Thursday, June 23, 2011

Letterboxing 101

A couple of summers ago I stumbled upon a fun summer activity with the kids - Letterboxing! Similar to geocaching but without the high tech GPS gear. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and post clues to finding the box online on one of several Web sites. There are close to 20,000 hidden in North America alone! Individual letterboxes usually contain a log book and a rubber stamp(very often hand-carved). Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp on their personal log book, and leave an imprint of their personal stamp on the letterbox's logbook . It originated in England but grew in popularity on this side of the pond after this 1998 article in Smithsonian Magazine.

Here’s the basic idea: Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere outside; it should contain at least a notebook and a carved rubber stamp (it may also include a pen, stamp pad or other small treasures). The hider writes directions to the box (called “clues” or “the map”) and gives them to the finder in person, by mail or online. Clues range from easy to challenging. The hike may be short or long, geared towards novices or advanced hikers of any age.

Find a list of letterboxes online here

Letterboxing with kids is a fun way to discover new places and to explore nature close to home. Once you find the letterbox, stamp the letterbox’s stamp in your notebook, and stamp your stamp in the letterbox’s “logbook”.

Letterboxing has no official rules but rather asks you to use some common sense...

“Leave no trace” - i.e., leave the area as is or in better shape (e.g., by removing litter.)

Reseal the box so contents are protected from the elements.

Replace it in its original location so it is completely hidden from view, to avoid spoiling the fun or making it vulnerable to vandals.

Above all - get outside in the fresh air with your kids and try something new!