Sunday, September 1, 2013


I am so excited. Yesterday my friend Kate introduced me to letterboxing!

Do you know what letterboxing is? I didn't! From what Kate tells me, its popularity varies by region but is catching on more consistently around the country (and is actually international in its roots).

But what is it? Per Atlas Quest, a resource on the activity:
Letterboxing is an intriguing pastime combining artistic ability with delightful "treasure-hunts" in beautiful, scenic places that the whole family can enjoy. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by following clues, and then record their discovery in their personal journal with the help of a rubber stamp that's part of the letterbox.
As Kate had long suspected, this is right up my alley. We made plans to hang out yesterday and were tossing around ideas about what to do, and she suggested letterboxing, which I remembered from her 101 in 1,001 list but didn't understand at all what it was. She took the lead on making the plan, and I was very excited to look forward to a fun surprise for the second weekend in a row! Kate told me to meet her (and her pups) at Thompson County Park in West St. Paul.

At Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North America, there are huge lists of letterboxing sites. In the Twin Cities metro area, there are more than 200! People hide little boxes (anywhere between one and lots in any given route) and provide clues and directions for how to find them. The series Kate chose had 10 boxes, usually hidden just off the trail. (The community has a code of conduct to ensure that basic safe, respectful, leave-no-trace principles are in place.) Each box has a stamp in it, often hand-carved by the person who created the route, so you bring along a notebook to collect stamps (Kate has a sketchbook full of stamps from her previous adventures).

Kate at the first letterbox, showing me how it's done.
Our series was called Monster Mash, so each stamp and clue corresponded to that theme. For example, here is a typical clue, from the middle of the series:
Head past the boulder and continue down the main trail. When the trail splits, head right. The trail will wind through a small prairie. As it makes one final curve to the left, you will glimpse water through the trees. As the path comes out of this curve, look to the left for a tall, bleached shard of a tree with a "Y" trunk resting on it. On the right side of the shard of a tree are some stacked limbs. Reach around to the back of these limbs for the Zombie. 
And then, if you were successful, you'd find the box containing a little Zombie stamp and stamp it in your book before moving on to the next set of directions!


The boxes were not always easy to find immediately, but it was never frustrating, and we located nine of the 10 in the series and covered somewhere between one and two miles along the way. At either of those two online resources, the user communities help maintain the routes by noting when boxes were last found, as well as any context or changes in the area - so we knew there was a good chance we could find the boxes, because people had been there in the last week.

The dogs were a little confused because we were going for this lovely walk in the woods but then kept stopping!
Here's Kate at a trail intersection. The dogs are happy that we're on the move.

It was such a fun way to explore a new place and spend time outside being active with a friend. I think it would be a fabulous activity for families to do together, too. (HINT TO MY FAMILY.) It was a beautiful August evening - though we finished just before storms rolled in! - but I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to tromp around in the woods on a fall afternoon. I definitely want to do this again, either in future travels or in my Twin Cities backyard. A huge thank you to Kate for the fun adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment