One of my goals throughout this trip is to do the Junior Ranger program in every National Park. Most of the time when I go to pick up my Junior Ranger booklet the person at the counter asks if I am picking it up for a kid, when I tell them that it is for me they usually chuckle and hand me the book. Sometimes they are a bit more serious and sternly explain that, due to my age, I have to complete the entire book.
While I would like to think that this endeavor will make me unique in my National Park travels I realize that others have likely done it before me. Perhaps I can be in the 1%, the upper echelon of National Park Service educational program participators.
When I went to pick up my booklet at Kenai Fjords National Park there were high school aged volunteers working the desk. I asked for the booklet, they handed it to me. They didn’t laugh, they seemed kind of afraid. I am sure that it was my incredibly masculine mustache, my long flowing locks and my voices that still cracks.
I started doing the work and completed most of it on the drive back to the campsite. I don’t remember most Junior Ranger books very vividly, but I do remember that the Kenai Fjords one was incredibly easy. Most Junior Ranger booklets feature some combination crosswords, mazes, word searches, fill in the blank questions, short answers, and drawing ecosystems. While most books are easy this one was really really really easy. With one exception, you had to interview a ranger. Now this sounds like it is easy. First of all you have to find a ranger. Second of all, you need to find a ranger who is not busy doing something. You had to ask the Ranger their name, how long they had been doing their job, and what they liked most about working in the park.
As a side note, I will tell you that the hardest part of the Junior Ranger booklet is almost always the word search. There is no way to do this faster; you just have to spend the time to find all the words. I, of course, have developed, honed and perfected my word search techniques. If you would like a tutorial please contact me, know that it will not come cheaply. If you don't think I'm serious I've included this following video to show you just how serious I can be.
I had finished everything in the booklet except the interview the ranger part. My game plan was to go into the Visitor’s Center, find a Ranger, interview said Ranger and then ask that Ranger to sign off on my Junior Ranger packet. I walked in and there weren’t any rangers. There was one volunteer lady, so I approached her and asked if I could interview her to complete my Junior Ranger program. She was clearly very busy. She was doing visitor counts in the visitor center. You sit and press the counter button every time a new visitor comes in through the doors. Why they have not developed a better way to do this is mind boggling to me, but it was what she was doing. I asked her if I could interview her for my Junior Ranger program and she looked annoyed. ‘Why are you doing a Junior Ranger program? Shouldn’t you be doing the Senior Ranger Program? Who gave you this book?’
Clearly I had upset her. My questions of how long she had been a ranger? And, what is your favorite part of the job? Were distracting her from her incredibly important and difficult job. After she expressed her displeasure at the fact that I had a Junior Ranger booklet I asked if I could get my badge for finishing.
I got my badge and ran. I was rather surprised; most other people view my goal as harmless and entertaining. They don’t view it with disdain for not having gotten a harder book to complete. I would be happy to complete something more difficult if it was available and provided, but in most places it is not. Come on, National Park Service, get with it! I truly view this task both as something funny and entertaining, but I also view it as something to help increase my knowledge and learn things about the parks that I visit. As for the volunteer, in all honesty she calmed down after a little bit. She started volunteering at Kenai Fjords because she had a grandson and she wanted to bring him out to the park. Ican respect and appreciate that. Sorry that I caught you on a bad day, I am glad and thankful that you spend your time helping visitors and bring your family out to enjoy this beautiful place.