The Youth Conservation Corps 2023 cohort poses for a group photo

Creative Writings from the Youth Conservation Corps: Part 1

Each summer, King County Parks hires local high schoolers to intern in the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. During summer 2023, the YCC interns were challenged to write about their relationships with nature, land, and the environment in a writing form of their choice. 

Through guided activities, the interns explored their personal connection to nature and land with an emphasis on how these relationships change over time or are influenced by life experiences.  

These pages contain a playful poem about a Douglas Fir, a love poem from the land itself, a story of an alley filled with childhood imagination, a heartfelt essay about a lost but not forgotten cow field, and so many more descriptive reflections of our deep connections with land and the places we call home. 

This is the first entry in a three-part series. Be on the lookout for the next entries in the coming months!    

Interested in learning more about the YCC? Want notifications on when applications are open for the 2024 cohort? Go to 

Brianna Tom 

Nature, it is something present to us almost anywhere we go. For me, nature is a place called Holden Village. 

The definition of a rainbow is, “any display of the colors of the spectrum produced by the dispersion of light.” Holden is the light of the rainbow, and these are my colors. 

For red is the color of the raspberries in my daily oatmeal for breakfast. Something I ate on the swinging bench on the porch of my cabin every morning for two weeks, where I listened to people talk, birds chirp, and deer adventure around the village.  

Orange is the color of the raging fires I sat around late at night, listening to all the stories of my new friends and how they came to be in this spot right now in all of their lives. Some of these people with passions and aspirations so high that I know one day they will get to them. These are the people I most likely won’t see again but I will never forget them.  

Yellow is the color of the school buses, repurposed and used to shuttle us up deep into the mountains of rural Chelan. A few hours of driving plus hours of a boat ride and now a bus ride, away from all the cities and internet. Looking outside the window awaiting to see this magical place as rushing rivers and mountain peaks are the only things to be seen. 

Green is the color of the beautiful douglas firs and other species of trees that surround this special that I call home. It is the color of the wet moss that my feet walk across as I adventure into the forest. The feeling of being surrounded by trees and bushes where only the smallest slivers of sunlight can pass through is beautiful.  

Blue is the color of the deep dark sky, speckled with stars and constellations, fully visible to the naked eye. Far from the industry and society, light pollution is nearly non-existent, but a hug from the stars is fully present. 

Purple is the color of the summer dusk skies, right before bedtime, after a long day of hiking. The light lavender color, tinted with specks of blue and pink as I sit on the stones and gaze out at the beautiful sky that has welcomed me. 

Maddy Smith

Ode to a Girl “Vashon Poem” 

She was light like the feather of a tern
Or the sun at midmorning
Her arrival upon my shores was so slight you might’ve missed it
But I feel everything
Every bird that alights upon my wind swept trees
Every boat that heaves her hefty metal chest onto my beaches
Every breeze that teases the reeds clinging to the edges of my ponds

Like the tide
She came and went with a rhythm
I sensed her energy each time she disembarked
As young and tender as a sapling first peeking through the damp, earthy carpet of dropped needles and skeletal maple leaves, veins bared to the elements as flesh is peeled away with time on the forest floor

Her presence took a familiar shape
Akin to the others that used to feast on my abundance of berries and take shelter beneath the full skirts of cedars rooted deeply in my skin
Skin that has long since been carved with winding lanes that resemble creeks but aren’t the same
Scarred over with an unfamiliar hardness, condemning vast stretches of my surface to stagnance

Her presence was like those other shapes in many ways
How she moved
The sounds she made and the places she frequented
Which of my flora she chose nourish herself with

But in many ways she was not like the others
She had within her a depth uncommon for a being so small
She possessed a rare level of awareness of me that mirrored my awareness of her

I could feel her most strongly when she left my scarred surfaces and removed everything between her skin and mine
When her small feet leapt across my wide meadows
And her exhalations sent ripples across the edges of my sea
So small but never insignificant
Never unfelt
A part of me that hadn’t been touched since the first creatures like her disappeared was awoken when she was near
She fit in the space between the roots of my tallest firs like an owlet fits in the space between mother’s wing and nest
A space that I knew then was always meant to be hers
No matter what happened

Time does not exist for me like it did for her
The forces that change me chip away as slowly as amber forms from the blood of pines
But she transformed at the speed of light
Every visit she wore a new skin
Was constantly adjusting to an all consuming growth that reached beyond her physical body and twisted and molded her very essence
And as her footsteps become heavier upon me, her connection to me began to falter
Flickering like a star burning out
Trains of thought roared through her mind without stopping
Their smoke blocking out the clouds of her youthful daydreams

Her energy shifted from the robust glow of midmorning sun to the bittersweet blue of dusk that signals the end of a beautiful day
And just like that
I lost her

I have not felt her featherlight presence for some time now But I have seen the ebb and flow of a million tides The cycles of a million moons I have stood in this salty sea for a million years And I will stand here for a million more Waiting for her to return to the space between the roots of my tallest firs