Excitement in our house has reached a fever pitch: Park Quest 2012 registration opens tomorrow!
Park Quest is a genius marketing effort by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. You sign your family up to participate as a team containing at least one adult and one child under 16. Over the summer, your team visits at least ten participating Maryland state parks and completes a Quest at each one. The Quests may include hiking, letterboxing, canoeing, orienteering, biking, horseback riding, wilderness skills, nature study, puzzle decoding, archaeology, and Maryland history, and they take you everywhere from swamps to mountains to beaches. Teams who successfully complete at least ten Quests are invited to a final event at which they can win some pretty nice prizes: tents, bikes, and kayaks have been given out in the past.
Michael and I are huge fans of the TV show The Amazing Race, and for the last two seasons Alex has watched with us. She loves treasure hunts of all kinds and is constantly asking us to make them for her, or is making them for us. I love hiking and being outdoors, and have wanted the rest of the family to be more involved in that. Park Quest is perfect for us.
Do I even need to list off all the incredible learning opportunities we’ll have with this? From geography to physical education, nature study to Maryland history, the educational prospects are incredible. Not to mention the larger life lessons in planning and organizing, reasoning through puzzles, and overcoming obstacles! (And the fun. I’m not planning to forget about the fun.)
We’ve already chosen a team name (the Questing Sand Crabs) and thought up a logo (a red crab clutching a magnifying glass), which we hope to put on T-shirts. We’ve made up a team cheer. And after much discussion (who would make the best captain?), we’ve chosen official team roles:
Colin – cheerleader
Alex – clue finder
Rivka – operations officer
Michael – navigator
We’ve started taking family walks to build up our endurance for the hiking challenges. Alex has started a Park Quest journal, and we’re thinking about letting her do a blog. Michael is working with his graphics department at work to make the team logo a reality. I’m studying the Quest descriptions and making plans late into the night.
As you can see from the map above, the 23 participating parks (and other state lands, such as natural resource management areas) are scattered all across the state. They seem to have been selected to make sure that Park Questers have to travel to many different parts of Maryland; for example, although there are 13 state parks just in the central region of Maryland, you can only complete four Park Quests in that region. That’s where the marketing genius comes in. Participants get free admission to the parks when they’re completing a Quest there, but you still have to pay for camping or lodging, meals, gas, and incidentals as you travel around the state. That’s a lot of travel dollars staying in-state to boost local economies.
We’re hoping to complete twelve Quests, including a two-night camping trip to the mountains about an hour west of Baltimore and a couple of long day trips up and down the rim of Chesapeake Bay. The rest can be completed in shorter day trips to nearby parks.
It’s. Going. To. Be. AWESOME.