Letterboxing: Great Activities for Kids and Families near Ouray Colorado
Ouray, Colorado, located in the San Juan Mountains (most beautiful mountain range in the state), is a destination made for families with kids. The natural hot springs provides a great respite for the young and the young at heart all year round and there are many great activities in the vicinity, especially in the summertime. One such activity is Letterboxing.
Letterboxing originated in the 1800s in England. People hid little treasures in the woods, under rocks or leaves, in small crevices and other people received clues to find them. Today, letterboxing lives on by combinging navigational skills and artistry via a hand carved hand stamp. Read more about how it started in the US.
Letterboxing is similar to geocaching but it doesn't require any expensive equipment (a compass is optional). People receive clues to small treasure chests (plastic, reusable food storage boxes) hidden in various publicly accessible, outdoor places and then other letterboxers look for the item. Ouray has a couple of treasures and so do the surrounding hills.
To enjoy the game, start by checking out the two main websites: letterboxing.org and atlasquest.com. Both sites explain the unique hobby and provide many details and explain and elaborate on proper ettiquite for the hunt as well. Both sites also provide information on hiding and finding letterboxes.
Head to the official letterboxing website and search for the area you want to explore (you don't need to join if you don't want to) and you will find that there are five sites in Ouray (at this time). Click on the hyperlinks and print out the clues. You can find sites in Silverton, Durango, and Telluride too. If you are on a road trip, perhaps you can find sites along the route. The clues are created by humans so don't expect them to be EXACT.
For your first find, look for an easy one so that you don't get discouraged immediately. Once you find it, take the treasure and immediately move away from the area so that you don't give the exact location away (in case there are other letterboxers looking) and find a place where you can safely enjoy opening the treasure chest.
Inside the treasure chest (typically a rubbermaid food storage container), you will find a stamp, and optionally, a pen or pencil, a stamp pad, and some paper. The first page of the book should be a message from the person that hid the treasure that explains when it was hidden and tells the finder which stamp is the "Official" stamp of the site. Sometimes people will find more than one stamp in a box that second stamp is a hitchhiker. You are free to move the hitchhiker to another cache but the "official" stamp must remain. (Read the rules on hitchhikers and other ettiquite) Stamp the book in the chest with your stamp and leave a message including hometown and date of visit. Use the "official" stamp from the cache and stamp your own book with date and cache name.
Return the cache to the location that you found it, ensuring that the book is put in the watertight ziploc bag and that the container is properly closed. Leave the landscape in nice condition and move on to your next treasure.
Find a few letterboxes before you hide one so you can see the methods and clues people use to hide the stash. I just learned of this hobby and love, love, love it!
If you are new to the hobby and find yourself in Ouray, visit the Painting Marmot Art Supply Store on Main Street to purchase your own log book and to get the supplies to make your own stamp or purchase a stamp.
I would love to hear your comments. Do you letterbox? How long have you been doing this hobby? Tell me about your most unique experiences when letterboxing.