Some of my favorite childhood memories of being outdoors revolve around an activity called letterboxing. You may or may not have heard of it, but I recommend letterboxing to anyone who enjoys hiking, geocaching or even just exploring the great outdoors.
So what is letterboxing, exactly? It's sort of a treasure hunt, sort of an outdoor exploration activity.
A letterbox consists of a weatherproof box, which holds a unique, often handcrafted stamp and a notebook for those who find it to sign, stamp and date. The person who creates and places the letterbox posts a list of clues and a general location of where the letterbox can be found to online forums devoted to letterboxing.
The goal is to use the clues to find the letterbox. Some clues might even include bonus letterboxes, or some might have clues that lead to a cluster of letterboxes in one area. Usually the location of the letterbox is off a hiking trail or in a park; so if you're planning on hiking anyway, letterboxing could be a great addition to your plans.
Unlike geocaching, which uses coordinates to find the cache, letterboxing uses clues posted online by the creator of the letterbox to navigate to the treasure. Instead of taking a small trinket and leaving one in return, the reward for letterboxing is the unique stamp that you stamp in your own notebook as a record of having found the letterbox.
If you decide to set out on your own letterboxing adventure, I recommend bringing a small notebook, an ink pad to use with the stamp inside the letterbox, a pen or pencil, and a small stamp of your own to leave your mark in the notebook that stays inside the letterbox to show that you successfully found it.
It's always fun to look through each letterbox's record book, admire the signature stamps of people who found the treasure before you, and see when they visited and how long the letterbox has been around.
When I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest, my family and our close friends would spend time searching through forests, hiking trails and local parks for little rubber stamps. It wasn't always easy, especially when clues were vague, (my personal favorite was the time we were in a forest and the clue told us to look for a tree), but it was always rewarding once we finally found the letterbox.
To get started on your own letterboxing adventure, peruse some of the more popular letterboxing sites to find out more about it and what letterboxes are in your area.
Letterboxing.org is a good place to start — you can search for letterboxes by location or name, and it also provides tips for getting started, and popular and most recent letterboxes. Under the "letterboxes" tab, click on "search clues" and search by area. Spokane has a long list of clues for letterboxes.
Another place to find letterboxing clues is atlasquest.com. A self-described "letterboxing community," Atlas Quest also lists letterboxes by location, provides tips for new letterboxers and even lists upcoming letterboxing events by area. It also features blogs and allows for members to send messages to other members of the letterboxing community.
Atlas Quest also has a long list of letterboxes in Spokane, in locations from Riverfront Park to Spokane Valley to Finch Arboretum. I recommend searching for letterboxes in Spokane first, then find ones that pique your interest based on their location, the clues and their difficulty.
Whether it's an area you're already familiar with or someplace you've never been, get together with family or friends and try out searching for letterboxes for a fun outdoor activity that will add to any hike or time spent in a park.
It's been awhile since I've used my little letterboxing notebook, but I think I'll have to get it out this summer and make some new memories finding letterboxes in Spokane. ♦