Displaying Travel Memories – My National Parks Wall

Displaying Travel Memories – My National Parks Wall

Most of us take lots of photos while we are traveling. If you’re anything like me, those photos might make it into a Facebook post, but then after that they tend to stay buried in a computer file folder. I recently transformed one of my walls into a display of memories from our visits to America’s National Parks. Now I’m reminded of our cherished memories every day.

 

The Background Story

We moved into our current house when my oldest child was three years old, my middle child was seven months old, and my youngest hadn’t been born yet. When it came time to decorate the walls, I did what was easiest–I hung up what had been hanging on the walls in our previous house, which was lots and lots of pictures of our firstborn. You know how first-time moms tend to go a little nuts with photos, right?

I had intended to add pictures of my other children, but I was a very busy mom of three, and well, it just didn’t happen. So for 17 years, the upstairs hallway remained as what my youngest daughter described as a shrine to my firstborn.

The Inspiration

Last year, when my older daughter and I took a cross-country road trip in order to move her to California for grad school, one of our stops was Great Basin National Park in Nevada. In the gift shop there, I found a sticker map that helps National Park enthusiasts keep track of which parks they’ve visited.

Suddenly, it dawned on me–I knew what I wanted to do with one of those walls. I could devote an entire wall to displaying memories of our National Park visits, with my sticker map in the middle.

Designing a Gallery Wall

Before designing my wall, I studied pictures of gallery walls I found on Pinterest. The walls I liked best incorporated not only photos, but interesting non-rectangular elements such as arrows, words, initials, etc. I started by gathering frames that I already owned. Then I went shopping and bought a few collage frames and other elements to add interest. Tip: it’s better to buy more than you think you need and plan to return whatever you don’t end up using.

I knew what would add the crowning touch to a wall devoted to National Parks: my dad’s handcrafted rustic wooden frames. My dad passed away in 2018 and was truly one-of-a-kind. I wrote this post about some of the life lessons he taught me.

My dad’s hobby for the last 20 years of his life was making photo frames out of hollowed-out logs. He sawed off cross-sectional slices of the log, added a back to hold the photo and either a stand for tabletop frames or something to hang wall frames, and then coated it with about 20 coats of varnish.

The picture above was taken at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. My parents joined us there for a long weekend when my kids were young. I cherish this photo. I love that I am able to display a picture of my dad with my family in one of the frames that he handcrafted.

It amazed me how years later Dad could recall where he found the wood for each frame he made. He used to say that Mother Nature made the frames; he just assembled them. Over the years, he made hundreds of frames.

If these frames have caught your eye, I have good news for you. My sister and mother recently opened an Etsy shop to sell my dad’s frames and they are giving a 10% discount to my readers if you use this link. 🙂 UPDATE: For some reason, Etsy says it is automatically applying the coupon, but isn’t. Until that is working correctly, when you check out, click on “Apply shop coupon codes,” type in COUPON1, and click on APPLY.

Displaying the Photos

I knew that I wanted to display at least one photo from every National Park that we had visited. It was no small task to collect the photos. Our earliest National Park visits were before the dawn of digital cameras. It required patience and diligence to collect photos from visits to over 30 national parks over a period of two decades.

Perhaps that toughest part of the project was narrowing down and deciding which photos to display. I knew I wanted to have some of the best photos mounted on canvas. Then there was the question of how to handle pictures from future National Park visits. Fortunately, I found a good solution to that problem. I purchased a digital photo frame that can scroll through uploaded photos. I can easily add more photos at any time. Now I have a way to display the many pictures that didn’t make it into a frame, as well as pictures from future National Park visits.

 

The Finished Wall

The whole project took me about two months to complete. I kept it a secret from my youngest daughter. I couldn’t wait to see her reaction when she discovered that after 16 years, there were finally some pictures of her displayed in our upstairs hallway.

Since this is a hallway, it was tough to get a picture of the entire wall. It might be easier to look at one section at a time.

It’s too bad that I didn’t come up with this idea before my dad passed away. I wonder if he would have liked it. However, it was fun doing the final reveal to my kids and my mother.

But, do you know what they all said to me, after all of that work that I did?

“Now, what are you going to do with the other wall?”

Several months later, I finally did something about the other wall, but I’ll have to save that for another post.