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Tree Silhouettes and a New Hike

The shapes of trees have inspired me of late to try some brush painting…don’t they just look like they should be sketched with black ink on blue paper? This particular tree is a very large oak along a new to me trail that we tried out yesterday. It is on the opposite side of the river canyon from “our” trail that we take pretty much every afternoon. This side is the sunny side of the canyon and it has a totally different feel and look about it.

This is some sort of pine and we decided we would call it the “V Tree” since it has the very distinct V in the trunk at the top. Yes, once again we got a late start and the sun was beginning to set on us. It is such a great time to be out in the woods.

This is a rather steep trail from the canyon rim down to the American River. This view is right at the top as you start descending and you can see the river’s bend at Chili Bar. There is a quarry in the background…ugly huh? But the river here at the bridge is the start for river rafting trips that descend down the river and end at Salmon Falls or Folsom Lake. As the crow flies, this is about a mile from my front door….I live on the ridge on the opposite side from where I am standing. We forgot our GPS or I would tell you exactly how far it is.

Here is a little flat section of the way down where we stopped to enjoy the view. The trail has burst out in lots of green. This particular hike my husband does a couple times a week with a co-worker on his way to his day’s work. He does it in full uniform with his heavy boots on for his morning workout. It is a tough climb out of the canyon.

Holes are all up and down the slopes and I am pretty sure they must be gophers. If you venture off the path at all, you sink down in all the holes. Kona had to stick her nose down every hole she could find so she was very busy and had a very dirty nose when we finished.

Here is the only blooming flower we saw along the trail and there was only one flower blooming…the first of the season’s buttercups. I spotted it right away and had to scurry off the trail to get a photo.

Here is the view when you get to the bottom of the canyon. Someday I would like to bring a picnic and my sketchbook and spend some time drinking in all this beauty, maybe meditate a bit on the gifts of the Creator has given us. I imagine in the summertime you do not have this clear of a view of the river once all the trees push out their leaves. We could finish the last little bit down the slope and put our toes in the water if we were hot….a welcome relief in the summertime my husband informs me. He promises to hike down here again with me in the near future when the wildflowers are blooming and the newts are out.

I will post our official tree silhouette entry later in the week.

PS Here is a video that you can watch the artist paint from start to finish…

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Winter Snow Hike: Joyful Refreshment

There is much to be said for a walk in the woods in the snow….no trails to follow and no one else to distract you. The crunch, crunch, crunch of the snow under your feet and the bite in the air that reminds you that it is winter. I know these woods well but something about the whiteness or the stillness captures me and draws me to go deeper and farther and find something new each time. You know by the tracks that someone has been there before you….human types and mammal types and probably some rodents too. That is okay since all they left behind are some prints and dents in the snow and you can choose to follow or you can choose to meander. We did a little of both.

We were alert to the many different kinds of tracks in the snow and it was fun trying to guess who they belonged to. It didn’t really matter if we were correct or not because it was fun to imagine who the creatures were and what they were up to. Tracks inspired talk of bears, foxes, rabbits, mice, coyotes, and beavers. It is a fun game to play as you walk through the snowy woods.

This was the most surprising find of the day…a beaver dam in the creek. We have seen evidence of a beaver here before with trees gnawed on and sometimes even a tree cut down but this dam was magnificent. Be sure to click the image to get a better look. You can really see it clearly now that the leaves are gone from the trees and bushes. This is almost the same spot that we saw a bear last fall when the salmon were spawning in this creek.

Have you ever seen something so colorful as this lichen? It really stands out against all the winter drab. Just beautiful.

I never fail to look up as we hike along and this was what I was given for the effort, a brilliant blue sky with fast moving clouds overhead. The trees were perfectly silhouetted as you looked across the horizon.

We had our eyes out for interesting things to discover and here are some little cones we found hanging on a bush.

Reflections have a way of creating a different dimension to a landscape. The stillness of the water made me feel peaceful and I took a few moments to say a little prayer of thanks to the one who created all these wonderful things for us to enjoy. What a gift…what a gift to enjoy as a family.

I told you on this afternoon we had the place to ourselves but there had been others before us. This area leads down to the lake but right through an eagle habitat and we decided to steer clear…are the eagles still here or do they migrate? I know, so many questions to answer. These tracks are probably all covered over by now since a storm blew in overnight.

This short video shows the creek where it is moving fast over the rocks. There were birds wading around in the water above this spot but we saw no real signs of life right here on the bridge.

Just so you know it wasn’t all peaceful and idyllic on this walk, one last photo of what happens when a teenage son nails his dad with a big snowball….a little of what my family affectionately calls “snow tussling“.

Boys will be boys. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Waterfall on a Hot Summer Day

It was a hot summer afternoon and we were willing to take the hike to get to the waterfall. We have been here before and the waterfall and the views are worth the effort. This is one of those hikes that you start off with a well marked trail and then it seems as if the signs disappear. Normally a trail will be marked with a sign like the one above but what happens when you reach a spot that looks like this?

You look a little closer and a little higher up. Here I will zoom in for you.

If you click the photo you will find the little diamond shaped trail marker.

Our reward was this fantastic waterfall. It is so big it won’t fit in one frame of the camera. The boys spent a lot of time climbing up and down the granite and then they eventually took their shoes off and waded in a bit.

I immediately took my hiking shoes and socks off and had my feet soaking in the ice cold snow water. I even dipped my head in and let my hair get wet. Why is hubby so wet?

He decided to go all the way in! Not for very long though….it took his breath away.

One wildflower photo….not many left on this hike at this time of the summer.

One interesting photo….look at his feet! He was hiking on the same trail as we were with no shoes on. I could hardly believe it.

Great afternoon, even if I did get cranky and hot. I am not always the cheerful nature study girl. 🙂

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Channel Islands National Park

How can you live in a state your whole entire life and not know about a fascinating, secluded, national park right at your doorstep? Off the coast of California is the least visited national park in the United States, Channel Islands National Park.

We were trying to think of something new and interesting to do during our few days we had down the coast and this came up and we decided to take a chance and go out to the islands. We caught this boat in Ventura, California early in the morning.

As we started out of the harbor, we saw this whole flock of pelicans sitting on the rocks of the jetty. If you have never seen a pelican close up….they are huge and wonderful to watch as they fly.

We chose to go to the largest of the Channel Islands to do some day hiking. Santa Cruz Island is about an hour’s trip by boat from the coast.

As we cruised out to the island, we were happy to learn that a park naturalist was on board and would be giving a talk once we got to the island. The naturalist came around and introduced himself to our family and I told him that we were taking the trip to the island as a way to build interest in marine biology since we were going to be studying it this school year. He was so thrilled to have interested listeners and he gave us his special whale lecture as we rode along on the boat. He knew his whales and we were interested to know that we could actually see whales during their migration from the island at certain times of the year. (I see another “field trip” later in the year.)

Once on the island I realized that it was a wildflower paradise. Check out the size of these morning glories, unique to the islands.

How about this beauty of a flower….I haven’t identified it yet.

And this is the remnants of a wild cucumber. See the seed inside?

We hiked about five miles from one part of the island to another. We started at Scorpion Ranch and then went to Scorpion Point and then went over to Potato Harbor.

Look at the color of that water and I wish you could have audio from this place. We could hear sea lions barking from the rocks at the entrance to the harbor.

There were many sea birds but the one bird that I never got tired of seeing was the raven. Their flight is so graceful and lovely to watch. Here is one raven that actually stayed in my camera’s line of vision long enough to get captured.

Back at the cove on the dock where we waited for the boat to pick us up at the end of the afternoon, we were interested in watching the kelp as it swayed in the water. It was truly like an underwater ballet.

You can also see if you look closely in this photo, purple sea urchins under the water….lots of them.

Then at just as the boat was due to pick us up, this sea lion came to give us a show.

This was a fantastic place for nature study and you can camp on the island…a little primitive but Santa Cruz Island has potable water. I highly recommend a visit to the Channel Islands National Park if you are ever in California.

We are going to go back and spend a few days sometime in the next year. I would love to go whale watching and sea kayaking.