Searching for Modern Day Buried Treasure: The Joys of Letterboxing

Have you ever been Letterboxing?

Letterboxing?  What’s Letterboxing?

I admit it;  I’d never heard of it.  When Mile High Mamas featured a post on Letterboxing, I clicked through thinking it was a craft project or something.  Or maybe a sport?  I had no idea.

But it wasn’t either of those two things, and what I discovered was amazing!

In fact, I was intrigued.

Yes, I’m The Casual Perfectionist. Would you expect anything less? Claire is the cute little hot-pink flower (as seen in the other photo below).

Letterboxing is a hobby that goes back to the 1850s!  It’s a lot like “geocaching,” in that you search for little boxes of “buried treasure” that someone else has hidden.  In Letterboxing,  you use puzzles to figure out how to find the “buried” treasure, rather than a GPS device.  (I’m using “buried” in quotes, because most Letterboxes aren’t actually buried. Oh, and some clues require the use of a compass, but not all of them do.)  Inside each box is a stamp that you use to mark your own book.  You then use your own personalized stamp to mark the book inside the box.  When you get home, you can log on to the website and record the find that way, too.

I popped in our city and state into the “Find Letterboxes” link, and I was surprised to see dozens of options within miles of our house…and HUNDREDS in our metro area!  There was a Letterbox relatively close, and the puzzle seemed relatively easy, so we decided to go find it.

At one point in the riddle, these particular instructions told us to “go in a bearing of 110” on the compass, and so we borrowed Daddy’s compass, and he gave us a quick lesson on how to read it.  It’s been ages since I’ve read a compass, and other than knowing where the major North East South West directions are, I’ve never used one to go a “bearing” of anything!

But, I listened to what he said, and it made sense.  Kinda.  Then, he gave us the “Just because I earned a badge in this doesn’t mean I remember exactly what to do!  I haven’t used one of these in years!” disclaimer, and off we went.

From the clue, I thought I had a general idea of where the Letterbox was hidden.  We figured out the riddle and then got to the part where we needed the compass.

We were to take a compass bearing of 110 and walk 39 paces from the little pine tree.

I did exactly what the former Boy Scout had told me to, and we ended up scaling a rather annoying fence and traipsing through a rather difficult portion of “natural grasses.”  In fact, I wasn’t sure how we were going to find ANYTHING out there, let alone a small hidden box.  We were out there forever.  None of the clues really made much sense when we got to the end of our 39 paces.  Does that look like a little line of trees to you?  Which trees would be numbers 1 and 2?  We’re not doing something right…

Here’s where I admit that I’m a little too OCD for Letterboxing.  Correction:  I’m a little too OCD to STOP Letterboxing.  We looked for an hour.  I just couldn’t give up.  Claire was a trooper through this whole thing.  We were getting tangled in brambles, but she didn’t care.  She wanted to find it too.  Here’s where I admit that Claire has inherited my OCD tendency when it comes to puzzles….and Letterboxing.  Who knew!?

Finally, I pulled the plug on this expedition.  We made our way to the more civilized part of the park, but I just couldn’t quit.  The thought of going home empty-handed weighed heavily on my mind.  We decided to follow the instructions, step by step, one last time.

We found it! We moved some sticks before taking the photo. Can you see it?

We made it to the little pine tree again.

That’s when I really thought about the compass and the bearing of 110.  That’s when I realized my mistake.  My husband’s instructions had led us on a path of true north, NOT a bearing of 110.  When I made the adjustment, we ended up going in a completely different direction, and all of a sudden, the other clues started to make sense.

We looked down, and there it was!  We’d found it!

In Letterboxing, you’re supposed to be discreet when you find one.  You’re supposed to usher it away from the hiding place to make your mark in the book, before re-hiding it in the same place.  You’re supposed to do this in secrecy and quietness.

I was bursting with joy and did use a hushed, although excited whisper, but Claire screamed, “WE FOUND IT!?!” at the top of her tiny lungs.  Needless to say, we’ll have to work on that part.

We stamped our book.  We signed theirs.  We re-hid the box in the exact place we found it.

On the walk home, Claire asked if we could go find another one.  Right now.

What you need for Letterboxing: Book to record your find, ink pads (Claire’s is pink & mine is lavender), personalized stamps, pen, instructions (clues/riddle), and a compass (not always needed or used properly. Heh.)  If you click to enlarge the photo, you can see where Claire and I have signed our book, just like we did in the Letterbox book.

Needless to say, we’re hooked.

We have our own personalized stamps all ready to go.  I have a whole list of other Letterboxes to find in our area before we venture off to farther locales.  I have a renewed understanding on how to read a compass.

Claire and I not only found our very first Letterbox, we’ve found a new obsession.  I mean, hobby.  We’ve found a new hobby.

So, what about you?  Do you Letterbox?  …and if so, do you have a Support Group I can join?  😉

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