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Ray Ann Returns to Grand Canyon National Park

Growing up near the waterfalls, long valleys, and giant sequoia trees of Yosemite National Park, Ray Ann has deeply appreciated nature from a young age.

As she grew older, her zest for adventure and travel blossomed. So much so that throughout her life, Ray Ann has visited 382 out of the 429 places within the National Park System.

As she visited the many wondrous national parks, sites, preserves, and monuments across the United States, she connected with other outdoor enthusiasts through the National Park Travelers Club. Sharing her adventures with others added a layer of camaraderie and meaning to her travels.

That’s because finding ways to connect with people has always been integral to Ray Ann’s life. In addition to working a full-time job at AT&T until her retirement, Ray Ann continually sought opportunities to give back to her community.

Ray Ann volunteered with the American Cancer Society for many years. As a volunteer for the Reach to Recovery program, she supported breast cancer patients during their treatment and recovery. She has also volunteered with her local police department, hospital, museum, and zoo.

At age 78, Ray Ann’s wanderlust has not faded, and she has daydreamed of taking another trip. Of all the places she has explored, Ray Ann yearned to return to the Grand Canyon and experience its beauty and geological history again. However, personal challenges have stopped her from continuing to explore National Parks.

We knew just what to do when we heard Ray Ann’s story. To celebrate the wonderful person she is today, we helped her rekindle her passion for travel and the outdoors with a trip to the Grand Canyon.

To make the experience more special, we recruited Joe and Pam, two nature-loving volunteers from Arizona, to join Ray Ann on her adventure.

To our surprise, there was a serendipitous coincidence in store for us all! Ray Ann already knew Joe! Years ago, she called into AARP’s Friendly Voice program, where Joe volunteers, and they bonded over their love of National Parks.

All aboard! Their adventure began in Williams, AZ, where Ray Ann, Pam, and Joe took the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel train to the scenic South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

“The train was nice; it was a great way to get to the park,” Ray Ann shared. “Joe and Pam were wonderful and I loved being with them.”

The trio spent three days at the Grand Canyon full of hiking, learning about geology, enjoying excellent meals together, and taking in the majesty around them.

Throughout the journey, Ray Ann felt like she was overflowing with joy and excitement.

“I never thought something like this would happen to me,” she said. It was like out of a dream. I had been thinking about how to get back to the Grand Canyon for years, and to be there with new people was just amazing—almost surreal.”

One of the highlights of their trip included a sunset tour at the South Rim. “We got to see a remarkable sunset,” Joe shared, “And then, a moonrise! It just came up over the plateau; it was really cool.”

Ray Ann will never forget the moment they were approached by a bighorn sheep while hiking along Yavapai Point.

“He was just so calm,” Ray Ann shared. “It was a very strange experience. It was like he was there for me! You never see an animal like that!”

The opportunity to explore the Grand Canyon with her two new friends was a meaningful experience for Ray Ann on many levels.

“This is such an amazing program to honor seniors,” she shared. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not even seen. This made me realize that I am valuable.”

Although Ray Ann had a tearful goodbye with Joe and Pam, the three friends planned to stay in touch after their trip. Along with her gratitude, Ray Ann left us with some timeless advice.

“Get out there and experience things in the world,” she said. “There is so much to see and do—don’t wait! Whatever your passion is, get out there and do it.”


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