Family time capsule

Dear Jake and Luke — Inside these stainless steel containers, there is more than plastic Mardi Gras beads, toy spurs, and playing cards. Kept safe inside is your grandfather’s adventurous spirit, and your grandmother’s smile so warm it could melt chocolate chip cookies.

They contain the Montana sunset, and fresh dew from the mountains of Washington. Tucked away are the stories of your ancestors, and of the family you now share. Safe are trinkets from adventure trips and treasures for the future. All of this is yours. It is out there in the wilderness. Years from now you will find it.

Some traits are not genetic. But some habits can’t help but be passed along, which is what Alan and Nancy Bixby are trying to do. The Freeland residents hope to instill a love for the wilderness in their grandsons, Jake and Luke. They are passing on a love for family, a love for adventure. The Bixbys are leaving a legacy of a new kind.

Five years ago, they began leaving their grandsons a wilderness adventure legacy by burying time capsules at various locations in the western United States.

“When you’re young and at the mercy of your parents to take you out on adventures, you don’t always get to take them,” Nancy Bixby said.

The capsules are placed underground at locations in the back country that the Bixbys often travel. This isn’t long term, 100-year preservation. The capsules will protect the contents for 10 to 40 years — 50 is pushing the limits. They are meant to be found at any time — hopefully only by Jake and Luke.

“You mean we don’t have to die for them to go do this,” Nancy asked.

No, they don’t. Maybe they’ll even be invited on the adventure.

Inside air-tight, stainless steel containers are items individually wrapped to protect them from the environment. There are toy beads, cars, souvenir belt buckles, buttons, toy airplanes, a harmonica and skipping rocks. It’s all stuff meant to take the boys back to childhood, no matter how old they might be when they find the capsules.

“I’d love to have my toys from my childhood, but my mother gave them away — she didn’t think ahead and bury them,” Nancy said.

Jake, “everyone’s favorite grandson,” will be 12 soon. He plays every sport and loves to collect rocks. It’s no doubt this future geologist shares a love for the outdoors with his grandparents. At only 3, Luke has quite the sense of humor. When the little latent cowboy saw snakeskin belt buckles that were to be included he told his grandparents “I’ll have this now.” He’s been known to dress as Woody from “Toy Story” for Halloween, and is sure to love the toy spurs and rattle snake skin items — even if he is in his 30s when he finds them.

The whole family has gathered family mementos and pictures, carefully selecting ones that could risk the chance of damage from the elements. The boys’ 89-year-old great-grandmother Barbara Bixby included items, including the Sheriff’s badge belonging to her father, their great-great-grandfather.

“Even if packed properly, you can’t guarantee the elements won’t get to it,” he said.

Alan and Nancy often write notes from their trips. They write notes to Jake and Luke, hoping they read in the future about what kind of boys they are now. Notes that their grandsons with read years from now. They document the events of the day, where they ate, what they ate, where they stayed and how well they rested. They often include the music they listened to and pictures from that day.

“We not only want to encourage them to have their own adventures but share the adventure we had to get to where we placed the capsule,” Alan Bixby said.

Newspapers and other periodicals will speak of the times with headlines from 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq war will be included.

The Bixby’s moved to Whidbey in 1976. Both are retired videographers who remain unretired working on local projects, about Ebey’s Landing and Oak Harbor.

Alan Bixby was born in Montana, and if there’s a one-lane road, drive at your own risk sign, Alan is there.

“He doesn’t like to take the same road twice,” Nancy Bixby said. “The boys should remember that their grandfather always took the long way around for adventure.”

Nancy is always along for the ride — holding her breath each step of the way.

As avid hikers, they combined the GPS system they used to navigate their treks with the idea of planting seeds of knowledge and enthusiasm.

First they had to make a test run, of sorts. On a trip to Big Hole Battle field with a then 4-year-old Jake they Bixby’s told their grandson area’s history and how arrow heads from the battle may still be there, though rarely seen.

He began looking, and soon came across an arrowhead. The Bixby’s had rigged their first find of many for their grandsons.

The first official capsule drop is at Bannock Pass, where the Nez Perce Trail and Lewis and Clark Trail meet. It was there, at 7,000 ft. that the Bixby’s danced in the sunset to a CD they later encapsulated for their grandsons to share.

The first capsule was a trial. Alan Bixby hopes to go back, dig up the capsule and fix any packing mistakes.

They’ve developed a few ground rules for burying the capsules. The capsules will only be buried in the same backwoods areas that the Bixby’s often traveled, thus giving the items less chance of discovery. They suggest that people “be, ahem, covert.”

They would only dig in places carefully selected as to maintain the land. After the items are placed the ground is returned to the state it was in before the capsule was buried.

“If there were pine needles covering the ground we recover,” she said. “There should be absolutely no sign we were there when we leave.”

They have also developed a plan for other people wanting to learn more about time capsules to follow which they discuss on their Web site The Bixbys do not do this for profit. They, in fact, will probably not take your capsule out in the field unless you’re a close friend or have a nice story to tell.

They currently have three capsules planted, have the supplies for three more, and hope to stop at five capsules per boy. The project has become a two-sided adventure where the grandparents are enjoying collecting items as much as the grandkids are going to enjoy discovering them. The Bixbys will travel to Montana in August to bury another capsule.They are always looking for a prime spot, off the beaten path to break ground and leave a legacy.

A few people have questioned the Bixby’s on the legality of placing the capsules, and Alan Bixby continues to stick by his guns.

“I find it hard to believe that there are park rangers out there standing guard against grandparents going into the woods with nothing but good intentions,” he said.

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