So I mentioned letterboxing.

Every time I mention it on Facebook, I get a slew of questions from people who have no idea what that is.  And that's kind of by design -- letterboxing is kind of a secretive activity.  Not because it's illicit or anything, but because secrecy is required to keep the boxes safe from prying eyes.  

Essentially, if you know what Geocaching is, this predates it, and is generally geocaching for Luddites.

Instead of needing a GPS or a fancy phone, you use clues.  Written clues.  Maybe a compass, if a box-planter is feeling cheeky.

A whole rash of people involved in this activity have made boxes, which they then hide in secret, secure places, usually out in nature.  (Though not always.  Some are inside.  But they're in the minority.)  They write clues to where the box is located, and the finders use those clues to go find the box.

When they find one, inside is a stamp and a small logbook.  None of that trinkety stuff you find in geocaches -- just a simple stamp and a logbook.  Sometimes those are hand-carved/handmade, sometimes they're store-bought.  The stamp isn't really the focus, just a bonus -- the hike is the real star of the show.

A finder carries with him/her a personal stamp to represent himself, and a journal.  S/he stamps HER stamp in the logbook, and the box's stamp in her journal.  It's like proof s/he found it.  S/he then boxes everything back up securely, and replaces it where she found it, hidden from view and as safe as possible from wildlife or accidental finding by random humans, so that it can be found by the next person with clues.

Clues are generally on one of two sites.  I prefer AtlasQuest, though LBNA was the first site online.  (I find AQ to be easier to navigate, with better updates on a box's condition.  LBNA was once the *only* place to find clues, and they're not always that great at updating boxes that are missing.  And since I am nothing if not profoundly lazy, I really hate putting on pants for nothing.)

I've been letterboxing since 2000.
Yep.  You read that right.

Nearly 17 years, at the time of this writing.  My first actual find was in 2001 (the first box I looked for was gone.), and once I had that first win?  Totally addicted.  The Pacific Northwest had some of the most prolific boxers at the time, and I was in love with stamp carving, so placing boxes was fun, too.

I kind of got away from it when I moved to the rural midwest, because there simply weren't enough people (at the time) who knew about it.  There weren't many boxes, and placing them was just kind of sad, since nobody wanted to drive five hours off the nearest interstate to come find my plants, even if they were awesome stamps.  (I can't blame anyone for that.)  Plus, the hikes were so much less exciting in the middle of a cornfield than they were in the middle of a forest.

I tried again when I was in Omaha, then again when we moved to North Carolina.  There were more boxes in NC, but our living situation wasn't ideal, and getting away to box wasn't a priority.

So moving back out here got me all kinds of excited.

(For a lot of reasons, but letterboxing was among the reasons. :D)

Now that we're settled in, I've been hunting and placing boxes again all over this area.  I have a thousand ideas for series (multiple boxes along one larger hike), and  my list of printed clues is about a billion miles deep.

Most of the time,  I won't walk to the fridge unless there's a compelling reason to do so, but you dangle a stamp and a "find" in front of me like a particularly awesome scavenger hunt, and I AM SO THERE.

Over this summer, I'm trying to find another 30+ boxes and place another 20+ boxes.  I'm finding that I'm much more excited about placing them than finding them right now, but that flips around from time to time.  I'll probably end up showing some of the stuff I'm working on, in fact.

If you don't want to be spoilered on the stamps in my boxes, you may not want to look this summer. :)  (Or you could just enjoy the hike and getting the F, too.  There's that.)

Do check out AtlasQuest if this sounds fun.  There are probably at least a few boxes in your area, and there's a whoooole lot more info about how the game's played there, too.

It's really, really fun. 

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered what this was... so I looked it up for my area... and there's one practically in my backyard. The youngest and I might need to go on a treasure hunt this Thursday when we have free time. Now I need a stamp...