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Reader Participation Day: So, How Was Your Most Recent National Park Visit?


Was your latest national park visit picture perfect? Rob Mutch photo of Phantom Island at Crater Lake National Park.

So, how was your latest visit to a national park? Were rangers present to answer your questions? How was the parking? Were the restrooms clean? We'd like to hear from you.

National Park Service officials take pride in the fact that their annual surveys reflect a 90-95 percent approval rating year after year after year. Would you score your national park experience that high? It's not hard to give the agency high grades, as most things in the parks seem to be fairly well managed. But there's always something to nitpick about.

Problem with lodgings? We've all stayed in rooms that were so small it was hard to change your mind and where the linens were a tad on the ratty side.

Were the trails well-maintained? Could rangers satisfactorily answer your questions? Were you surprised by the fees for some interpretive programs?

Bring it on, folks! Tell us how your visit was.


Speaking of bathrooms, how many of the men posting here have seen the new "waterless" urinals at NPS sites? So far I've seen them at Muir Woods NM where they had them at the parking lot restrooms a few years ago and recently remodeled their gift shop/snack bar/office complex restrooms. They've also installed them at Point Reyes.

I think some NPS sites might be a good candidate for them. A lot of remote sites need to provide their own water and sewage treatment and the water often comes from local rivers or creeks.

I know there's a certain "ewww factor" to a urinal that doesn't flush, but I found they didn't smell (I'm sure they were cleaned daily).

We spent a week tent camping on Death Valley's back roads in March. It was truly spectacular. I found the more well-known sites had too many people to suit me, but the backcountry was five star. We did go to Scotty's Castle, and I thought the ranger who led the tour through was knowledgable. The ranger at Stovepipe Wells, where we stopped for some information and a backcountry map, wasn't too helpful.

Leaving Death Valley, we stopped at Manzanar. This site gets kudos for a really well done visitors center with interesting and moving exhibits. The ranger on duty was excellent and readily forthcoming about this sad aspect of American history. I do recall using the bathroom there, and it was fine.

We also went to Sequoia National Park on this same trip. It had just snowed and the scenery was spectacular. However, we received conflicting information regarding snow chains. I didn't find the visitors centers that exciting, but the scenery made up for it.

I love our parks and the Rangers and staff.
My pet peeve in all the parks is noise and the people who make it! The only solution I can think of to reduce the volume is a national campaign by the NPS promoting the Natural Soundscape. It barely gets mentioned in the Park Newspapers. We need a visible and repeated reminder for people to respect the quiet. A slogan and a symbol a la "Give a hoot, don't polute" with Woodsy the Owl; "Don't be a Litterbug" was very effective in the past. The whole recycling campaign with the slogan and symbol has accomplished a lot worldwide. You see a blue barrel you know what its for.
A sticker with a symbol (e.g. the index finger over the lips) visible on every sign in the Parks could have an impact over time at little cost to the Park Sevice. Its an idea that needs to be PROMOTED and REPEATED to be effective.

And don't get me started on motorcyles! Require MUFFLERS when riding in the parks.

In early August I drove with a friend along the southern shore of Lake Superior, hitting three NPS sites: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Keweenaw National Historical Site and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. We also dropped down and spent a few hours at St. Croix National Scenic River in Wisconsin.

Surprisingly, because I usually favor natural spots, Keweenaw was my favorite of the stops. The ranger in Calumet was enthusiastic and informed, willing to talk about copper mining culture and architecture, which was of particular interest to my friend. A trip into one of the mines was an eye-opener -- both literally and figuratively.

Also surprisingly, the rangers at the information desk in Apostle Islands were clueless when I asked about the formation of the Great Lakes and their geologic history. They said no one had ever asked them that before. Hard to believe. Thankfully they directed me to the one ranger who seemed to know something about it.

The Lake Superior trip, from Duluth, MN, to Munising, MI, is worth a week of your time. See for more personal essays.

Went to Yosemite in July. The weather was perfect and the Tuolumne Meadows area was beautiful as usual. But crowded. Wish there were a way to keep large groups of motorcyclists off the Tioga Road. They run through with their noisy engines disturbing the peace.

We also just came back from Glacier National Park, and had a wonderful time. We took the Glacier Lodge Tour and stayed at four great lodges. The food and rooms were wonderful (but the showers were a little snug). All of the people we met at the lodges, in the tour company, on the trails, etc. were wonderful. We'd go back in a heartbeat if there weren't so many other places on our list of places to go.

I went to a few parks in late June in the Maryland region. I spent a couple of days at Assateague Island National Seashore. I visited both the Virginia area as well as the Maryland portion. The restrooms in Maryland were open and as clean as possible with the volume of use. The restrooms in the Virginia section were actually in a visitor's center that seemed to be part of the National Wildlife Refuge system - but tidy and open. The entrance booth in both areas were occupied and offered maps. The bugs were bad - but I can't blame the NPS for that. Trails seemed maintained.

On the same trip, I visited Ft. McHenry in Baltimore and loved it. Rangers all around - bathrooms open. We also hit the Hampton Historic Site -- great tour from a volunteer (I believe) ranger.

Same trip I visited a few battlefields - Monocaccy, Bull Run and Antietam. All seemed to have rangers and resources available.

I ended this trip in Washington DC -- too many Park Service sites to list. I have to comment that I was surprised at the limited hours the last week in June. I never made it to the White House Visitor Center when it was open (closed at 4:00 pm on a Sunday). The restrooms near there (separate outbuilding closer to the White House) also were closed. I get it -- it's a Sunday -- but the number of people that I saw trying to find an open bathoom leads me to believe that they could stand some later hours. Many of the memorials can be greatly enjoyed at night (after official open hours) but I was concerned with 'open hours' so that I could hit a bathroom and get my passport stamped. In DC, I didn't see many rangers and those I did were surrounded by visitors wanting attention. I'm not sure you could actually ever hire enough rangers for DC in the summer.

My most recent visit was to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument and Lake Meredith NRA, both just outside of Amarillo, TX. I got the quarry tour at Alibates, which was fantastic and interesting. The biggest plus was that I hiked around that morning in my fleece jackets, which is really unusual for a Texas summer.

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