Voorhees teachers Rob and Colleen Rossi set a goal two decades ago of visiting every national park. There are now more than halfway there.
This summer, the couple plans to visit Arches National Park, Capital Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state. Their son is a member of the Coast Guard stationed in Seattle.
The Rossis drive their 4 x 4 Jeep, bring camping and hiking gear, and even pack their mountain bikes for long rides when weather permits.
“When Rob and I visit, we truly visit, not just drive by,” said Colleen, a middle- school teacher at Osage. “We hike, we explore, sometimes we camp if the conditions are right.
“It’s just an amazing experience.”
The Rossis say much of the fun on their trips is a result of spontaneous decision-making. Many of the parks they visit have little or no cell-phone service, so they sometimes are forced to make plans ahead of time.
“We usually have a few destinations in mind,” said Rob, a teacher at Voorhees Middle School. “For example, we’re staying in New Mexico for a little bit and we have a place we are staying at for five or six nights. But then getting out there, we’re kind of winging it along the way.
“We go with the flow travel-wise, but pick out destinations along the way if something piques our interest,” he added.
One of their favorite things to do is camp on site at one of the national parks, but the couple also will resort to hotels in nearby towns, often taking recommendations from locals they meet along the way.
Rob noted that when he and Colleen traveled with their kids, they “couldn’t just throw caution to the wind,” but they have more flexibility now that their offspring are grown and out of the house..
Colleen and Rob both said a visit to one of their favorite towns was a result of keeping their schedule fluid: Bend, Oregon.
“We had never heard of it, but we were traveling and so many people told us, ‘You have to stop there, you have to stop there,’” Rob recalled.
The duo have favorite national parks: Rob’s is Yellowstone and Colleen’s is Zion.
The least favorite? Steer clear of the Petrified Forest in Arizona. To date, their travels have included visits to Glacier Bay, Death Valley, Redwood, Sequoia, Yosemite, Kings Canyon in California, Black Canyon of Gunnison and Rocky Mountain in Colorado.
If the summer goes as planned, they will have visited 30 more. A month-long trip will take Colleen and Rob to Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Olympic, Mount Rainier, Glacier, and Theodore Roosevelt parks.