92-year-old grandma and her grandson are on an adventure to visit every US national park together

92-year-old grandma and her grandson are on an adventure to visit every US national park together

What started as a one-time trip together has become the mission of a lifetime for this grandma-grandson duo.

Seven years ago when Brad Ryan learned that his 92-year-old grandmother, Joy had never seen mountains despite being deeply fond of nature, he came up with a plan. “I wanted to be able to offer an opportunity for my grandmother to see that first mountain,” Brad said. When he asked her if she would like to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park with him, her response was, “What time are you picking me up?”



That was in October 2015 when “she not only saw mountains, but she climbed mountains with me,” said Brad. “Even when the rain was pouring down, she was smiling.” Now, in 2022, the grandmom-grandson duo are almost at the end of their mission to visit 63 national parks together. When Brad was sharing his experiences of trekking the Appalachian trails, he "felt bad that she was always living vicariously through my stories,” per Good Morning America. So he felt like it was his responsibility to help her experience "these incredible wild places on Earth" and "make sure that she had some memories to take away in her life story as well.”

“Grandma Joy is a bit of a superhero,” said the D.C.-based veterinarian to The Washington Post. “She is not your typical 92-year-old,” he said of Joy who is a mother of three children and grandmother of four. At the time when they started traveling together, Joy had been a widow for 20 years and was living alone.



Brad had assumed that going on camping trips and hikes with his grandmother will be a challenging task. However, he was proved wrong and he admits that it was his "misperception of what age means and more importantly, what her spirit would allow her to do." Joy expresses that these trips are "beyond anything I could ever have imagined in my life.” She said that she has tried to be positive in her life and "it didn't hurt to try something once." She ensures that she "didn't want to have to regret the next day that you didn't do it."



Brad's relationship with his grandma goes back to his childhood. “My grandma was the one who was very adamant about me being out in nature, and I think my love of animals, in part, came from the exposure that I got to nature from her,” Brad explains. He adds that they were "very close" throughout his childhood. Now after spending numerous hours together on the road and sharing stories about their lives with each other, their relationship has turned into "the closest friendship I could ever imagine having with somebody.” His grandmother agreed, “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. He is my best friend. That’s for sure.” Not only that, Brad shares that Joy "ended up saving me in the process" by helping him become resilient while he was struggling with his mental health.



Their plan, however, also faced some setbacks with the pandemic slowing things down. But Brad didn't lose hope and waited for things to change. He knew the opportunity to travel would "still be there and then be grateful for everything that we had been able to do and see up until that point.” National Parks Services Chief of Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said in a statement that "Grandma Joy, and her grandson Brad, are an inspiration to us all." Elaborating further, they said, “National parks are best enjoyed with the people we love, and it is clear to see that Joy and Brad share a special bond, which has been strengthened by their time traveling together.”

The duo began documenting their journey on social media and now they have many fans. “We didn't expect that,” Joy said. “He just put that on the social media so the people back home in Duncan Falls knew what we were doing.” The National Park of American Samoa will be their final sojourn concluding their seven-year-long National Parks adventure.

Cover Image Source: Instagram/ @grandmajoysroadtrip

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