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I promote a lot of travel contests since it’s an easy way for readers to win a free trip and take the vacation of a lifetime. It’s amazing how many JohnnyJet.com readers have actually won contests and I’m only referring to those who are kind enough to let me know.

Well, this past spring, Recreation.gov hosted its inaugural “Share Your Story” adventure writing contest, designed to encourage visitors to our federal public lands to share details of their outdoor adventures and experiences. The contest resulted in more than 1,200 submissions; whether it was a battle with mosquitos, or a life-changing hike, one message that resonated was the integral role our federal public lands played in providing both solace and pleasure during the challenges so many faced in 2020.

“The inspiring stories submitted to the contest solidified the trends we’ve seen over the past year – people across the nation were eager to get outside and experience nature in a whole new way,” said Rick DeLappe, Program Manager at Recreation.gov. “We’re proud that Recreation.gov could play a small part in helping travelers find peace, tranquility and adventure during a difficult year.”

Many of the story submissions can be found on the Recreation.gov – Share Your Story gallery page. The contest resulted in three grand prize winners, whose stories exemplified incredible life-changing experiences that took place on our federal public lands and waterways.

The grand prize winner, Julie Midura, shared her memorable hiking adventure this past year with her mother Madelyn, her mother’s fiancé Herve, and her husband Tom, in her story, “The Hike of a Lifetime”. At the age of 53, Julia has trekked up numerous mountains, but at the ages of 75 and 83, Madelyn and Herve have not. Wanting to share the thrilling experience with her mother, Julie brought her mom and Herve on a hike of a lifetime to the White Mountains, part of the U.S. Forest Service’s White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. Julie received one $2,500 gift card from an outdoor retailer and one America the Beautiful, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

The second-place winner, Serenity Lesley, wrote, “I Wasn’t Prepared For This”. In this story, Serenity received a new sense of gratitude and vision for her life after trekking the grounds of Utah’s Paria Canyon, within the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. With days of a rationed water supply, aching backs, and distressed feet, Serenity’s instinctual survival techniques kicked in and she began preparing for the worst. After falling behind her friends, Serenity took a moment to sit in the canyon’s silence and think about her life. With a newfound determination to give back to the communities around her, Serenity trekked back towards her waiting group. Serenity received a $1,500 gift card from an outdoor retailer and one America the Beautiful, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

The third and final winner, Debjani Mallick, told his story in “The Road Less Traveled: Winter in Yellowstone”. Debjani was longing to return to nature after months of hibernation during the pandemic. With a great sense of urgency and adventure, Debjani made his annual visit to National Park Services’ Yellowstone National Park, but this time in the peak of winter. During this cold and isolated time, Debjani’s visit revealed many new perspectives and different ways to experience a place he already knew and loved. Debjani received a $1,000 gift card from an outdoor retailer and one America the Beautiful, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

To read more Share Your Story submissions, visit Recreation.gov/ShareYourStory. Recreation.gov is the premier one-stop shop – a place with all the tools, services and information you’ll need to dream up your next adventure, plan the details, experience it all first-hand, and then share those stories. With roughly 4,200 facilities and activities and over 113,000 individual reservable sites across the country, Recreation.gov is confident that you’ll not only find what you need, but more importantly create lasting memories and bring home a story.

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