Fitness Challenge #1: Downtown Marathon  LbNA # 10059 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateAug 13 2004
LocationChicago, IL
Found By
Last Found
Hike Distance?

The Fitness Challenge series is intended for those seeking some exercise with their letterboxing. Each box has different physical demands. In this case, no stairs need be traversed, and all walking takes place on sidewalks, though some curbs don't have proper ramp-cuts in them. I'm pretty sure you can choose which side of the street you prefer to walk on, without much detriment to your ability to follow the cluechain. One point of the path is too narrow for a double-wide stroller to pass easily, but I think that's the only real constraint I have to offer.

This clue trail takes upwards of 40 minutes to traverse (while I was playtesting the clues -- and I have a fast walking speed, and the advantage of knowing where I was going already). It passes quite a few purveyors of food and drink, and public benches to take a rest on. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you think you're up to the challenge, I'll show you some of my favorite parts of downtown Chicago.

Think of it as a scenic hike in the woods, only on sidewalks instead of bark-chip paths.

It probably goes without saying, but I'll add for the out-of-towners that parking in downtown is obscenely expensive, and should not be attempted by the faint of heart. No, really, I'm not kidding. Consult a native, or leave your vehicle at any of the Metra ( ) or CTA ( ) park-and-ride facilities and take public transit downtown if you value your sanity. :->


This trail has a standing instruction, to be obeyed whenever its conditions obtain: when the path you follow causes you to cross a river, turn upstream on the far side and follow its bank.

And, of course, follow all laws regarding foot traffic, and keep an eye out for cars. When I say 'turn right' I do NOT mean 'vault that fence and wander into the dangerous place,' I mean 'turn right at the next available obvious sidewalk'. :->

Start at the James Thompson Center (sometimes called the State of Illinois Building, or 'that stupid pink-and-aqua rocket-ship-shaped building'), standing beside the big white-with-black-lines abstract sculpture on its plaza. Look east, and find the big T. Put your back to its left-hand side and start walking.

When you see the black daredevil on your right, turn left, then right under the yellow bridge. Continue down the avenue lined with severed heads, turning left at its end. Go under the yellow bridge, following the road as it curves. Pass through the stately grey colonnade linedwith flags. Turn right at its end, and left just after the Rivers.

This time, ignore the standing instruction.

Turn right on the street named after the man most famous for having (apocryphally) flown a kite. Pass the sheer wall of polished red granite. Cross, then turn left along, the street that might be named for an offspring of a scaler of beanstalks. Pat the undulating waves of red stone in greeting (they're some of my favorite downtown architectural embellishments) and turn right at that corner.

You'll pass a firehouse and 2 giant fish before approaching an unusual grey building. At that building's fire hydrant, turn left, and pass under 13-5. Walk towards the clock tower and turn right at its foot. Pass the little shed; turn left at the fountain. Follow that path's right fork to another fountain; walk east. It will get noisy, then quieter.

At the base of General Logan's stairs, look around for a fountain, and walk towards it. There is a green square just south of the fountain that holds your goal. Look carefully.

This is an urban letterbox; please don't dig around for it (or put it back!) when anyone's watching, and please do make sure it's well-hidden when you leave. This is a very public spot, and I'm not sure how the city's park department feels about letterboxes on its property. I'm a new placer, so feedback on the quality, misdirection, and clarity of my clues and box-hiding is welcome and solicited.