DSCN3801

Super Quest 2018 Aquatic Adventure: The Quests

The 2018 Super Quest is live! Dubbed the Aquatic Adventure, this Valley Quest challenge is a tour de force of summer fun: register your team today for this free guided exploration of Upper Valley swimming holes, waterfalls, streams, and mill town lore. The following 10 Quests highlight various water features, teaching all the way. They are open to the public from May 1-November 1. Download and print them from the links below, then collect a stamp impression from each location to complete the challenge!

  1. The Floodplain Quest, Haverhill, New Hampshire
  2. The Strafford Watershed Quest, Strafford, Vermont
  3. Union Village Quest, Thetford, Vermont
  4. Flat Rock Quest, Orford, New Hampshire
  5. Barnard Academy Forest Quest, Barnard, Vermont
  6. The Energy Quest at Boston Lot, West Lebanon, New Hampshire
  7. The Quest Where the River and Mill Combine, Lebanon, New Hampshire
  8. Beaver Brook Quest, Brownsville, Vermont
  9. Muckross Quest, Springfield, Vermont
  10. Sunapee Harbor Quest, Sunapee, New Hampshire

Happy Questing!

Cole_Thomas_The_Oxbow_(The_Connecticut_River_near_Northampton_1836)

Protecting our Waterways

We in the Upper Valley owe a lot to our wondrous waterways. Our rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, wetlands, and marshes provide us with inspiration, adventure, and solace, not to mention drinking water and electricity! They host entire ecosystems, teeming with life of all sorts. Conservation agencies in our region work hard to keep our waters healthy. We learned a bit about these amazing groups in the process of creating the 2018 Aquatic Adventure Super Quest, and want to share what we learned with you. All of these groups welcome volunteers, and many even organize big volunteer events like river clean-ups and waterway monitoring workshops. If you want to put your weight behind one of the many Upper Valley watershed conservation efforts, find the group closest to you from the ones highlighted here:

The Connecticut River Conservancy “is the voice for the Connecticut River, from source to sea.” It works in all four states through which the river runs (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) on various aspects of the river’s health, from planting trees on the riverbanks and removing defunct dams for fish habitat to diverting sewage streams, cleaning up trash, and testing water quality.

Zooming in on the twin states, the Connecticut River Joint Commissions have been meeting since 1989 to bring the best ideas and efforts from each state’s Connecticut River advisory commission to the table. These groups work towards benefiting the river and the people who depend on it. While the Joint Commissions have no power to regulate, they leverage other resources to keep the public involved in governmental decisions that affect the river, create corridor plans, provide grants, and advocate for the river in many other ways.

Photo from the White River Partnership

Photo from the White River Partnership

On the western side of the river, the Vermont state government’s Department of Environmental Conservation regulates water supply and quality, manages and protects watersheds, river corridors, and floodplains, conducts research and monitoring, handles wastewater and drinking water, directs recreation, and conducts dozens of other operations that touch on water bodies in the Upper Valley. They generously funded Valley Quest’s 2017 Watershed Challenge project with a Watershed Grant. Volunteering with them would be a great way to say thanks.

To the east, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services casts a similarly wide net in its work on the state’s waterways. They lend water quality monitoring equipment, lead educational programs, manage and protect rivers, and partner with local organizations to manage watersheds, among many other things.

Photo from the White River Partnership

Photo from the White River Partnership

Several groups in the Upper Valley focus on a particular watershed, river, or lake. The White River Partnership, for example, leads grassroots efforts from its Royalton, VT headquarters to promote “the long-term health of the White River and its watershed.” Lately, they’ve been monitoring water quality, hosting river cleanups, planting trees to improve flood resilience, expanding recreational access to the river, and keeping an eye on both native crayfish and fish populations and nonnative invasive species to restore and maintain wildlife habitat.

Another local group focused on a specific river and watershed is the Black River Action Team, which proclaims, “What began as a one-time cleanup of the Black River in southeastern Vermont has evolved into a full-blown grassroots watershed organization. Welcome to the wonderful, wet world of the Black River Action Team!”

If you live near the Mascoma River, the Mascoma Watershed Conservation Council is your go-to group. Its work has historically focused on funding research studies and bringing land around the Mascoma River under conservation.

The Lake Sunapee Protective Association is a group with longevity—they’ve been around since 1898! The LSPA monitors water quality through sampling and laboratory analysis, conducts scientific research, publishes newsletters, checks the spread of invasive species, and leads educational programs.

The Connecticut River and its Upper Valley tributaries give us places to fish, boat, and swim, generate our electricity, irrigate our crops, enrich our soil, and give us fresh water to drink. To maintain, conserve, and improve these benefits, consider joining one of the many local, vibrant watershed conservation efforts, and contact one of these agencies today!

Photo from the White River Partnership

Photo from the White River Partnership

 

DSC_1006

Watershed Challenge Submissions Are In!

This summer, Vital Communities launched a special Valley Quest initiative known as the Watershed Quest Challenge. Through this fun, educational contest, we challenged individuals and teams (including school classes) to write a Valley Quest about any river, stream, pond, or wetland in the Upper Valley. The Challenge ran for the Questing season, and closed on December 15. We’ve received some amazing submissions and are thrilled to add them to our official Valley Quest list this winter. These new Quests spotlight a wealth of Upper Valley treasures: a well-loved stream, a brook edged with bountiful wildlife, a state park hugging the Black River, two cascading waterfalls, two old mill towns where rivers shaped history, and so much more.

We can’t wait to share these new Quests, and the special places they feature, with all of you. More than 150 Questers, and a few watershed conservation educators, have put a lot of thought into what makes these places so special, and they are ready to share this value with their Upper Valley neighbors. We hope you check them out this coming Valley Quest season (opens May 1) and find something to treasure, too.

Lastly (drum roll please), we’ll be judging these submissions this spring and will announce a winner on May 1, 2018. The winner will get a special prize, and the top 5 Quests will be featured on the 2018 Super Quest! Stay tuned!

Drummond_molly-111

And the Super Quest Winner Is…

Every year, all completed Super Quests are entered into a grand prize drawing. The winner/winning team is picked at the annual Vital Communities Open House in White River Junction. At the event this past Friday, the “Hartland Hunters”—Chuck, Flo, and Aiden—were awarded the 2017 Super Quest grand prize! Chuck and Flo accepted their loot on behalf of their grandson Aiden, who Quests with them every summer when he visits from his home in Texas.

We’re so glad that this family enjoys the adventure and learning behind every Quest and hope they enjoy their winnings. This year’s basket included an array of on-theme goodies: a set of forest-friendly field guides, a couple day passes to VINS, Valley Quest t-shirts and books, and an issue of Northern Woodlands, a Vermont publication that promotes forest stewardship. Congratulations, Chuck, Flo, and Aiden!

Enter our Watershed Quest Challenge!

This summer we launched our 2017 Watershed Quest Challenge, designed to encourage YOU to get outside and explore your favorite Upper Valley pond, stream, river, or swimming hole—and write a Valley Quest! Watershed Quest submissions will have the chance to be featured in the 2018 Super Quest, and the author of the winning Quest will receive a grand prize.

For many, the idea of writing a Valley Quest can be daunting, but fear not—anybody can write a Quest! We encourage you to get outside your comfort zone and learn about the history of the special places in your backyard.

For those of you interested in the Watershed Quest Challenge but unsure where to start, we have a ton of resources online, as well as a short video series! Check out the first video below:

 

 


Many thanks to our Watershed Quest Challenge sponsors:

Vermont Conservation department logoFarm-Way Logo

Lauren at the Plainfield NH POP club on August 9.

Welcome Our New Valley Quest Coordinator!

Lauren Griswold joined Vital Communities in May to coordinate Power of Produce (POP) clubs at Upper Valley farmers’markets and farm stands. This month she is transitioning into a new position as Valley Quest and Volunteer Coordinator as well as continuing in her role as the Valley Food & Farm Program Assistant.

Lauren grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Vermont in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Environmental Studies. Her passion for sustainable agriculture took her out West, where she served as a garden educator in Bend, Oregon. After an enriching chapter in the high desert, Lauren is thrilled to be back in central Vermont. She is especially excited to work with Valley Quest  and sees it as a powerful tool for sharing discovery and wonder for our special places here in the Upper Valley. Lauren looks forward to meeting and working with the Valley Quest community and welcomes any and all input as she settles into her new role. In her free time, Lauren enjoys mountain biking, knitting, baking, and meals with friends and family.

Quest of the Month: Lake Morey

Last week, I brought my partner along to do the Lake Morey Quest in Fairlee, Vermont! It was a beautiful July evening, and after some food we headed to the Samuel Morey Elementary School to begin our Quest. This Quest takes you on a stroll around the town and by the Lake Morey resort. The sunset over the golf course was beautiful, although we did get a bit turned around. After some confusion about direction and road names, we discovered that this Quest needed a bit of updating. Some of the road names have changed, and a few clues needed a bit more clarification.

When it comes to Questing, I prefer to do so with at least one other person. I find that it gives insight into how certain clues may be interpreted and makes finding the box a real team-exercise.  We all will have different ways of interpreting clues, so be sure to not overthink, and stay open to all possibilities–keeping in mind that Quests do sometimes need updates! So if something really isn’t making sense, contact us!
Here are some photos of us finding the box:

20158308_10213617792143668_1340972184_n

20179973_10213617792023665_758042801_n

 

Linda Frazer and Lois Kahl 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Kahl and Lois Frazer

Valley Quest is often thought of as a family-oriented program. With educational treasure hunts of varying length, difficulty, and physical intensity, the program offers Quests that engage every interest and age group.

For some, Questing is a family affair, and the Kahl and Frazer families set the bar high.

Sisters Lois Frazer of Etna and Linda Kahl of Hartford were introduced to Valley Quest in 2001. They’ve been Questing ever since, bringing along their husbands, children, grandchildren, mother, and even their younger sister Lana.

Frazer and Kahl’s shared enthusiasm for Valley Quest is contagious. Last summer alone the sisters completed over 80 Quests. They each monitor approximately 20 Quests throughout the Upper Valley.

As lifelong Upper Valley residents, Frazer and Kahl love to learn about the history of towns throughout the region.

They grew up in Strafford, VT, where their father was the last caretaker at the copper mine.

“Back then in Strafford, you either were a farmer or you worked in the mine,” says Frazer. With multiple generations of family hailing from Strafford, Kahl notes, “we’re related to all the people in the cemetery there!”

Even with their deep local ties, Kahl and Frazer love learning new things about the Upper Valley through Questing. “We’ve been to all these tiny towns we never knew existed and learned all about the history of all of Vermont,” says Kahl.

“I like learning about a new town, and Questing gets me to go investigate a new place,” says Frazer. Kahl added, “We’ve learned about so many places that we’d never gone before.”

Kahl and Frazer spread the word about Valley Quest at every opportunity. “We’ve taken our kids, and they’ve taken their kids,” says Kahl. “I’ve given both neighbors books, and they’ve gone on Quests.”

“Everywhere I go, I tell people about Valley Quest,” says Frazer. “It doesn’t cost anything but the gas, and there are not many things in this world that don’t cost anything.”

In addition to checking on their collective 40 Quests and volunteering to update clues for other Quests, the sisters complete about 20 other Quests each year. There are still a few Quests that they have not yet been on, but that number gets smaller every year.

Their next Questing challenge? “I haven’t tried to write one myself yet, but I’m excited to take the Quest writing workshop with Steve Glazer,” says Kahl, who has ideas brewing for a new Quest in Strafford.

Kahl and Frazer’s Favorite Quests:

  • Mountain Maple Quest in Norwich
  • Town House Quest in Strafford
  • Flat Rock Quest in Orford. “It’s just such a lovely place,” says Frazer.
  • Porter Cemetery Quest and Beale Cemetery Quest in Lyme. “I could sit [at the Porter Cemetery] all day overlooking the Connecticut” Says Frazer, “and we discovered the most amazing field of ladyslippers at Beal. We never would have gone there otherwise.”
  • Four Corners Quest in Croydon, NH. “It’s so quiet and so beautiful to get there,” says Kahl.
  • The Woodstock Quests. “Because it’s fun to tromp around Woodstock. There are so many of them, and they all have stories to tell.”
tick

Ticks and Questing-Be Prepared!

With the warmth and the beginning of Quest season this past month, I’ve dealt will my fair share of ticks. Questing can be fickle. Many of the Valley Quests are along trails, or lead through tall grassy fields–places my mortal enemy resides, waiting to cling to clothes and crawl onto skin.

Ticks make me squirm. But I can’t let that keep me from enjoying the special places Valley Quest’s lead me to.

Since the ticks have come out, I’ve developed–or rather looked up–some tactics on keeping those blood-suckers at bay.

  • Wear light-colored clothing
    • Ticks are often blackish brown or grey and can be more easily spotted on outerwear while out in the woods.
    • Tuck your pants into your socks–although this isn’t fashionable, it will protect you from having ticks crawl up your leg–ticks have a tendency to crawl lightly without being noticed.
  • Use a lint roller after Questing in the woods, and grassy terrains.
    • This will again help with ticks that have yet to crawl under your clothes. Be sure to use a few sheets to pick up what you can before doing a full-on tick check.
  • Wear tick repellant
    • DEET, though smelly, is a relatively effective tick repellent. However, ticks can still bite you if you’re wearing DEET alone.
    • Permethrin, a clothing treatment, can actually kill ticks on contact, but is a more severe measure to take, as you must soak your clothes in the stuff and it only lasts a few washes.

The above tips are only preventative measures. It is also very important to complete thorough tick checks right after a Quest or other outdoor activities!

Herricks Cove

Hey Questers,

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Herricks Cove Wildlife IMG_0460Festival in Rockingham Vermont. If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful event featuring local groups such as the Nature Museum, VINS, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and more. There was something for everyone–a shooting range presented by 4-H, face-painting, t-shirt making, and many local (as well as exotic) animals!

IMG_0472

 

At the festival, Valley Quest Coordinator Sara Cottingham and I led a guided Quest at Herricks Cove, one of the premier birding sites in the Upper Valley. This Quest highlights over seven bird species, many of which we saw on the Quest. In addition to birds, we had the pleasure of watching a beaver swim in the early hours of the day, viewed beautiful Trillium flowers, and discovered an insane amount of fiddle heads.

 

If you missed this year’s festival, be sure to take the detour to Herricks Cove off of Route 5 next time you are in Rockingham, Vermont. You won’t be disappointed.

1 2 3 4