It’s something a lot of us talk about doing, but one Michigan couple has found the time to actually do it. Teresa and Larry Graetz have now officially visited every national park in the United States. While the couple is excited to have crossed this feat off their bucket list, they say that it didn’t become a dream of theirs until they visited the Grand Canyon during a trip to Las Vegas.
“We didn’t have nearly enough time at the Grand Canyon,” Teresa said of how she and Larry came up with the idea of trekking across the United States. “We decided one day to go visit the grand canyon again.”
While the couple was impressed with the amazing site that one can behold at the Grand Canyon, they knew that it would still be a bit before they were able to set out on their journey. At the time of their initial visit to the national park, both Teresa and Larry were still working full time.
However, when Larry retired in 2013, the couple decided this was the perfect time to go for it! The Graetz’s set off on a journey that would last years and take them to all sixty-three national parks as well as American Samoa.
Some National Parks Are A Little “Off Road”
While the RV worked well for the couple on much of their journey, they knew that some of the places they had on their list weren’t possible with such a vehicle.
American Samoa consists of five islands and two coral reefs. A beautiful sight, but one that is inaccessible by RV. Another area the couple had to find new ways to explore was Hawaii. However, this roadblock, so to speak, didn’t slow the couple down as they set out to complete their journey.
“The two in Hawaii, don’t overlook those,” Teresa said of the Hawaiian national parks.
“Volcanoes National Park we visited before they had the big eruption,” she continued. “That was breathtaking.”
“Haleakala took your breath away too,” Larry added of the couple’s Hawaiian experience.
“The elevation is over 10,000 feet so you’re above the clouds,” Teressa recounted of the journey to Hawaii.
“So, you’re surrounded by clouds when you’re up there,” she said. “You’re literally in the clouds. That one I was shocked when we got out of the car.”
The Graetz’s saw many breathtaking sites as they journeyed across the country visiting the national parks, however, for Teresa, one particular site has stood out above the rest.
“The most breathtaking for me was the Grand Tetons,” the traveler noted. “If I had to return to one I would go there first.”
Traveling on “Alaska Time”
The couple said the most difficult part of their journey was visiting the sites in Alaska. Out of the eight national parks in the northern state, only three are RV accessible. And, travel to the sites is always up in the air since the weather dictates travel ability.
“They call it Alaska time,” said Larry, adding that when visiting Alaska it helps to have a flexible itinerary.
“It’s very weather dependent there,” he explained. “Several of the parks that we visited we had to have a bush plane in order to get there and for safety reasons they just don’t fly if it’s not safe which we appreciate.”
With this journey complete, the couple isn’t exactly sure where they will travel next. They might just hit another Americana landmark and travel Route 66.
“That’ll get us through a lot of different states and catch a couple of places that we’d like to see again,” said Larry.