If you happen to see my family in the middle of the woods discussing whether we have seen three birch trees or only two, or a particular boulder faces east or northeast, do not be concerned. We are most likely letterboxing.
Although many of you have heard of Geo Caching, Letterboxing is its low tech older brother. Begun in 1854 in Dartmoor, England, letterboxing has a rich history around the world. For my family, it is one of our favorite ways to combine outdoor play with hunting for treasure.
When we find ourselves with a few hours of free time, we will log on to atlasquest.com or letterboxing.org and print out a list of clues. Then it’s off to the car to drive to the starting point, with our hand made rubber stamps, our letterboxing journals, ink, a pen and some snacks. Usually my older daughter will read the clues as we walk through the woods. “Turn left at the stream” or “Look for a mossy rock behind a large stump” can turn into lots of discussions about which stump, and how far left should we turn. When we see “Muggles” (non letterboxing folk) we quickly act nonchalant, and try to make it seem like we are just stopping to read our trail map or tie a shoe. We don’t want to give away the secret location of the letterbox! It’s always fun to see my children making decisions about where to go, and if we follow the clues correctly, we will find our prize. It’s a hidden box, usually plastic, that holds a small journal and a rubber stamp. We will open to a fresh page in the journal, and each of us will stamp our own stamp in the book. We’ll add our trail name, and the date. Then we flip through and find out who else has found this box. Sometimes we see names we recognize, other times we find people who live far away have traveled here. Finally, we use the stamp in the box to stamp our own journals and mark the day and the name of the box we have found.
I like to go back to my journal when I get home and add some pictures of my family from the day, or a funny story about something that happened on the trail. It has turned into a wonderful account of our family over the past few years. Letterboxes can be found at the tops of mountains, in the woods, at truck stops, and even indoors! It’s a great way to explore the area you live, or places you travel. Whenever we take a road trip, I find a few along the way so we can get out of the car, stretch our legs and have a quick treasure hunting adventure.