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Letterboxing is a form of recreation that appeals to people interested in crafts, hiking, puzzles, and more. This article introduces readers to the basics and the appeal of letterboxing, which is gaining popularity in North America.

In England, letterboxing is old news — more than 150 years old, in fact — but it is just now gaining popularity in the United States. The increased interest may come partly from its close relationship to geocaching or from the many recent books and movies about puzzle-themed treasure hunting (The DaVinci Code and National Treasure are the most well known of these, but Michael Stadther’s a Treasure’s Trove is more closely related letterboxing.) For whatever reason letterboxing is gaining a foothold here in the U.S., the activity offers broad appeal for nature lovers, puzzle enthusiasts, adventurers, and treasure hunters.

Letterboxing involves finding clues on the Internet and following them to a hidden waterproof box containing a rubber stamp and a logbook. Letterboxers use the stamp to mark their own personal logbook and stamp the box’s logbook with their own handmade stamps. Boxes are located in public places (usually state parks and similar outdoor recreation areas), and anyone can create and place boxes, writing their own clues for others to find them.

Former Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts might find that letterboxing reminds them of the fun they had at camp, even if their counselors never heard of letterboxing. Making a personal rubber stamp (following directions also found on the Internet) and hiking through the woods are similar to the crafts scouts do and the hikes scouts take. Letterboxers, like enthusiastic scouts, know how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life — the satisfactions of crafting something with their own hands, solving puzzles, discovering new places, and taking in the beauty of nature.

Another draw for letterboxing is its low cost. For the price of an eraser, a pencil, a notebook, and some carving tools, you can make your own letterboxing kit. (A compass and map are also helpful, but even those expenses are small compared to the cost of the GPS equipment required for geocaching.) Incidentally, even if you don’t want to try letterboxing but enjoy card making and other activities that generally use expensive rubber stamps, learning how to make your own rubber stamps is worth a visit to some letterboxing websites.

Letterboxing also seems to be a great way to teach children some principles that will help them be frugal and responsible adults. By taking children letterboxing, adults can demonstrate that adventure lies not only in expensive extreme sports and trips overseas but also in a trip to the local park. The children learn that the free things in life are often the most memorable and enjoyable. They learn to be resourceful (by making their own stamps) and to share their skills with others (by making and placing letterboxes and clues). Letterboxing also teaches thinking and navigation skills and provides an opportunity for parents to talk with their children about conservation and taking care of both natural and man-made resources, an idea that helps ensure that your grandchildren will be able to go letterboxing with their children.

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