Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Completed: April 13, 2014
A favorite park with a Senior Ranger program! We arrived Saturday afternoon with a strong wind blowing. First stop was the Visitor Center to pick up the Senior Ranger booklet. Even in April the campground was almost full. After setting up our campsite we tried to sit outside before dinner, but the wind was too strong. While hiding out from the wind in the van we began working on the booklet.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a bit out of the way with lots of hiking trails, but few other services besides the campground and visitor center. It is 35 miles to the closest motel and food services, up to White’s City, near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This can affect the amount of time spent at the part, either a short visit or spending more time in the park. Their Senior Ranger program is designed for the shorter or longer visits. The requirements for either range of visits is listed at the beginning of the booklet.
We were there overnight so we worked on the requirements for the shorter visit, but completed additional activities. Activities includes; Map Work, Where Am I?, Just Outside the Visitor Center Doors, Critters, What is that Plant, For Your Information, Slideshow Sleuth, Chihuahuan Desert Fun Facts, and finally Completion. As a Senior Ranger program the activities were presented at an informational level, more so than usually found in Junior Ranger programs.
A favorite activity was The Critters page which gave facts about different animals for you to identify. Several hints provided interesting information on ten local critters. As desert-rats most of the animals were familiar to us and using additional resources was not necessary. Only four plants were featured in What is that Plant?, which included pictures. More detailed facts were also given about each plant to help you identify the plants.
A 12 minute film is shown, upon request, in the Pine Springs Visitor Center. This activity has you answer 12 questions based on details in the slideshow. Most answers were easy to glean from the film, a few I had to confirm from other resources to make sure I had the correct answers.
Throughout the booklet you are encouraged to use multiple resources; visitor center displays, interpretative signs, brochures, ranger information and what you see during your visit. On the back of the booklet an extensive list of hikes in the park is provided. They are categorized by length; shorter, moderate and strenuous, with lengths and additional information given.
During previous visits I have hiked to the Top of Texas- Guadalupe Peak and along McKittrick Canyon. For this trip, due to the continuing strong winds, we hiked the short Pinery Trail the next morning. The views, as well as a nice display of wildflowers make the walk interesting. At the end of the trail are remains of a Butterfield Stage station.
With our booklets complete we returned to the visitor center to have our booklets completed. The park volunteer on duty Sunday morning had only been at this park for a week. We had a couple of questions to clarify, she helped to the best of her current knowledge. I think her review of our booklets helped her learn a bit more about this amazing park. Once we recited the Senior Ranger Pledge we received a very colorful patch.