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.