I was at a party the other day and one of the guests let something slip. I was immediately intrigued.
It's called Letterboxing. The practice began in England in the latter part of the 1800's, and it was begun by a Park Ranger. He left his calling card in a bottle, and others who found the bottle would leave theirs. Eventually, people would start leaving postcards, in hopes that the next person to find the postcard would send it back to them. (A Letterbox is an English word for Mailbox). The practice has evolved and now the standard is a notebook and a stamp. Here's how it works: You have a notebook and a stamp (preferably a handmade stamp that makes it distinctive). You search for letterboxes that are hidden in public places using clues that are posted at http://www.letterboxing.org/ . (There may be other sites, I'm a newbie in this area). The Letterbox is a small sealed container that contains a notebook and a stamp. When you have found the Letterbox you leave your stamp and a handwritten note in their Letterbox, and you use the stamp provided to stamp your own book and make a note about where it was found etc.
I found the web site, and searched my area. I was astonished to find one so close. One is hidden at the Sledding Park, a mere 5 minutes away. We grabbed a notebook, and I let my little one select a stamp (store bought, not handmade), and we were off!
The kids gripped the directions like it was a treasure map and ran for the bench behind the pool. We passed soccer fields, full of players, a huge football picnic, a group of boys playing Lacrosse, no one knew what we were up to. It was our secret.
We got the the bench, followed the wood line to the left, found the pine tree, paced off the 7 giant steps, looked under the appropriate rock and moved the sticks, just as the directions said. And there, to my disbelieving eyes, was exactly what they said would be there. A small box that contained a notebook, a stamp pad, and some treasures for the little ones. (The directions said that this was a treasure box, so the rules are: take a treasure, leave a treasure.)
Here are the directions, being clutched by my little guy.
And the Treasure! My little guy picked a Matchbox car, and we left a reflective slap bracelet that my daughter decided to donate.
The box contained a homemade journal, tied with string.
And, here's our first entry!
What a fun little discovery. We replaced everythnig just as we had found it, and smugly returned to the car. Feeling a little like we know something that very few others know about.
I've already printed out directions to find a few others. My kids can't wait to find the next one, it's like a mystery and a treasure hunt and a puzzle all rolled into one.