The first out-of-state trip Fred Gedrich recalls taking occurred in 1952. It was a train ride on the famous Phoebe Snow from Scranton to Canisius, New York. Gedrich was about 11 years old.
Some 62 years later, Gedrich has now visited all 50 states and 60 plus countries. “And at age 71,” he says, “I’m not finished yet.”
The Avoca native added state number 50 with his recent entry into Oregon on the Old Oregon Trail. Gedrich said he celebrated by doing his daily run along the covered wagon ruts of the Old Trail. By the way, those daily runs have spanned more than 30 years and Gedrich proudly says he has not missed a single day.
The trip to Oregon, Gedrich explains, took place in conjunction with a winter visit to Grand Teton National parks where his wife, Gayle, and he took some spectacular wildlife and scenic photos. “We rode a horse-drawn sleigh through Jackson Hole Elk Refuge where we saw thousands of elk housed down for winter,” Gedrich said. “During the trip we also saw and/or photographed hundreds of bison, about 50 bighorn sheep, moose and bald eagles.”
Gedrich said this was their first winter trip to the parks and “one of the most spectacular trips of our lives.”
After visiting all states, in addition to 60-plus countries, Gedrich commented, “I can honestly say we are truly blessed to live in the greatest and most spectacular country on earth.”
Gedrich, a native of Avoca who now resides in Washington, D.C., served in the U.S. departments of State and Defense for some 28 years, retiring in 1997. Today he is an independent foreign policy and national security analyst, commentator and columnist. His articles have been published and used by among others CBS News, NY Daily News, NY Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Times. He’s been a guest on numerous national and international radio and television programs.
After graduating from Avoca High School in 1960, he served three years in U.S. Army. Afterwards, attended Wilkes College and Central Michigan University receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Gedrich is extremely proud of his Avoca roots. “My mother Rita, who worked in local garment industry and Topps, and my father Fred, a chef by trade, lived in Avoca,” he said. “They died six-months apart in 1994 after 59 years of marriage. I was the second of four children (Marita, Patricia, and Richard). My siblings live in Avoca, however, Patsy died September 2013, victimized by breast cancer. I am very proud of my family, my Irish/Polish heritage, and Avoca roots.”
Of his travels, Gedrich said, “It’s been quite a journey from my days as an Avoca youngster. Wish my parents and teachers were still alive to chat with them about it.”
In addition to the 50 states, Gedrich has been to Ireland, Poland, Greece, Italy, France, Germany, Finland, Russia and other states in former Soviet Union; China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan; Columbia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru; Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Palestinian territories; Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa. He climbed on Egypt’s Giza Pyramids; hiked the Acropolis in Greece; swam in Dead Sea; jogged around Rome’s historical sites in early morning; went on camera safaris in famous African game parks; trekked to Machu Picchu in Peru; and visited the reported places where Christ was born and died in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
He actually flew around the world once starting in DC with brief stops in Frankfurt, Germany and Tokyo, Japan with return to DC.
His most recent trip took him and his wife to Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. They flew in and out of Jackson Hole. While there, they visited the Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park.
Afterwards, they drove up to Yellowstone National Park where they were able to drive back and forth in Park’s Northern Section taking photographs.
“The great advantage of a winter trip,” Gedrich said, “was far fewer people in parks with parks still loaded with animals. Bears (grizzlies and blacks) were hibernating though.”
After finishing that phase of the trip, the couple drove over to Oregon and back through Idaho before eventually returning to Jackson Hole.
“Every state I visited had something of interest and beauty to see and I especially enjoyed meeting many fine people along the way,” Gedrich said. “Hiking down the Grand Canyon to Colorado River; photographing giant blue whales off California’s coast, visiting Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis are some of the most memorable trips. However, Yellowstone National Park (96 percent in Wyoming, with the remainder in parts of Idaho and Montana) is, in my opinion, the most spectacular and beautiful place on earth with its mountains, rivers, streams, lakes, geysers and wildlife.”
Gedrich’s wife, the former Gayle Helms, grew up on a 120 acre farm in Southern Indiana. She retired from the Department of Navy with 32 years of civil service. The couple has six children, 15 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Their youngest son and Avoca native, Doug, died in 2009.