After his 92-year-old grandmother Joy said she had never seen a real mountain before, Brad Ryan spent the next three years taking her to 62 of the country’s 63 national parks.
This incredible journey will culminate this year when they go to the National Park of American Samoa, the final national park on their itinerary.
Vet school student Brad started the challenge to see all of the U.S. national parks after bragging to his grandmother about his hike along the Appalachian Trail.
When Joy from Duncan Falls, Ohio, revealed that she had never been camping or even seen a mountain range, he was taken aback.
She wishes she could have gone on an adventure like her grandson, so Brad surprised her by taking her on an unforgettable vacation.
Brad remarked, “It made me feel horrible that she was continually trying to re-create her life based on the ones I told her.” Knowing that she had never seen the desert, the mountains, the ocean, or other unique natural places on Earth made me feel like it was my duty to make sure she had some experiences to add to her life narrative.
The two have taken several road trips to various national parks, starting with the Great Smoky Mountains and continuing to New River Gorge and Joshua Tree.
The two went on a 50,000-mile journey together during their seven-year endeavor. In addition to hiking and white-water rafting, they spent the night beneath the stars at many national parks.
It’s no surprise that the relationship between the two has deepened; they’re no longer merely grandmother and grandson but also the best of friends.
The fact that Brad’s parents’ divorce caused a 10-year rift in communication between his siblings and him adds to the unusual nature of their current connection.
They’ve relied on one other ever since they got back together. Joy helped Brad get through a tough time while he had mental health problems before they began visiting national parks.
After seeing almost all of the national parks in the United States, Brad is more appreciative than ever of the time he spent exploring with his grandma.
Traveling throughout the nation and interacting with different people was a huge bonus. In contrast, Joy said the journeys were better than anything she could have dreamed.
She marveled at the sights she had seen on their cross-country journey and remarked on how fortunate they had been.
This journey, as life-altering as it is, does not come cheap. Although Brad funded their first trip together, he quickly established a GoFundMe to fulfill his grandmother’s dream of seeing the mountains.
Due to Brad’s efforts in raising $12k, they visited 21 national parks in 2017. Additionally, in 2019, the couple went on a lengthy trip, visiting 20 national parks across 14 states.
Brad invested some of his resources in the travels, and the two of them make it a point to be frugal in everything that they do.
The couple soon realized they wanted to tell others about their exciting new adventure, so in 2019 Brad started posting photos and videos of their excursions on social media. Following Brad’s Instagram and Facebook posts about their journey, the @GrandmaJoysRoadtrip account immediately amassed a sizable following.
Joy said, “We didn’t anticipate that.” He just posted it on Facebook, so everyone in Duncan Falls can see what we’ve been up to.
They became nationally and internationally famous when their journey across all national parks was widely reported. Due to the offers they received from several businesses and travel agencies, they were able to finance their trips.
Happiness was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from strangers. She thought that their experience, regardless of age, may have been inspirational to others.
Excursions might be as short as five days or as long as forty-five. Even yet, Joy finds the strength to go forth on their travels. In July 2021, they undertook a physically demanding journey to Alaska’s eight national parks.
There they received Joy’s long-sought-after animal encounter, went white water rafting on class three rapids, and went hiking among glaciers and fjords.
I eventually got to see the bears eating fish, which was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. Joy said that she had a great time overall.
As they conclude their journey to see every national park, the pair is eager to begin crossing items off their new “bucket list,” which includes trips to state parks and maybe even international destinations.
Reflecting happiness, “It’s been a terrific journey; it has.” Indeed, the last several years have been quite exceptional. I appreciate it very much.
Moreover, Brad said, “We understand that not everyone will be able to visit every U.S. National Park. However, we believe that adventure can be found in any state and encourage everyone to go out and look for it.
Adding extra excitement to Joy’s life is something Brad enjoys doing since it makes him feel whole.
Whatever the course of their lives, they will always be examples to those who want to broaden their horizons and build lasting relationships with the people who mean most to them.