Tuesday, January 10, 2012

L = Letterboxing

Yes, I skipped K, but I can go back to it later, right? Since more and more people have been asking, I figured that it was probably about time to add a post to my little blog about letterboxing. That is right. You know that you have been wondering. Now you will hopefully get your curiosities satisfied so that you do not wind up like the proverbial cat.

letterboxing (ˈlɛtəˌbɒksɪŋ) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
1.a method of formatting film that enables all of a
wide-screen film to be transmitted on a television
screen, resulting in a blankstrip of screen above
and below the picture
2.a type of treasure hunt in which a box, known as
letterbox ,is hidden in a remote rural location
and clues are provided as to its whereabouts

Sooo...we will go with the second definition today.

There are so many fun and fantastic aspects to letterboxing, but the gist of it is that it is a scavenger hunt. What I enjoy about letterboxing that it is something that I can do with my guys. It is family-friendly and a good activity for any age. It gets us outside in the fresh air. It gets us exercising. It gets us thinking and puzzle solving. It gets us doing something together.

Are you still with me? Do you think that you might like to give letterboxing a whirl?

To play, you would need your own "signature" stamp, a journal, an ink pad, and a pen. Oh, and you will need a trail name. Your trail name can be whatever you choose. Some people choose a name indicative of a hobby or a twist on their real name or something else.

Clues can usually be found on the internet, though some are word of mouth (WOM). We mostly use AtlasQuest, yet there are also other letterboxing web sites. Here is how it works:

1. Get a clue. (Yes, I told you to get a clue.)
2. Follow the clue, and find the location to which it takes you.
3. When you get to the end of the clue, you will hopefully find a letterbox.
4. When you find the letterbox, there should be a rubber stamp and a logbook inside of it.
5. Stamp your signature stamp into the logbook to indicate that you were there. Some people put the date and the city and state from which they traveled to find the box (even if it is in your own town). It is neat to look through a logbook and see from here people have come.
6. Take the stamp from the letterbox and stamp it into your journal. To me this is like collecting passport stamps of all of the letterboxes that you have visited. Some people like to write next to the stamped image in their journal the name of the stamp, the person who planted it, the date they found it, or any number of other things. It is your journal, so you can write or not write what you choose.
7. Pack the stamp and logbook back into the secure, hopefully weather-safe container, and re-hide it exactly where you found it. If you can, hide it better than you found it.

This may seem like a lot, yet that is simply because I have attempted to walk you through finding a box with as many details as I think will help you understand. In reality, once you find a box, the process of numbers 4-7 might take you about three minutes.

HOWEVER, there is one thing that I have not yet mentioned. Letterboxing is a fun past time, and it can bring joy and adventure to your personal or family activities. What you do not want to do, though, is ruin it for the next person who goes to look for the box after you. With that in mind, it is important to be stealthy when you are hunting and retrieving a letterbox. The idea is to not let people who might be around you see or know what you are doing.

People who do not know what letterboxing is simply would not understand why you are digging behind that trash can or burrowing through the leaves at the park or sneaking off on some clandestine mission with someone else's wife.

In addition to the thrill of the hunt, this obsession...err...addiction...umm...hobby has given us so much more. Letterboxing has taken us to some beautiful places that we did not know existed and may never has seen otherwise. We have been to some events where we have met some super people. We have made some friends that, chances are, we would not have met outside of letterboxing.

Plus, part of the fun of this surreptitious hobby is that you get to be part of a sort of secret society, and doesn't that make you feel special?


  1. Thanks for introducing us to Letterboxing! We are just getting started but have really enjoyed meeting new people. What a great way to spend a day together as a family! My girls really enjoy it. Sarah wants her own stamp so she can start her own journal! Looking forward to spending more time on the hunt this spring and summer!

  2. I love letterboxing and I think you made this post easy to understand and follow. I love that it gets us seeing things and going places we probably would not have found otherwise

  3. Love the picture of you hiding in the tree!

  4. Neat! I think we will give this a whirl!