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.

Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book, 1916 – 2016

National Park Service


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.

Click to access centennial-jrrangerbooklet.pdf

Devils Postpile National Monument – California

Devils Postpile National Monument


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:

White Sands National Monument – New Mexico

White Sands National Monument
New Mexico


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;

Click to access jr_ranger_book_final_9_24_15_reduced_file_size.pdf

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park


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.

Fort Union National Monument – New Mexico

Fort Union National Monument
New Mexico


Completed: July 20, 2017

Senior Friendly

Download: https://www.nps.gov/foun/learn/kidsyouth/upload/FOUNJr-RangerBooklet-2.pdf

Located in Northern New Mexico, just off I-25 the ruins of this fort transport you back in time. The walking tour of the grounds allow you to get a good feel of what it might have felt like to be here in the 1800s. Wear your walking shoes and Get Outside! As a place I have visited numerous times over the years I found this visit to be the most enjoyable because of what I learned and experienced completing their Junior Ranger program.

This Junior Ranger program is Senior Friendly as there is no upper age range. The age groupings and required number of activities to complete are;

The activities are; Only A Few Have This Sort of View, Fort Union Timeline, Fort Scavenger Hunt, What Is It?, ?Como Se Dice?, The Santa Fe Trail, Trail Listeners, Weather Wonders, Compass Connection and In Your Own Words. The first activity, Only A Few Have This View, shows the diversity of this stark landscape which includes mountains, a volcanic field, and earthworks.

Walking the fort grounds and answering the questions took some time and detective work, it also makes you realize this was like a small city. What I found amazing was the elevation marker was so accurate, it was recorded in 1867. What Is It was a fun activity using macro photos with a short description, then scrambled letters for you to unscramble to get the answer. Plus they leave a square for you to create and draw your own item, I attempted to draw a meadowlark (klraaodwem).

All of the activities were enjoyable and meaningful. While walking around the fort I enjoyed watching, and then talking to a Restoration Worker who was working on one of the many walls that they have to restore and maintain. He told me about some of the materials they use for the process, which I recounted in the last activity – In Your Own Words.

The young ranger on duty was enthusiastic and appreciative of this Senior Ranger completing the program. Once the booklet was reviewed I was administered the oath and received the standard Junior Ranger badge.

Ebey’s Landing National Historic Preserve – Washington

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve


Completed: June 28, 2017

Click to access 2017-On-line-Jr-Ranger-Book.pdf

Senior Friendly

What is a National Historical Reserve? Basically, it is a living, working community primarily on private land with significant historical sites preserved and interpreted by a combination of private and public organizations. Ebey’s Landing NHR is located on Whidbey Island, west of downtown Seattle. Lighthouses, docks, farm fields, prairies, salt marshes, Native American artifacts, abundant wildlife and plants, and 19th century buildings provide the visitor with a diverse environment to explore.

This program is Senior Friendly as there is no upper age grouping. The age groupings and the number of required activities are; ages 10 and under complete 7 activities and ages 10 or older complete 14 activities.

The activities are; Nature Bingo, Getting to Know This Place, The Making of a Reserve, Word Search & Glossary, Then and Now, Hunt for Skagit Village Names, Coupeville’s Front Street, Admiralty Lighthouse, Coastal Salish People, What Helped Make the Prairies?, Hedgerows, Habitats within the Reserve, The Race for Empire in the Pacific Northwest, The Settlers Arrive, What Vegetables Do You Eat?, Growing Food On the Prairies, Letter to a Friend, Getting around Whidbey Island, and Alexander Blockhouse.

Learning about the race between Spain and England to claim this land is evident in the place names found in the area; from Rosario Strait to Penn Cove show their respective country’s influence in the late 1700s. Understanding that glaciers scoured this land to created the prairies, you can hike through today, is explained in What Helped Make the Prairies?”.

I really enjoyed exploring Coupeville’s Front Street to find historic buildings with plaques which indicate the year the building was built. This buildings along the street today are charming with a variety of businesses; restaurants, gift shops, bookstore, fiber store, and art galleries.

Once you complete the booklet you can take it to three different locations; Ebey’s Reserve Trust Board Office, Island County Historical Museum or the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce. I took my booklet to the Reserve office where a staff member reviewed my booklet and presented me with an attractive patch and enhanced Junior Ranger badge. The badge features the geographic features highlighted on this preserve; water, coastline, bluffs, prairies and forest.