The Adlers set out to visit every state park in the Mitten, traveling about 8,000 miles total.
Ari and Jessi Adler know the meaning of hitting the road — for pleasure and purpose. To acknowledge the centennial of Michigan’s parks in 2019, the Okemos couple traveled some 8,000 miles, visiting each of our state’s 103 parks to learn about their unique beauty and history.
The two started a website (trekers.org) and wondered how to expand it to get more people interested in hiking and camping adventures and the information they were sharing. They decided to visit every state park in 2019 to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Department of Natural Resources.
The Adlers started planning their adventure and found a sponsor to help offset some of the travel expenses, but the deal fell through when the company ran into financial difficulty.
The Adlers had already created and announced a YouTube channel and Instagram account, and talked about the trip on their website. A tough decision arose — would they continue planning the trip or give up?
“We decided to push ahead, and it was worth it, especially when we receive comments from YouTube viewers about how we helped them plan trips. That was the whole point,” Ari said.
The two own an RV with all the amenities: a bed, toilet, refrigerator, stove, heat and shower — so transportation and lodging was set. They began their travels in mid-January 2019 and finished in late October, traveling almost entirely on weekends, except for two weeks off to visit the Upper Peninsula in September and a couple of three-day weekends in mid-summer.
They visited multiple parks during each trip, which was the only way to fit in 103 venues. They camped at as many as possible, sometimes staying at one and exploring others in the area over the same weekend.
The couple drove as far as the western end of the Upper Peninsula and south to the Ohio and Indiana borders.
“Our parks are on all four of the Great Lakes that touch Michigan,” Jessi said, “so we hit every point on the map by visiting all 103. There’s so much diversity in Michigan parks, from wilderness with lots of hiking to campgrounds on the beach to day-use picnic or fishing spots.”
The most challenging park to visit was Lime Island, located in the middle of the St. Mary’s River, according to Jessi. “You have to own your own boat or make private charter arrangements. Once you get there it’s very pristine and peaceful and well worth the effort.”
The trip held many more highlights as well.
“I’m a history geek,” Jessi said, “and was excited when I found some cool piece of Michigan history.”
For example, you can see petroglyphs at Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park. Visit Meridian-Baseline State Park to see the point from which all land in Michigan is measured. Check out Edsel Ford’s retreat at Highland Recreation Area.
“And while not the best memory, I’ll always remember Petoskey State Park because we spent part of our trip in the local hospital after I hurt my foot. Getting around on crutches helped us notice handicap accessibility at our parks. That experience opened our eyes to the challenges some people face trying to visit our parks and what the state has done to help.”
The couple has been asked what their next big project is — including visiting all the parks in other states or all national parks.
“It would be nice to find a state that doesn’t have so many parks,” Ari said. “I understand North Carolina only has 34. That sounds a lot easier to do!”
Travel Tips from the Adlers
• Do your research, Jessi says. “Use resources from local tourism sites, social media and local media to find out what there is to do. And download or print out the maps in advance, especially if you’re going hiking!”
• If you’re looking for a fun way to stay overnight at wineries and other farm-type locations across the country, consider joining Harvest Hosts.
• Allstays Pro is a good app for campgrounds, fuel, parking, washes and more. “This is a good app when you’re on the road and need information about where to grab propane, find a dump station or locate a spot to park overnight.”
• The Adlers use Roadtrippers Plus to plan their trips. “It helped us stay on top of all our route planning.”