Mike Graf, author of 70+ books for young readers, describes childhood experiences that still inspire his writing

I have been visiting national parks, really, all my life. I still have vivid memories of driving six hours north from our home in Southern California as a child, my brothers and I in the back seat. We drove on through the entirely flat San Joaquin Valley and finally hit the foothills east of Fresno. It was a welcome relief to climb out of the constant summer heat in the valley.

Once climbing, the scattered oaks and gray pine soon transformed into a dense coniferous forest. Eventually we crossed the border into Yosemite and finally drove into the Wawona Tunnel.

Once through the other side, there is the famous Tunnel View of the incomparable Yosemite Valley with its massive cliffs and waterfalls. To this day I can still hear my father gasp, “Wow!”, in his clearly distinct voice as we gazed like pioneers at what had to be and still is one of the most magnificent sites anywhere.

I have since driven through the “Gateway to the Valley” many times. But, with national parks, there are many “gateways”, each with awesome scenery, where we can all feel like pioneers witnessing “America’s Best Idea”, preserving our incredible national wonders.

All my memorable experiences in the national parks eventually inspired me to write about them. There are ten books out now in my “Adventures with the Parkers” series and more coming. These are all fiction stories for children and families about a made up family of four as they travel to our most known and spectacular national parks. But what happens to the characters in the story could happen in real life, or maybe did; I just changed the details to fit the characters.

These stories are obviously not the only adventures to be had in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Zion, the Smokies, Olympic, Arches, MT Rushmore,  Glacier, Yosemite, and others. There are more animal encounters to be had, dangers to witness, rocks to climb, trails to hike and programs to participate in. I invite all families to adventure in our national parks  on their own, and write your own story, whether a fictionalized version taking place in one of our nation’s great treasures, or your own experiences in journal.  The national parks all have exiting journeys awaiting for people of all ages and abilities to get out and about!

Mike Graf has written over 70 children’s books on a wide variety of subjects: caving, dinosaur digs, whale rescues, ghost towns, animal encounters, tornados and much more. He is also a weathercaster for KHSL-TV in Chico, CA. For more information about his books and adventures, see www.mikegrafauthor.com.

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