Since 2015, a man and his 92-year-old grandmother have been on a mission to visit every one of our national parks, and they’ve almost completed their goal.
Brad Ryan, 41, and his “Grandma Joy” are originally from Duncan Falls, Ohio, where they first conceived the plan to visit 63 national parks together despite the 50-year age difference. Initially, Ryan was looking to pass the time with his Grandma Joy for a three-day weekend in between classes at veterinary school. They quickly found that they both shared a deep passion for the outdoors when Ryan began recounting his time on the Appalachian Trail to his grandmother.
“I felt bad that she was always living vicariously through my stories,” Brad told Good Morning America. “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 embarked on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But that one adventure quickly spurred a series of excursions all over the country over the next seven years.
“You don’t assume going into that that your 85-year-old grandmother going with you on a camping trip is going to be anything less than challenging,” Brad said. “That was my fault. That was my misperception of what age means and more importantly, what her spirit would allow her to do.”
Likewise, Grandma Joy was just as enthusiastic.
“I’ve always tried to be positive in my life and it didn’t hurt to try something once,” Grandma Joy said. “I didn’t want to have to regret the next day that you didn’t do it.”
Grandmother and Grandson Duo Gain Huge Following From Fellow National Park Adventurers
Not surprisingly, fellow adventurers couldn’t get enough of the sweet moments that the two shared hiking on national park trails, rafting down Class III rapids and meeting new friends along the way.
Today, the pair has nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram.
“We didn’t expect that,” Grandma Joy said. “He just put that on the social media so the people back home in Duncan Falls knew what we were doing.”
The last national park on their list is the National Park of American Samoa in the South Pacific, roughly 6,700 miles from their Ohio home.
Of course, this is a huge accomplishment for the pair, but still, it is “bittersweet” to end such a remarkable journey.
“It’s been a grand adventure, it really has,” Grandma Joy said. “It’s really been a beautiful, beautiful time. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”