Keeping up with Aida: A western adventure, part one

Junior Ranger Aida Frey on her summer excursion. (Photos provided)
Junior Ranger Aida Frey on her summer excursion. (Photos provided)

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer
and Aida Frey
Junior Ranger

It was more than an adventure this summer for Junior Ranger Aida Frey, as she added 25 stops to her number of National Parks visited since embarking on a journey to visit them all just four years ago.

I brought my total to 190,” said Aida Frey, 13. “On this trip, we saw different rock formations, canyons, wilderness, American Indians, ruins and deserts. We went through seven states and drove over 6,000 miles.”

Coming off a Fourth of July trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Aida’s second summer excursion began July 24. Following is part of Aida’s travelogue from the first few days of her 20-day adventure.

July 24, 2014

Today, our first stop was the American Pickers’ shop in Le Claire, Iowa. We’ve been here three times, but we never met the guys. The show is about Mike and Frank and how they buy old stuff and sell it. This year, they added a bigger store next to the old one and added more things. I enjoyed looking around the store, and we bought a shirt, too!

We then went to Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, and met a really nice ranger (his name is Adam) who took pictures of me and posted them on Facebook. This is also my third time visiting the park.

We then went to Merchants National Bank Building, in Grinnell, Iowa. It is one of the eight of the Midwestern “jewel-boxes” that was designed by Louis Sullivan. The building is 100 years old and has two lions on the front door. The architecture is really unique and awesome! We then went to the site of the first train robbery in the world! Jesse James robbed the train, and a piece of the train track is still there. This is in Adair, Iowa.

July 25, 2014

Today, we went to the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center in Oakley, Kansas. There was a giant statue of Buffalo Bill hunting a buffalo. Luckily, the visitor’s center wasn’t far because it was 100 degrees outside!

Buffalo Bill Cody earned his nickname here. He was hired to feed railroad workers, so he went out every day and shot many buffalo for their meat. In the visitor center, there was a really nice lady working behind the desk who wanted to put me in their Facebook! Yay!

We were on the road the rest of the day and passed time playing games like “Name that Park” (we describe a national park that we’ve been to and try to name it). It’s really fun. Tomorrow, we will start seeing the national parks.

July 26, 2014

Our first national park today was Sand Creek Park. It is surrounded by nothing at all and a million bugs. But, we did see two desert turtles. We wondered how they survive without water at all.

At Sand Creek, we met two really awesome rangers named Eric and Shawn in the Visitor Center. They taught me all about the park; we had to stay in for that session because it was too hot and too many bugs outside.

We saw a grave that the Indians who died at the massacre have been buried [in] and took some pictures. We then went to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in eastern Colorado. It was an important trading post located on the Santa Fe Trail.

When we got to the fort, a newspaper reporter was waiting for me! She interviewed me and said she would like to put me on the local newspaper! The ranger there, her name is Alexia, planned our tour and invited the reporter to see me. We went on a tour around the fort and learned about mountain men, Indians, hunters, and the buffalo robe traders. There were animals there like peacocks, horses and chicken walking in the fort. It was worth the wait.

July 27, 2014

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Colorado, was our first stop of the day. What is very interesting about this place is that it is one of the biggest sand dunes in the world.

The dunes are between two mountain ranges. The winds from both mountains collide in the middle, creating sand dunes. We climbed a small dune, and I ran off the side and tried to jump, but it isn’t very easy for me! The sand is so soft, and below it, it is really cold if you dig a little bit.

I had lots of fun there with my family. We then went to the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge (not a national park), the tallest bridge in the world, 1,000 feet tall.

We took a truck across because they were fixing the bridge, and they only have tours on the weekends. A really big forest fire in 2013 damaged part of the bridge and destroyed 48 out of 50 buildings. It was really cool looking down 1,000 feet!

July 28, 2014

Today, we saw Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Colorado. This park preserves a large amount of fossils and petrified redwood tree stumps. It also has a lot of different plant and insect species. There, I met a nice lady and her son from England, and I helped the boy finish his Junior Ranger book.

I met Ranger Jeff Wolin, who writes and records Junior Ranger songs. I will be helping him write his next album in 2015 and possibly other projects with him. Then, we met up with my Grandma, Uncle and Aunt at a restaurant that have really good buffalo burgers. Grandma will be with us for the rest of the trip now.

To be continued …

From the Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014, issue

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