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Reader Participation Day: What Indelible Image Best Reminds You of the National Parks?


There's a reverence steeped into the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo

If you've stood before Old Faithful as it erupts against a golden sunset, or perhaps a frosty sunrise, you're likely going to carry that image with you for the rest of your life. Or maybe the profile of Half Dome, as seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, leaps first to mind when you think of national parks.

Those are two bold, hard-to-forget images. But perhaps there's another setting in the National Park System that you hold most dear. It could be the sunset that softly backlights the sea stacks at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, the first rays of sunrise as spied from atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, or the waving sawgrass that sweeps to the horizon at Everglades National Park.

There are other images cast by the national parks -- the Gettysburg battlefield at dusk, the silent cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, the rippling waters of Voyageurs. Tell us what setting in the parks is burned forever into your memory.


I did, sort of. This was back in July 2001, back before I caught the "outdoors bug", and as such was minimally equipped. All I had at the time was a disposable Kodak camera. The shots turned out extremely good for the gear, but nowhere near as good as what I could take now. It was this moment and this view that awakened a passion in me for hiking and camping as well for nature photography, that still continues strong to this day. Consider me a lesser version of QT Luong.

Sounds like both an incredible hike and an incredible image, Toothdoctor. Hope you got some shots!

The most indelible image from the Parks for me, is still from my first trip and first hike ever. Two buddies and I were in the midst of hiking the loop of Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon in a day, when we came upon a spot about halfway up the trail cut into the wall between Lake Solitude and Paintbrush Divide. From right at that spot there was a view of the Grand framed perfectly in the middle of Upper Cascade Canyon. With the interplay of the sun and clouds, and all of the gorgeous scenery..... Perfect!

My wife and I, since we have been retired, have been trying to visit all of the US, including as many of the NPS sites as possible. To date, we have seen more than 75 NPS sites, including most of the big ones. All in all, we have seen some magnificent, awe-inspiring sights. However, in the parks that we have seen, the one setting that is burned forever into my memory is right after we entered the southern entrance to Grand Canyon NP in the late afternoon, around 5:00. We first encountered a heard of Elk with a resident 6 point bull who posed for us. That was pretty cool. Moving on, we tried to find our lodge, the Yavapai. Of course, we missed our turn-off, so we contined on the South Entrance Rd trying to find another way to the lodge. The road made a turn to the NW and then, past some trees which blocked the view, all of a sudden, right in front of us, was the Grand Canyon. It was so unexpected; we had no idea we were that close to the canyon. It was a jaw-dropping experience. We found a parking space, grabbed our cameras, and rushed over to the rim, which was just a few yards away. We found we were at Mather Point, which is one of the prime viewpoints of the park. It was around 5:30 pm on an early October day, so the sun was beginning to lie low in the west and the rocks were just on fire. The colors were just spectacular. I guess the thing that made the sight so indelible in my mind was the unexpectedness of it. It was a great way to start our visit to the park. It makes me wonder how the first Americans felt when they came upon the canyon several thousands of years ago, as they were moving down the continent following the game. I wonder what that first hunting party said to the chief upon their return to camp. Probably something to the effect: "Chief, we are going to have to find another way". Another view that had almost the same effect was Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. In the other parks, the views were visible from aways back, so you anticipated them. Here we were just slapped in the face.

These are the most indelible images of national parks for me:

1. Scenery along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Growing up in South Carolina, my family would take frequent trips to the Parkway on our vacations. Few places symbolize the National Park System for me quite like the Blue Ridge Parkway. The tunnels and the topography and the were all fascinating to me as a kid. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, Devil's Courthouse, Crabtree Meadows, Craggy Gardens and the Folk Art Center are all images emblazoned on my mind as being part of the quintessential national park experience.

2. Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. There are few other natural wonders in the U.S. that by themselves symbolize to me the treasures held in trust by the NPS more than Delicate Arch.

3. Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park. They even put Longs Peak on my bank debit card. It's everywhere out here in Colorado, and right now at least, every time I look out my window, Longs Peak is there as the ultimate symbol of the sublimity of the national parks in the Rockies.

As an aside, to "Anonymous," who said:

A smiling Gale Norton and smirking President George W. Bush sitting in front of an iconic NPS arrowhead at some function or another. I successfully fought off the wave of nausea that struck me and took it in stride. Now I have it pinned up in my office as a reminder of why my job is important.

I ran into Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday right after a White House clean energy forum in Fort Collins. In typical Salazar style, he was sporting a bolo tie (sorry, Bob, no cowboy hat this time)... an NPS arrowhead bolo tie. Let's hope that portends good things to come.

Don't wait until you retire. We have been NP Junkies since 1995 when we saw Haleakala in Hana. We have been going ever since even though retirement is now five years away.

Seeing Denali from Talkeetna on a perfectly clear Sunday morning

America the Beautiful....what more can anyone say. I've been blessed to have been to most of the sites mentioned and just recently, last week, cried again at the sight of the Grand's also a tear jerker when we we leave. THAT is forver in my heart.
But....has everyone forgotten....."Smokey the Bear".
God Bless America!

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