Youth Nature Writing Contest Results

Youth Nature Writing Contest Results
"Tales from the Trail: A Hiker's Story"
Lewis and Clark NHP is pleased to announce the results of the fourth annual Youth Nature Writing Contest. This year's theme was "Tales from the Trail: A Hiker's Story." Through the contest, high school writers from Washington and Oregon shared about their favorite hiking experiences and places they love to explore here in the Pacific Northwest.

This year's volunteer literary judge was award-winning journalist Cassandra Profita who writes and produces for Ecotrope, an Oregon Public Broadcasting blog about regional environmental stories. Ms. Profita said she enjoyed reading through this year's essays and wrote comments for the top five finishers.

Every year one group of essays rises to the top due to the guidance of an adult who teaches students the art of crafting a compelling story. This year the spotlight goes to Neah-Kah-Nie High School teacher Marisa Real who took her students on hikes, taught them about sensory detail, and encouraged them to revise their work into poetic prose. Six out of the top ten, including the winner, were from Neah-Kah-Nie High School. One can make a difference.

The top winners won the following prizes:
1st Place: $100
2nd Place: $75
3rd Place: $50
4th Place: Hiking water bottle
5th Place: Hiking water bottle

The 2012 Lewis and Clark National Historical Park-Youth Nature Writing Contest was sponsored by the National Park Service and the Lewis & Clark National Park Association.

Gabby 1st place 2012 writing contest
Gabrielle Hendrickson

First Place: "The Forest"
Author: Gabrielle Hendrickson; Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 9

Gabrielle Hendrickson has always had a special love for nature and animals. Raised in Hillsboro, Oregon and currently living in Wheeler, Oregon she now attends Neah-Kah-Nie High School as a freshman. Gabrielle has grown up around animals, from dogs to cats and horses, and has a dog of her own named Delila. The woods she based her piece "The Forest" on were very much real, and she spent much time in them as a child. These woods also had a hand in her love for fiction books she avidly reads almost daily.

Excerpt from: "The Forest"
An intricate archway of branches frames the entryway to my forest, a place of comfort and familiarity. It is Wonderland, and I am Alice. No rays of light were able to penetrate the tightly interlocked branches, offering no warmth, no light. The silent wood was cast into eternal night. More... Audio...
Judge's Comments:
This lean and muscular account of a blind and barefoot walk in the woods was captivating. It has nicely varied sentence structure, an intriguing narrative arc, and mysterious allusions to the writer's character. I want more! I had to wonder whether the story blurred the lines between real and surreal beyond the boundaries of non-fiction. Regardless, the writing is excellent.

Anisha web
Anisha Datta

Second Place: "The Creek"
Author: Anisha Datta, Glencoe High School, Grade 10

I come from a small northwestern town, nestled in the hills of the Willamette valley, called Hillsboro. Over the course of 15 years, my interests and hobbies have spread over a diverse field, which, in my opinion, has allowed me the chance to learn and create in a variety of mediums. My interests vary from Biology to Chinese weaving. I love nature, the flora and fauna that make up our world. I love logic, the puzzles of numbers that seem to be placed at random places, but eventually make up a pattern all on its own. Writing, especially poetry, is a serious passion; a category where, among other awards, I have won Silver medal at the 2012 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and placed second at the 2011 National Manningham Poetry Contest. I continue my interest in writing as a staff reporter for my school newspaper. I also enjoy playing the piano and running track in the spring.

Excerpt from: "The Creek"
My bike skids to a stop at the corner by The Black Fence. I quickly scramble over it and set foot on the spongy ground. The reeds sway and bend, bathed in golden sunlight. I breathe deeply. The air tastes like leaves and sun and summer and water. My foot brushes against a fuzzy dandelion head, sending seeds flying over the plain, promising more life. Crawdad rock juts out of the water like a chipped camel hump. More.... Audio...

Judge's Comments:
I liked the action-oriented nature of this essay. I could feel the characters prying into nature - peeling through the layers of the creekside and indulging in their splendor. The writer uses wonderful descriptors throughout.

Dana web
Dana and her dog Baxter

Third Place: "Nature's Beauty"
Author: Dana Moore, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 10

Dana Moore is a sophomore living on the Oregon Coast with her mom, older brother, and two dogs, Baxter and Lily. Currently, Dana is Sophomore Class President, Track Manager, the Leo's Club Historian, and a basketball, volleyball, band, and National Honor Society member. Nature played a huge part in her childhood and she has always cherished the outside world, while writing has been a long-time passion that continues to shape every day of her life.
Excerpt from: "Nature's Beauty"
Never before have I lived in such a serene setting. All of our other houses had been located in busy neighborhoods where somehow a lawnmower always seemed to be churning, and cars were constantly zooming along a not-so-distant freeway. It's not like that here though. Being surrounded by sky-high pines, budding green underbrush and an expansive bay estuary sucks the man-made clatter out of the world. All that's left is the endless twitter of birds and the rustle of branches. Living in such beauty encouraged me to explore the serpent-like trails that crisscross the point, and the fond thoughts of nature I was left with after one hike in particular still affect me today. More.... Audio

Judge's Comments:
This writer strikes the perfect balance of broad personal insight and detailed description of the trail scene. Not only was I transported, but I knew why I was there.

Chris H
Christopher Hinkle

Fourth Place: "Tales from the Trail"
Author: Christopher Hinkle, Cleveland High School, Grade 11

I'm a junior at Cleveland High School in Portland. I have valued spending time hiking in Oregon's forests and natural areas for my whole life and have also long enjoyed writing about my experiences. Being outdoors is my way of relaxing, rejuvenating, and having fun. I enjoy a variety of outside activities. I'm an avid birder, a hobby I've enjoyed since age seven, and I also like backpacking, skiing, running, and simply going for walks and seeing what I can see in the woods. This contest was a great way to express my love of nature and to share it with others.

Excerpt from: "Tales from the Trail"

The woods were ringing with the beautiful song of Hermit Thrushes. I took in a deep breath of crisp mountain air, filling my lungs. The aroma of pine needles and fresh sap lingered in the air. The world was silent except for the peacefully singing birds. To me, hiking is about experiencing nature and rejuvenating the soul. When I step into the forest and look around me, my head clears, like a rebirth of my health. I'm always reluctant to head home after a day on the trail, but I never fail to return with a crystal clear mind and renewed spirits. More...

Judge's Comments:

This essay feels earnest and reflective. I enjoyed the leisurely pace, thoughtful observations and the specific bird references.

Rebecca youth writer
Rebecca Savage

Fifth Place: "Secret Silence"
Author: Rebecca Savage, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 9

I'm Rebecca and I was born in Prineville, Oregon. I have moved back and forth between the coast and Prineville several times in my short 15 years of life. Now I have been living on the coast for a total of four years. The inspiration for my story came from the D3 ranch in Prineville that was started by Douglas D. Dent, and brought to beauty through the hard work of him and my Grandpa Bob Holliday. My main interests are running, writing, and singing. I also enjoy the times I get to go back to my hometown and see my Grandparents who live there.

Excerpt from: "Secret Silence"
A gentle breeze cooling my fair skin from the bright hot sun. My mind wanting nothing more than a distraction. What better way than to take off down the trail that I have grown so familiar with? Something about the open space and fresh scent of juniper tree always drags me back. I know all the twists and turns by heart. I get the same sweet feeling of escape every time my shoes hit the dirt path. Tap, tap, tap is the sound of my shoes with every long stride I take. This being the only noise not provided by the gentle scenery surrounding me. More... Audio...

Judge's comments:
I enjoyed the straightforward writing style in this piece about escaping down a juniper-scented trail. The writer offers just enough detail to paint the scene and share some personal thoughts within a tight story structure.


Sixth Place: "Chains"
Author: Sierra Dement, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 9

Seventh Place: "Revival"
Author: Ilia Savin, Lake Oswego High School, Grade 11

Eight Place: "Whispers of Nature"
Author: Julia Baker, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 9

Ninth Place: "Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain"
Author: Yoisa Godinez, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Grade 9

Tenth Place: "The Hike"
Author: Marshall Swearingen, Home School, Grade 9

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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