Junior Ranger Program
My #3PinoyBoys at White Sands National Monument
We have spent the last 7 years as a family in Manila. When people ask, “How are your kids adjusting?” I don’t have the right answer because they aren’t adjusting, this is the only life they have ever known. The culture in our home is predominantly American but most things outside of the home are Filipino. I like to take the opportunity when we visit home in the US to give our kids a big dose of America through the Junior Ranger Program.
The Junior Ranger Program is a free children’s program created by the National Parks as a way to engage children. It is available at most (if not all) National Parks and Monuments. At most locations your child will complete a workbook and earn a free Junior Ranger Badge. The last three years we have visited multiple National Parks and have a small collection of badges now. I love our annual tradition and that my #3PinoyBoys experience the natural beauty of America.
Being sworn in by the Park Ranger at Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State
I lived in Seattle for nearly five years and never ventured down to Mount Rainier. It all worked out in the end because this last trip I was highly motivated to get our family down there together. We were lucky enough to have cousins and extended family to the mix to add to the fun. Mount Rainier is absolutely breathtaking. The greenery is stunning and the mountain itself is, simply put, MAJESTIC. We did a day trip which I think worked out fine but you could easily spend a few days in the National Park.
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning five major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits. nps.gov
Her Majesty + Myrtle Falls
FolkFam atop Skyline Hike
Junior Rangers working hard to complete their workbooks
A few tips if you are visiting for the day: Arrive well before 9 am, otherwise the parking at Paradise will be full. Pick up your Junior Ranger booklet at the visitors' center and complete it along the hike. The Junior Ranger booklet can be turned in at any visitors center in Mount Rainier National Park. With our young children we completed the Skyline hike to Myrtle Falls which is only one mile. We don't have super hikers in our family so the length was just right.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Living in the Philippines has taught me to be an explorer. There are so many hidden gems that one must be intent on searching for them. This mentality has taught me to continually be on the lookout for our next adventure, whether in the Philippines or abroad. When I saw photos from a friend's visit to White Sands National Monument I made a mental note that someday I wanted to visit. This summer was our year to visit White Sands! A six hour drive from my mother's home in Arizona and we were at White Sands. We spent a four hour afternoon at White Sands and I wish we had more time (and water.) If you love National Parks and natural curiosities, White Sands is a must!
From cramped Manila with limited space to the open dunes of White Sands
Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world's largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here. nps.gov
Scaling over the pure white sand dunes was a sight none of us will ever forget. It felt as if we had been transplanted to another planet, the dunes continued for as far as the eye could see. In a place as warm as White Sands and with direct sunlight we were tricked into thinking the sand would be scorching, it was in fact NOT! We went barefoot for most of our park visit.
Wells takes a water break on top of the pristine dunes. The National Park website is very clear and repetitive about how important water is during your visit. I cannot express enough how important it is to bring lots and lots of water. They recommend at least 1 gallon per individual. I'll add that it wouldn't hurt to bring even more.
Sand angels for these tropical babies
And sandball fights...
A few tips if you are visiting for the day: We went in the afternoon to avoid the heat. It was still warm but I am happy we went later in the day as opposed to earlier. Do not rely on water fountains inside the park, pack as much water in as you can. I was quite disappointed that they only had a water fountain at the park entrance. Pick up your Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor's Center on your way in BUT it must be returned before 6 pm when the center closes. Bring a sled! We attempted to go sledding but I am not sure if it was our sleds, kids, or the sand that didn't make it quite as easy as we had imagined. There are a number of free hikes, including a photo hike with a guide, check out the parks calendar to plan one. Before you visit make sure to check the park schedule as White Sands closes often for missile testing at Holloman Air Force Base.
A few extra nuggets of awesome, the National Parks gives annual passes to 4th graders through their program called, Every Kid In A Park. If you aren’t able to visit National Parks you can still earn badges for Junior Archeologist Program, Night Ranger and so much more! All you have to do is mail in your completed work book. For kids and adults who are above the age bracket for the Junior Ranger program, don’t worry there is a program for us called, Young Scientist or Training Rangers, check with your park before you go.
Our Junior Ranger badges this summer were Mt. Rainier and White Sands.