Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Adventure Time

Did you ever want to be Indiana Jones? Don’t lie; of course you did. The idea of following secret clues to hidden treasures is just too awesome. Now imagine for a moment that there are hidden things all around you: at your local library, on the bike trail, down the street, in the park, or up in an unusual tree on the courthouse lawn. Imagine further that clues have been left to help lead you to said locations and are only waiting to be deciphered. Welcome to the world of letterboxing.

“What is letterboxing?” you might ask. Letterboxing is a hobby that started in England in the 1850s. The idea is that someone hides a box in some public place. Inside the box are a log sheet and a unique rubber stamp. The person then creates clues to the location of the box and posts them on the internet or spreads them by word of mouth. Those who seek the box bring along a journal and a unique rubber stamp of their own. They get to stamp their journal with the stamp in the box and they stamp the box’s log sheet with their own stamp. Thus they have a record of having been there, and the person who placed the box has a record of how many people have found it. Oh, and one more thing. You’re supposed to be completely discreet. No matter how public the location is, you’re not supposed to let anyone see you retrieving the box or putting it back; so there’s a stealth element involved as well. Being seen can have unintended consequences.

I’ve had my eye on letterboxing for a while as something I’d like to do. It combines mapmaking, puzzle solving, and treasure hunting with the ability to get outside, go on hikes and walks, and get to know the local area better. How great is that? I haven’t taken the plunge before though because I’ve been saving up to get a good journal and a unique stamp. Of course any log sheet or journal would work, but I wanted a particularly Indiana Jonesish one. I finally got my journal in the mail this week, so I’m all set to go.

I’m planning on getting in lots of adventuring this summer with my kids, so I may report on various excursions (though I’ll be careful not to reveal the location of any boxes). As one letterboxing site tells me that there are 208 letterboxes in my area alone, I don’t think I’ll be running out of boxes to find anytime soon.


Erica said…
Sounds awesome!

We had someone doing something similar in the library once when I was still a page.

The other page and I left our book carts to go search for clues. We...didn't get a lot done that day.
Andrea C. said…
That's awesome. We used to do something like that back in France, and ended up going on a four hour hike in a bunch of mountains once. It was pretty rewarding to find the little box at the top. And I didn't know they had them in the States... maybe we'll start doing it again.
Good hunting on your quests!
Rick said…
@Andrea, Here's where you can go to find clues for your area if you're interested:
Andrea C. said…
Awesome, we'll check into it. Thank you!