Take a treasure hunt in the city

Everyone loves to find treasure, whether it is a bit of sea glass on the beach or an Ann Taylor sweater from the Goodwill rack. Letterboxing, a new trend in treasure hunts, lets families follow a trail of clues to discover hidden gems throughout the city and suburbs.

Getting started is easy. All that is required is the purchase of a stamp, ink pad, pen and log book. It is also nice to have a compass, as some of the clues use directional bearings. Next, download clues from one of the websites (atlasquest.org or letterboxing.org) and start boxing.

The person who finds a box stamps the log book inside with their personal stamp, and then stamps their own log book with the stamp from the box. A pen is used to record the date and sign your trail name. Part of the fun of letterboxing is coming up with your own unique nom de plume with which you sign in. You may find yourself in the company of Waltzing Pigs, Atomic Beans, Chicken and Stars, Frog Man or Fly Girl.

Typical hiding places for letterboxes can include forest preserves, parks and cemeteries. Occasionally they are even planted in a public business, where access to the box is obtained by repeating a code word to an employee, such as the one I found in a local ice cream parlor.

“I would like an extra large eggplant avocado trough please,” I said to the woman at the counter, repeating the secret words.

With a smile the waitress reached under the counter and brought out a square plastic box.

“Sure thing. Here ya go.”

Relieved, I sat down at a table and stamped in before considering the ice cream flavors on the menu.

A pre-made stamp is fine for beginners, though most serious letterboxers create and carve their own one-of-a-kind stamp. The Speedball Speedy-Carve Basic Stamp Making Kit from Amazon includes detailed instructions and all the materials needed for a first attempt.

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