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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Couple know best, worst of U.S. parks

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Don Hasenyager of Kailua is about to set the Hawai'i record for visiting all 56 national parks in the United States. If you've visited more, call me and I'll eat crow.

Hasenyager camped under the stars in his first national park, Sequoia, as a high school senior in 1945. He and his wife, Shirley, are taking off for American Samoa at the end of the month to visit their 56th, the National Park of American Samoa.

Before you pick up the phone to tell me that there are more than 56 national parks, remember we're not talking about national monuments, national battlefields or national historical parks like the City of Refuge in Kona.

Any president can make one of these by executive order. It takes a majority of the U.S. Congress to make a national park a national park. OK?

"I think it was in 1987 that I realized I had already seen about 30 national parks," Hasenyager recalled. "Why not visit them all?" Fortunately, his wife is also a national park fan.

As national parks go, Hasenyager puts the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park right up among the best. "Any park that has a live volcano has to be spectacular," he said. "It's one of my favorites along with Yosemite and Yellowstone.

"What's special about Yosemite is spectacular grandeur like the falls. It's inspirational, like a cathedral. Yellowstone has a tremendous variety of natural wonders; boiling pots, geysers, forests, lakes, vast size. The Grand Canyon is right up there, too."

Shirley agrees with her husband on the best, but she also has a list of the dullest.

"Wind Cave in South Dakota doesn't deserve a national park designation," she said. "It's not a very interesting cave compared to Carlsbad. Another one that doesn't rate national park status is Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, where the (Ohio and) Erie Canal started."

Among the sleepers is Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where Shirley saw her first 4,000-year-old trees. Also, Death Valley National Park in California for its vastness, colors and contrasts.

The Hasenyagers said the state with the most spectacular parks per square mile is Alaska. The state boasts eight full blown national parks, two of which you can reach only by air: the Gates of the Arctic and the Kobuk Valley national parks. On one trip they flew to Anchorage by Hawaiian Airlines, to Fairbanks by Alaska Air and arrived dead tired, only to be greeted by a note from their bush pilot: "Can't fly to Gates of the Arctic tomorrow. ... Bad weather. Must leave immediately."

He piled them into his Volkswagen bug without a back seat and took them to the airfield. Three hours later his single-engine pontoon plane landed on Lake Selly. At Kobuk they landed on a river and tied the plane to a tree.

The National Park of American Samoa is partly underwater reef. It offers bats, sea cliffs and snorkeling.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-0873.