By: Joy Choquette

If you’ve spent time in the woods in northwestern Vermont in recent months you may have come across a strange sight. No, not Bigfoot or even a bear. Something a bit more colorful and significantly smaller. RiseVT placed 30 boot treads (as pictured) on local trails as part of a multi-county scavenger hunt. The event ran from October 15th to December 15th.
The premise was simple: follow the clues—posted on the RiseVT Facebook page and in the St. Albans Messenger—then hike, walk, or bike the trail. Snapping a selfie with the tread and tagging RiseVT on Facebook recorded the participant’s find.
Being active in nature was the primary goal of the RiseVT FGI Scavenger Hunt. But there were other benefits as well. The first 10 participants to post selfies with all 30 treads won a $100 gift certificate to Lenny’s Shoe and Apparel for a new pair of hiking boots. Participants who posted at least five selfies received a fleece hat. Entry into a drawing for the grand prize, an Apple Watch, was given to everyone who posted even a single selfie from the trail.
Brian Clukey, a RiseVT FGI health coach, stated that the organization was thrilled with the positive response the scavenger hunt garnered. In all, 37 people participated in the event and 189 selfies were taken. “There was a lot of interest,” said Brian.
One of the goals of the event was to increase exploration of local trails, Brian said. The winner of the Apple Watch for instance, lives in Winooski. Brian stated he was impressed with this individual’s determination. “It showed an intention to engage,” he said. “You don’t just halfheartedly get nine selfies.”
Sara Danyow Rutanhira and Briana Maguire Brown completed the entire challenge, finding and snapping selfies with each of the 30 treads placed in Franklin and Grand Isle counties, Montgomery, and Alburgh.
Sara said that because of the scavenger hunt, she visited a lot of new-to-her trails. “I would highly recommend this event to other people,” she said. “It’s a great way to add physical activity into your life while having fun.” Sara stated that she was able to recruit family and friends to join her on her ventures, along with her dog who, “never complained once.”
Briana was already a fan of RiseVT and the events that it offers in the community. The scavenger hunt, however, offered her a chance to explore some of the county’s lower elevation trails. An avid hiker and peak bagger, Briana was pleasantly surprised to learn about new hiking opportunities in the area. “It was a great opportunity to explore local trails accessible to almost everyone,” Briana said, “Beginner to experienced walker or hiker, families, and even dogs.”
Brian noted that many participants tackled the trails as a family—whether that included one’s kids or pets—and that the majority of participants were women. Briana noted that a big draw of the scavenger hunt for her was its competitive nature. The investigation required when a new clue was posted was one of Sara’s main motivators.
Both women said that exploring the trails themselves was a huge part of the fun. “I was familiar with and had previously explored about half the locations and knew of a handful of others from various hiking resources,” said Briana who hiked many of the locations with her husband. “I was excited to discover many new trails that we’ll visit again. We were especially excited to discover a great location quite near our home we didn’t even know about.”
In addition to discovering a lot of new trails, participants got to know others who were involved in the challenge as well. “There were two women who were communicating back and forth,” said Brian. “They didn’t know each other but were going for all 30 treads.”
Plans are already underway for the next scavenger hunt which will become an annual event for RiseVT. “Participants liked it and wanted to do it again,” Brian stated. The next event will feature a new twist and will take place this autumn. The team at RiseVT is already at work brainstorming ways to improve the experience for participants. Better marketing, making the event more multigenerational, and tapping into local schools are all factors being taken into consideration.