What do you do when all of your dreams come true?
On August 7, 2014 – 59 before 18 was accomplished! Together as a family we have explored all 59 American national parks before our children turned 18-years-old. As a bonus, we have also been to all of the 50 United States.
Our quest during our summer family vacation was to visit the remaining eight national parks. All of them were in Alaska (our 50th state). The journey to the final frontier took three weeks to complete and it all began in Glacier Bay.
We stayed in the park at Glacier Bay lodge. It was a short walk to Halibut Point where we witnessed a few Humpback Whales swimming. The cool temperatures and strong winds temporarily kept the bugs away, but it certainly didn’t feel like summertime.
This majestic place was our first experience to travel by boat and approach extremely close to a glacier. The icebergs, mountains and wildlife became a constant treat. The overcast weather provided a wonderful blue color to the ice of the glacier.
The next adventure took us to Lake Clark National Park. We flew for the first time on a small single engine aircraft. It was very exciting for us as we traveled over the scenic Lake Clark Pass full of craggy mountains.
The quiet wilderness was full of calm waters and beautiful serenity.
The one area that created some pleasant noise was at Tanalian Falls. We hiked here and had the place all to ourselves.
We traveled next to King Salmon before we entered into Katmai National Park. Once again, we had to travel by a single engine plane.
Here at Brooks Falls are where the bears enjoy their feast of food. This is one of the best places in all of America to witness wildlife!
Katmai is very strict and regulated. No other park has more rules to respect the natural habitat of these fantastic animals. It was great to watch the bears have a buffet of salmon. We were very close to them and always safe. Thank you to the National Park Service for protecting this place!
When we landed in Anchorage we could finally rent a car and drive. We drove north towards the high one… Denali National Park.
Denali is the home to the highest mountain peak in North America. Mount McKinley is 20,237 feet above sea level. We were fortunate to see the peak on a clear morning.
What makes this park one of the best places to visit has to be the abundance of wildlife. We loved seeing all of the moose, bears, caribou, and even a prickly porcupine.
Our next treat was driving on the Denali highway (mostly a dirt road) east towards the largest national park in America… Wrangell-St. Elias.
The many tall peaks and glaciers made this gigantic wilderness worth the effort. Our first stop was in the north region of Slana. Next we drove into the central area of the park in a remote town called Kennicott.
Hiking near the the Root glacier was sensational. We continued to wake up very early and be the first to explore. When we got to the end of the trail we hung out for several hours and enjoyed all of the benefits without anyone other humans.
Our last extended driving experience took us south to Valdez. The voyage continued with a ferry trip to Whittier and a short drive to Seward. In this amazing town full of fisherman we explored Kenai Fjords National Park.
Probably the best hike of our trip was our excursion to the Harding Icefield. The elevation gain was about 3,400 feet and was well worth the effort. The breathtaking views were captivating.
On the last day here in the park we hiked to the toe of Exit Glacier. It was not a tough hike, but full of fun.
Our final lodging was above the Arctic Circle in the town of Kotzebue. It was August 6th when we arrived. The next day we would finish our quest. The next morning we took a single engine plane, complete with a pilot of course, to take us to Kobuk Valley National Park.
We landed on the mysterious 25-square-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes and briefly explored the area.
This park has no official sign, no roads and is a true wilderness of extreme isolation. Our footprints will probably last only several days, but this parks impression will last a lifetime.
We took off to number 59 with such enthusiasm. As we flew east an entered Gates of the Arctic National Park we knew we did it. We celebrated with smiles to one another as well as nods of congratulations. When we landed and walked on the land, it was one of the most of the proudest moments we have ever shared together.
We were so happy. Each one of us worked very hard to get here. This park was full of pristine waters. There was even a Musk Ox roaming around in our area.
Luke (age 16) and Winston (age 15) have now been to every state in America and all 59 of their national parks. They have become best friends and spent virtually every second of it with their mom and dad.
The boys go back to school next week while us parents work at our normal jobs. We all feel a tremendous sense of peace, joy and love that we did this together. What’s next? We have a lot of work to do editing (text, pictures and of course our world famous episodes on our YouTube channel).
Congratulations to the “Parks family” !
I am very happy for you guys and hope that you will find a new quest !