Giving Back Together

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This past spring, hosted its second annual “Share Your Story” adventure writing contest, designed to encourage visitors of our federal public lands to share details of their meaningful outdoor adventures and experiences. The contest resulted in nearly 1000 submissions, with stories that touched our hearts.

Many of these stories also convey gratitude for the public lands and waters upon which their adventures occurred. Now is a good time to add a chapter to your story about how you volunteered your time and energy to give back to the special place(s) that filled your soul with meaningful and memorable experiences.

Below are a few highlights from story submissions. To view more stories, visit the Share Your Story – Story Gallery.

Our public lands bring us together. Now it's our turn to express our appreciation for them!

Passport to America

United States of America

A woman wearing a baseball cap and blue shirt and a man wearing a baseball cap with sunglasses pose

Glacier National Park (Sheri Wiedenhoeft, Share Your Story)

“Passport to America” chronicles a couple’s decision to pick up their roots and hit the road on a quest to discover the United States on a deeper level. At every stop throughout the lower 48, Sheri and her husband reveled in the diversity of experiences America’s public lands have to offer.

“When asked which is our favorite national park, we cannot answer, for we love so many. Each time we visit any national lands or facilities we are grateful that there are organizations and individuals who have had the foresight of preservation, interpretation and protection. If you want to explore America, past or present, visit a national park, memorial, monument or seashore. It truly is a gift.”

How Can One Not Say "Thank You"

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Fifteen family members pose for a photo atop the rocky cliffs of Little Stoney Man overlooking the r

Shenandoah National Park (Drew Christian, Share Your Story)

“How Can One Not Say ‘Thank You’”, the 2022 Share Your Story contest winner, captures the gratitude this family felt returning to their 25-year tradition after missing one year due to the pandemic. As you read this story and relive this memory alongside them, gear up to start your own family tradition and say ‘thank you’ to your public lands!

“We reach the summit overlooking the vast Shenandoah Valley, the landscape dotted with farms, rivers, lakes, and towns. How could anyone stand on the face of Little Stoney Man and not whisper, "Thank You"? We owe these mountains a debt we can never repay.”

Junior Park Ranger Adventures

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

A young boy grins as he shows off his Junior Ranger badge and certificate.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Anita Young, Share Your Story)

Feel the sheer joy and excitement this Junior Ranger experienced at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the story “Junior Park Ranger Adventures”:

“Even though we had a marvelous time adventuring around Mt Rushmore, nothing compared to the moment Thomas was sworn in and became a junior ranger. We will always remember this moment. That one simple event made my son an explorer for life.”

Public Lands Have Shaped My Life

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

woman in a burgundy hooded sweatshirt walks two large dogs on a dirt trail along a river.

Black Hills National Forest (Krysten Bauer, Share Your Story)

“Public Lands Have Shaped My Life” is the story of one woman’s journey beyond the suburbs into the natural world. Her experiences on public lands inspired her to become the land steward she is today, supporting the mission of the Department of the Interior through her work.

“I feel in this way, that I am able to give back to the amazing idea of generations of land stewardship and that gives me both purpose and joy… And now, because I have gotten to have so many beautiful experiences because of public lands, I am hopefully able to share my joy and passion for them with others.”

Needing to be Needed

Inyo National Forest, California

A woman in a blue coat roller-skates behind a woman in wheelchair on a paved accessible trail.

Inyo National Forest (McKenzie Chasteen, Share Your Story)

“Needing to be Needed” is a heart-warming story about friendship, belonging, and giving back to one another. Let the experiences and worldviews of these three women encourage you to reflect on your own personal ties and how you experience your world.

“It is amazing what belonging can do to the person; it gives a place to people of all speeds. I was reminded of John Muir's words, ‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.’ No matter ones speed or ability the endless beauty of our National Lands are to be cherished by all and for all.”

National Parks Restored our Souls

Channel Islands National Park, California

Two young boys wearing army green explorer hats lined with Junior Ranger badges look out over the si

Channel Islands National Park (Brandy Lidbeck, Share Your Story)

“National Parks Restored our Souls” is an action-packed adventure of two Junior Rangers’ quest to visit all of the National Parks in California. With just one park left on the books in 2020, this family headed to Channel Islands National Park to finally claim their last stamp and reconnect with their public lands after staying inside for far too long.

“As the day came to a close and we headed back to the boat, our feet were tired but our hearts were full. We had spent months in quarantine and this was our first park back…and what a park it was! […] We needed that trip. We needed a sense of normalcy again. We needed to know that COVID had robbed so much from so many…but that the National Parks could heal some of that for us.”

A Helping Hand and a Light in the Darkness

Mecca Hills Wilderness, California

A man in hiking clothes carrying a trekking pole poses at the base of a towering rock wall.

Mecca Hills Wilderness (Michael Lerner, Share Your Story)

“A Helping Hand and a Light in the Darkness” is the story of an unexpected but welcome addition to a solo hiker’s excursion. Realizing they were stronger working together, the two hikers teamed up to finish the difficult sections of the Grottoes Trail together and became unlikely friends along the way.

“To keep that magical feeling, we didn’t exchange contact information, just our first names; our bond was then and there, that day when two strangers teamed up in the desert and had the trip of a lifetime.”

Bring Home a Story