APGAR — Fifteen months ago, Mikah Meyer started a journey that few have undertaken, and even fewer have successfully completed: He would visit all 417 National Park Service sites in America.
But Meyer’s trip has a special twist — though more than 40 people have visited all the sites, none have done it in one continuous trip.
“Most people have taken four or five decades to (visit all 417 sites),” Meyer said.
Meyer is about halfway through the three years he scheduled to see all of the sites, and stopped to visit Glacier National Park last week.
As he waited for a Red Bus tour after having rafted the Flathead River, Meyer said his trip actually began more than a decade ago, when he was 19 and his father, a pastor in Lincoln, Nebraska, had just died from esophageal cancer at age 58.
The younger Meyer suddenly understood mortality like he hadn’t before, knowing then that life could end sooner than expected, and he made a promise to himself.
“I made a goal that when I turned 30, I would do something crazy,” he said.
National parks held a special spot in his memory, stemming from trips with his family to some of the most beautiful and wild places in the country.
“They were the best places I’ve seen in America,” Meyer said.
Meyer is also gay, and wanted to show America’s LGBT population that the national parks are safe, welcoming, and made for them, too.
Deciding on a goal is one thing, but making it happen is another. As a pastor’s kid, Meyer didn’t have money to burn. Donations trickled in thanks to more than 300 news stories on his trip — which Meyer said has amounted to half a billion likes on various social media — but there wasn’t enough to sustain him.
Eight months in, he was ready to quit. The money wasn’t there, and people seemed to only read headlines about him, assuming he was a trust-fund-endowed, lazy Millennial; some called him a brat.
But he’d worked as a professional singer in churches before undertaking the trip, and in February he started singing for his supper at churches.
“Every Sunday I’m at a different church across America,” Meyer said.
He explains his trip to the congregation and sings three to six solos, and then puts out a donation basket. So far, it’s been his saving grace.
Glacier Park was park 196 for Meyer, placing him just 13 parks from being halfway done. He’s found some gems, including Dinosaur National Monument in the northwestern corner of Utah, and also discovered that “almost no one has been to the national park sites in their own states,” though acknowledging that Glacier is probably different in that respect.
Overall, though, Meyer has found that for all of the differences that can divide Americans, there are similarities that should unite us instead. In every state, across every line, people want love and to be loved, he said.
It’s really that simple.
“Everyone like to talk about how different we are as Americans right now,” Meyer said, moments before boarding his tour bus. “But wherever you are, people just want to take care of their family.”
To donate to and follow Mikah Meyer’s travels to all 417 National Park Service sites, including pictures and a blog, visit www.TBCMikah.com.