Hi ya Kids!
How’s everyone doing today?
Great! Me too!!
I have a great activity for you all today; it’s one that makes it onto our summer of fun list every year, without fail and it’s never a one time activity. Usually, we do this activity 3, 4,or more times a month.
Activity No. 21 – Letterboxing
I hear you asking what is letterboxing? All while crinkling up your nose and looking all confused.
The simple answer is, it’s a scavenger hunt…
buuuttt that’s not really it….
It’s a treasure hunt
noooo, that’s not really it either.
I guess it’s actually both of those things! Letterboxing is a great way to spend quality time together, enjoy some outdoor time, get a little exercise (don’t worry you won’t even know you’re exercising), and finding and exploring places and things you never knew existed! YEP! There it is, “that little something”. You’re starting to expect these aren’t you? 🙂
Letterboxes can be found all around the globe. No, seriously all over the world.
There are other sites and apps, I’m sure, but we find these to be the most simple to use.
Now you know where to go to find out about letterboxing let’s talk about what you’re going to need.
According to Letterboxing.org, to get started, you’ll need: a “trail name,” rubber stamp, pencil or pen, small sketch book, one or more ink pads or brush markers, a simple compass, and clues.
1. Trail Name
A trail name is your letterboxing identity. Some letterboxers chose to use their real name, but most chose a trail name that means something special to them. Examples of trail names are Mark & Sue, The Drew Clan, Team Green Dragon, The Wild Cats, Silent Doug, Clueless, and Choi. (Our family’s trail name is the Color Monkeys, you’ll understand why in a minute)
2. Rubber Stamp
The image for the rubber stamp should mean something personal to you or your family and is either hand-carved or commercially made. This is your “personal stamp” and you’ll use this to make an imprint in the log book contained in each letterbox that you find. If you letterbox as a family, you can either use one team stamp or a stamp for each person. (We shopped and shopped and shopped for our stamp, then finally found one we could all agree on…a monkey sitting on top of a ball – that explains the monkey part of our trail name….)
3. Pencil or Pen
The pencil or pen is used to add your trail name and date next to your personal stamp imprint that you’ve made in the log book. You might also want to add a personal comment about your experience finding the letterbox. (Don’t count on the box you find to have a writing utensil. Think about how many times you’ve walked away from the bank teller’s window with her pen in your hand. It happens a lot that a box is found and there is no pen or pencil, so this item is very important)
4. Sketch Book
The sketch book is your “personal log book” where you stamp imprints using the stamps in the letterboxes that you find. It’s best to use acid-free medium to heavy weight paper. Paper with a smooth finish gives the best impression. An alternative is to make an imprint from the letterbox stamp on plain paper or index card then later cut it out and add it to a scrapbook. (We’ve used commercial bought log books and homemade ones. As long as it has plenty of space and has fairly thick pages, ink bleeds through the thinner papers, anything will be alright)
5. Ink Pad
At a minimum, you should carry one inkpad. The easiest type to use has a raised foam pad. Archival Ink pads by Ranger are really the best, dry instantly, are waterproof and readily available in the big box craft stores. Ancient Page also possess the same qualities. StazOn alcohol pads are terrific too. If you find that you enjoy letterboxing, you may want to purchase a set of 24 Marvy Brush Makers. Their large brush point and bright, non-toxic, odorless watercolor make them perfect for rubber stamping because the color stays wet longer than other markers. They’re a good choice on stamps that are suitable for inking in multiple colors. (While we were shopping and shopping for a stamp remember above where I mentioned the monkey? Well we couldn’t decided on an ink color either, imagine that, hence we ended up with a multi-colored ink-pad….AHHHH now it’s all falling into place….the COLOR MONKEYS!!)
6. Compass (optional)
Although many letterbox clues don’t require it, you should consider purchasing a simple baseplate compass, such as the Suunto A-10 (about $12). You won’t need a fancier compass with sighting or declination adjustment, since nearly all letterbox clues that reference compass bearings use magnetic bearings (We actually have 2 compasses; you know the ol’ adage- two heads are better than one? Well, two compasses are usually better than one, at least for us, because that’s two sets of eyes reading the coordinates-better chance of success that way. Not to mention, a couple of my guys couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag with both ends cut open 😉 )
Now that you’re fully equipped, you need to locate some clues to letterboxes near you. The primary web site for letterboxing clues is www.letterboxing.org. Another popular web site is www.atlasquest.com. Once you find the clues to a letterbox that you’d like to find, read it carefully and try to locate and print out a trail map of the area in which you’ll be hiking. (We typically print out the clues, but have just recently started using Box Radar. Most of the letter boxes we find on the websites can also be found on the app along with the clues. Since letterboxing is supposed to be an environmentally friendly activity the less paper we use…the better)
And that, as they say, is that! Letterboxing in all of it’s glory. It’s probably the most addicting activity we do.
There is one more morsel of information you need: some letterboxes have been moved, taken, destroyed, or are just not there. It happens for a lot of different reasons. Don’t let a miss or a not found box discourage you. There is success to be had…just keep going!
Till Next Time,
Go see if there are letterboxes near you!!