Aztec Ruins National Monument – New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument
New Mexico

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.

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.

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.

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

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


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.

Pecos National Historical Park – New Mexico

Pecos National Historical Park

Completed: July 20, 2017

Senior Friendly

Not far from Santa Fe and just off I-25, this site quickly takes you back in time. Once you enter the visitor center and the museum, behind the main desk, the ancient pots on display take you back to as early as 1300. I am always drawn to the pots here, so well displayed and explained. Once outside and walking the trail you can imagine the landscape back in the 1300s when the early Pueblo and Plains Native Americans inhabited this area. The remains of the church that you see at the end of the trail was built by the Spanish in 1717. So much history has happened here; early settlers, the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66, Santa Fe Chief railway, and even a Civil War battle occurred all within the boundaries of Pecos National Historical Park.

The Junior Ranger Guide has no age categories or requirements to complete to earn either the badge in English or Spanish. All that is stated is to “do the activities in this booklet as well as you can.” I was able to complete all of the activities during my recent visit. The activities are; Museum Hunt, Pottery, The Trade Fair, Little Cricket, Ruins Trail Bingo, Red Sky, Two Deer, Cristobal, Maria, Robert, Teresa, and Story Questions.

The activities with names were stories about kids living at Pecos Pueblo in the past, each ending with a simple activity related to the story. I really enjoyed the Bingo activity which named nine items to look for while exploring the area and to make a drawing of the item. My drawing of a grasshopper and raven turned out OK.

The Museum Hunt gave me an opportunity to look at the displays which interpret the rich history of this area. A series of 9 questions covered the time period from Paleo-Indians up to the Civil War. Before leaving the building The Trade Fair activity has you look at paintings in the Reading Room to answer some questions. The paintings were intricate and depicted everyday life in the pueblo.

Once I completed the guide I took to the ranger at the main desk for it to be reviewed. Once that was done I was awarded the standard Junior Ranger badge. After many visits to this site I enjoyed completing their program. Putting together the complex history through the variety of activities was interesting.


Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (Jr Ranger) – New Mexico

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
New Mexico

Completed: May 6, 2017

Senior Friendly


While traveling through New Mexico I wanted to complete this Junior Ranger program. Before leaving home I had printed the three sections for this program. Salinas Pueblo Missions NM has three sites, miles apart from each other. Each site has ruins of the mission churches built by the Spanish, but each site also gives the early history of the Puebloan people who lived here before the Spanish arrived.

The booklet online is different from the booklet provided on site, either booklet will allow you to earn their Junior Ranger badge. I completed the online booklet, a couple of pages for each of the three locations. The only difference I found between the booklets was the one given on site includes a fourth location, park headquarters in Mountainair. You can earn the badge by only visiting one site, however you can earn ribbons from each site as you complete the site-specific pages. Neither program booklet has any age groupings or upper age limit, so this program is considered Senior Friendly.

I was fortunate to be able to visit all of the sites, the three missions and the headquarters. All of the staff were welcoming of this senior working on their Junior Ranger program. Basically each site’s pages included a story about the site, then some questions to answer and a word search. The online booklet could be completed without visiting the sites, whereas the booklet you can pick up at any of the sites does require completing some of the activities on site.

After visiting all three sites; Quarai, Gran Quivira and Abo and having the booklet signed off at each site I received the Junior Ranger badge.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – New Mexico


Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
New Mexico

Completed: May 6, 2017

Senior Ranger


During our Spring trip through central New Mexico I wanted to visit all three of the pueblos of Salinas Pueblo Missions NM to earn their Junior Ranger badge. I had printed a copy of their booklet before leaving home to make sure I had it when I started my visit, in case one of the visitor centers was closed. Our first stop was at Gran Quivira where I completed the Junior Ranger portion for that site. After visiting there we stopped at the park headquarters in Mountainair for their passport stamps. While talking to the staff and explaining that I was working on the Junior Ranger booklet I was handed their Senior Ranger Program booklet!

The three missions are miles apart and each site is distinct, well worth visiting each site. Salinas means salt and the missions are part of the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway. The sites promote the history of the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan and Jumano groups, to the 17th century Spanish Franciscan missionaries, and the returning settlers of the 1800s.

The booklet is easy to complete, whether visiting one of the three sites, or all of them. As we had planned to visit all three on this trip, and I was also working on the Junior Ranger booklet, it was easy to complete both programs.

The activities are; Compare Historical Photos of Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivira, Plant & Tree Identification, Wildlife Found at Salinas Pueblo Missions, Pictographs & Petroglyphs, Four Churches at Salinas Pueblo Missions, National Park Service Word Search, and Salinas Pueblo Missions Word Search.
2016-04-07 19.36.32

Completing this program is very easy, the booklet states that you only need to complete one exercise at one of the three sites to earn their attractive park pin. While at Quivira we sat outside the visitor center and completed five of the activities. The wildlife page had photos take by game cameras of an owl, jackrabbit, rattlesnake, elk and coyotes. A series of questions were asked about which animal you would like to see while visiting and how you should deal with wildlife, if seen.

For Pictographs and Petroglyphs you draw an event in your life which can be represented by symbols. I had fun creating a series of symbols depicting my retirement from teaching and traveling.

Once we finished a ranger reviewed our booklets, and we had some good discussion about the activities. I always appreciated when park staff can spend extra time looking over my completed booklets. For their Senior Rangers they award their attractive park pin. I always try to leave a donation when completing either Junior or Senior Ranger programs, but I especially make sure I remember when they provide an extra special award.