Editor’s note: The first part of this series appeared in the Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014, issue, of The Rock River Times.
By Jim Hagerty
and Aida Frey
While Junior Ranger Aida Frey tested her songwriting skills and learned about Buffalo Bill Cody on the first leg of her summer national park tour, she filled the second by taking in the western landscape.
Frey, 13, has now visited 190 national parks in just four years. She also visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this year and will travel to Louisiana in November to see the state’s five national parks.
“When I put my vest with all my badges, pins, and medals, people notice, Frey, 13, said. “I always tell them how grateful I am and how great the National Park System is. “I love being an ambassador for the National Park Service and I hope I can inspire more families to go out and visit the National Parks of America.”
Following is part two of Aida’s travelogue from her 20-day western adventure.
July 29, 2014
Today, we first went to Curecanti National Recreation Area, in Colorado. There, there is Blue Mesa Lake. Curecanti also has beautiful rock formations and is surrounded by mountains. I met Ranger Ellen at the park and she takes care of the Junior Ranger Program.
Ranger Ellen was really awesome and she even gave me a special badge that they don’t give out anymore! She also taught me a lot about the wildlife. I am so happy I met her and I was really surprised how beautiful Curecanti is.
We then went to Black Canyon, of the Gunnison National Park (near Curecanti). This park has sheer rock canyon walls that are 18,000 feet tall! It is one of the world’s best-known canyons. I met with Park Ranger Nick at Gunnison, and he spent a lot of time with me discussing the Junior Ranger Program and national parks.
There were three young kids at the visitor center getting their badges. They saw my Junior Ranger vest and got really excited. I talked to their family and encouraged them to continue with the program.They were really happy when they saw me, and I think it was really cool.
July 30, 2014
In the morning, we drove to Colorado National Monument, in Grand Junction. This is a unique place with rock formations and different kinds of canyons. The sand is as red as Mars. We drove to a lot of overlooks and trails. We saw tiny little lizards and really old trees!
The next park we saw was Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Arches has 2,000 arches, which are rock formations that have the following criteria: They must be at least 3 feet long or wide in all directions, light must be able to past through them, and they must formed in a rock. I saw petrified sand dunes, balanced rock formations, different animals and massive boulders. It was amazing! I loved the rock cliffs and the different colors of the rocks and the sand.
At the Visitor Center, I met Park Ranger Anna Arsic. She taught me a lot about the history of the park and animals. She answered a lot of my questions and gave me my Junior Ranger Badge with a special pin. She was great!
Aug. 1, 2014
Our first stop Aug. 1 was Hovenweep National Monument. President Teddy Roosevelt declared Hovenweep a National Monument in 1908 to preserve the 1,800-year-old Indian ruins. The monument is near the Four Corners area and Four Corners Monument.
We went on a mile hike and it was burning hot. We walked to a canyon and saw old Indian houses. I took lots of pictures of the ruins and even one of a little lizard.
We then watched a video in the Visitor Center and a ranger named Jeff Bothe and gave me my Junior Ranger badge This was my 175th national park!
From Hovenweep, we visited the famous Monument Valley, on the Navajo Indian Reservation at the Utah/Arizona border. Monument Valley is famous for two huge rocks that look like mittens. But, it has a lot more.
Monument Valley has been used in many films, including four starring John Wayne. We stood on the same balcony that John was on. He said it was his favorite place to relax and enjoy the view.
After exploring the visitor center, we went on a very bumpy, adventurous ride on a 20-mile dirt road. I hit my head on the car roof because it was so bumpy. On the tour, we saw hundreds of different rock formations.
At one of the stops, I met Alon, who is from Holland and is trying to be a famous singer. He was filming there for his new music video, We took a couple pictures and he might put me in his video! He sings really nice and he was awesome!
Aug. 3, 2014
Sunday, Aug. 3, we drove through three different federal areas: National Park Service (NPS), National Forest Service (NFS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM.)
The first stop of the day was Capitol Reef National Park, in Utah. The first thing we saw was the Capitol Dome. It looks like a giant rock formation the size of a mountain.
It is smooth because of erosion. My favorite part of the whole park were the Native American petroglyphs (pictures) chiseled into the rock walls. We had to walk a ways to get to them, plus it was raining. But, I just ran through it.
The petroglyphs are about 1,000 years old and really light in color. They show people wearing necklaces, war helmets, and using weapons to hunt bighorn sheep.
I also saw a small settlement called Fruita. In the late 1800s, the Mormons settled in this area and grew fruit orchids that still survive today. I really loved the rock formations and learned a lot about the geology.
We then entered into Dixie National Forest and drove through it for at least three hours! It is a huge forest. It rises to over 9,000 feet and back down to 4,000 feet. It has many overlooks where you can see for what seems like thousands of miles miles in all directions!
I also say Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Grand Staircase is not a national park but is functions like one. It was the first national monument given to the BLM in 1996. It covers 2 million acres and is almost as big as Yellowstone. It preserves, saves, and protects the dinosaur fossils, American Indian structures, plants, animals and rock structures. There, I earned a second BLM Junior Ranger badge. It was cool to see three agencies in just one day!
Aug. 4, 2014
Aug. 4, we started our day by heading to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. The most amazing thing we saw there were the hoodoos surrounding the canyon. There were also countless colored rocks. We spent about an hour on just one lookout. We also watched a video in the Visitor Center and bought lots of souvenirs. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Cedar Breaks National Monument was our next stop. It was a cold and rainy day, but at least it didn’t take very long to see the park. We met a really nice ranger named Erin Cox, and I learned that the canyon walls there are as tall as three Statues of Liberty!
To be continued …