Junior ranger from Algonquin writes about national park adventures
At 15, Aida Frey of Algonquin has earned the distinction of being among the most decorated junior rangers, having visited 304 national park sites and writing a book about her travels.
The Jacobs High School junior aims to visit all 417 national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, beaches, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails.
"I'm hoping by the end of high school, but I don't think that's going to happen," Aida said. "We've been to 45 states so far."
Aida hit the 300 milestone over Thanksgiving break when visiting Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Louisiana. The only states and U.S. territories she hasn't been to are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, Washington, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
An unofficial ambassador for the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program, Aida will talk about her adventures detailed in her first book, "America, Can I Have Your Autograph?" at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at the Huntley Area Public Library, 11000 Ruth Road. The program is free and open to all ages. A question-and-answer session will follow. To register visit bit.ly/2GRUmKO.
Aida's book has sold more than 1,000 copies and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and lulu.com. In it, she writes about the first 200 sites she visited, exploring caves and iconic buildings, climbing mountains, and hearing stories of old battlefields. It includes tales about making friends and a chapter on her travel buddy, Tom, a stuffed fox she has carried since she started visiting national parks at 9.
"My book is aimed toward more little kids so they get inspired to become a junior ranger and visit our national parks," she said.
There are roughly 800,000 junior rangers nationwide, but only a few have visited so many national park sites and earned that many badges. Aida is among a select few called super junior rangers, according to the National Park Service.
Aida has done book signings at various national parks and libraries where she often gets recognized because her face is plastered on park websites, flyers and newsletters. She was featured in a YouTube video promoting Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia and has been a guest blogger for the National Park Foundation.
She has a website and gives talks at local schools and girls' clubs emphasizing the importance of learning about national heritage.
"When I go and show them all my badges, my booklets, this entire bling ... they get interested in it," Aida said.
Aida hopes to begin working on a second book chronicling her remaining park visits. Though she likes the attention, she tries to stay grounded.
"A lot of people think that I kind of dedicate my whole life to this," said Aida, who plays lacrosse and the guitar and loves going to movie theaters with friends. "I'm also just a regular kid, but I put in the effort to be different."