Manatee Mikah Meyer is on a mission: to see all the National Park Service sites in the country in honor of his father, and to encourage the LGBT community.
Meyer said he will stop at De Soto National Memorial on Saturday as the next leg of his trip, stop No. 115. His plan is to arrive at noon to watch a film about the history of DeSoto’s encounter with the indigenous people, then attend a “living history” ranger demonstration.
A 30-year-old openly gay man from Nebraska, Meyer said he hopes to use his journey sparks interest in the LGBT community and millennials in the national parks. He said he hopes to be a role model for the LGBT community by breaking stereotypes.
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Meyer said he visited 100 parks in 2016 alone, and plans to continue the journey until he’s been to all 417 National Park Service sites. He’s been documenting his trip on his website, TBCmikah.com.
Living in a van without heat or air conditioning for the tour of parks, Meyer said he has to chase favorable weather.
“What better place to be in February than Florida,” Meyer said.
When he’s not at the park, Meyers said he’d be staying with a friend in St. Petersburg, where he plans to speak with local politicians about how to get millennials and the LGBT community interested in the environment and the national parks.
Meyer started his journey to all of the more than 400 National Park Service sites April 29, 2016, 11 years to the day his father died from cancer. It’s a trip he’s been planning for the past three years, and one he said will be record-setting by making him the youngest person to experience all the sites and the only person to do it in one continuous trip.
Growing up, Myer, his father, and the rest of their family would frequently travel to their second home in Ocala. Meyer’s dad built the house they stayed in when Meyer was about 10-years-old.
Meyer is looking forward to seeing other parts of Florida as part of his trip.
His father loved road trips and would often drive to Florida alone. But Meyer never told his father he was gay, he said. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and it wasn’t something his family talked about until after his father’s passing.
Just days after his father died, a 19-year-old Meyer went on his first independent road trip.
“It happened just 10 days after the funeral. It ended up being a really healing experience for me,” Meyer said.
Since then, he’s done one road trip a year in memory of his father. This road trip to see the National Parks stands to be his longest to date, scheduled to last more than 1,000 days. Prior to this, the longest trip Meyer has taken lasted 260 days.
To manage the trip, he’s placed all his belongings that wouldn’t fit in the van into storage and has been traveling full-time. It’s the hardest he’s worked in his life.
“I get a lot of emails that call me ‘trust fund baby,’” Meyer said. “People think this is a big vacation. ... It’s probably the hardest I’ve worked in my life and I’m scraping by on savings.”
So far, Meyer noted, his favorite park has been the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. He’s most looking forward to his March trip to west Texas.
Support Mikah Meyer on his trip to visit the more than 400 National Parks Services sites: Donate to his trip on his website TBCmikah.com