Letterboxing – A Typical Day

Here is a typical day of very active letterboxing, looking for three boxes in close proximity. I found two; one appeared to be missing. In other words, enjoy the hike and the location; it’s not just about finding boxes.

2006 update: All three of these boxes are probably missing now. Their clues are no longer online.

Sunday, 14 Apr 02: NH – Manchester, Durham, and Stratham/Greenland

  • Manchester, NHTombstone LetterboxI found this one fairly quickly. There are several wrong paths you could take, and only one right one of course. It’s in Valley Cemetery. It’s marginally okay in broad daylight on a weekend, but I wouldn’t recommend this location towards dusk if you’re alone. But, letterboxing is the most fun with a companion anyway.
    Valley Cemetery entrance


    Triple-decker across the street

    I was the first one to stamp in this letterbox book.

  • Durham, NHAdam’s Point Letterbox
  • I think I found the right location. It certainly matched the description. However, three of us searched high & low and didn’t find the letterbox.The hike in to the location is what made me pause and realize that letterboxing isn’t a timed race, and finding the hidden letterbox is just a small part of why this is such fun. So, although I was disappointed that we didn’t find the box, the hike was worthwhile.


    Hyde’s Bench (with lens flares)


    Water’s edge, at letterbox location(?)

  • Stratham/GreenlandSandy’s BoxThis one was a joy to find on a gloriously warm & sunny day. If you search for this letterbox, be certain to follow the directions exactly.

    I won’t spoil the fun by explaining more, but do exactly what the directions tell you, in sequence, or you’ll get confused. And, afterwards, explore the trails; it’s a fabulous location!


    oak tree near letterbox

Letterboxing information

Letterboxing is sort of like a scavenger hunt, except that it’s not timed and the prize is the satisfaction of knowing that you found the hidden treasure.

In a nutshell: Using clues (usually found online), you’ll search for a letterbox in an interesting location such as a public park. The letterbox is usually a plastic container such as a Rubbermaid or Tupperware sandwich box.

Inside the letterbox, you’ll find a rubber stamp–sometimes a handcarved stamp–that you’ll use to stamp in your personal journal. It’s proof that you found it.

You’ll also stamp your personal rubber stamp (purchased or handmade) in the letterbox logbook, to show that you’ve been there.

Then, you’ll hide the letterbox where you found it, for the next visitor to find.

This is a rapidly-growing worldwide sport/hobby, that started in the U.K.

If you’d like to use your own handmade rubber stamp (almost no artistic skills required), see Carve Your Own Letterboxing Stamps.

Who goes letterboxing? See this page for photos and descriptions of a May 2002 letterbox gathering.

MY LETTERBOXES

I began planting letterboxes early in 2002.  The following are my letterboxes.

ACTIVE

One at Odiorne Nature Center.  (Details are at Letterboxing.Org.  I’ll post them here, later.)

REPORTED MISSING

  • Salem, MA – Briget Bishop letterbox. Reported missing.
  • Nashua, NH – Gilson Road Cemetery letterboxes (2). Both reported missing.
  • Portsmouth, NH & vicinity – Seacoast letterboxes. One active, one lost.
  • Katy, TX (nr. Houston) – Katy Birdwatcher #1. Reported missing.
  • Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA (near Seattle) – Three letterboxes, all missing.

LETTERBOXING LINKS

To learn more about letterboxing, check Letterboxing North America, letterboxing.org.

Also visit an international site, Atlas Quest.

For the GPS version of this hobby/sport, check Geocaching, geocaching.com.

Letterboxing Gatherings

Letterboxing gatherings are great events.  Friends and strangers — letterboxers at all levels of experience — meet at a location with letterboxes.

Any of the following activities (and more!) can be part of a letterboxing gathering:

  • Informal or organized hunts for existing letterboxes
  • Event-specific letterboxes may be planted and found
  • Swapping stories, stamps and other letterboxing-specific items
  • Workshops
  • Picnics and cookouts

For photos from a past letterboxing gathering, see this archived page from May 2002 – Hampden, CT – The Sleeping Giant gathering.  (Opens in a new window.)

Letterboxes (Past)

STATUS: ALL OF THESE BOXES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED MISSING. MOST VANISHED MANY YEARS AGO.

The following information is from years ago, when most of the boxes were still there.  I keep this online for those who did find these boxes, and want to remember where the stamp came from.

Seacoast NH

The NH Seacoast is the vicinity of Hampton and Portsmouth, NH. The edges blur between towns, so locals usually just call it “the Seacoast.”

When I carved my first Seacoast-related letterbox stamps, I didn’t realize that others had used that same name for their stamps and letterboxes, too.

However, a stamp is a stamp, so–when I planted them–some of mine bore the name “Seacoast.”

Seacoast1 Letterbox

Seacoast1 letterbox (not drewclan)

STATUS UNKNOWN

This box was planted in 2002, and — last reported in 2009 — I’m not sure if it’s still on the trail.  The logbook has been replaced at least three times, but the box remains one of my most popular, ever.

This letterbox is on the trail to an earlier (and, frankly, far better) drewclan letterbox. It’s at Odiorne Point Science Center park, and you’ll pass my box if you’re on the winding path to the drewclan letterbox.

My letterbox was tucked beneath a large boulder near the arched entrance to bunkers.  (It was one of the large boulders nearest the main trail, on the left as you’re looking at the bunker.)

I may restore the clues here, later.  For now, they’re at several websites, including Letterboxing.Org.  (Those sites are updated when a letterbox is confirmed missing. That’s something I’m not able to do, at the moment.)

And, in case you’re trying to figure it out, the stamp is supposed to show a lighthouse.

Odiorne Point Science Center park is an ideal spot for hiking, birdwatching, or letterboxing.

Seacoast2 LetterboxMissing

Seacoast2 letterbox stamp

This stamp–now missing–was at the Urban Forestry Center, not far from  where Yoken’s was, in Portsmouth, NH.

It was hidding inside an old tree.  About a year after I planted the letterbox, the tree was cut down and the letterbox seems to have vanished with it.

It was an ideal location for letterboxing, but the mosquitoes can be ferocious during a warm, damp year.

Nashua, NH

These letterboxes were planted before 2004 and were reported missing around 2007.

Gilson Road Letterbox

Gilson Road Letterbox stamp, Nashua, NH

 

NH Ghosts Letterbox

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of the hand-carved stamp, showing several comical ghost figures.

Ft. Worden, WA

Note: Before visiting any Washington State Park,it’s a good idea to review their regulations

I used to visit Fort Worden every year.  After 2004, things changed… as all things do, and I was unable to maintain these letterboxes.  These are the letterboxes I’d created for Fort Worden.  All have been reported missing.


fort worden trails

REPORTED MISSING

Fort Worden Trails

This one was easy to find, but the stamp is missing now. It was at the main desk at the office at Fort Worden State Park. They kept it in the box directly behind the counter, with the Junior Ranger stamps, and so on.

Even though this stamp is missing, get a trail map and visitor’s info before hiking to look for any other stamps that have been placed in the park. The Fort Worden staff is very helpful, and they’re easy to work with if you’re planting any letterboxes. (Get their okay before planting any.)


wa-ptwilsonlighthouse

REPORTED MISSING

Point Wilson Letterbox

Though the letterbox is now missing, these photos show the park and a possible location for future plants.

At Fort Worden State Park, find Battery Stoddard. It’s an easy walk from the office. Take the trail uphill, just west of Battery Stoddard. Continue straight up the trail, past the wooden step-like rails. Continue past the first bench.

first bench
first bench

Pause and sit at the second stone bench, and enjoy the view.

second bench

view from bench

point wilson

Stand, and turn to your right. Take about 38 paces uphill on the trail. You’ll go past two “waterbars” in the ground. They look like railroad ties, with Xs across them.

waterbar

Continue up the trail. About 19 paces from the second waterbar, on your left you’ll see a large evergreen tree with a burrow started in the base of it.

burrow started in tree
burrow in tree

The letterbox was tucked just in back of that tree.  It wasn’t a very secure location, but it was a nice, easy find for beginning letterbox hunters.


“Artfest Was Here” Letterbox (with a nod to “Kilroy Was Here”)

REPORTED MISSING.

This is where the letterbox was. From the previous letterbox, continue up the trail. You may be glad that you picked up a trail map at the Fort Worden office, so you can find Memory’s Vault easily. That’s where this letterbox is hidden. (For info about Memory’s Vault, see this website.)

At the vault, find the sheltered chair.



From the chair, turn to 140 degrees (SSE) and look at the split trees. They’re about 14 paces from the chair (and no more than three or four paces off the trail.)

The letterbox was in a green-lidded Rubbermaid container, hidden in the ivy in the elbow of the trees.  Again, it’s not a red-hot location, but I created these letterboxes to introduce people to letterboxing.  I knew the boxes would vanish, but — during a 2004 arts event — there was a good chance many attendees would have a chance to find at least one of my letterboxes.


letterbox in the ivy

Letterboxing in Salem, Massachusetts

Letterboxing is a fabulous sport, and a worthwhile activity for families, Scouting groups, and homeschoolers, too.

If you’d like to know more about letterboxing, be sure to read my other letterboxing webpages, including easy tips for carving your own rubber stamps.

About my first Salem, MA letterbox

I planted this letterbox in 2002, at a beautiful park in Salem, near my home. In 2005, one person advised me that this box is missing; a later hiker said that she found it.

Since then, several people have said that the stamp is gone, and — after move than seven years — it probably is.

STATUS: THIS STAMP HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING

Because the park is in Salem, site of the famous “witch trials,” my stamp commemorated Briget Bishop, a victim of that hysteria.

These were the clues:

Briget Bishop letterbox – commemorating the first woman hung at the Salem “Witch” Trials.

Terrain: Mostly flat & paved, with one brief incline.
Clues: Very easy.
Notes: Watch for poison ivy and, atop the hill, there are some steep drops around the sides if a toddler or pet isn’t watchful.

Clues: Go to Forest River Park in Salem, Massachusetts. Hike back towards the public swimming pool. Climb the last hill on your right, before you reach the fence around the swimming pool.

Atop the hill, find the tree that survives although most of the interior of its trunk was burned out. Lean against the trunk, facing North. Take about eight (8) paces NW to a very slightly raised grassy mound.

When you’re standing on top that mound with your back to the burned-out tree and you’re amid several very young trees, look down to your left. Under a piece of wood, you’ll find your treasure.

Please be discreet, and be sure to replace the wood so the box is slightly obscured.

Remember that this was an easy box to find. If you don’t find it, it’s probably gone.

This is a fairly obvious letterbox in a very popular public setting. The illustration on the handcarved stamp didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. If this box has vanished, it won’t break my heart. It was just an excuse to visit a beautiful park and plant a letterbox.

This park has many features for children, two small beaches, swimming pools, and several spectacular views. Plan a picnic, but no charcoal fires and no alcohol are allowed at in the park. Pets allowed, on leash. The Salem 1630 Pioneer Village adjoins this park

Carve Your Own Letterboxing Stamps

When I started carving rubber stamps, I was reminded of why I hated high school art classes: I’m frankly terrible at this kind of stuff.

However, using Speedball’s pink rubber stamp material (get the kit – it’s worth it) makes this easy, even if–like me–you’re all thumbs when it comes to this kind of stuff. In 2006, the kit was under $20 at Michael’s.

Low-tech method

  • Sketch your design on paper with a nice black pencil. I recommend a pencil with a 2B or 4B lead, or softer.
  • Flip the paper over so it’s face-down on the pink rubber pad.
  • Trace over the lines again (or rub the back of the paper really well, all over), on top of the pink rubber pad.

The lines should transfer well to the rubber.

High-tech method

  • Photocopy or use your laser printer to print the image/s you’d like on the rubber stamp. (Inkjet will not work for this.)
  • Place the image face-down on the pink rubber pad.
  • Dab the back of the paper with acetone (nailpolish remover), until the paper is saturated.

The image should appear nice and dark, showing where to cut and where to avoid.

CARVING THE STAMP

Either way, the next step is easy. Cut away everything you don’t want to grab ink. It doesn’t have to be a deep cut, just enough so it doesn’t come in contact with the rubber stamp pad when you’re printing.

You can cut with block printing cutters, or with an X-Acto knife. Different people like different cutters. I took more block printing classes than I can recall, so I’m more comfortable with the block printing cutter.

What’s key is not to undercut the image. That is, the part that contacts the stamp pad should be well-supported on each side. I like the illustration–and instructions–at Der Mad Stamper’s website.

If you make a mistake, you can glue the errant piece back in, so be sure to save it. If you’re using the pink Speedball rubber, Super Glue works fine. I used it, and except for the glue squirting all over my fingers when I punctured the tip to open it, it worked fine.

(Another handy reason to have acetone nearby. It’ll separate your fingers, but alas it doesn’t fully remove the glue.)

I applied the glue with a sewing needle, which did not stick to the rubber… but then the needle was glued to my desk when I put it down for minute.

If you use Super Glue, you’ll need to sand the glue off the stamp before using it. The glue resists ink. Sanding can be done with sandpaper, of course, but an emery board or file works fine too.

When you think you’ve cut the stamp pretty well, use a very light color of stamp pad to test the image. That way, if you need to cut more, you can still see your original lines.

Remember to cut less than you think you need. And also, it’s supposed to look hand-cut, so leave bits of rubber lines here & there for that “artsy” look.

When the stamp is done, you can use it as it is, or you can glue it to a piece of wood (for a handle).

The Shakespeare stamp–of my all-time idol–was my first attempt at carving a rubber stamp. I still use it, years later.

I carved the Aisling stamp (also shown below) specifically for letterboxing; that was the third stamp I carved. The second one was regrettable and is sitting in landfill somewhere.

But, whether you have a hand-carved stamp that you love, a hand-carved stamp that’s ho-hum, or a store bought stamp… get out and go letterboxing! It’s important to go out and play, even with an imperfect stamp.

my first carved stamp
(the bard, of course)


computer graphic for stamp

final rubber stamp (2 1/2″ x 1 3/4″)