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Our one full day at the Grand Canyon started off with zero plans. We figured we’d start off with a visit to the visitor’s center for stamps in the kid’s passports, catch a view point or two, maybe a trail hike. Who know’s? It became so much more and all because of a lack of plans and just going with the flow of the adventure!
But first, coffee!!
The main visitor’s center at Mather Point is magnificent! You can rent bikes, go out to Mather Point to see the Canyon, shop, and get information from the rangers. After the kids got their passport stamps (I’m referring to the National Park Passports that anyone can get and fill with unique stamps from each National Park they visit. Even adults!), we sat down outside the visitor center building to plan the day.
Little did we know that it would be planned out for us!
Junior Ranger Program
A National Park Ranger named Ann came up to us and asked if we were waiting on the Junior Ranger program for the day. “No,” we quickly replied, but then Allison said, “but maybe we should be. Can you tell us more?”
Ranger Ann informed us about the Junior Ranger Program.
The Junior Ranger program is an opportunity for kids to earn a badge for completing a range of activities and participating in a ranger program. Every National Park has a Junior Ranger program and each one varies, slightly, although for all of them, the kids must attend a ranger or educational program about the park and complete a certain number of activities in a Junior Ranger book. You can pick the books up at any National Park Visitor Center.
When you’ve completed the ranger program and the requisite activities in the book, you qualify for your Junior Ranger badge (park specific) and you can now purchase a Junior Ranger patch (also park specific) from the gift shop!
To say the kids were excited about this program is an understatement. We now have a plan for every National Park we visit. Go to Visitor Center. Get Junior Ranger Program materials. Complete Junior Ranger program. Get badge. Repeat. The kids now have 6 badges.
As a quick aside, we will begin homeschooling our kids in the fall (Technically, we’ve already started. Homeschooling doesn’t necessarily have a schedule like public school….at least not the way we’re doing it.). The Junior Ranger program has turned out to be an excellent addition to their lessons. They really do have to learn about the park, it’s history, it’s geology, it’s origins, and more! They’re even quizzed about it before getting their badges. It’s created an amazing learning opportunity for them on top of all the other wonderful lessons and memories they’re already getting on the trip.
The Grand Canyon Junior Ranger program was one of the more complicated and difficult ones the kids went through and interestingly enough, it’s also one of their favorites! It’s funny how they don’t just want to be handed a badge. They truly want to earn it!
In order to complete the requirements, we took the shuttle up to Hermit’s Rest. This is about as far West as you can go on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and was an interesting stop. We would not have gone out had the kids not needed to do so for the Junior Ranger Program and I’m glad we did. There were many stops on the shuttle trip up to Hermit’s Rest and we got off at a few to see different parts of the Canyon. Each stop provided a different perspective and different learning opportunities for the kids.
Dinner was one of my favorite camp meals. A recipe given by a friend that includes ingredients that don’t need to be refrigerated. I was so excited to have Allison try it. All you do is take a can of chicken breast meat, bacon bits, and Frito Lay Spinach Dip and heat it in a pan. Take this mixture and roll it in a tortilla. That’s it! I LOVE this meal for it’s simplicity and flavor! It’s also very filling!
Allison hated it. 🙁
I was so disappointed. I could eat this for every dinner during the trip and she doesn’t like it. Oh well, she won’t be with me on Cub Scout campouts, anyway, so I’ll just enjoy it, then.
Let’s just be clear. An advertised “campfire program” at the Grand Canyon when there’s a fire ban does not mean a Ranger-controlled fire with skits, singing, and announcements.
It means it’s another Junior Ranger program. We thought the advertised “Campfire Program” would include a real campfire, in spite of the fire ban. We were sorely disappointed. The kids had a good time learning about adaptations of the Grand Canyon wildlife, but Mommy and Daddy kept looking for the fire.
Oh well, as long as the kids were happy…..and tired out. Now, we can get to bed early and up early to pack and head out for Zion!