Bluebird Broken

A Tough Way to Earn a Badge

By Mark J. Nielsen

“What? We’re leaving already? But I haven’t finished my Junior Ranger book!”

The consequences of our family discussion were sinking in for my youngest daughter Hannah. We were packed in our minivan, driving the gravel road in City of Rocks National Reserve back toward the park exit at the small town of Almo. City of Rocks was just a half-day detour on the long drive from Pocatello to our home in Moscow. We’d spent a few hours hiking in the strangely weathered granite of the reserve, but now were resuming the day’s travel.

Hannah was crushed. At eight years old, she already had made a small person’s career of accumulating Junior Ranger badges. She’d earned them from nearly every park or monument we’d visited: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches, Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Timpanogos Cave, even Scott’s Bluff. Adding one from our home state was an enticing prospect, so we’d picked up the Junior Ranger activity booklet that morning from the park headquarters in Almo. But our tour had been too brief and the distractions too many. Hannah now found herself one activity short of qualifying for the coveted status of City of Rocks Junior Ranger, and she pleaded for a chance to finish.

“Is there something you can work on between here and the ranger station?”

“No! I’ve done the puzzles. I’m almost done with the page where you have to see animals—I just need one more. Can’t we please stop to find an animal?”

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Mark Nielsen

About Mark Nielsen

Mark Nielsen is a professor of mathematics and associate dean of science at the University of Idaho. He and his wife Barbara have lived in Moscow for twenty-four years. They and their four kids enjoy camping and hiking in the great surroundings of Idaho and neighboring states.

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