Regional: Colorado couple visits all 59 national parks
Somewhere between their honeymoon to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in 1954 and visits to several other great American parks during their early years of marriage, Carleton “Hub” and Miriam “Mim” Hubbard set out on a mission.
The goal was to visit all 59 national parks in the United States during their lifetime together.
As it turned out, 2014 was one of the Glenwood Springs couple’s most active years yet, as they checked off the final eight park visits to complete their quest. The most recent came on Nov. 11 when they signed the guest register at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.
Other trips this past year took them to Voyageurs NP in northern Minnesota, Wind Cave in North Dakota, Lassen Volcano in northern California and the newest of all the national parks, Pinnacles, just inland from Monterey, California, where the Hubbards were privileged to see six giant condors.
Their most recent trip this fall also included visits to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Congaree in South Carolina and Shenandoah in Virginia.
“To be able to see all of them is pretty amazing, and quite an accomplishment. I don’t think too many people can say they’ve done that,” Hub said during a recent conversation at their West Glenwood home where he and Mim were busy looking back through photo albums and other memorabilia documenting their 60 years of travels together.
A native of Glenwood Springs, Hub remembers trips with his family to see the national parks, including a 1935 visit to Yellowstone and several trips out to California.
“We always did a lot of traveling,” he said.
But for Mim, a city girl from Pittsburgh, that honeymoon to Yellowstone and the Tetons was something extra special that she’d never experienced before.
‘WOULDN’T IT BE FUN?’
“All the parks were out west when I was growing up, so we never got out to visit,” she said. “I never saw anything like it until we went to Yellowstone when Hub said, ‘You have to go see the bears.’
“We’ve been back to Yellowstone seven times since then, including three times during the winter,” Mim said.
It was her idea to set out in pursuit of visiting all of the national parks after she read a book some 25 years into their marriage about how the parks came into being, dating back to the official designation of Yellowstone in 1872.
“She said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to visit all of them,’ and that’s how we got started,” Hub recalled.
When the Hubbards were married in 1954 the nation had just 25 national parks. About a dozen more were added between that time and when they set their goal to visit those they hadn’t yet seen.
Another 21 national parks have been added since 1980, the most recent being Pinnacles in 2013. Altogether, the National Park Service now oversees 401 national parks, monuments, historic sites and seashores.
Since embarking on the journey in earnest, the Hubbard’s travels have taken them twice to Alaska, which now has eight parks, some of which are accessible only by small plane.
They’ve been as far east as Acadia NP in Maine and the Virgin Islands (St. Johns), which is also part of the national park system.
Several repeat trips have been made to the many parks in the great American West, like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches and of course Colorado’s four parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
‘HOW SMALL YOU ARE’
The only official park they’ve not been to is the National Park of American Samoa in the South Pacific.
For Mim, it’s hard to say what the most awe-inspiring moment was. There was the trip to California’s Death Valley during the full spring wildflower bloom, Alaska’s Denali under a clear blue sky, that moment when the clouds cleared and they could see Washington’s Mt. Rainier from top to bottom, or maybe the oceanfront in Olympic National Park.
“I used to say the Grand Canyon because it’s just so spectacular,” she said. “But to walk the beach and see the size of the trees that wash in, or to see the redwoods and how enormous they are …
“It really just gives you the feel of how small you are compared to nature.”
The Hubbards commemorated their many travels with a special 2015 calendar with pictures and old-style postcards from the various parks, which they gave to family for Christmas gifts this year.
Their house is full of memorabilia and keepsakes, and a few years back friend and Glenwood Springs resident Allen Thulson presented the Hubbards with a special carving he’d made of the wandering couple standing in a park, Hub peering at a map and Mim giving directions.
“That’s pretty much how it usually is,” Mim quipped.
This fall, fellow members of the 100 Club, a seniors hiking and skiing social group, presented the Hubbards with matching jackets emblazoned with the National Park Service logo, and proclaiming: “We have visited all 59 National Parks.”
One of their three grown children, Patty, was on hand to help make the presentation.
At 85 and 82, respectively, Hub and Mim wanted to make this year special, and did so by marking a big one of their lifetime bucket list. Or, as they wrote in their holiday letter to friends and family: “Mission Accomplished.”
Though, Hub also says he can’t help but wonder, “What’s next?” in the way of travels.
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Over 75,000 hikers visited Hanging Lake during this year’s peak season. Via signage, the city hopes to point more of those hikers also in the direction of downtown Glenwood Springs.