Fall Guided Quest: Trees of Dartmouth Quest

 

Join Vital Communities’ Valley Quest Coordinator Beth Roy on a guided treasure hunt of the trees of Dartmouth. Celebrate fall as we discover many exotic trees around the Dartmouth College Campus and learn about their natural history along with some of the College’s history. This is a great opportunity to complete one of the Quests for the 2019 Super Quest and finish the Questing season with an adventure! This guided Quest is appropriate for families and adults, all are welcome.

Date: Saturday, October 26

Time: 10 am – 12 pm

Location: Meet at the information booth in Hanover on the Dartmouth College Green on College Street

Please register. The event is free but space is limited.

http://bit.ly/2ourQKI

A New Quest to Celebrate the Mascoma River Greenway!

Have you been on the Mascoma River Greenway yet? If not, it is time to check it out. I had a fantastic time follwing the new Quest of the Mascoma River Greenway. I took my bike and had a lovely time pedaling the Greenway. I learned about local history as well as enjoying views of the Mascoma River. The Greenway is not just a great place for a little exercise. You could use it to commute from the center of Lebanon to businesses along 12A. Next time you have an errand to run, try jumping on your bike instead of in the car!

I want to thank Frank Gould who created this Quest. He is a longtime volunteer with the Mascoma River Greenway and created a Quest that is engaging and certain to bring more people out to the Mascoma River Greenway. Thank you Frank!

 

A New Quest in Pomfret, Vermont

Earlier this summer I had the fortune of working with the amazing staff of the Artistree Community Arts Center in Pomfret, Vermont on offering a Questing Camp. Over the week the campers learned about the different historical aspects of the buildings that make up the Center’s campus as well as several buildings in the center of Pomfret. The campers designed maps, learned to carve stamps and, designed the route and fantastic clues that will lead you around the beautiful property of Artistree. Checkout the latest Quest to hit the Upper Valley and discover a new favorite spot.

Quest Spotlight: Trees of Hanover Quest

With this amazing stretch of sunny days we’ve been having, I wanted to get outside and do more Questing! This week, I went out to do the Trees of Hanover Quest. This Quest takes you around downtown Hanover and highlights the many species of trees on Dartmouth’s campus!

This Quest is also on our Super Quest that features the Top 25 Quests in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Vital Communities. Make sure to register, so that you and your team can get out and Quest. This Hanover Quest is a great way to ease into the challenge. You’ll only need to complete 5 total Quests in order to get a patch!

Your Quest starts on College St, facing the large white buildings that line the Green. Before Eleazar Wheelock founded the school, the Dartmouth green was once a forest of pine trees!

Farther on the green, you can find a large elm tree, one of few left. Many of the elm trees on campus died from Dutch Elm Disease, brought to the United States on logs from Europe. The first signs of the sickness make the leaves wilt, and then start to affect entire branches. The disease can spread slowly in older well established trees but can kill a tree in just a few weeks if the tree is young and fast growing. If you’re interested, read more!

After admiring the trees that line the entrance to Tuck Dr., the Quest takes you back through the green and past the stone chapel. Climbing up the hill and into College Park, you’ll have a good view of the observatory. The stone tower on the hill, Bartlett tower, was built to be as tall as the Lone Pine. Moving forward from the tower, you can even see the stump of the Lone Pine! As you continue up to the statue of Robert Frost, look around for your treasure and your Quest will be complete.

Whether its a walk in the woods, or a historical tour you seek, use our search tool to find your next Quest!

Quest Spotlight: Quest for the Kestrel

This month, I wanted to spotlight a Quest on the Super Quest list!

If you haven’t signed up for the Super Quest yet, there is still time! Register your team, and then find a Quest off of our Top 25 Quests List.

The Quest for the Kestrel, a Quest in Windsor, VT,  is a gentle walk on a path with gorgeous views of mountains and meadows.

On a beautiful, sunny day last week, I decided to try out this Quest. After parking at the low shed on a pull out on Marton Road, my Quest began slightly to the right of the shed, on a path that headed into the meadows and towards the mountains. Walking down the path, and in pursuit of the Kestrel I came across many different plants and insects. To my left there were patches flowers, and in the path there were many butterflies like the one pictured below.

At first I wasn’t sure what type of butterfly this was, but after a bit of digging, I think it’s a Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.

I had to be careful not to step on them, as this trail was covered with them! I continued down the trail until I saw the poles that formed an upside-down “V” and then looked at the base to find the Quest box! I took a minute to look around at the rolling hills, mountains and clear sky before heading back on the path.

I would highly recommend this Quest for an excellent adventure that isn’t too physically demanding while still offering gorgeous views!

New South Royalton Quest!

We are excited to announce the Royalton Historical Quest, a new Valley Quest! This Quest will take you around the green in South Royalton while teaching you about the town’s history. Starting at the White River Valley High School, you will walk past the firehouse, memorial library, the old inn, and many more historical landmarks. In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Royalton charter, this Quest truly highlights many of the roles and history that Royalton has to offer.

It was a gorgeous sunny day yesterday, so I went to South Royalton to try out this Quest. Parking at the high school, I walked first to the cemetery on my left, and then headed back up the street to take a left turn onto Safford street. Along Safford I could  see the firehouse and the library. By turning right onto Alexander place, I was able to walk until I was on Railroad St, and the green was on my right.

This Quest is a gentle walk and only thirty minutes long. There are also many places to stop for a snack, or pack a lunch and relax on the green!

Thank you to Ms. Ephchook and her 2019 sophomore class at the White River Valley High School for creating this Quest as well as a beautiful map and stamp! Special thanks to John Dumville of the historical society for his help in this Quest’s creation.

If you’re in the South Royalton area, check out the Four Springs Farm Quest nearby!

Interested in volunteering with Valley Quest? We are looking for a box monitor for Four Springs Farm, as well as these other boxes.

New Brownsville VT Quest

I’m happy to announce that we have a new Quest! With the help of Mr. Butler’s 3rd & 4th grade class at the Albert Bridge School, there is a new Quest in Brownsville, VT. The Daniel Cady Quest takes you from the Albert Bridge School up to Daniel Cady’s mausoleum. Cady was a poet who dedicated many of his works to describe life in Vermont. When he died in 1934, he had already made arrangements for his casket to rest in the mausoleum at the top of the hill. Originally, the mausoleum would have looked out at the top of Ascutney, but many trees grew in and the view isn’t as clear.

“Cady tree”

The Albert Bridge students learned about the life of Daniel Cady with the help of the Brownsville Historical Society and then completed their teaching clues. We took the kids up to the mausoleum and then helped them create their movement clues. After putting the two parts together, we went back to the school to test their new Quest!

When we got to the mausoleum, we stumbled upon a filmmaker with Vermont novelist, Joseph Citro. Specifically, Citro works with ghost stories in New England — how fitting to find him by the mausoleum!

Looking into the mausoleum

This was quite lucky for us, as he had the key to open the mausoleum. He was able to take the lock off of the main wooden door. There were still bars that prevented us from entering, but we were able to look inside the mausoleum and see his casket. This was an amazing addition to what we thought would be a relatively straight forward Quest check. We hid the box for Questers to find and headed back down.

This new Brownsville Quest is live! Be sure to give it a try. If you’re in Brownsville, check out The Quest for the Kestrel, a Quest on the Super Quest list in the area. If you haven’t signed up for the Super Quest you can find out more information and register your team here

Interested in adopting this box and becoming a box monitor? Check out this page for more information on volunteering for this box or any other boxes without monitors!

Additional thanks go out to Alice Stewart and Rise VT for their generous support of this project!

Intern with Valley Quest!

Are you passionate about the Upper Valley? Do you feel motivated to share our region’s special places with the community at large? Love working with people of all ages? Vital Communities is looking for a summer Valley Quest Intern to help with program outreach, community tours, Quest maintenance, and website improvements. The position offers a mix of office-based and field-based work, with flexible scheduling. Candidates must have transportation and some weekend availability. Small stipend available. Learn more in this job description, and send resume and cover letter to Valley Quest Coordinator, lauren@vitalcommunities.org, for consideration.

 

Thank you, Ben!

This summer we had the privilege of working with Ben Fletcher, pictured second from left. Ben brought an incredibly well suited array of skills to Vital Communities and was a boon to the Valley Quest program. With a degree from the University of Santa Cruz and intern experience from the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, Ben quickly became an integral member of the Valley Quest team, applying his interest in ecology and knack for creative thinking right off the bat. He is responsible for getting all 170 Valley Quests live on our website, our new color-coded online Valley Quest map, a slew of Quest updates, brilliantly organized events like the History Tour of White River Junction and the Valley Quest Hawk Walk, as well as a couple new important partnerships for the program…just to name a few!

We are so grateful for the skills and energy that Ben brought, not only for his impact this summer, but for the lasting influence his work has had on Valley Quest—we’re delighted to build off of all the momentum he carried in with him.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ben! We wish you the absolute best going forward and hope you’ll swing in for a visit next time you’re in town!

Bird and Quest

The Vermont Center for Ecostudies lists 382 species of bird that occur in Vermont, whether year-long resident or migratory visitor. The VCE’s Vermont Atlas of Life citizen science operation has recorded sightings of 332 of these species thus far since its conception. And 219 species have been recorded across the state just since the start of this past April (2018). Programs like iNaturalist collect these sightings from volunteers in the public to compile an ever-growing, crowdsourced set of data for use by anyone– from conservationists, to mindful developers, to researchers studying specific species.

VCE

Similar in form and function to iNaturalist, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has put together its own program to collect data on species distributions. Naturally, theirs specializes in birds. It’s called eBird. eBird participants have spotted more species than the VCE acknowledges occur in Vermont, with their total up at 385. Is the discrepancy a new development? Perhaps migratory paths are shifting, destinations changing, bringing Vermont new visitors. What if shifting precipitation and temperature trends are convincing some past residents to find new homes, or even making Vermont attractive to prospective immigrants? Perhaps none of these. But if we ever begin to answer such questions, it might likely be thanks to eBird and iNaturalist, existing to harness the massive potential of crowdsourced data sets.

ebird VT stats

Vermont is ripe with birding hotspots and Valley Quest can lead you to a good many of them. Some examples, from late August through September the Gile Mountain Quest near Norwich will take you to a vista along the migratory path of the Broad-winged Hawk. These birds accumulate aerially in large groups, termed kettles, and past recordings reveal sightings of thousands of hawks a day. While near Norwich, you should also check out the Flowing to the River Quest for more raptor encounters. This Quest will take you along a tributary of the Connecticut River into Osprey and Bald Eagle territory. This Quest is also a great opportunity to learn that there is (some find this hard to believe) way more than one variety of duck. This is a rich spot to discover all sorts of waterfowl – while the Bald Eagles will do no harm, beware the swan and geese! (Especially if they have chicks nearby, these two are known to pick fights.)

Broadwings

Bring a notepad Questing with a list of the birds you might encounter, and tally each one you find. Then once you finish up your day and arrive home (or even the next day, or next weekend, it’s flexible) report your sightings on the eBird website to contribute to their catalog. eBird also exists as a free app if you’re interested in reporting in real time.

Merlin birdID    Cornell Ornithology     INaturalist_logo

If you were able to hear birds, but couldn’t spot them, consider bringing your phone along and using an app like Song Sleuth which will automatically identify your audio recording. To dodge the pricetag you can also try the Cornell Lab’s app Merlin BirdID, which offers recordings of different songs from each species for you to listen for your match. Merlin also has a handy tool to help you uncover the identities of birds you didn’t recognize. Once you simply log the size of the bird, the context you saw it (whether flying, on a fence, in a tree, etc.) and the color, you’re presented with a list of all the possible birds you may have encountered.

Many Valley Quests also overlap with eBird’s map full of birding hotspots. This searchable map can help you see all 385 species that Vermont has to offer. If you find a hotspot location that would make for a strong Quest, let us know, we’d love to help you write one or work with community members to spotlight your site with a Quest! Happy Questing! (Below are a nighthawk, hooded merganser and belted kingfisher)

Bird collage

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