In 2016 the Southern Arizona National Parks Office and Western National Parks Association created a statewide junior ranger program highlighting archeology throughout Arizona. The Oxford dictionary defines archeology as “the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains“. Without a doubt the Arizona sites provide a wealth of experiences to explore the state’s rich archeological history.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – Victoria Mine
Eighteen of the twenty-two NPS Arizona sites are included in this program. To earn the patch only four sites have to be visited. A site specific ‘rocker’ patch was initially available for all of the sites. By the time I finished it in 2018 several sites had run out of their patch. I was able to get 12 of the 18 ‘rocker’ patches. Every site I visited was friendly to this Senior.
Each site has two pages to complete, one to be done on site and another page that can be done before you arrive. To be honest I found some of these on site activities to be the hardest I have ever done. Matching the picture in the booklet with the items on display in the visitor center was a challenge. The mixture of photo identification with answering questions was a great way to learn about the site’s archeology.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
I never tire of visiting the many Arizona National Park Services sites. Having this statewide program focused on archeology provided a fun experience.
Explore Arizona and earn a patch! With twenty-two National Park Service sites scattered across the state this program provides a variety of experiences. Western National Parks Association along with the National Park Service Southern Arizona Office created a state-wide Junior Ranger program. All of the sites were welcoming of this Senior Ranger.
With only four site visits and 7 pages of activities you can earn the attractive patch, with a visit to any of the sites you can earn the small site-specific ‘rocker’ patch. I was determined to visit all of the sites and get all of the rockers! Over seven months I made it to all of the sites, but the final site, Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument eluded me. We planned to visit the monument and complete the assignment, but the office staff in St. George, UT told us no rocker was made for this site.
Now, for the best part of this program – it is based on photography! At each site there is a specific Photo Challenge. Some of the challenges involved a hike, some were right at the park’s visitor center. Rather than detail the activities in the booklet, you can view them using the link above. Below are some of the Photo Challenges I completed.
Casa Grande National Monument – Hidden Room
Chiricahua National Monument – Volcanic Hoodoos
Grand Canyon National Park – Kaibab Formation
Montezuma Castle National Monument – Historic Diorama
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – Lee’s Ferry Peach tree
Tonto National Monument – Salado Pottery
Coronado National Monument – International Border
This hike will also qualify for their ‘I Hike for Health’ pin
As time goes on some sites may not have the ‘rocker’ patch for their site, however the Photo Challenge and learning about the park will make this program timeless. Get Outside and Explore Arizona!
A relatively new site, it was added to the National Park Service in 2006. The story reaches back to the 17th and 18th century when African men, women and children were buried in lower Manhattan and then forgotten. In 1991 their graves were rediscovered when a new building site was being excavated. From there a series of events led to the development of this unique and well-interpreted site. Besides being in the center of New York City, on a summer day with local day camps visiting this site was lively. I appreciate how the park service has interpreted this difficult history. Possibly 20,000 individuals may have been buried in this 5 block area. Of those, 419 sets of remains were excavated and sent to Howard University in 1993. They were returned to the site in 2003 for reburial. The visitor center does an excellent job of explaining the history. Adjacent, but outside and around the corner, is a dramatic Memorial.
This Junior Ranger program is considered Senior Friendly as no upper age is given. Only 4 activities are required to be completed, with 10 different activities from which to chose.
Artifacts Pictures of artifacts found on this site with the names scrambled, to be unscrambled.
Language Using Senegal, one of the African languages spoken, a couple of sentences which included my name and where I am from was transcribe. A translation guide was provided.
Who Am I? Short description of individuals are provided, using information from the visitor center displays I identified them. The descriptions focused on the circumstances of their slavery and their determination to become free.
Symbols Several Andinkra symbols are shown with their meaning; Wisdom & Prudence, Hope, Guardinship and Patience & Tolerance. For this activity you draw your own symbol.
Be A Reporter Using the timeline in the visitor center nine events from 1991 up to 2010 are identified detailing the discovery of the remains, up to the opening of the visitor center.
Fill In The Blank Completing the 5 sentences from informations found in the visitor center.
Freedom For me – “Freedom to speak freely!”
Memorial Stepping outside the answer to these 7 questions are found at the Memorial.
Africa Color Africa your favorite color.
Experience Your America An opportunity to list the ways to care for all of the National Parks.
Even with lots of summer camps kids experiencing the site I was able to complete the booklet in about 1-1/2 hours. The space is small and packed with excellent displays and information. The ranger on duty willingly helped me with a few of the questions. Besides receiving the enhanced, smaller metal badge I received an attractive patch.
Next time you are in New York City take time to visit the African Burial Ground Monument, it literally is ‘history’ under your feet.
Tucked into the Rocky Mountains, not far from the ‘rock stars’ of Jasper and Banff National Parks is Kootenay. After spending a couple days dodging the crowds of those parks I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this park. Shortly after entering from the eastside we stop at the roadside monument where the Great Divide Trail crosses the main highway through the park. This is a continuation of the Continental Divide Trail which is the US portion of a trail that connects the southern border of New Mexico to the northern border of Montana, and into Canada. It rained most of the afternoon and into the evening, limiting the opportunity to take landscape photos.
This program is considered Senior Friendly, as no age levels are given. Only five*activities are required to become an Xplorer. The activities include; check it Out, Create Your Own, Go Investigate, Join In, Figure it Out, Take A Walk, Try it Out, Take A Look, Go Play, Use Your Senses, Take it Easy, Go Meet, and Remember.
Check it Out – Your Destinations: While visiting I was able to go to Marble Canyon, Continental Divide, Vermillion Crossing, Olive Lake and the Kootenay
Try it Out – Haven off the Highway: while exploring Olive Lake I counted 14 bird sounds, which I identified as Baried Thrush.
Take A Look – Traveling Tracks: Matching six animals with their tracks.
Go Play- A Pathway to Paint: Using ochre (watercolor pencil) paint I ‘painted’ some animals seen in the park.
Use Your Senses – Natural Noise in the Park: Listing the natural and man-made sounds
Take it Easy – Natural Noises Word Scramble: From Tweet (wtete) to Growl, six animal sounds to unscramble
Remember -My Favourite Trip Tale: a short written memory about camping at Marble Canyon, experiencing an afternoon thunderstorm.
The next morning we enjoyed a delightful breakfast of fresh baked scones in the Kootenay Mountain Lodge at Vermillion Crossing before continuing west to Radium Hot Springs and the visitor center for the park. After reviewing my completed booklet the staff presented my with the dog-tag style award as a Parks Canada Xplorateurs. I guess I got the French language tag for this park.
In 2016 the National Park Service celebrated their centennial, 100 years of sharing our country’s natural, historical and cultural places. Many parks had special events and programs, Big Bend National Park introduced “The Centennial Challenge”, a hiking challenge. As of August 2018 it is still being listed on their website. I need to get back there and finish the longer hike to Emory Peak. I’ll update this posting when I have finished the challenge.
The two challenges I did complete were easy and fun! A handout accompanies the challenge with activities to complete during each hike. The shortest trail, 400 feet, is a walk through the Panther Path of Chihuahuan Desert plants at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. The plants along the path were interesting, many a bit different than what I see in the Sonoran Desert of SE Arizona. Besides identifying the plants there were a couple which you sketched. Even though the walk was short I learned a lot about the plants in this park.
The second challenge was a hike, 3 miles one way, along the Rio Grande River, past a hot springs. It started at a historic location, The Hot Springs Hotel ruins. There are a few building ruins before you start walking towards the hot springs and eventually arrive at the Rio Grande Village area. I was fortunate to be able to hike this one way, however the round trip hike would have been enjoyable as most of the hike follows the river with gentle slopes and great trail. The challenge has you answer four questions along the route, based on features seen while hiking.
Any time spent in Big Bend National Park is time well spent, but completing The Centennial Challenge guided me to some areas I might not have explored, especially the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. Now to make plans for the final hike…
Tucked behind the Animas River, near downtown Aztec, the ruins take you back in time, back 900 years! The Pueblo Great House had 400 rooms, many you can walk through on the self-guiding tour. This is a great walking tour, I had to crouch down to get through several doorways. The large kiva, spiritual center, has been restored so that you can walk down into the center. The overall area is small, but what you can experience is big!
Aztec Ruins offers a number of Junior Ranger programs for different age groups and this senior ranger program. And even better, you can earn a patch at home! Following the link below you can complete the activities online to earn their patch. https://www.nps.gov/features/azru/
The ‘booklet’ for the Not So Junior Ranger is a four-fold flyer with seven panels to complete. The only downside of the flyer is the slick paper, difficult on which to write or draw. The panels headings are; In the Museum; Artisans and Descendants, On the Trail; Keep it Standing and Roots on the Landscape, Get Involves, In the Visitor Center:Historic Trivia and Heritage Adventure around the World.
The activities are a nice blend of visitor center information, exploring the ruins and expressing your opinion or thoughts. Sometimes it took some detective work to find the information which made the hunt fun. Matching pottery images to the type of pottery was the easiest, with finding the viga (beam) labeled H48 in the visitor center the most challenging.
When asked what was the best part of my experience at Aztec Ruins National Monument I wrote about watching a Dark-eyed Junco bird fly in and out of an opening in the ruins. Seeing an animal, which may have been present when the ruins were occupied, brought the ruins alive for me.
It was a busy day, over the Columbus Day weekend, but the ranger on duty spent time reviewing and discussing my completed pamphlet. Having a senior option available is greatly appreciated, and the slightly larger wooden Not So Junior badge is a nice reward.
2016 was a big travel year for me, by the end of the year I was fortunate to have visited 220 of the 413 National Park Service sites. With the NPS celebrating their Centennial, 100 years, we wanted to celebrate with them. Most I had visited previously, several were first time visits, and every visit brought a special memory. I was thrilled when I learned that a special Junior Ranger Activity Book was available. Looking back at the booklet I completed activities at a number of parks, finally finishing it at El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico.
The thirteen activities include; National Park Service Symbols, Jammin’ Journal, Become a Modern Day John Muir!, Draw & Name Your Park, Past and Present Native Cultures, Write a Cinquain Poem, National Park Crossword, My Space – Your Space, Write Yourself into National Park Service History, Healthy Parks, Healthy You, Rappin’ with a Ranger, The President is Calling You, and Protecting Special Places.
The inside front cover was not an activity, but asked a couple of questions about birthdays and the centennial. One of the questions was to identify how a park you visited was celebrating the centennial. Five of the parks in southeastern Arizona offered a “I Hike for Health” pins during this year. I was able to earn all five pins, including one at Coronado National Memorial by hiking to the US/Mexico border at the beginning of the Arizona National Scenic Trail.
Coronado National Memorial -Arizona
Instead of recounting the activities I will share some memories and pictures from my travels during 2016. Living in Arizona we have access to some wonderful desert parks which we could enjoy during the winter months. Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Joshua Tree NP and Death Valley NP are sites we have visited many times over the years, and the flowers in 2016 were gorgeous.
Organ Pipe Cactus NM – Arizona
Joshua Tree NP -California
Death Valley NP – California
In Colorado there is a wide variety of park sites, from Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and Great Sand Dunes NP. Both unique and beautiful at any time of the day.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP – Colorado
Great Sand Dunes NP – Colorado
Working back East we spent time at Alley Spring & Mill in Ozark National Scenic Riverway, a built area with gushing water and historic buildings. Of course the one of highlights was attending our annual National Park Travelers Club (NPTC) meeting in Philadelphia at Independence National Historical Park, especially seeing the Liberty Bell. While touring Washington DC I visited the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM where many legislative victories were pursued within sight of the US Capitol, the architecture was stunning.
Alley Spring & Mill – Ozark National Scenic Riverway – Missour
Independence National Historical Park – Pennsylvania
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM – Washington, DC
Working our way West came back through Northern New Mexico and celebrated with Capulin Volcano NM -their window was one of many special events and signs we saw throughout the year. As active members of the NPTC we collect the NPS passport stamps that the sites offer, in 2016 the sites had a special stamp for the Centennial. It definitely made the year extra special as we criss-crossed the country visiting the parks and working on the special Junior Ranger booklet. The good news is you did not have to travel as we did, the booklet could be done at home or at one site to earn the wooden Junior Ranger badge. For those who did not know about this program during the centennial year, it may still be available. Check with any NPS site or online.
I have toured Carlsbad Caverns several times over the years, based on those experiences, plus time I spent above ground on this visit, I was able to complete this Junior Ranger program. I always enjoy the drive in, through the canyon winding up to the visitor center. On this visit we took the loop dirt road which leaves the main road, near the visitor center, and comes back to the east. There are several pullouts and trailheads. We hiked up a ridge, almost to the park boundary, enjoying the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. So, there is more than just caverns at this park.
The booklet I completed was for ages 7 – 12 which I downloaded and printed before this visit. The park webpage indicates a downloadable copy of the booklet for ages 13 and up will be available in the future, the booklet for the older participants is available on site. To earn the badge for ages 7 – 12, you need to complete 7 of 14 activities. With no upper age limit this program is considered Senior Friendly.
The activities are; Respect and Protect, It Makes Perfect Sense!, Cave Scavenger Hunt, The Carlsbad Caverns Story, Ask a Ranger, Go Take a Hike!, What’s the Word?, Caverns Word Search, Draw Your Own Pictograph, Carlsbad Caverns Diamante, Hike the Natural Entrance, Walk through the Big Room, Ranger-guided tour and Ranger program/movie.
It Makes Perfect Sense! has you name the five senses and use four of them to describe cave features, such as hearing water drops. On this visit I hiked the Nature Trail, at the east end of the Visitor Center to identify ten plants and their use by people. Pictures in the booklet match with plants along the trail with signs which provide the plant name and uses.
Bat viewing Amphitheater
What’s the Word? was a crossword puzzle which the clues provided interesting information about the caverns, both natural history and geologic formations. I am usually not a big fan of a Word Search, but this one was presented with the key words embedded in several paragraphs describing the environment and cave formation process. I appreciate having some information about the words for which I am searching.
I enjoyed writing my poem for Carlsbad Caverns Diamante, a diamond-shaped poem which began with the word cave and ended with cavern. The seven line poem format was explained very well, I enjoyed coming up with the nouns, adjectives and participles (action words ending in ‘ing’) to describe caves.
With my completed booklet I brought it to the ranger desk in the Visitor Center for review. This is where I learned about the booklet for Ages 13 and above which has a few additional activities with more difficulty, but interesting. The booklet I completed was reviewed and I was awarded their enhanced Junior Ranger badge depicting cave formations.
Yes, this is an island which can only be accessed by ferry or plane. We took the Washington State Ferry for a day visit, the weather was great. Once you arrive at Friday Harbor getting to the two sites, the American and English Camps, established from 1853-1872, takes some effort. There are several trolleys or transit companies which make stops at the two sites. The sites are on opposites ends of the island, some miles apart. We chose to rent a car for four hours which allowed us more time at each site and to explore the island. After visiting we did some price comparison and discovered it could have been cheaper to bring our vehicle out to the island. However you get there, visiting both sites is well worth your time.
This site commemorates the Pig War; yep, a pig got shot and the American and British settlers quarreled which led to soldiers from both countries to occupy the island to protect their citizens. No shots were fired, negotiations over 12 years were resolved through a German arbitrator. Each camp is preserved and interesting to visit.
This Junior Ranger program is Senior Friendly, as the only requirement is to
complete the same number of activities as your age. There are 16 activities, so I completed all of them. The activities are; The Pig War, Creating Peace, 1860 Uniforms, Food, Archaeology, Tree Rings, Prairie Restoration, Use Your Senses, BINGO – American And English Camp, Life Zones – American and English Camp, Maze, Create Your Own Emblem, National Park Service, and Junior Ranger Quiz.
What I found most interesting was the diverse environments between the two camps. The American Camp was in a less desirable area of the island, colder and wetter during the winter. The English Camp was better situated at the southern end, with a protective cove. The English-style garden was attractive.
The Archaeology page was interesting, creating a table listing comparable items of Prehistoric, Historic and Modern items. As usual I enjoyed the two BINGO cards, different items to look for at each site. The ecosystem of the American Camp was primarily in the prairie and water life zones, and the British Camp in forests, down to mudflats. Some of the activities help you understand the differences.
I really enjoyed the boat trip to and from the island and exploring the island by visiting the two different camps, especially with the diversity of ecosystems. The history is interesting, but the sights are wonderful. Once I completed the activities a volunteer reviewed my booklet and presented me with a standard badge and attractive patch.
While visiting Olympic National Park this summer I was offered their Ocean Stewards Junior Ranger program. It is a program which focuses on the ocean environment within Olympic NP in conjunction with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. As we were camping at Kalaloch Beach for several nights I would be able to complete the activities. Camping at Kalaloch campground was wonderful; the access to a wide, sandy beach which had plentiful wildlife to view. One of the highlights was seeing a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle while walking along the beach one morning.
This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit. The instruction are for each person to complete the number of activities equal to their age, and those older than eleven should complete all of the activities.
The activities include; Chart Your Adventure, Field Journal, Leave No Trace, One Ocean, Tidal Zones, Coastal Study Plots, Coastal Word Search, Sea Stack Maze, At Home on the Water, Sea Otters Abound, and Interview a Ranger.
The Field Journal allowed me to explore Kalaloch Beach and record what I heard, saw, felt and smelled. I most enjoyed seeing the eagles and many of the animals in the tide pools. One Ocean activity provided information about marine debris that impacts animals, it included searching the beach and recording debris found.
As a Desert Rat, the activities taught me a lot about the ocean, especially about the issues impacting sea life due to human interaction, both positive and negative. Learning that Sea Otters had disappeared from this area in the early 1900s, and now there are 1,000 that live in the sanctuary along the coast of Olympic National Park gave me hope for the future.
I returned to the Kalaloch Ranger Station and finished the activities in the booklet by interviewing Ranger Jared about his job. He told me that in the winter it rains sideways, at times, and they had a record 140 inches of rainfall this past year. After he reviewed my booklet he gave me the very attractive Ocean Steward patch. This program was a great addition to the standard Junior Ranger program for Olympic National Park. A similar program focusing on the rainforest would be interesting.