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CAM 2017: National Park Seminary Letterbox Hybrid

Hidden : 02/19/2017
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Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

Cache Across Maryland 2017

The Maryland Geocaching Society welcomes you to the 2017 edition of Cache Across Maryland! This is one of eleven geocaches placed throughout the ‘Old Line State’ in locations specifically chosen to showcase its diverse beauty. From the mountains of Western Maryland to the wetlands of the Eastern Shore, CAM 2017 will demonstrate that Maryland truly is ‘America in Miniature’.

Each Cache Across Maryland 2017 geocache contains a code which you will use to determine the location of the CAM 2017 Picnic to be held on May 6th. The code can be found on the inside of the cache container and on the inside front cover of the logbook. Don't forget to record this code! Any geocacher who has completed TEN of the eleven CAM 2017 geocaches and attends the CAM Picnic on May 6th will receive a Certificate of Completion and a CAM 2017 Geocoin. We hope you enjoy a very special CAM 2017!

National Park Seminary

National Park Seminary — later called National Park College — was a private girls’ school open from 1894 to 1942. Located in Forest Glen, Maryland, its name alludes to nearby Rock Creek Park.

Ye Forest Inne
Ye Forest Inne

The campus began in 1887 as ‘Ye Forest Inne’, a summer vacation retreat for Washington, D.C., residents. The retreat did not succeed financially, and the property was sold and redeveloped as a finishing school, opening in 1894 with a class of 48 female students. The architecture of the campus remained eclectic and whimsical. In addition to various Victorian styles, exotic designs included a Dutch windmill, a Swiss chalet, a Japanese pagoda, an Italian villa, and an English castle. Many of these small homes with international designs were built from blueprints obtained by competing sororities, but all were designed by architect Emily Elizabeth Holman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The campus also featured covered walkways, outdoor sculptures, and elaborately planned formal gardens. In 1936 it was renamed ‘National Park College’ and its focus was realigned with more modern education trends; it remained one of the most prestigious women’s schools in the country.

May Day 1907
May Day 1907

With the onset of World War II, the United States Army began planning for the medical needs of returning soldiers. In 1942, the property was acquired by Walter Reed Army Hospital as a medical facility for disabled soldiers, thus closing the college. The Army paid $890,000 for the land and buildings that became the Walter Reed Forest Glen Annex. The goal was to provide to seriously injured service members a quiet, green space for rehabilitation and recovery that was within a short drive from the heavily urbanized neighborhood surrounding the hospital. Following World War II and the Korean War, the Army attempted to maintain the space with progressively limited funds; the Army employed some of the unique sorority houses as base housing for military officers who organized themselves and enlisted soldiers to maintain the seminary space. Eventually, however, the Army lost sufficient funding from the U.S. Congress during the 1960s and ’70s to maintain the space and was compelled to declare the property excess, pending transfer to the General Services Administration to find a new owner.

Although the Army was frequently criticized by local residents during the 1980s and ’90s for allowing the undeveloped portion of the property to remain economically stagnant, it was largely government ownership that protected the space from overdevelopment. Once relinquished due to base maintenance funding cuts from Congress, the U.S. Army Walter Reed Medical Center lost what once had been a quiet, rehabilitative area for service members recovering from post-war trauma during the 1940s just as the Iraq War began during 2003.

The Dance Hall
The Dance Hall

On September 14, 1972, a 27-acre National Park Seminary Historic District was listed as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In the following years, the historical integrity of the property was threatened by neglect and vandalism. The Greek Revival Odeon Theater was lost to arson. Local preservation groups took action and ‘Save Our Seminary’ (SOS) was formed in 1988. In the late 1990s, the Army was encouraged to make repairs to some of the buildings and, ultimately, in releasing the property for development. With private donations, SOS began an exterior restoration project of the pagoda in 1999, completed in 2003.

National Park Seminary Restored

2003, a development team began implementing a plan to preserve the campus as the core of a new residential neighborhood. The residential neighborhood consists of townhomes, condominiums, and apartments. The townhomes are in a variety of architectural styles from Spanish mission to colonial. The apartments, some of which are affordable housing, are in the main structure. Condominiums are located in several buildings that branch off of the main structure including the Senior House, Senior Annex, and Music Hall. There are condominiums in the Chapel and Aloha House.

In order to raise funds necessary to preserve most all of the historic buildings, portions of the abandoned seminary grounds were made available for townhouse development which began in 2006. The 12-acre old growth forest in the glen and most of the historically sensitive yards and courts were spared from redevelopment.

The Geocache

This geocache is not located at the listed coordinates. The listed coordinates are for the starting point of the letterbox adventure. To locate the geocache container, read the notes and the story, then follow the directions below.

A few notes:

• Please only park along Linden Lane or Ament Street. Do not park within the Seminary as that is strictly for residents only and they do check for permits.

• Please only seek this geocache between sunrise and sunset. No night caching!

• You will be walking past very interesting buildings, many of which have been rehabilitated and are now used as residences; while they are used to visitors taking pictures of their home, please be respectful as you explore this area and stay on the public sidewalks. You will also be walking by statues and buildings that have been abandoned and reclaimed by nature; do not touch the statues and buildings, and do not go into the abandoned buildings or onto their porches.

• Since this is a Letterbox Hybrid geocache, the cache container contains a stamp and inkpad. Please do not take the stamp or inkpad!! To obtain the CAM code for this geocache, use the stamp.

The Story:

Jupiter, the leader of the Roman Gods, was growing very frustrated with mortals. Perched on his throne atop Mt. Olympus, he spent his days watching mortals destroy the home he gave them and constantly engaging in war with each other. Some Gods tried tirelessly to persuade Jupiter to get rid of mortals all together, while other Gods loved mortals and begged him to let them live out their lives uninterrupted by the Gods.

Jupiter decided to give mortals one last chance. He determined that he would entrust the safety of a metal box of his most prized possessions to mortals who displayed unwavering courage, physical prowess, tested and demonstrated integrity, and keen intellect. Jupiter proclaimed that geocachers have proven to hold all of these qualities, and they would be a perfect choice to entrust with the protection of the box. Jupiter declared that as long as the geocachers kept his box of prized possessions safe, no mortal would come to any harm at the hands of the Gods.

Jupiter selected a worthy geocacher to protect the box and explained the grave responsibilities of being the guardian of the box. The geocacher proudly vowed to protect the box, and he secretly carried it with him everywhere in a pouch by his side for many mortal years.

Jupiter had many children including Minerva and Silva. Silva was always jealous that her father favored Minerva, and she was also envious of the love that her father showed to mortals. One day she followed the geocacher as he was caching in the woods. She confronted him and with the snap of her fingers the box disappeared from within the pouch where the geocacher safely kept it at his side. Silva told the geocacher that she placed a curse on the box and it is now hidden deep within an enchanted glen and can only be freed if a geocacher finds it and scrawls his or her name on the magical parchment placed inside the box.

Realizing that his failure to fulfill his vow to Jupiter will lead to the destruction of mortals, the geocacher entered the enchanted glen in search of the box. He hasn’t been seen since. The future of all mortals depends on other geocachers bravely taking on the quest to find the box in the enchanted glen and breaking Silva’s curse before Jupiter realizes the box is missing.

To begin your quest into the enchanted glen, follow these letterbox clues:

  1.  Park along Linden Lane or along Ament Street (see parking waypoints). It is vital to your mission that you park here and DO NOT park within the residential area of the Seminary or the Gods will have your car towed by a mortal and the box will disappear forever.

  2.  Begin at the posted coordinates. Walk north along Dewitt Drive toward the tunnel. You will pass a magical Japanese Pagoda on your left. Go through the tunnel and it will take you to the Gods’ enchanted glen.

  3.  Once through the tunnel walk to the fountain that contains three hippocampi (sea horses), three mermaids, and three griffin-like creatures.

  4.  Walk NORTHEAST from the fountain to the fierce lions guarding the steps. Pass between the lions and go down the steps.

  5.  Once down the steps, walk down the path and turn left, away from the Dutch Windmill. Mortals reside within the 118-year-old Dutch Windmill, so please do not disturb them and stay on the sidewalk.

  6.  Walk approximately 275 feet down the path until you come to the weeping Cyparissous. You will see that Cyparissous is weeping because he had a beloved pet deer, and while hunting he accidentally shot his deer.

  7.  Find the trail to the North of Cyparissous and walk down the trail for a short distance until you will see a dirt path that cuts to the left. Follow this dirt path and notice the decrepit ruins around you that reveal the previous victims of Silva’s curses.

  8.  You will quickly find yourself on the top of a 150-year-old stone staircase. Be wary. This staircase has been cursed by Silva, and the curse makes the steps slippery when wet, sometimes uneven, and sometimes jagged. Hold on and tread carefully down the steps.

  9.  At the bottom of the steps follow the trail heading EAST (turn right). You will cross a very small stream which may require more dexterity after heavy rain. While walking along the trail keep an eye out for a secret grotto hidden on your right. This grotto is fed by a natural spring and the Gods believe it grants wishes. Go to the grotto and make a wish that you are successful in your quest (don’t toss in coins, as gold fish, frogs, and baby turtles live in the grotto’s natural spring).

10.  To the EAST of the grotto (over your left shoulder if facing the grotto) find the steps hidden under a canopy of magical trees that are forever green. Carefully walk up the steps.

11.  At the top of the steps you will be presented to the powerful Goddess Themis, also known as Lady Justice. She will blindly balance all sides of your quest, and if she determines that justice weighs in your favor, she will reveal a set of secret steps directly behind her.

12.  Once you walk up the steps, walk EAST (straight ahead and slightly to the left) for approximately 186 feet until you find yourself before Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, War, Art, School and Commerce.

13.  Minerva is familiar with her sister’s malevolence and will take pity on you. She will help you by giving you the following hint to the location of the box: “The box is hidden under a pile of rocks where the red pipe meets an old stone wall.” She will tell you that you can get there by finding the staircase leading to the English Castle. To locate the staircase, use your GPS-enabled device to project a waypoint 187 feet from Minerva on a bearing of 245°. (If you are unable to project a waypoint, simply take a reading at Minerva's location, then subtract .013 from the north coordinate and add .036 to the west coordinate.)

14.  Following Minerva’s instructions, go past the yellow Italian Villa that was cursed by Silva and find the staircase that leads down towards the dilapidated English Castle, but please heed this warning: do not enter or touch these buildings, including the porches. Once down the stairs, follow the path towards the Castle but do not go off the path; the Gods have placed hidden debris under the overgrowth.

15.  Once you are in front of the Castle, turn left to follow the dirt path, and then make an immediate right turn just past the Castle, always keeping the Castle on your right side. If you have reached an open field, you went too far.

16.  Soon the path will turn left, away from the Castle. Follow the path as it turns into stone and go down the stone steps and stone path for approximately 50 feet. If you have reached a second set of stone steps that lead to a stone bridge over a creek, you have gone too far.

17.  Go off of the stone path to the left and climb a hill for approximately 30 feet (you will pass a large tree stump). The box will be in the location that Minerva gave you. Sign your name to the parchment inside the box to break Silva’s curse, and congratulate yourself for saving all mortals from destruction. Please make sure the box is completely hidden from all angles before you leave.

If you feel like you are being watched, it is because you are. If you look to the east, up the hill and through the woods, you will see Silva approximately 150 feet away watching your every move. You can try to reach her by walking up the hill and through the forest, or by walking along the road that runs from the villa, however, this is not necessary for finding the letterbox, and given her fickle temperament, may not be advisable.

The MGS extends its thanks to Save Our Seminary for granting permission for this cache placement. During the six weeks of CAM, the organization which oversees this property will offer two guided tours of the grounds and some of the buildings. Tour information can be found on the MGS forum.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Yvfgra gb jung Zvarein gbyq lbh

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)