I have a saying, “They don’t put National Parks in ugly places.” Granted, sometimes, I am the master of the obvious, but so far I have never been proven wrong on this assertion. This is one of the reasons our family tries to visit as many National Parks as we can (and World Heritage Sites, those are good too).
So, this year, we are spending part of our spring break camping in the desert this year at Big Bend National Park.
Normally, this would be a pretty turn key operation for us since prior to The Simple Year our garage looked a bit like an REI annex. We have amassed a collection of outdoor gear that would put any Prepper to shame. But, since our mountain of camping gear is currently packed away, the trip required a bit more preparation. My husband has been gathering camping paraphernalia from his coworkers for the last few weeks. He assembled quite an array of gear, some of which had never actually been used by its owner. I was nervous that we would somehow manage to ruin this pristine equipment (and then not be able to replace it…)
It all worked out fine, although I did miss some of the “camping comforts” we have gotten used to, like the high end stove that spews fire like the mouth of hell and boils water for hot beverages in about 3 seconds.
During our trips to the National Parks, my kids often participate in a program called Junior Ranger. It is a fun educational program that consists of a few activities after which the kid’s get “sworn in” as a Junior Ranger and then get a badge or a pin. We have been doing it for years. But, this time I noticed something different.
They were charging TWO DOLLARS for the little booklet to participate in the program. They were also were selling pens to complete the booklet for $1.95. Whatever happened to those little golf pencils? I couldn’t remember ever paying for this program, so I asked the help desk if the fee was either new (an effort to save money) or just specific to Big Bend? She actually got a bit defensive with me and crossed her arms and scowled. So, I dropped my line of questioning.
I looked it up last night and it appears that the fees vary from park to park and range from FREE to $4.00.
In the end we just decided not to buy the books, although I was actually thinking about categorizing the books under “professional fees”. But, in truth, while the kids usually complete the Junior Ranger activities but they aren’t nearly as, um, enthusiastic about the program as their 42 and 44 year-old Jr. Ranger parents.
I think they might have actually been a little relieved.