For his 91st birthday, Bob Baldwin is leaving Longview this weekend for a stay in the mountains.
Baldwin will be spending eight days visiting Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park directly across the border in Canada. The trip will be a milestone not just for his birthday, but as the 50th trip Baldwin has participated in through Road Scholar, a not-for-profit organization that plans a variety of trips for older travelers.
“It just opened up a whole world for me. Things I never thought I would do I ended up doing,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said that he had always been a hiker and was interested in travel, but his work as a forester for Weyerhaeuser didn’t leave him with a lot of free time for intensive trips. After returning Baldwin planned his first trip, a short sailing program through the Puget Sound, with his wife Marilyn before she died in 1994.
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“Rather than stay at home and mope around, I decided to stay with the trip. I found it pretty satisfying and I kind of got hooked on the programs they offer,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin took his first trips while Road Scholar operated under its previous name, Elderhostel.
Road Scholar’s website says the company works with more than 100,000 travelers every year and has programs that visit more than 100 countries. Prices for the most popular recent trips generally range between $1,000 and $3,000 for trips in the United States or North America.
Some of the Road Scholar trips Baldwin has taken have been straightforward hikes on popular trails in Alaska or Arizona. Others have been more elaborate treks. Back in the late 1990s, Baldwin took two lengthy biking trips in Europe, one along the Danube River in Germany and Austria and another through Denmark a year later.
“We would go through the little towns and villages to stop and pick up lunch at a market, have a break there, move on to the rest of the day. It’s really a great, fun way to do it,” Baldwin said.
The majority of the trips Baldwin has taken with Road Scholar meant traveling and bonding with a small group of other vacationers around his age. Baldwin said he’s made some long-distance friendships with people he met on the trips and has visited again.
Over the years, Baldwin brought along his grandchildren on a few of the trips that are specifically billed as intergenerational programs. The family trips included visits to Yellowstone National Park, Greece and the Netherlands.
The pandemic and age have slowed down the extent of Baldwin’s travels. The trip in August will be Baldwin’s first major trip in three years. He said he has shifted his focus to some of the less physically-demanding options provided by Road Scholar.