Page From A Letterbox Logbook

The boys went letterboxing today.

Never heard of it?

Neither had I until last fall.  Like all great sub-cultures, this one has strange etiquette, conflicting information on the internet, ways to distinguish between the wanna-bes and the this-is-my-lifers, and long-standing feuds between groups with different philosophies.

Here’s a quick primer: Someone hides a box in a remote, usually beautiful spot.  The box has a logbook for visitors to sign, and a stamp for visitors to use in their personal logbooks.    The hider comes home and posts clues (that often involve a compass or map) to a letterboxing website.  You can read more at Letterboxing North America

The “art” of letterboxing, as it is called online, comes in both the clue writing and the stamp making.  Do you use landmarks and puns?  Or do you stick with straight up orienteering?  Do you design and order beautiful stamps online, or do you make your own?  Do you remain anonymous, reveal hints about yourself at each box, or simply sign your name?  Naturally, the purists have their opinions and lament the ways of the uncouth newcomers.

Can you even believe this?  I think it’s so geeked-out cool I can’t stand it.  I’ve wanted to try ever since I heard about it, but haven’t made the time.

The boys did it as part of their homeschool naturalist class that they take every Wednesday.  They came home with stamped cards, instructions on how to find more letterboxes in our area, and plans to buy logbooks and compasses.  “Now you really have to get us our own compasses, Mom.”

They started to consider what kind of stamp they would make and places where they could hide their own boxes.  Zach didn’t think it would work in Cambridge.  “Not enough forests.”

But I don’t know.  If there’s one place that can really get into arcane rules,  finding hidden “treasures” with nothing too important inside, and speaking in clues that no one outside the community can understand, it’s got to be Cambridge, right?  In fact, I have a great idea for where we can hide our first box…


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  • Jenny

    I've always thought these sound like fun. How come it says you posted this tomorrow?

    • Janis Henning

      Jenny – hasn't Tara always been a little off? Or maybe just ahead of her time???

  • Andy

    Harvard Yard?

    • tedelschick

      Shhhhhhh. It's a secret.

  • Janis Henning

    I have heard of this, too, and thought it sounded like something fun to do. What a great way to practice all kinds of skills, both physical and mental. And so what if you live in Cambridge and have no forests – who says you can't plant clues elsewhere? Sometimes the hardest clues to find are those left in plain sight. And if it is forests the boys want, they should come to southeastern Wisconsin — we have forests and lakes and moraines and rivers and marshes and kettles and shorelines and sand dunes and all kinds of cool terrains to hide clues in! As for their stamps – they should have bees on them, for Barneson Boys…….

    • tedelschick

      I love the idea of putting bees on the stamps. Thanks.