Come Along for Grandma Joy’s National Parks Adventure

Together, Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan have been to 53 of America’s national state parks — and their journey’s not over yet. 

The Adventure Begins

Brad Ryan and his grandma were born 50 years apart in the same small town of Duncan Falls, Ohio. Brad didn’t leave until he was 20, traveling to Africa for his veterinarian studies and living in the Appalachian Mountains for a stint. His grandma never left. Her travels were limited to an annual trip with her husband to go fishing in Florida. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a traveler’s spirit. Growing up, she found adventure wherever she could. 

“My grandmother had a farm across the road from where we lived and they had cows and chickens,” she said. “We used to go over there and pick berries and gather nuts. We used to hike and go down the hills.”

This is where her love of nature began. When her grandson was little, she passed this onto him with trips to Cutler Lake in Blue Rock State Park where they’d look at crawdads. But as he got older and his parents divorced, they drifted apart. That’s until he called her in 2015 and they reconnected.

“One day in vet school he got down in the dumps,” Joy said. “And because he always likes to go out in nature to feel better, he called me up and said, ‘You wanna go camping?’”

Joy, by then a widow agreed. “I said, ‘Sure, whatever you want to do, I’ll be glad to do it.’ And that’s how we started out.”

From Stem to Stern

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