On a nine-day journey across Utah, Arizona and parts of Colorado, Sophie and Ethan visited 12 national parks and monuments, collecting Junior Ranger badges at each park by completing a number of tasks. At every park, the duo learned about the specific wildlife and geology to the area, and were required to attend ranger-led programs, clean up trash, and take an oath promising to always take care of the parks.
While visiting Capitol Reef National Park and Timpanogos National Monument, the duo interviewed park rangers about their jobs.
Sophie: How did you become a park ranger?
Anna (Ranger at Capitol Reef): I went to college for four years and decided to work for the National Park Service and applied to be a ranger at Capitol Reef.
Ethan: How did you become a park ranger?
Steve (Ranger at Timpanogos): I always loved the outdoors so I obtained a Bachelor of Parks & Recreation and applied to become a park ranger.
Dylan (Ranger at Timpanogos): My mom dragged me to National Parks all of the time when I was a little girl. Back then, I didn’t appreciate it, but when I grew up and went to college, I guess it stuck with me and I decided to become a ranger and work at the parks.
Ethan: Describe a typical day at Timpanogos.
Steve: I begin my day by opening the gates and then I climb to the mountaintop caves (more than 1,100 feet) and check the trails and clean up trash along the way. When I get to the top, I turn around and walk back down and check on people making the climb to make sure they are doing OK. I climb up and down about three times a day, and at the end of the day, as I climb down, I make sure all of the guests are off the mountain and then lock the gates.
Sophie: Describe a typical day at Capitol Reef.
Anna: I work in the Visitor Center and greet guests who come to the park, give them ideas on what to see and where to go in the park, and lead one to three ranger programs a day.
Ethan: How many Junior Rangers do you see each day at Capitol Reef?
Anna: I see two to three junior rangers each day.
Ethan: How old are the rock formations at Capitol Reef?
Anna: They are between 70 and 200 million years old.
Sophie: Why do they call it Capitol Reef?
Anna: There is a white rock formation that makes a dome and looks like the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Ethan: When did people first find the caves at Timpanogos?
Dylan: Timpanogos was originally discovered by two boys who were about 14 years old. Their parents were exploring the original cave, which was discovered in 1887 by Martin Hansen, and they told their parents they’d wait outside — but would you wait? No, they didn’t wait. They discovered the middle caves and kept it such a good secret that they eventually lost the caves, but Martin Hansen’s son rediscovered the caves in 1921. The original caves had been vandalized by visitors, so he asked the National Park Service to protect the caves and in 1922, a year later, Timpanogos became a National Monument.
Sophie: What is the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?
Steve: Basically it’s the size and what needs to be protected. Actually, there are a lot of reasons decided by the government that determines the reason, but for the sake of making it an easy answer National Monuments are typically smaller than National Parks.
Sophie and Ethan earned Junior Ranger badges at Dinosaur National Monument, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelley, Hubbell Trading Post, Petrified Forest National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park and Timpanogos National Monument. They also earned a Junior Paleontologist badge and are working to earn their Junior Night Explorer badge, which they can do from home and mail in at a later date. There are more than 400 national parks and monuments they can earn Junior Ranger status in across the country.
– Lissa Poirot