Are you looking for a fun, outdoor activity that will involve the interests of all your family members? Consider Letterboxing. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. I had only a vague knowledge of the hobby when I was asked to write about it. After a little research, a few family members and I embarked on our first Letterboxing experience and, at its conclusion, agreed that the hobby is a fun, creative way to spend some quality time together and see interesting sites that we may never have noticed.
Letterboxing origins date back to Dartmoor, England in 1854 when a park guide left his calling card in a bottle with an invitation for visitors to leave their cards. While popular in England for years, Letterboxing only gained popularity in North America in 1998, according to the official North American Letterboxing website, Letterboxing.org. North America reportedly has up to 20,000 letterboxes. I was surprised to find that there are quite a few to hunt in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Letterboxing involves treasure hunting, art, exploration, and navigation. The activity involves obtaining clues and/or a map that lead the hunter to a letterbox, or waterproof container, which has been hidden by another party. Inside the waterproof letterbox, the hunter will find a hand-made stamp and logbook. Prepared with his own stamp, inkpad, logbook, and pen, the hunter stamps the discovered letterbox logbook with his stamp including the date and where he’s from. The hunter may also add a comment in the logbook about the actual hunting experience. The hunter then stamps his journal with the stamp found in the letterbox. An avid letterbox hobbyist will have a collection of interesting stamps from various letterboxes all over the country or even the world.
Our Letterbox Hunt
Our first letterbox hunting experience began on a hot August day—not my first choice, as I prefer cooler weather, but the research had to commence. Accompanying me were my brave sister, Anita Zotto, my niece and photographer, Natalie (age 13), and my adventurous son, Ryan (age 15). We decided to search for our first box at Edmond’s E.C. Hafer Park at 9th and Bryant. (According to the official website, there are three letterboxes hidden in the park). Armed with our printed clues from the website (and bottles of water), we headed off.
Natalie enjoyed taking photos of interests along the way. I offered to take over the photography duty when Natalie got distracted by the rock climbing wall near the fish pond. These little “distractions” along the hunts are to be considered part of the adventure. For the most part, I was the clue reader and the others helped to decipher the clues. Deciphering, in our case, included discussions on how large a “pace” is or determining which evergreen tree constitutes the one “a bit off the path.” In one case, we had to find a clue at 208 degrees from a particular landmark. We didn’t have a compass, but found the clue using our internal compass (and a little guesswork).
We were excited upon finding our first letterbox. This letterbox had been placed on March 11, 2006 by Oklahoma Christian University. I was surprised at the container that was used for this letterbox—it was not the typical container suggested by the Letterboxing websites, but effective none the less. (No, I’m not going to tell, that would ruin the surprise.) Unfortunately, since this was our first Letterboxing hunt, we did not have a stamp. The expert hobbyists suggest looking for a couple of letterboxes before making your own box or stamp to get an idea of what other people use. However, we did make notations in the logbooks using the pen we brought and signed off with our “Mitchell-Zotto Clan” signature.
Making and using a stamp, however, is part of the art of Letterboxing. A group’s stamp includes a symbol, letter, or letters that have special meaning to the group. Personally, I plan to make a stamp for the “Mitchell-Zotto Clan” and go back to put our official mark on logbooks of the letterboxes we found. Then we’ll be prepared to find more letterboxes.
Letterboxing is the perfect family activity and can be combined with a picnic or day in the park. Of course, you’ll want to plan the activity so that you are not carrying any picnic supplies or other large items on your actual hunt. Eat at a picnic table before or after your hunt so you can leave your picnic supplies in the car. Also, you may want to consider wearing long pants as the paths can take you into wooded areas where poison ivy or oak and thorns may be present (advice that we failed to heed, though we came out without any problems).
Oklahoma’s cool fall weather is a perfect time for your family to try this new hobby. The entire family can participate at every level and you can spend quality time making your own family letterbox, designing and making a stamp, hiding the letterbox, writing up the clues, and hunting for others. For more information about Letterboxing and how to get started, visit Letterboxing.org.
Don’t miss the fun of looking for MetroFamily’s own letterbox. Find tips here.