41-year-old Brad Ryan and his 92-year-old grandmother, Joy, are nearing the finish line on a goal they once thought was impossible: visiting all 63 U.S. national parks together!
They are from Duncan Falls, Ohio, kicked off their adventure in October 2015, when Brad was looking for a way to spend a three-day weekend during veterinary school. He said the idea was sparked by a conversation he had with “Grandma Joy” about his past adventures on the Appalachian Trail. He said, “I felt bad that she was always living vicariously through my stories,” “And so just knowing that she had never seen deserts and mountains and the ocean and these incredible wild places on Earth, it just felt like a responsibility that I had to her to make sure that she had some memories to take away in her life story as well.”
So they started with a weekend camping trip in the Great Smokies, which he assumed…with an 85-year-old…would be challenging. But instead it sparked an idea to keep it going. Brad began documenting their adventures on Instagram and Facebook to the account @GrandmaJoysRoadtrip in 2019, and they quickly gained a large following. Today, they have nearly 58k followers on Instagram.
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They hit 29 parks before the pandemic slowed things down. But in July 2021, Grandma Joy and Brad went to the eight National Parks of Alaska, where they went white water rafting down class three rapids, hiked near glaciers and fjords and crossed a wild animal encounter off Grandma Joy’s bucket list. “I always wanted to see the bears get the fish and I finally got to see it. And it was fun, it really was,” Grandma Joy said. They have one park left, National Park of American Samoa which is over 6,700 miles from their home town. He says it will be bittersweet when it all comes to an end, but the memories are priceless!