Despite temperatures in the 90s and amidst a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, MHLC hosted its annual hike-a-thon event with a special twist. On the weekend of July 18, more than 550 Capital Region residents spent time searching our 19 preserves in search of hidden gnomes. Those sending selfies with the gnomes were rewarded with ice cream from our very generous event sponsor Stewart’s Shops!
Staff, volunteer artists, and preserve stewards worked together to create an “on your own” scavenger hunt. Small wooden gnomes were designed, cut, painted, and carefully hidden on the trails. Riddles offered clues to the gnomes’ hiding spots, for example, “Where is this gnome? I have my suspicion. I do believe that they’ve gone fishin’!”
Keeping it fun and safe
To accommodate a large number of registrations and prevent crowding, we extended the event from July 18 to July 21, suggested alternatives for parking lots at capacity, and asked participants to wear masks when approaching others on the trails and in parking areas. We really appreciate everyone’s efforts to keep themselves and each other safe; we know the challenges of wearing a mask on a really hot day!
Head over heels for gnomes!
We were delighted to receive such an overwhelming response to the event. More than 120 photos were submitted and added to the Summer Hike-a-thon Scavenger Hunt photo album! Many community members also expressed gratitude for having something fun to do during a time when the pandemic has significantly limited entertainment options. For some, the Summer Hike-a-thon Scavenger Hunt brought them out to local preserves that they might not have visited otherwise.
“When the pandemic started, my wife and I started checking out the preserve sites. We enjoy walking and checking them out by trying different trails. …Keep up the great work you are doing to keep these little gems available to the public and open to nature. Thanks!” Herman R.
“We found gnomes at Van Dyke, Normans Kill East and West, and Schiffendecker. We had a blast and embarrassingly had not been to any [of these preserves] before this weekend. Now we are thinking of continuing until we get to all of them! Thanks so much!” Katie Y.
Way to go, Lewis Family!
The Lewis family of Delmar surprised us with the news that they had found all 19 gnomes! Dan and Sarah Lewis took their son Jacob to every single preserve to capture a selfie with each gnome—a pretty impressive accomplishment in just four days!
In an email to MHLC, Sarah Lewis wrote, “The extra time we have had because of the pandemic has meant lots of opportunities to explore hiking options close to home. When we saw the list of clues, we knew where many of them were because we had hiked at so many of the preserves recently.” The Lewis family initially planned to find five gnomes at a few of their favorite preserves. After getting started, they decided it would be a fun challenge to find all nineteen and see the rest of the preserves their family hadn’t visited yet along the way. “We had an awesome day, even seeing a bald eagle at Hollyhock Hollow after finding our last gnome!” Jacob said that it was “tiring and hot …but a lot of fun!” He looks forward to going back to explore the trails of his new favorite—the Winn Preserve.
We could not have done this without you!
Thank you to our volunteer artists Vicary Thomas, Ellie Prakken, Emily Meier, Andrea Cuozzo, and Joan Frederick for helping to paint gnomes, and to our Preserve Stewards for escorting the gnomes to and from their hiding spots at each preserve. The gnomes have left the preserves for now and are being well-cared for by our loving volunteers! And thank you to everyone who joined us… we’re truly overjoyed by the outpouring of support. Please continue to enjoy our preserves and the solace they provide during these times. With any luck, you may just see the gnomes out there again sometime!