Letterboxing in Rochester

Notebook open to page with Letterboxing

So BTB gave the inside scoop about geocaching at RIT,  but another trendy, treasure hunting experience that you’ve probably never heard about is Letterboxing. Just like geocaching, Letterboxing is a modern-day treasure hunting adventure – but the main difference is, you don’t need a GPS. All the clues can be found on the Atlas Quest website and printed or downloaded before you leave home!

The Ins and Outs of Letterboxing

Letterboxing is an adventure-based hobby involving orienteering, art, and puzzle-solving. Individuals can look up clues that lead you to a waterproof box (most likely a small Tupperware container), with a rubber stamp and a logbook inside. The rubber stamp is usually hand-carved, and the logbook is kept inside plastic bags for protection. After opening up the box, you swap stamps: stamping your personal stamp in the logbook and their stamp in your personal logbook. This is done to keep track of where you’ve been and also keep a collection of awesome stamps/adventures.

an open logbook with stamps and information of where the stamp was found

Letterboxes can be found all over the world. Boxes will be hidden in various locations, such as: in holes in trees, magnetized under mailboxes, in library shelves, underneath rocks, or basically any nook or cranny that a box would fit in. The box can range in size, including being an Altoids tin, a plastic sandwich container, or even plastic baggies wrapped in duct tape with an extra Velcro piece added to close it. They are usually hidden in parks, on hiking trails, and throughout other outdoor spaces. However, there are also several hidden in indoors places such as libraries, stores, and museums.

The clues inside can range from stories about a person, places, events, fictional narratives, cryptograms (without a code) or poems, creating a stimulating and thought-provoking adventure for individuals, families, and friends. The diversity of letterboxes are endless, creating a unique adventure every time.

Letterboxing in Rochester

While the origin of letterboxing can be traced back to 1854 in Dartmoor, England, there are letterboxes everywhere. There are just over 200,000 active letterboxes hidden worldwide, with the United States taking over the birthplace of letterboxing. This recreational activity brings you to places you may have never been, as well as welcomes you to the unknown, using your creativity to embark on a treasure hunt to find a unique piece of art.

open letterbox with note inside and a bag filled with stamps

Rochester is home to many of these boxes, so grab your supplies and get ready for some fun. It is a fantastic way to explore the city and discover new places that you might not have been before. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started:

1. Initial Supplies

To begin letterboxing, you’ll want to grab a few of the basics. Some good things to have are your own logbook, a rubber stamp, an ink pad, a pen, and a small bag or purse to carry everything in.

All of these supplies can all be found at various stores near you.  You can buy a pre-designed stamp, but letterboxing becomes a bit more interesting and personal if you make your own stamp or buy a customized stamp online.

supplies needed: notebook, pen, stamp, and ink pad

2. Find a Clue

Once the supplies are obtained, visit Atlas Quest for the clues. There are multiple search options, but the easiest is to search by location. The website will tell you certain attributes about the letterbox, such as when it was last found, how far the hike may take, and even if it’s a bike, handicap, or kid/dog-friendly area. The level of difficulty can vary, so just take a look at what it says before leaving!

3. Watch Out For Muggles

Just like geocaching, watch out for muggles! Similar to Harry Potter where non-wizards are called muggles, a non-letterboxer is considered a muggle. Even though all the items are placed in legal places, it looks a bit strange to the ordinary eye if you are searching in a tree or a bush to someone passing by.

4. Record Your Find

Record the find in your personal logbook and in the box’s logbook, but also remember to record it online using your atlasquest.com account. Putting it online will let other letterboxers know it was found recently or if it was a strike-out (when a letterboxer cannot find a letterbox). Strike-outs happen either because the letterboxer didn’t understand the clue or because it has disappeared (sometimes they get thrown out since not everyone knows what the boxes are).

It’s also important to comment if the box is in disrepair, so the owner can help. Since a lot of letterboxes are outside and open to the elements, they can easily get damaged.

5. Return the Letterbox Home

After recording the find and stamping your beautiful new stamp, return it to the exact spot you found it from. Putting it back in the correct spot will help the next letterbox looking for it. Also, make sure to put everything that was inside of it back. Don’t accidentally walk off with the stamp!

6. Have Fun

Last but not least: have fun! If you are looking for something to do, letterboxing is a perfect way to explore the area. Rochester has a bunch of cool ones in all different places, including the downtown public library, the Rochester Public Market, nature preserves, parks, cemeteries, and even in some local stores. Some clues include a series of letterboxes, giving you an even greater adventure. 

girl stamping into her logbook with supplies all around hergirl stamping into her logbook

There are over a hundred letterboxes hidden around the Rochester area, so start exploring! You never know where it will take you. Some of our personal favorites are in the Mount Hope Cemetery, Ellison Park, Durand Eastman Park, Mendon Ponds Park, the Strong Museum of Play and the public library.  Let us know if you find any cool boxes in Rochester or Henrietta Area!

Maybe someone will plant a box on RIT's campus soon...

Tagged: outdoors, rochester, student life