Lost at Minister Creek

So, one day back during my intern days at the Warren Times Observer, we got a call that some Americorps kids were in town, doing work on a trail in the Allegheny National Forest. I honestly can’t recall if I volunteered for the assignment or whether it was given to me–although odds are pretty good I volunteered.

I called my little brother, Jonathan (aka Burrito…but, again, another tale for another day). I was probably 22 then, so he would’ve been 19. I called him because a.) he loves the woods, and b.) he was interested in Americorps. Oh, and c.) I could get lost in a paper bag.

The city editor told me to make a right at the first fork in the trail and follow it until I found the Americorps group. “They shouldn’t be too hard to find,” he said. *Snort*.

So, armed with one of the paper’s cameras (a lovely Nikon D70…I miss that bad boy), my reporter’s notebook, and my brother, I set off for Minister Creek. We started hiking, and went right at the first fork.

And we hiked. And hiked. And hiked some more.

No Americorps. For hours.

I took advantage of the situation and took many pictures, which may have survived the Great Reformat of ’05 on my mom’s laptop…who knows. One of my favorites was a shot of a very old, rusty oil well-rig-thingy, all by its lonesome in the middle of a peaceful meadow. Something about that scene, the juxtaposition of industrialism and nature, entranced me.

We hiked. And hiked. And hiked some more.

We came to a plateau, a big rock shelf where you could look down and see the ground a good 30-40 feet below. Not for the faint of heart. I laid down on the rock and snapped a few shots.

And we hiked. And hiked. And hiked some more.

I was getting tired. We’d been out there for probably 2-3 hours, in the July heat, hiking a very hilly area. And I still hadn’t finished my assignment.

I hate giving up. I really do. The last thing I wanted to do was go back to the office, after being out in the woods all day, and say, “Oh, sorry…no go on the story. Got anything else for the front page?” But finally, I was too exhausted to go any further. I sat down on a log while my brother, who swore he’d heard voices nearby, ran off in one last, desperate attempt to get the story. I was starting to question my brother’s mental stability–I heard no voices.

A minute later, he calls my name. I climb the steep hill, again, round a corner, and there they are. The Americorps group. The story.

Turns out, we didn’t take the first fork. We took a deer trail. Story of my life. But I got the shots I needed, did the interview, and my brother grilled them about life in Americorps. So, the day had a happy ending after all.

Except I still had to go back and write the story. In all actuality, though, in journalism, writing the story is usually the easiest part. You just think up a catchy or informative (depending on whether it’s feature or news) lede, organize all of your information, and throw your quotes in. It’s getting the story that, as this tale proves, can be a bit harder sometimes. Chasing down people and information and facts and figures, that can be a challenge from time to time. That’s why, when people cheat in journalism, they don’t usually plagiarize–they make it up.

But if this tale proves anything else, it’s that chasing that elusive story can be more fun than anything. Even–especially–if you take a deer trail.

-Kristin B.