Big Bend National Park – The Centennial Challenge, Texas


Pictographs along the Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Big Bend National Park – The Centennial Challenge
Texas

Completed: March 23, 2016

https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/kidsyouth/becomeajuniorranger.htm

In 2016 the National Park Service celebrated their centennial, 100 years of sharing our country’s natural, historical and cultural places. Many parks had special events and programs, Big Bend National Park introduced “The Centennial Challenge”, a hiking challenge. As of August 2018 it is still being listed on their website. I need to get back there and finish the longer hike to Emory Peak. I’ll update this posting when I have finished the challenge.

The two challenges I did complete were easy and fun! A handout accompanies the challenge with activities to complete during each hike. The shortest trail, 400 feet, is a walk through the Panther Path of Chihuahuan Desert plants at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. The plants along the path were interesting, many a bit different than what I see in the Sonoran Desert of SE Arizona. Besides identifying the plants there were a couple which you sketched. Even though the walk was short I learned a lot about the plants in this park.

The second challenge was a hike, 3 miles one way, along the Rio Grande River, past a hot springs. It started at a historic location, The Hot Springs Hotel ruins. There are a few building ruins before you start walking towards the hot springs and eventually arrive at the Rio Grande Village area. I was fortunate to be able to hike this one way, however the round trip hike would have been enjoyable as most of the hike follows the river with gentle slopes and great trail. The challenge has you answer four questions along the route, based on features seen while hiking.

Any time spent in Big Bend National Park is time well spent, but completing The Centennial Challenge guided me to some areas I might not have explored, especially the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. Now to make plans for the final hike…

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Navajo National Monument – Arizona

Betakin Ruin

Navajo National Monument
Arizona

http://www.nps.gov/nava/inde.htm

Completed: June 24, 2016

Senior Friendly

I love this park! I think the remoteness and lack of developed tourist services keep it special. Camping has been free during our many visits. The campground is near the visitor center and has a variety of campsites, the bathroom has running water with flush toilets. Water is available, but no hook ups. Oh, and the ruins associated with this park are wonderful, too. We’ve hiked to two of the three main ruins.

No age groupings are given, nor any minimum activities to complete. The program is basic and can be completed during a brief visit, if that is all the time you have. Activities are; Your Choice (Video, Hike or Ranger-led hike), Pottery for Every Day, Word Find, Leave no Trace, and Design Your Own Cliff Dwelling.

Spiderwort

I hiked the Sandal Trail, which is self-guiding and leaves from the back of the visitor center. This walks over slick rock and provides views of the Betakin Ruin. A daily ranger-led hike will take you down to the ruin. The Sandal Trail takes about a half hour and has interpretive signs along the way. Besides seeing paintbrush and penstemon blooming I heard the trill of a broad-tailed hummingbird.

Pottery for Every Day activity has you explore the museum for information about different types of pottery, then create your own design on a blank pot outline. The Word Search was more of a challenge than usual, many of the words were Native American, especially the Hopi words. A final activity allows you to Design Your Own Cliff Dwelling, I’m not sure I drew anything too creative.

Campground Sunset

The ranger on duty reviewed my booklet, issued the oath and gave me the standard Junior Ranger badge. This will not be my last visit to Navajo, I’ll be back to enjoy the flowers, sunsets and views!

 

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – New Mexico

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
http://www.nps.gov/gicl

Senior Ranger

Completed: October 14, 2012

Almost in our backyard (Tucson), a quick weekend trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was done when I found out they had a Senior Ranger program. The monument is North of Silver City on a twisty, turning and scenic road.

After checking out the Visitor Center I continued up the road to the Contact Station at the base of the dwellings. The volunteers readily provided the Senior Ranger booklet and reviewed the guidelines for hiking up to the ruins. The trail is about one mile with some elevation gain. The Senior Ranger program is completed while hiking this trail. The link below gives more details about the hike. I always enjoy this hike; a bit of canyon, maybe some water, always some views and ultimately ruins to explore, not just view!

http://www.explorenm.com/hikes/GilaCliffDwellings/

With a little bit of wrap-up work when I returned to the parking lot this award was easy to complete in about 1 1/2 hours. The Senior Ranger award is the beautiful patch pictured here.

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