An 89-Year-Old Grandmother Is Visiting All 61 National Parks With Her Grandson

Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains National Park
Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains National Park
SeanPavonePhoto/iStock via Getty Images

The U.S. has 61 National Parks—including several hidden gems—but some people haven’t been to a single one. Until 2015, Joy Ryan was one of those people. Her adult grandson, Brad Ryan, told her about a hiking trip he once took on the Appalachian Trail, and Joy said that in her 85 years, she had never seen a mountain—except on TV—or an ocean. When her husband was still alive, the couple would drive to a lake in Florida, but avoided the coast.

“She told me at that time that she really, really regretted that she didn’t get to do more of that type of thing and have more experiences in life,” Ryan told CBS News. Joy, now 89 years old, lives in Duncan, Ohio, a “two-traffic light town.” She spent most of her life working a minimum wage job and raising three sons, two of whom died young. She’s a leukemia survivor, and in recent years has battled pneumonia.

In 2015, when Ryan was attending veterinary school, one of his classmates committed suicide. To cope with the tragedy and because life is short, he invited Joy on a three-day camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, where she finally got the chance to see some mountains in real life. The adventure went well enough that in 2017 it inspired the unlikely pair to start a GoFundMe campaign so they could hit up all 61 parks. Flash forward to 2019, and the duo has visited 29 parks, and counting.

So far, they’ve visited 38 states—Alaska and Hawaii are next—and driven 25,000 miles in the past three and a half years. One time a moose chased them, but according to Joy, of the animals they've seen, a prairie dog is her favorite.

Ryan told the BBC that this time with his grandma has inspired him, and he’s liked looking at the world through her eyes. “It helped me to slow down—the way she would notice the little things like the color of the mushrooms on the ground,” he said. “I was focused on goals, like climbing the mountain, but sometimes it’s not all about the epic views; it’s about enjoying those little moments, too.”

To see where they end up next, you can follow Grandma Joy’s Road Trip on Instagram.

You Can Rent This Wizard of Oz-Themed Cottage in North Carolina

Airbnb
Airbnb

This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the classic 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. In addition to watching the film, you can opt for a more immersive way to celebrate the occasion. As Travel + Leisure reports, a cottage in West Jefferson, North Carolina offered on Airbnb is perfect for any traveling Oz fan—and it’s only $35 a night.

The studio cottage is considered a glamping destination and is slim on amenities—it has a breakfast nook, porch, sofa bed, and a Porta John—but the Oz-themed details more than make up for the lack of luxurious perks.

A pair of stockinged feet are visible under the home, hinting at a witch’s untimely demise; a character mural of Dorothy and her three escorts, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, appears on the side of the cabin; inside, various other decorations pay homage to Baum's books, including a pair of ruby slippers and a few stuffed Totos.

A cottage with a 'Wizard of Oz' theme in West Jefferson, North Carolina is pictured
Airbnb

If you go, you’ll have to act quickly. The cottage is open only in the spring, summer, and fall, as it has no heat.

The Airbnb listing has a perfect score across 16 reviews. You can book it here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Visit Any National Park for Free on September 28—or Volunteer to Help Maintain Them

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Nick Hanauer/iStock via Getty Images

By the end of September—which always seems especially busy, even if you’re not a student anymore—you might be ready for a small break from the hustle and bustle. On Saturday, September 28, you can bask in the tranquility of any national park for free, as part of National Public Lands Day.

According to the National Park Service, the holiday has been held on the fourth Saturday of every September since 1994, and it’s also the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It’s up to you whether you’d like to partake in the service side or simply go for a stroll, but there is an added incentive to volunteer: You’ll get a one-day park pass that you can use for free park entry on a different day. Opportunities for volunteering include trail restoration, invasive plant removal, park cleanups, and more; you can see the details and filter by park, state, and/or type of event here.

If you’re not sure how you should celebrate National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service has created a handy flowchart to help you choose the best course of action for you—which might be as simple as sharing your favorite outdoor activity on social media with the hashtag #NPLD.

National public lands day celebration flowchart
National Park Service

There are more than 400 areas run by the National Park Service across the U.S., and many of them aren’t parks in the traditional sense of the word; the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz Island, and countless other monuments and historical sites are also run by the NPS. Wondering if there might be one closer than you thought? Explore parks in your area on this interactive map.

For those of you who can’t take advantage of the free admission on September 28, the National Park Service will also waive all entrance fees for Veteran’s Day on November 11.

And, if you’re wishing a free-admission day existed for museums, you’re in luck—more than 1500 museums will be free to visit on Museum Day, which happens to be this Saturday.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER