What Is Your Favorite Memory of America’s National Parks?

| 9/25/2009 10:31:31 AM

Tags: national parks, question to readers, Ken Burns, PBS, Great Smoky Mountains, CU,

Buffalo national parks 

This Sunday, Sept. 27, PBS kicks off their six-part series by Ken Burns about America’s national parks. The series is magnificent, as befits the subject, and hopefully it will inspire a reinvigorated interest in our nation's most beautiful natural spaces. (Find out more about the series in The National Parks: America’s Best Idea – A New Series from Ken Burns and PBS, a write-up by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors covering all six episodes.)

Along the same lines, we asked you a couple of weeks ago which national parks you visited most recently. The exciting news is that of the 949 readers who took the poll, 711 have been to a national park recently. And of the specific parks listed, Great Smoky Mountains National Parks recorded the highest number of poll-taking attendees, with 210 votes. (You can see the full survey results below.)

And that’s not all. Some of our readers have been sharing remarkable photos from their national park visits at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS photo-sharing site, cu.MotherEarthNews.com — from the Great Smoky Mountains to Glacier National. If you have photos from a recent park visit, put ’em up! We love them, and, who knows, they may appear in the CU department of the magazine.

Now, though, we want to hear your stories. What’s your favorite memory of our national parks? We know that MOTHER’s readers have some good ones, so take a minute to share them below. Haven’t been yet? Where do you want to venture first?

Photo by iStockphoto 

9/29/2009 7:34:13 PM

I worked for the NPS for 18 1/2 years before taking a job with another land management agency. I had the privilege of living and working in 4 different parks and visiting many more for both work and pleasure. One of my many favorite memories was when I was living in Yosemite NP. During one winter, I lived in Yosemite Valley. During full moon nights after a good snow storm, I would go cross-country skiing around the Valley. There was enough light from the reflection of the moon on the snow that I was able to see and did not need a headlamp. The sound of the waterfalls, howling coyotes, various nocturnal animal noises and the swoosh of my skis was truly memorable. I would often stop skiing to listen just to the night noises and drink the the sight of the snow covered crevices on the rock wall faces, the frozen mini waterfalls and blankets of snow on the Valley floor. It completely rejuvenated my soul. I moved out of Yosemite in 1992 and I can still picture the moon-lit winter Valley as if it were yesterday.

sally sudderth mandell
9/28/2009 5:40:41 PM

My cherished husband, Tom, and I were married in September of 2006. Tom was a trucker and loved traveling. We decided to do a road trip and see monuments and national parks. Included in our trip was Mt. Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier and Arches. It was the most fun I had ever had on a road trip. We took lots of photos and video. Sadly my Tom was killed in June of 2007, just 9 months after we were married. I cherish the Time we did have together enjoying nature and natural wonders.

9/28/2009 9:19:08 AM

We went to Acadia National Park 3 years ago as a family. My only regret is that we did not stay there longer. The park was beautiful. The ocean and the rocky coastline was breathtaking.

9/28/2009 8:03:15 AM

As an edition to a post I wrote yesterday, I watched the program last night and it was beyond awesome!! I hope Ken Burns wins an Emmy or whatever PBS awards their documentaries. I can't wait to watch the entire program. Thanks to all the funding sources that allowed him to work and put this together.

ruth forester
9/27/2009 10:10:38 PM

May I add, on our way to California, we followed the old route 66. It was a scenic and amazing journey in an old '49 Ford that frequently vapor locked. Among many intriguing places along the way were the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, and the Hoover Dam. We collected little jars of the various colors of sand and rocks to be found. We saw our first horny toads, Road Runners, Joshua Trees, many species of cacti, and "felt" the prescence of lurking rattlers.

ruth forester
9/27/2009 9:56:55 PM

As a child growing up in Missouri, we would make trips to California to visit my mother's parents. They would make a point to take us camping in the Sequoia National Park. The giant redwoods are the most awesome things I have EVER seen. I truly believe they MUST be protected. They are irreplaceable! I was spellbound to think what the world was like when those giants were young! Seeing the big trees and the ocean for the first time were breathtaking experiences in my young years!

zach roberts
9/27/2009 7:25:54 PM

I drove across country several years ago hitting several of the National Parks... It was the single greatest experience of my life. Thank you Teddy Roosevelt for creating the park system and thank you to all the underpaid and under-appreciated NPS employees who keep it running. Here's my favorite memory from national parks.. http://photos1.blogger.com/img/235/6834/640/DSC_0187.jpg http://americandreamproject.blogspot.com/

roy fritz
9/27/2009 3:05:29 PM

At 14 my father took me to see the inside of Glacier Park. And with a minimum of food we hiked back into the mountians and lived off the land for 8 days. We ate alot of fish and picked berries. I saw so many different types of animals and watched as they lived in their struggling ways. I drank water from glaciers as they melted in the sun. I swam in ice cold creeks and then swam in hot pools beside the creeks. The memory of the nights will always be there for me to dream about. Between all of the flowers and the animals that live in and around the park the small ones are the ones that atract me the most. He had me sit on the ground and just watch all of the little things that live on the land we walk upon. I watched the birds of prey take their food at the same time I saw tiny insects work to take food back to their homes for the winter. He showed me things of natures way and I begain realize that all animals live off of each other. Waking up in the morning was the best parts of our trip, with the frost on the plants and ground and there sitting beside a morning fire I saw things that will never be truely discribed in words that do it justice. Before me rose the sun and as its rays of warmth melted the frost and it became a display of lights sparkling and moveing as it flowed down from the leaves to the ground. They splashed without a sound but as I sat there I could see life arise to meet the day and the flowers drank the sunshine and took the moisture from the frost and used it for their life. As the flowers drank deer came thru and ate the sweet grass with the dew shining upon it. It was if they were eating crystels of light. With all things waking up I understood that we are but a small part of this world. My children have seen the same things and understand how nature works. Our national parks are there for all to enjoy we need to take care of them.

g. a. smith
9/27/2009 12:26:13 PM

When I was 9, I didn't know life existed beyond 15 square miles. I helped my older brother deliver newspapers in the Boston suburbs. My world existed only as tenement houses, elementary school, friends, newspapers and the Boston Bruins hockey team. That was until my father, brother and I took at trip to Yosemite in 1969. Talk about a mind altering, life changing experience? I recall what dad called, "the hippies" swimming and bathing in the Merced River as we drove up the hill towards the entrance of the park. I will always remember the tunnel with the view opening to the other side. We pulled over, got out of the car and I stood in total amazement, looking at the commanding views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. I was exhilarated! We car-camped in the Yosemite Valley and I recall loving everything about the experience. Once settled in the camp ground, I sat on a granite rock along the Merced River, neck straining to look upward to the top of Yosemite Falls. I ate hotcakes in the morning light, golden river swooshing by, smelled pine needles, watched strange jays I had never seen before and I was changed forever! My senses were simply overloaded! I climbed Yosemite falls in hard-soled shoes, Polaroid Swinger strapped around my neck, PBJ sandwiches tucked in a small gunny sack and most importantly, carrying a canteen of water. It took my father,brother and I all day to complete the task.(round trip) What an adventure! I thought I was in heaven! When I returned to my little neighborhood north of Boston, my friends didn't believe me when I told them how long the drop was from the top of Yosemite Falls was. What a memory! Today, at age 49, I frequent many National Parks. Most recently, Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky. I'm so grateful for all my experiences. I'm glad I got to see Yosemite Valley before the hair salons and strip malls were installed. The park was empty in those days. I think you

kevin green
9/27/2009 10:49:16 AM

I went to yellowstone in about 1969. The bears were everywhere then ,in the campgrounds at night peeling away the sides of campers while people slept. Guys with bear traps big tube things trying to capture the nighttime maruaders. The bears were along the roads then too. Sideshow attractions that stopped traffic while the ten or twenty or so bears begged for treats. I had two twin grizzys cubs trying to climb into our car window at the same time, about one foot away from me a 15 year old from, minneapolis. I saw one guy get out of his car and throw an apple up the highway to get one grizzly away from his car , and the bear was so fast, unbielivably so ,that it ran from a dead stop from by the car and was there before the apple was, waiting to eat something besides me! I also took a picture of a bull moose one morning on the campground on yellowstone lakE. Only problem was that I was so close that all I got in the picture was his eyeball!Also fishing right below the fishing bridge trying to walk out on a giant floating log in an attempt to capture the cut throat trout that seemed to flip off my hook just as I got within reach of it.

marie bartsch
9/27/2009 10:06:28 AM

Every day is a new memory for me. The back boundary of my property is Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME. The pink granite mountains, blue/green sea and lakes and the green pines make my home a vacationland every day of the year. The Spring flowers, Fall Colors, beautiful summers and pristine snow and frozen waterfalls on cliffs everywhere in winter make every season gorgeous here. We have lots of deer who are quite tame. This year we had two mothers bring their 3 fawns every day for us to see. They feed on our apple trees, cedar and larch. I even have a picture of two fawns nursing from their mom together! Just the other day we had two young bucks here also. They are last year's fawns. I am in heaven here every day.

9/27/2009 9:37:43 AM

My first memory of a national park was when my family visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I didn't even realize that's where we were at first. My family didn't travel much when I was a child; my father hated spending money on vacations so most of my summer vacations were spent with extended family in a different state. When I was 12, an uncle and his family rented a cabin at Fontana Village in NC, a stone's throw from the park. Because we could stay for free, my father agreed to drive us up. As per usual with my father driving, we took the "scenic" route through Tennessee down to NC. This took us through Cades Cove in the park. At the time, in order to educate people on what the pioneers faced when settling the area, one road was a wagon trail, only slightly improved from the covered wagon days. My father, unknowingly, chose this route. It was fun for us kids but I remember the cursing that came from the front seat when he realized he was going to have to drive our car through creeks and riverbeds!! Needless to say, this was the LAST vacation we took together as a family. I will always remember the beauty of the mountains, the "smoke" that covered the area, giving birth to the name of the mountains and the park. I still go there frequently now, hiking and camping in the area. Eventually my plan is to visit as many of the parks as I can but for now, this one while have to suffice. And believe me, it does.

9/26/2009 11:32:24 AM

My favorite memory is in one of the more unlikely locations in Yellowstone National Park, many years ago. It took place at a pullout on a slight bluff. About halfway through Hayden Valley. I found the panoramic view from there spectacular and peace filled. It was great. Just sitting there for hours. Watching the birds on the Yellowstone River below, the buffalo rolling in their dirt pits and bellowing to tell the others to find their own place. Even a grizzly meandered out of the woods on the other side of the river. The mixture of colors and textures was spectacular. From the bright greens of the leaves on the white barked trees; to the dusty, course sagebrush and sprays of amber grasses; to the bright, clear, smooth blue sky above; and even the white, cotton ball clouds clinging to distant, jagged peaks. The sun was bright. The air fresh. The breeze warm and gentle, with just a hint of dust provided by a buffalo rolling in the dirt. But you have to stop. Get out of the car. Sit there a spell on a mound of dirt. And that was part of the fun memory too. For in the proud Yellowstone, road touring tradition: car after car stopped to see what I was looking at, and then quickly drove off since they couldn't see what I saw.

robert l joslin
9/25/2009 9:04:12 PM

For years my wife and I have been avid backpackers and have had many very memorable trips in National Parks, including several in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. We even did a raft trip (paddles.. no motors) down the Colorado through the canyon, which is perhaps the very best vacation I have ever had. One of the most memorable experiences occured in 2005 while on a visit to Katmai National Park and Preserve. This was our 5th trip to Alaska and I had always wanted to see Katmai, but working it into otherwise full schedules was too difficult. This trip was planned around a visit to Brooks Camp in Katmai. At one point during the morning 17 bears were visible at Brooks Falls at one time, but I had been watching a grizzly sow with three cubs fishing for a couple of hours when she slowly left the water, cubs trailing, and sauntered into the shade about 15 feet below the observation deck where I stood. She then proceeded to rollover on her back and the cubs immediately began nursing.After about 20 minutes (and 25 or 30 photos) they all curled up in a pile and took a nap. What an astonishing thing to witness....at 15 feet!! Our National Parks are jewels which we should all treasure. I've never visited one that disappointed me. I feel a real sense of gratitude to those hard working NPS folks who have the difficult task of trying to maintain and preserve the resource while encouraging its use.

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