Questing on the South Shore

by Sam

Whenever my friends and I go hiking, I usually end up relating our trek to some mythical or historic quest (i.e. we’re on our way to destroy the One Ring! or we’ve been commissioned by the president to map out this new land with the help of our Indian guide!). Purposeful adventures, the sense of being part of a some great task, entice me; but, unfortunately, pretending can get old after a while- the One Ring can only be destroyed once, after all. Imagine my excitement, then, when I found out my quests didn’t have to be all in my head!

My friend Sean had heard about something called ‘South Shore Quests’– a series of scavenger-hunt-ish adventures ranging in difficulty and completion time scattered across the region. As it was a beautiful day out, and we had no other plans we decided to check it out. If you like to explore, hike, and solve puzzles, I totally recommend this!!!

How it works: To begin a quest, you first need to acquire a ‘Quest Book’ from one of the several locations that carry copies- don’t worry, they’re all listed on the website! We picked ours up at the Hingham Public Library for $6. The book contains detailed maps, as well as all the clues, for each of the twenty different questing sites. Completion times range from 20 to 90 minutes, but, of course, the times are exaggerated a bit. Based on the amount of time you have and what type of location you want to explore (hikes, paved trails, harbor side parks, ponds, and more), you pick your quest and start your adventure, following the listed clues to discover individual letters that will, eventually, spell out the final location of the coveted ‘quest box.’ Warning: successfully unearthing a quest box is addicting. The event will be up there on your list of ‘happiest life moments,’ and you may find yourself obsessively ‘questing’ all day…

Sean and I decided to begin our questing career at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, specifically, with the Woodpecker Pond Quest, a 90-minute trek through the forest and around the pond. At first, we were actually really stupid about it. Not only did we skip at least two clues, but it wasn’t until the fifth clue that we realized we were supposed to be recording the letters we found. Needless to say, there was a lot of back tracking in the beginning, but, once we got the hang of it, it was SO MUCH FUN! I felt like I was on an important mission- and I got a great hike out of it!  We saw ‘Woodpecker Pond,’ which apparently is THE place to be if you’re wildlife in Hingham- there were turtles and frogs and even a deer! 

After about an hour on the trail, we had all the clues. I won’t ruin the puzzle, but I will say it was definitely the most exciting part of the game, and, when we finally found the box concealed from view, it was exhilarating! Inside, there was a guestbook to sign, a stamp to stamp our Quest Book, and some environmental facts about the area; it was pretty cool seeing that we were only the 5th group of people of the 2010 questing season to find the spot. I was in charge of writing a nice message to the future questers, Sean was in charge of stamping the book (and me- I decided I wanted a stamp for bragging rights), and I made sure we got a picture of us with the box. With one quest successfully completed, we found ourselves craving more, and so, next thing I knew, we were on our way to our second location.

Foundry Pond is just off of route 3A in Hingham, but I had never known it was there before, or heard of it for that matter. With the aid of the Quest Book map, we were able to find it at the end of a small side street that very well could’ve been someone’s driveway. Small and quaint, the pond was absolutely adorable. We were able to quickly find all the clues and solve the puzzle, but the real adventure was finding the location they spelt. After a bit of exploring, we finally discovered the spot at the foot of slope down by the creek, where, sure enough, there was another box awaiting us! Keeping the same system, Sean stamped, I wrote, and we took our picture, before returning to the car. In total, the venture required less than twenty minutes, but it was still exciting- not to mention, quick, easy, and off the beaten path!

After departing from the pond, addicted to the rush of adventure, we decided to embark on yet another quest, as a couple hours of daylight still remained. This time, we headed over to Esker Park in Weymouth, another spot of which I had never heard. But- with paved walking trails, classic wooden footbridges, and a beautiful marsh-surrounded pond at its center- like Foundry Pond, it did not disappoint. A 40 minute quest, we were able to finish it a mere 20, but it was completely worth it. Having spent much less time than we anticipated though, there was still time for one last pursuit…

We settled on Abigail Adams State Park, also in Weymouth, for our last stop of the day. Standing on the edge of the embankment overlooking the picture perfect harbor sunset, I knew we had chosen correctly. I could’ve stared out over the water for hours, but we had a final mission to complete. Of all the quests we had completed that day, this one was by far the most low-key (the book even lists it as handicap accessible). The park itself is fairly small, with a single paved loop circling a grassy field scattered with boulders bearing historical quotes from former first lady, Abigail Adams. Essentially, we were scavenging through history to discover the location our last box, which we eventually found after a little bit of difficulty. Success.

Then, on our way back to the parking lot, we passed a family (with the cutest puppy ever!) who inquired as to what exactly we were doing gallivanting around the park with our little guidebook. Excitedly raising my arm (now bearing four unique stamps), I explained the concept of the South Shore Quests, and the amazing places we had discovered because of them. And that’s when I realized that’s what the quests are really all about- sharing these amazing, beautiful locations with the rest of the world, so that they too can enjoy the special beauty each has to offer. If it weren’t for the quests, I would never have even known these places existed. But, now, I cannot wait to return to bike the trails of Wompatuck, reflect at Foundry Pond, jog around Esker Park, and watch the sunset over Hingham Harbor at Abigail Adams park again. Even more so, I can’t wait to begin our next quest! With sixteen new locations remaining for us, I’m sure Sean and I will remain occupied for the rest of the summer, and I can’t wait to take my other friends with us on our newfound adventures. I can now group myself with Frodo, Lewis, Clark, and the rest of the world’s great questers; it’s a dream come true!

So, it’s official. I’m addicted to the Quests.

4 down, 16 to go.

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