Shelli and Bill Gregory of Lexington often take their three children to a Kentucky state park on weekends to spend time together outdoors.
But this year, Shelli Gregory said, the family wanted to add a challenge to their pastime. They entered the Kentucky Department of Parks' Family Adventure Quest, a scavenger hunt for teams of families or friends.
The Gregorys and their children Allie, 13, Will, 11, and Clay, 6, began their quest on Friday at Waveland, an antebellum mansion in Fayette County. They called themselves the Storming the Castle team, a reference to one of their favorite scenes in the movie The Princess Bride.
For their first quest, the Gregorys took on a challenge to visit any historic home and "explore the outside details with the eye of an artist. Share a close up photo of any architectural or structural detail you find particularly beautiful or interesting."
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The Gregorys photographed details on columns and shutters on the exterior of the home at Waveland.
In its seventh year, the Family Adventure Quest presents a series of challenges that teams complete by seeking out facts or objects in Kentucky's 50 state parks and supplying a photo as the answer.
The hunt is not a competition, and teams go at their own pace. The hunt can be completed through Dec. 1. Teams can answer some questions by visiting any of several parks, while some challenges are park-specific.
Depending upon the number of challenges a team completes, members can receive free overnight stays at park lodges, passes to museums or forts or gift cards they can use at state parks.
Teams must have a digital camera to document their progress, and they submit photos on a CD. Each team pays a $15 registration fee and receives items they might need on their adventures — an insulated tote that they can carry food in, a Kentucky State Parks calendar planner, and informational materials.
Eighty one teams including 333 people entered the Family Adventure Quest in 2011, said Gil Lawson, a spokesman for Kentucky's Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. So far in 2012, 80 teams have signed up.
Wendy and Ed Rogers of Mount Sterling and their son Gabe, 12, are in their fourth year of entering the quest. They visited 12 state parks last year.
Already this year, Wendy Rogers said, her family has been to Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Western Kentucky, Big Bone Lick State Park in Northern Kentucky, and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park in Eastern Kentucky.
Wendy Rogers said the Adventure Quest allows her family "to get away from the technology rich world that we live in ...and do things like fishing and hiking," and to see that "there is value in things other than the computer and video games."
Kevin and Alice Green, their son Eric, 9, and their daughter Katherine 17, of Lawrenceburg, have participated for the last few years.
"There is actually a lot of interesting things at the Kentucky State Parks that are usually within a day's drive, and a lot of it is free," Kevin Green said.
For the Greens' first trip in 2012, they will go to General Butler State Resort Park at Carrollton, Kevin Green said.
The Greens have won a $50 gift certificate to the state parks, which Kevin Green said they used to pay their camping fees.
Katherine Green said she is busy during the week with school and extracurricular activities, said she sees the adventure quest as a way she can spend time with her parents and brother.
"It gets in some family bonding," she said.
Meanwhile, Shelli Gregory and her family plan on visiting at least 13 parks in 2012 as part of the Adventure Quest. The Gregorys are studying a packet sent to them by the state to map out their next move.
"We'll plan our summer that way," Shelli Gregory said.