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Reader Participation Day: What Is Your Most Treasured National Park Souvenir?


Hand-painted slides can turn up at flea markets and antique stores.

We leave footprints and take lots of pictures when we visit national parks, but we also spend a good deal of time in park gift shops looking for souvenirs. For some it might be a poster or print, or maybe a coffee cup emblazoned with the park's name.

I've long treasured Yellowstone National Park, and have amassed a nice collection of souvenirs and memorabilia ranging from decorative plates and even salt shakers to stereoviews and hand-painted glass photographs.

Some folks enjoy collecting books that they can page through years later, or even special edition blankets that were made with that specific park in mind.

Understanding that some mementoes you connect to a specific park are found not in the park but at flea markets or antique shops, we'll accept wide-ranging answers for details on what your most-treasured national park souvenirs are. But please let us know what you look for when you're looking for a souvenir.


Do just plain good memories count?

If not, then my second favorite is something I bought in YELL back in about 1967. It's a very light weight can that has a label on in that says:


Add water, shake, run like Hell!

Unfortunately, it disappeared about the time one of my kids became a fourth grader. I think she knows what happened to it, but even now at age 40, she denies any knowledge of it. Sort of like the time she asked, "So could an apple have plugged up that toilet you're working on?"

I love and use my Yellowstone mug on an almost daily basis, but my most prolific NP acquisitions are refrigerator magnets. At last count I have thirty, each from a different park or monument.

I second Joe, as I drink my morning coffee from a Yosemite mug. Every day for many years now.

I have four kids. The oldest three (15, 14 and 12) have hiking staffs and collect a hiking pin from each National Park we attend. My youngest is six years old and has been asking when she'll be old enough to get a staff and start her collection. They have developed a whole set of rules regarding hiking pin eligibility: (1) you must hike a trail at the park; (2) the staff need not accompany you on the hike; (3) if the pin is of a specific trail in a park, you have to have hiked the trail; and (4) Dad can order you a pin for parks you hiked prior to beginning the collection. The most recent (and controversial) rule is that the pins have to be in the NPS system; no state parks allowed. It's been fun to watch them collect--and each knows exactly how many pins the others have on their staffs.

Photographs and memories...

My passport with cancellations. More valuable to me than the passport from the State Department.

I don't know if I can still find them, but I've gotten several postcards cancelled directly at the post office with stamps depicting that particular national park.

Before I went on a particular trip, I obtained one of the Bryce Canyon NP airmail series stamps. I bought a post card, affixed the stamp, and asked the clerk at the Bryce, UT contract post office at Ruby's Inn to hand cancel it. I noticed that she did it with a lot of care, specifically trying to get a clean stamping. Other than that, on the same trip I tried to do the same with a Yosemite stamp in the same airmail series. However, I got there on a Saturday afternoon and the post office in Yosemite Valley closed at about noon. I just mailed the post card to myself and it was cancelled with a Yosemite NP postmark.

I have to go with some others and say my fiance is my favorite. We met when we were both working in Death Valley. I also collect the lapel pins from all parks I visit and I buy t-shirts from the parks I work in and I plan on making them into a quilt near retirement. But my absolute favorites are the letters that I've received from visitors and the children that attended my outreach programs. I treasure those more than anything.

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