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How to have park rangers searching for you (ParkQuest: Cedarville)

My family is participating in Park Quest this year.  A friend recommended it to us and luckily we were able to get in (it fills FAST!).  Simply put, there are approximately 25 state parks that you can visit over the summer that have set up "quests" for teams to complete.  They are fairly easy so the whole family can enjoy.

For our first Quest, I took the boys to Cedarville State Forest .  This is one of the closer quests to our house and I decided to go without my husband.  He will be travelling for work and will have to miss some of the quests, so I decided I might as well see how one goes without my husband.

This quest seemed fairly simple.  We get to the park, go to the ranger station, sign in and get the directions to find the letterboxes.  There are 4 in the park, but you only need to find two to get the "stamp" in your Quest Passport.  We decided to find the one closest to the ranger station first. So we left our car in the parking lot and headed down the trail.  The trail was really nice and wound through the woods.  We found the first box quickly and easily.  I started to read the instructions to find the next letterbox.  It was on the white trail and we were on the red.  The instructions told us to get into our car and head to a different parking lot.  I checked the map and noticed the white and the red trail met up.  I asked the boys, "Do you want to walk to the next letterbox or drive?"  They were all up for a walk through the woods, so we headed down the path toward the white trail.

Beaver dam

Beaver work

The boys enjoyed the walk.  The trail meandered through the forest.  There were wooden walkways and bridges over streams.  The boys explored and slowed every time they saw a turtle or a toad hopping across the path.  About 1 mile into the hike, we met up with the white trail.  We were still quite a distance from where we would find the letter box.  I began to realize that my brilliant idea to walk to the second letterbox may have been a mistake.  A half mile later, the boys began to ask if we could turn around and just drive to the next part of the quest.  I had to explain to them that we needed to press on and just get to the letterbox.  That, at this point, it would take longer to go back to the car and then walk to the letterbox than it would to continue on.

Letterbox 2
We finally found the letterbox, along with a few more ticks (yuck!).  By this time we had walked over 2.5 miles and took two hours.  I did not want it to take that long to get back, so I told the boys that we would not stop for anything.  My 4 yr old, who had already been carried a good deal, remained in my arms.  I did not want his tiredness to slow us down.  So I carried him most of the 2.5 miles back to the car.

We made great time back.  While still on the trail, but within view of the parking lot, we saw a ranger on an ATV trying to head down the trail.  He saw us and stopped.  I thought he was just waiting for us to pass him.  As we walked passed him, he asked if we had gotten lost.  I thought it was strange that he asked that, considering he was NOT the ranger we talked to in the office.  But I told him "No" and that we had decided to walk from the red to the white trail to the second letterbox.  He just looked at me funny.  As we walked toward the ranger office, the ranger on the ATV zoomed passed us and parked in front of the office.

Then it dawned on me.  I asked, "Were you going to look for US?"  

His response, "Yes.  That Quest normally takes 15 minutes.  You were gone for 3 hours.  With three young kids, we thought you got lost or something happened to you.  There are rangers out looking for you.  We were about 30 min from calling the police."

Oops.  I felt horrible.  Did we really cause that much of a scare??  I walked into the office and the first ranger I saw (again, Not the one I talked to when we checked in) said, "You are back!  We are so glad you are back.  You had us worried!"  

I once again explained what we did.  The ranger seemed incredulous that I would walk that far with kids.  Then the ranger whom checked us in came from the back of the office.  She kept repeating, "I was so worried. I thought something happened to you or one of the kids." (She was a grandmotherly type).  She offered the boys fresh bottles of water (I am sure she feared that they had not had any water the whole hike). I tried to minimize it as much as possible.  I apologized over and over again for causing such concern.  We were fine. I had taken a back pack with my cell phone, bug spray, waters for everyone and snacks.  We were not lost, just out for a fun hike.

We got our passport stamped and then headed to the car.  As I was getting the boys settled in their seats and giving them more food, another ranger in a pick up truck stopped and asked , "Is this your van?" I said, "Yes."  He then proceeded to explain that he had been out looking for us! Oh,boy! At that point I wanted to just crawl out of the park and not go back!!

We are probably black listed anyways! ;)


  1. Ha! what a fun memory for your kids, 'remember that one time we caused a scare in a state park and had rangers searching for us...' Well done!

  2. That is really impressive ~ both the rangers diligence (though I would be surprised if you were the first family to hike between post boxes) and that you carried your 4 yr old 2.5 miles!! WOW!

  3. Oh my gosh, what a story! :)
    Park Quest sounds awesome though...definitely have to remember it for when my boys are a little older!

  4. Cedarville was my families first Quest ever and we had a blast as well. My husband said the same thing about walking to the second letter box. Glad we did not do it! The Park Rangers were great there. Makes one feel safe! Hope to see you on the trails ~ Cassandra from Team Los Marineros

  5. Funny story! I think it is strange that most people now a days think that if you actually walk for 3 hours with your kids, then you must be lost or hurt! That sure shows you what a sedentary culture we live in!!

  6. And where is Cedarville? I see on the map that it is between Charles and Prince George's Counties. I grew up in Charles County but I never heard of it. I live in GA now. I am going to see if there are any programs like this here. Sounds like a LOT of fun! Enjoy the parks!


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