In 2010, Virginia CommonHealth and Virginia State Parks partnered to encourage state employees to get healthy by getting active at Virginia State Parks.
One individual took this challenge to heart, literally as he was faced with health issues, Rick "Moose" Aukerman. Rick has been on a mission the past 2 years to visit all 35 Virginia State Parks and in the process walk 1,000,000 steps. His journey has taken him from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean at False Cape State Park, to the peaks of Grayson Highlands State Park and so many beautiful parks in between.
Rick's son Dakota during a visit to First Landing State Park
One of the great things about what Rick is doing is that he also has involved his family. His wife and four children have also experienced the awesomeness of Virginia State Parks. The kids have left their video games at home on numerous occasions to enthusiastically support their wonderful father.
Rick is truly an inspiration to us all in changing his life and that of his children!
Here is a recent interview with "Moose":
Q: So in the two years since you started, how many of Virginia State Parks have you visited?
A: All 35 of them!
Q: And have you reached your goal of walking 1 million steps?
A: Actually, I am closing in on 10,000,000 steps walked in the parks.
Q: I know you set this goal to improve your health, how are you feeling these days?
A: I am feeling so much better, I am able to get around better, life is good.
Q: And what do your children think of what you have done for yourself?
A: They all love the amount of weight I have lost and my 12 year old says to me, "Now I can get my arms around you to give you a hug!"
Q: Can you share some of your experiences at some of your favorite parks?
A: "We loved Douthat, the lake water was so clear that we watched fish swimming and you could see the bottom of the lake. The view of the lake from the clearing up on Tobacco House Ridge Trail was great. We were there on the off season and it was a lot of fun and are looking forward to returning.
Daughter Cheyanne, wife Shari and his son Dakota at beautiful Breaks Interstate Park
We camped for a week in campground A at Hungry Mother State Park, we took our canoe with us and had a blast on the lake. My daughter and I have some great daddy/little girl time when we hiked all the way to Molly’s Knob. We know we are one of the very few that will ever see that great view. I like that the park was close to a town so we could visit, site see etc. We ate at the restaurant there in the park and the food was good. The employees of the park spent time engaging my kids. One of them talked about skunks and on another day they told my kids all about some of the wildlife around the park including letting them touch furs. The staff were really great, would highly recommend this park!
Rick "Moose" Aukerman reaches new heights in his life at Grayson Highlands
But our favorite of all the parks was Grayson Highlands State Park. Wow, it was awesome, just so much beauty to take in at this one place. There were things for the kids to do all of the time, from walking with wild ponies, to the view from the twin Pinnacles to walking along Wilson Creek to the homestead site where you could see how folks lived on the mountain (Mrs. Spencer really lived there until 1990), the camp host had valley balls, and horse shoes, the week we spent there was fantastic and we will be going back because there is so much more that we didn’t get a chance to do. Once someone visits Grayson Highlands State Park they will understand exactly what I am talking about.
During our visits to the parks we stayed in cabins, and we camped during my quest, I made so many special memories with my wonderful children.
I guess the only question left is "What's Next Moose" maybe start again? Or maybe we will need to drop the "Moose" nickname now that you lost around 100 pounds during your quest. Well, if you happen to be at a Virginia State Park and you run into "Moose" shake his hand, or give him a high five, because he really truly deserves it.
We're all very proud of you Moose!