Jan Ellen Ferrigan


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What is Like to Go to All 59 U.S. National Parks?

Don and Shelly Hafner

Don and Shelly Hafner of 59nationalparks.com

Don and Shelly Hafner are on quite the adventure. The couple is visiting all 59 parks in the U.S. National Park System in 59 weeks!  How cool is that?

Don and Shelly went to their first park on April 1 and have knocked off about 1/6 of the list so far. I found Don and Shelly’s 59nationalparks.com website through Twitter. You can also see their park photos on Instagram. I am so fascinated with their journey, I asked them if they would like to do a blog interview. They kindly complied and here it is. Their answers will inspire, and perhaps even surprise you a little:)

Why are you traveling to all 59 National Parks?

Our primary purpose for visiting the National Parks is to (hopefully) inspire others to pursue their goals regardless of how daunting they may appear on the surface. Our journey is not a “bucket list” trip nor is it an exercise in selfishness. Rather we are hoping it is possible to achieve a worthwhile goal with proper planning and determination. We are totally driven by the idea expressed by Mark Twain that the only things you will regret twenty years from now are the things you didn’t do or accomplish.

Which park was first and which will be last?

Our first National Park was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. We chose Hot Springs because it was the first “reserve” of land sent aside for public use by the Congress. We also selected Hot Springs because it is the closest National Park to our home. As for the last, everyone will have to wait until July 4th, 2015. We don’t share where we are going next. We regard our last National Park as our “Home” park and have been there many times. Sorry, those are the only hints we are willing to give.

How are you accomplishing this both physically and logistically? What modes of transportation? What routes? Do you have sponsors that are helping?

Physically our trip so far has been challenging. We don’t stay in one place too long. We are actively visiting and photographing the Parks everyday. Our days begin early and usually end after midnight. We have been on a number of challenging hikes and adventures already. How do we do it? For us, it has been an exercise in determination. As for logistics, we are getting a lot of help from others. For example, we used a travel agent for the Alaskan part of our journey. There is no way we could have set up all of the adventures she set up for us in Alaska.

We have already used a number of modes of transportation. Most of our trip so far has been by driving our Ford pick up and pulling our small camper. We have also taken a flight to the Virgin Islands and a boat trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park. In July we are going to park the truck and camper for a while and use our Ford CMax. Expect to read about a seven day cruise somewhere along the way.

We have received no direct payments nor do we have sponsorship. We are funding the trip ourselves thus far. We are Ambassadors for Flow397 and for the YonderApp. We have traded out promotion and professional photography services for complimentary stays at a few RV parks. Would we accept sponsorship? We are willing to listen. We are going to be in every National Park and we know that has to be attractive to a number of businesses.

Are there any parks that you are timing your visit to be at a certain time of the year because that is the best season to visit?

We seek moderate weather. We won’t, for example, be in Death Valley National Park in August or in Glacier National Park in January. That principle is the guide to our itinerary. We are thinking about visiting a few parks more than once. We would love to make our second visit to Yellowstone National Park in the Winter.

Do your friends and family think you are nuts?

We thought everyone would think we were nuts. In fact, we deliberately looked for people who might think that. Criticism from others has been rare. The most common response we received when we explained what we were doing was “cool”. One doubting neighbor thought that it was an April Fools joke (recall we started in Hot Springs on April 1st). One family member expressed some doubts.

What are a few items that have proved invaluable to your trip so far?

We like it when the RV park store has ice cream! We can say for certain it is not the GPS which has led us on some very inconvenient, time consuming routes. The most valuable thing so far is not an item. It has been the time that we have been able to spend together as husband and wife.

Anything else you would like people to know?

We are interested in working with school children. There are two schools that are following us in Kansas City. We spoke with them before we left and have had FaceTime calls with classes from National Parks. Assuming scheduling works out, we would be happy to stop and present to schools as we travel.

We didn’t plan this, but we feel blessed by being able to meet and “adventure” with people we “knew” from social media. That has been an unexpected highlight of our journey.

Follow Don and Shelly’s National Parks adventure at 59nationalparks.com

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The Island of Happiness and Sunshine


Is it just me or did August just go by at warp speed?

I know that August was here at least for a couple of days because this month we visited Georgian Bay Islands National Park in Ontario, Canada – and I have the photos to prove it:)

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I got the idea to go Georgian Bay Islands National Park from seeing a post on the Backcountry with the Kids blog. (Thanks!) I am originally from Ontario, but had never heard of, or had forgotten about Canada’s smallest National Park. Georgian Bay Islands National Park is made up of 63 islands in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay and is accessible by boat only. Getting there is part of the adventure. We took the Park’s Daytripper boat over and stayed in one of their new cabins on Beausoleil Island for two nights. Simple, but tres comfortable accommodations.

We had a great time. Canadian cottage country/Muskoka is a national treasure. The park is located near Honey Habour – one of the busier spots in cottage country.  Next time I think we will go to a spot with a little less boat and jet ski traffic – but if you haven’t been to Georgian Islands NP, don’t let that comment stop you. It is a really gorgeous place and quite peaceful, especially if you are an early riser.

We were lucky enough to attend a park ranger’s guided hike where we learned about the natural history and rich cultural history of the park. First nations people were living in the area from at least 7,000 years ago. Amazing! The ranger (who is First Nations) showed us some artifacts including a 7,000 year old stone blade and how to make and throw an atlatl (very cool). An atlatl is a very effective spear-like arrow hooked on to a stick. Even amateurs like us could make the arrow fly pretty far.

Now that we’ve reconnected with Muskoka, we’ll definitely be back! Maybe next August will slow down a bit and we can stay longer.


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Shenandoah’s Forest in the Sky

Remember when you thought it might be possible to walk on clouds because they, of course, were made of a fluffy solid substance similar to cotton balls?

Last Friday, we to Shenandoah National Park for the day. Instead of hot and sunny – our new normal – it was moderate and cloudy, even a little rainy.  I don’t mind hot weather, but much prefer cloudy skies if I am outside all day. Shenandoah is known for its spectacular overlooks, however on cloudy days, you just see clouds. Kind of neat in my opinion. Our six-year-old touched clouds for the first time in my memory. She is now fully aware that clouds are foggy mists instead of cotton balls – a slightly sad, but magical discovery.

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We also ran into this little guy.

Slimy Salamander

Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) out in the rain


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Cape Cod Visit and Fun Facts

Just the fact that “The Cape” reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean away from the mainland makes it an intriguing place to visit.

We went to Provincetown for a wedding a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what we saw:

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Cape Cod Fun Facts

  • The first piece of North America the Pilgrims saw was Cape Cod. They landed on Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. After scouting around for a month, the Pilgrims decided to settle on the mainland near Plymouth Rock. (Why!?)
  • Cape Cod National Seashore was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Prior to being designated public land, a portion of the National Seashore was slated for development. Cape Cod National Seashore is 43,500 acres of forest, ponds and beaches that stretch throughout the Cape.
  • Cape Cod is constantly, slowly changing shape. See this flash animation of how the shape of Cape Cod has changed over the past 6,000 years. The animation is from an article on the Cape Cod Times site titled Cape’s shape constantly changing, for good and for bad.
  • A newsworthy visitor was in Provincetown a couple of weeks before we were there.  A black bear – the first seen on the Cape in hundreds of years – was spotted wandering around Provincetown and other areas of the Cape. The bear was tranquilized and moved inland by wildlife officials. The tagged bear then traveled approximately 100 miles and was spotted a couple weeks later in a Boston suburb. He was caught again and transported deeper into the woods. Who can blame him for wanting to go back to the Cape?

We didn’t have enough time to truly explore when we were there. Like the Cape Cod black bear, we want to go back.

Have you been to Cape Cod? Where should we go when we go back?