Third Place: Sunset Hike Gone Wrong
On September 30th my parents surprised us with the news that our family was going to a famous national park! My little sister, Sienna, and I were overjoyed! You’re probably wondering why we were so excited, I mean it’s just some old national park, right? Wrong! We’re going to the massive, stunning and spectacular Grand Canyon!
When we arrived for our sunset hike, we walked to a small clearing to listen to the tour guide with the rest of the group who was already seated. Oh, I hate being late!
The tour guide started telling everyone the rules, but I wasn’t listening. Instead, I was gazing around at the amazing scenery. I could see golden mountains in the distance, a red-tailed hawk swooped down from a nearby tree, and prickly pear cactus was scattered on the ground. No wonder people call it the Grand Canyon, it really is grand!
Right when I decided that we were going to miss the sunset, the tour guide, Amy, announced, “Okay everyone, let’s get going. Just stay on the path and stay with the group.”
When we had walked about two miles I decided to see how much longer until the end of the hike, but when I pulled my phone out of my backpack I remembered there was no cell phone connection. I guess this trip hasn’t started off very well.
“Give me some chocolate-covered pretzels this instant!” Sienna demanded.
Stunned, I shot back, “Sorry Sienna, but I didn’t pack any chocolate-covered pretzels. Mom said to pack only healthy stuff.”
“Fine, just give me the backpack and I’ll eat whatever you did pack,” Sienna said angrily and snatched the backpack from my hands.
Ugh! My sister can be so bossy, but I sat on a nearby bench and looked at the scenery. I tried to be good big sister and patiently waited while she scarfed down the snacks.
A few minutes later Sienna shoved the backpack into my hands; it was so much lighter. When I looked inside it was completely empty except for the crumpled map at the bottom and empty wrappers. I was about to criticize my sister but then I noticed we were all alone. “Where did everybody go?” I asked.
“They’re ahead of us, so let’s hurry and catch up,” Sienna answered.
I was thinking we weren’t going to have any trouble finding our way back to the group until we rounded a corner and there was a fork in the path. I thought about calling mom to ask which path she took, but then I remembered that wouldn’t work.
My shoulders slumped and my heart started racing. After talking it over with Sienna, we decided to take the left path. A little while later we heard a rustle in the bushes and then a skunk emerged. We tried scaring it away, but we walked away smelling rotten. Could this day get any worse?
Unfortunately, I was starting to get hungry but thanks to Sienna, the snacks were all gone. The sun was setting and we knew we were going to miss the sunset from the viewpoint.
We kept walking and searching for the right path and it was almost dark. To top it off it started to rain! As I was starting to cry, Sienna pointed out a cave up ahead and we ran for it. Once inside, I hugged her and said, “Oh Sienna, you’re the best!
We were trying to decide what to do next when a tiny bat swooped down and hung on a branch near our faces. Sienna screamed and we both jumped back. Surprisingly, the bat didn’t move a muscle. So we slowly crept closer to check it out. When we were about a foot away the bat started flying and circling around us. I didn’t know if I was going crazy or something from all the stress of the day because I swear the bat started to communicate with us. He motioned with one of his tiny winged hands for us to follow him. Not knowing what else to do, we did.
Unfortunately, to follow the bat, we had to walk back into the rain. We passed branches that looked like they were grabbing at us, cactus that looked like little, ferocious creatures, and even the full moon looked like an evil eye watching us. From then on, Sienna and I held hands as we stumbled through the dark. Suddenly a twig snapped. Sienna and I froze. A small, furry creature scurried past. We exhaled, luckily it was just a mouse. I was glad Sienna was with me and that I wasn’t alone.
We walked for what seemed like hours and the bat never seemed to hesitate which path to take. Soon we reached a parking lot that was empty except for two cars. One was a big, green van that had the words “Grand Canyon Tour Guide” in large letters on each side. The second car was small and red. I immediately recognized that car as my family’s car. With the light from the moon, I could just make out the familiar shapes of my parents at the end of the parking lot. We ran to each other in what seemed like slow motion. It felt so good to hug my parents! Luckily, they still happily hugged us even though we were smelly, wet, and cold.
When I turned to look for the bat I saw him fluttering in the light of a street lamp. My mom happened to be looking in the same direction and asked, “Is it just me or did that bat just wink at us?” Sienna and I just smiled at each other. I guess little sisters aren’t so bad after all.
Abigail McGarry is from Pflugerville, Texas. She enjoys playing the piano, jumping rope, playing with her brother and sister, and reading in her spare time. She loves animals, slime, and eating ice cream!
Second Place: Lost & Found
“Happy birthday to you…”
I woke up to soft singing. My parents were sitting on my bed with my little sister, Sharon, singing to me. My mom hugged me and smiled.
“Happy birthday honey.” Mom said gently. “Dad and I have a special surprise for you.”. I was instantly curious to find out what her surprise was.
Dad and Sharon grinned. “Today, we are going to your favorite national park!” Dad exclaimed. I gasped, delighted.
“And”, Dad added “We’re taking a hiking tour.”
“WE’RE GOING TO SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!” I hollered and started to dance. “Do we have everything packed? What are we going to see? Where will we hike?” I asked in a hurry. I jumped off my bed and began grabbing items excitedly.
Mom laughed, “Slow down. First, we have to drive to the Smoky Mountains and get to Cable Mill Visitor Center. Then we can answer all your questions.”. She grinned. “Is that a deal?”
I nodded and raced downstairs with Sharon. We gobbled up our breakfast and made preparations. As soon as Mom and Dad came downstairs, we were ready to go.
Within minutes everyone was in the car. “We’re off!” Dad declared. Sharon clapped her hands happily.
Two hours later, we reached the Cable Mill visitor center. We got out of our car and walked up the pathway to the lobby.
A friendly park ranger named Mike answered all of our family’s questions. When we asked him about the tour, he smiled and said “You have picked a great tour. It is a beautiful hike and you girls are going to love the waterfalls”. He gave us a map with the tour route marked on it. “Keep this map safe!” he told us. We thanked him and walked outside.
The tour started near the entrance to the visitor center, where waited with other hikers. Soon, the tour guide arrived. She was a young woman with curly red hair. The guide adjusted her backpack and began to speak.
“Hello hikers!” the guide announced. “My name is Miriam and I will be your tour guide. Today, we will hike from Cable Mill to Abrams Falls. We will stop for a short while at our destination. Then, we will return back to this visitor center, where you can continue your trip through the Smokies. We will start now!”
So off we went on our tour. Miriam showed us many beautiful places. We gasped in awe as we saw rumbling waterfalls and beautiful lakes. We even saw a few elk and some salamanders!
After a fun day basking in nature, our group stopped at Abrams Falls. My family rested under the shade of a tree. The beautiful falls poured down a nearby cliff. Mom pulled out water bottles from her backpack and let everyone have a drink.
I sighed. “That was refreshing.”. I leaned against the tree, completely content. “I enjoyed this tour. The salamanders were so cool to watch.”
“I liked the wildflowers!” Sharon sang.
“I loved seeing elk.” Mom said.
“And the fresh air was wonderful!” Dad said.
We were so busy talking that we didn’t know that our group had left. When we got up to join the group, we found no one. We called out, but only the wind responded.
We had no idea what to do. As we pondered over the situation, Sharon saw a butterfly and started chasing it. She followed it until it flew away. She noticed that she was in a strange place and realized that she was in the forest.
Meanwhile, Dad was trying to use his cell phone to call the visitor center. But alas, the GPS that he had used to drive to the national park had drained all the charge. Mom suddenly noticed that Sharon was missing, and we all panicked! We worried that she might have walked into the forest. So, we decided to leave the hiking trail and venture onto an unmarked forest path.
In the forest, we called out for Sharon but couldn’t find her. Suddenly, we heard a cry. It sounded like Sharon and we rushed in that direction.
“Help!” Sharon squealed. I turned and found her thrashing in a creek, wedged between two rocks. The water was rising quickly. Soon it was up to Sharon’s chest. She gasped for air.
I had no choice. I jumped into the creek and pushed Sharon’s heels underwater while Mom and Dad tugged at Sharon’s arms. They pulled her up along with me. Both of us were soaked, but safe.
As we sat next to the creek, lightning suddenly flashed in the sky. A downpour started. The wind howled. Deer ran home. Robins flew away. We had to get away from the creek and find someplace dry to wait the storm out.
Suddenly, Dad noticed a small cave, big enough for the family to squeeze into. He instructed us to go inside and find a dry spot. Inside the cave, it was dark and cramped but we were glad that it was warm. We waited for the storm to pass.
Finally, the storm ended. Animals returned to the open forest. Our family too crawled out of the cave. We sat on the creek’s shores, feeling numb.
We heard a sound and looked up to see someone walking by. It was a ranger! We were so relieved to see him and called out to him. He was shocked and asked us what we were doing, so we told him our tale. After he heard about our adventure, the ranger decided to drive us back to Cable Mill.
At the end of the day, we walked wearily back to our car. As we started to drive back home, Mom’s phone that she had left in the glove compartment rang. It was a call from Gran. Mom handed the phone to me. I pressed the phone to my ear and said: “Hey Gran, guess what I did for my birthday…!!!”
Ishaana Vishwanath is a fourth grader living in Schaumburg, Illinois. She loves reading, writing, science, and playing the piano. She also enjoys participating in competitions and events. She won the 2018 vocabulary bee championship and was a finalist at the national science bee held by the North South Foundation. Ishaana aspires to become an astrophysicist and science writer when she grows up.
First Place: Alaska
“GATE TO DENALI, ALASKA BOARDING SOON.”
“That’s us!” my brother Leo stated.
“Wow, who knew.” I said sarcastically.
We boarded the plane and made our way to our seats…
“Well this is our row.”
“Alex be nice to Leo.” mom said. “He’s really nervous.”
“Like I’m not.” I thought.
As I stepped off the aircraft i was immersed in a frigid breeze.
“Mom It’s so…” I shivered. “COLD!”
“WELCOME TO DENALI.” The loudspeaker boomed. “WE HOPE YOU HAVE AN AMAZING TIME!”
Suddenly I wasn’t so sure.
3 hours later…
After we had arrived and stowed our luggage, we headed out for dog sledding.
“Welcome!” The instructor greeted us.
“This is Emmie,” He pointed to a white dog with black paws.
“This is Trout,” He pointed to a big brown dog.
“This is Autumn,” He pointed to a black dog.
“And this is Keiko.” He pointed to an old, gray dog.
“Kiki do you love me? Are you riding-” I sang.
“KEIKO not Kiki.”
I felt the red of embarrassment crawl up my cheeks.
“You sure got dad’s singing!” Leo joked.
When he mentioned my dad, everyone got silent for a moment.
My dad had died when I was 3.
“I-I didn’t mean it.” Leo said with regret.
My mom grasped his hand firmly.
After dog sledding, we headed back to the cabin. In the kitchen my brother sat on a small stool. His eyes were red and puffy as if he’d been crying.
“You ok?” I asked quietly.
“That was a stupid thing for me to say wasn’t it?”
“Kinda.” I murmured.
“Look, I’m sorry.”
The next day…….
We headed out to the hiking trail.
“Welcome to the Denali hiking group!” A man in a ranger uniform greeted us with a crisp British accent.
“I’m Ranger Jonathan, Ranger Jon for short. Let’s begin!”
We walked through grounds embroidered with frost and into a forest covered in towering pine trees.
Hours later the ranger called for a break. “Don’t wander too far.”
“Yes sir.” My brother snickered.
We sipped water as we strolled deeper into the woods.
“So, mom what was your favorite part of the hike so far?” I asked.
“Maybe the part when Leo fell into the stream!”
“Leo what was your favorite part?”
“Maybe the part when you started singing!”
“I mean on the hike.”
“Um kids where is the group?” Mom interrupted.
“OK FUNNY JOKE!” I laughed.
We heard a twig break and we all turned sharply.
A deer sprang from cover.
“I wish that was the group.” I murmured.
A blast of cold air swam through my hair.
“It’s getting cold.”
“Mom what are we gonna do?” Leo questioned.
“We’re gonna…” She paused.
“I GOT IT!” I suddenly had an idea, an AMAZING idea.
“Leo do you have that book dad gave you?”
Leo slowly pulled a worn, paperback copy of “My Side of the Mountain” from his pack.
I took the book and flipped through the pages.
“What are you doing Alex?”
“HERE!” I stopped at a page with a small diagram of a tepee.
“Look, this book has diagrams for shelters, hunting traps and more!”
“But it’s freezing!” My mom said doubtfully.
“We still have our coats and we still might find someone who could help.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m with Alex. We should have a backup plan.” Leo agreed.
“Ok, Leo and I will stay back to build a shelter while mom tries to find the group.”
“Ok.” Mom saluted.
We set up on the edge of the forest that was lining the trail so we could see anyone coming or going.
Two hours later…….
We had created the tepee out of long sticks and moss.
We had lined up the sticks in a circle and had secured them with my hairband. Then we had draped long pieces of moss on the outside for insulation.
“This tepee is amazing!” My mom said after her failed attempt to find the group.
We had a bag of trail mix, three apples, and 2 bottles of water.
“I think it’s gonna be enough for one night.”
Just then, soft flakes of snow began to fall.
“What do we do now” Leo asked.
I pulled a deck of cards from my pocket and grinned. Leo groaned.
We spent the next 2 hours playing gin rummy.
“I’m bored of cards.” Leo complained. ”and freezing. Let’s build a fire!”
“What are we gonna light it with?” I asked.
Leo pulled out dad’s old camping knife. It had a fire starter.
“YOU’RE A GENIUS!” I shouted.
We gathered wood and then using the pages of mom’s magazine, we struck the steel rod against the knife and a spark fell. Soon we had a merry little fire burning.
My mom dropped some rocks into the fire and let them warm up before putting them into the tepee.
“What was that for?”
“It will keep the tepee warm.” My mom replied.
We climbed into the tepee and snuggled close.
I woke up to a terrible noise echoing through the woods. I shook Leo.
“It sounds like a kid screaming!” I cried.
“Wait here.” said Leo as he climbed out of the teepee.
He was only gone a minute.
“We are in a bobcat territory.”
“Is that bad?”
“Not really.” He said. “I will build the fire back up.”
I woke up the next morning after little sleep.
Leo yawned from across the fire. He had kept it going through the night.
He was placing green pine boughs into the fire which put off a thick column of smoke.
“Someone’s bound to see the smoke!”
We sat waiting for about an hour until we heard footsteps approaching our tepee.
“Ranger Jon!” I jumped up.
“We’ve been looking all over for you mates!” He smiled. “I saw the smoke from your fire! Very smart thinking!”
Mom looked at Leo and me with a smile. “Your Dad would be proud.”
Sally Halso is in the fourth grade at Club Boulevard Elementary School. Her interests include writing, art, reading, slime, aerial silks, and nature. She’s been writing stories since she could read.