GratiTuesday: Memories of family vacations

As I was growing up, family vacations usually involved long road trips in our Ford (always a Ford) station wagon, pitching tents, and sitting around camp fires. Even if Disney Cruises existed back in the 50s and 60s, I doubt if our sole-breadwinner father supporting a family of five, could have afforded such an extravagance. So, just about every summer, we went camping.

Looking back, I can’t imagine having any richer memories then the ones I have exploring the wonders of our national parks with my family.  Over the years, the parks we visited included Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion. We hiked, fished, rode horses, traded stories around camp fires, and learned about the importance of preserving our natural heritage.

On a recent trip to Northern California to visit family, my husband and I decided to take a “slight” detour through Yosemite National Park. It had been over 30 years since my last visit, and my husband had never been there before. Although we only had about a half a day, it was enough time to take in a few of the “must-see” sights and perhaps plan for a longer stay sometime in the future.

As we drove to Glacier Point – which offers commanding views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the High Sierra – something about the wall along the road looked very familiar. Deep within my memory was an image of a picture my father had taken many years ago of me looking out over the valley. In hopes of recreating the shot, I positioned myself in what I thought was a similar pose and had my husband take my picture.

Although it turned out that we weren’t in quite the same spot as before (Half Dome was much further in the distance in the old photo), I am pretty pleased with the result.

A little later in the day, while hiking around the valley floor, I took a picture of Half Dome from across a meadow. Home from our trip, I was looking through my old family photo album for the picture of me sitting on the wall and found another picture of my father’s that was quite similar to the one I had taken.

I am so grateful that my parents introduced me to the joys of camping and to appreciate the miracles of nature. I cherish the memories I have of those childhood vacations and the times we spent together as a family.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

53 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: Memories of family vacations”

  1. We, too, grew up camping, mostly in the Canadian woods (as they were within striking distance of our home in Michigan) but with the occasional trip ‘out west.’ It has given me a life-long appreciation of the out-of-doors.

        1. My husband and I went tent-camping this summer (French Beach on Vancouver Island). Our old bones survived that thin mat surprisingly well. The corner store (the only kind of shop within walking distance) sold nice hot coffee and rented out their shower (plus clean towel) for $5 for 20 minutes. Our camp spot was right beside the beach with amazing views. We had a lovely time.
          PS – Glad to see you posting regularly again!

  2. How cool is that! So nice that you grew up camping. And, I’m sure all these impressions and experiences instilled a love for nature and travel in you. To be grateful for your upbringing means you turned out quite nicely! 🙂

  3. Wow, almost a perfect replication! What a wonderful place to visit as a child (or any time, of course, Yosemite is a park I haven’t made it to yet so still on my list).

    1. I hope you are able to get there! Unfortunately, it is showing signs of stress due to climate change (drought and bark beetle) and too many visitors. If you go, fall would be a great time of year – still good weather and fewer people.

      1. That will have to wait for John to retire! University professors don’t tend to get time off in Fall 😦 And depending how the election goes I might be avoiding the US for a few years…….

  4. We didn’t travel when I was young. I was well in my 20s before I tried camping and at that point I already liked luxuries like a toilet and shower. I do have other wonderful childhood memories but most were of things that happened at home. You were lucky to have experienced such wonders at a young age.

  5. I’ve never gotten into the camping spirit. But I adore the National Parks. Hubby and I did a whole slew of them for a few years of vacations… including Yosemite. In fact my blog pic is me at Yosemite – that’s Half Dome behind me. I did a check once and figured out I’ve visited 25 of the 57 National Parks. I considered a bucket list goal of all of them, but realistically I know I’ve been to most of the ones I really want to visit. There are a couple more on my bucket list. If you’ve never been to Glacier National Park (one of my favs)… do that one soon. The Glaciers will be gone soon.

    1. I haven’t been to Glacier but have been encouraged by many to go. We added a few national parks to our list on our road trip last year, but I don’t think I’m up to 25 like you are. Do you have one of those national parks stamp books? It’s kind of a fun way to keep track (although I didn’t have one when I was young so mine is missing a lot of stamps).

  6. Living in Fresno, I was lucky to have access to some of those parks for many years. Our court had a magistrate judge who lived and worked in Yosemite, so once every two years or so I would drive up their with an IT guy or someone else who had to make a scheduled visit, and I would spend a couple of hours straightening out lawbook issues in the judge’s chambers. Then before we headed home, we would have a couple of hours to wander in the park. It was a great job “perk.” Kings Canyon was my personal favorite, though. So beautiful!

    You were lucky to have those opportunities growing up. And I love the reenactment picture you took. As we used to say at work, “close enough for government work.” 😉

    1. Good thing that, apparently, I haven’t changed my hair style over the 50+ years between photos! It made the “reenactment” a lot easier 🙂 .

      I really loved Kings Canyon too. And, Sequoia – with the amazing redwoods.

  7. This just made me smile!! Your childhood was much like mine. Every summer we packed up the Chevy Van with the small white and red trailer and headed to Yosemite or Sequoia for a two-week vacation. I may have told you, this past summer when we celebrated my dad’s 80th birthday by taking him to Yosemite, it was my 25th time visiting–we were in Tuolumne Meadows. Your photos are so cool to see, Janis! Cheers to the leisure ethic our parents left our families!

  8. Family vacations make for some of the best memories ever! My family didn’t camp when I was a kid. Oddly enough we each started camping years later. Instead, our road trips back then included stays a motels along the way. Over the years we explored places like Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, DC and NYC, to name a few. Like you, Janis, I’ve always appreciated that my parents gave me those travel opportunities.

  9. Apparently neither of my parents cared for camping….but road trips were a whole different story. We did annual road trips to Northern CA to visit my Dad’s side of the family. One year, we DROVE to Canada, and I still consider it the best trip of my life. To this day, I am ALWAYS up for a road trip, and fortunately, so is my spouse. Your stories of your family camping are heartwarming, and you did a great job of recreating those pictures!!

  10. I really like the double images of the present and the past … It is great to return to places we visited and loved as kids, no doubt. At vacation time, my parents would pile us four kids into the back of the station wagon (no seat belts in those days) and drive off before sun rise with all of us asleep in the back. We would wake up along the road after a few hours that my parents had in peace with us all asleep in the back. We camped once as a family but my brother got stung by a scorpion and had an allergic reaction which required a trip to the emergency room, so I think they got put off by camping by that experience.

    1. I don’t remember seat belts either… how did we survive? 🙂 I was always very careful to make sure there were no creepy crawlers in my shoes before putting them on. Dark, smelly old sneakers seemed the perfect place for spiders or scorpions to hang out. Neither my brothers or I were ever stung (at least that I remember), but a bad allergic reaction would have probably put me off camping too.

  11. We lived on the East Coast, and our family always had General Motors cars; but I too have many fond memories of those long road trips with parents in the front, kids in the back, and heading off on vacation, all together as a family, to have a great time, establish closer relationships and hopefully learn a few things.

    1. Family road trips were the best way to vacation. My parents made sure that my brothers and I loaded up on comic books before we took off so we would stay fairly quiet over the long stretches of driving. To this day, I prefer to drive rather than fly whenever possible.

  12. Janis I look at those photos and descriptions with envy. I live in the east of England and its flat, beautiful coastline and marshes but flat. Getting over to the US and visiting some of those National Parks is a must!

    1. Oh yes, definitely put that on your bucket list! Our National Park system was established 100 years ago by a very dedicated and forward-thinking group of people who wanted to preserve the unique beauty for future generations. Your area sounds lovely too! One of these days, I hope to get there.

  13. I have made the retirement successfully with occasional part-time contract work and/or volunteering and would not go back. Good luck to you! Found your blog via Kate Cummins.

    1. Kate has introduced me to lots of interesting people! After a little over two-and-a-half years of retirement, I have no desire to work either. I am feeling the need to volunteer, though, and am exploring a few options that speak to me. I just need to make sure any volunteering commitments would be flexible enough to allow us to travel.

  14. Your Dad and mine seemed to be of like-mind, except for their favorite automobile brand. On his vacations, my Dad would pile us four kids into our ’65 Chevy Bel Air station wagon, and go for a week to either Yosemite or Lake Tahoe to camp. Mom never came with us. She needed the vacation too.

    1. Ha! My mother loved the camping experience. She was probably even more enthusiastic than my father about hiking, fishing, and horseback riding. I also remember how much work she did before and during those trips, though. Planning our meals, shopping, and then preparing them with only a folding table and Coleman stove. Maybe your mother had the right idea!

  15. Your family and mine were on similar wavelengths – except for the camping part. We always stayed in one room in an inexpensive motel. But we traveled in a Ford stationwagon. When my children were born, my parents once again packed us all up and took us to Dinosaur National Park, Yellowstone, Disney World, and a Colorado dude ranch. My kids, now adults, share these memories of their grandparents. Thanks for your photo comparisons! What a great idea!


  16. Wonderful images and memories! Having just been there myself in October, I was thrilled to see this post. What a wonderful place and what amazing parents you had. I also grew up camping, but didn’t have Yosemite as a destination.

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