Many people make it a goal to visit as many national parks in their life as possible. I know I would really like to visit every one, and yet I’ve only ever been to Acadia. You can have these hopes, you can even make plans, and yet, sometimes, life just gets in the way. Now try to imagine making it to 85 years old without ever even seeing a mountain!
That was the case for Joy Ryan who, according to the Washington Post, revealed that little tidbit of information to her grandson Brad. Instead of simply seeking a way to change that one fact, Brad and Joy decided to see not just one or two national parks, nor just every national park in the contiguous United States, but every single national park in the United States.
The two began their trip in 2015, first checking out Great Smoky Mountains National Park when Grandma Joy was 85. After the first trip, Brad began a GoFundMe, raising $12,000 in two rounds of fundraising, allowing for a month-long road trip in 2017 in which they visited 21 more national parks. In September of 2019, the pair did another 45 day road trip in which they visited 20 more across 14 states. While not on large road trips, the pair has taken short excursions to visit parks on Brad’s vacation days.
Just to clarify, Grandma Joy, who’s now 92-years-old, isn’t just visiting these parks in a car. They aren’t just driving the roads and stopping at a few sightseeing locations. Instead, the pair is hiking, camping, white water rafting, and staying plenty active in various other ways throughout their many visits.
Brad began an Instagram page, Grandma Joy’s Road Trip, in 2019, allowing the whole world to follow along with their incredible journey. Since they began in 2015, the two have visited 62 of the 63 national parks located in the United States. In the spring of 2023, right around when Grandma Joy reaches 93-years-old, the pair plans to visit their last unvisited park, the National Park of America Samoa.
“As a grandson, watching her life story unfold completely differently than it otherwise would have, it gives me peace. She finally got to start living the life of adventure she had always been waiting for, and deserved.” – Brad Ryan, to the Washington Post
I think this story is a good reminder to reach out to the ones you love. Plan a trip to see something really cool with a family member you haven’t spent enough time with recently. Keep or rebuild those connections and keep the love flowing. Anyone who lives in the United States lives in a pretty beautiful country, whether you know it or not. Try to take advantage of that while you can.
Image Credit: Grandma Joy’s Road Trip on Instagram