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Treasure hunters welcome, but the reward is not gold

August 18, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

From Interstate 81 south, as soon as you cross into Maryland, look on your right for the Maryland Veterans Memorial Highway Monument at mile marker 11. Pull off on the right at the monument.

As I followed Clue No. 1 on my first letterboxing adventure, my initial concern was traffic-related. Hopefully all the other drivers would be alert on this particular afternoon. Better pull into the grass just to be safe.

Face the writing on the monument and notice the large bush to its right. Past the bush is a thin tree against the fence leaning against another thin tree on the other side of the fence. On the ground behind the thin tree is our Mason-Dixon box.

There seemed to be several large bushes and thin trees. I carefully checked around all of them until I found the box.


I was searching for this box because I had recently read about the growing popularity of letterboxing and wanted to see if this would be something fun I could do with my children.

Letterboxing mixes treasure hunting, art, navigation and the exploration of interesting, scenic and sometimes remote places, according to

A person or a group of people hides a waterproof box somewhere. In the box, there's a logbook for visitors' messages and a carved rubber stamp. Directions to the box can be cryptic or straightforward. Once a box is found, the visitor leaves a message, stamps a page with his personal stamp and uses the stamp in the box to stamp his own logbook, recording where and when the stamp was found.

I was surprised to find the Mason-Dixon Drive By box, as it was called, because it had been placed on May 6, 2005. I wondered whether it would still be at the site. Not only was it there, but more than 25 visitors - from at least 10 states - have left messages in it during the last 15 months.

It was interesting to read what others had to say. One commentary running throughout dealt with nearby bones of a deer, apparently hit by an Interstate traveler:

The deer bones gave me a start - from an Arlington, Va., visitor

May we all end up better than the deer did! - an entry from March of this year

Deer bones still there - observed a visitor from Ithaca, N.Y.

Dear deer bones - from a May entry

There was a sense of community among the entries and I thought this might be a fun hobby for families to adopt. I wouldn't recommend taking children to the Mason-Dixon site because it is right along the interstate. However, the letterboxing Web site lists clues for several boxes in area locations such as Sideling Hill Exhibit Center, Washington Monument State Park, Devil's Backbone Park, Greenbrier State Park and Fort Frederick State Park.

For more information, go to Happy hunting!

Ice cream recipe

Two weeks ago I wrote about making ice cream in a plastic bag or a coffee can. Some of you contacted me, requesting the recipe Betsy Herbst talked about in that column. I called Herbst, who is chairwoman of the Ag Room at the Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc., and she supplied the following:

To make one serving of ice cream in a resealable plastic bag, place 1/2 cup of milk, half-and-half or heavy cream (or a combination of these - heavy cream will make the creamiest ice cream of the three), 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 3 teaspoons sugar in a one-quart freezer bag. Zip the bag and tape it shut. Place it inside a gallon freezer bag. In the gallon bag, place three to eight ice cubes and 2 tablespoons rock salt or ice cream salt. Zip the bag and tape it shut. Place a dry wash cloth in each hand. (The bag will become cold and condensation will form on the outside.) The bag can be bounced back and forth between each hand until it freezes. Makes one serving of ice cream.

To make ice cream in a coffee can, use three to four times the ingredients used in a single serving. Start with a 1- or 2-pound coffee can. Place milk and/or cream, sugar and vanilla in the can. Seal the can by placing the plastic lid back on and taping it shut with duct tape or another heavy tape. Place that can inside a larger can. Pack ice and rock salt in between the two cans. Then seal the larger can's lid. Children can roll the can back and forth on the floor for about a half an hour. Then the ice cream can be scooped out and enjoyed.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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