People around the country have shared some of their most poignant and intriguing moments in national parks on NPCA’s recently relaunched MyParkStory site.
From watching baby turtles return to the sea to discovering centuries of history in a salt marsh to finding space to grow and heal, read a few of our favorites from MyParkStory.
Stories have been edited for length and clarity.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Shared by Beth
After months of preparation and planning, my daughter and I ventured off on our first backpacking trip into the wilderness alone. With only each other to depend on, carrying minimal supplies, we began to experience the world like we had never done before.
We hiked for miles along the Greenstone Ridge and surrounding forest, making mistakes and learning lessons along the way. We found our limit of pain, fatigue, hunger and irritability. Stopping was not an option. We dug in our heels and discovered new levels of perseverance we never knew existed.
I never promised my daughter this would be a fun trip, but I did promise her it would be memorable one. And it was.
In the weeks that followed I noticed a change in my daughter that I had never seen before. This young woman had transformed in confidence and courage, all in a matter of days, discovering new levels of self-awareness that will grow within her for a lifetime.
Being among the wilderness of Isle Royale National Park, we found parts of ourselves that we did not know existed, and that is a treasure you can’t put a price on.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Shared by Barbara
When people ask me about Big Bend National Park, I say the place is overwhelming in all of its beauty. From the highest peaks to the shoreline of the Rio Grande River, one can find diversity as nowhere else. The birdlife and mammals, the setting sun at the base of “The Window,” the stars at night, the desert and the mountaintop, all combine in breathtaking sights and sounds. It is a must that I visit Big Bend once a year, always in early April to celebrate my birthday. I can’t think of any place more enjoyable. One forgets all cares and woes in the natural beauty of such places.
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida
Shared by Maria
Timucuan is one of the largest contiguous salt marsh ecosystems in the United States — over 46,000 acres. With more than 10,000 years of history, it sustained the Mocama Timucua native peoples, and their rich history and culture is still being discovered today. Ft. Caroline represents the first European colony and the first “Thanksgiving” with Chief Saturiwa and his people. Kingsley Plantation tells the amazing story of Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley on the bluff overlooking the Ft. George River. I’m so proud and fortunate to have all this in my “backyard.” Some parks have grand canyons and geysers. We have pristine salt marsh with a view unmatched by any other park. Come see it for yourself!
Pinnacles National Park, California
Shared by LaiKian
Coming back from San Francisco, we decided to take the small highway to Pinnacles National Park. When we arrived, our first impression was that it was nothing spectacular. We were almost going to head home. Luckily, we talked to a park ranger who happened to drive by. He told us to go up a hill for another quarter-mile to a parking area, where we could walk up the trail to Bear Gulch. We did, and to our surprise, the scenery became so beautiful and awesome with all kinds of rock formations! Although we were quite exhausted, my wife and I kept going all the way to the top of the mountain. The view was breathtaking! These parks are natural beauties, preserved for millions of years till now. We must carry on protecting them for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Shared by Molly
At age 19, as freshmen in college, my twin and I ended up at Mount Rainier working at Paradise Inn for the summer of 2010. We blindly accepted a job that seemed too perfect, and that summer turned out to be a cornerstone of our young adulthood. Through our adventures in this pristine wonderland, we reconnected to ourselves and each other and clarified our meaning of life. That same sense of self awareness, togetherness and renewal occurred this past May when we hiked the Grand Canyon’s Hermit Trail. Now 25 and engaged with full-time careers, we felt the need to do something way out of routine for our last time as just “the twins.” The rugged beauty of that place! Every turn there was a different aspect of nature to marvel at. Whereas Rainier allowed us to see our path through college, the Grand Canyon helped us see our futures and realize that there will always be a little of our 19, naive, adventurous selves within us. It’s really in the wilderness that one can find their true being and meaning in life.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Shared by Victoria
My husband was 35 when he died of cancer, and I was 32. A month after his passing, I found solace in a national park road trip with our dog, Aretha Franklin. We visited eight parks in all. And the beauty of creation saved me, as it can for anyone who takes the time to dwell in nature with an open heart. I forever will be a grateful supporter of our national parks, as will Aretha. Our national parks have the power to heal and instill hope even in the bleakest of times.
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
Shared by Josh
I grew up a pastor’s kid and I had four siblings. As you might expect, we did not have a lot of money to take vacations. However, we could afford to camp in the natural beauty of the national parks.
Some of my best memories from childhood include rock climbing at Joshua Tree, standing awestruck on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, watching a large bear pass within yards of us as we hiked through a meadow in Sequoia National Park, running down the sand dunes in Death Valley, surveying the view of the Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome, and being entranced by the boiling mud and geysers at Yellowstone. I am so thankful that my parents introduced me to the national parks and passed on their love for the wild.
Now that I am the father of two rambunctious boys (ages 2 and 6), I have sought to pass along my love of the wilderness to my sons. We live in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas and one of our favorite places to hike and camp is Buffalo National River. They love every second of it! Next summer, my wife and I plan to take our boys on a national parks road trip, just like the ones I enjoyed as a boy. Everything has come full circle.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Shared by Lauren
The first time I went to a national park, I was three years old. My family’s trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks is the first family vacation I can remember. We hiked for miles with me on my dad’s shoulders when my little feet couldn’t carry me another step. That trip sparked a love of nature that has guided me my entire life. The parks of southern Utah still hold a special place in my heart and always will. My goal is to visit every national park and do everything I can to help ensure our parks are here to stay for generations to come.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Shared by Edita
Padre Island National Seashore is not only a home for releasing newly hatched turtles but also of sand dunes with wild flowers. Exploring the beach was a beautiful experience.
Kings Canyon National Park, California
Shared by Ovi
In 2012, my wife and I decided to take some extended time off our regular jobs and go on a three-month road trip out west (we live in Ohio). We created an itinerary that would allow us to see several national parks, including Kings Canyon. Before our 2012 trip, we had never visited a national park, and we were not that into the outdoors. This trip opened our eyes to the beauty and diversity our parks have to offer. From the deserts of Saguaro and Mojave to the Sierra Nevadas and the wilderness of Yellowstone, we encountered beauty that will live in our hearts forever. The national parks are a treasure of immeasurable value, but beyond the beauty and diversity of life they foster, they help us connect with nature and remind us why it is important to preserve our environment.
Have your own favorite national park story to share? Visit us at MyParkStory.
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