Aida Frey, 20, is too young to remember Ricky Nelson’s 1961 classic “Travelin’ Man” or to have heard the myriad locations where Johnny Cash went, after all he’s been everywhere – man.
What she has on those two is a checklist of National Parks and places that need to be seen across this county and she is dutifully making her way to parks large and small reaching an impressive 364 already and more merit badges than any other Junior Ranger.
When asked she found it hard to nail down what her favorite of the 424 national park is saying, “All of them.”
In the parks she said are found an opportunity to connect with nature and unplug from an increasingly digital world while enjoying the natural benefits like the sounds of nature, birds, and water rushing as a natural stress reliever.
On Wednesday, Aida and her father Sean were in Mount Airy having crossed over from the foothills of Tennessee to visit some of the sights. They went to Pilot Mountain State Park, the J.E.B. Stuart birthplace, and the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History although they did not have an encounter with any ghosts.
After the seemingly obligatory trip to Snappy Lunch and then walking downtown Mount Airy, the pair said they were enjoying seeing the real city behind the fictional town as one of the Mayberry Squad Car Tours rolled by on Renfro Street in a case of life imitating art.
Aida has racked up an impressive amount of merit badges and her father said she is the most decorated Junior Ranger in America. The Junior Ranger
When visiting National Parks, she is often asked to pose for photos with park Rangers or superintendents who get a kick out of meeting such a well-traveled young woman.
Frey loves the outdoors and hopes that she one day can turn her love of art and film into a chance to make movies or promotional material for the national parks system. With her social media presence, she is able to reach more people her age who see her photos and may get inspired to hit the road and visit a national or state park for themselves.
Too much hoopla can surround a trip to the park or a hike, she said, and people could stand to realize that any additional time spent outdoors can be beneficial to overall health. Get out, get hiking, and get moving she said. The parks are the peoples to enjoy, and Sean noted that entry to most national parks is free of charge.
Aida Frey has written a book about her travels called “America, Can I Have Your Autograph?: The Story of Junior Ranger Aida Frey” that was released in 2012.
According to the Amazon book review, “You might think Junior Ranger Aida Frey is an ordinary girl from Chicago, but you’d be wrong. She’s actually the sweetheart of national parks, and in this travel diary, she shares delightful stories from her fun-filled America’s Two Hundred National Park Friendship Tour.”
“Aida takes you into caves, to old battlefields, and to the stuff of legends. She sweeps through the passages of time, throwing baseballs on a famous cornfield, climbing mountains, and exploring nature’s nooks and crannies. She also travels to the Sears Tower, the White House, the John Dillinger Museum, Michael Jackson’s house, and Graceland.”
The Junior Ranger motto is “Explore. Learn. Protect.” and Rangers take an oath to protect parks, continue to learn about parks, and share their own ranger story with friends and family.
North Carolina’s Division of Parks and Recreations wrote, “Becoming a Junior Ranger gives kids the opportunity to learn about and explore North Carolina’s beautiful state parks with their families or scout, school, and homeschool groups through self-led educational activities and programs. Junior Rangers may also have the opportunity to help park staff protect the health of the park through short community service projects.”