Last year, Darius Nabors and Trevor Kemp quit their jobs, left their Virginia homes and set out on a cross-country trek to visit each of the country’s 59 national parks in 59 weeks.
Thursday, they came through Mesa Verde National Park — number 46 on their list.
Kemp said it’s been an incredible trip, but it hasn’t been without its downsides.
“The parks are amazing, breathtaking places, but this trip makes you appreciate the modern life we have,” he said.
Nabors, who was born and raised in Colorado, grew up visiting Big Bend and Rocky Mountain national parks on family trips. He had always wanted to visit each park, so he decided to make the trip starting in June 2015 and ending in August 2016 for the National Park Centennial.
The duo spent Thursday exploring ancient ruins at Mesa Verde, and Nabors gave a presentation in the evening at the Chapin Mesa Museum. He shared photos from the trip and talked about the experience.
Kemp and Nabors started the journey in June at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, near Cleveland. From there they traveled north to parks in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. Through the summer and they visited parks in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming and California. They traveled to Hawaii and American Samoa in January before returning to California and visiting eight of that state’s parks in February. In March, they visited parks in Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. In April, they visited all five national parks in Utah.
This month, they plan to visit Colorado’s four national parks. After Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is next up. Through the summer they’ll visit parks in South Dakota and east of the Mississippi, before wrapping up the trip in Acadia National Park in Maine.
Though it’s a whirlwind trip, Nabors said he feels they’re still able to get the full experience at each of the parks. Kemp and Nabors are camping in the backcountry of many of the parks, making an effort to get off the beaten path and exploring lesser-known features of the parks, Nabors said.
One of the top moments of the trip so far was floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and navigating rapids with 14-foot waves, Nabors said. The duo saw a lynx in Denali National Park, which they visited before the name of the mountain was changed from Mount McKinley to Denali, he said. In California’s Death Valley National Park, the guys met Lee Stetson, a conservationist and John Muir impersonator who appeared in the Ken Burns documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Nabors stressed the need to protect and conserve the parks. He showed several photos of the park’s slogan “Find Your Park” written with trash and litter found in the parks, such as dozens of discarded flip-flops at American Samoa National Park. As the parks become more popular, their maintenance and upkeep becomes a bigger challenge, Nabors said.
“The parks are a victim of their own success,” he said.
Legislators who would have the power to designate more money for the parks seldom see photos of dilapidated park infrastructure, Nabors said. He urged people to write to their legislators in hopes of offsetting some of the park service’s $12 billion backlog of delayed maintenance projects.
One of the best things about the trip has been telling others about the adventure, Nabors said. A group of friends from Virginia came to visit Kemp and Nabors when the duo traveled to Arches National Park in Utah, and Nabors said he enjoyed watching their awe-struck faces on a hike through the Fiery Furnace.
“It’s fun to share the experience with others and see their reactions,” Nabors said.