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  • Sherry Ickes

Latest Reads - Discovery in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Adventure in Grand Canyon National Park (Aaron Johnson)

Updated: 6 days ago

three books in the mystery series

The first three books in the National Park Mystery Series.


You may recall that I published a review of Mystery in Rocky Mountain National Park, the first in Aaron Johnson's National Park Mystery Series, a little while back. This time, I would like to share with you my review for the second and third books in the series. Sometimes a series can go downhill the further along it runs, but not this one. If you, like me, find camping luring, exploring parks fun, and enjoying time spent with friends, then this series is for you. Regardless of a reader's age, these books are filled with the adventurous spirit and bring the wondrous outdoors to life.


Discovery in Great Sand Dunes National Park is the second installment in the interesting, and fun, National Park Mystery Series. The main characters, Jake, his cousin Wes, and friend Amber, are teenagers enjoying an extended vacation time with their families. On an adventure designed by Jake's grandpa, the series follows them from park to park on a scavenger hunt for clues leading them to an unknown end.

Discovery in Great Sand Dunes National Park takes the families to something looking like a huge beach at the bottom of a mountain range in Colorado. After the teens discover a clue in Jake’s grandpa’s scrapbook, with directions instructing them on what to do while at the park, they set off on the next leg of the journey together. Jake, Wes, and Amber enjoy the natural beauty all around them and learn to “surf” the dunes using sandboards. They find a rare moon pond, old pottery, and artifact thieves along the way, reminding them that there are people who also want what they are searching for. Over the course of their exploration, the teens meet up with numerous people who could be friend or foe, something that forces them to decide on how much information they should share, if any at all. One of the people, an older woman, whom Jake has never met before, takes one look at him, and knows exactly who he is.  How does this woman know this?  Who should they talk to?  Who can the teens trust? Will they find what they came looking for?

Throughout the novel, the author describes the park in such detail that the reader can easily picture the natural surroundings as they read.  Mr. Johnson provides an uncomplicated explanation as to how the dunes came to be, for any curious minds who wish to know, and how they continue to exist to this day. Not only was the main story very likeable, but I also enjoyed the second storyline the author has woven into it. Set in the 1880s, it supplies helpful background information to the current events. I highly recommend this story to all readers who like mystery, scavenger hunts, and travel.


Adventure in Grand Canyon National Park is the third book in this continuing series of ten, and is followed by Danger in Zion National Park.

Whilst vacationing at the next National Park on the list, we find teens Jake, Wes, Amber, and their families, pulling into a campground at the Grand Canyon.  However, instead of spending their time at camp, everyone hikes down to the bottom of the canyon in order to enjoy Phantom Ranch.  The past, both recent and much further back, help the present in more ways than one.  Continuing to look for clues, the teens are becoming increasingly aware of those following them.  In fact, things become very personal when strangers try to steal whatever it is that Jake’s grandpa’s scavenger hunt is leading them towards.  But that isn't the worst of it. Danger hits even closer to home when one of them forgets that life essential necessity when hiking, especially in hotter regions: water.

     Just like the other two in the series, that I have reviewed, this book is no exception in how much I thoroughly enjoyed the story, characters, and enveloping scenery. The author, Aaron Johnson, injects personal sketches, cool tidbits of history and accurate descriptions of the Grand Canyon that spark the imagination! He even includes lessons in fire building that add authenticity to an already great story, and I am looking forward to the next read.


For more information on the author, and to purchase signed copies of his books, please visit his website.

Currently, there are four books published in this series: Mystery In Rocky Mountain National Park, Discovery in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Adventure in Grand Canyon National Park and Danger in Zion National Park. Although, there are ten planned in total and I can't wait!

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