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Hiking in Tennessee, fishing in Maine

here's what you did this summer. (And some of you took NeXt along with you!) This is positively the last word on summer vacation until next year!

In late August, I packed into a van with a friend and eight of her relatives to drive to Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tenn. It took 14 long hours to get there, but it was worth it.

The mountains get their name from the smokelike haze that envelops them. Our chalet was on the side of a mountain and was reached along a narrow, winding road with no guardrails.

If you like airbrushed T-shirts and miniature golf, then Gatlinburg is the place for you. (I was amazed how much it resembled Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ont.) Visitors are able to take a ski lift or sky car to the top of the mountain, for a small charge, of course. Hiking is a must.

The park has hundreds of miles of trails. I had looked forward to seeing the sunset or sunrise over the mountains, but our chalet faced south, with trees on all sides. We did have a spectacular view of the mountains, though. Not all of the beauty of these mountains needs to be seen up close. Sometimes just sitting on your porch with a cup of hot chocolate is nice.

Tracy Ann Heyd is a senior at Cheektowaga Central High School.

Every summer my family goes to Bar Harbor, Maine. It takes 15 hours to get there. We stayed in a tent camper at a campground on the ocean. We had great weather during the day and a few rainy nights.

We took two cruises: a whale and puffin watch and a cruise to an island -- Frenchboro -- with a population of about 40. We went bike riding in Acadia and down Cadillac Mountain. The Cadillac Mountain bike ride was after sunrise, and we had breakfast at the top of the mountain. We went on a deep-sea fishing charter and each caught about four fish (mackerel and cod). We also climbed five mountains and enjoyed shopping in the very pretty town of Bar Harbor as well.

Rachel Marks is a ninth-grader at Lakeshore Middle School.

I first went to Camp Seven Hills in Holland when I was 9, but I was finally old enough to spend three weeks there as a counselor-in-training this summer.

First was a training week -- learning first aid, how to deal with problems and observing activities (arts and crafts or sports) so we could choose one to specialize in. The second week, I lived in a cabin and helped a counselor with Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts, ages 6 to 10.

I had never realized there was so much that counselors did. There are so many little things campers take for granted. For instance, they never realize the counselors have to go and get supplies for cleaning and cookouts.

The last week, we chose an activity to help with. I chose sports. We also learned more about what makes the camp run and set up activity stations for campers.

Sara Mehltretter is a sophomore at Mount Mercy Academy.
This summer I attended the Philips Academy summer session in Andover, Mass.

When my parents first told me about it, I wasn't too thrilled. The thought of spending five weeks in a strange place away from my friends was not my idea of fun.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful campus. I found the classes, pre-calculus and study skills, to be challenging yet manageable. While there was homework, it was not as tedious as one might think. There was still plenty of time for social activities.

Many of my fondest memories were centered around my dormitory. While Andover is a small town, Boston is fairly close. There were many school-sponsored trips to beaches or for shopping and tours to universities including Harvard, Tufts, Yale and Dartmouth.

Christopher Wan is a junior at Williamsville South High School.

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