Letterboxing at The Preserve

For those who find themselves in Midland, Texas with a sense of adventure!
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What is Letterboxing?

Letterboxing is a questing game, that provides fun and adventure for all ages. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by following clues to their prize; a hand-carved rubber stamp to use to mark one's log book. In return, you can use your stamp to mark the participant logbook in the letterbox. The Preserve's letterboxes are unique in that the contents also include an educational resource that provides insight and context into The Preserve's programs, mission, and history. To get started; gather your logbook, stamp (a pen or marker works in a pinch), and sense of adventure. You can read the clues off the website or print them out with GPS coordinate solutions using the link below. As you find each box, use the stamp within to mark your logbook, enjoy the educational material, and make sure to leave your mark in the participant logbook. Next return the stamp, logbook, and educational booklet to the letterbox and return it to its hidden location.

Getting Started With Letterboxes

You don’t need much to start a rewarding hobby in letterboxing. To start finding your first letterboxes, you’ll want to carry the following items:

  • logbook to record your findings. Something sturdy that can handle the rigors of being knocked around inside your pack is necessary. Use a logbook containing white, unruled, acid-free paper for best, long-lasting results. Most people prefer logbooks at least 5½"x8½" but no larger than 8½"x11½". A spiral-bound logbook is nice because the pages lay flat, but they’re also more likely to bend and get caught up with other stuff in your pack.
  • An ink pad to stamp with. Ideally, the ink pad should have a raised surface so you can easily ink up stamps that are larger than the ink pad. Most letterboxers carry a variety of colors of small ink pads or markers, but if you choose to carry only one color, make it a dark one such as black. Bright colors such as yellow tend to fade over time when used with stamps that have had darker colors applied earlier. Atlas Quest's Art of Stamping tutorial may give you ideas of what to use and how to get the best results.
  • pen or other writing instrument to sign logbooks or take notes.
  • compass. While not all letterboxes require the use of a compass, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of your direction and a command such as ‘turn north at the junction’ might be difficult without one! If you’re not sure what to look for in a compass or how to use one, check out Atlas Quest's Compassing 101 tutorial.
  • signature stamp to stamp into the letterboxes you find. You’ll want to select something that compliments your trailname. Most letterboxers usually start with a store-bought stamp, but when you get a chance, try carving your own rubber stamp. It’s easier than you might think, and you’ll end up with a unique, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Keep your stamp as small as possible—not all logbooks you find will have a lot of room for a stamp image. 1"x 1" is a good size. Generally, anything larger than 2"x 2" will start causing you problems.
  • Clues—you can’t find a letterbox without them! Check out Atlas Quest's Simple Search for a variety of search options to find letterboxes near you, or an Advanced Search for more complex queries.

If you ask around, you’ll find plenty of other suggested items to take with you. A cell phone for emergencies or to ‘phone a friend’ if you have a question about a clue, for instance. For longer hikes, you’ll likely want a few snacks and water. Maps of the area can certainly be your friend. Depending on the season, insect repellent might be considered one of the ‘10 essentials.’ These types of items are important, but none of them are directly related to letterboxing. Consider where you’ll be traveling, your skill level, and pack appropriately.

Use Leave No Trace principles while looking for a letterbox. You should not have to dig around or trample vegetation to retrieve a letterbox. Keep your wits about you. Don’t walk off a cliff or step on a snake because you had your nose stuck in a clue. Pay attention to where you’re going so you can retrace your steps back if you have to. Most clues will not give directions for returning to the trailhead.

When you find a letterbox, stamp the rubber stamp found in the letterbox into your personal logbook, and sign and use your signature stamp in the logbook in the letterbox. Congratulations! You’re now a letterboxer!

Letterboxing Clues at The Preserve

Letterbox Number One
I’m ten million years old and about twice the size of Colorado. When a town needs a drink, underground you will go. My water flows from the northwest to the southeast but if you forget to conserve - my stores will decrease. Sand to gravel then silt to clay, the water always finds its way. Traveling up to 300 meters below; to the wetland that feeds me, don’t be slow.

Start at that the start? Yes, that's the best way to say, this first one is easy so don’t dismay. How many steps to get where you’re going? Three hundred divided by four, a split way of knowing. Speaking of splits, at a fork we’ve arrived let's take the path where the Brazilian walnut lies. But don't go too far, for I'm under your feet, keep me a secret, secure, and nice and neat. Now solve this riddle and find me with glee, thank you for playing, and good luck to thee.

Letterbox Number Two
I’ve been here for years and observed this preserve. To be wise like me, you first must see. Look around at the ground and let me show you what grows. Corner to corner this place is unique. Just pick up your feet and then we can meet. Riparian, prairie, scrubland, forest. These habitats allow ecosystems to exist. Different biomes provide plenty of homes. Animals with feathers, fur, or scales do roam. Here’s a hint, my feet are in loam. Enjoy the view of our Playa Lake, where you'll see many birds taking a break. Our Lake is like a bird 'gas station' to fuel mass migration. This playa wetland is in demand by birds to land. Some birds fly away on the Central Flyway, this is like a bird highway, and some birds always stay. Make your way down the boardwalk as I continue to talk, I hope you see a flock and maybe a hawk.

Two ash trees and plenty of mesquites is where you'll meet hard ground. There's lots of sound and it is loud all around. We’re parallel to I-20, so you will have to yell. You are on top of a dam and can see the traffic jam. Twelve dozen steps past a bird-blind guarded by my cousin. There he stood, a cottonwood. Surely you could find me you’re doing so good. You'll scale off the trail. Watch out, some of me fell. I know you're a good spotter, I’m next to the water, but please do not be a bogtrotter. Be covert while next to the culvert, then follow my arms that hang so low. Where they cross, a box you’ll come across.

Letterbox Number Three
I was built with a path for my visitors to walk. Beneath me run mice and packrats which predators stalk. On a quest to find the next letterbox, you will find it near a “U” in the trail, don't get lost. Look for three bee hotels where you can tell solitary bees have been sleeping until they say farewell. Walk counterclockwise around my playa and you'll encounter these block-comprised boxes. The Southeast corner near a forest will be the first. The second hotel check-in will be about two and a half football fields and yields a wall of small wildflowers. It will be a while, but not a mile to find the second hotel for bees, just search in between the mesquite trees. Between two ephedra bushes it will be found. My ephedra was used by Native Americans and others alike. Historically, thought to cure an illness we deeply dislike.

Now, on to my third bee hotel, and then our clues will get tricky. My bee hotels resemble hives for honey, but are home to native solitary wasps and bees, so you will find that they are not sticky. Along my path, you might spy a few benches, and to the right, bird feeders, where we feed finches. Pairs of cardinals and dove, I love to see them fly above. Just before a boardwalk in a Bermuda grass meadow, the box is on the east side, hidden in a corner so mellow and surrounded by mallow. Then search near the base of the tower where the path zig-zags, and the owl box casts its shadow. Beneath my path on which you search, your next box is perched. It's not on rocks or dirt but concealed next to steel.

Letterbox Number Four
I am a place where wildlife thrives, food, water, and shelter, they need these to survive, but human activities are taking a toll, altering habitats, fragmenting them whole. Bobcats, quail, and horned lizards are at risk, their survival depends on our efforts brisk. What is our focus, can you guess? It's protecting habitats, nothing less! The JW Pond, an old caliche mine 10-20 feet deep, a first stop for runoff, a place for ducks to rest. On our North side acts as a barrier to gather sediment so it does not fall in our cracks. Our hidden box lies in a shelter for small creatures.

As you leave our four-story tower, head West along the boardwalk while keeping a lookout for tracks in the mud. Avoid stepping on the boardwalk scat, as it signifies a healthy habitat. Once you pass mile marker .5, keep going until you reach a bridge that crosses over a canal where crawdads and bullfrogs spawn. You'll see another native bee box there. Turn 90º northwest and follow the path until you see a Chinese Pistache tree. You can rest on the bench where a beloved naturalist once sat and gazed about. As you look ahead, you'll see a stump that used to be a tall tree. Stand next to the stump and look at your empty seat facing southeast. The box can be found off the trail. Walk twenty-two paces into the tree canopy and over the fallen tree branch. Now, at the entrance to the packrat's front door, you'll find our box with a stamp and information for you.

Letterbox Number Five
They call me beautiful, but I’m so much more, delivering vital resource door to door. A lot of give and a little take, I work overtime to balance each day. Nobody does a relationship like me, the champion of connection and fostering harmony. Despite my best efforts, instability arises; invasive species, industrial development, pollution - my security, compromises. Our greatest challenge yet, am I my parts or am I my whole? Around the loop parallel to South Midland Road, let’s take a stroll.

To your right is bamboo tall and grand but wait it's not bamboo – keep on until you understand. Count two clusters of this fine reed and find their sign in between. Once past the reeds, don't be slow; keep on going to the meadow. Butterflies flutter here and there, a sight so lovely it makes you stare. But there’s a path that's even better, past a Boy Scout project with beloved nesters. With nature's wonders all around, this walk is truly quite profound. A cattle pen repurposed to a butterfly haven, through the entrance and past the exit – locate the gold in its watery basin. Gliding and glimmering, put them to your back. Twenty paces, and please forgive us, but now it's time to backtrack. Remember the knowledge is worth seeking, take this wide Bermuda path North to where the monarch’s wings are beating. Be cautious and careful of snakes that might lie low, as you set course to the meadow. Once you arrive stick to the mulch, time to triangulate if the location's secret you wish to divulge. A home for insect studies, and the life cycle of a royal are points one and two, to find the third a final clue: The train has left the station, but the box remains, to find point three - near branches is where you should aim.


Print Document with GPS Coordinate Solutions

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