Sunday, November 2, 2008

Letterboxing- Family Fun Outdoors

logbook example
logbook example
by Joan H. Young

Are you looking for a fun, low-impact, broad-age-spectrum, educational activity? Letterboxing may be just the ticket! It's a combination of geocaching, scavenger hunts, pen-pals, and a local version of a "parks passport."

The general idea is that you get a set of clues from the Letterboxing website. Follow the directions and it will lead you to a small, waterproof box "hidden" (pretty much in plain sight), usually on public property. The box will contain a logbook, a rubber stamp, a pen, and an ink pad. You bring your own logbook and personal stamp. Once you find the box you stamp the logbook there, date your entry and sign it- usually with a trail name. Your personal stamp may be commercially made or homemade, but should have some particular meaning to you. And you also stamp your own book with the stamp from the box.

One advantage of letterboxing over geocacheing is that you don't need a GPS unit. A compass can be handy, but the clues will be written and you can follow them in the way that you would solve any puzzle. This lends itself to family interaction more easily than trying to have several people juggle an electronic instrument.

Letterboxing should have little impact on the environment. Placement of boxes should not disturb vegetation, soil, or historic sites. Leave No Trace principles should apply as much for this as on a camping trip.

Letterboxing North America recommends that you quest for and find a few boxes before preparing one of your own. When you are ready to make your own you need only a few items. The most complicated will be a rubber stamp. The stamp should relate somehow to the location where the box will be located, or may commemorate an event or a person. It may be commercially made or homemade. Homemade ones are special, but are impossible to exactly duplicate if they are lost or damaged. Put the stamp, a pen, and a small notebook in a waterproof box. You need to find a good place to hide your box and write a set of clues that are neither too difficult nor too simple. Name your box and post your clues on the web site.

The concept of letterboxing began in England in the mid 1800s, supposedly with a business card left in a bottle. It has now caught on in America, with over 20,000 boxes hidden in the United States.

This past weekend an Ottawa County family enjoyed finding one, and even meeting some of the persons whose names and stamps they had come to know. You can read about their adventure at the link below. lists 13 boxes in Mason County, 2 in Lake, 9 in Oceana, and 5 in Manistee County. There are a total of 176 in the greater west Michigan area.

For more complete information on getting started, visit Letterboxing North America
To read about the family adventure in Ottawa county see Family Fun in Michigan
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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