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What is YOUR Favorite Park Experience?

Entrace to Cave in Lava Beds National Monument; NPS photo (David Hays).

Entrace to Cave in Lava Beds National Monument; NPS photo (David Hays).

While Kurt has been in Austin, he's had a chance to chat with a few folks close to the National Parks. One of his recurring questions has been, "What has been your favorite experience in the National Parks?" How would YOU answer that question? Use the comment form below to submit your favorite story. I figure that among the national park travelers that read this website, there must be some good stories out there. To get the ball rolling, here is my most memorable, favorite moment in the National Parks:

Bat Count in Lava Beds National Monument

When I was an interpreter in Lava Beds National Monument, I was told of a bat survey happening in the park. The survey was to be conducted by the park biologist team, but other workers in the park (like me) were invited to watch. Lava Beds National Monument has many lava tube caves, more than 300 have been cataloged, if my memory is correct. Some of these caves, but not all, provide shelter for resident and migratory bat species. The cave targeted for this bat survey was fairly remote, and required a bit of a hike to access.

A lot of people in the park went to see this bat count, perhaps 30 of us, including seasonals in the park from the Student Conservation Association, volunteers, and park personnel. We parked at the trail head, an hour or so before sundown. This whole group of folks trudged through the pumice rock trail. The instructions were, "hike two miles, then take a left, off trail, at the lone juniper, and hike another half mile". This is before GPS, and it was in a wilderness area, so with those brief instructions, we were on our own to figure it out. I'm not sure I could find that cave again today, if I tried.

We made it to the cave. We were all fairly chatty at this point, somewhat excited for what we might see. While we waited, we had excellent seats for a terrific sunset. Then, maybe 15 minutes later, the park biologist raised his hand, signaling for silence. Soon, a few bats trickled out of the cave entrance, followed immediately by hundreds upon hundreds of little bats flying into the night sky. I have no idea how they count all those bats. I just remember being in complete awe at the site of this cloud of creatures streaming from the cave. It is a memory that has lasted for so many years quite vividly in my mind.

Everyone there that night was touched by the event. Walking back to our cars was fun, we were all energized by what we had seen. Of course, after the survey, nightfall had arrived, so our walk back to civilization was done in the dark. We had flashlights (and we may have used them on occasion), but the light of the rising moon was enough to guide our way. What a great experience that was.

OK, there's my favorite park moment. What is yours? Use the form below to share your story with the other travelers here.


That also happens to be one of my favorite memories, Jeremy, although it's difficult to choose just one.

Frank, I was wondering if you'd remember that! Although, I suppose you had a few more opportunities to experience that bat count than I did. I was always sad that I got only one season at club "beds".

July 1968, Isle Royale National Park, Huginnin Cove: My first family backpacking trip. I was still in grade school, and my parents were total novices who had no idea what they'd got us all into. We did all of our cooking and water purification over a modest wood fire. My Dad kept that fire going in the face of major Lake Superior thunderstorms, soaked wood, and a limited match supply. We slept in floorless canvas pup tents and cotton-shelled sleeping bags. We only saw one small boat come into the cove all week, and that for just an hour or two. Otherwise, we had the place to ourselves. We survived and actually enjoyed something that none of our suburban friend and neighbors would have dared to do. It was a tremendous introduction to wilderness solitude and self-sufficiency. This first adventure, like a first love, no matter how much better and more exciting were those that came after, sticks in my mind as the most memorable and intense.

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July 2007 Our first trip to Yellowstone. It started out on a bad note we were only about 30 miles away from home when the engine in my truck quit had to be towed along with my trailer to a dealership that night.We spent the next day waiting to see if the truck could be fixed.Found out the engine need to be replaced.So I traded it in on a new one and drove the rest of the way to Yellowstone.The rest of the trip was just incredible the weather was perfect and we took over a thousand pictures some great and some funny.So far it has to be the most memorable trip and the most expencive too.

My very first night in the desert. Jumbo Rocks campground in Joshua Tree NP (then NM) in early May. A perfect day, a perfect evening with the round sand stones glowing deep red in the last light. And me on top of one of them. Then the night, still a bit chilly, with all the stars you can see in the desert but never in the city. Up again before sunrise, looking far out in the desert in the clearest air possible, the light had a blue hue in the last minutes before the sun crossed the horizon. In the next twenty minutes I was busy taking pictures of Joshua Trees as silhouettes against the sky, the sun, the barren land, the rocks and the other bizarre desert vegetation.

I agree with Frank--difficult to choose just one. Most recently, I remember that a Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger found me and a friend staring slack-jawed at the base of a cliff, playing an amateur game of guess-the-petroglyph. Apparently, he decided our water bottles, tank tops, and sneakers made us unlikely pothunters, and spent the next hour leading us on an unofficial, on-the-trail, but not-in-the-guidebook, tour of New Mexico’s mysterious Chaco Culture National Historical Park. We saw oyster shells embedded in desert rocks, and discovered ancient etchings of small men, snakes, and mountain lions. Later, as the sun set, we examined a pile of rocks next to the Pueblo Bonito ruins. How many other visitors had walked past these same red-orange rocks and not noticed that the curvature of the rock pile echoed the rolling mountain peaks in the distance? He urged us to stay for the night sky program (trust me--you’ve never seen so many stars as you see at Chaco!) and then climbed in his truck and drove off. We counted the jackrabbits darting across the road, and then counted our lucky stars. Thanks, Ranger John.

My wife and I were planning a trip to Isle Royale, but then she was in a car accident and didn't feel up to carrying a pack for a week. We "settled" for a trip to Yellowstone. One of the most enjoyable parts was a hike up to some petrified tree trunks. It is not on the trail map, but the rangers gave us a photocopy of a hand drawn map. We spent the entire day up in the mountains and did not see a single other person. While the trees themselves were fascinating, the views and the solitude were even better.

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone!!

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