National Parks Enthusiast Completes Epic Journey

May 6, 2019

Mikah Meyer hit Northeast Pennsylvania relatively early in his epic, three-year quest to visit every National Park Service unit in the United States. His stop at Steamtown National Historic Site in October 2016 would be the 69th among what would grow to be 419 national park sites by the time he completed his journey late last month in Washington, D.C. When he climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 29 — three years to the day after he set out from the Washington Monument — Meyer joined an elite group of individuals who have visited every park service site and became the first person to accomplish the feat in one continuous, nonstop trek. Despite all that the 33-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska, native saw and experienced as he traveled from sea to shining sea and beyond, he said Steamtown and its commemoration of the bygone era of steam railroading left an impression. “Most memorable thing was just the unique chance to experience these trains up close. No other NPS site presents that opportunity, or even comes close! My little nephew would lose his mind at such a place from pure joy,” Meyer said in an email. Meyer, a gay man whose advocacy for the LGBT community became a feature of his travels, was inspired to undertake his journey by his late father. His dad, a Lutheran minister who was stricken with cancer and died at age 59, never got to take the road trips he planned in his retirement. “The day I lie on my deathbed, whether it’s 60 years from now or six days from now, I can say I did something,” Meyer told reporters at the Lincoln Memorial. Bill Fischer, chief of visitor services and resource management at Steamtown, said there are most definitely people whose life quest is to visit every national park site “and that has been expanding a fair amount over the last decade.” It is not unusual, he said, to run into visitors at Steamtown who have been to 300 or more park units. “It’s fun to talk to those folks,” Fischer said. “Obviously, they are really engaged in the parks, and it’s fun to ask them what their favorite park was and why, and what they find interesting about Steamtown.” Meyer relied heavily on donations from supporters and corporate sponsorships to finance the completion of his quest, which he also wrote and blogged about. In his email, he had some to advice for people who may be thinking of trying to replicate his accomplishment: Fully fund the trip in advance and don’t share it on social media. “Because I was trying to pull off a world record, and fundraising, and constantly documenting/sharing this journey, it was more of a job than a travel experience,” he said. “So to anyone who wants to replicate what I did, don’t make it your job.” Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com 570-348-9132