My First Letterbox Find

September 6, 2006

Most of you (I’d bet about 99%) are scratching your head and wondering what the heck a “letterbox” is and why would I need to find it. So, before I bask in my find, let me explain what, exactly, Letterboxing is. On second thought, seeing as I’ll botch up explaining it (I already have once), I’ll just copy what the Letterboxing North America website has to say about it.

“Letterboxing is an intriguing mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places. It takes the ancient custom of placing a rock on a cairn upon reaching the summit of a mountain to an artform. It started when a gentleman simply left his calling card in a bottle by a remote pool on the moors of Dartmoor, in England.

Here’s the basic idea: Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere (in a beautiful, interesting, or remote location) containing at least a logbook and a carved rubber stamp, and perhaps other goodies. The hider then usually writes directions to the box (called “clues” or “the map”), which can be straightforward, cryptic, or any degree in between. Often the clues involve map coordinates or compass bearings from landmarks, but they don’t have to. Selecting a location and writing the clues is one aspect of the art.

Once the clues are written, hunters in possession of the clues attempt to find the box. In addition to the clue and any maps or tools needed to solve it, the hunter should carry at least a pencil, his personal rubber stamp, an inkpad, and his personal logbook. When the hunter successfully deciphers the clue and finds the box, he stamps the logbook in the box with his personal stamp, and stamps his personal logbook with the box’s stamp. The box’s logbook keeps a record of all its visitors, and the hunters keep a record of all the boxes they have found, in their personal logbooks.”

Sounds like a perfect geek hobby, right? I thought so, too. But, seeing as I was in a rush, I decided to go the lazy route and have a custom stamp made for me, instead of carving it myself. So, last week sometime, I took a custom image I made in Adobe Photoshop and uploaded it to Simon Stamp, a store that makes personalized stamps. A few days later, I received my personalized stamp in the mail. I’d show you what it looks like, but then I’d have to kill you. :-P

On Labor Day, with clues in hand, I convinced Kevin to come with me for my first letterbox find. So, after making a pit-stop at Michael’s for ink pads, Kev and I went to find the “Lost Luggage” box. After following the clues left by the hider (or placer) on Letterboxing North America, I found the box right where it should be!

After I stamped the box’s logbook and my logbook, I replaced it back where I found it, where it will wait until the next person who follows the clues can find it. Even though the letterbox is located in the city we live in, neither of us had been to this location before, so we enjoyed walking around for a bit before heading off to dinner.

So, now that I have my first find, I’m eager to go looking for more. They’re all over Southern California and several are located in other cities Kevin and I visit every year (like San Luis Obispo and Carmel-by-the-Sea). Letterboxing is a pretty much perfect hobby for me. All the things that it involves, I love – especially the nature and hiking aspects of it. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest hobbies I know of!

Several years back I was intrigued with the hobby of Geocaching. It’s very similar to Letterboxing, but involves buying a GPS unit, among other supplies. Even though I am a gear-head and would love to buy all sorts of hiking/camping gear, it’s not really a hobby I would want to spend that much money on. With Letterboxing, I get all the fun things that intrigued me about Geocaching, without all the financial burden. :-)

Is it obvious I’m completely hooked?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

CAT September 6, 2006 at 8:28 pm

COOL! I want to find a letterbox too! I’m assuming it’s also possible to make one and then leave clues for others as well?

I find this very interesting! Sign me up!!!!

miss you…

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Kelsung September 7, 2006 at 3:03 am

Cool! You found one of my boxes! I’ve never been the subject of someone’s blog before. Welcome to a very addictive hobby. Perhaps we’ll bump into each other on the trail someday.

And in response to the previous comment, yes! It’s recommended you find several and get a feel for how others have designed them before making your own, so you see the variety of what works and what doesn’t. But it’s a self-perpetuating hobby: those who hunt also hide.

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Rachey September 8, 2006 at 5:36 am

I’m not quite sure this would work in England with all the rain we get! Great idea for something different though!

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kelsung September 9, 2006 at 12:50 am

Ummm… Letterboxing started in Dartmoor, England. It’s been going on there for 150 years. There’s an estimated 10 to 40 thousand boxes in Dartmoor alone.

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Sharon September 8, 2006 at 5:32 pm

Sounds like fun! A friend of mine introduced me to the idea of geocaching but like you I was not inclined to invest the money on a GPS. I’ll have to research to find out if this is going on in the midwest.

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