Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Completed: October 21, 2014
Junior Ranger and Park Explorer
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has taken a different approach to including ‘seniors’ in their Junior Ranger program. The booklet is titled “Junior Rangers and Park Explorers”. There are four age categories with the oldest being Ages 13 & up. Six activities are to be completed with the binoculars icon shown at the top of the page. This is not considered a Senior Ranger program because when completed you receive the standard Junior Ranger badge and patch.
However, having more adult-level activities was appreciated, as well as not having to complete some of the simpler activities. As there are only six activities with binocular icon all six need to be completed to earn the badge and patch. It took approximately two hours to finish the activities. It was a gorgeous Fall day in October, a beautiful, clear sky with a warming sun. Having been there in the summer previously, when it can be over 100 degrees, I appreciated the more temperate weather.
The activities included; Dunes Bingo Scavenger Hunt, Be an Artist, Dunes Exploration, The Arrowhead, Habitat Diversity, Habitat Match. The only activity I found to not interesting or informative was completing the drawing of the NPS arrowhead. I enjoyed drawing a scene of the park. The scene I drew was from the Dunes area looking Northeast with the creek, part of the dunes and up to the mountains. The views at this park are dramatic. The Dunes Exploration activity allowed you to record observations while taking a hike in the area. A poem is written to describe how the sand dunes were formed. Besides writing about how without the federal wilderness protection the dunes would look like today, there is a question to think about a place in your own community that could benefit from better protection.
The last two activities used information in the park brochure to complete details about this unique habitat. Considering the park includes wetlands, grasslands, dunes, montane forest and woodlands and alpine tundra there is a wide diversity of plants and animals. A final activity was the standard scavenger hunt in bingo format which I always enjoy. Because of the season I missed seeing a butterfly, flower in bloom and as I did not camp this time I also missed seeing stars.
When the activities were completed I returned to the visitor center where a volunteer reviewed my booklet. I appreciated the time she took to review what I had done. After giving me the oath I was offered either the enhanced badge, landscape view of the park, or the colorful patch. When asked if I could have both she agreed. Especially when a patch is given I leave at least $5 in the park’s donation box.