Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger Program

Please click on the following link for the official Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger Program web page:http://www.nps.gov/grca/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm
Grand Canyon National Park offers several different Junior Ranger activities. Three of them are only offered in the summer. Since my family visited Grand Canyon National Park in November, I will write about the two programs my daughters participated in.Ravens, Coyotes and Scorpions
This is the year round Junior Ranger Program. The activity booklet can be picked up at a Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza, Park Headquarters, Tusayan Museum near Desert View, Kolb Studio or Yavapai Observation Station. On the North Rim, you can pick them up at the Visitor Center. You then must complete the requirements listed in the booklet for your age group. Requirements include writing down your impressions and observations, answering questions about the park, writing poems and attending one of the parks Ranger-led programs offered throughout the day.

The activity book is for ages 4 and up. There are three age group categories in the book as follows:

Ages 4-7: Raven Award
Ages 8-10: Coyote Award
Ages 11-on up: Scorpion Award

When you finish your activities, take the booklet back to the Visitor Center for review by a Ranger. Each Junior Ranger will receive an official Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Certificate and Badge. By showing your certificate at one of the park’s non-profit book stores, you can purchase a custom sew-on patch to go with the award you received.

Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger
This program is for children ages 4-14. This is a very special program because only kids that hike or ride the mules down to the bottom of Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch can become Phantom Rattler Junior Rangers! There are two requirements to become a Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger — first, you have to make it to Phantom Ranch, and second, you must complete the activities in the Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger booklet. If you do both, you will receive your badge, certificate and a free patch from a Ranger at Phantom Ranch. Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger booklets are available in the canteen, the campground or the Ranger Station. The Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger program is available throughout the year.

My family visited Grand Canyon National Park from November 09, 2009 – November 12, 2009. My girls picked up their Junior Ranger Activity Booklets from the Yavapai Observation Station. One of the requirements to complete the Junior Ranger Program is to attend at least one ranger program. We attended the “Nature Walk” program. During the program, Ranger Maye Ullmann talked about how the animals and plants of the Grand Canyon adapt to the changing seasons and different climates. The program included a short hike along the South Rim and lasted about 60 minutes. Ranger Ullmann’s program was very informative and interesting.

Prior to our visit, we had been calling regularly, attempting to get reservations at Phantom Ranch. For those of you who don’t know, Phantom Ranch offers cabin and dorm lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If you plan your trip in advance, you can make reservations 13 months in advance.

For more information on Phantom Ranch, please visit the following website:

http://www.hitthetrail.com/phantom.php

I found this site very helpful when trying to decide if we wanted to visit the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Unfortunately we were unable to reserve lodging at Phantom Ranch; however, the day of our arrival, we contacted Xanterra, which operates Phantom Ranch and were placed first on the wait list for lodging at Phantom Ranch on November 10, 2009. I was informed that I would need to check at the reservations desk at Bright Angel Lodge between 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm on November 09, 2009 to see if any spots had been released.

When I arrived I was informed they had opened spots and I was able to rent a cabin for my family. That night we stayed in the Mather Campground. It was very nice. There was plenty of room at the camp site. It was also very quiet as the campground was nearly empty.

On November 10, 2009, we woke up around 7:00 am, ate breakfast and walked to the Shuttle Bus stop. Since I had reserved the campground for three nights, we left our vehicle and trailer at the camp site. We had to take a shuttle bus from the campground to the shuttle bus transfer at Mather Point. We then took the transfer to the South Kaibab Trailhead and got hit the trail about 9:30 am. The hike was approximately 6.9 miles with an elevation change of 4700 feet. We made it to Phantom Ranch in about 5 1/2 hours. The girls made it to the bottom without complaining. We made several short stops on the way down and took a lunch break about half way down. Beware, there is no water available on the South Kaibab Trail.

When we arrived at Phantom Ranch, we stopped at the Ranger Station and picked up the girls Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger Activity Booklets. I mentioned above that the program is for children ages 4 – 14 years old. From the reactions of most people, they don’t see many 4 year olds at Phantom Ranch. To become a Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger, you must travel to Phantom Ranch and complete all the activities in the booklet. Most of the activities were not age appropriate for 4 year old daughter, Samantha. Alyssa, my 7 year old daughter needed help on a few of the activities. I understand that most children that visit Phantom Ranch are a little older than my children; however, I believe their Junior Ranger Program would have been more enjoyable for my daughters if they material in the activity books had been age appropriate. I would however like to say that I appreciate the efforts of the staff at the Grand Canyon for coming up with ways to challenge children with programs like the Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger Program, the Adventure Hike and the Discovery Pack. It also encourages families to return to the park to continue explore and learn.

Around 4:00 pm, we attended a Ranger Program. It was a river talk, a history of the Grand Canyon, which was given by Ranger Mandi Toy. Ranger Toy talked about the first foreigners to visit the Grand Canyon, some of the first attempts to raft down the Colorado River and a story of two men who swam the length of the Grand Canyon.

After the talk, the girls finished up their Junior Ranger Activity Books. We took them back to the Ranger Station, were Ranger Toy went over the books with the girls, had them take the Junior Ranger pledge and awarded them with a Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Badge and Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger Rattler Award Patch. Please see below for a picture of the Junior Ranger Badge and Phantom Ranch Patch.

After receiving their badge and patch, Ranger Toy spent several minutes, answering questions about the Grand Canyon.

When we were done, it was time for dinner. Please note that if you plan on eating a prepared meal at Phantom Ranch, you must have reservations. They have two options: Steak or Stew

We choose to eat stew. Everything is served family style. The stew was amazing. When I got home, one of the first things I did was look up the recipe and found the following website:

http://www.grandcanyontreks.org/stew.htm

The recipe is for 44 people, but the following link is converted for 4 – 6 people:

http://www.grandcanyontreks.org/stew2.htm

After dinner, we bought some post cards for the girls to mail out. At Phantom Ranch, the mail is “Mailed by Mule”. All mail is stamped with a “Mailed by Mule” stamp and is carried out by mule. Alyssa had fun writing a letter to her class about her hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

We then went back to our cabin to go to sleep as we had 7:00 am reservations for breakfast and wanted to get on the trail shortly after.

On November 11, 2009, we had breakfast at Phantom Ranch, again you need reservations. Breakfast is also served family style. They serve scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes. After breakfast, we picked up four sack lunches, which consisted of a bagel with cream cheese, sausage, apple, pretzels, cookies, peanuts and energy drink powder. We got on the trail about 8:00 am.

For our trip up, we took the Bright Angel Trail. The trail to the top is approximately 9.8 miles with a 4330 foot elevation gain. The first two miles were along the Colorado River. That part of the walk was very fast and very beautiful. Actually the entire hike was very pleasant. Most of the trail had some sort of creek next to it with running water. The hike took approximately 10 hours with several stops and a one hour lunch break. We stopped at the Indian Garden camp ground for lunch. During our break, the girls also finished up their other Junior Ranger Activity Booklet.

As mentioned above, the activity booklet has three age levels. Samantha needed a little assistance with some of the activities. Alyssa was determined to complete the Coyote level which is for ages 8 – 10. She had no problem completing that level with little help from us. Overall, I think the activity booklet had age appropriate activities for the different age group levels. It encourages the child to explore the Grand Canyon and learn about its history.

The girls didn’t struggle with the hike until about the last hour or so when they started to get tired. We promised them ice cream before dinner and we got very few complaints after that. When we arrived at the top, we took the shuttle bus back to the Market Plaza and bought two pints of ice cream.

On November 12, 2009, we packed up camp and drove to the Canyon Veiw Information Plaza to turn in the girls Junior Ranger Activity Books. The girls met with Ranger Erin Whittaker. Ranger Whittaker was actually a volunteer that day. Ranger Whittaker spent several minutes going over the booklets with the girls, had them take the Junior Ranger pledge and then posed for pictures.

To receive their Raven and Coyote patch, we took their signed certificates to the bookstore and paid a small fee for the patch. Please see below for a picture of the raven and coyote patches.

After receiving their patches, we went to Park Headquarters, were the girls got to meet an old friend of mine, Chief Ranger Mike Archer. I don’t think the girls understood the significance of meeting the Chief, but I thought it was cool. Thanks Mike for spending time with the girls.

Overall the trip was a great experience. I would have liked to spend at least two more days there, one in the bottom of the canyon and one on the rim. I guess we will just have to plan another trip. The girls also still need to complete the Adventure Hike and the Discovery Pack.