Vermont boy, 9, on a mission to see every US national park

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT
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WOODSTOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - Jonah Matte and his mom, Lisa Higgins, have walked side by side through all 50 national parks in the contiguous United States.

The now-9-year-old was 5 when the traveling duo took off on their first adventure.

“First memory-- climbing the Statue of Liberty,” he said.

“It started out just to go to a couple, and then we had so few left to go to that we decided that we were going to finish it out,” Lisa said.

They finished in four years.

Jonah developed a love for driving to each destination.

“Stuffed a whole lot of pillows in the back seat, and done!” the West Burke boy said.

Between each night’s rest-- visits to a variety of landscapes.

“Some of them were very different because Death Valley-- it was super hot! Channel Islands-- there was an ocean near it!” Jonah said.

All the while learning about wildlife through Junior Ranger Books and earning badges to recognize the effort. It doesn’t look like there’s a lot of space left on his vest but Jonah says there’s lots of room to keep collecting.

“I hope to get some on the back, some to get on the inside of the back,” he said.

We met at the Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park because while it’s not considered one of the 50 national parks in the contiguous United States, it’s the only destination in Vermont run by the National Park Service. So Jonah can collect one of those Junior Ranger badges there.

“I think it’s part of just that feeling of accomplishment,” Lisa said.

She says it has been wonderful to watch her son grow during their travels together.

“We started out and he could probably only hike two or three miles, and now he can hike 10,” she said.

All while teaching him lessons about plants, animals and people living in harmony.

“The conservation piece is so important to me, making sure that he appreciates it,” Lisa said.

It’s a Junior Ranger responsibility Jonah takes seriously.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: Why do you want to encourage people to visit these parks, too?

Jonah Matte: Because we need another generation of rangers.

And there are still plenty of places to spread that message.

“My favorite quote to him is the only adventure you’re ever going to regret is the one you don’t take,” Lisa said. “So that’s like our motto.”

The next adventure: Alaska. And Hawaii and American Samoa after that, ticking off every national park in the U.S.

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