Mikah Meyer is on a mission to visit every National Park Service site; if he completes it, he will be the youngest person in the world to finish the feat, and the only person to do so in one continuous adventure.
Just over 13 months ago, Meyer was living in Washington, D.C., singing professionally for the Washington National Cathedral and working two additional jobs. This week, after 373 days on the road, Meyer is coming to Moab to conquer his 168th site, Arches National Park.
Meyer’s goals are trifold. He is using the trip to connect with his late father, an avid traveler and Lutheran pastor, who passed away from cancer when Meyer was 19. He is also aiming to build visibility for the LGTBQ community, encouraging LGTBQ youth to break through stereotypes and be comfortable with who they are.
“Now that I’m a happy, healthy adult who is proud of being both Christian and gay, I so dearly wish that I could’ve seen someone like me when I was growing up in a bubble,” he said. “I grew up incredibly closeted, and one of the reasons was that I had no concept of a 'normal' gay person.”
“I spent a lot of time as a kid in Nebraska watching the Travel Channel,” he said. “Looking back, even if I couldn’t physically travel, it was a way for my mind to realize there was life beyond being bullied in middle school, beyond not feeling normal in high school.”
Meyer also wants to encourage young people to explore more of America’s national treasures, to learn more about America’s historical monuments and to embrace and encourage the preservation of the country's natural beauty. One of his project sponsors, Passport To Your National Parks, is a not-for-profit that promotes the public’s understanding and support of America’s national parks and other public trust partners through quality educational experiences and services.
In 2015, it was reported that our national parks were losing young people, both as visitors and employees. However, in 2016, more than 325 million people visited U.S. national park sites, up from 307 million in 2015. In 2016, Arches National Park welcomed a record number of 1.58 million visitors. Comparatively, Zion National Park had 4.29 million visitors in 2016.
Park rangers have played an important role throughout Meyer’s adventure. Meyer’s favorite ranger to-date is Ranger Lori Mobbs. She was his tour guide for a slog in Everglades National Park, trekking through muddy, snake- and alligator-infested waters.
“I’m a mountain hillbilly from Alabama who protected Americans in the Army while wearing green, so now I wear green and protect America’s nature,” Meyer quoted Mobbs.
Meyer continued, “She was one of the most genuine, caring and real people I’ve met on this journey. Awesome rangers like that have been a huge emotional support boost to my journey.”
Local Moab businesses are also embracing Meyer’s visit. The Expedition Lodge has donated one night’s free stay, and Canyonlands by Night and Day has donated a three-hour fun-run jet boat ride.
“I really loved the idea,” Expedition Lodge General Manager Janelle White said. “I definitely am for those kinds of opportunities.”
After leaving Arches National Park in Moab, Meyer will continue to Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and onward to St. George, where he is scheduled to sing and speak at the New Promise Lutheran Church on Sunday, May 21.
“Despite Facebook commenters who like to state that I’m a 'trust fund kid' and 'lazy millennial living off the government,' I only inherited a hail-battered 2001 Hyundai Elantra when my dad died, and the government is not sending me any check to live off,” he said, when asked about his financial situation.
Meyer worked three jobs, saving for years prior to embarking on this journey and relies on his savings, sponsorships and donations. Flying J is also reimbursing him for his gas costs.
Meyer’s goal is to complete this project by April of 2019.
“If nothing goes majorly wrong and I don’t run out of money, if my van holds together and if the weather cooperates – I should be done in three years,” he said.