Hiker of the Week: Don Hafner aka @59nationalparks

I am a lifelong outdoorsman.  My love of the outdoors started with fishing.  It evolved overtime to hiking, backpacking and photography.  I’m honored to be selected by Hike by Faith as “Hiker of the Month” and happy to share a few hiking experiences here.

From April 2014 until June 2015 my wife Shelly and I were blessed to be able to travel to all 59 National Parks in the United States.  It was an amazing adventure with hiking as our #1 activity (well, lots of driving too).  During these fourteen months I was fortunate to complete a number National Park signature hikes such as:

*Abrams Falls at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

*Zion Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah.

*Kaibib Trail at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

*Hall of Mosses at Olympic National Park, Washington.

*Avalanche Lake at Glacier National Park, Montana.

I took many more less well known , and equally spectacular, trails along the way.  One of my favorite hikes was my (aborted) attempt to summit the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.

DSC00496The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado is an incredible .place.  The Dunes rise 750 feet above the valley floor. Its a great place for photography and to play.  Visitation is moderate and the higher one goes up the Dunes, the fewer people there are.  If you’ve ever ran, or even walked on a beach, multiply the effort needed by five fold.

I selected the main “trail” to get to the summit.  I write “trail” because the pathway is continuously covered by blowing sand.  A 750 foot summit seemed simple given the other trails (and mountains) that I had already completed.  There was nothing simple about Dune hiking.

From the valley floor, the hike looked like it would go straight up.  Oh no.  It is up a dune then down a dune over and over again in deep sand.  For every ten feet of elevation that I claimed I lost five.  The app on my phone suggested that I had gone up 1000 feet and gone down 500 feet.  I believe that I had made it halfway to the top when a severe thunderstorm drove me off the sand and back to the car.

I continue to be an enthusiastic hiker and believe that our Public Lands are the best place to do so. Later this Summer I will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with Jeff Howell by hiking at Yellowstone.  In October, I will be doing some serious hiking at Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  In the interim, you may be find me hiking at a Missouri State Park.  The possibilities are endless.

Thanks again to Hiking by Faith for the opportunity to share.

Happy Hiking!

Don Hafner


Twitter & Instagram: @59nationalparks

Current location: Overland Park, Kansas

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