America's National Parks have been called its best idea. Who's never seen a photo of the vast emptiness of the Grand Canyon or the sweeping vistas of the Rocky Mountains? The parks are places that inspire us to do more and show us the need to protect these wild and natural places. The people on the front line who are charged with that important task are the Rangers of the National Park Service.
These government employees are the first contact many of the public has with a national park. They staff the visitor centers, work the ticket booths and direct traffic. But they are much more than just that. They are biologists and archeologists, police and high alpine rescuers; they are the incredible people who have the honor of wearing the green park service uniforms with those epic brimmed hats.
One of the best ways to learn more about the parks you visit on your Trek is by stepping inside the visitor centers. Here you can find a variety of information about the park, its history, flora and fauna through displays and films. But this is also where you can ask a Ranger about the Junior Ranger Program!
Now, while this program is intended for kids, the secret addition to that line is, kids of all ages. Any park, whether it is a national historic area or a national park, offers a wonderful program booklet, unique to each park. The workbook if full of various activities to complete and through each one you learn more about the place you are visiting.
Sometimes you need to listen to one of the many Ranger talks, or sometimes you can complete the book by viewing the visitor center displays. When you finish the book, take it back to the Ranger and he or she will look over your work and have you raise your right hand to swear in under the Junior Ranger pledge.
And now the best part...they hand you an official Junior Ranger pin or patch!