Video: On a quest at Moose Hill Farm in Sharon
Sir Galahad's quest for the Holy Grail demanded spiritual purity. Tom Hanks' quest for the Da Vinci Code flopped at the box office.
If you want to make a quest for fresh air and family fun, head over to Moose Hill Farm in Sharon.
Rather than meeting King Arthur's noblest knight or Forrest Gump, this quest will send you through lovely meadows buzzing with monarch butterflies and shady forests where deer munch leafy snacks.
Instead of a map, just follow the rhyming clues that will guide you through "The Rooms in Time Quest."
Part history lesson, part treasure hunt, the interactive quest is designed to attract visitors to Moose Hill Farm, said Meghan Connolly, education coordinator for the Trustees of Reservations, which owns and manages the site.
"Our quest provides a unique opportunity to experience a wonderful site. It's fun. It's educational. It's entirely self-guided. Visitors will leave with a better understanding of this property," she said.
For Connolly, the quest serves the purpose of attracting new visitors whom she hopes will become part of the site's "extended family."
Designed cooperatively by several staffers, the quest for Moose Hill Farms has eight clues starting at "three stone steps" by the parking lot and leading to a "Final Room" where "a farmhouse once stood."
Each clue consists of one to four rhyming four-line stanzas that include a natural feature, like a tree or stone wall, and historical information about the site which, when combined, direct participants to the next step.
For example, the second clue for the Hay Field Room reads: "A wide open hayfield on top of the hill / Gone are the cows but the grass grows still / Cut twice a year, a critical place for birds / The room also feeds turkey, coyote and deer herds."
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own notebooks and enter observations about the fauna or wildlife they encounter. If they find the logbook at the quest's end, they can mark their name in red ink with a personalized stamp.
Connolly explained the phrase "Rooms in Time" refers to the farm's distinct natural habitats, such as a wild meadow, forest and fern, and even a Power Line Room traversed by electrical wires set atop high towers.
As presently configured, the quest follows the farm's single open Loop Trail, which is about 2 miles long and can be completed in about 90 minutes with short rests.
The 347-acre Sharon site, which opened to the public last fall, was formerly a working dairy farm owned by the prosperous Kendall family. Established in 1891, the nonprofit Trustees of Reservations owns and protects 99 sites, totaling 50,000 acres, across the Bay State.
The organization presently uses several on-site buildings for administration but expects to offer expanded activities for school groups and visitors in the near future, Connolly said.
The quest shares several elements with the popular activity known as Letterboxing, which began more than a century ago in England but has recently spread to North America and the United States. While it may take different forms, participants usually follow a series of clues to find a logbook hidden in a waterproof container and then mark it with their own personal stamp.
At Francis William Bird Park in Walpole, a similar quest activity has just begun in which visitors follow 10 clues to a hidden treasure box. And Trustees planners say a different quest is in the works for the Bradley Estate on Washington Street in Canton. Connolly said each quest is "totally unique" to reflect that site's natural features and history.
On Trustees properties, Connolly said, the quests follow a model designed by Steve Glazer, an educator who works for the nonprofit Vital Communities of White River Junction, Vt. As created by Glazer, questing is a "place-based activity" using the format of a Letterboxing treasure hunt to "collect and share (a) community's distinct natural and cultural heritage."
"It's a much richer document (than typical Letterboxing clues). It's fun. It's silly. It uses rhymes everyone can enjoy at their own level," said Connolly.
Moose Hill Farm provides gorgeous scenic views and quiet walks for any visitor, even those uninterested in questing.
On a bright Friday morning, butterfly aficionados Brian Cassie and Madeline Champagne moved carefully through a field, noting Baltimore Checkerspots fluttering about.
Walking along the main trail, Connolly pointed out woods of oak and white pine, wild raspberries, fields of milkweed and strands of poison ivy "hanging thick as guacamole" from a tree.
Whether walking through sunny fields or serene woods, visitors can see foxes, a rich variety of birds and butterflies, deer and other wild critters.
"Moose Hill Farm is a little-known jewel," Connolly said. "With gas prices rising, people don't have to drive far to enjoy a great experience in a wonderful natural setting."
Moose Hill Farm is located at 396 Moose Hill St., Sharon. It is a short distance from the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.
Moose Hill Farm is open year round, sunrise to sunset.
Members and children under 12 are free. Tickets for adults are $4.
Membership in the Trustees of Reservations for one person costs $45 and a family membership for two adults and dependents costs $65. Membership includes free admission to most of the Trustees of Reservation sites.
For more information, call 781-784-0567 or visit www.thetrustees.org.