Last checked/found: 14-APR-10 Second box (Mistletoe) seems to be missing. We did not check on any other boxes in the series.
Distance: ~4 miles
Time: ~2 to 3 hours depending on trail conditions
Terrain: Mostly level trails through woods, one small hill
Start your quest from the small parking lot near the Mill Pond dam in Merton. This is just across the street from 7193 Main Street (County Highway V V).
A native Mexican plant, poinsettias were named after Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant to America in 1828. Poinsettias were likely used by Mexican Franciscans in their 17th century Christmas celebrations. According to legend, the origin of the poinsettia was as follows: A poor Mexican girl and her brother were on their way to church on Christmas eve but had nothing to give the Christ child. They gathered weeds and made them into a small bouquet. The other children made fun of their gift. When they laid the branches at the manger in the church the weeds were miraculously transformed into bright red and white leaves that we know as the poinsettia.
To find your own poinsettia, pass by the gate east of the parking lot and take the trail that follows along the shore of the pond. You’ll pass a ceremonial mound on the right and a tree bowing to the pond on the left. Eventually another trail merges from the right and near here you should spot a tree fort platform. Continue on under an arching tree, and then pass by a house on the right. Shortly after the house you should see a broken tree base on the right, leaning toward the trail. From here, take 47 paces further to a short stump. The hollow log at 130 degrees shelters the cheerful plant. Please cover it carefully so it continues to bloom for others.
MISTLETOE [This box seems to have disappeared]
In winter, trees lose their leaves revealing the perennially green mistletoe. Druid priests used mistletoe 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots, yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward off evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.
To find this magical plant, continue along the shore path and pass another house. Eventually you will pass by another gate and should then head left. Take a right to follow the acorn’s destiny until you reach a town in Portugal’s park. Enter the park and follow the paved surface as it curves around. When you come to a fork, stay to the right (toward the sledding hill if it is winter time). When you see a sign for a Prairie Walk, head over to join that trail. Go under the arbor and continue east until you reach an intersection. Take the path at 230 degrees until you reach the tree line. Now turn left and continuing straight through another intersection. When you reach a circle of red, head downhill and continue until you reach a tower. Stand in the center and take a bearing of 320 degrees. Walk in that direction for 57 paces to discover a log pile. There’s no need to move any logs, just look in some of the larger gaps in the area between the large tree and the fallen log. The box is covered by some bark, but should be easily accessible. (Of course if there is a lot of snow, the gaps might not be very noticeable!)
If you’re with someone, hold the stamp over your head and kiss for happiness & good luck! And to ensure the happiness of future seekers, please reseal and rehide the box with care.
According to legend, evergreen trees were not always green. Before the birth of Christ they lost their leaves each winter like other trees. But while Mary, Joseph and Jesus were on their way to Egypt they were forced to hide from Herod's soldiers in a clump of cedar trees. To hide the holy family the trees brought forth green needles and the cedars white berries turned blue so that Mary's blue robe blended in. Since that day evergreen trees have kept their color all year round. Another related legend says that a pine tree hid the holy family and that the baby Jesus left the imprint of his hand forever in their fruit and that if you cut a pinecone lengthwise you can still see the imprint of that tiny hand.
The Christmas Tree originated in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles. While coming home one dark winter's night near Christmas, he was struck with the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. He duplicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used in Britain until the 19th century. It was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans in the 1820's.
To find the symbolic evergreen, return to the tower and head northeast and over a bridge. After crossing the bridge, take a left and continue on past the number of pipers piping, an orange diamond, and another orange diamond. Next you’ll reach an intersection before a bridge. Take a right into a clearing and spot a large fallen tree across the way. Look under the fallen portion on the near side, where the arch points. Notice all the other evergreens in this clearing?
The pagan Druids viewed holly - with its cheerful propensity to remain green in winter - as a sacred plant, designed to keep the earth beautiful even as north winds howled and snow blanketed the landscape. They wore sprigs of holly in their hair when they went into the forest to watch their priests cut the sacred mistletoe. Later, Christian tradition assigned significance to Holly. The pointy leaves represent the thorns of Christ's Crown and the red berries symbolize the drops of Christ's blood. The tradition of hanging a holly wreath on the door at Christmas began during the 17th Century and signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.
It’s interesting that three of these four botanicals all have a key feature of staying green through the winter. We certainly need some cheering up during the long Wisconsin winters, especially when the temperatures are frigid! To find the last box, return to the main path and continue west over the bridge. Pass the sign with the number of drummers drumming, then a green house on the right, and then a gate on the right. Eventually you’ll pass a blue structure on the left. Start watching for a barkless snag on the right, 15’-20’ high. As a check on your location on the path, the snag should be at 342 degrees and a yellow sign should be visible at 240 degrees. The holly is hidden beneath the fallen log at the base of the snag.
After rehiding the holly, return to the path and continue onward to the end of the trail. Head left to return to the parking lot.
We hope you enjoyed your hike! You might want to stop at the custard shop just south of the parking lot for a burger or some custard to celebrate. There are also some interesting gift shops nearby.
P.S. It would be great if you would send an email message to let me know how the boxes are doing.