Valley Quests Open May 1—including a Guided Event to a Vernal Pool!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 1: It’s a big one for Valley Quests!

Not only is May 1 Opening Day for Quests—”treasure hunts” that share the natural and cultural history of 160+ special areas in the Upper Valley—but it’s also the date of our first “Guided Quest” of the season.

In Guided Quests, an expert leads a group on a particular Quest, offering special details about its wonders. For this event, Valley Quest Coordinator Sandy Gmur and Kevin Tolan, Vermont Center for Ecostudies‘ Vernal Pool Monitor Coordinator, lead an exploration of a vernal pool in the Hurricane Forest of Hartford. The pool is part of the “Sally’s Salamander Meander” Quest, and like all vernal pools is a great place to observe amphibian life this time of year. (Why are vernal pools so good for frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians? Because they dry up as the summer progresses and thus don’t support fish, which tend to gobble up the amphibian eggs.) This event involves a moderate hike and is appropriate for families and adults. Registration is required; space is limited. Register at Hartford Parks and Recreation.

What’s more, the Sally Salamander Meander is one of the 12 Quests that are part of this season’s Super Quest, on the topic of “Climate Connections.”

The Climate Connections Super Quest examines the ways climate change is affecting the Upper Valley—from plants, insects, and other animals moving here from the south due to warming temperatures; to more frequent and more powerful storms; to people migrating from other places experiencing even greater climate-induced changes. The Super Quest also looks at ways we’re preventing or adapting to climate change, including flood control through land preservation; green energy technologies; and regenerative agricultural practices. From May 1 to November 1, follow any five of those 12 Super Quests to find their hidden treasure boxes and collect the stamp impressions from their treasure box, and you’ll receive a special Super Quest patch and be entered to win a grand prize. The 12 Quests can be variously done as walks, hikes, or by canoe or kayak.

Where the Climate Connections Super Quest Can Take You

Cedar Circle Farm Quest, Thetford, VT: Focus on regenerative agriculture while touring a certified organic farm and nonprofit education center.

Chaffee Sanctuary Quest, Lyme, NH: Get to know an “alder swamp”—a common Upper Valley wetland that provides great habitat for animals and natural flood protection for humans.

Cook Quest, New London, NH: Learn about how plants and soil sequester carbon while observing the forest, streams, and wetlands of the Mt. Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee region.

Donella Meadows Quest, Hartland, VT: Hear about a pioneering system thinker, author, and climate change activist while visiting the Cobb Hill cohousing community she founded 20 years ago.

Flowing to the River Quest, Norwich, VT: Hike along this Connecticut River tributary while learning how plants along the stream help keep its water clean.

Lebanon Energy Quest, Lebanon, NH: Starting at the former Mascoma Flannel Company (now the Rivermill Complex), a look at generations of power, from water to propane to green sources.

Loon Quest, Enfield, NH: A water quest on Lake Mascoma in search of a fabulous bird who needs clean waters. Begin and end at a the new Mascoma Lakeside Park, for launching non-motorized boats!

Lower Slade Brook, Hanover, NH: Hike along the brook crossing this 36-acre conserved parcel, observing waterfalls while reflecting on the role forests play in cleaning the air.

Sally’s Salamander Meander, Hartford, VT: Discover a vernal pool and learn about its critical role for salamanders and their wet, wiggley rites of spring.

Sunapee Harbor Quest, Sunapee, NH: This gentle stroll highlights the lake’s natural and historic features and the stewardship and educational work of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association.

Sustainability Quests, Woodstock, VT: (For Elementary Students) Learn about what goes on above the mansion area at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, including tree management, a solar kiln, and gardens!! (For High Schoolers and older) Observe the sustainability program and climate-aware forest management of this park—which is named after an Upper Valley native considered to be America’s first environmentalist.

Free Webinar on Writing Waterway Quests, April 8

Valley Quests are treasure hunts set in special locations around the Upper Valley. Each Quest follows a unique set of clues that teach you about a place’s ecology, wildlife, and history while leading to a “treasure box” with a special stamp and log book for you to sign. But they’re not restricted to dry land! Wetlands, streams, and lakes are also among the special 160+ Upper Valley places that Quests explore.

Learn how to make your own waterway-based Quest in a webinar with Vital Communities’ Sandy Gmur on Thursday, April 8, 7 to 8 pm, sponsored by the Springfield (VT) Town Library and the Black River Action Team. Register here.

Come with ideas and questions for a waterway Quest of your own and work with Sandy and other participants to turn your idea into a Quest that could be added to Vital Communities’ Quest directory!

Having moved to the Upper Valley two years ago, Sandy has found Quests invaluable activities to help her get to know her new communities. With so many beautiful bodies of water throughout the Connecticut River Watershed using a canoe or kayak is a great way to introduce people to these special places.

Quests can help people appreciate a precious natural asset, says Kelly Stettner, director of the Black River Action Team. “Our waterways are priceless treasures in and of themselves, as places to boat and fish, swim and splash.  They also provide incredible value to the healthy function of the entire ecosystem: everything alive relies on clean water.  From turtles to trout, salamanders to songbirds, and dragonflies to deer (and everything in-between!), wildlife depends on our rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, and even wetlands and bogs to flourish.  By writing your own water-based ValleyQuest for a public waterway in your area, you can help visitors as well as residents responsibly explore and come to appreciate these fascinating and sometimes overlooked gems. Awareness of a river or lake is a first step toward appreciation and a desire to help keep it clean and healthy, fully functional for humans as well as for wildlife.”

Go here to learn more about creating your own Quests, as well as books and stamps to go with them!

Quest to the Star!

Have you seen the star alight upon Mt. Tom in Woodstock?  Wouldn’t it be fun to see it up close?  You can if you follow the clues of the Mt. Tom Quest. The star traditionally was only lit over the holidays, but to be a symbol of hope during the pandemic it will light up the night until we get through this.

A gradual ascent from Faulkner Park in Woodstock to the summit of Mt. Tom provides amazing views of Woodstock Village and its surroundings. At this time of year you will want to take your microspikes with you in case the trail is a bit slippery.

Make sure to read the historical information sign in the park to learn about Mrs. Faulkner, a great benefactor for the Upper Valley.  And did you know folks used to downhill ski on Mt. Tom?  Read the story here.

Valley Quest Volunteer Monitors Needed

Do you enjoy being outdoors? Do you enjoy bringing others outdoors and making their experience something special?

Then you are a good candidate for monitoring one or more of our 160+ Valley Quests throughout the Upper Valley. Time commitment is primarily for a few hours in the spring and late fall with perhaps a visit to your Quest(s) once or twice over the summer. We would love to have you join us in keeping Questing alive and well! For more details contact Sandy at