Peggy Gonzales, of Craig, enjoys the breeze on a cruise on Lake Champlain in Vermont. Thirty-one Northwest Coloradans went on a six-day trip to Boston and Vermont as a part of Colorado Northwestern Community College's Continuing Education program.

Mary Morris/Courtesy

Peggy Gonzales, of Craig, enjoys the breeze on a cruise on Lake Champlain in Vermont. Thirty-one Northwest Coloradans went on a six-day trip to Boston and Vermont as a part of Colorado Northwestern Community College's Continuing Education program.

CNCC lifelong learners go on 6-day tour of Vermont

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When Phyllis Bingham, 78, along with 30 others, were sitting on their cross-country flight, they were told their trip was too early in the fall to catch any of the spectacular colors in New England.

But when they arrived at their cabins on Lake Champlain in Vermont, the group found their timing was just right.

"Words can't hold it all," Bingham said of the rainbow of changing leaves. "I kept thinking, 'It just can't get better than this,' but then we'd go a little ways and it would. I tried to take pictures but, of course, that couldn't capture it either."

The tour group saw a lot more than leaves and colors on their six-day trip to Vermont and Boston.

The trip was part of the Continuing Education program at Colorado Northwestern Community College, which includes classes and field trips designed for students of all ages.

Continuing Education director Mary Morris said the Vermont trip, which returned three weeks ago, included eight students older than 80, with Thelma Bell, of Maybell, the oldest at 89.

Moffat County residents older than 62 can participate in any Continuing Education course with free tuition. They are responsible for book and course fees, but Morris said it's important to facilitate the lifelong learning of the Craig community.

"Learning is key to staying healthy at any age," she said. "We challenge our students, whether they're 20 or 89."

Three of the travelers were in wheelchairs, including Bingham, who said the way the trip was arranged allowed her to see things she's never seen before.

Last year, Bingham lost her husband of 59 years, leaving few opportunities to travel.

"You kind of hesitate to go on your own," she said. "Because you're so dependent. But this just worked out beautifully. It was really the chance of a lifetime for me."

Her daughter, Suz Syverston, went along to help Bingham, who called the experience "the trip of a lifetime."

"It was a fantastic trip," she said. "I studied history in school, but I've never had a history lesson like that before."

It may have been a whirlwind six days between Boston and Burlington, but the tour group was learning things every step of the way.

They started in Boston, and then took a bus north to New Hampshire and Vermont, stopping at several historical sites along the way.

They toured the home of former President Calvin Coolidge, and the town where Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, had lived and collected memorabilia of his father.

They viewed Monet and Manet works at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vt., in an exhibit of impressionist paintings.

In northern Vermont, the group went on a cruise on Lake Champlain, and a camera on the boat showed them underwater views of a few of the 100 shipwrecks that line the bottom of the lake.

Bingham was amazed by the amount of historical events that took place along their route, but some of the simpler glimpses of New England will stick with her even more.

"We got to see them tap the trees for maple syrup," Bingham said. "And we got to see those covered bridges we'd been hearing about our whole lives."

Morris said along the way everyone interacted in a positive way and helped each other whenever they could.

"They come back tired, but they're so charged with that energy that comes form learning," she said. "I love it. It's the best part of my career."

Morris said she used to work in a retirement home with seniors and found ways for them to stay inside until they die.

Now, she said, she finds ways to open up the world to students of any age.

"The mental, social and physical aspect is so important," she said. "Just getting up and walking around, talking to people and learning things keeps them healthy."

In her excitement, Bingham took 450 photos during the trip, but, even without visual reminders, it's an experience she'll never forget.

"If I never go on another trip again, I'll know I've seen it all," she said.

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