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Letterboxing

By Nathan Adams

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? The idea of finding a map, following clues and unearthing a hidden cache of loot stirs the imagination. And while your odds of finding buried pirate gold may be slim, there are hundreds of treasure boxes hidden throughout Texas. If you want to find them, you’ll need to take up letterboxing.

Part orienteering, part treasure hunt, letterboxing takes participants (called “letterboxers” or “boxers”) on a search for weatherproof containers hidden in publicly accessible places such as parks or historic sites. It’s similar to geocaching, but rather than following GPS coordinates, boxers follow clues. These can be anything from simple instructions (“From the juniper tree, face south and look for two yucca plants.”) to elaborate poems, stories or secret codes. Find the box and your prize will be an image transferred from a rubber stamp — often a unique, hand-carved work of art.

letterboxing

Stamp your discoveries in a personal journal called a logbook. Be sure to record the date, the name of the letterbox and where it was discovered. Then, use your own rubber stamp to leave your mark in the letterbox’s logbook, along with your name and the date. Some letterboxers use a “trail name,” an alias that means something special to them. Be sure to check out the stamps and trail names of other participants — you’re part of a community of treasure hunters now! Put everything back in the box and rebury the treasure for others to find.

Letterboxing can be done solo or with a group. Websites such as letterboxing.org and atlasquest.com host clues to thousands of letterboxes hidden around the world. Odds are, there’s one hidden near you. Now get out there and find it.

Quick Tips:

  • Be stealthy. Be discreet if other people are nearby so as not to reveal the box’s hiding place. Secrecy is part of the fun of letterboxing.
  • Respect the environment. Leave the area just as good as — or better than — you found it. Follow park rules.
  • Read the clues well. Make sure you have a good idea where you’re going and what you’re looking for before you set out.
  • Leave no trace. After stamping both logbooks, rehide the box well. Check the box from different angles to make sure no plastic is showing.

Gear Up:

Rubber Stamp: For marking letterbox logbooks.

Ink Pad: Because not every letterbox has one.

Logbook: An acid-free, medium- to heavy-weight sketchbook with a smooth finish works best.

Pencil or Pen: Use it to sign/date the letterbox logbook and add info in your personal logbook.

Compass: Many letterbox clues don’t require a compass; some do.

Water/Snacks: Treasure hunting is thirsty work!

Rubber Stamp: For marking letterbox logbooks.

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of North American letterboxing at the Live and Breathe gathering on Oct. 26–28 at McKinney Roughs Nature Park east of Austin. Visit liveandbreathexx.com to register or to get more information.

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