The first time I ever dug for buried treasure was on a visit to a house where my family once lived. I had to ask permission of the new residents, then I counted the concrete paving stones, retracing the mental map I had carried for more than 10 years, and pried up the secret stone. Beneath it I expected to find something wonderful in a way that only a child can comprehend wonder, although I was well into my 20s. The flat stone fell back to reveal its sharp, deep imprint in the ground, but underneath was only dirt and roots and a few sow bugs that rolled up into little pills as I probed with a stick. The treasure I sought was the glass aspirin bottle I had filled with pennies and marbles and hidden in the days before my family had moved away to Florida.
Perhaps some thief (or some other child) had discovered the hiding place. I suppose I’d have been disappointed with my little cache of memories, no matter what. But maybe that experience accounts for my delight with a relatively new hobby that began in Great Britain and has blown across the pond to take root in the states.
They call it “letterboxing” in England. There’s also a high-tech GPS version of it called “geocaching,” but I like the simpler, more literary-based version that the Brits invented. Simply put, you hide a weatherproof box with a notebook and pen, a distinctive rubber stamp and a stamp pad. Then you publish or otherwise circulate clues to lead people to your hidden treasure.
Anyone who either seeks and finds, or simply stumbles upon, your treasure box is invited to leave you a note, and to take an impression of your rubber stamp to prove they were there.
I’ve read a number of articles about the game. We’ve even published a couple in this magazine, but I’ve never actually gotten around to questing for one of the hundreds of treasure boxes that are stashed around the state. A new book on the subject, “Questing” by Delia Clark and Steven Glazier (University Press of New England), is so full of great suggestions that I am finally motivated to act. I still haven’t found a treasure box, but I’ve hidden one.
The clues below will lead you to it, and once there, you’ll get more clues to lead you to another. By the end of your quest, you’ll have visited some of my favorite places in the state. And in the last box you’ll find something wonderful. Not as wonderful as an aspirin bottle filled with childhood memories, but well worth the effort.
If you don’t feel like exploring the state, maybe my effort will prompt you to explore your own memories of New Hampshire for some treasures you have buried in the past. Either way, enjoy the quest.
A black magician once lived near a station that bears his name. Across the street an office that died has a stamp of life again.
West by foot you’ll see a stone wall to your southward side.
At the corner find a stone where a treasure box could hide.
This article appears in the September 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine