After having so much fun doing the Junior Ranger Program in Yellowstone, I looked up all the national monuments and parks that have a Junior Ranger Program to see what else Bridget could do. There are a lot in Utah and Idaho and one fairly close at Timpanogos Caves. Hot dog! I called and got tickets for the hike and a tour of the caves. (It's the only way to go. You can't just wake up one morning and decide to go hike Timpanogos Caves - you have to get your tickets ahead of time.) We got there an hour before the hike started and happened upon a forest fire prevention class with a special guest appearance by Smokey the Bear. Awesome.
Just like Yellowstone, every ranger (most of them were women, btw) we came across was so enthusiastic about her job. When we asked for the junior ranger booklet, they were so proud of Bridget before she'd even done anything. It's kind of awesome.
We heard the story of Smokey the Bear - he was a real bear. When he was a cub he was in a forest fire in New Mexico. He climbed up a tree to be safe, but he was badly burned in the fire. A fireman found him and a ranger took him home and cared for him until he'd healed. (Sounds like something my Dad's Uncle Ray would do.) When they came to the picture of Smokey grown up and in his new home at a zoo in Washington D.C., he was wearing dungarees and a hat and standing up like a man. That picture gave me the giggles, so I stared at Bridget until she laughed too. Hahahaha! A bear wearing pants.
Then it was time to start the hike. We were warned to stay on the trail, pass people single file, don't stop on the red and yellow marks on the trail because that's where the rocks fall the most, oh - and if you see a rattlesnake stay 10 feet away. DUDE! Never ruin my life by saying that to Bridget. Me: "Isn't this an amazing view?!" Bridget: "WAS THAT A RATTLESNAKE?" Sigh. Slowly the awesomeness of what we were doing won her over and she stopped being a Nervous Nellie.
She thought this was cool. Ha! Not even close to the coolest thing we saw at Timpanogos Caves.
One of the first views of the valley. That's steam rising from the ground because of THE HEAT.
Halfway - still looking pretty fresh.
Bridget spotted this lizard.
This was at the 3/4 of the way rest stop. I got up to go and Bridget held perfectly still. This is what I saw when I turned to see why she wasn't following me. The girl and the squirrel regarded each other...
Toward the top, one of the few places with a railing. Bridget and I both observed several times that this hike would be a nightmare with her brothers.
Once we'd made it to the caves (a mile and a half vertical hike), we got right into a tour with Ranger Curtis, who, in addition to being a ranger, is also a huge goofball. He reminded me of Dwight Shrute. Sometimes I wanted Ranger Curtis to pipe down and let us enjoy the caves, but he was bursting with information. My favorite was the big open area with the chocolate fountain-looking rock formation and when Ranger Curtis turned off the lights and his flashlight and we were in total darkness. I held Bridget's hand for that, but I could tell she wasn't scared and neither was I. Very cool. We came out of the cave, where it was 45 degrees, back to the 105 degree day and Bridget interviewed Ranger Curtis (one of her badge requirements). Then we filled out some other stuff in her booklet that we learned on our tour.
After the cave tour, sweaty.
This is right outside the cave exit. Amazing!
Taking the Junior Ranger Pledge. Then the ranger who did the forest fire class cheered and shouted and called attention to Bridget so that everyone there could cheer for her too. So fun. (I think there is a hairdo code for female rangers with gray hair. Or that lady's triplet sisters work in Yellowstone.)
In conclusion, Best Day Ever. For real, find a junior ranger program near you and do it with your 6 to 12 year-old kids. It's fantastic.