Thursday, November 10, 2005

State Letterboxing Rules

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is enforcing its rules on the placement of geocaches and letterboxes in state parks and recreation areas. The rules limit the number of boxes you may place in a park and you must have a permit, which is good for one year.

I just submitted a permit for one of my boxes and in the process came up with the "official" sticker below. Jim Gast, superintendent of the Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and the Katy Trail State Park, also answered a number of my questions.

The system seems to mix geocaches and letterboxes. For your purposes, are letterboxes caches?

Yes. The total number of caches/letterboxes allowed is the number of acres in the park divided by 200. For Jewell Cemetery, since it is so small, it is my decision to allow them or not. I have said there can be 1 there. Caches/Letterboxes are first come, first serve. At Rock Bridge, we can have 11. If there are 11 letterboxes, then we wouldn't have any geocaches.

Caches seemed to be limited to one per 200 acres or two per park, but then the permit allows for 5-box multicaches. Do you care if a multicache has a multiple clues on the Web or can it only have a single clue and other clues in the boxes? If the latter, does this mean one could have 10 boxes in Rock Bridge State Park if they were in two sets of clues?

Usually with multi-caches, only the first clue is posted on the web, the other clues are in the caches are direct people where to find the remaining ones. We have one multi-cache at Rock Bridge. Even though there are three boxes, it only counts as one cache/letterbox. So yes a person could have two multi-caches with 5 boxes each. I've seen some letterboxes with each clue posted on the web. It doesn't matter as long as the owner links them so we can be sure it's a multi-cache.

How will permits be renewed? It is the permittee's responsibility to ask for a renewal.

Permits are good for 1 year. If no one else wants to place a cache at Jewell Cemetery, I would probably consent to extending the permit another year.

Does the entire text attached to the permit need to be included in the box, or just a paraphrase. A large document is problematic for a microbox, which is by tradition the size of an Altoids can.

It needs to at least have OFFICIAL LETTERBOX or OFFICIAL GEOCACHE on the outside. Otherwise staff may think it is trash and remove it. The rest of the text is optional, but it would be nice if the text were somewhere to explain to non-user what they just found.

One of the more popular facets of letterboxing is the “hitchhiker.” This is a very small box (often a 35mm film container) that is placed within another letterbox. The finder takes the hitchhiker and places it in another letterbox. May I assume correctly that one does not need a permit to drop a “hitchhiker” into an existing box on state property?

Hitchhikers seem like travel bugs used in caches. You don't need a permit for the travel bug since you can add or remove items from a cache. The hitchhiker needs to fit inside the letterbox, however. A 35mm film can does not fit into an Altoid box and thus would not be allowed. Hitchhikers need to follow the rules for decency, etc.

Finally, when were the rules created, what was the public input process and are they subject to revision or amendment? Can I be placed on a mailing list for the latter? We talked with various geocaching clubs around the state to get their input.

If you have questions or comments about the policy, you can come to any park's public meeting and bring up issues, you can send your thoughts to me and I will forward them on, or you can send a comment from the web site.

Monday, November 07, 2005

New Box!

We did it! We finally planted our first box this weekend, and the clues are officially posted on the LbNA website!! Look for "Shelter Gardens" in Columbia...can't wait to hear from a finder!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Welcome to Letterboxing, Mid Missouri style

The other links on this page will take you the Letterboxing North America (LBNA) frequently asked questions and the new letterboxers online discussion board. But you should probably know more about this site and the folks who have planted all those wonderful boxes in this region.

Webfoot got us started by planting Mid Missouri's first box -- Batcave on Aug. 31, 2002. JennyJ picked up her interest in letterboxing from relatives in the Northeast, was Bat Cave's first finder and planted the first notable set of boxes in the area. But letterboxing really blossomed here when Lnd-Crzr organized a spring gathering at Rock Bridge State Park of 2005. A very informal group grew from that – the Mid Missouri Letterboxers. We continue to meet for conversation and boxing two or three times a year.

There are no rules in letterboxing – in MidMo or elsewhere. But there are strong traditions and etiquette. We letterbox under the most fundamental ethic:

Do No Harm

Here are a few of the ways we find to accomplish that:
  • Show respect for nature and property-- never dig for a box nor damage the surroundings.
  • Show respect for the person who hid the box – return it carefully to its hiding place, leaving only your stamp as evidence you have been there. Then both log your find on LBNA and contact the placer.
  • Show respect for the person who lovingly carved the stamp – treat it with care, keep it clean and return it to its box or bag.
  • Leave the box as you would have liked to have found it. Sometimes boxes or books are damaged by water or critters. Replace torn zip-bags and notify the owner of other problems. And, again, proper “re-hidation” is the key to continued enjoyment.
  • Be discreet. Some say the best part of letterboxing is making a find, stamping the log and returning the box while those around you are totally oblivious. Shouting “I found it!” or leading a tour group to a box site are considered poor form.
  • Play fair. Log your find with LBNA so the placer gets her or his share of the fun. And don’t give others shortcuts to the box, which may mean watching what photos you take
If you plan to place your own boxes, we have a few traditions here that we want to share:
  • Find a dozen or so boxes before you place one of your own. That will help you determine what makes a "good hide."
  • We think it both polite and smart to label all boxes well. It should at least say “This is a Letterbox” and provide the Web address of LBNA. Realize that geocachers or "muggles" may find your box, so explain to them what to do with it. And please -- don't let anyone mistake it for a bomb or weapon.
  • It is easy to get excited on the hunt and not see where you are. Please don't endanger searchers by placing a box near a road, airport or other hazard.
  • Double-bag logbooks and other parts of the box that could be damaged by rain.
  • Select a site that takes a little forethought to find. Boxes placed in very obvious spots are quickly taken or damaged. And they are not much fun.
  • While many letterboxers use store-bought stamps, the tradition in this region is to put a hand-carved stamp in your box. The stamp should reflect something about the box name. Remember that the box name is often one if its own best clues.
  • Attend one of the Mid Missouri Letterboxing gatherings so we can learn from your skill and you can learn from ours. We have plenty of folk who will teach you to carve, navigate with a compass, make logbooks or write clues
More than anything else, we want you to enjoy letterboxing in Mid Missouri. We will do our best to make sure nothing spoils your hobby. Please do the same.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ron on the air

Ron Danuser provided Mid Missouri with an introduction to letterboxing via a superb radio interview on KBIA in Columbia. Darren Hellwege, host of the public radio station's Thinking Out Loud, not only asked all the right questions, but went into the field with Ron. We had the experience of hearing Darren's excitement as he found his first box in Rock Bridge State Park.

Go to Hellwege's program site to listen to the whole interview. But then poke around in the site to hear the long version of the box hunt and enjoy several good links.

Thanks, Ron. I think the best promotion of letterboxing has been from public broadcasting and similar print sites, such as Smithsonian. Whether it is the audience or the format, it seems to excite people who not only enjoy the hobby but treat it with respect.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fall Gathering

Good coffee, good conversation -- and REALLY GREAT letterboxes!

Those of us at the Fall 2005 gathering of the Mid Missouri Letterboxers had lots of reasons for celebrations. Not only did eight of us -- including little Jedidiah -- spend an afternoon talking to folks who actually understand our hobby, but just a mile away the mighty Mizzou Tigers beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

While the crowd at Farot Stadium tore down the goalposts, we were excited in our own, admittedly more sedate, way as we shared our experiences and expertise.

Attending were Ron, Jenny, JT & Sandi & son, and Clyde & Cecile.

Ron had supplied us all with empty mint tins with which we were to make microboxes. Sandi took the prize with here incredibly beautiful box-within-a-box. Her prize was a copy of "The Letterboxer's Companion" donated by Ron.

Jenny challenged us to a spooky Haloween Hitchhiker contest and suppled hand-crafted and lovingly filled supply pouches. Cecile won "most original" for her tiny box tucked into a plastic eyeball. Jenny's own Jaberwocky was voted "people's choice," but she passed her prize to Ron for his Great Pumpkin.

We spent three hours laughing, exchanging stamps and learning about ways to make books, carve stamps or write clues. We left with four new microboxes to place and three hitchhikers to tuck into other boxes, so even folks who couldn't make the gathering came out winners.

You can look at a gallery of photos take at the gathering by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Get a Higher Education

(This box was missing for a few weeks, but the person who stumbled upon it graciously returned it. It has be re-hidden in a less obvious place and the clues updated. 11/6/05)

ake the Tiger by the tail during this weekend's gathering of Mid-Missouri Letterboxers. Our Higher Education box is within walking distance of the Cherry Street Artisan, but will leave you scratching your head like a freshman at midterm exams.

Remember that the University of Missouri-Columbia was founded in 1839 as the first public university west of the Mississippi River and was the first public university in Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase territory. It is steeped in traditions and pride. Search for the box with respect and honor.

To find this letterbox, you’ll use a map, clues and a replacement code.

Use this link to locate a map of the Francis Quadrangle (north). (

Use the following clues to navigate to your destination. To locate the box you’ll need to decipher the code. When you find the box, snap your photo with the enclosed camera to let us know you’ve mastered this academic challenge. When we develop the film, we will post them at our Flickr site.

Begin at Elm Street, near Peace Park.
O Drive ->
Francis []
Face E
Uphill to large []

Now, decipher the code to find the letterbox.


Instructions for breaking the code:
Your Key Word is the seven-letter word for the most visited landmark on the MU campus.

--Locate the letter in the word that comes first in the alphabet, and assign that letter the value of 1.
--Locate the letter that comes second in the alphabet and assign it the value of 2.
--Continue until all seven letters have been assigned a number. Example: In the word cat, C =2, A=1 and T=3. This is numerical sequence is your “decoder”.

Using this number sequence, assign each letter in the coded message above.

To decode the clue, start with the letter in the coded message. Use the number assigned to that letter and move backwards through the alphabet that many letters. This is the “decoded” answer. Complete decoding the message and follow the clues.

Here’s an example of how this code works:

Key Word: BLUE
Decoder: 1342 (B appears first in the alphabet; E appears second, L appears third and U appears fourth)

Apply the decoder to a phrase.

1 3 4 2 1 3 4 2

Count backwards to find the answer.

H (move back 1 = G)
R (move back 3 = O)
S (move back 4 = O)
F (move back 2 = D)
M (move back 1 = L)
X (move back 3 = U)
G (move back 4 = C)
M (move back 2 = K)

Have fun

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ghoulish Games Planned for Fall Gathering

Sharpen your carving tools and dip into your imagination for a haunted hitchhiker exchange at the October 22 Fall Gathering. To join the fun, create a hitchhiker based on a spooky, creepy or scary character. For inspiration, think of movies, books, cartoons, comicbooks, or fashion a figment of your own imagination. In addition to the carved stamp, make a logbook including all the necessary traveling information, so that eventually your creature can return to you. (Hint: Hitchhikers should be on the small side, as they must squeeze into letterboxes that are often quite full.)

Bring your HHH and logbook in a sturdy ziplock baggie to the Gathering. Those in attendance will vote on their favorites, and fabulous prizes will be awarded.

After the judging, we will exchange HHH's and place them in regular letterboxes to begin their spine-chilling journeys.

For more information, contact Jenny J.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The List of Finders

Trail names found in MidMissouri letterboxes
Contact C2B2 to add a name
ABS Family
Calicamo Susan
Craw & Joey
Dee Dee
Fairy Princess Fiona
Grace to You
Grass in Moonlight
Here & There
Hoof'n It
Jim & Sharon
Lady in Red
McMonkey Mom
Outdoor Girls
SB Princess Aurora
Sun Eagle
Tennessee Traveler
The Amazing Kid Who
The B Hunters
The Byrds
The Fire Dog
The Five B's
The Gardener
The Martins
The McMonkeys
The Scorp
Wyld Blueberries

Monday, September 19, 2005

Coming this fall: The Gathering, a Sequel

Remember when spring was in the air, cartoon-themed boxes sprouted in Rock Bridge State Park and Lnd-Crzr beamed that impish grin? What a gathering. What a crowd.

It's time again. Lnd-Crzr has rung the cyber bell to gather the Mid Missouri Letterboxers clan again. As fitting for Fall, this gathering will be a bit less wild and wooly. The group will meet at Cherry Street Artisan in Columbia at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Don't know the place? Check here. Great coffee, music and high-speed Internet.

There are a number of boxes nearby: Architects Series No. 1, Buried Jewells and one I haven't had time to name or post yet. But Lnd-Crzr has even more up his sleeve. He is placing small (Altoid-size) tins in his memorable Exchange Box. You can pick up a tin and use it to design a micro box for a contest similar to the one we so much enjoyed in the first gathering.

By the way, the (ahem) winning entry from that gathering is now the Fallen Leaf box. Find it if you can. Dare you.

Ron is looking for more ideas for the gathering. If you have ideas or need directions to his exchange box, contact him through the LbNA Web site. Look for the list of placers. Use the link to send him a message.

Or -- just a thought -- post your ideas here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dog days and letterboxing in Marshall

I love history. I hate boring history books.

For me, history lived in the quirky stories in the margins of texts or ramblings of old folk. Maybe that's why I became a journalist instead of a historian.

Jim the Wonderdog is one of those quirky stories and it just begged for a letterbox.

Last winter, Cecile and I agreed to meet our Kansas City friends, Jim and Sarah Byrd, somewhere between our two homes. Marshall, MO, was a likely prospect on our map. The deal was set when we looked up Marshall on the Internet and found the Jim the Wonderdog site.

Jim was one of those folk heros that don't seem to come along much any more. A whole town got together to build a park for him when he died. How can you not like a dog like that?

Anyway, we froze our bottoms off that winter day, but vowed to return. And return we did this September. The four of us -- plus our two dogs -- had a great picnic in Jim's park and placed a special box. The Byrds also placed a fun box (the stamp for which was carved on the spot) in nearby Waverly to mark the annual Apple Festival.