The Idea

One day we were on a hike talking about bucket lists. One thing that made the list was visiting all the 59 U.S. National Parks in our lifetime. Then somehow it evolved into the crazy idea of the visiting all those parks within one year. This year of full park immersion would be full of backpacking, trail cooking, kayaking, mountain biking, camping 6 nights a week and any other adventures that come our way. And finally we decided our best option was to take the most irresponsible and non-conventional step of our lives: press pause on our careers and take on the challenge and adventure of our lives. Carpe diem style.

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Read more about the decision of a year in these two posts: PART 1 / PART 2

The Kids

We’re Cole and Elizabeth, 25, born and raised near St. Louis, Missouri. We both ended up going to the University of Missouri (Mizzou) where we met through a pickup game of ultimate frisbee. Elizabeth got a degree in education and Cole went with journalism and business. After college we moved to Kansas City, Missouri where Elizabeth got a job as a 6th grade Language Arts teacher in the Park Hill School District and Cole worked at a health care IT company called Cerner.

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Elizabeth is the caring, passionate, creative mind. When she gets excited about something she takes it on by storm. Cole is the outgoing, responsible, methodical, achiever. He loves to take chances and try new things, but at the same time considers things from every angle. Fortunately, we balance each other out to make a pretty good team!

We got married July 2013 in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and moved into a townhouse together back in KC. We even got a huge fur ball of a cat named Dozer. Steady jobs, vibrant city, few obligations – it was the good life, it was the comfortable life… but sometimes it was the stuffy life. So now we’re ready to get some fresh air and take the most irresponsible, non-conventional leap of our lives. 59 national parks, one year of adventure!

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Wondering why we are called the Switchback Kids? Read more here.

The Goal

We don’t  want this trip to just be a simple year-long vacation to fulfill our wanderlust. We are striving for something much bigger.

One main aspect of the trip is sharing our journey and park experiences with others through this blog and our social media. We want the story of two 26-year-olds who break from their 9-5 careers to spend a year traveling the country on a trip of their dreams to inspire others to pursue their own dreams and seek their own adventures.

We also want to do our part to celebrate America’s Best Idea, the National Parks, especially during the 100th anniversary year of the National Park Service. We hope our explorations of the 59 National Parks, and all other National Park Service sites we can hit along the way, will encourage others to join in the celebration and experience any of the amazing National Park sites all across the country.

 

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The Dedication

Our epic National Parks tour will be dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation for the National Park sites among our generation – the Millennials. We feel so blessed that our families introduced us to the awesome outdoors during our early family vacations. It gave us a lasting love and appreciation for the natural beauty of America that has spurred us on to our own adventures.

A lot of times, our tech-saturated generation is guilty of overlooking the “classics” favor of the latest, flashiest trend. Instead of automatically thinking of weekends in Vegas, vacations in Cancun and backpacking trips through Europe, we want to help our peers realize the endless beauty and adventures waiting in the national park sites in their backyards.

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We hope you will stay tuned and follow along, and even join in, as our story unfolds!




  • Ilizah Sappa

    This is looking to be an AWESOME trip! :3
    Hope you two enjoy your adventure traveling around the country. Looks like you’re getting great progress right now and..yeah.
    Just wanted to visit this site which took FOREVER to visit and comment on my 6th grade Reading/Language Arts teacher. 😀
    Can’t wait for more posts and see more of your adventures!

    (☞゚ヮ゚)☞
    Peace

    • Elizabeth

      Aw thanks Ilizah!! Hope you can keep checking in on us and follow our adventure. Already miss you guys!!

  • Will Stadler

    I am really looking forward to following your journey. The better-half and I are envious, and we are thrilled you’re promoting our fantastic NPS. Travel safe!

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Will! Glad you can follow along!

  • Aniruddha

    Dear Cole and Elizabeth …. me and my wife are really excited about your trip .. Have a safe trip and all the best .. We will be following your blog !!!

    • Cole

      Hey Aniruddha! Glad you found the blog and I’m so glad you and your wife will be following along! We are so excited to finally get on the road yesterday!

  • Hi Elizabeth and Cole! I’ve so enjoyed following your travels. Your adventures, your reflections, your mission is truly impressive. I’ll keep an eye on when you’ll be back in Colorado (my home state) at Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d love to meet up for a hike.

    FYI, I’ve just written about you on my Travel to Parks blog: http://traveltoparks.com/this-couple-rocks/

    Wishing you all the best,
    Heather Hansen
    Boulder, Colorado
    Author, “Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service”

    • Cole

      Hi Heather! Sorry about my slow response. We’ve finally landed back in the Midwest for a few weeks with our families! Thanks for your kind words. We’d definitely love to meet you for a hike in RMNP. Just give us a shout when we’re getting close at the end of June.

      Thanks so much for featuring us on your blog! That was awesome! Are you on Twitter? We’d like to Tweet out about your book. So glad to have you following along.

      Happy Holidays,
      Cole

  • Hey Elizabeth and Cole!
    Thanks so much for the Twitter follow! I’m in the prep stage for a similar (though mostly solo) road trip to all 59 national parks and as many other NPS sites as possible, starting January 1. I’d love to compare notes and talk more! Send me an email if you’re interested. Thanks, and happy trails!

    • Cole

      Wow, that’s fantastic! I agree, it would be great to talk and compare notes. I’ll send you an email.

  • Hello, I read about you guys in The Missourian and am so impressed with your story! You guys are an inspiration. I live in the same area as you, too, and I also have a blog, so I just thought I’d write to say hello and let you know I think your story is amazing. Keep up the good work on the site and the blog- can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks, Sarah! Glad you found us!

  • Deborah

    My husband and I saw your car on the famed 405 fwy in Los Angeles this past Sunday, and I said “Hmm, who are the Switchback Kids?” I immediately looked you up and I am fascinated with your adventure!! Both my husband and I thought “That is awesome!” We have a dream to see as many NPS as we can and we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in Grand Teton and Yellowstone later this summer. We hope you post some info about those parks before we go at the beginning of August. Blessings!!

    • Thanks for finding us! That sounds like an amazing anniversary trip! We’ll be to those parks in June, so hopefully you’ll be able to check here before taking off yourselves!

  • Anderson

    Guys
    Just saw your car outside of Starbuck in crescente city and took the time to read the website. I am 40 and took a break of work when was 34 to travel. Best thing ever I did in my life. I hope you enjoy this experience as I did. Keep doing !

    • Wow- awesome! Thanks for tracking us down!

  • Kaki Skylstad

    Heard about you from Diane and Philip. They were so impressed.
    You have posted so much excellent information for youngsters who want to have a taste of what you’re doing.
    We took our children “rough” camping every summer all over the land west of the Mississippi for twenty years, and it was the best and most educational thing we could’ve done for them… and for us as a family. Your kids will love it too!
    Thank you for the great info and inspiring blog.

    • Cole

      Oh, that’s awesome! We loved chatting and drinking hot chocolate with them after our hike 🙂 Glad you found us!

  • Jim Schroeder

    Hi Donelson’s,

    I just got done reading Elizabeth’s quote to my wife, Amy, that finished off the wonderful article in the most recent NP magazine as Elizabeth recalled the experience on Dry Tortugas after the day trippers had left. It reminded us of a similar experience over 3 years ago, when my wife and I took off to that glorious place and remarked at just how cool it was to be one of the few left on the island next to amazing Fort Jefferson as the sun was going down. Earlier that day, we were fortunate to have a calm day on the seas that allowed us to make the 6 mile round trip to Loggerhead Key despite me incurring a hand injury from a bike wreck a day earlier. As you beautifully noted in the NP magazine, the seas were as pretty as they could be, and the feeling couldn’t have been a better representation of what the NP experience is all about. Even if the little crabs were hard to keep out of the tent 🙂

    Since then, my wife and I have been fortunate to visit Congaree, Channel Islands, Volcano NP, and Haleakala together while my brothers and I have added Big Bend, Yosemite, and just a couple of weeks ago, North Cascades NP (what a sensational 60 miles of trails that was!). Although nothing as prodigious as you both are taking on, with 6 kids (and one on the way), it has been a beautiful opportunity for my wife and I to experience the gift of the natural wonders with the gift of each other.

    Congrats on your journey, and hope all goes well (as possible) as you work towards completion of your journey.

    Jim Schroeder

    • Jim, thanks for the kind words! We always love to hear from other people who are enjoying the parks! Dry Tortugas is still one of our favorite parks 🙂 Adventure on!

  • Rob

    Really impressed that you guys made it to all 59 parks in under a year! I just made it to my 59th park recently and it took me more than 10 years. I’ve been sharing travel my travel photos and stories here: https://endlessloopphotography.com/

    • Thanks, Rob! That is amazing. Which was your last Park, out of curiosity? Thanks for sharing your photos 🙂

  • Katie

    This is really cool! We have just begun our National Parks adventure, and hope to get it done in ten years, I agree with Rob, very impressive that you made it to all in just one year. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!
    We are also blogging as we go: http://adventuresinautos.com