Junior Ranger Badges on Display – Finally

The Younger Fives have been collecting junior ranger badges at national and state parks throughout the United States and Canada since 2013. They have worked hard to complete junior ranger booklets and activities while visiting the park and be sworn in as a junior ranger by park staff. For several years the badges and patches have been stuffed into suitcases and the the car glove compartment while we traveled.

However, once we were a little more settled it was our intent to display their badges in some way. At first it seemed that buying a National Park Service tee-shirt or bandanna to pin them to would be the way to go. However, after several trips to park gift shops nothing turned up that worked. Most merchandise is specific to the park that you are visiting and while we have our favorite parks we wanted something more generic.

So, the badges continued to sit in a keepsake box undisplayed. Until this past week when we finally got our act together and decided to grab out the trusty glue gun and make our own hanging wall pennant with the help of some brown felt and a few backyard sticks. The whole project took less than 15 minutes and the Younger Five’s junior ranger badges are now proudly displayed on their bedroom walls. The best part is crossing this long enduring to-do item off the never ending list that is tacked to the refrigerator ūüôā

Picnic at the Pass

Ever since our thwarted efforts to reach Glacier National Park’s high country during our first visit to Montana, we’ve been eager to make the drive up to Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road. This past Wednesday the entire stretch opened after plow crews worked diligently for weeks to clear out the feet of snow and debris left over the winter. Knowing how busy Glacier gets in the summer, we jumped in the car this past Thursday to make our first successful trip to Logan Pass.

While the road itself was clear of snow, the top of Logan Pass definitely was not. After a quick picnic lunch, we headed out on the Hidden Lake Trail. The mix of snow below and sun above made for a quasi-winter wonderland. Hikers, skiers, and snowboarders shared the trail, and quite a few snowball fights were in full swing all around.

On the way back down the trail Five Spice had the inspiration to pull an emergency tarp out of our backpack and fashion a makeshift sled. While not the smoothest sledding experience, the backdrop of the surrounding peaks couldn’t be beat!

When we set out for the park we hadn’t planned on a romp through the snow, but it ended up making for a wonderful day. The park had definitely transformed since we last visited this past winter, and it was hard to imagine just a few months previously we had been cross-country skiing on the road we were driving on.¬†For those not yet ready to let go of winter, Glacier provides plenty of snowy fun well into the summer.

Cross Country in Five Days

There’s been no shortage of snow here in Western Montana, and we’ve been eager to introduce the Younger Fives to skiing. As a first step we decided to begin with cross country skiing to give everyone a feel for moving through the snow¬†in a new way. After looking into our options (and there are plenty here in the Flathead Valley), we found the following to be ideal for learning to Nordic ski as a family.

West Shore State Park
Family-Friendly Features: uncrowded, Flathead Lake

 

Blacktail Mountain Nordic Trails
Family-Friendly Features: groomed trails, mountain setting

 

Herron Park
Family-Friendly Features: sledding hill, plenty of space

 

Bigfork Community Nordic Center
Family-Friendly Features: groomed trails, forest setting

 

Glacier National Park
Family-Friendly Features: trails over and along streams, mountain scenery

 

Our Unexplored Corners of Yellowstone National Park

After driving over the Beartooth Highway last week we decided to spend a few days in Yellowstone National Park. There are still several sections of the park that we haven’t explored in depth and we were eager to see Yellowstone¬†in it’s fall colors.

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We arrived at the Northeast entrance of the park and stopped for a picnic breakfast along Soda Butte Creek. The crowds were out in full force near Slough Creek where we spotted wolves on our last visit. However, we were eager to make the drive up past Tower Falls. This section of road has been closed on our last two visits to the park, so we were excited to finally see Mount Washburn and Dunraven Pass up close.

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After sight seeing from the road we stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to show Five Ball the falls. He was too little to remember our climb down to the lower falls a few years back. On this trip we were excited to find that Uncle Tom’s Trail was open (it was closed due to snow and ice on our last trips). The short but steep trail, complete with a set of 328 stairs, brought us to the base of Lower Falls and gave us an up close look of the canyon.

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The rest of our first day in Yellowstone was spent along the shores of Yellowstone Lake where we enjoyed basking in the mild and sunny September weather. From there we were excited to drive by the crowd chaos of the Old Faithful area and head to our lodging in West Yellowstone.

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The next day we took route 191 North to a very quite section of the park which lies outside the five main entrances. There are several hikes that start off from this area. We chose the Bacon Rind Trail which heads west through the park towards the Gallatin National Forest. The trail is over 10 miles one way and follows the Bacon Rind Creek. We only went out a few miles and spent the rest of our time playing along the creek as the afternoon temperature rose to 80 degrees.

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Although it was one of our quicker forays to Yellowstone National Park we had amazing weather and a spectacular time. Plus it felt great to finally visit a few areas of the park that are usual closed due to weather.

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Glacier National Park in Bloom

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We were fortunate enough to slip away for a few days to Glacier National Park early this month before the summer crowds arrived. While the Going To The Sun Road wasn’t fully open the park did not in any way disappoint. As always Glacier National Park provided some of the most spectacular scenes of beauty that we have had the fortune of seeing in our travels. From cascading waterfalls to blooming wild flowers we had a wonderful visit and left wishing that we could stay in such a magical place forever.

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During the one rainy day of our visit the kids worked hard to complete their Glacier National Park junior ranger booklets while we parked the car in a scenic pull off near Jackson Glacier Overlook. As the wind whipped rain along the mountains the kids learned all about how the park was formed and the native peoples that lived in the park before the National Park Service took over managing the land.

The remainder of our trip was spent at the Two Medicine area of the park where we set up camp and had a blast hiking around the lakes and to several waterfalls. We all enjoyed watching the sun slip behind Rising Wolf mountain and listening to the tail slaps of a very active beaver out for an evening swim. We were greeted with such a variety of wildflowers around the Two Medicine area that our resident photographer (Five String) had a hard time keeping up. We were excited to have along a copy of the wonderful Lone Pine field guide Plants of the Rocky Mountains. This is one of the most comprehensive yet easy to use plant field guides that we have found. The descriptions accompanying each plant picture are fabulous especially the traditional uses of each species.

*** Note all wildflower common names listed above (scroll of the pictures) are guesses by the kids using Plants of the Rocky Mountains. A great homeschool project and definitely hard work when it comes to telling the difference between two different species.

We can’t wait until October when the summer crowds thin out and we can get back to Glacier National Park one of the true gems of America’s national park system and definitely a family favorite!

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