Today we’re sharing another post in our 2019 “Park Chaser Profiles” series. Each Q & A interview features the story of a national park traveler. Whether you are visiting your first park or your 400th, we hope the travel tips and shared experience helps inspire your next national park adventure. Check out today’s post with the
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit all 400+ units of the National Park Service? We’re so excited to welcome Jim, Cheri, Jameson & Gerald Maitland, otherwise known as the
- The first family to complete all the National Park Service units.
- Gerald was the youngest person to visit all the National Park Service units (He’s 15).
- Jameson & Gerald collected a record number of Junior Ranger badges; they have close to 700 Junior Ranger badges each!
Park Chaser Profile: Jim, Cheri, Jameson & Gerald Maitland – otherwise known as the “
Total Park Count: 419 of 419 – they completed their #parkchasing list on December 28th, 2018
Where can we find you online?
We are not a computer savvy family. Our interest lies within giving back to the national parks. Because of the many people that we have met volunteering at the parks, we decided that if we were going to go to all of the parks that we needed to give back to the parks. The closest park to our location is the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, an hour and a half drive from our home.
The River Raisin Foundation director asked us to assist them, to help bring awareness to the parks by Facebook posting our adventures on their site and helped us create the
We chose to post as a group/family because we didn’t want individual attention and remove the focus off from US and
Our motto: Families that play together, stay together!
About the Parkbound Maitlands Family
How did your interest in the national parks get started?
It began with the Dayton Duncan, Ken Burns documentary National Parks: America’s Best Idea. We were simply going to visit the 61 national parks only. We didn’t even know about the national park sites.
We decided we would start our journey in January 2010 and visit Florida’s Dry Tortugas, Everglades, and Biscayne. When arriving in southern Florida at Big Cypress Preserve, the volunteer, at the visitor center front desk introduced us to the Junior Ranger program. Before that, we were totally unaware of its existence.
What were your favorite things to do when you visited a national park unit?
When we arrived at each of the parks we immediately went into the visitor center and asked for a Junior Ranger book. We spoke to the Rangers to see if there were any Ranger tours for the day or near future. Ranger tours are something we really learned a lot from and enjoy. Some Junior Ranger books require a ranger talk.
We then figured out our itinerary at the park, checked if there were hikes to explore or a Visitor Center movie. Then we stamped our park books with the cancellation stamp before lining up our day/days.
Do you collect anything or have any special traditions you do for each park unit?
Each of the kids has their own United States quilts that hang on their walls. At each park, they add a lapel pin to the area the park is located. It’s gotten so heavy, that we laugh that we might have to reinforce the walls that hold the quilts!
We ALL LOVE ❤️ the Junior Ranger programs and enjoy working on them as a family. They truly provide what the park unit is all about. Good or bad, they find fun activities to introduce you to the parks historical, natural, and or cultural story. The kids have earned close to 700 badges/patches each.
Which parks did your family like the most?
This is our most frequently asked question. Our answer: How can you choose between your children or pets? Each park is uniquely different and represents something important to the United States.
Recently we were interviewed in Washington DC by a journalist. She asked for us each to write down 12 of our most meaningful or memorable national park sites.
Jameson’s list resembles an activist with Rosie the Riveter, Clara Barton, Stonewall, First Ladies, Women’s Rights, and so on. Gerald’s was much more patriotic with battlefields, Revolutionary War sites, Japanese Internment camps, and Springfield Armory. It was remarkable to us after eight years of visiting parks, that we can see the beautiful people our children are becoming ❤️.
After 400+ units, we can imagine the stories. What are some of your favorite memories from your incredible journey?
Every park offers its own unique story to our travels. Here are a few of our favorites:
One of our happiest memories was while on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee. We had just left Meriwether Lewis’s grave site. Traveling south, a small black animal, possibly a woodchuck ran under our fifth wheel, missing the tires. We quickly discovered that it was a six week old puppy that had been abandoned on the road. It was the first day of a 13-day trip. The next morning we took the puppy to the Visitor’s Center and explained to them that it is against the law to remove anything from the park.
The ranger quickly replied that there was not one ranger in the park that didn’t own a park puppy. We then asked what do we do with this puppy and he replied you have yourself a park souvenir. Our Natchez is now six years old and one of the best farm dogs we’ve ever owned. Or maybe she owns us!
On a Full Buck moon in July we decided to take a moonlight walk around Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. In Michigan, where we are from we take many moonlight walks and don’t need to worry about anything. Not so in Wyoming!
While approaching the mile path that meanders around the tower, we quickly heard a frightening rattle sound, in the darkness. Yanking Jameson backward by the arm, we turned a flashlight on and pointed it to the paved trail before us. There in the middle of the path was an adult rattlesnake soaking up the remaining heat left behind by the sun. Jameson almost stepped directly onto it. Moments later, we watched a mom with five little girls wearing shorts and flip-flops running towards the exact spot where the snake was still expressing his displeasure of our midnight jaunt.
It was certainly
The next morning at the Visitor’s Center, we reported the snake incident to a park ranger. He informed us that the local college had come that spring and done a snake survey. They had counted 26 rattlesnakes in that vicinity. The week prior, a young teen girl had been bitten. She had been airlifted to the local hospital and recovered completely.
We were truly relieved that we were there for the little girls and their mother!
Traveling with YFU
On a Sunday afternoon, we received a phone call from a gal representing a foreign exchange program called Youth for Understanding, YFU. She explained to us about the program and that she had gotten our name from another parishioner from our church. We were recommended as a perfect family for a student from Japan, who had indicated on his application that he loved American national parks. The YFU representative thought we would be an excellent fit.
We told her that we were homeschoolers, that we were weird, and you wouldn’t want us!
She quickly remarked that she loved homeschoolers.
Our reply was that we travel a lot. If she could make the public school system work with us, would we work with
That year we took Taiga from Japan and Hannah from Germany for 10 months. They visited 30 states, 73 national park sites, earning Junior Ranger badges at each, saw the total solar eclipse, volunteered 170 hours at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park and graduated from the public school. They are proof that any family, with an itinerary, can accomplish a lot in a short time.
These kids are now family members. Our world has become incredibly small. We look forward to our two new exchange kids coming to
Once to the parks is NEVER enough!
Travel Advice for #Parkchasing from the Parkbound Maitlands
We never started out intending to break three world records. We just fell in love with sharing, caring, and learning about this fascinating nation through the National Park System while spending quality time with the kids. What a great country we live in!
Our advice: Determine how much time you have off for traveling. We recommend starting in your own backyard. Every state has a national park site or sites. Plan on spending at least a half-day or a full day exploring the park you are visiting. 90% of all the parks can be reached by a vehicle. You just have to get in the car and drive.
What resources do you use to help plan trips?
We go online and Google the park to see if they have a Junior Ranger program and what the park is truly about. We figure out the mileage between each park and how long it takes to get there
There are many great books that list the National Park sites including Fodor’s and National Geographic. We pay attention to what the weather will be and pack accordingly. We’ve learned: There is no bad weather, just bad clothing!!
Once you have figured how to manage the parks closest to you, it becomes incredibly easy to read your maps, plan your days, and create memorable family adventures!
Now, find your parks and start exploring!