The Horseman Rides Again! A Halloween Wacky Wednesday

In honor of, and playing into of course, our famous Halloween locale, today’s hike took place in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in search of some hidden letterboxes. For those of you who have never heard of letterboxing, it is definitely worth exploring. It is the unplugged version of geocaching, a game which involves searching for hidden containers called ‘geocaches’ with the aid of a hand-held GPS device. Although their is a small plugged component of letterboxing in that one must visit the official letterboxing website to search for exisiting letterboxes and obtain the clues to find them, the majority of the activity is about creativity, imagination, teamwork, outdoor adventure, resourcefulness, appreciation and care for the natural world, and connection to other human beings.

Today’s hike was Kids Unplugged’s first foray into the world of letterboxing and judging from the enthusiasm of the kids it is an activity we will certainly be revisiting soon. We started out sitting in a circle on the lawn of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The church has it’s own burial ground, one in which Washington Irving, the man of the famous Legend, is laid to rest. In our circle we talked a little bit about the legend of the Headless Horseman and I explained about l etterboxing and what we were going to be doing on the hike. We read the mysterious clues together and then set out along the path in search of the wood-planked bridge which may have been the one Ichabod Crane sought to cross on he and Gunpowder’s fateful ride.

Today’s Wacky Wednesday actually took place on Thursday this time, as Wednesday was a washout. Happily, postponing by a day gave us a beautiful autumn afternoon for our foray into the cemetery’s beautiful grounds and the foliage and views along Gory Brook were gorgeous. We did encourage the kids to keep their voices a bit lower than normal, but hills to climb, headstones to hide behind and rocks to toss into the brook below continued to draw from them shrieks of glee. What can you do?

There was a great deal of excitement upon reaching the old bridge, and after referring to our clues the kids began counting out the 30-paces mentioned in the narrative. This opened up a conversation about the difference between steps and paces because they all stopped at various points along the trail having reached their personal 30! When it was determined where the average of 30-paces was, they began searching in earnest for the pile of rocks which should have been 5-paces off the trail to the left. And while at first it seemed that the box might have been removed by a letterboxing foe, our group remained undaunted and continued their hunt. A shout from among wet leaves indicated success, and a damp, humus covered plastic box was brought up to the trail for all to see.

After examining the contents, looking through the stamp journal and leaving our own mark, we found a spot to sit for Halloween cookies and a theatrical reading of The Tale of the Headless Horseman, a wonderfully accessible adaptatation of Irving’s Legend. And though the second box did appear to be missing, we were able to find the third letterbox hidden within a stone wall on our hike back out of the cemetery.

I joked today that I have been thinking about this hike for months and I was so delighted that we were actually doing it–and with such success. The scenery was beautiful and the activity great fun. The perfect Wacky Wednesday to celebrate the spookiness of Halloween in Sleepy Hollow.

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