I decided to try something new. I had had mealworms, ants, and crickets before. I like the sour cream and onion crickets and the nacho cheese mealworms and the chocolate ants I’ve had. I also liked another lollipop with a cricket inside. So I decided I would buy myself a strawberry lollipop with a real scorpion inside. It was great! I will buy one again another time if I see one for sale.
There were signs everywhere like this, telling people to watch out for snakes.
I went to an outside deck and looked down into a swamp. There were big bullfrogs, turtles, and snakes! The turtles were very busy moving all around.
I learned that mostly these are just water snakes but that there is also a poisonous snake that looks just like a water snake. That venomous snake is called a Water Moccasin. Daddy thought he saw one but we are not sure.
I went to a place called The Everglades. This is where alligators live. I took a two hour train ride and saw all sorts of interesting birds, turtles, adult crocodiles and even some baby crocodiles. Baby ones look cute but they can bite your finger OFF. I would never touch them. I learned that the babies make a “meep” sound to tell their mamas that someone is bothering them and then if a mama crocodile is after you, you are in big danger!
I held some type of plant that grows on the ground here. It looks like poop but it is not poop. It is like a sponge because it holds water for later for plants and animals and it holds all the bad germs and pollution inside of it and keeps plants and animals from dying if they get all those chemicals inside of them. I also saw a baby turtle on top of another turtle.
I learned that some people have had Burmese Pythons as pets and when those snakes get too big for the person to handle, they dumped them in the Everglades. Eventually there were hundreds of thousands of Burmese Pythons in the Everglades and they are NOT supposed to be here! They can eat anything that is not as long as they are! They have eaten most of the mammals here and that is bad for animals who are supposed to be here. I learned that those snakes are almost extinct in the place where they are supposed to live, but not in the Everglades! They are almost extinct in their country because the people who live there think that Burmese Pythons have medicine inside of them! Mama said she will find out what medicine that is so she can tell me because I want to know.
Mama and I were surprised how close alligators were to the hiking trail and how close people were getting to them to take pictures. It seemed like a bad idea. I know that alligators can look like statues and then move FAST!
I hiked where some special rocks were. It is called limestone and there are seashell and coral fossils in it. I learned about a tree called Poisonwood and it is stronger than Poison Ivy or Poison Oak. If you stand under it when it is raining, you will get poison on you! I forgot this and picked up some leaves to touch and I did not know if they were poisonwood leaves or not. I got very worried.
Later on, my hands started to itch but it turned out to just be eczema. I have eczema but it’s not poisonous or contagious. No one can get it from me. It’s how my body is.
I drove over some very long bridges that were over the ocean. This place has so many islands, all connected by a long, skinny freeway. I stopped and looked at shells. Mama liked how the big pieces of coral looked but she did not buy any. She said she did not know if it had been taken from the ocean in a way that hurts the ocean so she would not buy it. The Keys have a small type of limes called Key Limes. They are stronger tasting and better than regular limes. I sampled key lime cookies, key lime candy, key lime coconut chocolate, key lime fudge, key lime ice cream, and frozen key lime pie on a stick. I did not eat a whole one of each of these, just samples. They were all quite tasty! Small deer live here too. They are about the size of medium dogs. They are endangered. There are only about 700 of them. They had a problem called Screw Worm. When they got a cut, worms would move into the cut and it made them so sick they would die. Sometimes people drive too fast and bump the deer so adults have to drive slowly in the key deer places. The man in the visitor center says vets and animals helpers are working hard to help get rid of screw worm so hopefully no more key deer will die. I went to the most far point down in the connected parts of the United States. The sign looked like a ketchup bottle.
This place has a lot of foods you can eat from the ocean. I saw lots of lobster and crab traps. I wanted to eat some food at a seafood restaurant next to the blue water.
These are mangos. They are a fruit and I like them a lot. I ordered a mango frozen drink.
This is a conch. I have a conch shell at my house. I ate this too. This was my first time eating conch.
These are oysters. I ordered for myself. I asked the waiter “May I please have Parmesan garlic oysters?” These oysters were cooked ones. Oysters may also be raw or with other toppings. This was not my first time eating oysters.
The waiter asked me if I would like a dozen or a half dozen. I asked for a half dozen but then Mama and I talked a lot about a dozen and what a half dozen are. This is a little hard for me to work on, but I eventually got it. The waiter told me that I have really good manners. I think he said that because I order in a loud and clear voice and say please and thank you. I am sometimes shy when I speak to new people but I am never shy when ordering at restaurants!
Unfortunately, big fish are not the only animals that like to eat little, dead fish. Big pelicans like to eat them too and they will bite people to get the fish. They wait and watch people who have fish buckets.One got close to me and opened her beak and Mama stood between me and the big bird and she said “No way, I don’t think so.” But the bird did not move! So I walked down the dock to lie on my belly and hold out small, dead fish for the big fish to eat. I did not want to put my hand too far down and I felt pretty nervous because these fish are very large and they move very fast toward your hand that holds the fish.
I saw the area where Rosa Parks said NO to give up her bus seat for a white person. She was polite and firm. The bus driver said he would have her arrested and that is what happened. I got to see the whole thing happen but for pretend because it was like a movie playing in the windows of a real bus inside the Rosa Parks Museum. I learned that this is called a reenactment but I probably won’t remember that word later. I also learned that when Rosa Parks did this, a lot of other people started to do this too and that is called a boycott. The city lost a lot of money every day because of all the people boycotting the bus. I learned about boycotting when I went to The Cesar Chavez Museum but I am still trying to remember that word. Boycott.
I visited the church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was first a pastor. I got to stand at the wooden talking stand where he stood and say, “How long? Not long!” I also looked inside his office and saw his books. I learned that 18 people who were part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church back then are still alive and go to that same church. The lady who gave the tour was very nice and she showed me the basement and the upstairs too. No pictures in the basement but upstairs in the church is ok to do. I am not sure why. I should have asked her! I learned a lot from her though, and I stood in the front and sang and clapped along with her and two other children. I also learned that this is the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other people like Rosa Parks, planned to not take the bus anymore.
I went to two recording studios today. A recording studio is where musicians record their music to be played on the radio, CD, or on a computer or phone. I also know that this is how records get made too. I did not learn about records today. I already knew about them. These were not my first and second recording studio visits either. I have been to three other ones. I don’t remember the list unless someone tells me. (Norman Petty Studios, Stax Records, and Sun Studios).
I got to see where musicians made music and how they get into a little tiny room so no other noises bother them. I saw old pictures and videos of music being made and I sat on couches where a lot of musicians also got to sit. Those couches were very worn out. Both of these old places still have musicians who come in to make music. I had to wait for my tour because a lady was making a new record right before my turn to go inside. Some of the music I heard today is music I listen to in the car and some of it was new to me. I really like hearing music and singing.
Another thing that was special about today is that I got to go to 4 states in one day and one of them was brand new for me! I went to Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama today! Alabama was the new one.
I toured a guitar factory and I had to wear safety glasses the whole time. Everyone in the factory wears safety glasses in case something flies toward your eyes.
I was not allowed to take any pictures in the factory because the workers don’t want any of their tricks for guitar-making being copied. I learned that it takes 3 weeks for a guitar to be all the way made. I have been to some factories and things are made with robots. This factory did not use robots. Everything was made with people’s hands, even the painting. The painting is different for each guitar and a man named Tony does it. After the guitars are all done, one worker is in charge of playing the guitar to make sure it sounds good!
I got to touch the wood and smell the sawdust. It was noisy inside of the factory and the smells of the wood and paint were strong.
Inside the factory lobby there were pretend guitars that different artists had decorated.
Today I went to a library and museum from one United States President.
I learned that when a president of the United States is finished being the president, they have a library and museum all about them. This museum showed a lot of the gifts that this president and his wife were given by the people in charge of other places in the world. Most of the gifts were very fancy.
I was not alive when George W. Bush was president but I learned about him today. His wife was a teacher and a librarian so there was a section with lots of children’s books and I sat to read them.
I found out that when George W. Bush was all done being the president and it was Barack Obama’s turn, he learned to paint pictures of people. I saw a lot of his artwork. He painted pictures of men and women who were hurt in war that happened when he was in charge. They are soldiers. In some of the paintings I could see that the soldier had a limb difference and a prosthetic arm or leg. I know about those words already because I have had a book about limb differences since I was very little. Some other paintings showed scars and some I could not see any injury. Mama explained that sometimes the injury is in the soldier’s head. Not like they made it up, but like their hurts are inside their minds from the sad things they felt and saw.
One interesting thing I noticed was that this library smelled like ketchup. I think that is because there was a cafe in the museum where people were eating lunch. They probably were having french fries and ketchup.
I learned that the Barack Obama Library will be in Illinois and it is not yet open. Daddy told me this. I have been to Illinois before. I would really like to go to that library someday.
When I first got inside the cave I could smell bat scat. I already know that animal poop in the wild out in nature is is called scat. But for bats, it is called guano. The bat guano had a very strong smell. It really bothered Mama. She didn’t tell me but I heard her say it so I told her my advice. This was my advice:
Breathe through your nose only.
Pretend you are smelling an ice cream cone.
Pretend you are sniffing lavender.
This hike was long and it was downwards the whole way. I saw stalactites and I know those come down from the ceiling. I saw stalagmites and those come up from the ground. I have known about both of those for a long time because I have been in more than one cave. Stalactites hang tight from the ceiling and stalagmites might trip you. Those are some tricks that you can use for remembering the difference. For this hike I did not have to wear a helmet. I worked on my Junior Ranger booklets inside and outside of the cave. I earned a badge for this park and then another one for being a Cave Scientist.
I whispered in this cave because the Ranger told me my voice would echo. He said that a regular voice can travel 1/2 a mile inside the cave and that is annoying. Mostly all the other hikers whispered. Some did not and their voices were very loud to me!
When I earned my badges, this Ranger asked me a lot of questions and took his time. Most of the Rangers are like that.
I went to the White Sand Dunes. This sand is from a rock called gypsum. I listened to the Ranger movie and it is as soft as my fingernail. The wind breaks the gypsum down into little bits and then it gets smaller like cornflakes and then smaller like rice then it sort of feels like soft powder. I closed my eyes and touched it and I was pretending I was petting a kitten!
I saw what gypsum looks like. I touched sand that was dry. When I dug down a little bit, the sand was a little bit stuck together and so I know it rained here not too long ago. I was surprised to find out that gypsum is in foods and drinks and toothpaste. I read a sign that said people eat 28 pounds of gypsum in our whole life in our foods! 28 pounds is a lot. My dog does not weigh 28 pounds and 28 pounds is more than half of how much I weigh.
I learned that living creatures in these White Sand Dunes have adapted to living here by turning sand colored over a long time. I already know from a long time ago that adapted means changing a tiny bit at a time over a long time. So, these lizards used to be dark but them slowly over time babies and then the next babies and then the next babies were lighter and lighter. I did not get to see these animals or insects in the sand dunes but I did see pictures of them.
I climbed up the sand hills and ran down, rolled down, disced down, and I wrestled with Mama and then Daddy. I liked it when one of them would push me away or yank on my legs and I would tumble down the hill.
I earned a Junior Ranger badge but I have to mail in my work because I did not leave until after the Ranger was done with her work. She will mail my badge to me. I had to do that one other time when the Ranger ran out of badges. That was in South Dakota, I think, but I get it confused with North Dakota so I am not sure.
I went to a place where a lot of trees used to be, it was a forest. The trees look like fallen down trees in a regular forest but these are actually fossils! They are very old, 225 MILLION years old. Some of the petrified fossil trees looked a little sparkly. By the time I was done with my hike, it was dark outside.
I also saw with my regular eyes and then also with a free telescope, petroglyphs. Peteoglyphs are drawings on rocks from Native Americans.
I worked on my booklet and earned a Junior Ranger badge and even a patch.
I saw an old, crumbling Pueblo that Native Americans lived in a very long time ago– 800 years. It had been fixed up a little bit by the rangers and it was ok to go inside as long as I didn’t touch the walls.
Then I went to another area with a bigger Pueblo and that one is not ok for people to go inside of. I learned that Native Americans played games that used balls, like people do now. The Ranger told me that something shaped like a hockey stick was found from a long time ago.
I also looked down into a square hole in the ground and it led to an underground hallway but we are not allowed to go down in there but I wish I could have. This was called a blowhole. But part of this is a mystery because no one knows why it was built!! Lots of cold wind was coming up out of it and my hair blew up!
This is the Grand Canyon. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was so big. When I am bigger, I would like to hike down to the bottom. You can raft in the river at the bottom and mules bring supplies down too, like water for drinking, food, and even toilet paper! I leaned that the Colorado river helped to make this Canyon and also it happened because the ground moved and tilted a long time ago. I also learned that it used to be covered with sea water and there are even seashell fossils here and so that is proof. I hiked around all day long, climbed a lot of trees, and worked on my Junior Ranger badge. I found some poop and talked to the Ranger about it and he told me it sounded like I was describing poop from Elk. Now I know that looking at what type of poop is found, tells Rangers and scientists what animals have been around the area. Even if you don’t see the animal, you can know it was there because it left poop!
Daddy and I read a sign about how it is important to be prepared and how it is not a good idea to hike down and back up in the same day. But I know that one of Daddy’s brothers did exactly that!
I have a pack of markers that has 100 colors so before the sunset, I found a spot that was good for coloring. It was a beautiful spot for art! I have colored outside before and it is called En Plein Air.
I went to a place in the desert where groups of wild burros live. This was my first time seeing burros. In this area it seems like everyone feeds these burros but I am a Junior Ranger and I have learned that you do NOT get close to wild animals and you don’t feed them either!!
Mama and Daddy said it was okay to try and I didn’t want to at first because I was worried of them biting me. But I did it! I fed the burros and they were gentle.
I think this is because they are used to people feeding them. Daddy and Mama and I talked about this afterwards. We wondered if people feeding the burros makes them come out to the road too much. If they do that, they could get hit by a car! Do these burros still know how to get their own food? Or does getting food from people make them forget how to do that? I liked feeding these burros but I don’t know if it was the right thing to do.
There was a man named Cesar Chavez who helped farm workers get paid more money and get bathrooms, water, and shade when they had to work hard on farms. He did this because he wanted to help people and farm workers were NOT being treated the right way. Cesar Chavez had two dogs- Huelga and Boycott. Huelga means Strike in Spanish. A strike is when people don’t work and it’s because they want something to be better at their work. Sometimes when people have a strike, they make signs about it. Then a boycott is when you don’t buy something because you want something about that thing to buy to change. Like, if I don’t buy lettuce because I want farm workers who pick lettuce to be treated better, that is called a boycott. If I am a farm worker and I want to be treated better, I don’t do my job and that’s a strike.
Cesar Chavez is not alive now. He died before I got born. He is buried here and I saw his grave. His wife died last year and she is buried next to him.
I earned my Junior Ranger Badge here.
I went to a special outside market. For sale were a lot of foods and drinks, flowers and gifts. Lots of people come here to shop and it was very busy. These shrimp were very large. I liked the taste and I ate 3 of them but not all at once. Mama took this picture of me and I know it looks like I don’t like the taste but I sure do.
Near this special market is a place where you can chew up gum and then put it up on the wall. I learned that all of the gum was taken down and the walls were cleaned but then people just started putting it back up again. I think maybe there are a lot of germs in this place!
I went on a long hike to see some very pretty water.
We saw a sign that told us to be careful and watch out because bears live here. Mama wanted a can of spray that bears don’t like and if they come close, you squirt it toward them. It doesn’t hurt them but they do not like it. Daddy said he didn’t think we would need that sort of spray so we just hiked.
Right away on my hike I saw that there were some very big, smooth rocks. They got that way because of the water moving over them really fast and hard for a very long time. It was pretty. I couldn’t get too close because if I fell in then the water would take me far away and bump me into rocks.
On the way I got to climb up logs and jump off and so I did that a bunch of times. Mama and Daddy don’t pick me up when I want to climb something and it is usually okay for me to try and climb things that are high up. Sometimes I like to hold someone’s hand if I jump off of something tall.
We were surprised to see bears on this hike! We only saw Black Bears and those are not as dangerous as Grizzly Bears. But I learned that Grizzly Bears do live in this area! We even saw a tree that a bear had scratched with her claws!
He would ride on the ground and then get his motorcycle very high up in the air and then land again on the ground. Sometimes he got hurt doing this. Everybody liked to watch him ride in the air.
He is not alive anymore but not because he got hurt on his motorcycle. He died because he had a sickness in his lungs.