Mikah Meyer rejects the notion his three-year, cross-country road trip to all 412 National Park Service sites should have to wait until he’s retirement age or be split up into smaller vacations over the course of a lifetime.
The 30-year-old recently quit his job as a dorm parent at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, where he also had been living, to set out on a now well-chronicled quest to become the youngest person ever to visit all of the National Park system’s parks, monuments, battlefields and historic sites and likely the only person to do it in one continuous trip.
“One of the biggest things for me has just been talking to people older than me and hearing them say, ‘Oh I wish I had done that in my life,’ ” Meyer said. “I’m in a position to do it. It would behoove me to take their advice.”
The trip started April 29 at the Washington Monument on the 11th anniversary of his father’s death at age 58, a significant influence in Meyer’s desire to make the trip now rather than wait.
“Even for my peers who haven’t lost a parent and who may not relate in that way,” Meyer said, “I think a lot of people feel that sense of, ‘Oh, so I’m supposed to work for the next 40 years and then when I’m old and hypothetically not able to experience these places, then I’m allowed to do it?’”
During a visit earlier this month to Great Falls and the Potomac section of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Meyer reflected on why it was so important to him to make the trip—and the long list of logistical challenges he’ll face along the way.
He’ll live in a van equipped with kitchen appliances and bedding and the plan is to find companies to help sponsor his travels in exchange for publicity on his Travel Beyond Convention website. He’s also accepting donations through his website.
The goal is to wrap up the trip back in Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial on May 19, 2019, to coincide with the centennial of the National Parks Conservation Association. The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year.
Meyer’s June 4 visit to Great Falls was marked the 12th site he had visited. On June 24, President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn, the bar in New York City considered emblematic in the LGBT civil rights movement, as a National Monument, adding another site to Meyer’s trip.
At Great Falls, Meyer was greeted by National Park ranger Rebecca Jameson and accompanied by District 16 state Del. Marc Korman. A former staffer for Washington state Rep. Brian Baird, Korman said he grew interested in the National Park system through Baird’s leadership of the Congressional National Parks Caucus. Meyer and Korman exchanged emails and the Great Falls visit was scheduled.
It wasn’t just a quick visit just to cross the site off Meyer’s list. Jameson showed him the falls as Meyer’s boyfriend, who plans to accompany him on much of the trip, took photos. Meyer will publish the photos, highlights from the site and an interview from someone he met at the site on his blog, as he plans to do when he visits other sites throughout the journey.
A park volunteer then led Meyer and those accompanying him on a hike of the Billy Goat trail, a 4.7-mile route along the rocky edge of the Potomac River.
At 19, Meyer took his first major road trip, which he had planned already before his father died of cancer. It served as a way to cope with his loss. After finishing graduate school at McGill University in Montreal, he decided he wanted to do a major road trip every year and thought about visiting all 59 officially designated National Parks. That eventually morphed into the trip he’s taking now.
This summer he’ll set out for sites in the upper Midwest and in the fall, he plans to hit sites in New England. The winter 2018 portion could be the trickiest—he’ll have to ditch the van to visit sites in Guam, Hawaii and the American Samoa.
“I realized that if I want to do them all,” Meyer said, “this is one of the few, if only, times in your life where you could do something really expansive.”
Pictured above from left to right: Marc Korman, Rebecca Jameson and Mikah Meyer at the Great Falls overlook in Potomac.