Roland Spies was in the midst of a fabulous vacation when he made a decision that, later, he admitted, was perhaps born of “a little bit of insanity”.
He and his son, Jack, were visiting Glacier National Park in Montana in the summer of 2012. The park is over one million acres of wilderness that includes 175 mountains, over 700 lakes, grizzly bears, shaggy mountain goats and historic lodges. Spies and his son had gone river rafting, hiked parts of the over 700 miles of trails, and trekked up to the park’s high passes. At some point during this string of perfect moments, Jack remarked that they should visit more national parks. Caught up in the moment, Spies’ agreed and upped the ante. Why not visit all the national parks?
“After our trip was over, I get on the internet and the first thing I find out is that there are 59 national parks,” says Spies, who lives in Illinois and works in the legal department of State Farm, an insurance company. “I joke with him—I’m already in my mid-50s—I said, ‘Buddy, we’re gonna have to do this with some diligence. If we don’t hit two or three a year, I don’t think we’re going to make this.”
It would have been easy to sheepishly push aside a vacation-euphoria induced decision, like so many people do. But Spies and his son committed to the challenge, and he threw himself into research. That’s how he stumbled across the National Park Travelers Club and found out he was definitely not the first person to undertake this mission.