Valley Quest: The Upper Valley’s Great Treasure Hunt
But let’s begin with the history. The Valley Quest program was developed by Vital Communities, a nonprofit organization in White River Junction that focuses on Upper Valley community engagement and promoting “cultural, economic, environmental, and social well-being in our region.” The Valley Quest program, piloted in 1995/1996, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Steven describes the initial aim: “to develop a program to connect schools and families to the natural and cultural heritage of the region.” Inspired by a tradition of “letterboxing” in Dartmoor, England (almost Dartmouth, New England, right?), Valley Questing involves trekking across a designated swath of land led by a collection of clues. Each treasure-hunt-like Quest is different, with some featuring natural areas or historic landmarks or even poetic origins. But all are educational in some way, and all offer a connection between community and place.
In fact, every Quest has its own unique origin. As Steven explains, inspiration for a Quest might come from a community story or legend, a group of students, or individual community members. “One Quest might be created by a fourth-grade class studying colonial history; another Quest might be created by a seventh-grade class studying the American Civil War.” The Quests all share their specificity to their respective places. The beauty and excitement of Questing is in the details along the way.
If you’re interested in starting your family on a Questing adventure, you might follow Steve Glazer’s three suggestions. First, purchase Best of Valley Quest or one of the other collections of Valley Quests (sold at the Dartmouth Bookstore, online, and at other local shops). The tech savvy might prefer using the newly developing app. John Kotz, a graduate of Crossroads Academy and Hanover High, and currently a student at Dartmouth, is helping to build the Valley Quest app for Vital Communities. Learn more about opportunities to volunteer to test the app.
Second, select a quest or two. Steve suggests some of his personal favorites, such as Lyme Pinnacle, in Lyme, New Hampshire, for its view; or the Miraculous Tree in Ely, Vermont, for its fantastic American chestnut tree “treasure” at the end. Then there’s Center of Town, in Hartford, Vermont, for its lesson on the history of Upper Valley villages. And lastly Bill Hill Quest in Thetford, Vermont, because it shares the life and legacy of Noel Perrin (to find out more about Noel’s fascinating life, you’ll just have to embark on the Quest).
Finally, Steve reminds us that the most important aspect of Questing is to enjoy the journey. He explains that, rather than one, there are three treasures within each Quest: “(a) the treasure box–—less important, (b) the external treasure—the actual community asset, and (c) the internal treasure—the experience of learning to see, value, and appreciate where we live.” It seems that life in the Upper Valley is the greatest Quest of all.
For more information on Valley Quests or Vital Communities, visit the website. Please share your favorite Quest below!