Yesterday afternoon, as the sun set quietly over the western hills of the Upper Valley and the peak temperature of 60 degrees dropped to a cool 52, I grabbed my dog and headed out the door to begin my first Valley Quest.

A Valley Quest is as enchanting as it sounds. It’s a treasure hunt for people (and dogs) of all ages, and a perfect excuse to explore the amazing places that surround us.

On the Vital Communities website I found a Quest in my hometown of Lyme. The Grant Brook Trail is an easy hike that took me around 30 minutes to complete. Like all Valley Quests, this one comes with a set of directions that lead to a treasure box hidden at the end.

After following the map, reading each clue carefully, and, admittedly, taking out my compass, I found the treasure box and signed my name in the guest book inside. Although that may have been my goal, it was what I discovered along the way that made the true impression on my day.

While I was walking to the trail head I passed a group of Lyme Elementary students playing baseball, enjoying the nice day as much as I was.

Once I got to the mossy old stonewall that was the start of the Quest, I let my dog hop over it first, obviously eager for me to reach the other side so we could continue our walk.

As we walked, I let all of the sounds piece together to form one incredible picture of the natural world. Grant Brook babbling beside the trail, birds chirping and singing, leaves crunching beneath my feet, and even the occasional gust of wind reminded me that I’m just a little part of such a large and incredible world, and what an amazing thing it is that we are able to explore it.

The Grant Brook Trail may be short in distance, but it was the perfect way to get outside and get more connected to the region that surrounds me every day.

I went to Lyme Elementary, and even though Grant Brook Trail was always nearby, it never occurred to me to explore it. That’s the great thing about Valley Quest: It helps you discover the beauty and wonder hidden in plain sight right here in the Upper Valley.

Did you know there are more than 200 Quests literally all over the 69-town Upper Valley region? Find yours today!

Mariah Lang is a summer communications intern joining Vital Communities from Roanoke College in Virginia.