School is back in session, and before you know it, fall will have the area covered
in beautiful color and crisper air, making it the perfect season to enjoy the
world’s largest treasure hunt!
As you walk the paths and sidewalks of southeastern Oklahoma, did you ever stop to
think about what you might be missing, there – just behind that tree or in that
flowerpot? Maybe some little secret known only to those who know to look for it?
Little treasures just waiting to be found!
From as far back as the mid-1800’s, people have been placing vessels for visitors to find, record their presence, and take something of the find with them. Using either written directions with map-following skills, or technical GPS tools, anyone with the desire to find them! Plastic containers, tiny tubes, army ammo boxes and more – these “treasure troves” come in all shapes and sizes. What they
contain depends on the type of find and the intention of the host.
In 1854, Englishman William Crossing decided to offer visitors to Cranmere Pool in
Dartmoor the opportunity to record their passing, using a bottle to hold the
Visitor’s log. Shortly thereafter, some enterprising person set up a box near the
Northern Moor Trail for hikers to leave letters and postcards as a sort-of
“friendly communication” for fututure visotors. This cache is what resulted in the
Today, American Letterboxes tend to be oriented around rubber-stamping as a way to
record your presence. Each participant selects (or creates) their own stamp. In
the letterboxes is a log-book where visitors can leave their stamp-mark, as well
as a box stamp with which participants can stamp their own log books. The goal is
to collect stamps from as many Letterboxes that you can visit while recording the
fact that you were there for the box owner.
And the places you’ll visit! Letterboxes are a little less common than Geocaches,
simply because of the nature of the beast: there are fewer people interested in
rubber-stamp signatures than those who like to just “hit and run”, signing a log.
And because there are fewer Letterboxes, those who place them often attempt to
find some very special places to leave them: sites with beautiful scenery, long-
forgotten destinations off the beaten path, or places that hold special meaning
for whatever reason.
And how are these boxes found? Letterbox “clues” are offered for the players.
Using basic comprehension skills and light orienteering skills, boxes can be
easily found. The directions will provide a point, an often a mix of turn
directions, step counts and lanmark references to guide you to the box.
While the first letterboxes were notoriously difficult to find, today finds
thousands of them located all over the world – most are quite easily accessible.
Because of their frequency, the habit of leaving letters for mailing has been put
by the wayside. While some boxes now have simple sign-in logs, the popularity of
rubber-stamp signatures has become the norm for this sport. Each box contains its
own rubber stamp and log-book, and each visitor has their own identification stamp
and logbook. Thus stamps are “traded,” documenting a visit.
Modern technology has ushered in the newest form of casual treasure hunt:
geocaching. The first geocache was placed in 2000, and since that time there are
literally hudreds, if not thousands, of geocaches in parks, urban areas, and even
buildings all over the United States.
With Geocaches, you’ll start with a GPS coordinate. There may also be a couple of
clues given to help you along. After that, you’re pretty much on your own.
Traditional Geocaches are fairly large vessels full of trinkets and the obligatory
log book. The idea is to sign in and do an item swap – you bring something small
to leave in the Geocache, and you take something from its cache of items. Most of
the time these are small toys and trinkets. However you’ll occasionally find
special items in larger caches. First-to-Find (FTF) treasure is sometimes included
in a brand new cache: this could be anything from a special coin, money, or other
more valuable items. You might also find items like Trackables or “Travel Bugs”.
Trackables include a website that you can visit to log your find, share photos of
the area, or otherwise leave record of your visit. You then take the item and
place it in the next geocache you find. Likewise, “Travel Bugs” are items that
should also be moved on to another geocache once you find them.
For both activities, there are some considerations: the first being secrecy. This
is the key to making sure others can find the cache in the future: you don’t want
everyone who isn’t “playing” to know of a geocache or letterbox, else vandalism or
even outright stealing may occur.
The second consideration is difficulty. Geocaches and Letterboxes are hidden in
places with a variety of difficulties to find: it may be as easy as visiting a
public building, taking photos or collecting information to submit for a “virtual
cache”, parking along a road and taking a short walk, or as difficult as hiking an
extended distance climbing trees, solivng riddles to discover a coordinate, or
requiring specialized skills to obtain the vessel. The clues will often include a
difficulty rating and special comments if this is the case, so make note of any
details included with the location.
The third consideration is knowing what you’re looking for. Letterboxes and
geocaches come in all shapes and sizes: some as large as a small tote, and others
as miniscule as a button! Again, the clues will indicate the size of the prize you
There are ample opportunities to find these hidden treasures in the Broken Bow
area. In fact, there are currently a dozen Letterboxes within a 12-mile radius of
town, and more than 75 Geocaches within that 12-mile radius!
How do you find out about Geocaches and Letterboxes? Why go online, of course!
Letterbox clues can be found at www.letterboxing.org without any kind of
membership requirements. You’ll need to create a free account at
www.geocaching.com to access Geocache coordinates.
So if you have that spirit of adventure and discovery, why not give Letterboxing
and Geocaching a try? No matter why you decide to participate, there is a real
sense of whimsy at searching for treasure in both your natural and urban
surroundings. And there are enough hidden items to find in the area that you just
may want to plan future trips to find them all!