Camping with Sarah Sparhawk

Sarah in the distance at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico
Sarah in the distance at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

Photo by S. Dorsey

Meet Sarah Sparhawk, an avid reader and squirrel-watcher. She's worked as a Visual Information Specialist with the National Park Service since 2015, and Sarah enjoys learning new captivating facts about the biodiversity and history of our country everyday. She uses technology to share what she learns with other people and to get them excited about national parks and what they preserve. And, of course, Sarah loves camping!

Sketched illustration of a rabbit
Last camping trip?
August 2016. My boyfriend and I camped along the Colorado River in Moab, Utah, just outside Arches National Park.

Favorite childhood camping memory?
My favorite memory of camping is the breakfasts my dad would make—French-pressed coffee, poached eggs, bacon, breaded fish with potatoes—not typical camping fare! I still tell everyone I camp with about his legendary breakfasts.

Most memorable camping trip?
While my hometown of Denver was getting pounded with a powerful spring blizzard, my boyfriend and I were on a camping tour of a few New Mexican national parks, where we ended up getting caught in a white-out of our own. We foolishly went without our tent cover and spent a long night braving a White Sands National Monument sandstorm without anything to prevent white flurries of sand pouring in on us. After a night of sand raining down and the walls of the tent being pushed flat on top of us from the strong winds, we woke up to sand over every inch of us and the contents of our tent. But we also witnessed an incredible sunrise over the dunes and had a very cool feeling that we experienced something wild!

Favorite park to camp in?
Believe it or not—White Sands National Monument. If you're lucky enough to avoid a sandstorm, it will be hard to beat waking up on this surreal, pearly landscape. Closest thing to Tatooine you’ll find, Star Wars fans.
Sketched illustration of a fox
Who would you invite on your dream camping trip?
Someone who is as fascinated by squirrels as I am, so we could spend all day seeing which ones will show themselves.

Any advice to novice campers?
Over-prepare on essentials. Depending on where you camp, an extra gallon of water or extra layer of clothing could make the difference between a good trip and bad one. I finally learned this after the White Sands incident.

Dream park to camp in?
I would love to camp in Alaska’s Denali National Park someday. The thought of what megafauna (wolves, grizzlies, moose, etc.) could be around at anytime makes me shiver in the best ways.
Sketched illustration of three mountains
Must-have item?
My Marmot sub-zero sleeping bag, even if there's no chance of getting below freezing at night.

Favorite camping activities?
Good old-fashioned card games and journaling.

What makes a perfect campground?
The best campground is one with lots to discover! I feel most satisfied with a camping trip when I leave it feeling like I know a little more about the park or forest I spent the night in than I did before.

Last updated: July 7, 2022