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A year-and-a-half ago, my husband and I chose to make a blessing of his recent layoff with a nearly three week trek across the U.S. Our final destination: Portland, Oregon.

We never expected to have a shot at another vacation with the photos we took along the way.

In November, I joined my friend Kerstin half way between our homes at Mt. Rainier. In preparation for a bit of a snowshoeing tromp, we chatted with a friendly park ranger about trails and precautions.

As we talked, I noticed a brochure for a national parks photo contest. Given the grand prize of a four day trip to any national park, an annual parks pass, $500 cash, and other amazing treats, I convinced Kerstin we both needed to enter the contest.

I’ve been itching for a sunshine vacation after Portland’s rain from November to July last year, and this seemed like our ticket to a serotonin boost.

Given my tendency to procrastinate, I spent most of December 31st going through photos and asking family members for opinions. After much deliberation, I chose the following three entries.

Scrambling to upload the photos before our New Year’s Eve celebration, I skimmed through the official rules and noticed a contest theme for the first time: “Showcasing the Best of America’s Recreational Opportunities.”

So at the last second, I switched out the third photo above for one more focused on recreation, though far less visually interesting to me. Just in case this is more what they’re looking for, I thought, and entered a photo of Ben sledding down a sand dune at White Sands National Monument.

Wouldn’t you know it, the quick switch photo made it into the semifinalist stage! Hilarity.

As you peruse the many incredible photos in the contest and see one after another you’d like as your computer background, just ask yourself if you even knew sand sledding was a recreational opportunity before seeing the photo of Ben.

Keeping the recreation theme and serotonin boost in mind, we’re hoping you may still vote for my photo, even if you wouldn’t want a photo of my husband framed on your wall!

You can vote every day at http://www.sharetheexperience.org/ between now and January 31st. Enter your information once and you’ll be entered in a sweepstakes to win a $100 REI gift card every time you vote.

Our photo is on page 11 when you view the complete gallery. Or you can type Halley into the “search for a specific photo” bar.

Here’s to increased serotonin and unexpected blessings!