By Pamela Phillippe
If you are looking for a new activity that will get you and your family exploring the outdoors, try Letterboxing.
Letterboxing is a mixture of treasure hunting, art, navigation and exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places. Letterboxing started when a gentleman simply left his calling card in a bottle by a remote lake in Dartmoor, England.
Letterboxing came to America in the late 1990’s, and now hundreds of letterboxes are hidden all across the country.
The basic idea of letterboxing is this: Someone hides a waterproof container which holds a small notebook, a small handmade or purchased rubber stamp, and a perhaps a pencil or pen. The ‘box’ or container is hidden in a place not visible to someone just walking by. The hider may choose a hole in a tree, under a rock ledge, or under a pile of stones. The hider will record the box’s specific location, and place ‘clues’, or directions, to finding the location on one of several websites.
Someone looking for the letterbox will use those clues to locate the box. The person searching for the box will have with them a small notebook, a rubber stamp and stamp pad, and a pencil or pen. When the box is found, the finder stamps the hidden book with their mark, and uses the hidden stamp to mark their book. Finders then date each book and add notes to the hidden book as to where they are from, how hard it was to find the box or any other message they wish to leave.
Letterboxing can be a wonderful family hobby, beginning with the handmade rubber stamps as an excellent art project. Deciding on an image of importance to the family and helping to create the stamp is a great way to get the children involved. Before leaving on a trip, or just exploring around town, a parent can go to the websites and find the clues to location of a letterbox. Armed with the clues, the family-designed stamp, a stamp pad, and the family notebook, the fun begins as soon as someone begins reading the clues.
Many of the letterboxes are found in city and state parks, and adjacent to trails in public hiking areas. Letterboxes are not, however, allowed in national parks. Some unique hiding places are around monuments on college campuses, on bridges, and even in coffee shops.
Clues for finding the letterboxes range from the very simple, to the more complicated of using a compass or GPS instrument. Most of the letterbox sites are accessible for all ages, and there is letterboxing etiquette to follow.
Letterboxing can be an added adventure anywhere you and your family travel. The equipment needed is small and easily packed for any trip, and is very affordable.