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Restonian wins essay contest celebrating national parks

Reston resident Tracey Long won a contest with her essay about whitewater rafting on the Colorado River (via Tracey Long)

After triumphing over the Colorado River, a local Restonian has won an annual, nationwide contest for her account of the experience., the federal government’s travel planning and reservation platform, invites amateur writers to share stories of their experiences with national parks, forests and other federal recreation locations.

Tracey Long was named the grand prize winner of the 2023 “Share Your Story” contest for an essay about whitewater-rafting with her friends on the Colorado River.

Submitted on June 24, 2023, Long’s essay titled “My Brilliant Whitewater Grand Canyon Adventure” detailed her experience:

We left civilization from Lee’s Ferry, passing under the last vestige of civilization, a giant bridge and headed off for 7 days in the wild. Our days were spent on the river, either calmly floating enjoying the incredible rock formations or riding the incredible rapids in the “bathtub” up front of the raft. This is where you literally have a bathtub of cold water dumped over you (50 degree water mind you) numerous times when going through the rapids and little splashes from the side surprise you just in case you didn’t get enough the first go ’round. I held on tight and laughed with joy the entire time.

Second and third-place grand prize winners were also selected in the contest. They were all awarded REI gift cards and a pass giving them access to federal recreational sites across the country.

A panel of judges also chose winners for each month of the contest, which was open from January through September, and in different categories, including Activities and Adventures, Reaching for the Stars, Traditions (Old and New), Family or Group Travel, and Reflection Journeys.

Sponsored and administered by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the contest is intended to highlight the “customer experience” at federal recreation sites.

“At, we strive to empower people to dream, plan, experience and share our nation’s federal lands and waters,” Program Manager Tommy Drake said. “As the government’s outdoor recreation system for 14 Federal agencies, we welcome the opportunity to encourage visitors to share their memorable experiences which also helps us deliver on our mission to continually improve our service based on what we hear and learn from our users.”

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