May 10, 2019
Mikah Meyer recently wrapped up an extraordinary journey; he visited all 419 units of the national park service in a three-year span. Meyer’s odyssey was a tribute to this father, a lover of road trips who died of cancer. Meyer not only wanted to pay tribute to his father but encourage others to seize the day and embark on their own adventures.
According to a recent interview with USAToday, Meyer’s love of road trips began as a child. Like many of us, his family drove to destinations because the cost of purchasing flights for a whole family was prohibitive. However, road trips cost money too. And if you’re trying to visit all 419 park units, the cost of travel throughout the continental United States, not to mention plane tickets to Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Puerto Rico, etc. will set you back. Meyer got to work and raised most of the funding through individual donations, though corporate sponsorships from companies such as REI came through as well.
Meyer’s pilgrimage was an emotional and spiritual journey as well as an impressive road trip. It was an opportunity for Meyer to reconcile the various aspects of himself; he is a gay man who is a Christian and loves the outdoors. While Meyer had to deal with hate and vitriol, he also received positive messages and support. In an interview with NBC News, Meyer said, “And here I am, this pastor’s kid from Nebraska who’s blond and white. And they’re thinking, “he’s like me, he’s Christian like me. And he loves national parks. And just happens to be gay.’”Meyer accomplished something incredible, paying witness not only to the incredible beauty and diversity of this country, but embarking on a journey of self-discovery that set an example for others.
Meyer’s journey should be meaningful to all of us who help to protect and preserve our national parks. In an interview with The Washington Post, Chris Calvert, who has also visited every national park, said, “the National Archives are the repository for our most important documents. The Smithsonian museums are our repository for our most important things. The National Park Service is the repository for America’s most important places. These places define America. It’s like the soul of the nation. It is our story, our land, our history. It defines who we are as one people.”
Our national parks are truly our national treasures. But these incredibly important natural and cultural resources are not immune to danger. The increasing costs of deferred maintenance threaten historic homes and national battlefields. Oil and gas drilling on the threshold of national park borders puts delicate ecosystems at risk. Climate change continues to be a huge threat to parks across the country and around the world.
National parks are places of great beauty. They are places where we can find ourselves. And they are the places that tell our history. “More than just natural wonders, the Park Service sites tell our American story,” said Meyer.
As Coalition members, we understand the irreplaceable value of our national parks. Keep up the advocacy work. Raise your voice. Let’s make sure more Americans can set out on their own epic journeys to pay witness to our nation’s heritage and (hopefully) discover some truths about themselves along the way.
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