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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

29 parks to go

Jul 02, 2019 12:51PM ● By Melanie Wiseman

A National Park Service (NPS) map is displayed with pride and prominence in the TerLouw household. Red pushpins indicate the parks that Jim TerLouw has been to; yellow pins mark the parks his wife, Barb, has been to as well.

I sat down with Jim in January 2013 to talk about one major item on his bucket list: to visit every national park. He’d visited 320 then, and has visited 70 since.

“I’m at 390 parks today which is how many there were total when I first started,” he said, “now there are 419. It’s illusive, but not frustrating. It just gives us more places to visit.”

Jim’s interest in national parks stretches over 60 years, starting with his family’s annual three-week summer vacations when he was a kid, but his incredible bucket list journey didn’t begin until 2000.

The national park system encompasses 84 million acres of land, including oceans, lakes, reservoirs, archeological sites, shorelines, historic structures and landmarks, and is home to 400 endangered species.

NPS’ primary mission is to care for special places so that all may experience America’s heritage.

“The fact that my family went to national parks when I was growing up was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he said.


Exploring Alaska was the most memorable of the TerLouws’ recent travels. They visited 14 of the state’s 23 parks and preserves, some which are roadless and can only be accessed by boat, small plane, or hike.

“Jim researched and planned for 18 months before we went so we could see as many places as possible,” said Barb. “If getting somewhere was too expensive, he found a better way.”

By doing their homework, the TerLouws are able to travel to national parks for a fraction of the price that many other travelers pay. The TerLouws traveled by train, ferry, jet, car, bus and bush plane to reach remote parks the first two weeks, and wrapped up their journey with a cruise of the inner passage.

“There is so much more Alaska than what most people see, and I took that to heart,” Jim said with a go-big-or-go-home attitude. “If you’re only going to do it once, go for it.”

The TerLouws consider them.selves blessed with good health and the ability to travel, and they know that if you travel enough, you’re bound to get some lucky breaks.

Looking up at Mt. McKinley at Denali National Park, they became part of the 30% Club—named for the 30 percent of people who are granted clear mountain views while visiting the park. Except for some drizzle the first couple of days, the weather throughout their trip was sunny and mild, which is almost unheard of.

They even had clear skies for a spectacular view of the 6.5-mile long Hubbard Glacier and a stunning display of the northern lights.

“On the Seward Kenai Fjords boat tour, we didn’t just see a pod of orcas, we saw an orca convention!” said Barb. “In Katmai National Park and Preserve, we got to see grizzlies competing for fishing spots at Brooks Falls where the salmon are jumping as they migrate. So many things came together to make it a truly unusual and special trip.”

Two of the larger parks the TerLouws have on the docket are Olympic National Park in Washington and Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

“It’s not just about getting the brochure. It’s taking a hike, experiencing history and enjoying the natural beauty. I always did poorly in history and seeing these places brings history to life.”

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