whence I came, but an "X" at 213 degrees from the first pine!

My mouth started to go a bit dry. I could get lost out here without my contour map and this bizarre map. I reversed my bearing to head back to where I'd met Thelma, until, duh, I realised my footprints in the snow could lead me back if need be, and it wasn't really too far; I had counted off fewer steps than I did when following her.

My heart was starting to race a bit. I dialed 213 into my compass and headed up the hill. About the same distance as the bottomless hole was from where I'd met Thelma, I found another great hiding place. This was the "X", an old log. I reached under a nook in the rootstock of the log and recovered an old box; the Mountain had given up a secret after all.

But a strange, sweet, intense feeling was overwhelming me. This was what I had come for, but not what I was going to leave with ... (continued)

NOTE 1:  The Blue Mountain Ridge runs from west of Harrisburg in south central PA up to the Delaware Water Gap north of Stroudsburg in the eastern part of the state. The AT and several other trails offer excellent hiking and letterboxing possibilities; in fact, several other letterboxes already make their home on different parts of the ridge. If this box isn't your cup of tea, give the others a try.

NOTE 2:  Off-trail walking is involved.

NOTE 3:  Be wary of snakes and other wildlife when reaching into dark places. No need to dig for this box. All bearings magnetic unless otherwise noted. A pace is a long stride counted on a footfall of either foot, i.e. two paces are counted each time the right foot hits the ground. Be aware of if or when there is game hunting in the area.

NOTE 4:  Please re-hide the thing well just as you found it.

DISCLAIMER & COPYRIGHT:  PERSONS USING THIS CLUE OR HUNTING THIS LETTERBOX DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK. Do not hunt this letterbox without reading and agreeing to the waiver first. Children, do not hunt this letterbox without the supervision of an adult who has read and agreed to the waiver. Possession of this clue does not imply rights of access to particular lands and route choices, or the safety thereof, including the location of the box itself. Always observe current local regulations, signs, property rights, and customs; you are responsible for your actions. Clue not indended to be taken literally or to suggest route choices; route choices (and the choice to proceed at all), are your choice.
This clue and associated stamp art are copyright © 2001, by Randy Hall. Permission to reproduce for personal use granted; all other rights reserved.