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Letterboxes
of the
Doubtful Guests

Thedoubtfulguests@yahoo.com

Virginia
Washington D.C.
New York
Massachusettes
Florida

Virginia

Gulf Branch
Old Boiler
Christmas Tree Graveyards
Ghost Castle of East Falls Church
It's a Holiday
The Letterbox Book
Fort Marcy Letterbox

Washington D.C.

Egypt Explorer
Orion the Hunter
Ghost From the Titanic
The Inventor

New York

Chickadee Dee Dee Letterbox

Massachusettes

The Oyster-ville - Joshua's Pond and Oyster Pearl Letterboxes

Florida

Ant Castle Tree

Gulf Branch and Old Boiler

Established August 11, 2002
Hand made stamp added 9/2/2
Arlington, Virginia
Dogs on Leash ok

Gulf Branch is one of many creeks that form creek valleys draining into the Potomac River. Several are small parks. Normally Gulf Branch is a cool and pleasant tree shaded oasis on hot days. With the recent drought, we found the path dusty for the first time we remember. Still it's a shady pleasant walk along the creek ending in views of the river, and more. [When I replaced the stamp with a hand made one rain had restored the lush atmosphere.]

Through here passes the Potomac Heritage Trail. A very long riverside trail from Teddy Roosevelt Island all the way to the beltway, I-495. You can find a map of it at Teddy Roosevelt Island (and a couple nice letterboxes there too) though you don't need the map to find the letterbox.

In North Arlington, off Military Road find 36th Road near Gulf Branch Nature Center. Don't be fooled by 36th Street right next door. Park at the curb opposite Nelson Street. Wood steps take you down to the path. Head towards the river. You'll cross the creek a couple times and go under the George Washington Parkway crossing very high overhead. In the second crossing, we discovered a teetering rock slab that banged with a loud satisfying thwack echoing off the bridge high above. Stop where the water dives over the rocks and down towards the river.

Here you could clamber over the rocks and climb down steep steps cut in the rock. But you don't have to to find the Gulf Branch letterbox. We were afraid it would wash away in a flood. You go up. From the waterfall turn back the other way and very carefully follow the Potomac Heritage Trail's blue blazes as they switchback up the hill. Stop before turning at the 4th switchback from the waterfall. There is no double blue blaze there indicating your U-turn but there are 3 flat-topped rocks on your left to prevent erosion of the switchback path. Facing the river, with the 3 flat rocks at your feet on the left, you are facing a tree. At its base, a smaller fallen tree angles up. Look under a large flat rock under leaves behind the tree.

It's a Holiday 4: Hopping Into Spring
New stamp 1/14/2, MIA 2/9/3 Replaced with the Jester 2/21/3 and clues altered.
New Stamp and New Logbook for Easter!
Arlington County
Arlington, Virginia
Hand made stamp
Easy, indoors

Twas the nightmare before Christmas
And all through the mall
Anxious shoppers were rushing
Praying Pentagon City had it all.
I arrived by the Metro
And went straight to the top
To consult with the Wizard
And visit his shop.
Puzzling place. Puzzling Wizard.
"Which it's the number of brown tiles between our doorway you wants."
"For what, want for what?"
"Only Santy Claws and that Scarab fellow know and neither one of them is telling me.
Go ask that Joseph at the bank around the corner.
That's the place to look if he deposited somethin' int it?"
Joseph, I discovered, was full of hang ups.
"I haven't a clue," he answered to my enquiries, "but you remind me of that puzzling fellow I saw the other day.
He walked away from our window around the curve of the balcony counting the small potted trees.
Did it several times like he was trying to be sure of something.
I don't know how long those trees have been there myself, Nor how long they'll stay."
One, two, three ... Finally I sat on the right side of a long white bench with a fine view.
Behind me immediately over my right shoulder was a mall map.
Across the wide atrium from me the glass elevator rose and fell.
Almost directly below me I gazed down the tree at Santa on his golden chair.
"Wow, a natural Santa."
"What's an unnatural Santa, Dad?"
I reached down between my knees as if I was pulling up my sock,
And surreptitiously reached under the frontof the bench.
"May I help you?" asked the guard suspiciously.
"OH, um, I thought I lost my keys" I said while holding the fuzzy velcro covered, black, dual film cannisters in one hand,
"Wait, here they are in my other pocket."
"Alright then, happy holidays to you."
"And to you." Whew.
I spent a pleasant time recording in the scroll and enjoying the expansive view.
Then I went all the way around and all the way down to celebrate in the food court.
Merry letterboxing to all, and to all a good hike.

It's now long after Christmas but who wants to let go of the holidays. Now when you look down at the food court below, the Christmas tree is gone; instead you are looking at the center of an octagonal tile pattern. But hey, there is always another holiday coming up. I have made "It's a Holiday" a seasonal box with changing stamps. The Royal French Court Fashion Valentine went M.I.A. I placed a new microbox with the next holiday stamp and changed the location slightly. Now showing: "It's a Holiday 3: the Jester".

Please be discreet. Please do not turn over benches or look like you're searching all over if you're not sure. It may go M.IA. again. I will note so here. If you find this letterbox missing or damaged or are puzzled about the clues write theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com.

Old Boiler
Established Sept. 2, 2002
Requires clambering over steep rocks
Hand made stamp - Stamp only, no log book

Well I couldn't resist going back and planting another letterbox down closer to the river. I hope it doesn't wash away in heavy rains. After the Gulf Branch letterbox, head back to the waterfall. You can see a lot of drilled holes in the rocks. They used to quarry rock here for the capital's buildings. Iron railings lead you down a steep rough stair cut in the small cliff. Notice the blue blazes of the Potomac trail.

Look for the old steam boiler in the water. What is it? Why is it there? Is it a beached locomotive? Is it an abandoned quarry engine? Is it all that's left of a steamboat that burned when a gambler carelessly flicked his cigar on to cotton bales?

This letterbox is precariously hidden where many people enjoying the area can see you. I recommend that you put down your backpack next to the hiding place and look like you're doing something with it to mask that you are accessing the letterbox. You do carry a backpack don't you?

Halfway between the bottom of the stairs and the boiler you will notice the blue blazes painted on a rock ridge. The ridge is halfway between the waterfalls and the river. Climb up the ridge looking for a brown iron bar sticking a couple of feet straight up out of the rock. It is directly east of the boiler, 260 degrees. Next to the bar are a rock ledge, some bushes and the customary flat-ish rock. Remember to try not to let people see what you're doing. Please replace the rocks very carefully to hide the box and toss some leaves over it.

Christmas Tree Graveyards

Established July 21, 2002
Fairfax County
Reston, Virginia
Dogs on leash ok

It's only 75 cents to drive out to Robert Simon's dream, Reston, a planned community of work, home and play in rolling Northern Virginia among preserved woods. These directions will take you through a creek valley of tall trees in one of the natural areas of Reston, Virginia. From the Beltway, I-495, take the Dulles Toll Road, route 267, west to Hunter Mill Road. Left on Hunter Mill and right on Sunrise Valley Drive. Take the third left onto Cross School Road. First Right on Midsummer Drive. On your left you will come to Dayflower Court. There on the right is a small park. Park.

Walk between the two benches down a steep path and across a gully. You'll pass the first Christmas Tree Graveyard. Follow the path down into the woods all the way down into woodpecker valley. Keep an ear open for Woody Woodpecker's relatives. Yes the big ones with the red feather crowns live here. Did you know you can tell which way is north in a forest by observing which side the moss grows on trees? Be careful there is poison ivy around here. You'll come to a T at the path that runs the length of this small valley. Turn right.

The path heads north along the narrow swath cleared of trees for the water line. Look for tall dead trees with woodpecker holes. You'll pass a tall manhole cover and a muddy spring. You're following a creek way off to the side. Along the way, you will also see tall tree, split in two and way up high. You'll come up to the creek where you should cross it and continue following the narrow clear-cut line. Finally you'll come to a paved path.

Cross bridge 31. Turn left over the bridge onto a dirt path leading north along the creek again. Very soon the path will jog right and on the right, you'll see a tall rotting tree stump. Walk around it in a U-turn and follow the fallen tree about 15 paces to the Christmas Tree Graveyard.

Ghost Castle of East Falls Church
Along the W&OD Railroad Trail
Placed by the Doubtful Guests
November 8, 2002
Arlington County - Arlington, VA
Hand made stamp
Metro accessible
Dogs on leash ok.

1724 in the wilderness of the Colonies.

"Damn good brandy!"
"And you thought camping with a surveyor would be uncivilized. Come. Let me show you the secret around these parts. And the more brandy you have the better you can see it. ... That hill yonder. See the moat that swirls around its base? See among the trees its crown of crumbling stones?"

Straining to focus his misty eyes they slowly widened in wonder.

1999 on the Orange line.

Between West Falls Church and Balston I like to look north from the train for the window cut through a chimney. Looking south one day in the leafless winter, just east of East Falls Church, I saw a sharp hill rising out of the middle of suburbia. "What is that?"
I gathered the troops: 9 year old boys and a girl armed with souvenir flintlocks from DisneyWorld and wooden swords from the Renaissance Faire. Crossing what looked like the remnants of a moat we stormed the summit. In victory we examined the peak's crags of orangish rock. Our minds spinned into...

1366 A.D.

All around us were the reddish orange battlements. Below lay large pieces of the fallen tower, once gleaming of white quartz.
"What smells of elderberries?"
"You Father. Ever since lunch. Can we get a hamster?"
"Ask your Mother."
Suddenly the trojan rabbit hurled itself over the battlements. Sprinting northeast down the path it jumped on a chunk of white tower quartz stuck in the path. Puzzled, rabbit pulled from its waistcoat a watch, or possibly a compass, and dashed off at 120 degrees. Only to stop short on a another white rock. White Rock? Don't they make ginger ale? Looking nervous and late rabbit dashed off again at 60 degrees leaping some 40 giant steps to a very large tree. Also a very small tree. Between them rabbit furtively searched under a six inch square chunk of orange battlement and flashing its tale, surreptitiously vanished.
"Curiouser and curiouser," I remarked.
"Because she's made of wood?"
"Ni!"
We walked down the hill to the Roman road to read all about it.

Later as I pondered over brandy our adventures, the more I pondered the more I came to believe we had found the ghostly ruins of a castle lost in mists. May I recommend Irish Mist?

If you find the letterbox damaged or missing, or if you are puzzled by the directions :-) write theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com.

The Letterbox Book
Placed by Scarab of the Doubtful Guests
March 2, 2003
Bull Run Regional Library
Prince William County
Manassas, Virginia
Indoor letterbox book
Not easy

"Hey, it's a full moon. Do you think we'll get any crazies tonight?"

"What do you mean `we', Michele? How come `I' always get the strange ones?"

"Oh, you attract them my dear. I'm sure."

Faye made a face. Yet for some reason Faye did seem to get more than her fair share of the people with odd requests, or people who were just plain odd. Surely, that last full moon was just a coincidence though.

"Oh great! Here comes one now," she thought, spying a woman in what looked like a cross between an old nun's habit and maybe a nursing outfit.

"I am interested in anesthesia and the history of the Crimea."

"Yes Miss…"

"You may call me Florence."

"...Florence. Here are 9 books. I'll write them down for you."

Miss Florence had only just left when a man in a high school band outfit approached her. "Hello." "Wait. Let me guess. You are looking for `how to' books on band leading?"

"Why yes Madame Librarian. How did you know?"

“We have 1 book.” Faye took off her glasses while she handed him the title and call number. He left with a wide smile.

In the corner of her eye she sensed rather than saw a dark shape approaching the desk. She turned to face a tall man in a rough dark cloak with a hood. "Is someone having a costume party," she thought to herself, "Where are these people coming from?"

It leaned towards her and uttered in a loud, breathy whisper, "Shiiire. Bagggins."

"You must want fi fi fiction. Under T T T o l," she stuttered in reply, “There are 7 copies.”

"Was he ever creepy. I couldn't even see his face," she shuddered as he glided off.

"Excuse me Ma'am, I was hoping you might be able to help me with a little inquiry."

She was smiling at the quaint speech before she looked up and stifled a laugh. The stranger's clothes were so old fashioned he looked like a play actor.

"Ma'am?"

"Um, yes. How may I help you?"

"I am looking for something but I don't know where to begin."

“Just because you can't find your subject listed in the catalog doesn't mean you can't find something. Consider what you are looking for, then think of other subjects that are related to it and look for them."

Someone behind Mr. Raines suddenly made a funny look and took off in the direction of the catalog search stations.

"What is it you are looking for Mr. um..."

"Raines, Harrison Raines, Ma'am."

"...Mr. Raines?"

"I am investigating a Murder at Balls Bluff." Raines went on to describe what he knew, trying to think of other subjects that might be related.

"Exactly my ‘.’ 55 books on the war between the states, also books on Lincoln, horses, firearms and even women who dressed as men to fight in the conflict. I'll jot some down for you."

"Thank you Ma'am. I'm sorry I am not familiar with the library. Might you be free to accompany me and acquaint me with the layout."

"Um, well...why certainly. I would be glad to."

“Might you have information on places where the old Virginia woods are still preserved?”

“We have a whole shelf on …”

Michele had noticed that Faye was talking to herself even more than usual tonight. Then she saw Faye walking back towards the stacks talking to no one next to her and walking as if she were holding someone's arm. Michele would have laughed if she hadn't been so startled. “I wonder where she’s off to now."

Note: You are not looking for a regular commercially printed book that has been hollowed out and made into a letterbox so there is no need to pull all the books off the shelves looking for it. You are looking for `The Letterbox Book' and should know it when you see it. If you find the letterbox missing or damaged or if you want a hint write theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com.

Fort Marcy Letterbox
Fairfax County
Northern Virginia
Nearby town withheld
Placed by Scarab of the Doubtful Guests
March 13, 2003
Dogs ok.
Tools required: flashlight; long, untwisted wire coat hanger.

This is not particularly a mystery letterbox but then again. Call it a small mystery. As always, please do not root around cluelessly in the underbrush disturbing the flora and fauna. When you figure it out it will be pretty obvious. Please be discrete as this is pretty much out in the open and please carefully replace it with the black camoflage cover.

"Easy fella. Now what's happening at the bridge? Could they have heard about my troubles in Washington already?"
Harrison Raines slowed his horse and looked ahead at the soldiers guarding the bridge to Virginia. Son of a southern plantation owner, now Washington resident, horse trader and sometime reluctant spy for the Union, Harry was fleeing the city once again followed by the suspicions and misunderstandings of lower level Washington authorities. Pinkerton and Lincoln himself had recruited Harry to work for the Union cause, and the suspicions of local Union authorities only made Harry even more useful for secret enquiry's in the South. Unfortunately, it was often very inconvenient.
"Halt!"
Earlier that morning across the river and high on the hill at Fort Marcy there was no traffic in sight, "Men, this morning we will conduct some range tests on the bridge down there. If we're to defend the Capital, we have to be ready to shoot rapidly and accurately. Damn the quartermasters for not supplying enough powder and shot for drills but I'll pay for it myself if I have to. Ready your cannon to fire alongside the bridge and be sure you don't hit it this time. Sargent, send word to the sentries to halt any traffic until we give the all clear signal."
"Yes Sir."
Harry sauntered his horse up to the sentry post trying to look as nonchalant as he didn't feel.
Boom!
"Heeyah!" The horse bolted.
"Hey, stop! Wait."
Harry used the excuse to charge past the sentries and gallop onto the bridge. Boom! "Good Lord they're firing on us!" The artillery man's accuracy was misinterpreted as damn close near misses.
"Cease firing! What's that idiot doing down there! Sargent get down there and arrest that man!"
"Bugler, sound arrest and detain", shouted the Sargent running for his horse. Instantly the bugler sounded the company's code followed by the practiced signal code.
Harry didn't know the bugle code he heard as he galloped over the Potomac below but they weren't firing cannon at him anymore and that he liked. He 'didn't' like the look of the sentry's eyes nor their fixed bayonets lowered in his direction.
"Good morning gentlemen."
"We ain' no genelmen and you ain' goin' nowhere neither 'til the Sargent comes."
The Sargent led Harry up the hill escorted by two bored and trigger happy looking sentries.
After much suspicious interrogation, Fort Marcy's Commander was surprised to find the bridge fool to be an apparent southern gentleman albeit a little down on his luck. "I am sorry we startled your horse and were obliged to detain you, but tell me again what brings a horse trader from Washington across the river?"
"I moved my operations into town but I still own land and horses northwest of here. If I don't visit it I'm afraid of what might become of it."
"I believe you're who you say you are but only because I've heard of a horse of yours in some relation to a questionable game of cards," the Commander said with some amusement, "I don't suppose you know anything about that?"
"I try to sell my horses, not lose them."
"Well you don't look shifty enough or prosperous enough to be one of those broken down horse dealers cheating the Union Army. The Sargent will see you on your way. Be careful and stop next time."
"Thank you Sir," thinking this must be the only time losing a horse at cards saved his neck, Harry replied, "I shall be."
"Men, clean your cannon well. We're done for the day."

Harrison Raines is a fictional character created by Michael Kilian in his Civil War mystery novels: Murder at Manassas and A Killing at Balls Bluff. If you find this letterbox, missing, damaged or puzzling write theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com.

The Oyster-ville - Joshua's Pond and Oyster Pearl Letterboxes
(Osterville, Massachusetts)
Established August 18, 2002
Hand carved stamps.
Dogs ok.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Oyster Island. Was it called Oyster Island for its oyster shape or because of the local oyster industry? I don't know but I heard the town of Oysterville was changed to Osterville when the fancy set moved in. Osterville is now a pretty little town west of Hyannis.

Two letterboxes. Not a breathtaking view or spectacular park, just a walk in the woods and nice little town.

Drive east on Main Street past Broken Grounds on the right (maybe the best coffee you'll ever have) and the Wimpy burger restaurant on the left. "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." Just outside of town turn left on Old Mill Road. After a short way on your left is a cemetery. Pull in and drive all the way up the hill and park.

Walk along in the same direction as the road and it will lead you to a path into the woods. Last I was there they had made dirt mounds in front of the path to discourage vehicles. Take the path into the woods. You'll continue past a smaller trail to the left and on down to the bottom of the hill to a large intersection. Turn left. Follow this to the pond. Continue on the path around past the edge of the pond and back into the woods. You'll pass two large wood bollards stuck in the path to discourage vehicles. Just past these is a small trail going to the left. Stop at this intersection and look behind you to the left. There is a large pine there behind which you should look under leaves and a rock.

After stamping in, walk back and enjoy the pond. Throw sticks in the water for the dog. Wander through the cemetery. For extra credit see if you can find Pilot, and Little Pilot the dog's white headstones in the center of the area.

Oyster Pearl

Drive back towards Osterville and turn into Armstrong-Kelly Park on the right. Grab a snack and a drink from the market across the street. Enjoy walking the Trails in the back of the park. TakeAWalk to Heather's Hillside. Follow the path around to the Critter's Christmas Tree area. Look in the back behind a small gray tree at 2 o'clock under a rock and leaves. This park has a lot of gardening going on and is work in progress subject to change.

Chickadee Dee Dee Letterbox
NOYACK, NY
Established August 24, 2002
Suffolk County
Noyack, New York
No pets. Easy. Hand made Stamp.

This is a very nice path through a sanctuary. There are birds and critters everywhere if you stay quiet and walk slowly. Walk a ways down the main path, hold your hand open and away from your body offering your sunflower seeds (None of that parakeet stuff). Hold very, very still, and see what happens. If you are with a group spread out a bit so that you aren't too intimidating. This is truly an experience, communing with nature.

After your experience, walk on down the main trail until you come to a bench on the right. Turn around and walk 12 paces back. On your left is a large tree. On the opposite side is a small multi-trunk tree. Look behind that under bark and leaves.

Do explore deeper into park. Someday I will return and move the box to a more interesting hiding place. If someone lives near there and would like to move it call me or post a message for the Chickadee Dee Dee on the board.

Morton Wildlife Refuge. On the southern neck of eastern Long Island, NY. From Route 27 at Exit 8, north on North Sea Road (Route 38) for North Sea. Straight at traffic light, bear right onto Noyack Road, Refuge is 5 miles on left.

Egypt Explorer

placed by The Doubtful Guests
formerly Harpers Square Explorers
Washington, DC
Placed October 5, 2002
a city microbox
Handmade stamp

Can you hum the National Geographic theme music from their specials? Their headquarters is at 1145 17th St., NW, Washington, DC. Three buildings span M street between 16th and 17th streets. One oldest, one not so old and one new.

1145 is a white marble building on 17th street. Walk in the doors and walk right through the elevator lobby and go out the doors on the other side. (If it is after hours you can walk around the building down M street.) On the other side is a courtyard and the new pink grey granite building beyond.

Stand on the steps of the marble building facing the courtyard of pink granite squares. Beyond should be the new pink grey granite building. On your left should be the driveway leading to M street. In front of you should be a rectangular pool with large pink granite boulders. On your right should be a slanting pink granite wall with bushes behind it.

Count off 11 pink granite squares on the ground as you walk along the slanting wall on your right. (Be sure to count the ground squares not the wall squares.) At the 11th square stop and sit on the wall. There should be a grating by your feet on the right. You should be facing the end of the pool and the driveway and M Street beyond.

Along the inside of the wall runs a grey conduit. Where you are there should be a grey junction box. Under the box, lying on the dirt, should be the micro letterbox made of two black film cannisters taped together. Be sure to take it away from there to stamp in. There are benches along the white building. Please be discrete as there can be a lot of people around.

ORION the Hunter

Placed by The Doubtful Guests
October 18, 2002
Washington, DC
Hand made stamp
Micro letterbox

The Einstein Memorial, Constitution Avenue NW at 22nd St. Step up on to the black marble and look at Einstein. The tourists all climb on him and get their picture taken.

Brace yourself before you look down. You are standing in the middle of space. Below you are the stars of our sky. Just in front of you is the bronze disk of the sun. Far to your left, you will find the tree stars in a row of Orion's belt. Very distinctive in the sky, no three stars line up quite like that, it is somewhat hard to find on this map. (Pssst, there's a map in the free brochure.) Rigel and Betelgeuse (often pronounced beetlejuice) are its two brightest stars. I am told that in the original Arabic Betelgeuse means "armpit of the hunter".

The hunter aims his bow at some dim hare but it looks more as if he is hunting the V shaped face of Taurus the bull. He will miss. His arrow will fly on and past the tight star cluster of the Pleides. You must follow it to reach your goal, on beyond the Sun and the crescent Moon and up the sidewalk 14 cracks to a cedar on your left. Velcroed to a small branch at eye level is the micro letterbox made of two film canisters taped together.

Be discrete so that no tourist may see you and take or destroy it and please replace it carefully obscured by greenery.

Ghost From the Titanic
Placed by The Doubtful Guests
November 7, 2002
Washington, DC
Hand made stamp
An urban microbox

From the Waterfront Metro station turn right, west, on M St. Stop at 6th St. On your right is Arena Stage. Ahead of you M St. turns into Maine Ave. A street sign announces the Spirit Ships to the left. Turn left down 6th St. and follow it as it curves around towards the waterfront. Cross Water St. and walk straight ahead to view the Maine Lobsterman statue on the waterfront.

IF you turned right you would walk along the waterfront past marinas, overlarge tourist seafood restaurants and end up in the open air waterside seafood market. It's well worth the walk and a look after the micro box.

Turn left instead and walk south along the waterfront passing the Spirit Ships and the Police Harbor Patrol on your right. On your left you are passing DC's classic example of 1960's 'urban renewal'. Southwest DC slums were evicted, bulldozed and replaced by expensive modern apartments. The process was dubbed 'urban removal'.

Walk along the waterfront railing all the way to the end where you are sure to encounter the Ghost from the Titanic rising up to meet you. Ship of dreams. Disaster of legends. A complex tragedy full of every imaginable story, lesson and warning, some of which continue to be repeated as we learn not from history.

Few people realize, especially the skeptics, that most of the stories in the James Cameron movie "Titanic" are based on or inspired by real events. A stowaway on the Lusitania, with no Rose to the rescue, sank with the ship still locked in the brig. One of the few Titanic survivors pulled from the water had survived the cold by floating on a wood panel. James Cameron may have seen this 'ghost' and was inspired by it for the 'flying on the bow' scene.

Look over the waterfront railing on your right at the water 6 feet below. Imagine the water 60 feet down, the night pitch black and the water ice cold.

Notice that the railing is held up by concrete posts. From the 'ghost' count 23 concrete posts back along the waterfront railing and stop. On your left is the water. On your right is row of bushes in three concrete planters. You are looking at a concrete lamppost in the center of the bushes with a sign on it that reads, "Help Us Keep Your Park Clean".

Sit on the curb like area in front of the lamp post, facing the water and leaning your back against the post. Your feet should be on a metal plate in the sidewalk. Enjoy the view for a moment. If you are sitting this way you will attract less attention looking for the microbox than if you bent over and poked around in the bushes. We must be discrete with these 'out in the open' urban hiding places. You are looking for two black plastic film canisters taped bottom to bottom with gray caps on either end. You will find it under the bush on your left. Try not to be observed. Be careful replacing it making sure it is not too visible.

This location is off the beaten path. As in all big cities one should be careful, alert and consider not walking alone. It is however halfway between a police station and the military base, Fort McNair. Just be careful out there. If you are here between about Midnight and 2am on the anniversary of the wreck you may encounter tuxedoed gentlemen of the Men's Titanic Society arriving in limos and toasting catered champagne to "those brave men".

The Inventor
Placed by Scarab of the Doubtful Guests
January 9, 2003
Washington, DC
Hand Made Stamp
Urban Microbox
Dogs on Leash OK, bikable.

March 8th, 1862, fictional, mystery novel, union spy Harrison Raines' investigation of the murder of President Lincoln's close friend Colonel and Senator Edward Baker during the battle of Balls Bluff has miraculously and fascinatingly led him aboard the launching of the first ironclad warship, the former Union U.S.S. Merrimack, now the C.S.S. Virginia, to witness the sinking or wrecking of three helpless wooden Union warships that terrifies the Union cause.

Little more than 100 days earlier, rejected by the Union Navy because his design was considered too outlandish, John Ericsson meets personally with Abraham Lincoln to plead for his gun turret on an iron shingle. Convinced, over the Naval commander's objections, Lincoln orders the bizarre ship built. They retaliate by writing into the contract that it must be completed within 100 days or the contract is void. Constructed in nine different foundries at once, John Ericsson completes the U.S.S. Monitor in time to save the Union.

John Ericsson's design saved the union. His invention populated America. Clumsy, dangerous, side paddle wheel, wooden steamers would now evolve into ocean liners. (In those days people still thought of ships as having sails. The new ships that belched smoke were called steamers, as in "steamer trunk".) A grateful populace erected a grand, artistic monument to the designer, the inventor, the Union savior, in the nation's capital that his name and his work might not be forgotten. It is one of those out of the way monuments over awed by the larger grander ones. No one pays any attention to it. I didn't remember the inventor's name until I got there. His invention is completely taken for granted. Most people even call it by the wrong name, one properly used for aeroplanes.

Directly south of the Lincoln Memorial look for a marble memorial in the middle of a small traffic circle.

Notice the allegorical representations of adventure, labor and vision. Now you must learn your compass points. Before we divided a compass into 360 degrees mariners had to learn the 32 points of the compass rose. Here are the first 9 as a sample. North, N by E, NNE, NE by N, NE, NE by E, ENE, E by N, East. The compass point S by W points directly towards the dual film cannister microbox. Sit on the steps and no one will notice you reaching under the leaves under the bushes. Please replace it carefully, hidden from view under the leaves, so it is not mistaken for trash.

So what did John Ericsson invent? For extra credit guess which is what is pictured on the stamp and what was it's affectionate nickname (not to be confused with it's sister letterbox down near Fort McNair where Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt was hanged)? Write to me at theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com with your answer or if this micro letterbox is lost, damaged or the log is full or if you object to my run away run on sentences, too many connections or the shameless plugs of the Apple Dumpling Gang's letterbox at Balls Bluff, of Harrison Raines mystery novels and my other letterbox, Ghost of the _______.

Be sure to enjoy the walk and the view along the river. You are in walking distance from a few other letterboxes including Skull and Bones, Independence Microbox, and Orion the Hunter depending on how far you like to walk.

Ant Castle Tree
Thanksgiving, 2002
Sarasota County - Sarasota, Florida
hand made stamp
dogs on leash ok
easy 10 minute walk

This end of Sarasota Bay was once a dumping ground. Now flora and fauna have been restored with mangroves, small tidal streams, ponds and a boardwalk nature walk called the Sarasota Bay Walk. It is still kinda trashy but we saw a lot of interesting plants and creatures. It is just before the Mote Marine Aquarium and the Pelican Man Sanctuary. After you turn off the main road towards Mote and Pelican take the first right into a small parking lot at the sign for Sarasota Bay Walk.

Examine the map at the entrance to the bay walk. Your goal is on the "Hill". Follow the boardwalk past the coca cola pond. Apparently the color is due to the mangrove's tanic acid. Turn right just before the bay watch over look. Take the next boardwalk left. It will change from boardwalk to trail. Look for the prickle pillow plants. Trail changes back to boardwalk. When the boardwalk ends again, stop. You should be looking at a double tree that splits into five. Step behind this tree and take a bearing. At 215 degrees is the Ant Castle Tree. You may have to move further in to see it. It is about 30 steps away though you have to go around some trees to get to it. There is a faint path.

When I was there I saw fine dirt piles at the base because walking all up and down one of the large limbs was a steady stream of ants. You've been warned. I brushed off a dozen ants after placing the box the first time. Then I decided to move the box away from the tree itself.

To the right of the tree are two clusters of dark vines. In the second cluster, about 10 feet north west of the ant tree, hides your prize under leaves. Please replace the box carefully in the same place so it doesn't wash away in the rain and cover it with leaves so it is not easily seen.

My better half looked up and noticed an osprey platform constructed atop the ant tree. I couldn't see if it was occupied but that would account for the path to it.

Continuing on the trail returns you in a loop. Afterwards be sure to visit the Pelican Man Sanctuary and it's letterbox which I restored when I was placing this one.

If this letterbox is damaged or missing please write theDoubtfulGuests@yahoo.com. Let me know if you find it. There is little letterboxing in that area and it would be nice to hear of a visit.