Why Smokey the Bear beats Mickey Mouse

In honor of Throwback Thursday, also known as #TBT on social media, I’m going to write about my childhood visits to the country’s National Parks. The fact is, I think that Smokey the Bear beats Mickey Mouse any day of the week.

Heidi & Wesley at Yellowstone National Park. HeidiTown.com
My brother & I at Yellowstone National Park in 1990.

My dad religiously took two weeks off every June to take our family on a road trip adventure that did not include mouse ears. Instead of visiting the destination that declares itself to be “the happiest place on earth” we explored places where happiness is not measured in ice cream cones, but in moments of unadulterated nature.

The Kerr family traveled to National Parks, mostly Yellowstone which was a 12-hour drive east of where I grew up in Washington State. We also visited Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, Glacier National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainer National Park and many others.

Me with my dad and brother in Yellowstone National Park. HeidiTown.com
My dad, brother and I at Yellowstone National Park in 1990.

Some of you may feel that I was deprived as a child, having to spend my summers with buffalo and geysers instead of Mickey and Minnie, but I can assure you that I was not. In fact, I attribute these vacations to instilling in me a deep love of the natural world.

We often camped and sometimes rented cabins. On one trip my little brother and I discovered an old grave on the rocky hill behind our Yellowstone cabin. On that same trip a chipmunk ran halfway up my leg searching for a treat.

Having spent so much time in National Parks, Smokey the Bear was my favorite childhood costumed character, not Mickey. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

Mom and Son. Geysers in Yellowstone National Park. HeidiTown.com
My mom & brother checking out some geysers at Yellowstone National Park in 1994.

National and state parks may not have roller coaster rides or cotton candy vendors, but they provide a child with an unparalleled education about the world around them. Seeing an animal at a zoo is no substitute to seeing that same animal in the wild. National Parks provide first-hand experiences that can’t be beat.

Most adults have lost the sense of awe they had as children, but I dare you to drive to the top of Trail Ridge Road  in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer and not feel a twinge of pure wonder.

1994 fishing on the LeMar River in Montana. HeidiTown.com
My dad & brother tying flies along the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park. Circa 1994.

Colorado has four National Parks; Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Each of these parks is tremendously different and definitely worth a visit or three.

This is an exciting year for Rocky Mountain National Park because they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. See a full line-up of scheduled events here.

This weekend (April 18-19) all National Parks have free admission because it’s opening weekend of National Parks Week. To see a full list of free days in 2015, go here.


  1. I didn’t get to know them as a child, but I do agree!


    1. My husband thinks I was deprived. I think I was lucky. Thanks for stopping by HeidiTown, Lori. Come back soon!


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