Saturday, June 13, 2009

We love letterboxing!

Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I ventured out to engage in some letterboxing yesterday afternoon. For the uninitiated among you, letterboxing is akin to a low-tech outdoors treasure hunt and offers an enjoyable, low-cost activity to do with your children.

The only supplies required are a small notebook, stamp, ink pad, and pen. To get started, visit On the website, click on "Locate Boxes" to find the clues for letterboxes across the country. You can search for boxes by state, city, or county. To give you an idea, North Carolina contains 891 registered letter boxes. My children and I have located several boxes, including our most recent find, in our area, but it is also fun to search for boxes as you travel or are on vacation. Our family has also located boxes at Chimney Rock Park and even at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Once you choose a letterbox or two from the website, print out the clues and tuck them in your bag of supplies. Before we started our search on Friday, Curly Girl and Car Guy read the clues. (Letterboxing is also a great way for kids to practice reading and following directions.)

After determining which way to trek, the kids set out on the path. Our most recent find was in an area park which we had not previously visited. Letterboxing is also a great way to find those interesting nooks and crannies in your community or to explore a bit more on your vacation.

The kids turned right, counted two lampposts, and then walked 32 paces, as directed, to find the hollow tree which contained the treasure. This find contained straight-forward clues which were easy to follow. Some clues can be trickier to figure out, though.

To prevent random people from running across a letterbox, it should never be in plain sight. You will usually have to look under something or dig around a bit to locate the box. We used a stick to move some leaves before we unearthed this letterbox hidden in the base of the tree.

Next, we opened the letterbox to reveal its contents. This box was in good shape since its placer had concealed the contents in a tupperware container and placed it in several ziploc baggies.

Then, we used the stamp in the letterbox to stamp our family's notebook. We also noted the location of the letterbox and the date we found it.

You also use your family's stamp to stamp the notebook contained in the letterbox. Most families also sign their names, write the date they located the box, and where they are from. It is always interesting, especially in a touristy area, to see who else has found that letterbox and where they reside.

Lastly, you must reassemble and rehide the letterbox in exactly the same location as you found it. This ensures that other families can locate the box, too.

Just a warning: There is no guarantee that the letterbox for which you are searching will actually be there. The letterbox in the park was the second box we searched for on Friday. The first box we looked for was supposed to be under a train car in a downtown area. I'm guessing that someone found the box and discarded it. Before setting out on a trek, I always remind my kids that there is no guarantee the box will be there or that we will locate it. (This was the first time it actually happened though.) When you search for box clues on the letterboxing website, some will have notes regarding the date the box was placed, the last time the box was serviced, or the last time someone located and reported the box's condition to its placer. If possible, try to select boxes which have been frequented in the last year or so. Also try to print the directions for two boxes so you have a back-up plan if your initial hunt goes awry.

Happy letterboxing!

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