Griswolds completing tour of national parks – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Lori and Roger Griswold were hiking along. They saw a man coming toward them over the hill. He was completely naked and carrying his clothes. When the man got close to them, he covered his private parts with his clothes and kept walking. Roger said, “I always wondered if anyone did that.” The man said, “Now you know.” That is the one and only time Lori and Roger Griswold of Ft. Madison have ever seen a naked hiker in the national parks.
No sooner had Lori and Roger Griswold of Ft. Madison completed visiting all 61 national parks in the US, when number 62 was created. In 2006 Lori and Roger Griswold, who are pharmacists from Ft. Madison, set a goal of visiting all the national parks in the United States. At the time, there were 57. They started with Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and ended, or so they thought, with National Park of American Samoa, south of Hawaii. No sooner had they completed all 61, and were given a certificate verifying such, when number 62 was established (wouldn’t you know)—White Sands National Park in New Mexico. So, they (begrudgingly) made plans to visit White Sands this April but, because of the pandemic, have delayed their trip until next April, when the wildflowers will be blooming. You have to stop and smell the roses, you know.
Just getting to the National Park of American Samoa, which is the only national park south of the equator, and a five-hour plane ride south of Hawaii, is a challenge. There are only two flights a week from Hawaii to Samoa. Roger wanted to leave Ft. Madison a day early in case there were airline delays. Lori was against it and said everything would work out. Sure enough, there were delays, and Lori and Roger missed their connection to Samoa. But in all their travels, they’ve learned to make lemonade from lemons. Stuck in Hawaii, having missed their flight to Samoa, they decided to spend a couple of days in Kauai. They had a wonderful time, and rescheduled their trip to Samoa.
When they were able to go to Samoa, they left a day early, but all connections were on time and they made it through slick as a whistle (figures). Immigration officials in Samoa were amazed that Lori and Roger were “tourists.” Samoa is so far from everywhere that few tourists go there. (There is no “there there.”)
Memories abound around the Griswolds’ visits to national parks. At Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande River, Mexicans would sneak across the river at night and place trinkets and artwork for sale next to the campground. No one ever saw them. Tourists just placed whatever money they wanted next to the item they took and everyone was happy.
Lori and Roger have seen so much wildlife and insects that they’d never seen before, like scorpions, dung beetles, roadrunners, jackrabbits, moose, wolves, coyotes, bears, etc. The bears snaring salmon out of the river at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska is a sight everyone should see. Hiking across a glacier wearing crampons is an experience like no other, topped only by an icy polar plunge. Twin Lake, accessible by bush plane, is the site of Richard Pronneke’s cabin. From Primrose, Iowa, Pronneke spent years in the wilderness of Alaska. There is an actual-size replica of Pronneke’s cabin at the library in Donnellson. If you can’t go to Alaska, bring Alaska to you!
In addition to visiting all the national parks in the United States, the Griswolds have also been to all seven continents. Avid scuba divers, they have gone to Australia, Indonesia, Oahu, and Fiji to dive. At the Great Blue Hole of Belize they viewed underwater stalagmites and stalactites. At Antarctica they were entertained by islands containing a half-a-million penguins.
Both the Griswolds are runners, although Lori more so. She has run 12 full marathons, over 55 half-marathons, and a handful of 5 and 10K’s. She organized and participated in a number of Relay Iowa events with Team Roadrunner; they have ridden five RAGBRAI’s; and she’s a good cook. Her stuffed-pepper soup and Scotcheroo cookies make her popular with hungry hikers, divers, and fools who plunge into icy water.
The Griswolds are active people. With the pandemic limiting travel, they have found time at home to enjoy wildlife around their bird feeders. Once they counted 13 squirrels in their yard, along with a couple of wild turkeys. When the pandemic is over, they will be headed south to White Sands National Park in New Mexico for number 62. Will there be a 63?

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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