Why this 89-year-old is visiting every US national park with her grandson

Grandma Joy and Brad at Glacier National Park in MontanaImage copyright
GrandmaJoy’sRoadTrip/Facebook

Brad Ryan and his 89-year-old grandmother are close, so close that when she told him she had never seen the ocean or mountains Brad knew he had to change that.

Joy lives in a small house in Ohio and had worked a minimum wage job at a grocery store right up to her early eighties. Two of her three sons had died young and she had led a simple life.

During a conversation about Brad’s travels on the Appalachian trail Joy told her grandson she regretted not seeing more of the world.

Then in 2015 Brad’s classmate at veterinary school took his own life.

“It hit me really hard and took a mental toll, I empathised with being in a dark place myself and I was feeling hopeless,” Brad told the BBC.

Brad decided on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and he asked his grandma Joy to come with him.

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GrandmaJoy’sRoadTrip/Facebook

On seeing Joy’s “zest for life” Brad decided to document the trip on social media.

“Sometimes it wasn’t what she said but it was the look in her eyes, they were in a constant state of wonder and awe.

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GrandmaJoy’sRoadTrip/Facebook

Image caption

Grandma Joy taking a rest

“She inspired me so much, it helped me to slow down. The way she would notice the little things like the colour of the mushrooms on the ground.

“I was focused on goals, like climbing the mountain, but sometimes it’s not all about the epic views, it’s about enjoying those little moments too,” Brad says.

The trip was so successful Brad set up a Go Fund Me page which helped them pay for a month long trip to 21 US National Parks.

Since then the pair have been to 29 National Parks in total, and had many adventures along the way, including being charged by a moose at Glacier National Park in Montana and rolling down sand dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Southern Colorado.

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GrandmaJoy’sRoadTrip/Facebook

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Grandma Joy falling over at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

“Her philosophy is not to be afraid to try something new, and that day on the sand dunes she said she didn’t just want to stand at the top,” Brad says.

Brad’s goal, weather permitting, is to take his grandma to all 61 National Parks in the US including those in Alaska and Hawaii.

He says he is happy and proud to share their journey on social media and has been moved by the comments they’ve received.

“The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of time. I cherish an Alaskan fishing adventure I went on with my dad and son. Epic trip!” posted one Facebook user.

Another comment reads: “I hiked with my grandma until she was 89 and had some serious health issues. Those are some of my favourite memories, I miss her so much.

“You are awesome for doing this, treasure every moment you have with your grandma!”

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GrandmaJoy’sRoadTrip/Facebook

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Grandma Joy and Brad at Grand Canyon National Park

Brad says it’s not just on social media he’s been getting responses: “I’ve received thousands of emails from all over the world from people saying they wished they had done this with their grandparents when they had the time.

“They talk about the importance of bonding and of family legacies, and of less pondering and more doing,” he says.



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