#JacksonMI Family Visits Every National Park

The Maitland family from Jackson, Michigan, has just ended a historical eight-year journey that landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was a journey that took them from coast to coast across the United States.

Haleakala National Park on the Hawaiian Island of Maui became the 418th U.S. National Park they had visited as a family. This made them the first family to have traveled to each national park and unit—including national battlefield sites, national memorials, national parkways, national historic sites, national historic parks and national seashores.

The Maitland family is made up of dad Jim, mom Cheri, 16-year old daughter Jameson, and 15-year-old son Gerald. Experience Jackson reached out to them on Facebook about doing a Q&A and was delighted with their response. “We Love our Town Jackson and feel strongly about promoting our area,” said Cheri from their Parkbound Maitlands Facebook page. Cheri shared with us that she has quite the title. She is a wife, Mom, shotgun navigator, and pack mule all in one.

Two exchange kids stayed with the family for 10 months and attended a local public school. In addition to that, they traveled to 30 States, 73 National Park, units a total solar eclipse and volunteered at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park for a grand total of 107 hours.

“They are very much a part of our story,” said Cheri. “Taiga is from Japan and Hannah is from Germany they came from the YFU organization.”

“It has been an 8-year journey,” the family said to Experience Jackson. “We didn't intend to break a record, we just wanted to share with others to know the value of what the parks can give.” That’s something they’ve certainly been able to do. The family has received national media attention since completing their journey and setting the record.

Read Cheri’s answers in our Q&A right here:

“First we would like to say that Jackson has always been home for at least four generations of us starting on farms on both sides of our family. We have visited all 50 states and territories and our kids constantly reply there is no place like home they also hope to be able to work and live in Jackson when they become adults. They can't see themselves living anywhere else.”

Q: What inspired you to trek across the United States and visit all of these places?

A: “It's because of the PBS America's best idea by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns that made us decide to visit the national parks. When we learned of the junior Ranger programs that all the national park system has DeSoto National memorial in Bradenton Florida convinced us that we needed to visit all of them 418. 397 8 years ago. because of the educational value that it would provide our children.

We didn't realize the educational value it provided for us as well.”

Q: Do you have a favorite local park?

A: “We support many things in Jackson- like Jackson Marriage Matters, Friends of the Library. The kids have entered young poets contests, and have placed several times. We support storyfest, participate in the Cascade civil War muster, the balloon festival and we were amazed at the Bright Walls that have created a delightful lasting effect on Jackson.

But of course, we go to the state parks like portage and go boating.

Truthfully Jackson has it all  many people just don't turn around and look at the civil, social, educational, and artistic values our county has. But we see change and it's coming.

We volunteer at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park regularly and frequently. It's an hour and a half drive for us- but it is the closest National Park unit to us.

We feel if you're going to go to the parks, you need to give back to the parks. We have given over a thousand hours. On February 21st they will be having a celebration of our accomplishments" (In completing a visit to all 418 parks).

Q: Do you have a favorite location out of them all?

A: This is the number one question that we are asked. If you have children or pets, each are special in their own way. There are no two alike. Every single Park is uniquely special. A quick example would be, there are three units to the Manhattan project which discusses the atomic bomb during world War II. We went to each Park thinking that they would be the same but that was exactly the opposite. Each one had a story to tell and it was uniquely different from the other parks.”

Q: What led you to choose Jackson County as your home?

A: “All of our families have come from Jackson. I'm sure it's because it's centrally located to larger cities. Jackson, it still gives you the same small hometown feel. It's a great place to live and a wonderful place to work and play.

We've never come into a city that we truly feel that we would want to live there. Sure, they've got some incredible interesting things, however, Jackson is home.”

Q: How many miles have you traveled throughout this process?

A: “We've traveled, our best estimation, is 300,000 miles. Mostly by Fifth wheel and a truck camper to Alaska.”

Q: What’s the furthest you have driven in your travels?

A: “The furthest distance we have traveled by Road is Alaska we spent six weeks rode on the Marine highway. Drove to the top of the arctic circle. One-third is drivable. Two-thirds of Alaska we had to fly bush and float planes.

The farthest flying would have been Tokyo Japan. We needed to get to Guam and it was half price flying to Tokyo then from flying from Hawaii to Guam. So flying to Tokyo was the furthest we've gone to reach a park”

Q: What are some of the activities you were able to enjoy as a family on the road?

A: “First of all it's helped us solve problems together when things break. it allows our children to see how bad situations are handled we call this plan B.

To our family plan B is no big deal, in fact, it is usually expected. We also have completed all the junior Ranger programs that the national park units provide. We work together on them as a family.

It's great when the kids are right and the parents are wrong.

The best part of it though is that we're learning together about what made our country what it is today- and where it came from.

And thirdly it's amazing the people that we meet that are like-minded Travelers we know that they will stay in our lives forever and it's made the world much smaller for us.”

We actually have a lot of the people we speak to say that they can't wait to come  to Michigan now. Our children's reply is, ‘we have never found a state that we like more than Michigan. We have everything but snow-capped mountains but then we don't have to drive over them’ either.”

Q: Does this make Gerald the youngest person to visit all of the parks?

A: “Yes, Gerald is 15 years old and 1 week. We are also the first family to have ever completed all the parks. We never set out to break a record we just wanted to visit the parks learn as much as we could and share what we learned. That's a part of the junior Ranger pledge.”

Q: When people asked your family about Jackson and Michigan on the road, what would you tell them?

A: “We ask people all the time everywhere they've been if they've ever been to Michigan. We tell them how glorious our state is and that most people miss our state, and don't realize that our state is spectacular. We believe they miss our state because of the highway system that goes below Michigan. We tell people that we are an overlooked diamond.”

We at Experience Jackson were very excited to share their answers. You can connect with the Maitland’s and see their adventures on their Facebook Page. They also log more on their River Raisin National Battlefield Park Foundation page. The photos included in this Q&A are courtesy of the Maitland Family.

Experience Jackson is committed to promoting Jackson County and its attributes to visitors and groups as a unique, affordable and attractive place to vacation, host an event or conduct a tour. For #JacksonMI content and information, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

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