Letterboxing is a fun way to get children out and about this summer (and all year round) and can even expose you to parts of town that you hadn’t noticed before.
If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon (and many aren’t), it’s a type of treasure hunt and people are doing it all over the world, even in Medfield.
Letterboxing.org describes it as “an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming ‘treasure hunt’ style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels.”
To get started, visit http://letterboxing.org/ then click “Log In” where you will register to become a member. Next, choose the “Letterboxes” tab at the top, then “Search Clues,” and type in your destination (for fun, type in the towns where you have friends and family, you can virtually follow the clues for those boxes as well).
Medfield has 15 boxes!
You will soon discover that you have passed these boxes several times sight unseen.
Print out the clues, decipher them if you can, then follow them to the location and use your detective skills to find the letterbox – some are buried beneath rocks, some are hidden beneath leaves, some are tucked into tree trunks, and some of them even have prizes (Peace Cranes, wink wink).
But before you begin your treasure hunt, you will need to visit the “Getting Started” tab where you will learn how to create your logbook (a small journal or a two-ringed index card book works well).
Each person will need their own rubber stamp, which can be anything from something you have in your craft closet, to something you or your child makes, to something you purchase at a store (this is a fun field trip idea and gets the kids invested in the hobby).
Once you follow your clues, you will find your letterbox, which is a tight-sealed plastic container that will contain a rubber stamp with a picture related to the box, an ink pad, and a logbook. First, you use that stamp to make a mark in your book, then you use your stamp to make a mark in the letterbox book. Be sure to note the date and your hometown, and take a few minutes to look through the log books.
Some have been around for many years, and you’ll be surprised to see different towns and countries from all around the world represented in the book (and you will likely see the names of some friends too).
After you have finished marking your books, be sure to put everything back in the plastic bags, the plastic box, and then put it back right where you found it.
Then follow the next clue …
Our family has been letterboxing off and on for several years. It’s a great way to get to know different towns and areas of the state, and it’s a fun last-minute-idea when there’s nothing else to do (how many times have we heard that this summer?). Plus, when we’re going on vacation (if I think to plan ahead), we will look online to see if there are any letterboxes at our final destination or en route. You can find a letterbox anyplace – a rest area, an airport, a shopping plaza, an IKEA store – if a person can get there, so can a letterbox.
One of the coolest ones we found was on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego, N.Y. The stamp was that of a sunset over the lake (which is quite a beautiful sight, if you are ever in the area) but there was also a surprise – our first “hitchhiker.”
A “hitchhiker” is a stamp (which in this case was a cut-out of a kite) that you take with you and transplant to another location. I liked the irony of this one since I picked it up with my children just a few miles from where I grew up, and ‘transplanted’ it back to Medfield where I am today. The stamp has since been taken by another letterboxer and transported to another location.
You can also create your own letterbox which we have done. My daughter designed a stamp related to a historic site that we used to frequent, and we planted it in an old stone fort. It’s fun for the kids to visit the logbook and see who has enjoyed their stamp.
So, before you head out, make sure your letterboxing bag includes a log book, a rubber stamp, an ink pad in case one is missing or empty, maybe some insect repellant and sunscreen, your clues, your sense of adventure – and have fun!