Letterboxing offers treasure hunt for those who can follow the clues
November 10, 2016
When Cora Alles was little, her grandparents would take her letterboxing. It was like a treasure hunt. They had to follow the clues diligently. Each one brought them closer to the prize.
It became a family tradition. They've gone letterboxing in Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin. When her grandparents lived in Greeley, Alles went letterboxing around the town and in Estes Park as well. Alles now goes to college in Kentucky. She tried to find a letterbox a couple weeks ago, she said, with no luck. "It's fun to follow the clues, discover new places and see what people have found," Alles said.
According to Atlas Quest, a letterboxing community website, the activity combines art with treasure hunts. Participants search for hidden letterboxes using clues they find online. When they find the box, they find the prize: Generally that's a hand-carved rubber stamp, which participants then stamp inside their letterboxing notebook or journal.
How it works
"Some clues are very specific, some are very interactive," Alles said. "It's like solving a puzzle."
Recommended Stories For You
Between the two sites, there are almost 20 letterbox listings around Weld County.
The goal is to follow clues in order to find a letterbox. They're usually the size of a Tupperware container but can also take the form of a sealable bag. The boxes themselves often have different themes, Alles said.
"In the box, usually there's a stamp that's unique to the location," Alles said. "Usually there's a notepad so people can mark it. People sometimes leave notes, like their name and their experience finding the box."
Letterboxers stamp their journals and hide the box where they found it. Typically, the letterboxes have a note attached to them explaining they're not trash.
What to bring
» Clues: Bring the clues with you so you can find the box.
» Journal: Commemorate the letterboxes you've found by stamping the pages int eh journal.
» Trail name: Create a nickname for yourself to sign into the ledger after finding the letterbox.
» Rubber stamp: Bring your own personal stamp if you want to leave your mark on the ledger in the letterbox.
» Ink pad: Bring your own pad to stamp your journal and the ledger.
» Pen: In the letterbox's ledger, write down your trail name, date you were there and a short message.
Discretion and respect are the major rules.
"You're encouraged to not make it obvious when you're doing it," Alles said.
If people are watching, take the box somewhere private to stamp your journal. Hide it again without drawing attention so the next letterboxer can find it.
"It's important to respect whatever place you're in — whether it's in nature or it's a graveyard," Alles said.
Alles said she usually tries to be careful with the things in box, like the notepad and the stamp. When she goes, she tries to put everything back the way she found it.
The Atlas Quest code of conduct tells participants to leave it just as you find it. Replace rocks you overturn and don't rip up plants.
Making your own box
To add to the adventure and join the secret society, you can make your own.
The idea is to use a relatively small, weatherproof container. A plastic food container will work. Place a stamp inside. The stamp should preferably be hand carved and should represent yourself or the area the letterbox is hidden.
A couple years ago, Alles and her family hid their own letterbox. They picked a graveyard.
"Everyone has their own story worth telling, so that's what we called it," Alles said.
According to Atlas Quest, a well-placed letterbox shouldn't require people to damage the surrounding area. The letterbox should also be in public areas, yet out of sight of those not looking for them.