Tag Archives: letterboxing

Letterboxing: the perfect family hobby

14 Jul
The “Webster Borwnies” letterbox, with a stamp pad, hand-carved rubber stamp and logbook.

If you’ve never heard of letterboxing, please read on. I’d love to introduce you to this very family-friendly hobby which, when my children were young, was one of our favorite things to do.

In a nutshell, letterboxing is kind of like a treasure hunt. Each “letterbox” (usually some sort of Tupperware or other plastic container) contains a rubber stamp, stamp pad and a logbook. There are literally thousands of these hidden all over the country — and world. Searchers go online for clues, then follow the clues to track down the letterbox. (The site I like best is Atlasquest.com)

Once the box is retrieved, each searcher uses their own personal rubber stamp to stamp the box’s logbook (adding the date and a personal note if they’d like). Then they take the box’s stamp and imprint that into their personal logbook to keep track of their progress.

Most of the clues are simply step-by-step directions and are pretty easy to follow. Occasionally a clue might also include locating a particular compass direction, or require counting off a number of paces, both of which kids love to do. If you really get into it, you can come up with your own trail names (I’m Mama Rose) and carve your own rubber stamps (which is actually pretty easy).

Here’s a good example.

Tuesday morning I went to Atlasquest.com, searched for letterboxes in Webster and downloaded some simple directions to an easy-to-find letterbox hidden in Webster Park. It’s called “Webster Brownies,” and was likely hidden by a Webster Brownie troop.

Here are what the directions look like:

The directions were spot-on, and I had no trouble finding the box tucked inside the tree. (However, I was a little concerned about the folks siting on a nearby bench wondering why I was climbing up into the tree.) I didn’t have my personal stamp with me, so I just signed my name and the date into the logbook, put everything back in the waterproof baggies and dropped the box back where I found it.

Sometimes you might come across an extra surprise on your adventure, like I did Tuesday. Tucked inside the tree along with the letterbox was a large stone with the instructions to “paint a square and re-hide it.” I don’t know if the same Brownie troop created this little treat as well, or someone else added it to the site. In any case, I have to find my watercolors and get to work.

There are so many things to love about letterboxing. Unlike geocaching, you don’t need a GPS unit or your phone to track down coordinates. It costs basically nothing (aside from buying a stamp and a logbook), and it incorporates puzzle-solving, following directions, and even a little orienteering, all while discovering new parks and trails and getting some exercise.

Try it yourself; you might become addicted like my family did. All you need when you first get started are some clues, a small personal notebook to record your finds, and a stamp pad in case the box doesn’t have one. You don’t even need to have a rubber stamp of your own. You can just sign your names and date into the logbook. But check in your kids’ rooms, because they probably have some rubber stamps in there somewhere.

You can download clues from Atlasquest.com. Search for Webster and Penfield if you’d like to start local. Even that limited a search will show dozens in our area. But think big! Are you going to the Thousand Islands this summer with the kids? Download some clues and do some exploring up there. Just make sure you have a dedicated family letterboxing logbook, because you’ll be filling it up. (We also liked to record each find with a photo which we pasted into our logbook.)

Here are some more photos from the day:

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