ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK – All 59 National Parks in one year: it may sound like a daunting task, but one photographer is doing just that in honor of the National Park Service centennial.
“We’ve been traveling now for about 9 months,” Irish said. “I bet you no one has used this [National Parks] pass better than we have this year.”
Over thousands of miles and along winding roads, perhaps no one has seen more of America’s National Parks in 2016 than photographer Jonathan Irish and his traveling companion, Stefanie Payne.
“It’s been the world’s longest date and that is so much fun,” Payne said.
This past January, Irish -- whose photographs have appeared in National Geographic -- embarked on “The Greatest American Road Trip,” with the goal of visiting all 59 National Parks, in all 50 states, plus U.S. territories like the Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
“It’s funny because this is ‘The Greatest American Road Trip,’ but we can’t road trip everywhere,” Irish said jokingly. “There’s places we have to fly to.”
Now, they’ve arrived in Colorado to visit the state’s four National Parks. First stop: Rocky Mountain National Park, where the Elk are out and about.
“It’s kind of an honor, an honor to be close to them,” Irish said. “You get to really see how they breathe and their movement. It’s amazing to be in their territory, in their nature.”
Sometimes, though, nature can sneak up on you.
“Suddenly we turn around and another grizzly had walked up behind us and sat down probably about ten feet from us,” Irish said, as he described photographing grizzly bears at Lake Clark National Park in Alaska.
With each photograph taken, though, comes a sense of awe.
“Every time I look through a new batch of them, I’m pretty amazed,” Payne said.
At each stop, every park gets a chance to shine.
“Some of the parks that aren’t as famous as the Yellowstones and Yosemites,” Irish said, “but all are really amazing and each and every park is amazing in their own right.”
National Geographic is using some of Irish’s photographs. To see pictures from all 43 parks they’ve been to so far, go to www.thegreatestroadtrip.com
We’ve also put up a slideshow here.