Rebecca here, I know, I’m actually writing a blog post…

It’s no secret that we love public lands here at Hike Like A Woman.

National Parks.

State Parks.

National Forests.

BLM Land.

National Historic Sites.

We love them all.

Last summer I headed to Fort Laramie with my two children. We only live a few hours away but my children had never been there and I hadn’t been there since college.

Fort Laramie is different than the places we usually visit, you know, places where we hike, but I figured it was time to teach my kids a lesson about the wild west and their pioneer ancestors.

My husband was busy studying for the bar exam so it was just the kids and I on a mini camping trip with Fort Laramie as our first stop and what a way to kick off a Mom and kids only adventure…

While wandering around the fort, looking at historic buildings and wondering what it must have been like to live in or visit the fort we contemplated why we would have preferred to be in the cavalry over the infantry as dark clouds started to fill the sky.

My phone beeped with a notice of a tornado warning and the fort became quiet as tourists left trying to get on the road and beat the tornado.

Having had my house destroyed by a tornado when I lived in Kansas I knew that there’s no way to “beat” a tornado, they’re horrific ~ I felt like we’d be safer at the fort with designated tornado shelters than on the road.

So, we kicked back a bottle of root beer at the old, restored saloon and then headed to the gift shop to look at books.

And then we heard it.

A voice coming over the intercom telling everyone that a tornado was headed our direction and to move quickly to the nearest tornado shelter.

The staff at the gift shop quickly and kindly ushered us through the backroom and down a flight of stairs where we sought refuge in the women’s bathroom/tornado shelter.

My kids calmly waited and colored on new coloring books that I’d purchased at the gift shop…well, that I’d actually smuggled into the restroom (with the staff’s permission) because there was no time to buy them before we had to get to shelter.

We sat in the restroom and listened to the wind, the trees, and the howling storm.

We heard hail hitting the ground and I snuggled my kids close, knowing full well the devastation that a tornado can cause.

We ate our remaing snacks, in the bathroom.

As soon as we were given the “all okay” to leave the shelter by a Ranger we headed upstairs to pay for the coloring books and then peaked out at the ground that was littered with hail and broken tree limbs.

Thankfully, the tornado hadn’t touched down near the fort but evidence of the storm was still there.

The Ranger who waited out the storm with us gave my kids Junior Ranger badges, for being brave during the tornado scare.

My old beat up SUV still has pockmarks left by softball sized hail, I love those dents, they tell a fun story.

Sure, that’s not Yellowstone or Yosemite adventure story.

But it’s our story about kids, in a park and an experience that they will never forget.

Kids to Parks Day is coming up in just a few weeks.

For us here at HLAW it’s a chance to think about those incredible memories that we’ve had as children in parks and historic sites and it’s also a chance for those of us who have children in our lives to introduce them to parks and help them create their memories.

My little boys have seen some pretty epic stuff in National Parks, geysers, grizzly bears, bison and waterfalls, but I’m pretty sure that they will never forget waiting out a tornado in a women’s restroom.

In honor of Kids to Parks Day I asked a few women on our team to share their favorite memories of National Parks.

“I remember visiting my Aunt in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC as a child. One particular trip we came back through Great Smoky Mountains National Park and what was then the tiny town of Gatlinburg, TN. A little seed was planted that trip, as no matter where I roam, what magnificent scenery I behold, the Smoky Mountains hold my heart. I bawled like a baby when I was young and we’d leave those mountains behind, I still come close even as an adult when those mountains are in my rearview.”   ~Annie Copeland

“Wildcat Den State Park in Iowa. In my memory it’s a place we just always went to when I was a kid. Whether on a warm summer day to walk under the canopy of trees, or a weekend in the fall to see all the beautifully changing leaves, there was always something new to experience. We’d climb up steep, dirt trails, scramble over limestone rock formations, and stand high above on the bluff looking out over hardwood forests. Even as a teenager I went with friends to hike around, and sit until dark, away from the lights and noise of town, to watch fireflies appear. And, as an adult I continue to visit this place on a monthly basis. It’s where I go to feel connected to nature.” –Jessica Hubbard

“Cahokia Mounds State Park. We visited that one summer and I loved it. We learned a ton of history.”

-Mickey Sanderson

“When I was in fifth grade we did an exercise at the beginning of the school year where we had a list of activities and had a few minutes to find classmates that had done those over the summer. When I got to the statement “Visited a national park.” I ran to the wealthiest girl in the class because I thought she was my best best to have had a national park vacation. When I asked her she looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Mara we LIVE in a national park.” And that’s when I realized how fortunate I am to live so close to Hot Springs National Park.” -Mara Kuhn

“So excited to be the coolest Grammie ever! I had the honor of introducing grandson, Jackson, to his first national park right in his own back yard! Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We watched the movie in the visitors center, spoke to a ranger doing a presentation of the birds you’ll find there and bought him his very own passport book. He loved it all and told me he couldn’t wait to go to another one! The next park we hit was in my backyard, Dinosaur National Monument. We are slowly chipping away at our nation’s treasures.” -Jill Dunbar

“I went with my dad and my niece (who was 10 at the time) on a road trip to Colorado to visit relatives when I was 29. We got to take my niece (who had never been to any states other than ND and MN) to Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National park and Mesa Verde National Park. It was really awesome to show her mountains, take her on hikes, and get to know her in a different way. She now has a love for travel and I hope I had a small role in instilling that sense of wonder and amazement for the beauty and diversity of this country.” -Sarah Kyllo

Now I don’t necessarily want you to experience an epic storm from a National Park restroom…but I do want to encourage you to get out every day and enjoy our public lands.

And I’d love to invite you to join #teamHLAW as we celebrate Kids to Parks Day on May 19th.

Here’s how you can participate.

Step 1: Pledge to have a park adventure on Kids to Parks Day

Step 2. Find or register an event in your area

Step 3. Encourage friends and family to join you

Step 4. Share photos and adventures on social media with #kidstoparks and #BuddyBison

Keep checking back to as more information about park events and prizes are updated until the big day!

Thank you so much National Park Trust for setting this special day aside every year for the enjoyment of Parks!

Note: This post was sponsored by National Park Trust but all thoughts and opinions remain our own.

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