Find Your Park: Mikah Meyer visits all 417 US National Park Service site — in one trip | VailDaily.com

Find Your Park: Mikah Meyer visits all 417 US National Park Service site — in one trip

Mikah Meyer is a man of many missions.

With one epic road trip, the world traveler and national park enthusiast is breaking two world records on his way to seeing all 417 U.S. National Park Service sites in one trip.

It's taking him three years.

"We get to live in the country with the most beautiful places as our public lands," Meyer said from a parking lot in Ogden, Utah. "How could we be so fortunate and then not take advantage of it?"

Meyer isn't saying to go out and see them all like he is, but one of his messages is to encourage people of all ages across the country to find their park to explore.

The National Park Service has launched its Find Your Park campaign, with its website featuring park locations by state (including Puerto Rico), activities, trails, swimming holes and more.

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"The idea is to not only share that the park system goes beyond the 59 well recognized national parks, but also that people of underserved demographics are especially invited to come find their park," said Meyer, originally from Lincoln, Nebraska.

PERSONAL GOALS

Since starting his journey a little over a year ago, Meyer has gained support from the park service and others. But his initial reason for this trip was his father, who passed away at the age of 58.

"It just flipped my world view as far as this idea that we're taught about going to school, growing up, getting a job and retiring until we're 80," he remembered thinking as a 19-year-old. "I just realized that wasn't the case for everyone, and realized that a lot of my peers didn't know that as well."

So Meyer made it a goal that when he turned 30 he would do something "crazy" to help share this idea that time is not intimate in a way that isn't as hard as he learned it.

"Everybody thinks it's crazy," he said of his friends and family, "which I do, too, so that's fine. But I think they also realize that I'm a determined, passionate person."

'BLOWN AWAY'

When speaking with Meyer on May 11, he was 377 days into his journey with 167 national parks and monuments checked off the list, about a third of the way through is adventure.

He recently swung through the western part of Colorado to Dinosaur National Monument, one of the lesser known national attractions on the border of Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Greeen and Yampa rivers.

"I was there, you hear the name and you hear 'monument,' and you think it's probably not that cool," Meyer said. "I was so blown away just by hiking around it that I'm rearranging my schedule later this summer so I can come back and try to raft it."

It will be a minor pit stop for the man on his way to becoming the youngest ever to visit all 417 national sites, and the first to do it in one continuous trip.

"Moments like that where you get to discover something that's not part of our outdoor cultural knowledge — the way Yosemite and Grand Canyon are — it feels so cool," he said over the phone, waiting for his oil to get changed before he went to a library to research.

Meyer plans on being back in Colorado in September to finish off the eastern national sites.

"So far, it's been pretty wicked," he said of Colorado.

TRIP NOTES

While national parks are receiving more and more visitors each year, they are losing more and more funding.

Planning this trip, Meyer's biggest problem has been coming across website links that don't work or old links that take you nowhere (including a rafting trip he was looking at in Colorado).

It's not the most ideal way to plan a trip, but Meyer said he's "sympathetic to the fact that they're trying to squeeze a lot of lemonade out of a small lemon."

His biggest "that's it?" moment so far came at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa.

"I joked that this is basically like my grandmother's town that I went to every year," he said. "It's essentially preserving small-town Midwestern life to show Herbert Hoover's childhood and what he grew up in."

ROLE MODEL

Since starting his journey, which is "more or less" on schedule, Meyer has also garnered support from the LGBT community.

Over a year ago before starting his road trip, Meyer met his boyfriend — imagine telling someone you love that you're leaving for three years. While loneliness was Meyer's no. 1 fear, his boyfriend has helped ease that by joining him on parts of the trip.

"There's so much work to be done that even when he's not here, I'm never lonely because I'm never bored," he said. "I don't have time to get bored."

With his father, the national parks and the LGBT community helping bring this dream to fruition, Meyer is enjoying sharing his experience with the world.

"It's been really cool as somebody who struggled to come out in a conservative state to now get to be that role model that I never had," he said.

And while it started with a personal goal of sharing a message with his friends and family, his trip has grown into something so much more.

"What's been really cool is to be able to change it in ways that is able to help a lot of other people," Meyer said.

To help Meyer along his journey, visit his website at http://www.tbcmikah.com.

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 or rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Support Mikah

On his record-breaking trip to 417 U.S. National Park Service site, Mikah Meyer’s ability to keep going is based on fundraising while on the road. For more information and to help Mikah, visit his website at http://www.tbcmikah.com to make a tax deductible donation to keep him sharing the parks with the world.

Follow his epic road trip on Instagram @tbcmikah.