National parks celebrate 100 years: Readers share their memories

Yellowstone National Park

Startled buffalo

It was the first day of a family camp out at Bridge Campground in Yellowstone. I slipped from the tent in the early morning and sat at the picnic table to look at a map.

I was bent over in study when a moving wall passed me — a buffalo, so close I could have reached out and touched the wool on its huge head. I gave a start, which startled the buffalo.

It jerked and pawed the ground. I scrambled under the table, while the buffalo ran over and gored a tree. I was sure glad it wasn’t me!

Fran Davis


Various parks

Family tree

 (Carole Hasbun)
(Carole Hasbun)

In the summer of 2011, three generations visited six national parks for the first time on a “Western frontiers” tour. Pictured are Bill and Carole Hasbun, with daughter, Cristina, and grandmother, Helen Salamy, at Grand Teton National Park.

Cristina and her grandmother, Helen, have been roommates on four trips with another one planned for this year. Hands down, the national parks tour was our all-time favorite!

Carole Hasbun

San Marino

Yosemite National Park

Birthday trip

 (John Merkler)
(John Merkler)

2009 was a special year. My youngest son, Jamie, was turning 21 in early October. On a whim, we decided since we’d never seen Yosemite we’d drive there for the weekend — camp out in the tents.

We left San Diego and drove straight through. He’d been planning on making a special dinner, shrimp scampi, and we decided to take it with us — why not?

Got there late in the day, found the campground and set up at Curry, taking dinner to El Cap. Had a drink at the lodge, hiked the next day, leaving through Tuolumne Meadow.


John Merkler

San Diego

Big Bend National Park

Glowing moon

In December 1975 I found myself in Big Bend National Park in an expanse of desert rising up against the desolate mountains of Texas.

As I rolled out my sleeping bag on the desert floor, I marveled at a brilliant spectacle of stars. During the night, I woke up to find that the stars had disappeared.

Then I saw it: Rising behind a mountain, shimmering on the horizon, was a massive moon! Its enormous sphere of spectral light illuminated the stark, rugged landscape.

The sky itself had taken on a milky hue, the moon’s powerful glow having obscured the light of the stars.

Robert H. Badner


Grand Canyon

Avoid crowds in winter

 (Steve Jacobs)
(Steve Jacobs)

To avoid the crowds and mandatory shuttle bus, we visited the Grand Canyon in the winter of 2015.

By getting an early start in the morning and braving temperatures in the 20s, we pretty much had the park and snowy rim all to ourselves.

Steve Jacobs

Rancho Cucamonga

Various parks

Bear encounter

In 1967, I drove from Sacramento, with my wife and two sons, on a cross-country camping trip culminating in Montreal and Expo 67.

We arrived late in Yellowstone. We found space, unpacked our gear and set up a campsite.

Setting up our barbecue with our ice chest and sleeping bags around us, we sat in a circle enjoying dinner. We heard a rustling noise near the ice chest. Thinking that a thief was stealing the chest I rose up to confront the intruder.

It was a bear.

The bear was rolling the ice chest away from us. Acting on instinct I picked up a burning stick and began to strike at the thief.

My son Tom leaped over the campfire to get away, and I hit the bear with my burning stick. The bear let go of the chest.

The chest bore the claw marks. What a night in Yellowstone!

The next day we viewed the super-spectacular geysers that went off on schedule. Next, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota where we viewed the presidents.

Then the Little Bighorn battlefield in Montana, where my hair stood on end.

Three parks, one day and what a thrill.

Edward Provenzano

Woodland Hills

Glacier National Park

A feast of the senses

 (Nancy Meyer)
(Nancy Meyer)

I recall the colors of Glacier National Park, particularly the dark green palette of the forest. Closing your eyes, you could breathe in the pine-scented shades of the expansive woods.

The iridescent turquoise of the snow-fed lakes and the multi-hued boats shifting in the still waters next to docks created an artist’s canvas of pure and quiet nature. And the distant pale bands of snow on the surrounding ranges hinted of the impending extinction of the once-mighty glaciers that named this park, sad beauty for this majestic, changing land.

Nancy Meyer

Big Bear Lake

Various parks

Classic beauty

 (Jot Hollenbeck)
(Jot Hollenbeck)

To celebrate my retirement in 2015, my wife, Linda, and I planned a classic American road trip. Covering 3,500 miles, including stops at six national parks and two national monuments, our ultimate goal was a visit to Mt. Rushmore, S.D.

In late May we hitched up our 25-foot Airstream trailer and headed for the Black Hills of South Dakota. While rounding a corner near Mt. Rushmore, we spotted this profile of George Washington.

Our experience reminded us of the vast beauty preserved by our national parks, and how these parks are enjoyed by people from all over the world.

Jot Hollenbeck

Rancho Palos Verdes

Yosemite National Park

Smooth ride

I had just purchased my Cadillac Seville and thought I ought to take it for a “test drive” so we could get to know each other.

I headed toward San Bernardino, but the ride was so smooth that I somehow ended up on the road to Yosemite. I had not been there since 1963, when as a summer school student at Berkeley the university sponsored a trip and I was totally overwhelmed by its natural beauty.

I have no idea why I had never gone back, but here it was October 1976 and I was in a state of bliss, singing “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” along with Judy Collins on the car’s eight-track.

All of a sudden I was aware that as I was entering the park, once again overwhelmed by its majesty, the smoothness had been replaced by a very sudden bumpiness.

I pulled over, as did a man in a truck, with a gun rack on the back and a painted window of cavorting deer.

The serenity of the setting blocked out any fear I might have had, as this stranger approached me and said, “I see you have a flat tire. Do you have a spare?”

“I have no idea” I replied. “It’s my new car.” I popped the trunk and discovered that the “spare tire” came with a can of air to inflate it, but that my fancy rims required a power drill. I remain convinced that the magic of the park was what guided this stranger to my aid.

“I’m coming back from a camping trip,” he said. “I have a power drill.”

Within minutes, the tire had been inflated and my benefactor assured me that I could continue on my journey to explore the grandeur of Yosemite with no problem.

I thanked him profusely and indeed the remainder of my drive through the park was serene.

Ruth Kramer Ziony

Los Feliz

Yosemite National Park

A samba for Yosemite

 (Gregg Young)
(Gregg Young)

I was in the Ahwahnee Hotel and outside the window, my wife and sons were playing in the snow. Snowflakes were the size of silver dollars.

The granite walls were a frame for this tender family sight. I pulled out my acoustic guitar and wrote, “Yosemite Snowflake,” a samba.

The heat and the fire that created the granite walls cried samba. The sweet melody was my wife and children having so much fun playing in the inspirational, beautiful landscape.

The CD “Instrumentally Yours” was considered for a Grammy and won smooth jazz artist from the LA Music awards.

Gregg Young

Long Beach

Various parks

Frequent flier

Bryce National Park (Dennis Hinde)
Bryce National Park (Dennis Hinde)

I’ve been lucky enough to visit 120 National Park Service sites, including 43 national parks. I must share at least these:

On St. Croix Riverway, the national scenic riverway in Wisconsin and Minnesota, my sunglasses fell down a cliff. I couldn’t retrieve them, but a kind park ranger did and mailed them to me.

I toured Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (anonymously).

I fell in love in Great Basin National Park in Nevada. She was in Las Vegas. It was the only reason I was eager to leave the beautiful highlands of Nevada.

On a bus tour of Grand Canyon, it rained most of the day. But every time we stopped — only then — the clouds retreated and cameras clicked.

I can’t see the red and white towers of Utah’s Bryce too many times, but at 9,000 feet I was more winded the last time (age 67) than the first time (age 27)!

Dennis Hinde


Bryce National Park

The secret to Queen’s Garden Trail

 (Gretchen Elg)
(Gretchen Elg)

We were in Utah’s Bryce National Park on a spring break trip with our kids, and I had my heart set on the Queen’s Garden Trail, a popular hike into the bottom of the canyon.

A spring snowstorm had come in a few days earlier, and we discovered the trail was closed. We headed to the visitor center, where I shared my disappointment with the ranger.

He told us that we could hike the same trail but in the clockwise direction, starting at a different trail head.

The afternoon was magical. Always utilize the park rangers!

Gretchen Elg

Redondo Beach

Death Valley National Park

Campfire for one

Our family spent spring breaks camping in the desert. That year in Death Valley, even the nights were brutally hot.

The kids cherished our nightly campfires. To the adults, it was obvious that a campfire was out because of heat. The kids disagreed.

Jeff in particular was dramatically disappointed. He pleaded, stomped, mustered tears, all ineffective.

He solved the problem by dragging our lantern to the dusty road by our campsite and having his own solitary campfire by its light. He tried in vain to roast a marshmallow.

Fifteen years later, it is family lore.

Diana Campbell

Santa Barbara

Kings Canyon National Park

Western love

 (Geo Chapman)
(Geo Chapman)

Back in the ’60s I came across a book about the travels of two brothers car camping across the landscape of the Western U.S. It sparked in me a lifelong quest to visit all the national parks of the 11 Western states. I’m getting closer!

In this photo I’m enjoying the refreshing summer pool on Fin Dome, Kings Canyon National Park.

My memories of the national parks are the most lasting experiences one could ask for. Viva la Park Service!

Geo Chapman

Santa Barbara

Various parks

Let your feet do the talking

In 2009, my husband and I, well into our retirement years, traveled to Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks.

The beauty of these parks is overwhelming, but our hiking day in Bryce Canyon was particularly unforgettable. The red, golden and pink hues of the hoodoos entranced us as we carefully walked along the rocky trail farther and farther down.

Each time we reminded ourselves that we faced a long hike back, one of us would say, “Let’s just see what’s around the next bend.”

Our feet finally told us it was time to turn back. Imagine our amusement when we encountered a young lady enjoying the trail --- in high heels!

Marsha Garber


Rocky Mountain National Park

Look up

At 3 a.m., I braced myself against a sleet-covered boulder. I was trying to walk from my tent to a privy 13,000 feet above sea level in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wind whistled against Longs Peak high above and battered me. Despite the gusts’ threat to topple me, I surrendered to an impulse to look up.

Stars dotted every tiny sector of sky, white, ruby or even sapphire. The hazy Milky Way arced over a neighboring peak.

I stared intently upward, disregarding my shaking core and stinging face, and the wind’s unrelenting pummeling. The stars’ fixedness — their stillness — calmed me.

Lynn Hall

Boulder, Colo.

Glacier National Park


An engineering feat, the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park is a two-lane road connecting the east and west sides of the park. Quite narrow and twisty, it often slows traffic.

My husband was driving when traffic just stopped.

Annoyed, he grumbled, “You’d think there were bears or something.”

Inching our way forward we looked up. In the tree were two adorable bear cubs looking like oversized teddy bears. These wild animals had indeed stopped traffic.

Like all the cars before us we also stopped and experienced the unexpected highlight of our trip.

Ina Massler Levin

Long Beach

Sequoia National Park

Two moms, four girls, one bear

Sequoia National Park. Summer 1967. Two young moms, four girls under 5 years old. No automobile for two weeks.

Dads dropped us off, and there was one weekend visit in between.

We had a homemade campsite next to the river. And there was bear activity every night.

The girls were in one tent, and moms were in a pup tent.

The campsite was raided, and the food was lost.

There was a bear face in the pup tent door.

Spoons and a pot lid were used to scare the bear.

This mom was more scared than the bear.

Fun times.

Jean Kirnan

Granada Hills

Various parks

‘Crazy wonderful’

 (Sheila Maynes)
(Sheila Maynes)

Fall 1975, new to the U.S., I hitchhiked with a backpack and tent from Denver to San Diego by way of the national parks. Pikes Peak and Durango and west to Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings in Colorado.

North to Utah’s Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce, finding rides at campsites and park gates.

In bad weather or bear alerts, RVs invited me in.

A mule trip in the Grand Canyon, a stay in a Las Vegas hotel suite, a ride with a cowboy who had won his car in a poker game.

Photos are faded but not the memories. Thanks to all the campers who supported my crazy wonderful trip.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Grand Canyon National Park

Runner to the rescue

Grand Canyon National Park: Running with a group of friends down the South Kaibab Trail from the South Rim and up to the North Rim. It is a run that should not be attempted by anyone other than very experienced runners, but there is nothing quite like starting early in the morning and running into sunrise in the Grand Canyon. Exhilaration on the downhill and endurance on the uphill.

On another occasion, running down the Kaibab, then across the Tonto Trail, paralleling the Colorado River, seeing only two other people on the Tonto and rescuing one of them, a young woman who had gotten lost and was near panic until I showed her, on the map I was carrying, where she was and how to continue.

I walked out with her, up the Bright Angel Trail, much to her relief.

Paul Cooley

Culver City