DENVER — An 89-year-old woman who had never seen the ocean or mountains is now trying to visit all of the 61 national parks in the United States.
Joy Ryan, of Ohio, said she rarely vacationed. Her grandson came up with the idea to visit every national park.
“I said, ‘Let’s give it a whirl!’ I’m glad to try anything. I said, ‘I’m not going to sit down and drink tea and watch soap operas until I have to’,” Ryan said.
In 2017, Ryan and her grandson visited 21 parks in 28 days.
“During that road trip, she climbed a mountain at the age of 85. She slept in a tent for the first time in her 85 years of life, and she wowed me,” said Brad Ryan, Joy’s grandson.
Joy rolled down the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
“She didn’t break a hip,” said Brad.
“I figured I’m only going to be here once. I might as well go down it,” added Joy.
She also encountered wildlife.
“When you have a full-grown moose running straight at you and your grandma can’t run away from it, you just have to stand there and hope for the best,” said Brad.
Now, three years and 28,000 miles later, this unlikely duo is in Colorado visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
RMNP will be the pair’s 36th park.
They visited Colorado’s other two national parks (Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde) during their first road trip.
Joy says she was most struck by the beauty of the aspen trees at RMNP, and says the park is her favorite of the 37 they have visited so far.
“I love those aspen trees. When the wind blows, it looks like coins in the air,” she said.
Joy has trouble even describing all they have seen.
“You just can’t describe how beautiful it is. I hope people go see it,” she said, fighting back tears.
And that is what the pair says the their trip is all about: inspiring others that it’s never too late to say “yes” to a wild idea.
“Everything we see is something new and beautiful and hard to absorb. It really is. You just can’t express it. It’s been really great. I love it,” Joy said.
Hyatt Hotels heard about their journey and is now paying for their stays across America so Joy no longer has to sleep in a tent.