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Essay leads to trip of a lifetime for Inwood youth

Next Generation

Next Generation

October 13, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

INWOOD, W.Va. -- Casey Densmore capitalized from an encounter he had with a grizzly bear in Alaska last year to win the trip of a lifetime.

Casey, 12, of Inwood, said he was on vacation at Denali National Park and Preserve with his mother and grandparents when they saw a grizzly bear devouring a caribou carcass in the wild. As they observed the bear in its natural habitat, Casey said, a lone wolf gingerly moved in to share the feast.

Keeping its distance, the wolf howled and was answered by other wolves in the forest, Casey said. The family left the scene, but when they returned a little later, the bear, wolf and caribou were gone.

Casey said he used that experience to write one of 15 winning essays as part of the National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge. His prizes: a trip to Australia and Tasmania, and a Nikon D-60 camera.

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"When I read the contest rules ... The first thing that popped in my mind was I could write a really good essay," Casey said.

Casey said the best part of the trip, which lasted from July 17 to 28, was meeting new people and getting to interact with wildlife. He said he held a koala bear that smelled like a "giant cough drop" and petted a baby kangaroo in its mother's pouch. When he wasn't learning about exotic animals, Casey said he and the other children on the trip helped build Tasmanian devil habitats.

"We watched them release the Tasmanian devils into their habitat," Casey said. "They explored and then ate the meat we left for them."

With the exception of souvenirs, Casey said he didn't have to pay a dime during the trip. The only thing National Geographic expected in return was for the participants to write a blog for the magazine's Web site.

Casey said he is using the camera he won to study photography.

One day, Casey would like to return to Australia, he said, adding that the only downside of the trip was the 14-hour plane ride.

"But hey, if you're going to go to Australia, it's awesome," Casey said. "Take the flight."

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