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After spending over a week in American Samoa in May, 93-year-old Joy Ryan had set a world record becoming the oldest woman to visit all 63 national parks.

Over the past eight years, she and her grandson, 42-year-old Brad Ryan documented their adventure on Instagram.

The two were estranged after Brad’s parents were divorced, and in 2008 were reunited at his sister’s wedding. She did not appear well. Brad had just returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail and felt compelled to recognize his priorities — which apparently included rekindling the relationship with his grandmother.

Emotionally struggling through vet school, Brad called Grandma Joy and asked if she wanted to go tent camping in the Smoky Mountains. She was 85.

“And I said, ‘Yes, I’ll try it.’ I’d never been in one before.” — Grandma Joy

And so the quest began.

They zip-lined together, they white-water rafted together.

When the pair got to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado, Joy told Brad she wanted to roll down one of the dunes. Brad couldn’t believe it. “I said you are going to break a hip,” he recalls. “And she goes, ‘Kiss my grits,'” and down she went. In a video that Brad took, once she reached the bottom, he yelled out playfully, “Have fun getting back up!”


*** Reading this story, and researching the list of 63 national parks, I realized I’ve not been to a single one… yet.

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