Aztec Ruins National Monument – New Mexico


Aztec Ruins National Monument
New Mexico

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

Completed: October 9, 2017

Not So Junior Ranger/Senior Ranger

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.

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Ocmulgee National Monument – Georgia

Ocmulgee National Monument
Georgia

Completed: September 28, 2017

http://www.nps.gov/ocmu/index.html

Senior Friendly

A small unit in central Georgia, near Macon, has human history dating back 17,000 years. That is impressive and well worth exploring the displays in the visitor center, as well as the earthen mounds outside. Even at this late date in September it was hot, well into the 90s, plus humidity, which made exploring too uncomfortable for me. Most of my time was spent in the visitor center, then drove the short road to look at the mounds

This program is considered Senior Friendly as no upper age is given. Most of the booklet can completed in the comfort of the visitor center. There are 12 activities included in the booklet, I always appreciate when, as a Senior Ranger, I don’t have to complete all of the activities. It is always nice to have a choice!
Up to 6 years old- 4 activities
7 – 9 years old – 7 activities
10 years or older- 10 activities

Activities include; Draw a Picture, Discover!, Digging into the Past, Pottery Drawing, Home Sweet Home, Word Search, Earth Lodge, Multiple Choice, Great Temple Mound, Fill in the Blank, The Park Around Us, and True or False.

Archaeology is the main focus of this park site which is also highlighted throughout the Junior Ranger booklet. Digging into the Past provided a stratigraphy diagram which was used to answer questions about the age of labeled artifacts. Home Sweet Home showed 4 pictures of different styles of homes that were used at Ocmulgee, the styles evolved from sticks and a grass roof up to a more traditional home.

The staff was very friendly and helpful while reviewing my booklet. I always appreciate when a ranger takes the time to check my answers and initiate a discussion about the activities. Besides receiving a unique badge, I was also given a colorful patch. The badge is unique (see below) because the strip across the top which usually names the park says “All Things Are Connected”, I love that saying as I think it is what the National Park Service represents.

Obed Wild and Scenic River- Tennessee

Obed Wild and Scenic River
Tennessee

http://www.nps.gov/obed/index.html

Completed: September 25, 2017

Senior Friendly

In Eastern Tennessee, north of I-40 and west of Oak Ridge, is small but beautiful park site that features free-flowing river. I have visited this site several times, at different times of the year, the Fall is the best. If you are fortunate to be there when the leaves are changing colors it is a treat. Besides hiking and rock climbing, the best way to experience the Obed River is on it – by canoe or kayak. I haven’t been able to do that yet, hopefully someday.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as no upper age limit is given.
Ages 5-6, complete at least five activities with Obediah the Owl icon.
Ages 7-8, complete at least seven activities with Obediah the Owl icon.
Ages 9 and up, complete all of the activities (14).

Activities include; Can You Canoe the Obed River?, Activity-Animal Tracks, Fish Identification, Obed Wild and Scenic River Word Search, Connect the dots to see WHOOOO this is?, Visit Lilly Bluff Overlook, Lily Bluff Scavenger Hunt, When you visit the Obed.., A-MAZE-ing, Help Keep Obed Clean, Safety First!, Picture This!, Obed’s Rich History, and Find it on the Obed Map.

My favorite experience was visiting Lilly Bluff Overlook (pictured above) to enjoy the view. A short walk from the parking area leads you past several interpretive signs describing the geography and geology of the area. The page for Obed’s Rich History provides an overview of the variety of people who have lived here, from Prehistoric Indians to European settlers in the 1700s.

I brought my finished booklet to the visitor center in the small town of Wartburg. The ranger reviewed my booklet and provided their enhanced Junior Ranger badge. As an avid craft beer consumer I couldn’t pass up purchasing their pint glass!

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area – Washington

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area – Washington

https://www.nps.gov/laro/index.htm

Completed: July 7, 2017

In central Washington, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (NRA) provides water recreation, camping and history. The lake was created from the Grand Coulee Dam along the Columbia River in the 1940s, encompassing a 130 mile long recreation area administered by the NPS. While visiting I picked up their Junior Ranger newspaper.

If seven or younger three activies are to be completed, if older then all six activities are to be completed. In addition everyone is to attend one ranger-guided activity (if available) and hike one of the trails described. The program is Senior Friendly with no upper age limit given.

The activities include; Messages in Stone, The Artifact Jungle, Fort Colville Word Scramble, Fort Spokane Indian Boarding School Word Search, Fort Spokane Military Mega-Mazes, and What About the Future? Three trails described are scattered throughout the park site; Mission Point Trail near Kettle Falls Campground, Sentinel Trail at Fort Spokane and Bunchgrass Prairie Nature Trail at Spring Canyon Campground. While completing any of the hikes, a Junior Ranger Notebook has you record plants, animals, habitat and other details seen and heard along the hike.

While visiting I camped at both Spring Canyon and Kettle FallsCampground. It was very hot, reaching over 100 degrees during the daytime, but cooled off nicely at night. At Spring Canyon some of the sites have covered awnings to block the sun and groomed, green grass. It was too hot to hike the nearby nature trail. On our way north we stopped at Fort Spokane, a historic site which was also used as a school in the early 1900s. The grounds have an interesting self-guided walk to explore the historic buildings.

Our final stop was at Kettle Falls Campground, right along a narrower section of the Columbia River, as it heads south from Canada. It had been very hot all day, I was glad when the evening cooled off for comfortable sleeping. In the cooler morning I enjoyed hiking along the river. A few flowers, mainly Sego Lillies, were in bloom along the trail, which I noted in the Junior Ranger Notebook section.

As I traveled around the NRA I completed the six different activities, all provided interesting information. The Artifact Jumble was my favorite, as it helped to show the long history of many different people who inhabited the upper Columbia River. In my drawing for What About the Future? I drew a free-flowing river, wishful thinking, but my hope for the future in 100 years. In the Kettle Falls area there were no visitor services staffed by park rangers so I mailed the completed paper to the address indicated on the back section. In the return mail I received the ranger-signed Junior Ranger paper, an attractive patch and a geology-specific booklet, which nicely explains the unique geology of the area. This is a lesser known park site, but one that has more than just a lake to visit, it has a rich human and geologic history, well worth the time to visit and explore.

 

Little River Canyon National Preserve – Alabama


Little River Canyon National Preserve

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

Completed: September 30, 2017

Senior Friendly

Along the eastern edge of Alabama this is a little known unit of the National Park Service (NPS). As a preserve it can include a few recreational activities not usually allowed in NPS sites. Besides hiking and climbing, some of the activities allowed are fishing and hunting. This was my second visit and on both visits I was able to enjoy the natural beauty with very few other visitors. There are hiking trails, as well as scenic drives to explore. This park also honors those Native Americans which endured the Trail of Tears.

This program is Senior Friendly, no age limits are given. The booklet indicates to complete as many activities as possible to earn the badge. During this visit I was able to complete all of the activities.

Activities include; Where Are you From?, What Should You Bring?, People in the Preserve, Junior Ranger Safety Scrambler, What is a Cultural or Natural Resource?, Everything Needs a Home, Invader!, Woods Walk, Little River Footprints, Wildlife Around You, Pitcher Plant Maze, Where does the Water Go?, Mushroom Rock, Crossword Puzzle, Little River Fossils, Plants of Little River Canyon, Wildlife Scavenger Hunt, and National Park Service Emblem.

Identifying the difference between Cultural and Natural Resources involved looking at pictures of plants, a arrowhead and a house from 1910. Everything Needs Home was a drawing activity to show the same needs of a human’s habitat and that of an animal. I drew a picture of the van in which we travel – my home, away from home. The activities were interesting and provided good variety. The booklet had great photos and graphics which added to the experience.

I picked up the booklet late in the day, explored a bit before heading over to DeSoto State Park (alapark.com/desoto-state-park). This park is close by in a beautiful canyon and has camping, a lodge and restaurant. The campground with amenities; electric hook ups, showers and large sites are excellent. We have also eaten at the lodge restaurant, enjoyed the breakfast buffet. The following morning I returned to the visitor center and had my booklet reviewed. The volunteer on duty provided the oath,certificate and badge and a picture!

El Malpais National Monument – New Mexico

La Ventana Sandstone Arch
El Malpais National Monument – New Mexico

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

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.

Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book, 1916 – 2016

National Park Service

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

Completed: April 8, 2016

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.

https://www.nps.gov/kids/pdf/centennial-jrrangerbooklet.pdf

Devils Postpile National Monument – California


Devils Postpile National Monument
California

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

Completed: May 26, 2014

Senior Friendly

Love this site! Geology rocks, and so does geometry. This wonderful park site is only open in the summer, sometimes not until July! Check their website or call before you visit. Getting to the site is by shuttle bus from the ski area in Mammoth Lakes, unless you have a campground reservation down in the valley. Once there enjoy this unique geologic feature, make sure to hike to the top of the postpile.

This site is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit. If you are over 10 years of age then you are to complete at least 10 of the 12 activities. The activities are; The Prepared Hiker, Attend A Program / Interview A Ranger, Geology Rocks, Trace Your Trail, National Parks are Everywhere, Using Your Senses, The National Park Service, Scavenger Hunt, Devils Postpile: Fire & Ice, The Scenic San Joaquin, The Rainbow Fire, and Leave No Trace.

By far my favorite activity was Geology Rocks, as previously I had looked at the wall of rock at ground level. This activity had you draw the structures seen from ground level and then from on top. Seeing the geometric shapes on top which form the columns was great. While up there you can also complete the activity, Devils Postpile: Fire & Ice by recording the shapes of at least 10 columns, I found; 2 square, 3 pentagon and 5 hexagon-shaped columns.

The Scavenger Hunt had six items to discover and draw which is always a challenge for me, but good practice. Using Your Senses was another drawing activity. I spent some time drawing the Summer Tanager I saw while hiking in the area. Even though it involved a Word Search I learned something surprising about this area, the river in the valley is the San Joaquin River. This is a river I have seen on the west side of the Sierras, so I was surprised that its headwaters were in a valley on the east side. Goes to prove, you can always learn something new when completing a Junior Ranger program.

 

The very best part of this visit was having my booklet reviewed by Ranged Elsa. We both recognized each other, it took a few moments to remember where we had previously met. The Fall before she had been the ranger in Yosemite who had awarded my grandson and I our Junior Ranger badges. I received a very attractive patch, in the shape of a hexagon, of course.

Downloadable copy:
https://www.nps.gov/depo/learn/kidsyouth/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=374668

White Sands National Monument – New Mexico

White Sands National Monument
New Mexico

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

Completed: May 3, 2017

Senior Friendly

After many visits over the years, I finally completed the Junior Dunes Ranger Activity Book. Whether you arrive from the east or west it is spectacular to see the pure white sands in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America. This is a popular park site for families, as you can climb the dunes and slide down.

This program is Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit.

Activities include; Recording Your Memories, Having Fun and Being Safe, Solving Riley’s Riddles, Discovering Who Lives Here, Looking for Shapes, Meeting a Ranger, Finding Your Way, Dining in the Desert, Transforming Rock into Sand and Dunes, Exploring the Soaptree Yucca, Meeting the Dunefield, Holding the Dunes Together, Nature and Geology Checklist.

The graphics for Transforming Rocks into Sand and Dunes was helpful to understand the sand creating process. The dunes are stark, and the few plants which grow on the dunes offer special beauty. Exploring the Soaptree Yucca was a good botany lesson.

As dry as it appears while visiting White Sand Dunes NM, it is surprising to learn how water is important to creating the dunes. Holding the Dunes Together explains how the water cycle makes these dunes possible.

Back in the visitor center the ranger on duty reviewed my booklet and awarded me their enhanced Junior Ranger badge. The badge depicts a Greater Roadrunner, with the dunes in the background. Once again I learned that the booklet available onsite is slightly different than the one I copied from their website. Either booklet will give you an opportunity to explore and enjoy this unique and beautiful site in the center of New Mexico.

Booklet download;
https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/kidsyouth/upload/jr_ranger_book_final_9_24_15_reduced_file_size.pdf

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico


Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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

Completed: May 4, 2017

Senior Friendly

Download: https://www.nps.gov/cave/learn/kidsyouth/upload/JRRanger7-12final-7-1-2011.pdf
For ages 7 – 12

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.