Local High Schoolers Win Writing Contest

Four high school seniors in the Novato and Petaluma School Districts won top awards in the Pat Vachini Outdoor Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of California.

“Being out in nature is healing, as we’re experiencing right now with people wanting to enjoy parks and recreation areas safely during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Bob Semerau, OWAC Executive Director. “This award encourages high school students to consider careers in outdoor journalism so they can inspire readers to explore the outdoors.”

In the Feature Article category, Max Bloom of Petaluma High School won First Place for his article “Sailing on Tomales” and Elizabeth Meehan of San Marin High School was awarded Second for “Hiking the Grand Canyon.”

In the News Category, Matt Forney of Petaluma High School won First for “Steelhead Travel the Russian River, Further Tributaries,” and Emily Romero Garcia of San Marin High School took Second for “Ways Covid-19 Changed the Environment.” Altogether, the four winners received checks totaling almost $1,000.

In his article, Max Bloom recounts sailing his 12-foot Laser in high winds along nine-mile Tomales Bay. Landing at the east end he enjoys a beach lunch before hiking to the hill crest that overlooks Point Reyes National Seashore and the Pacific Ocean. On the return sail, the wind dies, and he struggles to row the final distance, arriving at sunset.

Because her parents both work for the National Park Service, Elizabeth Meehan has lived in reserves including Arches National Park and Fort McHenry National Monument, but the Grand Canyon, the subject of her article, is at the top of her list. She describes serenity brought on by the vastness of the Canyon as she and her dad hike the Trail of Time through various life zones.

Each January, winter steelhead migrate up the Russian River to spawn in the same creek as their ancestors—a perilous journey described by Matt Forney in his article. Forney explains the efforts of Warm Springs Fish Hatchery at Lake Sonoma to restore the lost populations of both Steelhead and Coho salmon.

Contemplating the pandemic overwhelming the world, Emily Romero Garcia explains how Covid-19 has conversely benefitted nature: less air pollution from greenhouse gases, lower airline emissions, and clearer water. She concludes the “new normal” is like a reverse zoo: humans are locked away and animals have their freedom. The Pat Vachini Outdoor Writing Contest, which is open to California high school students, is named for the late wife of Don Vachini, long-time OWAC member and one of California’s foremost outdoor writers and photographers.

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