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Atlas Quest

Letterboxing Code of Conduct

Safety: Part I

The safety of you and other letterboxers is of upmost importance. While hiding letterboxes, avoid unsafe areas such along a cliff edge or high in a tree that requires climbing to acquire it. That’s not to say you cannot hide letterboxes halfway up a cliff that requires rock-climbing skills to acquire—but make sure your clue explains that the letterbox is intended for experienced rock climbers only. If you hide a letterbox in the depths of a complex cave system, make sure your clue explains that the letterbox is only for experienced spelunkers only. If you plant a letterbox along the edge of a river where the only access is through class V rapids, make sure your clue mentions that the letterbox is for experienced rafters only, ones that can handle class V rapids safely.

If you are looking for a letterbox, know and respect your limits. Do some research before you go: Know how long and difficult of a hike the letterbox requires. Know the weather forecast. Learn from rangers the local trail conditions. And if you ever find yourself on a dangerously rocky part of a trail that’s wet and slippery, use common sense and turn around. No letterbox is worth the danger of getting injured!

If you are lucky enough to see wildlife, do not approach or disturb it. Do not feed the animals—even if it is small, cute, and apparently harmless. Animals that lose their fear of humans can and will cause problems with future hikers and letterboxes.

Bears tend to get all the glory, but statistically, they should be the least of your concerns. Bears are naturally very people shy, and you could hike for years without ever seeing one much less be attacked by one—but they are out there and certainly watch you. If you are lucky enough to see a bear, use common sense. Keep your distance, don’t wave bacon in its face, and don’t get between a momma bear and her cubs. Bear bells really aren’t necessary—they’ll hear or smell you walking down the trail even without ringing bells, and it annoys other hikers that want the solitude of the outdoors. But the facts are in: You are far more likely to be struck by lightning multiple times than attacked by a bear.

More common risks include venomous creatures such as snakes and spiders, biting insects such as mosquitoes and ticks that spread diseases such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease, poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, and stinging nettle. This, of course, is not a complete list of things that can go wrong in the outdoors. There’s also lightning, hypothermia, avalanches, flash floods, falling trees, and so on. And even if it were possible to list all the possible things to go wrong, the human race is very inventive in thinking up new ways to hurt themselves.

Which isn’t to say that letterboxing is an inherently dangerous sport—its not. Just know your experience level outdoors and don’t push for letterboxes that exceed your skill level. Most outdoor accidents are preventable. Use caution when reaching into holes and recognize potential hazards before you become a victim of them!

Do not forget security from the two-legged variety of animals (i.e. people). Deep in the woods and away from civilization is not a breeding ground of killers, rapists, and thieves. The stories you hear on the news are news because such events are so unusual—you are far more likely to be attacked walking down a public street than you will be on a little used trail far from civilization.

More likely, evil doers are lurking near the trailhead where they can smash into your car and steal any valuables left behind—a fate that has struck many letterboxers. Leave nothing of value in your car, or—at the very least—hide everything of value under your car seat, in your trunk, or somewhere else hidden from view.

With a few precautions and common sense, letterboxing is a safe and healthy activity. Stay aware of your surroundings, know the potential dangers, and use your common sense.

  1. Code of Conduct Introduction
  2. Leave No Trace
  3. Safety: Part I
  4. Safety: Part II
  5. Security
  6. Respect
  7. Pets