Want to have a little nature adventure in honor of Earth Day? If you haven’t already, you should really try letterboxing. Personally, I have a hard time motivating my kids to do a hike. They need some seriously interesting landscape or a crowd of friends in order to stay engaged. But another great motivator is a freakin’ treasure hunt! I mean, what kids don’t like to go hunting for stuff? This is good for a family or small group outing, otherwise you’ll spend too much time negotiating how to take turns when you get to your destination.
So, here’s how letterboxing works: You get a list of clues that will direct you to a specific location. Then, somewhere you’d least expect it, say, under a rock, there’s a little box that someone’s “planted” there. The box generally contains a special stamp (often an original, hand-carved one), a booklet where you can put your own stamp’s imprint and/or write a little note, and usually a stamp pad and a pen. So, the idea is that you bring along your own stamp (it’s nice to have a unique signature one, but if you’re just trying for the first time, you can fudge it with another stamp and leave a note that this was your first outing ever), a journal or pad in order to collect the stamp imprint for that location. Sometimes locations are out in the wilderness, and sometimes they’re in the middle of an active public space, but you need to do your best to keep the letterbox itself safe and a secret so that it isn’t removed or damaged. Really, it’s a great lesson for little kids in learning to be considerate of others as well.
So, where do you get the clues to go a-huntin’? The two main sites that I know of are LbNA/Letterboxing North America and Atlas Quest. LbNA has a kids’ section which is helpful. Readers I’ve spoken with like searching for clues via Atlas Quest. When I started looking on AtlasQuest, I had trouble with my searches. Turns out that my “search type” (in the top left) was on the wrong thing, so once I changed it to “All Locations” I was golden.
I’ve gone letterboxing a couple of times, but a friend with three active little boys has done tons, so I asked her to recommend some good local outings. Here’s what she said:
- Logos: T to Z – this is a long hike, but it’s easy and the stamps are great. It’s in Rotterdam.
- FOUR SEASONS – another long one but worth it. There is a stream with 1-2 foot falls that the kids can play on. It’s in Amherst.
- Imprint On The Future – An easy, short hike in an old cemetery-very cool. It’s in Duanesburg.
- Mythological Monsters – Great stamps and an easy hike. In Charleston, Montgomery Co.
- Reist Sanctuary – This is a quiet spot for hikes, but you can’t do all the boxes in one day (unless you spend the whole day there). In Niskayuna.
- Zoe’s Friend – Quick and easy near a playground. In Niskayuna.
- Our College on the Hill – If you want to start with one that’s not in the wilderness, this garden is pretty. Just remember to be discreet. In Schenectady.
Of course, you can do a search and just strike out on your own. Or, another great way to search, especially if you do one letterboxing outing that you enjoy, is to search by the person who places the letterbox. Two prolific planter/placers in this area are Turtle Run and Buggylou–if none of the ones I named above is anywhere near you, check out these links for a lists in a variety of nearby places.
Anyone else out there have a favorite letterboxing search to recommend?