Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument – Arizona


Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Senior Friendly

Completed: August 1, 2014


As a national monument, almost in my background, this is a site I have visited numerous times over the years. A very favorite campground, Bonito, is across the road from the visitor center. I have actually completed this Junior Ranger program twice, March 2013 and August 2014. The first time I completed with my two grandchildren and then on my own. And as I have stated before I learned and experienced something new.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as no age groupings are given, just the direction to complete five or more pages. There are six pages in the booklet. A nice feature of this program is you may turn in your completed packet at either the Sunset Crater Volcano or Wupatki visitor centers. There is a beautiful drive between the two sites which allows you to continue on your trip without returning to the visitor center.

The activities are; Monitoring Our Living Earth, The Great Earth Puzzle, A Place of Cultural Importance, Legend Has It, Excellent Eruptions, Lookin’ at the Lava, Making a Difference, A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words and Sunset Search.

The answers for the first several activities are found in the visitor center displays. A monitor shows current earthquake activity, on my two visits I located recent earthquakes in Alaska, California, and the Tonga Islands.

While walking along the Lava Flow Trail through the Bonito Lava Flow I was able to locate five of the seven features; Sunset Crater Volcano, San Francisco Mountain, Aa lava, Xenolith and a Squeeze-up.

One of my favorite activities when completing Junior Ranger programs is interviewing a park ranger. Ranger Robert told me he had a degree in Field Biology and his favorite place in the park is the O’Leary Trail because it provides a nice overview of the park. On my second visit in March 2014 I combined the last two activities into one by drawing Sunset Search finds.

Lava Beds National Monument – California

imageLava Beds National Monument

Completed: May 29, 2016

Senior Friendly

At the northern edge of California is a desolate landscape which offers great opportunity to explore caves, at least twenty. The views across the lava beds are stunning. This is a favorite national monument which I enjoy visiting and was pleased to have time to complete their Junior Ranger program.


This is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age limit is listed as Ages 12 and older, as well as two age groupings of 5-7 and 8-11. The groupings are titled; from youngest to oldest, Blue Bird, Sagebrush Mariposa Lily and Modoc. Besides completing the age-appropriate and required activities attending a Ranger-guided program or view the park video to earn this badge.

Activities include; Cave Safety, Cave Softly, Leave No Trace, It’s a Wild, Wild Life, Modoc Culture, Formations of Mushpot, As the Lava Flows, Goin’ Batty with Ben, Drawings in the Rocks, If Rocks Could Tell Stories…, National Park Service Mission, Camp Lava Beds, Protecting Our House, What is Wilderness?, and Lava Beds Maze.


There are 4 activities required for all ages and 4 Modoc pages. The National Park Service Mission page was a good way to explore the mission statement, it included correcting an incorrect statement by selecting a better word and to have you write what the Mission statement means to you. The most challenging activity was the Camp Lava Beds which has you spend the $25 a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) family member sent back home for a family to live on in 1935. Even at 1935 prices $25 did not go very far.

Protecting Our House and What is Wilderness? were both two page spreads that used maps to identify the main ecosystems and wildernesses in the park, as well as a place to write up your experience while in a portion of a wilderness within the park boundaries. I walked out a sort distance on the Whitney Butte Trail.

Once done I brought the completed booklet to the visitor center a ranger reviewed the booklet and discussed my answers. The ranger filled in the certificate, then had me recite the Junior Ranger pledge before giving me the badge. This was a program that was well-designed for older kids and this Senior.


Big Thicket National Preserve – Texas


Big Thicket National Preserve

Completed: March 29, 2016

Senior Friendly

This was a return visit for me, my third time here. When I was here last, in November 2013, I was able to explore more, including a hike along the Kirby Nature Trail. The Preserve is made up of multiple sections of land along the Eastern edge of Texas.

The cooler and drier weather made the time outside enjoyable. Today was overcast, the area had experienced recent flooding and mosquitos were thick. This time I wanted to complete the Junior Ranger, I combined my hike from the previous visit with time spent watching the park movie and exploring the visitor center displays.

This program is Senior Friendly, it is even stated in the introduction that “any person of any age can become a Junior Ranger”. I like that they specify ‘any person of any age’! I believe this is the first program, of almost 100 I have completed, that clearly includes all ages.

In the introduction the booklet looks fairly simple, you are expected to complete two of four activities; watch park movie, complete Visitor Center scavenger hunt, hike a trail and complete back of brochure and explore one of two areas by boat. I was able to complete 3 of the 4 activities, using the hike from the previous visit. The scavenger hunt seemed it would be easy, however once I started working on the Visitor Center Habitat Match I found it challenging. I also learned that there are nine distinct habitats within the Preserve. I needed help with placing an animal in their habitat with at one of the animal/habitat matches, the ranger was helpful.

For the hike section I completed it based on exploring the area outside the visitor center, as I couldn’t remember many of the animals or plants I saw in November 2013. I found a small strawberry plant with a berry turning red, I drew that in the ‘Express Yourself’ section.

The ranger on duty reviewed my completed booklet and had prepared a very professional certificate, with my name printer-generated. He initially gave me the standard Junior Ranger badge, but before I left he switched it out for an enhanced badge, featuring the Longleaf Pine of the Preserve.

Booklet, certificate & badge.

Big Bend National Park -Texas

Santa Elena Canyon
Big Bend National Park

Completed: March 23, 2016

Senior Friendly

Big Bend is big, bigger than the state of Rhode Island. There are many places to explore and different environments; river, mountains and desert. I spent three days there on this trip and looking forward to returning to spend more time!

This program is considered Senior Friendly as the third age group is listed for ages 12 and over, no upper age limit given. The three age groups are; under age 7, 7 to 11,and ages 12 and over. Basically the older you are the more pages you are to complete.

The topics include; Dynamic Deserts and Amazing Adaptation, Plant Power, “Digging” Dinosaurs!, Take a Walk on the Wild Side, The Bear Facts, Feline Fun!, Stories from the Past, History Highlights, Growing Up in Big Bend, and Naturalist’s Notebook.


Besides answering questions or completing the activities there are a couple of drawings that can be done. I drew a mesquite tree, a Northern cardinal on a picnic table and a Greater Roadrunner. These are all things that I saw while sitting in my campsite in Rio Grande Village.

I enjoyed matching Prickly Pear Parts as part of the Plant Power page, six different parts were to be identified. Another matching activity was about the animals in the park, everything from a Black Bear to a Millipede, on the page titled Take a Walk on the Wild Side.

After a short reading about the Black Bears in Big Bend the information presented is used to complete a crossword puzzle. Stories from the Past showed pictograph symbols with a description, based on what they might represent. Space is given for you to create your own pictograph.

Pictographs along the Hot Springs Trail

While in the park I was fortunate to be able to visit all of the visitor centers, five of them scattered throughout this large area. Before leaving the park I stopped at Panther Junction and had a ranger review my completed booklet. A small certificate indicating I was an ‘Official Junior Ranger’ at Big Bend National Park and I received the standard badge.

Booklet and badge

Fort Davis National Historic Site – Texas


Fort Davis National Historic Site

Completed: March 20, 2016

Senior Friendly

Our Spring trip was to take us through a large portion of Texas, the first stop was in southwestern Texas, up in the Davis Mountains. We arrived Saturday evening and camped at the nearby Davis Mountain State Park at 5,000 ft. It was very cold that night, down to 25 degrees. Luckily we have an electrical connection and could run our small heater, especially in the morning.

By the time we arrived at Fort Davis National Historic Site it had warmed up a bit, but there was a steady wind keeping it cold. After stopping in the visitor center and picking up the Junior Ranger program I headed out to follow a route throughout the site and answer questions. This fort played a major role in the development of the West for non-natives traveling on the San Antonio-El Paso Road from 1854 to 1891, with many of the fort building intact.

Fort Grounds


It qualifies as Senior Friendly as no age range is given, the directions tell you to complete the activities to the best of your ability.This program has to be completed on site as the tour leads you to the specific locations to complete the blanks in the booklet.

The activities include; 12 questions about what is okay to do in the park, Scavenger Hunt, the 13 stop tour to fill-in-the blanks, 2 optional math questions about travel time and a decoding activity.

I liked the 12 questions about what is okay to do in the park because it wasn’t just No answers. Some asked if it was okay to pick up litter, take photographs, take water with you on a hike and others that are okay for you to do during your visit.

Fort Chapel Ruins

The Scavenger Hunt pictured 11 items that you needed to be on the lookout for while touring the fort. The tour itself took you to most of the building, probably 1/2 mile walk in total. Some of the answers took some time to discover, I enjoyed figuring out the games and toys the children of a commanding officer enjoyed while living at the fort. The house was fully furnished and you had to look in several rooms to determine the answer.

Overlook View

Once I completed the booklet and returned to the visitor center an enthusiastic ranger reviewed the answers and experience with me. Besides receiving the standard badge I was given 2 colorful and attractive patches. The first patch, in the shape of an arrowhead is their Junior Ranger patch. The previous weekend the park had held a special event to celebrate the Centennial of the NPS and a patch had been provided to those who participated in their Cannon Ball Run. The ranger asked if I was willing to walk up to the overlook on the south end of the park in order to “qualify” for this patch. Before leaving the fort I went up to the overlook which provided a great view of the entire fort, and was actually a very short distance.

Booklet, badge and patches

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.

Hovenweep National Monument – Utah


Hovenweep National Monument

Completed: September 26, 2015

Online booklet:

Another favorite site, and one that is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth a visit. There is a visitor center and campground, other visitor services are an hour away, so plan accordingly. There are several ruin locations besides the main area, which the staff at the visitor center will provide directions. The 1-1/2 mile Ruins Trail. From the visitor center or campground is an excellent hike which takes you past numerous ruins.

Even though this is not considered Senior Friendly as an upper age limit is given, however the staff was encouraging of this Senior. There are three ages groupings; ages 6 and under, ages 7 to 9, and ages 10 to 12.

To earn the award each person needs to hike at least one trail and complete the required number of activities based on the age grouping. The youngest age group completes 3 activities and is designated by a paint pot design. The middle age group completes 4 and 3 must be marked with the ruin symbol and the oldest age group completes 5 activities and 3 are marked with the arrowhead symbol.

Boulder Ruins

Activities include; Welcome (hike), Design your own Jar, Maze, Connect the Dots, Bingo!, What’s wrong with this picture?, Word Search, Crack the Code,True or False?, Crossword – Protect the Past, and Observations.

By far, my favorite activity was the hike along the Ruins Trail. These ruins are set along the rim and down inside the canyon you hike which allows for some up close views. The trail has a few ups and downs, but is easy to complete. The last page in the booklet, Observations, has you record things you heard, saw and smelled along the hike. The weather was great the morning I hiked. I also enjoyed decorating an ola, water jar, using colored pencils.


The True or False? page had 12 statements that you could determine whether they were true or not by looking at the park brochure and signs in the visitor center. I learned that the ruins built as towers were only occupied for a short time, compared to how long the ancestral Puebloans lived in this area. The Crossword-Protect the Past tested your knowledge about protecting archeological sites, always a good reminder.

I took my completed booklet to the visitor center and had it checked by a staff member. After signing my certificate I was awarded with the enhanced Junior Ranger badge.


Natural Bridges National Monument – Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument

Completed: September 25, 2015

Senior Friendly

Online booklet:

Another return visit to this beautiful site, and an opportunity to complete their Junior Ranger program. Even though we arrived right after lunch the campground was already Full. With only 12 camping sites this campground always fills early, especially in the Fall. But, the bridges are always there to be seen by driving the scenic road or hiking.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there are 3 age groups and no upper age limit is given. The three age groups are; Modest Mouse for ages 4-6, Rockin’ Raven for ages 7-9, and Cool Coyote for ages 10 and up.

To complete the program you need watch the park video or attend a ranger program and complete activities according to your age group; 3 activities for Modest Mouse, 4 activities for Rockin’ Raven, and 5 activities for Cool Coyote.

The activities include; Take a Hike!, Bridges Bingo, Desert Dwellers Word Scramble, Bridge Formation:Spanning Time, What’s Wrong? What’s Right?, Cryptic Crust, Creative Corner, Canyon Criss-Cross, Make the Connection, Watch Your Step!, Rock Art Adventure and Interview a Ranger.

This was a fun bingo activity, specific objects were not given, but more activity-based. Squares included; find 3 green things, see some rock art, smell a tree, feel some sandstone are some of the examples. The word scramble was a great learning experience. The scrambled word was given at the end of a statement about plants and animals found in this park.

Certificate Choices

Bridge Formation:Spanning Time provides a page of information about how bridges are formed, then the second page has you put in order 6 sketches showing the sequence. Creative Corner had you write a poem in cinquain format; not rhyming, but a short 5 line poem using phrases to describe something you experienced while at the park. The subject of mine was sky.

The most involved activity was the Canyon Criss-Cross, a crossword puzzle with 30 words. Help with the answers could be found in the park brochure, exhibits and in the park video. I did need to get some additional help from a ranger, who was happy to help. My Rock Art Adventure depicted birdwatching, a favorite activity while I am traveling.

As always I enjoyed learning more about this beautiful park site. After the ranger checked my booklet and awarded me their enhanced badge I was given a choice of the most attractive certificates of any Junior Ranger program I have completed.


Devil’s Tower National Monument – Wyoming

Devil’s Tower National Monument

Completed: September 16, 2015

Senior Friendly

Most people relate to this place based on the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I just enjoy the physical feature of Devil’s Tower and the nature found here. While camping here I saw prairie dogs, mule deer, wild turkey, American Robin and Mountain Bluebirds.

Animals of Devil’s Tower

There are only two age groups listed on the cover of this Junior Ranger Activity Guide; prairie dog for ages 4-8 and Devil’s Tower for ages 9 and up. No minimum activities are given in the booklet. A ranger told me to complete as many activities as possible. Because of time available I was concerned about completing this program. The ranger suggested I complete what I could while there, finish other activities after I left and send in the completed booklet. She also told me that they were out of the Junior Ranger badges, so it would have to be mailed at a later date.

The activities in the Activity Guide; draw a picture of a plant or animal, Animals of Devils Tower (word search), The Geologic Story, What Could it Be?, What’s in a Name?, Wildflowers, Technical Climbing ( crossword), Bingo, Fill in the Blank, Fires and Floods, and Tower Journal. What’s in a Name? has to be completed in the visitor center, it involves matching the different Native American languages with their name for the tower. Most of the other activities could be done off site, as the information in the guide was very well presented and complete.

I enjoyed drawing a prairie dog peering out of a burrow and a spiderwort wildflower. I learned that Devil’s Tower was the first National Monument designated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. On the Tower Journal page I recorded that I hiked the Red Beds Trail. On the line “something that made me laugh” while hiking, I recorded ‘ a red squirrel scolding me’. This trail is about 3 miles long and circles the base of the tower, a bit further lower than the popular Tower Trail. I only met two other couples along the trail. The views were enjoyable.

Red Bed Trail

As I didn’t complete the program while there I did not receive the certificate or badge. Once I receive those I will update this posting.
February 2016
Last Fall I mailed my completed booklet back to the monument. In very little time I received the booklet back with the certificate completed and the Junior Ranger badge.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
North Dakota

Completed: September 13, 2015

Senior Friendly

This is another favorite park and I was looking forward to completing their Junior Ranger program. After picking up the Field Journal from the main visitor center in Medora I reviewed the requirements. To complete this program I would be going on a hike, attend a ranger program or watch the park movie, find litter and based on my age, complete the entire Field Journal.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit. The four age groupings and symbols are; Hiking boot for ages 6 and under, Ranger badge for ages 7-10, Ranger hat for ages 11-13 and no symbol for ages 14 and up. The symbols indicate which activities are appropriate for the specific age groups.

For the hike I walked the Nature Trail at Painted Canyon. It was warming up quickly, but the one mile loop was enjoyable. Part way through there was an additional side trail to an overlook which provided nice views.


The activities to be completed are; Hike, Ranger Program, I Spy with my Little Eye, A Badlands Prairie, Nature Detectives, Where Do I Belong?, Layers of Color, Types of Rocks, What Makes a Butte?, Listen to the Breeze. . ., Smell the Prairie Roses. . ., Gaze at the Stars. . ., Underground Prairie Dog Town, Test Your Prairie Dog Knowledge!, A Keystone Species, Fossils, Understanding the Clues, Ranching in the 1880’s, Theodore Roosevelt -The Rancher, Theodore Roosevelt – The Conservationist, The American Bison, . . .A Grocery Store?, Symbol of the National Park Service, Tough Choices, Scenic Drive Bingo.

A lot of a activities, but most were relatively easy to complete. I spent two days in the park and was able to finish the entire Field Journal. In place of a ranger program I watched the park movie, “Refuge of the American Spirit”. Besides giving the background information about Theodore Roosevelt and his time spent in the area, it gave some great information about the environment. Six native tribes have hunted and lived in the area, it takes 50 years for disturbed prairie to recover and the elk were re-introduced by the NPS. I found a quote by President Roosevelt to support my belief that the natural environment is critical, “What happens when we use up the natural resources that made us great?”. The balance between use and conservation is critical.

The buttes throughout the park are colorful and show a pattern. The activity Layers of Colors helped me understand how the colors developed over time, including how burning coal seams created the upper red layer. Several activities focused on the prairie dogs found throughout the park. I learned that they are considered a keystone species, meaning that other animals within this ecosystem rely on them for their health and survival. Their burrows are used by other animals and the plants inside a prairie dog town are healthier than outside which provides good nutrition for the grazing animals.

Prairie Dog

While driving the 36 mile Scenic Drive I completed the 25-square bingo activity and was able to find almost everything pictured on this activity. By completing the . . . A Grocery Store? activity I discovered that one bison could provide; string, blanket, cup, tools and food for the native people. This made me realize how important the bison were to this area and the impact of hunting them almost to extinction must have had on the local tribes.

Once I had completed all of the activities, including picking up litter in the campground, I brought the Field Journal back to the Medora visitor center. The ranger on duty reviewed the journal and had me recite the Junior Ranger pledge, then awarded me the enhanced badge.

Field Journal and badge