It’s Never Too Late to Travel
Nancy stands in Yellowstone National Park.
At 70, Nancy Hubbard had never been on a hike in her life. In fact, she’d never stepped foot in a national park. She was not a stranger to travel — she’d walked the streets of New York City, Paris, and Rome — but the great outdoors was new territory.
Part of the trip included rafting with friends in Grand Tetons National Park where Nancy saw a bald eagle .
“I thought, ‘She won’t call me; she knows I’m not a hiker.’ But she did. She called me in August and told me to go buy some gear. The trip was in September and she said, ‘We’re going to practice, so go get some hiking shoes,’” Nancy says of her crash-course-introduction into hiking.
In the heat of August, Nancy and her friends Barbara Rowland (70) and Carol Nussbaum (67) took off on one of two five-mile practice hikes from Cherokee Park to Seneca Park. Nancy thought her friends were trying to kill her in the brutal late summer heat, but she was not deterred. “I asked myself, ‘How hard could it be?’ I’ve been a nurse for 42 years on my feet; I’ve shopped and walked all throughout Europe. I knew my friends’ physical abilities weren’t any better than mine, so I just decided to do it.”
Nancy geared up at an outlet store in Simpsonville and prepared for her week-long trip through Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons of Wyoming.
The group of eight arrived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, rented a car, and traveled to Colter Bay Village Cabins in the Tetons. That night was another first for Nancy: she’d never spent the night in a cabin, either. During the first few days of the trip, they hiked four miles to Jenny Lake, took a tram ride over the mountain range, and floated in an inflatable raft down the Snake River, where they witnessed the majestic views of the Tetons and spotted a bald eagle.
Nancy and her friends walk on a trail in Grand Tetons National Park. (L-R) Nancy, Barbara, Michele, Carol
Nancy says the hiking out West was much more tolerable than her Cherokee Park experience. The weather in September consisted of 70 degree days with lows in the 40s at night. In addition, most of the paths within the parks were more like walking than hiking; they were paved and accessible to all kinds of experience levels.
“I was amazed with the whole national park thing. The colors were unbelievable — you couldn’t dream them up. I didn’t realize how big and clear the skies would be. There was a big blue sky every day. And, in my opinion, I didn’t slow anyone down. I did just fine without the heat.”
On the fourth day, Nancy drove the group to Yellowstone, her favorite leg of the trip, where they stayed in the Old Faithful Lodge Cabins, the original structures built in the 1920s. The simple accommodations were eclipsed, however, by the amazing views all around the area. Nancy snapped stunning photos of the countless geysers and hot springs, the brilliant blues and ambers, and the gurgling and boiling geothermal pools on her first-ever smartphone she invested in for this adventure. Many of the sights could be accessed from the road, so she navigated her crew with help from her Gypsy app, which also timed the local geysers’ eruptions for convenience. With her new smartphone and hiking shoes, the entire park was at her fingertips.
The hot springs in Yellowstone National Park are the largest in the United States and the third largest in the world .
These cabins, located in Yellowstone National Park, are the original structures built in the 1920s .
Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in the park, spanning 136 square miles and reaching depths of 390 feet. Nancy learned to hike down backward, the only time she felt a little uncertain of her footing, so that she could put her feet in the cool waters and snap a photo for her memories.
At the Great Fountain Geyser, Nancy and her crew coined the other onlookers “The Geezer Geyser Gazers” as they would stare at their phones, waiting for the timed eruption. This particular geyser erupts every 9-15 hours to an impressive 220 feet with water that is 202 degrees.
The Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel on Yellowstone, which opened in 1891, were a couple of the options for evening dining. In the Lake Hotel Nancy felt like she’d gone back in time with its wood paneling, piano player at the back of the lodge, and rustic Western feel. She had risotto, and her girlfriends had lamb and bison. It was Nancy’s favorite meal of the trip, and well deserved after her six-mile days. All in all, Nancy’s introduction to the great outdoors left her hooked on America’s beauty. In fact, she’s headed to Big Bend in western Texas with another girlfriend in a month, proving it is never too late for our greatest adventures.
Nancy’s hiking essentials:
- Hiking shoes, not boots, for the summer
- A waterproof/sunproof hat
- A fanny pack (to carry essentials)
- Hiking pants (lightweight, quick-dry, durable, and quiet)
- Hiker’s socks (for wicking away moisture)
- One pair long-underwear (for cool mornings and evenings)
Where to Stay
- National Park lodging is inexpensive but popular, so book your lodge or cabin up to a year in advance
- Lake Hotel on Yellowstone
- Colter Bay Village Cabins (The Grand Tetons)