August 7, 2004

Fun in Failure: Letterboxing

You may have heard of a pastime called
in which participants use a GPS device to locate hidden caches (and also to hide them).

Letterboxing is the less technological cousin of geocaching. Instead of global coordinates, you’re given clues that you must follow to locate a hidden waterproof box. Once you find the box, you open it and locate a small notebook. Use your personal stamp to stamp an image in the notebook. The box will also contain its own stamp, and you should use that to make a mark in your own personal notebook.

So, as you go along you accumulate stamps in your personal notebook and you leave your mark from letterbox to letterbox.

Yesterday, I had the day off and we decided to try out this fun activity. Who doesn’t like trodding around in the woods on a summer day for a bit of adventure? I rounded up my daughters and we took to the road.

We set out to find four letterboxes in the vicinity of Bristol Community College. BCC has a pond beside it and a nice paved walking trail that circles the pond while winding a bit back and forth.

There is also a nature trail that wanders through the woods that lie between the BCC campus and route 24.

We took to the trail after slathering ourselves with sunscreen and spraying exposed areas with insect repellant. These were our directions. The directions are clear enough and easy to follow.

Pushing through thick brush (thistles and such) at the early part of the trail, but we forged ahead. Almost immediately we met with a young man and woman who appeared to be calling it a day. They were geocaching and having some trouble with the GPS device. They were aware that there were letterboxes in the area, and indicated that they had seen them before. We continued on the trail.

This site had four locations to visit. We arrived at each location, followed the instructions, but to no avail. We came up empty at each location after spending considerable time. We were certain we’d found the places the letterboxes should have been. Without question at least 3 of the 4 letterboxes had been removed. In the case of the remaining location the clue spoke of a red oak tree and a jumble of rocks. We found this. The jumble was so large that the letterbox could have been anywhere. If it was there it was likely moved from its original location, because it was not near the red oak tree.

This trail was obviously a popular trail for people to hang out, and each of the locations was very easy to find. It’s likely that someone would have come upon the letterboxes not knowing what they were. And in that case, they might remove the box, not knowing that a number of people would be looking for it. Or, perhaps, it was malicious. Ho knows? I explained this to my daughters.

By the time it was all over, we’d had a decent hike, after all. And we’d gotten to wander around on an interesting trail we hadn’t known about before. As an added bonus, a western eastern tiger swallowtail graced us with its presence. We spotted it among the thistles at the beginning of our hike and as I tried to photograph it from a distance it gracefully obliged and lighted upon the nearest thistle plant which was mere inches from my daughters.

The hike back to the car was through the center of campus. Along the way we passed a refreshing fountain, and the girls stopped to cool themselves off as the wind blew the fountain spray toward us.

This won’t be our last letterbox adventure, but I hope our next one is a bit more fruitful. Eventually, I hope to leave a letterbox or two of my own. I already have a few ideas for locations. But I would like to see an actual letterbox before I hide one.

Posted by James at August 7, 2004 12:08 PM
Create Social Bookmark Links

We've tried letterboxing a little ourselves. Fortunately, we haven't been disappointed. I wish you better luck in your next search!

Posted by: Judy at August 8, 2004 2:38 AM

We'll try again soon. And I have some ideas about hiding a letterbox or two in the woods around where I live. There are a lot of good opportunities here. And they'll be more likely to stick around if I don't place them near where people regularly hang out.

Posted by: James at August 9, 2004 4:39 PM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved