Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – Utah

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Junior Scientist

Completed: May 20, 2016

The beauty of this monument is incredible, expansive and memorable. Get Outside and explore this unique landscape! My few photos do not do justice to this landmass, however the diversity of this monument is well represented in the Junior Scientist Activity Booklet.

When I completed the program in 2016 this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) National Monument was much larger than it is as I write this blog. And, as I recently drove through the area I was saddened to realize this monument, which was shrunk in size in early 2018, had been reduced in areas that were previously readily accessible from major roadways . I only hope that one day, soon, the original boundaries can restored.

This program does have an upper age limit printed in the booklet, however I was provided the booklet and badge readily. To become a Junior Scientist you need to;
Watch the “Traces in Time” video, available at several of their visitor centers.
6-8 years old completes 3 or more activities, 9-12 years old completes 5 or more activities.
Activities include;
Visitor Center Scavenger Hunt, Climbing the Grand Staircase, Paleontology Tool Hunt, Creating a Landscape, Top-Toe through the Crypto, Animal Tracks, Connecting to the Past, Human History, Leave No Trace, and Journal.

The Visitor Center Scavenger Hunt can be completed by visiting the four visitor centers and identifying each center’s theme and answer one question. During this one trip I was able to visit all four sites so I was able to complete all of the activities. As an adult, if you plan to complete this program, plan to visit all four visitor centers – well worth the views along the way!

Creating a Landscape was a drawing activity to illustrate how geology, through deposition and erosion, creates different landscape. My basic sketch depicted a rain cloud over the slick rock. I enjoyed Animal Tracks which included a story with animal tracks embedded, you had to match the animal’s tracks to the animal in the story.

Besides highlighting geology and biology the booklet includes great activities to learn about cryptobiotic soil, paleontology, archeology and environmental impact. The diversity of this monument is well represented in these activities. After exploring Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument I completed all of the activities on the Junior Scientist Activity Booklet I received the badge at the Escalante Visitor Center.

El Malpais National Monument – New Mexico

La Ventana Sandstone Arch
El Malpais National Monument – New Mexico

Completed: October 5, 2017

Senior Friendly

While traveling along I-40 in New Mexico a great detour to the south of Grants is a largely unknown national monument with lots to see and experience. Parts of the park are also managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). From black lava flows to beautiful sandstone arches plus wildlife and wildflowers, what’s not to like!

You can pick up an El Malpais Junior Ranger book at the BLM Ranger Station (check hours), the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center (right off I-40 in Grants), or the Information Center (closed in the winter). Once completed the booklet can be checked by a ranger at any of the three visitor centers. Or, if you can’t complete your mission while visiting, just send it in and they will send you your badge and certificate.

Rufous Hummingbird

This program is considered Senior Friendly as no age limit is given. Everyone is to complete at least six of the nine activities for all ages. Activities include; The Continental Divide, Hiking the CDT, Big Rock Bingo, Life Zones, Water Ways, Picturing People, Indoor Scavenger Hunts: BLM Ranger Station, Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center, and El Malpais Information Center, Listen Up, Down, and All Around and In Your Own Words.

One of the highlights of this part is the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), a 3,100 mile multi-use trail following the continental divide linking Mexico to Canada. This is considered the PhD of long distance trails, with the Appalachian Trail the bachelor level and the Pacific Crest Trail the masters. While visiting you can learn more about the CDT by completing the first two activities and by day-hiking sections in the park.

Snowball Sand Verbena
El Malpais is all about volcanoes, as recently as 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. Big Rock Bingo is a great activity to learn about the different kinds of formations created; spatter cone, pahoehoe flows, lava tubes, as well as other ones. As lifeless as the lava flows can seem the monument is alive with animals and plants. While camped at Joe Skeen Campground I was fortunate to see a Prairie Rattlesnake near our campsite.

Prairie Rattlesnake

Completing the Indoor Scavenger Hunt at the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center took some patience to read the displays to answer the four questions about the Monument, staff were helpful in guiding me to the needed information. So many places within the park site are off the beaten path that you can hear the sounds of nature with fewer human-made sounds which you can record in Listen Up, Down and All Around.

I picked up the booklet on a visit in July 2017 and returned in October 2017 to finish and receive my Junior Ranger badge. This is a site I look forward to visiting again and again, hoping to see more wildlife, as well as explore this diverse environment.

Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail – BLM

North Kaiba Trail – Grand Canyon National Park

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.