By Casey Smith, Naturalist
If you’re a fan of our Summer Letterbox Program, you may be interested to know that we also have a Winter Letterbox Program. Maybe you’ve never heard of either. Read below to learn more about both programs, letterboxing, and how we put it all together.
So what is letterboxing? This is a world-wide activity, similar to geocaching, where small weatherproof boxes are hidden in publicly accessible spaces. The boxes usually contain a logbook, a rubber stamp, and an ink pad. To get started, you need a “trail name”, a rubber stamp, ink pad, pen or pencil, a small sketch book, and clues. Clues to letterboxes are listed online at www.letterboxing.org. Once you find a letterbox, make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp on your personal logbook and leave an imprint of your personal stamp on the letterbox’s logbook. Many letterboxers have their own personalized stamp. Anyone with time and a good idea can create and hide a letterbox.
So how do we at Preservation Parks put together our letterbox programs? We always try to incorporate learning with fun. So the first step is choosing a theme! For summer, we follow the library’s summer reading theme. For 2023, the theme is kindness and friendship, so you can expect to see letterbox clues teaching you about relationships in nature. For winter we create our own theme, usually a preview of what our education department’s next summer theme will be. Education’s theme for summer of 2023 is about forests, so our winter letterbox theme is trees! We have many creative people on our staff, and we use their talents to create all our letterbox clues. They’re written by a team of 5-8 people.
In summer, our letterboxes follow the typical format – follow the clues to find a hidden box. We’ve found that with around 4000 people participating in the letterbox program each summer, ink pads were drying out, pens were exploding, and some boxes were getting ruined. So our solution was to create a secret symbol for each box, eliminating the ink pad, pen, and stamp. Finders then draw that symbol into their letterbox booklet. Forget your pencil? Snap a picture of the symbol on your phone and draw it in later. Finding four of the eight summer letterboxes earns you a prize! In winter, boxes could be covered by snow or frozen shut. So instead of finding a box in winter, you’re looking for a small sign with a word or phrase. Collect the words, unscramble the phrase, and collect your prize!
Our favorite thing about both Summer and Winter Letterbox programs is that it’s a great way to get motivated to get outside, especially in winter, and you get to do it on your own time. Winter Letterbox is happening now through March 19. You can register at https://preservationparks.com/programs/letterbox-adventure/ or stop in to Deer Haven Park or the Delaware County District Library (Main or Orange branch) to get started. Our Summer Letterbox Program kicks off on Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day Weekend. Happy letterboxing!