Letterboxer's Totem  LbNA # 31542

Placed DateMay 30 2007
LocationColumbia, MO
Found By LadyEilonwy
Last Found Dec 10 2010
Hike Distance?

**I'm not sure what's wrong with the view on this clue. I'll try and fix it but in the meantime, if you use the 'print view' tab you can get something that looks relatively normal.
A totem is an entity which watches over or assists a group of people, such as a family, clan or tribe." (Meriam-Webster)

In celebration of a special kinship, I offer this totem to our letterboxing tribe. The trip is long, the decoding is tedious, and you may get wet and muddy but know that special spirits hide in the forest to offer guidance and protection as you seek them out. Wear sturdy shoes, old clothes, and protect yourself from pests. Know that younger clan members may tire before this journey's end. Bring your own ink and plenty of paper to reveal the secrets of the Letterboxer's Totem.

(**The stamps in this series stack on top of eachother to form a totem pole of sorts. Each stamp is a little less than 2 inches tall so the finished totem pole will fit nicely in your logbook if it is at least 8 inches tall.)

This hunt requires the use (several times) of a key word shift cipher. If you are unfamiliar with this type of code, a key word shift cipher uses a key word such as "hike" to hide the solution to breaking an encrypted text. Each letter of the example "hike" represents a number that corresponds to the order it appears in the alphabet within the context of the key word. For example, within "hike", E is the first letter to appear in the alphabet so it becomes 1. H is the second letter and becomes 2, I is the third letter and is 3, and K is the fourth letter to become 4. Therefore, "hike" becomes 2341. Now that you have the number and the encrypted text, you're ready to decode the clue. Do this by placing the number sequence over the encrypted clue and subtract the number from the letter by counting backwards in the alphabet. For instance if the code is JLOF you'd go back 2 letters from J to get H, 3 letters from L to get I, 4 letters from O to get K, and 1 letter from F to get E to reveal the word HIKE. Keep writing the numbers out over all of the letters of the code.

**I have removed all of the spaces between words in the encrypted text, so simply write the number sequence over and over and decode. After doing so, add spaces between words to make them easier to read.



To discover the starting location of this journey, find the name of the language from which the word "totem" was derived. (Hint: There are two acceptable spellings of this word, use the one ending in E) This is your key word to decrypt the following:


Begin your search at the metal post in the southeast corner of the parking area. From this sign, follow the mowed trail that runs approximately 170 degrees. Find fork where trail enters woods ahead of you and mowed trail curves left. Do not enter woods. Follow trail left along woodline for 32 paces and find a small hidden footpath on the right. (If mowed path curves left again, you've gone too far) Enter the woods here and quickly drop downhill. As the trail turns right and levels out look for a small tree with a hole at shoulder height on your left. Another 3 paces and you'll find a jagged stump just off the left side of the trail. From this stump look uphill at 260 degrees and see two more jagged stumps roughly in line with eachother. Clamor up to the highest stump and from here another 5 paces at 280 degrees to a rock outcropping with a curvy tree. Drop down and find a tiny nook between boulder and shelf that conceals your prize. You may have to poke around a bit before this first spirit is revealed.

Please stamp in discreetly and rehide completely. Replace all guardian stones.


After finding your first totem spirit, take this animal's name and a key word shift cipher to decode in the woods and continue your quest. Again, all spaces have been removed so you'll need to add them in after deciphering.


Take this muddy trail into the woods and soon find a mossy tree with a brown trail marker nailed at head height. From this marked tree find a stump 5 paces into the woods at 110 degrees. A second well protected spirit lies in wait here.

You may wish to find a more discreet location to stamp in as this is just off the trail. After doing so, rehide properly, leaving no part of the box visible and with all guardian stones in place.


Find a comfy spot to sit and decode. Again, use the name of this new totem spirit and a key word shift cipher to decode the following directions:


From this marker go 65 degrees 14 paces to a fallen tree supported by another. From the base of this fallen tree head deeper into the woods at 90 degrees to the base of another fallen tree. From this uprooted base take 16 paces 80 degrees past double trunks to a wide mouth that guards your next spirit.

Please stamp in discreetly and rehide completely. Replace all guardian stones and ensure box is totally hidden from view.

Almost finished! You have several beautiful totem spirits travelling with you now! Take the name of this latest strong spirit and a key word shift cipher to finish your journey and complete your totem.


Go left on trail and quickly find another brown trail marker nailed to tree on right. Nowhere to go from here but up! From the marked tree, scramble 130 degrees 13 paces up to a medium double-trunked tree. 100 degrees 11 paces takes you to a long fallen log with a nice hole at its base. After retrieving the final box, consider following this long giant who points toward a rocky perch perfect stamping this spirit and with a worthy view for the end of your journey!

After stamping in, please build good letterboxing karma by rehiding the box well. Replace all guardian stones and completely conceal from view.

Congratulations to all who attempt and complete this hunt! I would love to hear stories from everyone about the rigors of decoding in the woods, the beauty of nature, the condition of boxes, and your thoughts about life in general. Please drop me a line via the 'contact the placer' link once you return to civilization. For the first five finders a special bonus is in store. Include the names of all four spirits in your e-mail and tell me which is your favorite to claim your prize. The very first finder will also recieve an extra special bonus.