Friday, May 21, 2010

California Letterboxing Effort

When I set out on my trip to Santa Barbara, I picked out four of the easier letterboxes at Atlas Quest to search for. Since I was taking my 70-something year old mother with me, I couldn't get too ambitious.

The first letterbox was a big disappointment. We paid to access the location, found the exact spot that the clues led us to, but there was no letterbox. Someone must have removed it. The second letterbox turned out to be a ways up a hill, so I left my mother on a park bench to smoke her cigarettes while I hiked up the hill. Again, I found the location, but no letterbox. The rock it should have been hidden under was covered in graffiti and there was trash scattered about. Obviously, some kids found it, stole it, and ruined it for everyone else.

After two disappointments, I was about to give up, but the third one was located in a nearby park, so I took a chance. This park ended up being a forest with a river running through it -- not the best place for a woman to be wandering around by herself. My mother tried to walk with me part of the way, but we hit some rocks and she can't climb with her osteoporosis, so I walked her back to the car where she could smoke more cigarettes while I hunted around some more. I realized that I hadn't properly counted out my paces in my impatience and had turned up the wrong trail on the first try. Eventually, I found it hidden in a very clever spot, and returned to the car with ink smears on my fingers as proof for my mother that I found it.

The last of the four letterboxes was very much appreciated, as it was in a drive-by location that didn't involve any hiking, so my mother was finally able to watch me exchange rubber stamp impressions in the two log books and see how it's done. There was a hitchhiker in the box, and I decided to take it since it had only seen two states: Colorado and California. I felt it was time to move it to Nevada, where I placed it in a newly planted box with the help of my daughter. A hitchhiker is a rubber stamp and logbook that can be moved from one letterbox to another. This one was created in the year 2006.

Our letterboxing adventure brought us to a park up in the hills of Santa Barbara that allowed us to look out over the city and the ocean. Unfortunately, it was a very foggy morning, so the pictures are far from being clear, but you can get the idea.

That actually is the coast line out there where the city stops. You just can't differentiate between the ocean and the sky.

I've been asked to post pictures of what a letterbox looks like. They actually have many different faces. I've seen letterboxes in film canisters. It is recommended to use transparent or opaque boxes so that random people who stumble upon them can see the contents and don't call in bomb scares. It's also good to avoid bright colors that don't stand out, so that the letterbox can be somewhat camouflaged where you place it, but all they sell around here are bright colored lids on their sandwich boxes.

Here's a picture of the contents of a letterbox I put together. It contains a rubber stamp in plastic baggie to keep everything else clean after the stamp has been placed in ink, a handmade log book for others to place their stamp imprints when they visit the letterbox, and a note to people who find the box accidentally that explains what it is and why it's there and how they can get involved in the hobby. Some people include ink pads in their letterboxes, but they are expensive, so considering how often these kits get stolen, I'd rather leave it up to the letterboxer to bring his/her own ink pad, which most do.

Ultimately, it's just like a sign-in sheet, only people use rubber stamps as signatures. Then they go to the website and record how many letterbox items they found and how many they planted for others to find. It's kind of like a world-wide treasure hunt.


Dreaming said...

The letterbox 'hunt' sounds like a lot of fun. It sounds like something I'd enjoy.
My son used to live in Santa Barbara. We always enjoyed visiting him and going to the parks. We were always in awe of the flowers. We have forgotten what it can be like to live in a mild climate!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Letterboxing can be so frustrating, can't it? It's fun when you find the boxes though.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like a much bigger improvement as your adventure went on. I'm glad you found some letterboxes and your Mother was able to experience it, too.
I love how letterboxing takes us to places we'd normally never visit or know about otherwise...especially when they have such striking views like that park you visited.
Your explanation of letterboxing and your own letterbox was perfect, too.


lytha said...

wow it's been a long time since i saw the words in english "leave it exactly where you found it"!!

here the containers all say blah blah blah : ) no, more like "this is an official gamepiece, please do not take" in german.

but i always write in english in the logbooks, because geocaching comes from my country: )

so do hitchhikers in letterboxing have trackable numbers, so people log online where they are at a given time? are hitchhikers only logbook/stamp combinations or can they be anything?

are there types of letterboxes - like multis where you go from one point to another until you finally get to the box?

guess i should go to the site and look huh?


Crystal said...

That sounds real cool. How do you get started? Are they in Canada too?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Crystal - The best way to get started is to go to the Atlas Quest link in the post and search for letterboxes in your area. They should be all over the world. It's free. You can register on the website and set up a personal identity for yourself.

Lytha - There are all kinds of different types of letterboxes. They are all listed on the Atlas Quest site. I haven't even had the time to read about all of them myself. Each box does have a trackable number on the website that you log it with. The website keeps count of how many attempts, finds, and plants you have for each type. The signatures are always stamps as far as I know, though sometimes people just sign the logbook with a pen.

Stephanie said...

Very, very interesting! Thanks for sharing. I am intrigued and will have plenty of 'down time' to check out the website and get more info.