It’s been the journey of a lifetime for Journey Castillo, who at just 3 years old now has the honor of being recognized as the youngest person to visit all 63 U.S. national parks.
FOX Weather first brought you the story of Journey and her parents, Eric and Valerie, in 2022, who at that time had already been to 46 national parks – well on their way to completing the ambitious mission.
Journey Castillo inside Rocky Mountain National Park. (Journey_Castillo/Instagram)
Just days after Journey was born, she joined her parents on a hike at Pikes Peak inside Rocky Mountain National Park.
From there, the need to explore the incredible beauty within the national parks grew and there was no time to waste.
"We took her to Yosemite National Park when she was about 6 months old and saw this majestic waterfall, and it was a beautiful experience," Valerie Castillo said.
A beautiful experience that looked much different the next time they visited.
"We decided to take her again about six months later, and that waterfall had dried up," she continued. "That’s when we realized that these places are not promised, and they’re not amusement parks. They’re not going to be around for, you know, the next 10 years. They may be in a different state in the next five years."
That’s when the decision was made to get out there and see the rest of the national parks before they changed forever, and asked people to follow along on her epic quest on their website, Journey Go Explore.
Climate change fueled urgency to finish Journey’s journey
"With her being so young, we wanted to build her character, her strength," Eric Castillo said. "So, we figured by doing this, it would allow that to happen."
At 3 years old, Journey may not remember everything about her incredible mission, but she’ll have the photos to look back upon when she’s older.
Because extreme weather events and natural disasters are forever changing our landscape, the time was now to see as much as possible.
"With everything going on with weather changes and weather patterns, we’re seeing a lot of climate change happening, and we’ve seen it with our own eyes in these parks," Eric said. "So, that was the urgency for us to get to the 63."
Witnessing disaster firsthand built Journey’s strength
As Journey was nearing the end of her expedition, disaster struck.
"We didn’t know if we were going to be able to go to Hawaii because when we landed, it was the same day that (President) Biden landed. And the wildfires, it was such a catastrophe," Valerie said.
The Castillo’s didn’t know if it was a good idea to visit, but they’re glad they did.
"We got to see that culture, and it made it even more of an emotional experience for us," Valerie continued. "Not only the wildfires, but we’ve been in windstorms, hailstorms, we’ve been in extreme heat and extreme cold. And, so, for that experience for Journey, it’s built her strength. So, if she can handle that, I think that later on down the road she’ll be able to handle anything."
Letting nature be Journey’s teacher
Journey’s parents describe her as active, fearless and outgoing, and say there’s nothing better than seeing her explore the wonders that nature has to offer.
"By doing all the traveling, it’s given her a lot of energy and it’s really exposed her to a lot of nature," Eric said. "But not only being given an opportunity to grow up in nature, as well, and let nature be that teacher for her."