It’s time for another post in our “Park Chasers Profiles” series! Each Q & A interview features a national park traveler who also shares their adventures online like we do. Check out our first three profiles of National Parks Patch Lady, The National Parks Girl, and Just Go Travel Studios! Whether you are visiting your first park or your 400th, we hope the travel tips help inspire your next national park adventure. Today our post features Mandy and Katie from Not-So-Junior Rangers!
Park Chaser Profile:
Mandy & Katie, teachers and the co-founders of Not-So-Junior Rangers
Total Park Count:
99 of 417 (They’ve already visited 41 in 2018!!)
Most Recent Park: John Muir National Historic Site
Next Park Planning to Visit: North Cascades National Park
Where can we find you online?
Instagram as @notsojrrangers
Facebook as Not-So-Jr. Rangers
YouTube as Not-So-Junior Rangers
On the Web as notsojuniorrangers.com
Our blog is mostly devoted to telling about sites that we’ve visited and educational resources that are provided through the NPS. YouTube has several trailers that we’ve created to share what visitors can expect at different sites and hopefully get people excited about going there. Instagram is the main form of social media that we use, and that is just a way to share highlights from each site visit.
How did your interest in the national parks get started?
There was a trip to Arches National Park in 2016. Both of us caught “Find Your Park fever”, and the rest is history. Visiting new sites has been a bit of an obsession since that trip. There’s so much to learn and see.
When did you decide to start sharing your national park interest online?
We earned several Junior Ranger badges by the early months of 2017 and really loved the programs. We saw Instagram as a cool way to share the adventures with family/friends, but we also had hopes that we could expand our community of NPS lovers through social media.
It has been a little over a year now, and we have definitely found that community. We also love sharing a little bit of what each site has to offer through the Junior Ranger program and hope to bring attention to what visitors can experience at each place.
What Mandy & Katie Love Most About National Parks
What are your favorite things to do when you visit a national park?
As our name suggests, we have a thing for completing Junior Ranger programs. We have found that it really is a great way to learn about each NPS site. And we are both super proud of our Junior Ranger badges that we’ve collected so far.
We both have Passport to Your National Parks books and head straight for the stamp stations when we get to a site. Mandy collects Find Your Park pins and postcards or magnets from each site. Katie collects Christmas ornaments.
We also enjoy hiking, biking, and attending ranger led programs.
Do you have any favorite national parks?
Mandy’s favorites: Olympic for the diversity and Martin Luther King National Historic Site and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site for historical relevance
Katie’s favorites: Yosemite for the natural beauty and Jimmy Carter National Historic Site since it allows us to better understand the work of the only US president to come from Georgia, his childhood, and what he continues to do to make our world a better place.
Everyone that travels to a national park has a favorite story or two they like to tell about a trip. What’s one that you’d like to share with us?
My younger sister went on the trip with us last summer. The ranger at Sand Creek Massacre sent us out on the trail and told us, “Be on the lookout for the legless lizards. They’re all roaming around out there somewhere.” There was a warning sign about rattlesnakes before the trail started and a sign on a bench with a rattlesnake graphic that reads, “Look before you sit.”
As we were finishing up the return trip on the trail, my sister mentioned that she was bummed out about not seeing any of the legless lizards and that she really wanted to see one. We both looked at her with confusion and asked if she understood what a legless lizard was. She had never caught on that legless lizard = rattlesnake! We’ve since learned that there actually is a creature called the legless lizard, but we’re pretty sure the ranger in Colorado wasn’t talking about the California legless lizard.
One more: we’re from Georgia and don’t get snow very often. It was a pleasure to have a snowball fight at Mount Rainier in the middle of June while wearing shorts.
Travel Advice from Not-So-Junior Rangers
How do you decide where to travel to next?
We have a map of all of the NPS sites. That is usually the starting point since it provides a good visual for where sites are in relation to other NPS sites and/or transportation hubs.
We then use the Passport to Your National Parks app, the NPS website, and social media (site pages and people that we follow) as support resources to decide what we would like to do at the sites or when it would be best to go.
What advice do you have for friends and family who ask about the amount of time and money it takes to travel so much?
Travel has become part of our budget at this point. We have gone on a big summer trip for two years now and are preparing for a third. We start putting money aside for the next big trip as soon as we get back from another. Both of us collect gift cards for food or gas throughout the year so that we can guarantee that those things will be taken care of even when the bank account begins to dwindle. We also start collecting some food items for the longer trips a few months out so that all of those groceries aren’t coming out of one paycheck.
Camping is the biggest thing that we try to push with people who question how we have the money to travel as much as we do. That saves us thousands of dollars.
Both of us are teachers, so money is absolutely something that we have to be mindful of. Sacrificing comfort, convenience, and/or traditional forms of entertainment is worth it for what we get to experience and see as a result.
What tips would you give to someone who is just starting their park chasing list? Anything you wish you would have known from the beginning?
Just do it!!!
We’ve met too many people that live in the “I wish I could” zone. Everyone can get out and see these treasures. We follow families and individuals who are out there hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and earning Junior Ranger badges despite facing a variety of disabilities and/or coming from a variety of backgrounds. We also encourage teachers to get their kids out to the sites for field trips. Go at your own pace and according to your means, but YOU HAVE TO GO.