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Outdoor writing winner: Voyage to Discovery

Voyage to Discovery by Annie Bortz was the winning entry in The Spokesman-Review 2015 High School Outdoor Writing Contest.

 (Dale Hamilton)
Voyage to Discovery by Annie Bortz was the winning entry in The Spokesman-Review 2015 High School Outdoor Writing Contest. (Dale Hamilton)

The bus full of teenagers arrived at the undisclosed location at 9 a.m. Although we had been at camp as counselors in training for the past three weeks, we were unprepared but excited for the secret trip our leaders had been hinting at the whole week.

“Just bring a swimsuit, lots of sunscreen, and a good attitude,” they had insisted while they brushed off our many questions.

We stampeded off the bus and began speculating as to where we were. Someone spotted a sign stating “Canoe and Kayak: Sales, Rentals, and Trips,” and, after a chorus of “I-told-you-sos” and “I-knew-its,” our leaders were able to quiet us down long enough to give us directions.

They asked us to form groups of three, grab a canoe from the rack, and drag it to the water. Once we were ready, they gave us brief discussion of safety and let us go.

Our canoe was a faded forest green and unstable. As I cautiously stepped into the wobbly boat, I was unprepared for the journey ahead. Lilly and Hannah, and I thought we would be on the river for an hour, maybe two. Three hours later however, we were in deep water.

While initially we had enjoyed ourselves immensely, my friends and I soon realized that we were in over our heads. We had fallen behind the group which had disappeared from our sight at a bend downriver. When we reached it, they were nowhere to be seen. Now we were not only exhausted but abandoned.

My only past experience with boating was the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland, unfortunately making me the most knowledgeable member of our crew. With only three peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches to sustain us, we paddled frantically in an effort to catch up, but it was hopeless.

We were lost and completely baffled as to how our fellow counselors were suddenly nautical experts.

Frustrated and defeated, we did what three dirty, sweaty, tired teenagers would do: We complained. Our whining was pathetic. “I’m so hungry,” “It’s so hot,” “I’m so tired.”

We continued like this for some time until we had a revelation. Looking up we saw a wonderland of towering trees. Colorful meadow flowers grew on the banks of the river. It was an Elysium of crisp air and cool water, a utopia of emerald lily pads and delicate blue dragonflies.

The crystal-clear water that lapped against our canoe was a window to another world; aquatic plant forests patched the river floor and small snails were clinging to their tall, wavy homes. I was mesmerized and humbled by this unexpected universe.

Our grievances turned to appreciation for the chirping of birds. Our vexation turned to gratitude as we began to comprehend the grandeur of the gift given to us. Our exasperation turned to positive energy and motivation to succeed.

The next three hours were spent in cheerful chatter. Time went by so much faster than the hours before that we were taken by surprise when we finally saw the rest of our friends impatiently waiting for our late arrival at an alcove under a bridge. After a long but ultimately serendipitous journey, we arrived dead-tired and stomachs rumbling, but incredibly proud.

That day, I gained an understanding that I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to, it is only a matter of attitude. I did not need to make the lemonade; I just needed to see that it was there for the drinking.

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