Letterboxing Rocks!

Saturday, May 05, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

On the History Highway, Day 52:  Lake George, NY to Oneonta, NY

Last night as we were sketching out plans for the remaining ten days of this trip, we suddenly realized that we had completely forgotten Prayer Rock.  Planted in April, 1998, Prayer Rock is one of the two oldest letterboxes in the United States.  How could we forget Prayer Rock, especially after we successfully searched for Max Patch, the other original box in North Carolina on this very trip?

Checking the map, we discovered that we had been within 38 miles of Prayer Rock yesterday when we were in Ticonderoga.  The box is located near the town of Bristol, Vermont, at the site of a most unusual local landmark.

Prayer Rock, the rock (different from Prayer Rock, the letterbox)
On the bank of the New Haven River just outside Bristol, a huge boulder sits at the very edge of the roadside, so close that the corner of the massive rock is painted white to help drivers avoid hitting it as they pass by.  Engraved on the rock is the text of the Lord's Prayer. Inspired by hieroglyphic inscriptions he had seen while traveling in Egypt, Buffalo physician, Joseph Greene, paid a carver to do the job in 1891.  The most popular legend to explain this unusual act was that Greene frequently stopped there as a boy when he delivered logs to a Bristol sawmill.

It didn't take us long to decide that we wanted to go to Bristol today.  The opportunity to find both these legendary letterboxes in one trip was one we couldn't pass up.  So this morning we packed up and headed back north, driving to the new Lake Champlain Bridge in Crown Point to get over to Vermont.

Lake Champlain Bridge (opened in 2011)
Fortunately, Bristol was only 20 miles away when we reached the eastern side of the lake.  To prolong the anticipation, we decided to stop at Greenwood Cemetery west of Bristol to search for a series of three letterboxes there.  After all, this was Prayer Rock, an old and revered treasure in the world of American letterboxing.  We couldn't just rush into it.

Greenwood Cemetery
Having found the boxes at Greenwood, we moseyed into Bristol and shopped for a few groceries for a picnic lunch.  Then we looked around the village a bit and finally drove east out of town in search of the big rock.  Even though the prayer was on the opposite side from our approach, the giant slab was hard to miss.  As luck would have it, there was even a small parking area next to it.

New Haven River
The river was pretty tame today, but we could see that at times it grows much larger.  We checked out the engraving and read the clue for the letterbox.  Following each step carefully, we soon had it in our hands—Prayer Rock!  Sadly the container was half full of water, but the contents were still safe and sound thanks to multiple layers of ziploc bags.

In the interest of full disclosure, we have to say that this is not the original Prayer Rock letterbox.  That veteran of many finds floated down the river in a flood in 2007, just before its tenth birthday.  Since the original planter, the Vermont Viking, was deceased by that time, another letterboxer replanted Prayer Rock in his memory, presumably with a stamp that matched the original.  So the spirit of the original lives on, and finding it today was still a thrill.

After relishing this treasure, we retraced our steps back south and drove on to Oneonta, New York, for the night.  Tomorrow we'll return to Pennsylvania on our way to Gettysburg.

More Photos from Today

Very unusual marker at Greenwood Cemetery in Bristol
Osprey nest on the shore of Lake Champlain
A sight you cannot escape no matter where you travel
Along the beautiful Northway (I-87) in the Adirondacks
Mailbox of the Day (at Crown Point State Historic Site)