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Atlas Quest

Help: Events & Gatherings

  1. How can I meet letterboxers in my area?
  2. What happens at events?
  3. What should I bring to an event?
  4. What do the attribute icons stand for in an event listing?
  5. How do I host an event?
  6. Any tips for attending a gathering?
  7. How do you list an event on Atlas Quest?
  8. What do the directional arrows mean?
  9. How do I post a photo and link it to the event?
  10. How do I sign up for a gathering?
  11. On favorite searches—how do I create an event search that covers all of America?
  12. What do the subtype icons stand for in an event listing?

How can I meet letterboxers in my area?

First, start communicating with other letterboxes though websites such as this or the LbNA talk lists—especially boards dedicated for the region you live. Atlas Quest has boards for every state and province in the United States and Canada along with a message board for every country supported. Many of the busiest regional boards are on the Yahoo Groups! talk list and new ones seem to pop up all the time including boards for the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes area, New England, and others.

In addition to the AQ boards for states and provinces, one of the best comprehensive lists of regional talk lists elsewhere can be found on Silent Doug's website. See (then "Links" section for "Discussion" and "Regional" Groups.) Most are Yahoo Groups! and you'll probably need to join the group to view all contents and post. To thwart spammers, some groups may have been set up to moderate first postings, so be patient if you try to post and nothing happens right away.

Additionally, when you find a letterbox, e-mail those responsible for planting the letterbox and fill them in on the status of it. It's a great way to introduce yourself and start forming connections with the letterboxing community.

The next step is to hide letterboxes yourself. Thousands of people letterbox, but the vast majority never hide a box. When people start looking for your boxes and either cuss your clever clues or rejoice at finally finding your box, they'll remember you. =) They'll also frequently e-mail you to give you updates about your box.

And finally, go to letterboxing events. Events and gatherings occur all over the United States and recently even started happening in Canada. Invariably you will meet some of the very people you've been talking to through e-mail and message boards and finally be able to put a face to the name.

On rare occasions, you might bump into other letterboxers on the trail. You'll recognize them because they will usually all be studying a piece of paper and acting 'suspicious.' When confronted, they will usually offer some lame excuse about looking for mushrooms or bird watching. Don't be fooled—they're letterboxers in disguise. Bumping into letterboxers on the trail is fairly rare, however, and it is possible to go months or even years without ever crossing paths with another letterboxer on the trail.

What happens at events?

There are different kinds of events.

The mini-meet. A mini-meet is a small gathering of letterboxers for the purpose of exchanging stamps, stories, and advice. Usually people meet in coffee shops, restaurants, or a local park. Not a lot of organization involved in a mini-meet, just a desire to meet other letterboxers for a couple of hours.

The event. A true 'event' is much more involved. Many people attending, workshops, demonstrations, and raffles can all be expected at an event. Some events last more than one day, or have multiple stages like day letterboxing and night at the pub—kid-friendly and kid-not-so-friendly. Events usually have an itinerary that helps attendees plan their day.

Tips for Attending an Event
Tips for Planning a Gathering
Event Planning Checklist

What should I bring to an event?

Technically speaking, you can get by without bringing anything. Preferably, you should bring your signature stamp if you have one and clues for nearby boxes if there are any. If you do not yet have a signature stamp, someone will likely provide a small piece of carving block and encourage you to carve one yourself at the gathering. By planning ahead, you can solve clues for personal travelers. Some events are marked as potlucks or have special considerations, so read the details about the event to see if you should bring any additional items. In most cases, however, we'd rather you come and forgot everything than have everything ready and forget to come.

Additional information:
Tips for Attending a Gathering

What do the attribute icons stand for in an event listing?

The event is a potluck—bring some food, drinks or eating utensils and prepare to eat!
The venue allows letterboxing opportunities.
Pets are allowed at the event.
There is an entrance fee, parking fee, or some sort of expense associated with this event.
The date and time of the event is a mystery and must be figured out from clues.
The location of the event is a mystery and must be figured out from clues.
A raffle will be held at the event and there’s a good chance that the organizers of the event will need raffle prizes if you have anything available.

How do I host an event?

Choose a Gathering Place
A "typical" gathering is held outdoors in a location with lots of letterboxes within walking distance of the event's epicenter. The boxes can either be permanent or those planted just for the day by the organizers or other volunteers.

The gathering should have a central meeting place, such as a group of picnic tables or a pavilion. This is where people can hang out in between their quests, trade personal stamps, stamp the event boxes, eat, participate in presentations, and share stories, etc. Many parks allow pavilions to be reserved for groups, and it's okay to ask for donations from attendees if there's a cost involved.

Announce the Event
You'll want to let people know about your event as far in advance as possible. Some ways to publicize your event are through posts to the LbNA and regional letterboxing lists and by personal invitations to any local letterboxers you know. Because some letterboxers don't subscribe to the e-mail lists, you might also consider temporarily adding a flyer or index card with event details to your own local boxes so that anyone who finds them can write down the details (leaving the card for the next finder). You can also submit the details for your gathering to people who maintain letterboxing event listings on their personal letterboxing sites.

In your announcement, be sure to include important details about the event location, such as:

  • If bathrooms are available
  • If the location and facilities are accessible to the disabled
  • If dogs are allowed
  • If there's a fee for parking or to enter the park. If the location has a web site with all the pertinent information, providing a link to that site might be enough. You'll also want to provide maps and directions to the event.

In case of inclement weather, will the event go on as planned, or is there a rain date for the gathering? Make sure to have plans to let people know if the event will not go on as scheduled, particularly for those who may be travelling from a distance. Some organizers will e-mail their cell phone number privately before the event to those who have RSVP'd in case someone gets lost on the way or has last-minute questions.

Ask For RSVPs
You should provide a means for attendees to RSVP in advance so that everyone knows how much food to bring for potluck, how many copies of clue sheets to provide and to ensure that the location will accommodate the entire group. As you receive RSVPs, you may want to ask attendees if they have any special letterboxing related skills, such as stamp carving or bookbinding, that they'd be willing to share through either an informal demonstration or a formal class.

Create an Event Stamp
One key element of any gathering is the event stamp. This is a special stamp created just for the gathering, which attendees can stamp into their journals and record in their PFXE count. Organizers should avoid event box proliferation during the gathering, though. Letterboxing "purists" believe that there should be only one "official" event letterbox, and perhaps one or two of the very special travelling event boxes (like K-Martha or the LbNA California event stamp), but resist having a table full of other stamps and hitchhikers.

On a related note, don't become a control freak. Do not demand that attendees leave their personal travellers at home or not to hide letterboxes for your gathering. If you have an itinerary that's falling behind schedule because everyone is having such a good time with the carving lessons, relax and let it slide. Don't force it to an end so you can get the book-binding lesson underway. Some of the most successful events are those that are planned the least! If you start to force your view of an event on everyone else, there will be resentment if not outright hostility.

Special notes for indoor gatherings: If an outdoor gathering isn't possible or desired, you can often find space for an indoor gathering in a restaurant meeting or banquet room. Centering an indoor event around food can often help people who may have never met before feel a little more at ease. If you meet at a restaurant, be sure to let attendees know the approximate cost of food on the menu. If you meet in another sort of space, a community center or library, for example, be sure to know the facility's policy on food and clean-up if you're considering a potluck. Indoor gatherings are perfect for in-depth activities such as stamp carving and bookbinding classes.

During the Gathering
You'll want to arrive to the event location at least an hour before the start time, especially if you're not able to reserve picnic tables or meeting space in advance. Mark the location with signs, balloons, streamers or other items to help attendees find the gathering. Remember, many of the attendees will not have met before, so don't make them wander around from pavilion to pavilion in order to find the gathering.

Depending on the number of attendees you're expecting, designate one table (or at least one end of it) as the place for people to check in, pick up schedules and clue sheets, and grab a name tag. Set up another table where attendees can exchange personal stamps and stamp the event boxes and book and whatever other special stamps might be available. In no case should hitchhikers be laid out on a table for anyone to stamp into.

You might set up and hide a separate hitchhiker hostel for people to trade hitchhikers, but make sure people know how it works—they have to leave a hitchhiker before they take one. It's okay for hitchhikers to be transferred from person to person, but a hostel is a much better way of facilitating these transfers. A large plastic container works well as a hostel; it doesn't need to be completely waterproof if it's only going to be hidden for the day.

Other tables can be devoted to food and whatever demonstrations are planned. Don't forget to bring paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, cups and maybe even disposable tablecloths for the food tables. Large trash bags are also essential, even if the location allows you to leave garbage behind. If attendees are traveling from far away, they may prefer to bring these types of non-perishable items as their contribution to the potluck. If you rely on someone else to bring these essentials, though, be sure to confirm the day before that they're coming!

Definitely consider providing name tags for attendees. This makes it easy for people to put faces to trail names, especially when people also put their personal stamp image on the tag along with their name. When people arrive, you might ask them to sign in and confirm their e-mail address (to facilitate sharing of post-gathering photos, for instance) or stamp in to a special log book or poster for the gathering. These can be nice mementos for you to enjoy long after the gathering.

Some gathering organizers prepare clue handouts in a packet for each attendee, along with an agenda for the day. You might e-mail this to everyone a couple of days before, but it's always good to have some extras on hand. If there are special boxes available only on that day, some extra clue sheets should be available.

If there are organized events to be held during the event, print out copies of the schedule. Even if you don't have a hard and fast schedule, be sure to let everyone know what time the photos will be taken so attendees will know to be at a particular place at a certain time. Schedule it towards the end of the day since many folks won't arrive at the very start of the gathering.

As the organizer of the event, you may have already found all the hidden letterboxes in the area and won't need to go out searching during the gathering. If not, though, it's a good idea to recruit a few volunteers to take turns securing the location while others are out on the trails. If the event is held in a park, consider giving everyone a garbage bag and ask them fill it up with trail trash as they hike. This will make parks officials happy. Consider giving a prize for the person who brings back the most garbage.

Activities can include demonstrations or mini-workshops on topics such as stamp carving, bookbinding, compass reading, orienteering or using a GPS unit. Workshops shouldn't last more than 45 minutes to an hour, and if you hold more than one, you might want to schedule the potluck between them. Workshop presenters may require that attendees sign up in advance so they bring enough materials with them. If you're not the presenter, be sure you know what their needs are so you can pass on the details to attendees.

A potentially fun idea is to provide prizes in various categories, such as to the letterboxer who travelled furthest to attend the event, the letterboxer with the highest PFX count, the newest letterboxer, the letterboxer who's been at it the longest, etc. A colorful printed decal is nice since it can be placed in the winner's journal.

SpringChick in Michigan asked some notable letterboxers from around the country to make special letterboxes that she then hid at the site of the Great Lakes Gathering in 2003. Afterwards, she mailed them back to the creators who could plant them in their own areas. This was a great way to see some nice carvings from "famous" letterboxers.

Another idea that might be fun is to hold a 50/50 raffle (at, say, $1 a ticket, with half the proceeds going to the winner and the other half going to defray costs of the site location or to be given to some appropriate environmental group or other worthy cause), or just hold a drawing for prizes (such as letterboxing supplies and other goodies).

After the Gathering
Be sure to ask for help cleaning up after the gathering—hauling trash, putting picnic tables back in place, whatever—especially if the location has specific cleaning requirements. You don't want to get stuck doing all the hard work by yourself after everyone is gone.

Post-Gathering Report
After the dust has settled, it's a nice idea to write up a report on the gathering and post it to the LbNA discussion group. This will provide a record of the event for future generations and some of your ideas might inspire future event organizers.

Posting Photos
If you or other attendees take pictures, you may want to post them online in the LbNA Yahoo Groups photo section or in the Atlas Quest Photo Gallery. Letterboxers often enjoy putting faces to trail names, so even (or especially!) those who were unable to attend will probably be interested in taking a peek.

Successful gatherings can be organized with five or fifty-five letterboxers in attendance. In planning, remember that meeting and making friends with a common interest in letterboxing is the underlying aim, so use your imagination to come with fun ways to make the event something that attendees will remember. Also remember that no matter how carefully you plan or how detailed your schedule for the day, things will probably get chaotic as new people arrive and start in with the frenzy of stamp exchanges. Be willing to give up your expectations for the gathering if things don't go as planned. Be spontaneous, go with the flow, and above all, have fun!

Any tips for attending a gathering?

Gatherings are all about social interaction with folks of like mind, which means exchanges, activities and—of course—letterboxing. Here are tips to get you through a very busy, very chaotic, but very exciting day!

  1. Come early: Coming right when the event starts ensures a few things. First, you'll get to meet your hosts and check out the stamps before the mad rush of other attendees arrives. Anything that needs to be handed out at a gathering (like clues and other tidbits) might be limited, so showing up first ensures you'll get it. Also, by midday, the area will be swarmed with people and food and boxes and ink. By coming early, you'll be able to sit down and stamp into the event book and start exchanges without having to wait your turn.
  2. Stamp into the event book first: Every gathering has an event book to stamp in with your personal stamp and an event stamp to impress into your own logbook. Do both of these the moment you arrive because it may be a challenge as more and more people arrive.
  3. Wear a name tag: Most events provide you with name tags to stamp your signature stamp and write your trail name onto, but if not, bring something of your own to identify yourself with. Most folks will know you from your stamp, so be sure that's on your tag, too!
  4. Check around for traveling event stamps: Traveling events stamps move from event to event all over the country so that everyone has a chance to get the stamp and log in. Most larger events usually have several traveling events stamps floating around. You can usually find a table with these on it, so ask your host where it is, then head over and stamp in before everyone else starts to swarm the tables.
  5. Check around for hidden boxes: Yes, even at a gathering where it's obvious we're all boxing and people tend to be less secretive about their stuff, boxers will still hide things that you won't even know about until after the event! Check under tables, in the corners of the pavilion, in the bushes nearby, in the food containers, and in anyplace else that's not someone's private bag or stuff. You might be surprised at what you find!
  6. Exchange with other letterboxers: One of the other fun things about letterboxing is exchanging stamps with other people. These count as X in your PFX-count. There will be tons of folks whom you only know by their signature stamp or trail name on the message boards and websites. Just walk up and introduce yourself. Within minutes, you'll be sitting at a table with other people stamping into each others' logbooks and talking about the trail!
  7. Ask about personal travelers: Some folks carry around a personal traveler (or two or more), which is just a letterbox that follows that person. Not everyone has them, so the best thing to do is just ask! Another great idea is to check Atlas Quest and do a search of the personal traveler letterboxes and bring those with you to the event. Then instead of the semi-embarrassing, "Um, so what do I do to get your box?" question, you'll know what it is you need to know to get it. (And people seem to really like the fact that you took the time to research it!)
  8. Go letterboxing: One of the things that the Highlander and I always end up doing wrong is never leaving the pavilion to actually do some letterboxing. Remember, you're in an area that you haven't boxed before. Try to go for the local area boxes that you might never see again as well as the boxes that are out for the gathering. Also, gatherings make for a great time to buddy up and letterbox with someone and continue your talk. In fact, at really big events, you might find yourself waiting in line to get a box! So, don't wait until too late. Stay and chat a while, but go box, too!
  9. Take some pictures of people: Remember, you're meeting folks that you won't remember later, so bring a camera to be sure you'll know who they are later. Also, it helps the event coordinators if they can get pictures from others to post in the wrap up and photo albums online. Most of them are so busy, they never get to leave the pavilion, so it's a nice way to help them remember a great time, too!
  10. Be back in time for pictures, raffles, and other planned events: At some point in the event will be the group photo and some other fun stuff you may want to be involved in. Be sure not to miss at least the picture so you'll have that to look back on with your stamps and exchanges.
  11. Join someone for dinner: After the event is over, many locals love to join out-of-towners for dinner—plus they know where to eat and you don't! Check and see if anyone is up for a meal and more time to hang out and talk. In fact, this is something you can check before you even come to the event—just ask the people you do know if they want to get together and invite others to join you. It's often less chaotic and gets you more quality time to chat than the hustle and bustle surrounding an event.
  12. Box again the following day: Usually, an event starts on a Saturday, so plan out your Sunday for boxing, too. If you arrive in town the day before, you can box then as well, but if you're from the area, let the out of town folks have a chance at being the first finders on boxes.
  13. Share your photos from the event: Once you get home, share your photos through the Photos section of Yahoo Groups or the Photo Album here on Atlas Quest. Other letterboxers—both attendees of the event and those who can only wish they were there!—will be interested to see your photos.

Other Things to Remember at a Gathering
Just as with letterboxing as a whole, certain conventions and rules have developed when it comes to letterboxing events. Here are the most common you'll want to keep in mind:

  • Don't bring hitchhikers: This is something that's been the subject of heated debate, but many people do not want their hitchhikers to attend events. Hitchhikers are meant to be found in a box, not passed around from person to person. Additionally, most hitchhikers do not have large logbooks and cannot support the stamps of dozens or even hundreds of people. If the hitchhiker is your own, then feel free to share. Or, if you want to get the hitchhiker moving, place it in a box. But, do not leave hitchhikers on the table for people to stamp in freely.
  • Don't be lax about discretion: Just because a lot of letterboxers are around doesn't mean that there are not a lot of non-letterboxers. The same rules about being sneaky and rehiding properly apply, especially here. Nothing is more disappointing than having someone take the time to carve and send a box to a gathering, then having it stolen because someone carelessly left it out in the open while chatting with friends.
  • Watch out for cooties: For once, this is a good thing! Cooties are like hitchhikers that follow people instead of letterboxes. Normally, a friend or someone near you will slip a cootie into your bag or pockets while you're not looking. Once you find it, do not place this into a regular letterbox. Stamp into it, then try to pass it off onto someone else as soon as you can. After all, you really only get to see other boxers at these events, so you don't have much time to infect them!
  • Be considerate of others while letterboxing: Everyone wants to stamp into the traveling event boxes and the other hidden boxes in there area, so make sure to be fair about holding the boxes. While you're exchanging with others, don't "hang on" to a box you've found, or grab multiple boxes to stamp into. Take one at a time (tedious as it may sound) and return it before doing anything else (eating, exchanging, taking a bathroom break, etc.).
  • Bring food: Unless otherwise stated, all gatherings are potluck. Bring something to contribute so you won't feel guilty eating. And don't feel like food is the only thing you can bring. If you're coming from far off, perishable stuff is not a good plan, but water, snacks, and even ice and supplies (plates, cups, napkins, utensils) would all be greatly appreciated! Check with your host to see what they already have and what they might need.
  • Give to your favorite local charity: Think about letterboxing events like public broadcasting (without the quarterly beg-a-thon). Your support helps us continue this great tradition of letterboxing and social events! Reserving the pavilion, getting extra food and supplies, mailing out letterboxes and the like does take time and money that usually comes out of only a few people's pockets at your event. So, it's never a bad idea to donate a little something, no matter how small and no matter what gathering you attend. No one will ever ask you to make a donation at a gathering and no one will ever think less of you if you don't give a dollar. However, every little bit helps!

Finally, gatherings are lots of fun, but can be overwhelming. Stay hydrated, take a buddy and a water bottle with you, eat right, and don't be surprised if you end up stamping into your own logbook a few times in the shuffle! Have fun and we'll see you at a gathering soon!

How do you list an event on Atlas Quest?

Go to the Letterboxing Calendar page. (It's an option under the Toolbox menubar option.) Then use the Create Event option in the right sidebar for Other Event Info.

What do the directional arrows mean?

When viewing a traditional letterbox or an event, Atlas Quest will point to the direction of the letterbox or event from where your home location is listed. Atlas Quest will attempt to use your private home location which can be set in your preferences. If no location is listed or it's vague such as somewhere in a state, then AQ will try to use your public location—set in your profile—as your home. If that fails, no directional arrows will be provided.
None The letterbox or event is exactly where you are!
Unknown The letterbox or event doesn't have a specific enough location to know what direction it is located from your home.
North The letterbox or event is north of your home location.
Northeast The letterbox or event is northeast of your home location.
East The letterbox or event is east of your home location.
Southeast The letterbox or event is southeast of your home location.
South The letterbox or event is south of your home location.
Southwest The letterbox or event is southwest of your home location.
West The letterbox or event is west of your home location.
Northwest The letterbox or event is northwest of your home location.

How do I post a photo and link it to the event?

From your event listing, click the 'Upload' button with the photo on it and upload your photo. The first photo you add to this event album will, by default, be the 'cover' photo for the event, but you can change the cover image from the album.

How do I sign up for a gathering?

Find an event near you that you'd like to attend on the Event Calendar. Once you've found an event near you, click to view the details of the event for more information about it. If you'd like to attend it and space is available, there will be a "Join" button that you can click to officially join the event. You're now signed up!

If the event has a maximum number of participants, you'll be added to a wait list in case someone later drops out of the event.

On favorite searches—how do I create an event search that covers all of America?

Run an event search where the location is the United States. You'll probably want to only include upcoming events so check that box as well as any other criteria you'd like to use to narrow down the search results.

Then run the search to see the results.

Once you're looking at a list of results, you can click the Save Search link in the upper-right corner of the page to save it as a favorite.

Follow the prompts and save your new favorite search!

What do the subtype icons stand for in an event listing?

The event will be held outdoors such as at a park, perhaps with a pavilion or other facilities available.
The event will be held indoors at a restaurant or similar location where food or drinks may be available for purchase.
A multi-day event where letterboxers are encouraged to spend the night together at a campground.
Events held at libraries, museums, schools and other places of learning.
Tag sale, birthdays, weddings, and other non-letterboxing events that letterboxers are welcome to attend.
The event will be held at a pub or other adult-only type of event.
An online event such as a Zoom meeting or often times a “call-to-action” such as Plant-a-Letterbox Day.
An unspecified subtype, or anything that does not fit the categories listed above.