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Letterboxing Basics

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Outdoor Family Fun

Letterboxing is an outdoor treasure hunt.  It evolved from the ancient practice of placing rock cairns along the side of trails to mark that someone had been there.  In the Dartmoor area of England people started placing calling cards in the cairns and letterboxing was born. 

Today, letterboxes are waterproof containers that contain a logbook and a rubber stamp.  When a person finds a letterbox they sign the logbook to show that they found the book.  They are then able to use the rubber stamp to mark their personal journal to keep a record of boxes that they have found.  The rubber stamps vary from store-bought stamps used for crafts to elaborate hand carved stamps made specifically for the box in that location. 

Getting Started

Letterboxes are everywhere!  In England where this sport has a long history, it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of boxes.  No one knows the exact number.  Popularity soared in the United States after an April 1998 article in Smithsonian magazine.  Now there are estimated to be around 5000 boxes. 

In order to find what boxes are in a specific area, a letterboxer can look at websites such as Letterboxing North America or Atlas Quest.  The clues for the location of each box can be straightforward such as, "Go to the first trail in the park and walk one half mile to the large maple tree."  Some are more cryptic requiring deciphering clues based on local history. Unlike geocaching, letterboxing clues do not require the use of a GPS unit to find the box.

First time letterboxers should make sure that they have an inkpad for the stamp, a notebook to stamp onto, a cloth to clean the stamp, and a pen to sign the logbook.  Most people eventually get a personal stamp to use to sign the logbooks.  Personal designs can be ordered or carved to represent each letterboxer. 

Most letterboxes are in public areas such as parks.  It is recommended that they be not placed without the permission of the people in charge but most are placed secretly.  For this reason, letterboxers try to be discrete when finding and returning the boxes. 

Letterboxing can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.  Most clues will give you a good idea of the conditions in the area where the box is hidden.  Some involve hiking on trails but others are hidden close to paved bike trails or parking lots.  Some are even marked as wheelchair accessible. 

When you find a box you can log your find on one of the websites above to keep track of your finds.  This will also let the box owner know who is visiting their boxes and let everyone know that the box has not been removed from the area. 

Letterboxing in a great addition to vacations.  Finding boxes across the country is fun and will show you parks and public areas that aren't always mentioned in the tourist guides. Enjoy this great outdoor adventure.



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