Lava Beds National Monument – California

imageLava Beds National Monument
California

http://www.nps.gov/labe/index.htm

Completed: May 29, 2016

Senior Friendly

At the northern edge of California is a desolate landscape which offers great opportunity to explore caves, at least twenty. The views across the lava beds are stunning. This is a favorite national monument which I enjoy visiting and was pleased to have time to complete their Junior Ranger program.

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This is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age limit is listed as Ages 12 and older, as well as two age groupings of 5-7 and 8-11. The groupings are titled; from youngest to oldest, Blue Bird, Sagebrush Mariposa Lily and Modoc. Besides completing the age-appropriate and required activities attending a Ranger-guided program or view the park video to earn this badge.

Activities include; Cave Safety, Cave Softly, Leave No Trace, It’s a Wild, Wild Life, Modoc Culture, Formations of Mushpot, As the Lava Flows, Goin’ Batty with Ben, Drawings in the Rocks, If Rocks Could Tell Stories…, National Park Service Mission, Camp Lava Beds, Protecting Our House, What is Wilderness?, and Lava Beds Maze.

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There are 4 activities required for all ages and 4 Modoc pages. The National Park Service Mission page was a good way to explore the mission statement, it included correcting an incorrect statement by selecting a better word and to have you write what the Mission statement means to you. The most challenging activity was the Camp Lava Beds which has you spend the $25 a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) family member sent back home for a family to live on in 1935. Even at 1935 prices $25 did not go very far.

Protecting Our House and What is Wilderness? were both two page spreads that used maps to identify the main ecosystems and wildernesses in the park, as well as a place to write up your experience while in a portion of a wilderness within the park boundaries. I walked out a sort distance on the Whitney Butte Trail.

Once done I brought the completed booklet to the visitor center a ranger reviewed the booklet and discussed my answers. The ranger filled in the certificate, then had me recite the Junior Ranger pledge before giving me the badge. This was a program that was well-designed for older kids and this Senior.

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Golden Spike National Historic Site – Utah

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Golden Spike National Site
Utah

http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm

Completed: May 22, 2016

Senior Friendly

Download: https://www.nps.gov/gosp/learn/kidsyouth/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=2198215

Three years ago I began completing Junior Ranger programs, as a Senior! As I have traveled around the country I have completed almost 100 Senior or Junior Ranger programs. By completing this program I have done all of the Junior Ranger programs for the NPS sites in Utah. I still have a couple to complete to Arizona, my home state. This is another program which I was able to download and print the booklet before I left home and was able to complete a portion before arriving.

This is considered Senior Friendly as there is no age range given, the activities include; Safety First, Plan your Visit, Track Match, Scavenger Hunt, Central Pacific, Union Pacific and You Built It!, Telegraph Message, Write the Headline, Weather Report, Garbage or Artifact, and Engrave A Spike.

Several of the facts were found in the exhibits in the visitor center. It took a while to find the name of the restaurant at Promontory in 1869. It was in a wood panel hanging on the wall.

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I enjoyed looking around until I found the portrait of the local woman who was instrumental in establishing this site as an NPS site. Figuring out the parts of a train track was challenging. Throughout the booklet, at the bottom of the pages, was an incomplete track linking Sacramento to Omaha. An activity was to draw in the missing parts; tracks, bridges, tunnels, culvert and trestles.

The ranger on duty reviewed my booklet, we discussed the location of some of the answers that were found in the visitor center. Ranger Cole signed my certificate, issued pledge and gave me the badge.
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Pipe Spring National Monument – Arizona

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Pipe Spring National Monument
Arizona

http://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm

Completed: May 18, 2016

Senior Friendly

Download: https://www.nps.gov/pisp/learn/kidsyouth/upload/Junior-Ranger2016-web.docx

Pipe Spring National Monument is in the Arizona Strip, a northern section of the state that looks dry; this site is an oasis. The building, Winsor Castle, was built by early ranchers on land that the Paiute Indians called home for at least 1000 years. The visitor center and living history displays on the grounds tells the whole story from ancient times to the late 1800s. It is a great place to explore.

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This program gets the Senior Friendly rating as no age limits is given. I printed the booklet before I left home and was able to complete several of the activities before I arrived. Once there I spent additional time in the visitor center and attended a ranger program to complete this program. There is no requirement to attend a ranger program, however the information I learned helped me in completing the booklet.

The activities include; Pipe Spring Scavenger Hunt, Explore the Museum, Animal Tracks at Pipe Spring National Monument, Pipe Spring Outside, Wagonload Supplies, Fort Tour, Match Past to Present, and Paiute Language.

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All of the activities gave me a better understanding of the history of this site, and of the natural environment of this area, including changes in water resources. The tour of the house with the period contents gives you a good idea what life was like in the 1800s.

Once I completed all of the activities my booklet was reviewed by staff at the front desk. I appreciated their review and discussion we had to clarify some of my answers. After reciting the Junior Ranger Pledge and stamping my booklet with their passport and NPS Centennial stamp I received an enhanced badge. The badge depicts an outline of Winsor Castle.

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area – Arizona & Utah

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Arizona – Nevada

http://www.nps.gov/lake/index.htm

Completed: February 24, 2016

Senior Friendly

Online: https://www.nps.gov/lake/learn/kidsyouth/upload/JRFINAL.pdf

Not far from Las Vegas, but a world away from the lights is Lake Mead. Camping along the shore brought a beautiful evening glow on the cliffs as the sun was setting. Before setting up camp I picked up the Junior Ranger Guide and Activity Book to begin work on the activities.

For the hike activity we walked along the Historic Railroad Trail, a trail that was built to build the Hoover/Boulder Dam. Along the way there are interpretative signs, as well as great views. As this is in a desert environment there were flowers in bloom along the trail.

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This program is considered Senior Friendly as the only age instruction is if you are older than ten you are to complete all (6) of the activities in the booklet. The activities are; Rangers and their jobs…, From River to Reservoir, Leave No Treads, Adaptations Tic-Tac-Toe, who Belongs Here?, and Junior Archaeologist.

The word puzzle was a creative way to list the different kind of responsibilities that park rangers have, letters and symbols were used for you to name the job. From River to Reservoir told how Lake Mead, as a reservoir was formed. Using pictures that were out of order you number them to show the order of the water’s path.

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I really enjoyed the Adaptations Tic-Tac-Toe, a nice change from the standard park bingo. Nine adaptations were given and if you see the adaptation while in the park you draw what you see. In addition to the several things that I did see I drew an representation of the other adaptations that plants and animals have to survive in the desert environment in this area.

What I liked about this Junior Ranger program is a short description or information was provided with each activity so you learned some background information before completing the activity. Who Belongs Here? gave very good information about native and invasive plants with a good explanation of why invasive plants can harm the local environment.

Once completed you can take it to the Alan Bible Visitor Center, or if you have already left the area you can mail the booklet. Either way you will receive a certificate and an attractive patch.
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Big Thicket National Preserve – Texas

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Big Thicket National Preserve

http://www.nps.gov/bith/index.htm

Completed: March 29, 2016

Senior Friendly

This was a return visit for me, my third time here. When I was here last, in November 2013, I was able to explore more, including a hike along the Kirby Nature Trail. The Preserve is made up of multiple sections of land along the Eastern edge of Texas.
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The cooler and drier weather made the time outside enjoyable. Today was overcast, the area had experienced recent flooding and mosquitos were thick. This time I wanted to complete the Junior Ranger, I combined my hike from the previous visit with time spent watching the park movie and exploring the visitor center displays.

This program is Senior Friendly, it is even stated in the introduction that “any person of any age can become a Junior Ranger”. I like that they specify ‘any person of any age’! I believe this is the first program, of almost 100 I have completed, that clearly includes all ages.

In the introduction the booklet looks fairly simple, you are expected to complete two of four activities; watch park movie, complete Visitor Center scavenger hunt, hike a trail and complete back of brochure and explore one of two areas by boat. I was able to complete 3 of the 4 activities, using the hike from the previous visit. The scavenger hunt seemed it would be easy, however once I started working on the Visitor Center Habitat Match I found it challenging. I also learned that there are nine distinct habitats within the Preserve. I needed help with placing an animal in their habitat with at one of the animal/habitat matches, the ranger was helpful.

For the hike section I completed it based on exploring the area outside the visitor center, as I couldn’t remember many of the animals or plants I saw in November 2013. I found a small strawberry plant with a berry turning red, I drew that in the ‘Express Yourself’ section.

The ranger on duty reviewed my completed booklet and had prepared a very professional certificate, with my name printer-generated. He initially gave me the standard Junior Ranger badge, but before I left he switched it out for an enhanced badge, featuring the Longleaf Pine of the Preserve.

Booklet, certificate & badge.
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Padre Island National Seashore – Texas

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Padre Island National Seashore
Texas

http://www.nps.gov/pais/index.htm

Completed: March 28, 2016

Senior Friendly

After camping within the park and waking to thunder and lightning I went to the Malaquite Visitor Center to pick up the Junior Ranger booklet. As the rain was still falling I found a dry bench on the large porch to begin working on the booklet.

The program is Senior Friendly as no age grouping is given. The introduction indicates you can work alone, with family or a group of friends. All activities are expected to be completed.

Activities include; Ask a Ranger, Winging It, Against All Odds, Ask the Turtle Expert, The Park in the Dark, Beach Clean-Up, The People of Padre, A World of Jellies, and Seashell Search. Between displays in the visitor center, videos in the center and a walk on the beach I was able to complete all of the activities in about two hours.

Hanging out on the beach
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I enjoyed all of the activities and appreciated the diversity of the activities. Winging It has you identify 5 different birds and their unique environments. Protecting sea turtles, especially Kemp’s Ridley, nesting on the island is an important part of this park’s mission. Learning about them and thinking about how to protect them made me think how important this endangered animal is to this ecosystem.

Pelican Fly-over
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The Seashell Search took me out on the beach to find as many examples pictured as I could find. Inside the visitor center is a touch table with all of the shells displayed. I was pleased to be able to find four of the 15 shells on the beach and then spent time finding the others at the touch table. The Park in the Dark activity had you match eight animals that are active in the dark. I did not realize the Black Skimmer would be active after dark.

In addition to the standard Junior Ranger badge you can earn a patch if you pick up a bag of trash while beachcombing. I found a shopping bag along the walkway on my way down to beach which I used to collect of full bag of trash; plastic water bottles, parts of toys and even a shoe. The staff in the visitor center will give you a bag and gloves for this activity.

Patch & sticker for collecting trash
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Once done I went back to the visitor center to interview a ranger, Carlin. I always enjoy doing this activity, she was fairly new to this park, but was enthusiastic about her responsibilities, especially working with school groups. She reviewed my completed booklet and issued me the oath, certificate, turtle button and badge.

Booklet, badge, certificate & button
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Big Bend National Park -Texas

Santa Elena Canyon
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Big Bend National Park
Texas

http://www.nos.gov/bibe/index.htm

Completed: March 23, 2016

Senior Friendly

Big Bend is big, bigger than the state of Rhode Island. There are many places to explore and different environments; river, mountains and desert. I spent three days there on this trip and looking forward to returning to spend more time!

This program is considered Senior Friendly as the third age group is listed for ages 12 and over, no upper age limit given. The three age groups are; under age 7, 7 to 11,and ages 12 and over. Basically the older you are the more pages you are to complete.

The topics include; Dynamic Deserts and Amazing Adaptation, Plant Power, “Digging” Dinosaurs!, Take a Walk on the Wild Side, The Bear Facts, Feline Fun!, Stories from the Past, History Highlights, Growing Up in Big Bend, and Naturalist’s Notebook.

Flowers
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Besides answering questions or completing the activities there are a couple of drawings that can be done. I drew a mesquite tree, a Northern cardinal on a picnic table and a Greater Roadrunner. These are all things that I saw while sitting in my campsite in Rio Grande Village.

I enjoyed matching Prickly Pear Parts as part of the Plant Power page, six different parts were to be identified. Another matching activity was about the animals in the park, everything from a Black Bear to a Millipede, on the page titled Take a Walk on the Wild Side.

After a short reading about the Black Bears in Big Bend the information presented is used to complete a crossword puzzle. Stories from the Past showed pictograph symbols with a description, based on what they might represent. Space is given for you to create your own pictograph.

Pictographs along the Hot Springs Trail
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While in the park I was fortunate to be able to visit all of the visitor centers, five of them scattered throughout this large area. Before leaving the park I stopped at Panther Junction and had a ranger review my completed booklet. A small certificate indicating I was an ‘Official Junior Ranger’ at Big Bend National Park and I received the standard badge.

Booklet and badge
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Fort Davis National Historic Site – Texas

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Fort Davis National Historic Site
Texas

http://www.nps.gov/foda

Completed: March 20, 2016

Senior Friendly

Our Spring trip was to take us through a large portion of Texas, the first stop was in southwestern Texas, up in the Davis Mountains. We arrived Saturday evening and camped at the nearby Davis Mountain State Park at 5,000 ft. It was very cold that night, down to 25 degrees. Luckily we have an electrical connection and could run our small heater, especially in the morning.

By the time we arrived at Fort Davis National Historic Site it had warmed up a bit, but there was a steady wind keeping it cold. After stopping in the visitor center and picking up the Junior Ranger program I headed out to follow a route throughout the site and answer questions. This fort played a major role in the development of the West for non-natives traveling on the San Antonio-El Paso Road from 1854 to 1891, with many of the fort building intact.

Fort Grounds

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It qualifies as Senior Friendly as no age range is given, the directions tell you to complete the activities to the best of your ability.This program has to be completed on site as the tour leads you to the specific locations to complete the blanks in the booklet.

The activities include; 12 questions about what is okay to do in the park, Scavenger Hunt, the 13 stop tour to fill-in-the blanks, 2 optional math questions about travel time and a decoding activity.

I liked the 12 questions about what is okay to do in the park because it wasn’t just No answers. Some asked if it was okay to pick up litter, take photographs, take water with you on a hike and others that are okay for you to do during your visit.

Fort Chapel Ruins
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The Scavenger Hunt pictured 11 items that you needed to be on the lookout for while touring the fort. The tour itself took you to most of the building, probably 1/2 mile walk in total. Some of the answers took some time to discover, I enjoyed figuring out the games and toys the children of a commanding officer enjoyed while living at the fort. The house was fully furnished and you had to look in several rooms to determine the answer.

Overlook View
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Once I completed the booklet and returned to the visitor center an enthusiastic ranger reviewed the answers and experience with me. Besides receiving the standard badge I was given 2 colorful and attractive patches. The first patch, in the shape of an arrowhead is their Junior Ranger patch. The previous weekend the park had held a special event to celebrate the Centennial of the NPS and a patch had been provided to those who participated in their Cannon Ball Run. The ranger asked if I was willing to walk up to the overlook on the south end of the park in order to “qualify” for this patch. Before leaving the fort I went up to the overlook which provided a great view of the entire fort, and was actually a very short distance.

Booklet, badge and patches
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Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail – BLM

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North Kaiba Trail – Grand Canyon National Park
http://www.aztrail.org/juniorexplorer

Completed: January 19, 2016

Senior Friendly

The Arizona Trail almost runs through my backyard in Tucson, about 10 miles to the east. I have hiked short sections throughout Arizona; the whole trail is over 800 miles and reaches from Mexico to Utah. Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders are able to cover the entire distance either as a through-trip (taking a long time) or done in sections.
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The trail passes through private and public land; public lands managed by state and federal agencies. Some of the federal agencies are; Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and Department of Interior. An important resource to enjoy the trail is the Arizona Trail Organization which can be reached at http://www.aztrail.org.

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This program has a a very attractive handbook with excellent graphics and detailed information about what you would see along the 800 mile route. I was fortunate to find this booklet at the REI store in Tucson, however the entire handbook can be completed online. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) provided this Junior Explorer program. It is considered Senior Friendly as no age range is given. With the information provided in the reading the material in this booklet is advanced. With adult help younger children could answer the questions and earn the patch.
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Another unique part of this program is your answers are submitted online. Once you complete the handbook and submit the answers an attractive patch is mailed to you. I was surprised when my patch arrived within a week. I celebrated by hiking a 3-1/2 mile section, Marsh Station Road to Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
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But before I earned my patch I had to complete the booklet. The trail for this activity begins at the southern border, the border with Mexico and works north. The page titles are; Arizona-Sonora Borderlands, Following Water: from top to bottom, The Sky Islands, Biotic Communities: along the Arizona Trail, The Gila River, Tracking Felines: on the Arizona Trail, Mogollon Rim, Cream-Filled Cookie:Plate Tectonics, San Francisco Peaks, Anatomy: of a Volcano, The Grand Canyon, Build Your Own Trail:along the Arizona Trail, The Arizona Strip, Create A Sound Map:along the Arizona Trail, Share The Trail: with other trail users!, and More Places: to Play and Learn.

Not all of your answers will be submitted online, some drawing activities are included, as well as a demonstration of Plate Tectonics which you can eat after you are done! There are a couple of charts to complete and time spent listening outside to create a sound map. Only the online answers count towards earning the patch. I found answering all of the required questions nefoe I went online worked much better than The great part about this program is you can complete anywhere, without ever setting foot along the trail. I think if you did do this program without experiencing the trail itself, you would make it a priority to visit Arizona and enjoy some portion of the trail in the future.
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A Junior Explorer Oath on the back of the handbook provides a certificate for you to complete. And as mentioned before, your attractive patch will arrive shortly just by submitting your answers online.
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