The “Fearless Five” is the name we chose for the team we entered into the Green Mountain Challenge. The team consisted of myself as team leader; Alyce Speziale our backpacking, hiking electrologist; Dawn Vaccarro, angel card reader & PTA mom supreme; Alli Berman, a renowned puzzle-artist friend, author & brain therapist, and Gayle Jacobs, our healing hands massage therapist extraordinaire.
For our home turf, we chose the historic West Dover Inn, owned by the Gilpin family. The Inn, built in 1846, served as our base as well as the starting point of the Green Mountain Challenge this year.
Owner Phil Gilpin Sr. knew our intrepid team members would be rolling into the joint at different times, so he gave us our own wing so as not to disturb other guests.
Early Friday afternoon, Dawn and Alyce moseyed in. I rolled in at 2 a.m. after a NYPD fundraising gig, and Alli & Gayle pulled an all-nighter and arrived at the wee hours of 6 a.m
I had an interesting encounter when I arrived.
Since I was arriving in the middle of the night, Phil Sr. left me typewritten instructions with my room key on the counter. Upon entering the Inn I was greeted by a giant dog. This behemoth sat up, and stared at me, realized I’m wasn’t a threat and then went back to sleep.
Unfortunately, I had to head back out to my car because I couldn’t find my cell phone. It was very quiet. I knew this was bear country, so I didn’t want to be meandering alone too long at night with the smell of the turkey sandwich I just ate lingering in the air.
Meeting the West Dover Inn Ghost
I spotted my cell phone on the gravel lying underneath my car. As I got on my stomach to reach it, I turn around and saw something whisk by out of the corner of my eye. I glanced again and saw nothing, but was left with a chill. Figuring it was just some hair in my face, I ignored it. I headed back into the room, the dog looked as if to say, “Oh, it’s you again.” and I then I tiptoed up the staircase to my room.
The first thing out of Alyce’s mouth is, “Heard you come in last night…by the way did you know this place was haunted? The ghost told me her name was Emily, although Phil told me they call her Sarah.”
I just looked at her in amazement. Dawn smiled and nodded, as if that’s the most common thing in the world to say. Alli starts asking a million questions & starts talking about the ghost that once lived in her house, and Gayle just says, “That’s nice, what are we having for breakfast?”
Does the Ghost Know Where the Treasure Is?
Wanting to verify this interesting tidbit of information, I grab Phil, Sr. who is now in the dining room greeting guests. I tell him what happened. Like a proud Papa he smiles, disappears and comes back with a letter from his guest files. “Dear Innkeeper…I noticed you had two ghosts who were stranded here many years ago. They’re free now.” He laughs, “That should answer your question.”
OK, so I think, “Well, were the ghosts just stopping by to check on things or did they move back in again? And since one of the ghosts is communicating with Alyce, can she tell us where the treasure is?”
Ready for the Green Mountain Challenge
After the talk of ghosts and bears, we all catch up. Kathy, Phil Sr.’s wife serves us a delicious homemade breakfast. And guess who helped cook that breakfast? That’s right, Phil Sr. that man is like a ninja, he keeps showing up everywhere we turned.
With full stomachs we were now ready to begin the hunt. We head to the front lobby and say hi to Phil Sr. yet again.
Philip Jr. arrives on the scene and we are given, “2013 Green Mountain Adventure Challenge” T-Shirts, water bottles, lunch and a knapsack. In addition we are all armed with pens, paper flashlights, and bug repellent. We all also had our cell phones to take pictures, use as a compass, and to Google anything we needed to help us with clues.
Dawn has a tad more stuff. She, who is the least outdoors person on our team, is best-equipped gear wise. (Well actually her husband, knowing she was not an outdoors person, packed a bag for her.) In it she had; an emergency raincoat, flair, lighter, waterproof matches, compass, gloves, umbrella, insect repellent, anti-itch spray, pocket knife, first aid kit, water purifying tablets, pick, scissors, tire pressure gauge, trowel, and glasses.
I don’t know where he thought Dawn was going, but he wanted her to be prepared. At this point she was ready for an episode of “Naked and Afraid.”
Beginning the Green Mountain Challenge
We signed the release forms and read three important things about the clues
1) All clues lie within the Dover area. We can walk; take our cars or bike ride to get to each destination.
2) All clues are hidden in the open. Even our T-shirts could have clues on them.
3) Analyze EVERYTHING and remember what is now something may have been something different back then so take that into consideration. (i.e. a store now may have once been a schoolhouse when Stark was alive.)
We quickly figure out that the first clue is in the West Dover Inn library. It’s a handwritten “letter” written during the wartime from Revolutionary War hero General John Stark to his wife Molly Stark (the same Molly Stark who helped create the Red Cross). John explains to Molly in a cryptic letter that if anything happens to him, he has made plans to secure her safety and instructs her what to do and where to go if she needs help.
We analyze each line of the letter and realize that the second clue has to lie in a cemetery somewhere. We just have to figure out where, and what we are looking for once we get there.
Dawn, meanwhile, is starting to photograph flowers, and Alli is becoming fascinated with the artistic layout of mushrooms and other local fungi as we search. Focus gang!
The Next Clue in the Green Mountain Challenge
Within a half hour we locate the cemetery. We start reading tombstones, looking behind trees for letters or maps, etc. We are not exactly sure what we are looking for we just know another clue lies here.
We snap a picture and read the second clue, only to realize it’s not in English…it’s in some kind of code. We Google, “Mason code deciphering.” because we have a mason key on our T-shirts. Nope that’s not it,
We Google “John Stark secret code.” Nope that’s not it.
Teamwork in the Green Mountain Challenge
Slowly, we realize a pattern in the second letter that matches the first. We plop down on the grass outside of the cemetery and for 45 minutes all five of us help decipher the code. We begin to notice the strengths of each of our teammates.
Alli wants everything done methodically. She was dividing up sheets of paper and wanted to write down all clues.
Gayle just wanted to get down to business and start deciphering.
Alyce worked quietly and was figuring out the letter as we all talked.
I take it all in, write it down, and want to move on with no breaks to the next destination.
With code deciphered we head to where we believe the next clue is.
A Shopping Break in the Green Mountain Challenge
On the back of the second letter is a partial hand-drawn map.
With the letter deciphered and sketched map as our guide, we head towards where we believe the next location is.
The clue refers to a drinking establishment so we head inside.
While Alli, Gayle, Alyce and I are asking questions, Dawn notices a cute little store across the street called Mountainside Gallery & Gifts. In the window it says, “We sell stuffed Alpaca bears.”
I see Dawn’s face light up and I see we are losing her to the lure of local merchants and unique gifts. Dawn states, “Oh, I have to go inside and see them…I’ll be right back.”
So now Dawn is shopping, and Alyce joins her momentarily to make sure she comes back out.
Gayle, Alli and I head over to a local bridge to find out some history facts so we are able to answer a trivia question that will give us another clue… (I’m telling you folks; Philip Jr. had us running all over the place! But it was awesome!)
Dover Enjoys Green Mountain Challenge
Meanwhile, the locals are totally amused by all this, they see a bunch of people dashing around town, stopping in stores asking people for clues, and just searching.
Plus we’re an easy group to spot, all us treasure hunters have bright blue T-shirts on…we are the marked gold diggers.
We get stuck on the third clue. We have three bits of maps that are supposed to lead us to the clue. We know we are in the right area but have overshot it by a mile. We back track. We stop drivers and we ask local people.
Clue 3 in the Green Mountain Challenge
We check every stream and rock and tiny dirt road, but cannot find it. We meet others who say they have been looking for this same clue for three hours now.
We have been searching for two hours. We keep searching. I know we are in the right spot but for some reason cannot see the clue that is right out in the open.
At this point, Ali, Gayle and Dawn decide they are going to wait back by the car. Alyce and I decide we are going to walk further into the mountains to see if we can find the trail we are looking for. We walk for a half hour, no luck.
Alli meanwhile has been amusing herself with more photos of mushrooms, Gayle and Dawn are gathering wild berries to eat and are munching on them waiting for our return. They eat their bagged lunches.
The cell phone service is not that good in the woods. We resort to communication with a whistle I have brought.
Alli speaks to a man who says we were on the right track before. Alli gets the directions. Dawn has decided that one day of hunting has tested her outdoor nature to the max and announces she will shop all the next day.
Elusive Clues on the Green Mountain Challenge
Alli, Alyce and I try again down the same road but this time with Alli’s new-found information. Still no trace of this elusive clue.
We try yet another path. This one had high grass and was very muddy. So muddy in fact, it sucked up Alli’s shoe. For the rest of the trail she was making a squeaky noise as she walked.
We continued further on this path, even though my gut said it was wrong, but we had tried the other paths unsuccessfully.
At first we felt like frustrated fools, but then didn’t feel so bad because the other team was still out there searching as well. We teamed up with them, and yet we still cannot find it.
Time for a Break
As Alli is walking, at one point she twists her ankle a bit. She says it doesn’t hurt, but we decide that after 6 hours of searching, and since it will be dark soon, we should call it a day.
We piled in my car, but not before I made everyone take off their muddy sneakers. I make a mental note to bring three pairs of sneakers when I do this next year.
We head back to the West Dover Inn after a full day of searching and only 80 points. Determined, we decide since we only have one more day left due to everyone’s time constraints, we will resume our search at 7 a.m.
Calling It a Night
That night, we grab dinner at the one of the places we had gotten some help from earlier in the day. The place is busy so I actually play waitress and take my team’s order and hand it in.
We see other treasure hunters, and exchange tales. One couple has been at it for three days and has 380 points but just can’t seem to find the bonus points to get them to 530. We drool at the thought of being at 380.
After dinner we head back to the Dover Inn. We see the couple that had been searching since 11:30 a.m.…they found the next clue!!! They give us a hint of what we are not seeing. We are determined to find it quickly the next day.
At night we are told to make sure that the back door was locked otherwise the bears might just nudge the door and head on in. Apparently the bears like the lodging as well.
Day 2: The Search Continues
The four of us, refreshed, find the elusive clue right away this morning. How could we have missed it?
We knew from other booty hunters that the next clue would take about four hours to find. At that point, Alyce and Dawn said they had to leave. So what do we all do?
We take a quick shopping break to our now favorite store, the Mountain Side Gallery. The owners, Walter and Marianne Furgalack, are dolls. We walked in just to check it out, but wound up getting Walter involved in helping us find clues.
In the meantime, I find an actual antique treasure chest circa 1877. I thought it would be the perfect reminder of this journey, so I bought it. But why stop there?
I also buy a unique wolf painted on a Canadian goose feather by artist Pat Morris. As we all shopped, I wound up telling the Walter and Marianne about my book, “Hopeville: the City of Light.” They bought two e-books on Amazon right there on the spot! They also checked out Alli’s puzzle art and talked about displaying her art in their store.
After a half hour and several dollars spent, Aylce and Dawn had to leave. We checked out of the West Dover Inn and bid goodbye to two of the “Fearless Five” team members.
Fearless Five Now Just Three
Now it was just the three of us. We headed over the river and into the woods to where we believed the next clue lay.
Forty minutes into the woods, the clouds grew dark. We took a quick vote: Should we continue? We decided yes.
Within minutes we heard a clap of thunder. Then a torrential downpour came. Alli yelled, ‘We need to get off the path. What if there is a flash flood?” We took shelter under some low-lying trees.
As we were standing there waiting for the storm to pass, a die- hard treasure hunting husband and wife team came walking by. They asked us how much further. We guessed about an hour.
Finding Another Clue
We all hung out for a few minutes under the trees. The storm slowed and we made our move. Something about trudging a muddy mountain path together makes for fast friends.
After another two hours, we found the clue–a saddlebag. We snapped pictures of one another and headed back. It took five hours to complete that one clue. We were told the next clue might even take longer to find.
Sadly we realized we were going to need another full day to gather all our points. We were only up to 105…so we decided instead to have a relaxing meal as a partial team. We ate a delicious gourmet meal at the West Dover Inn, then said our goodbyes and headed home.
This was a brilliant adventure on all levels. It brought us in to local stores, up beautiful mountain passages so we got exercise, made us do mental gymnastics with the decoding and introduced us to new friends along the way as we all searched for a common goal.
I will definitely be up for the challenge next year, and prepared to search until I find the treasure…all of it. This year’s winner will be announced Oct. 1st.