Spring is here and with that comes an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Letterboxing is a fabulous way to get the kids moving, learn a bit of geography, and how to read directions well. You don’t need much to get started either! Here is a quick way to begin letterboxing with just the basics.
All across the country secret boxes holding a rubber stamp and a journal are hidden in out of the way places. Some may even be right under your nose. The only way to find these boxes is to follow the clues.
Letterboxing is a cross between geocaching and being a super secret agent spy. My family has been letterboxing for several years. We have gone letterboxing in Ohio, Indiana, California, and all points in between. It all started when we were living in Dublin, Ohio, and they commissioned “riverboxes” to be created.
These were placed in public areas of the town that had become forgotten over the years. There was a whole park, with a beautiful winding river, behind the public library that we never knew existed! We had gone there for years, too. We never would have known if it hadn’t been for these riverboxes.
*They call these boxes geocaching but that’s because you could fin them with a compass or with a set of clues.
That is one of the best things about letterboxing. You never know what you will find. Once we started letterboxing we began to look at places in a whole different way.
Get Your Letterboxing Gear In Order
The very first step is to create your super secret agent spy letterboxing name. Our trail name is “Sworld Travelers”. That’s because of the swirl pattern in our stamp and we have traveled all over the country. Make sure your trail name is creative and has a secret hidden meaning, too.
Some letterboxers, that’s what people who do letterboxing are called, go all out on their stamp. Many make their very own with a unique picture or icon. We just made a stop off at Hobby Lobby and bought a ready made one. You can also order a wood stamp from Amazon.
We have one family stamp. If I had to do it over again I would have gotten three stamps, one for our family and one for each of the boys. These will be keepsakes for many years.
You’ll want something large enough to stand out on the journal sheets. But it shouldn’t be so big that it won’t fit on 1/4 page.
You will also need a journal to hold the collected stampings that you find in the letterbox. You stamp their journal and then take their stamp and put it in your journal.
A sheaf of papers folded in fourths will work just fine. A cheap notebook from the dollar store or a fancy leatherbound one will also do.
A stamp needs an ink pad. Colored ink is fun and makes your stamp imprint special. Black will also work just fine. Add a pen for writing and you are set.
A pouch to carry your gear can be a Ziploc bag, a plastic pencil holder, or even a shoe box. Keep in mind that this will have to hold all these items and be easy to carry long distances. A small container can be kept in your glove compartment for quick missions as you travel.
A few extras to have on hand is a compass, a magnifying glass, and a map so you can mark where you have found letterboxes.
There Are Simple 3 Rules To Letterboxing
Every secret agent has a code book of etiquette. So do letterboxers.
The first rules is that you must be stealthy. Remember, boxes are super secret and only those with the code know where they are hidden. Whispering and tip toeing are highly encouraged. Don’t open a box if others are around and can see you. Sometimes you have to wait until the coast is clear. Then then get to work fast.
The second rule is to respect the environment. Many letterboxes are on public trails. If the letterbox is under scrub then put it back under the scrub. If it’s udner a rock, put it back under the rock. Do not walk in the same footprints as a previous letterboxer. That will create deeper footprints and will alert others that there is a secret treasure.
One letterbox we found was in a public plumbing… contraption, I don’t even know what that thing would be called, on a busy sidewalk. There were city employees working close by. They sure did keep a very close eye on us while we hunted for the letterbox. We took extra care putting everything back exactly the way we found it. There’s no telling what would have happened if we hadn’t been so careful.
The final and most important rules is this, do not yell out that you found the box! Many times you will have to search and search for the box. The directions can be tricky and hard to figure out. When you do find the box you will want to yell and scream and do happy dance. But you can’t! Remember, the name of the game is to be super secret agent spies. We came up with a special jig, or signal, to let the rest of the family know that the box has been found.
OH! You should also have a “cover story” before you head out in case you get caught. Don’t let the “normies” wear you down and get the truth out of you. Withstand the pressure to share your knowledge. Always be prepared. A good letterboxer knows how to act as stealthy as a spy.
The Best Part of Letterboxing are the Clues
There are two websites that show the locations of letterboxes and the clues to find them, Letterboxing.com or AtlasQuest.com. Letterboxing.com has a “tip of the day” and “most recently found” ticker on their home page that is fun to look at. They also have articles on getting started on finding letterboxes, planting new ones, and how to letterbox with kids among other letterbox topics.
AtlasQuest.com seems to have more information about all things letterboxing. One thing we like about it is that the Trip Planner Search. It lets you enter specific parameters and will let you know what letterboxes fit those. Do you want a driving route or a walking route? Does it need to be a historic route? Should it have a rest area available? This came in real handy when the boys were much younger.
Your journal will bring years of enjoyment!
My family takes great and extra special pride in being able to crack a very hard series of letterboxes located in a cemetery somewhere in Ohio. Many of our friends tried to get all them in the series but have yet to succeed. That’s because those riddles can be very tricky. Remember to look all around you, observe all that you see. Everything and anything can be part of the riddle.
There you have it. Letterboxing is one of the cheapest ways to enjoy being together as a family and be outside enjoying the beautiful nature. While I was digging out our items both Logan and Jordan laughed and laughed at how we found these stamps.
It has been a few years since we have gone on a letterboxing adventure. Maybe it’s time we head out soon?