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Outdoor Mom – April 2017


Outdoor Mom April 2017

Outdoor Mom’s Journal

April 2017

The past month has been a month of wildflowers. Coming out of the wettest winter in our memory, we are so grateful for the green sprouting grass and the pops of springtime color.

Spring House Yard

It has been a time of yard work as well. We listed our house on the market so that meant a whole yard tidy and sprucing up. I weeded and weeded until my hands were sore and I still didn’t get them all.

Point Mugu HIke Wildflowers 1

Last week we flew to Southern California to meet up with my son who was out from New York to be in a friend’s wedding. What did we do with our time together? We hiked of course! I realized we could take advantage of the “super bloom” of wildflowers and using Instagram search, we found a place near where my son was staying to visit for a long afternoon hike in the hills.

Point Mugu HIke Wildflowers 2

Point Mugu was a perfect place to hike right along Hwy 1 on the coastline of California. You start at the day use parking lot and head up the hill on the fire road. Masses of wildflowers covered the hillside!

Point Mugu HIke Wildflowers 3

We could identify many of the flowers and the others I have images of to use with a field guide. I quizzed my son about flower names and he remembered quite a few which made my Outdoor Mom heart happy. Don’t be fooled…they are paying attention even when they don’t act like it.

I have been struggling with keeping up with my nature journal but I am determined to keep my page a week goal. Look for my nature journal entry later this month or follow me on Instagram for my Wednesday nature journal posts.

Oregon river

Many of you have heard by now that we sold our house in California and we will be moving next month to Central Oregon. I am so excited to start learning about my new habitat along the Little Deschutes River. I am going to try to keep up my posting routine here on the Handbook of Nature Study so hopefully you will not notice much difference here on the blog except for the topics I will be covering in my nature journal.




How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…

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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – March 2017

Outdoor Moms Journal @handbookofnaturestudy


Outdoor Mom’s Journal

March 2017

We have had so much rain that the thought of traveling somewhere warm and more on the dry side was very appealing. My daughter and I had started planning this trip way back in August because she lives in New York where the winters are far too long for that California girl.

Big Island Landscape @handbookofnaturestudy

One of my favorite places to be warm and beachy is on the Big Island of Hawaii. It made sense for all of us to rendezvous there for a winter escape. The added bonus was this year our friend was able to round out our group to make it more fun. This was her first time traveling to Hawaii so we got to see all of the things through her eyes and enjoy sharing our favorite places.

We have been to Hawaii several times but never during the month of February so that part was new to all of us. What a treat! We were able to see whales just off the coast as they breached and spy hopped out of the water.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (5)

Snorkeling just about every day gave us plenty of opportunity to see the colorful fish and sea turtles in abundance. I love the feeling of just floating around in the water and watching the turtles as they feed off the coral. One afternoon we boarded a boat and did some serious snorkeling in Kealekekua Bay.  The conditions weren’t perfect, but we still saw plenty of interesting things including a puffer fish.

Akaka Falls Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (8)

The day the weather was gray and a little misty, we ventured to the Hilo side of the island.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We hiked to Akaka Falls which are amazing and the walk down to them is lined with all sorts of interesting plants.

Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Later that day we made it over to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The internet has been full of images of the lava lake and the lava spilling over into the ocean so we were hoping to see this in person. We were able to see the actual lava lake in the caldera of Kilauea but we weren’t prepared for the 8 mile round trip hike to see the lava “fire hose” going into the ocean. The weather was turning rainy too so we decided we would be satisfied with the lava that we could observe from the museum’s lookout. Totally worth it!

Coffee Tree Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We visited an actual Kona coffee farm for a tour and tasting. The experience was even more special because we saw cardinals singing and a chameleon hiding in an orange tree.

Chameleon Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

I never thought I would see a chameleon up close like that and they are amazing creatures.

Sea Turtles Waikoloa Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We did lots of beach walking in Waikoloa where we were staying but you need to put aside your preconceived idea of what a “beach” is to do that. These are not white sand beaches but rather black lava rock with coral washed up on the shore. It was fun to do beachcombing and we nearly always saw whales off shore and sea turtles sleeping on the beach.

I squeezed in some nature journaling time while there and I have a short list of things to research and record now that I am home. I will be sharing my journal entries in a separate post next week!

Sometimes taking a trip is not really a vacation but this one allowed me to relax, spend active and quiet time in nature, and enjoy the company of my family and friends.


Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Just a Note about the Cost of Traveling

We make our trip fit our budget by taking advantage of air miles for free tickets, researching condos for the perfect location and amenities, cooking almost all our own meals, and then planning activities that are within our financial reach. Also, traveling with other family members and friends allows us to split costs like food, gas, and the condo. Our condo had snorkel gear, chairs, beach umbrella, and boogie boards for us to use while we were there, so check into that benefit if you are thinking about booking a condo on the islands.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Read more about my experiences: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!

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Tumalo State Park – Oregon: Tips and Images

Tumalo State Park Tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

Central Oregon is our favorite new place to explore. Our trip last August (and this entry: Oregon State Parks) made us anxious to return and we made it happen in October 2016. We pulled our travel trailer and enjoyed staying in both La Pine State Park and in Tumalo State Park. The season was winding down for the campground at Tumalo but it was still a full house every night we were there. In the autumn the campground has only one loop open so we were happy to score a spot even for three nights.

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (2)

The park is not far off  Hwy 20 (just off Hwy 97 which is the main road going north/south from Klamath Falls to The Dalles at the Columbia River. It is also not very far from downtown Bend, Oregon. In fact, its location makes it the perfect spot to explore Central Oregon, the Deschutes River, the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway and more.

Tumalo State Park October 2016 (3)

There is a large expanse of lawn and many picnic tables in the day use area that is situated right alongside the river. I can imagine this is a hopping park in the summer because of the easy access to the water and hiking trails. There is also a swimming area and fishing for trout is also noted in their brochure.

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (1)

The campsites are ample in size and not too close together…just what we like. There is a picnic table and campfire ring in each site. There are showers and restrooms on every loop.

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (4)

We spent parts of each day on foot as we walked along the trail first up river and then down river. This time of year it was very quiet and we saw very few other hikers. It was peaceful and gorgeous.

Tumalo State Park October 2016 (1)

The views of the surrounding mountains was amazing and the terrain was interesting with rocks, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers to keep us entertained. Most of the trees were junipers like you see in the image above. I loved the blue berries!

Tumalo State Park October 2016 (4)The weather was conducive to being outside most of the week we were there and we took advantage of it. We had been in Eugene, Oregon right before this and it never stopped raining the whole time we were there. Sunshine and warmer temperatures made Tumalo a great experience!


Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (7)

Tumalo Falls is a short drive ( about 15 miles southwest of the state park). Be aware that it only open seasonally and there can be limited parking during busy months. In October, we had no trouble with either parking or crowds. The weather was a little misty for the short walk to the falls viewpoint and then another about a quarter mile hike up to the top of the falls for a different perspective. I highly recommend hiking up to the top.

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (8)

There are many trails taking off from this same parking lot up river to see more waterfalls. Make sure to consult a good map (I tried to find one online but wasn’t successful).

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (3)

Other Tips:

  • Tumalo State Park campground has yurts to rent if you don’t want to haul around your camping equipment.There are universal access campsites for reservations as well. Use the website to reserve your spot in advance which I highly recommend doing at this popular campground.
  • There is a day use fee both at the state park and in season at Tumalo Falls parking lot.

Tumalo State Park Oregon October 2016 (5)

  • At Tumalo Falls parking lot there is a restroom and several picnic tables.
  • The last couple of miles to the Tumalo Falls parking lot are all gravel.


You can read more of my national park entries by following these links:






















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Newberry National Volcanic Monument – Tips and Images


Newberry National Volcanic Monument Tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We were visiting the Bend, Oregon area and on a whim we decided to explore the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. We looked up on the internet and saw that the Lava Lands visitor center (just off Hwy 97) opened at 10 AM so we made our way there just after they opened. (Their season ends on 10/31 and they open again 5/1.)

IMG_5899It was a rather small center but the volunteer docent that was working that morning gave us the pertinent details to make our trip educational and enjoyable. It was a big help! It is always amazing to me how learning from someone who is passionate about something makes it twice as interesting. He made the information practical and knew just how much detail to go into as he explained what we would see and what we could experience.

IMG_5901We started off by driving up to the top of the Lava Butte in our car. You are required to have a car pass at this time of year but in high season you need to ride the free shuttle to the top because of limited parking. There is a short trail that takes you around the crater’s rim and you can visit the working fire lookout. We were intrigued by the red road that wound its way up to the top of the butte.

IMG_5918It was sunny but near freezing temperatures the day we visited so we bundled up before our hike. The views of the surrounding landscape and volcanoes and peaks was awesome. After the wonderful explanation by the docent at the visitor center, we could recognize the natural features he had shared with us using the model.

IMG_5904Here is a view as we drove up the road and looked towards the Cascades.

IMG_5921Our next stop was to drive the short distance to the Benham Falls parking lot. These were not really “falls” but rather a series of rapids in the river. It was a really nice day for a hike so we enjoyed just seeing something new.

IMG_5933On this day, we had the trail and river to ourselves. Besides the solitude, I think my favorite thing about this hike was the peaceful river and the volcanic rocks. If we have packed a lunch, we would have hiked further but we will have to do that another time.

For a spur of the moment trip, this turned out to be a very enjoyable day.


Things we need to do on subsequent visits:


  • There is an entrance fee. If you hold an annual pass from the national park service, this will get you in!
  • Check the website for the visitor center hours before you visit.
  • Restrooms at the visitor center.
  • Closest towns are La Pine and Sunriver.

You can read more of my national park entries by following these links:

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Oregon State Parks – Diverse and Beautiful

Oregon State Parks Diverse and Beautiful @handbookofnaturestudy

This past August we took an awesome loop driving trip in the state of Oregon. We have slowly been exploring this beautiful state from the view of our truck and camping trailer. There are so many awesome campgrounds in Oregon and it truly is a great way to spend time as a family. In the past, we have camped on the Oregon coast with our boys. They love the ocean and that was our focus. We are no branching out into Central Oregon and Southern Oregon. In this entry I will share five of our Oregon State Park experiences.

Parks Included in this Entry:

  • La Pine State Park (near Bend, Oregon)
  • Silver Falls State Park (near Salem, Oregon)
  • South Beach State Park (near Newport, Oregon) + a mention of Brian Booth State Park
  • Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park (near Florence, Oregon)
  • Valley of the Rogue State Park

 La Pine Oregon 2016 (7) deschutes river

La Pine State Park:

This state park along Hwy 97 is situated along the Deschutes River. There is a day use area with a small sandy beach with picnic tables and a restroom. We waded in the water on a hot summer afternoon but it was cold! There were some rafters pulling their boats out here and they had floated along the swiftly moving water before ending their day at La Pine.

The campground is made up of three loops and was full the whole time we were here. The South Loop had full hookups and was packed to the gills with trailers, families, bikes, and quite a bit of noise. We were very happy we were on the North Loop where the sites were larger and farther apart (no hook ups). We enjoyed walking the trails within the park and along the river, especially in the evening. There are yurts here to rent if you don’t have all the camping gear or want an easy vacation.

This area is full of interesting things to do like the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, the town of Sisters and Sunriver, the city of Bend, the High Desert Museum, and Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

La Pine Oregon 2016 (6) deschutes river

Read more detailed information on their website: La Pine State Park, Oregon.


silver falls oregon august 2016 (29)

Silver Falls State Park

We read on the internet that Silver Falls State Park is the “crown jewel” of the Oregon Parks System. We hadn’t heard of it before so we did some research on their website and decided that a park that has hiking to ten different waterfalls was somewhere we definitely wanted to visit. It is a very busy park and we could only get two nights at the campground in August. Tip: Plan accordingly and book your campsite as far in advance as possible. The park itself is very pretty and has many tall trees alongside the creek. I highly recommend the 7.2 mile Canyon Trail to view all of the waterfalls. The park also has lots of wildflowers even in August.

silver falls oregon august 2016 (49) waterfall upper north

There was a small cafe in this park, an off leash pet area, nature trail with a bird blind, and lots of fresh air and magnificent trees and waterfalls. The month of August is probably not the best time to see the falls at their peak but still very pretty.

silver falls oregon august 2016 (73) south fallsRead more detailed information on their website: Silver Falls State Park.

Newport Oregon august 2016 (3)

South Beach State Park

On the coastal part of our loop trip, we opted to cut across to Lincoln City and then down to Newport. We had stayed at South Beach State Park before and loved it. This time the place was packed and it is a huge campground but we didn’t find it crowded or noisy. This is a pretty laid back atmosphere and with so much to do in the local area, we were happy to adventure out to see what outdoor fun we could find. I am not going to feature it in this entry but we took our kayaks for the day to Brian Booth State Park which is just south of Newport. It was the perfect sunny day to spend on the water at Beaver Creek and then out to the ocean in our kayak. I highly recommend it.

Newport is a wonderful spot to have as a home base for this part of the coast and South Beach State Park has walking and biking trails as well as beach and dune access. It is very convenient to town if you need picnic items or anything else. Oh, almost forgot! The Newport Aquarium is a favorite from our trip here a few years ago with our boys. Don’t miss it!

Newport Oregon august 2016 (24) sea lionsWe went every morning for a long walk along the Old Bayfront in Newport. Sipping fresh roasted coffee, we would stand and watch the sea lions who were sleeping and playing on the floating docks. What a noisy bunch but so very entertaining!

The end of every day was spent on the accessible platform as the sun was setting. Like a postcard and what a memory!

Newport Oregon august 2016 (6)Read more detailed information on their website: South Beach State Park, Oregon.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (6) lake cleowax

Jessie M.  Honeyman Memorial State Park

Further down the Oregon Coast, most people come to this state park to visit the dunes. The dunes provide a playground for those that love their sand sports like riding in quads and sand rails. We are much more of a people powered adventure sort and loved the fact that there are two lakes to kayak on in Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (24) kayak

We spent one of the most enjoyable days ever kayaking on this lake but many people were canoeing, fishing, and swimming there as well. What a great place to bring your family!

The campground is large and popular so you will need to make reservations for to guarantee a site. We happened to book one of the last spaces available and enjoyed our time under the tall trees. The weather wasn’t all that warm and the skies were gray but we still found plenty to do on our visit. The town of Florence is near-by and we enjoyed walking their little main street district and farmers market along the Siuslaw River.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (8) lake cleowaxRead more detailed information on this state park here: Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, Oregon.

Valley of the Rogue State Park

This is our favorite overnight camping spot between our home and places we visit in Oregon. There isn’t much here to do but it is a clean and pretty park along the Rogue River. We enjoy the convenience of it being close to I5. This trip we drove into Ashland, Oregon (Home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) for dinner at one of the many quirky little eating spots near Lithia Park. 

Read more information on this state park here: Valley of the Rogue State Park, Oregon.

We love Oregon and if you ever get a chance to travel in this state, make sure to look up any state parks along your route.

Posts from Other Oregon Parks


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Nature Book Project – 10 Best of Everything National Parks

10 Best of Everything Nature Book Project

Nature Book Project 2016

This is one of my favorite nature related books of the year! 10 Best of Everything – National Parks by National Geographic (ISBN 978-1426207341).

Our family loves to visit the national parks as a way of refreshment from our normal lives and as an adventure in the natural world whether it is close to home or far away on a vacation. Paging through this book puts the travel bug in gear and I start to plan in my imagination my dream road trip national park vacation. Honestly, the information and the images in this book inspire me to get outdoors and experience more of what our national parks offer. Isn’t that what a good travel book should do?

10 Best of Everything- National Parks caught my eye as I searched through and I purchased it as part of my nature book project for 2016. I set the book on my living room table which allowed us all to page through and read up on our favorite categories. The book is organized by categories that list the “10 best” from the national park system. For instance, in the category of Seasonal Enjoyment there are lists for  best wildflower blooms, best fall foliage, best night skies, best sunrise/sunset points, best picnic spots, best sounds of nature, and best scenic drives. If you click the link you can preview all of the 80 categories.

Shenandoah National Park 10 Best of Everything Review @handbookofnaturestudy
Shenandoah National Park – Best Cabins, Best Wildflower Bloom, Best Scenic Drive, Best Culinary Delights

Example showing how we used the book:

Using the index, we were able to look up specific national parks to discover where that park shines. We were planning a trip to Shenandoah National Park when the book first arrived and using the index gave us some great ideas for things to do and see on our visit. Shenandoah made the “10 best” in several categories which helped us make some choices before our trip about where to stay, how to plan our time, and what to keep our eyes out for as we traveled.  We experienced the Skyline Drive (best scenic drive) each day as we moved from place to place and were rewarded with grand sweeping views of the surrounding hills and valleys. We were on the look out for wildflowers (best wildflower bloom). We stayed in the Skyland Resort cabins (best cabins). We drank Prohibition Punch at the Tap Room (mentioned in the best culinary delights section). Did we agree with the book’s selections? Yes!

I look forward to using this book with each national park visit. (If you want to read about our Shenandoah trip or any of our other national park trips, you can click over and scroll down to the list at the bottom of this entry: Shenandoah National Park.)

10 Best of Everything National Parks @handbookofnaturestudy

What I enjoyed about this book:

  • Helped us create a new national park wish list-things we want to see and experience after reading about them
  • Enhanced our visits with great information from the book’s categories
  • More than just a book of lists but it gave great descriptions and information about each park within a category
  • The index made looking for a particular category or park super easy

Short list of things that I see could be improved (getting really picky):

  • The book needs a map as a reference to easily show where all the parks are located.
  • Although the index is helpful and easy to use, I would love to have a chart that summarizes the parks and categories. This visual would have made it a lot easier to see at a glance where each park stacks up.
  • Also, I think when a park is chosen for a category, it would be helpful to have a symbol next to the name that would indicate which season is best for a visit to experience the park at its best.

I am thoroughly satisfied with this book and it will keep a place of honor on my nature book library shelf when it isn’t being used or sitting on my coffee table. Even if you don’t plan on traveling to many national parks in the near future, the information contained in this book is a wonderful way to learn more about the national park system.

Big thumbs up for this book!

This book is part of my Nature Book Project for 2016.

Nature Book Project 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Note some of the links below are affiliate links.

January- Discover Nature Close to Home

February-A Place for Birds and A Place for Butterflies

March- A Crow Doesn’t Need A Shadow

April- The Practical Naturalist

May- Break month.

June-Botany in a Day

July- Rockhounding Nevada (postponed)

August- Break month.

September- The 10 Best of Everything National Parks

October- The Nature Handbook

November- Bringing Nature Home (postponed)

December- Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling



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Explorer Solar Power Bank – Review

Explorer Solar Power Bank Review @handbookofnaturestudy

We found the perfect solution for charging our iphones when we are out on the trail. The Explorer Solar Power Bank has been a simple answer to our dead phone problems.

You can find it on Amazon by typing in this asin B00XVO5S2W.

Please note that I purchased this with my own money and am sharing my honest review of this product after using it many times. The links above are affiliate links to

I use my phone a lot for photos and navigation when we are out hiking and I can easily drain my battery before we get back to the car. We did some research online and came up with the idea to purchase a solar charger to carry with us so we don’t end up with a dead phone.

explorer solar power bank in pack

We chose the Explorer Solar Power Bank because of its good ratings on Amazon, its price, and the size. For less than $20, we are delighted with the performance and ease of use that this charger provides.

explorer solar power bank review
We love having the Explorer Solar Power Bank for our hikes. It’s the green gadget on the left.


  • It is lightweight and slips easily into our pack.
  • Easy to use once you figure out that you need to wall charge it first and then “top it off” with solar power when you are outside.
  • Recharges quickly.
  • Will charge anything that uses an USB port plug. The cord comes with both types of plugs for both an iPhone and an android.

solar charger


The instructions are not very clear and written in poor English.

The charging cord that came with it stopped working but we just use our own original charging cords now and it words fine.

I would recommend this for charging up your phone or ipad when you are away from a plug. I think I may get a second one so both my husband and I can carry one in our packs.

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Devils Postpile National Monument – Tips and Images

Devils Postpile National Monument Tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

We had a wonderful trip to Devils Postpile National Monument last month. It wasn’t anything like we expected but it was even better. So much to do and so many trails to hike and explore…we must make a return trip some day soon. First of all, its location is a little off the beaten path for most people but it can easily be included along with a visit to Yosemite National Park. (Distance from Yosemite National Park’s Tioga Road entrance is approximately 70 miles or 1.5 hours driving.)

There are so many opportunities to hike and camp at this national monument and with Mammoth Mountain so nearby, you could easily spend a week here just exploring the eastern Sierra.

I will focus my post on our day hike in the park and share some tips for getting the most out of what you could possibly do on a quick visit.

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (3)

Our Perfect Day Hike at Devils Postpile (with a hike to Rainbow Falls too!)

We parked at Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center to catch the shuttle into Devils Postpile. It is a requirement that you use the shuttle during certain hours of the day or if you don’t have very specific conditions that apply that allow you to drive your personal vehicle. (disabled plates or placard, boats to put on the lake, you have camping reservations, etc). I highly recommend that you check the website for more information. The shuttle allows you to get off and on as many times as you want throughout your stay.

The shuttle costs $7 per person to ride and we found the bus came around the circuit quite frequently so we never waited very long.

Shuttle Bus Information

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (4)
There is a small visitor center at shuttle stop number 6 which is where we hopped off to hike to the actual postpile. There are restrooms available there at that shuttle stop. We knew we wanted to make a day hike so the option to start at shuttle stop 6, hike to the postpile, continue on to Rainbow Falls, and then loop up to shuttle stop number 10 made sense for us. It was still about 3.8 miles in total with a few steep sections but mostly easy hiking.

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (5)

We enjoyed the thought that we actually were hiking on a portion of the John Muir Trail. It was an easy hike of about a half mile to the Devils Postpile and there were quite a few people on the trail with us.

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (13)
We didn’t realize that the early morning light was not conducive to a good photograph of the postpile. The sun is rising up over the rock formation so you get quite a bit of glare. We managed to take a few decent photos and opted out of hiking the trail up to the top to look down from the top of the postpile.

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (30)
The trail is very exposed so make sure to bring a hat or sunblock. Also, although it wasn’t even a really hot day, we went through lots of water. Maybe it is the elevation of the hike but we were thirsty! Once we passed the postpile, the crowds disappeared and we only saw a few other hikers. Solitude!
Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (32)
I was surprised to see we would be entering into the Ansel Adams Wilderness and I felt it required a photo of me to document our great day. We sat on a log near here and ate our lunch as we contemplated the beauty of this place. What a treasure of a day!

Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls June 2016 (36)
This waterfall was our ultimate goal! Rainbow Falls lives up to its name and there were two rainbows in the mist at the base of the falls. The trail to the bottom of the falls was closed so we weren’t able to make the last leg down to the river level but we enjoyed sitting on a rock at the top and listening to the thundering water and feeling the mist as it drifted out over the rocks.

From the falls we hiked up to shuttle stop number 10 which is at Reds Meadow Resort. There is a small store and restaurant to purchase some snacks and drinks. We had a cold drink and sat with the hikers who were on their trek to cover the John Muir Trail to Mount Whitney. There were some hikers who had packed in from Yosemite Valley too. Oh how I wish I were able to make that hike!

Additional Information:

  • No entrance fee if you are on the shuttle bus (fee included in shuttle ticket).
  • Make sure to get a map at the visitor center (shuttle stop 6) before you head out on the trail.
  • Lodging available at Mammoth Lake.

You can read more of my national park entries by following these links:

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Nature Goals 2016 – 2nd Quarter Update

Handbook of Nature Study Goals 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Nature Study Goals 2016- Second Quarter Update

1. Complete 2 out of 4 Outdoor Hour Challenges each month posted on Fridays. During the second quarter I was able to post 5 entries…not quite the six planned but very close!

2. Research and learn about four birds. Learn the call, field marks, and create a nature journal. I did not complete any entries this quarter but I just added one to my planner…watch for it!
3. Focus on learning my local wildflowers. Create some sort of record of each flower.  I was able to add 15 entries in my wildflower notebook…each entry has the flowers seen and identified listed. I take this journal with me everywhere!
4. Take Yosemite photos from the Yosemite photography book- On our second visit to Yosemite in May, I was able to take photos as part of this project. Amazing place!
5. Visit a new national park. We made it to TWO new national park/monuments this quarter! I visited Shenandoah National Park with my kids and Devil’s Postpile National Monument with my husband (entry soon).
6. Visit two new state parks. We visited San Clemente State Beach in February and South Yuba River State Park in April.
7. Identify three rocks from my original challenge. I am currently working on my basalt entry…look for it soon!
8. Read 10 nature related book! May- The Practical Naturalist.  June – Botany in a Day.

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Calaveras Big Trees State Park – Tips and Images

alaveras Big Trees State Park Tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

We had the chance to camp for a few days at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We waited too long and we couldn’t get a campsite at Yosemite National Park so we decided to try Calaveras as an alternative (the parks are about 80 miles apart). If you are looking for a spot to camp and hike under the tall trees, this is a wonderful place to do it. Of course, there are no spectacular waterfalls at Calaveras but there are lots of trees, wildflowers, and a river to satisfy your nature loving spirit. Yosemite National Park has three groves of sequoia trees and Calaveras has two main groves – the North and the South groves. We hiked both groves during our visit.

I have visited many of California’s sequoia groves in my life time but the South Grove at Calaveras Big Trees is my favorite because of the quietness and wildness of its location. It takes effort to get there on a hike of around four miles round trip after a nine mile drive from the park entrance but that makes it less crowded so you can enjoy the natural beauty of a ancient sequoia grove.

Calaveras Big Trees May 21 2016 (13) Take a quick stop at the visitor center before you head down the road to the grove. I loved this visitor center because of its very well down exhibits that provide a decent background to the sequoia story, the local habitat, and the cultural information about this area.

Now you can drive down to the trailhead, perhaps stopping briefly at the view point. The hike to the South Grove starts at a large parking lot adjacent to a picnic area with restrooms. There are no sequoias here but the forest is full of tall pines and cedars and a creek. Across the creek you start the trail to the South Grove. I picked up the interpretive trail guide for fifty cents at the visitor center but there are some at the trailhead as well. Calaveras Big Trees South Grove Now the hike! It was a good trail that isn’t too steep…gradual incline. If you are using the interpretive guide, it will describe some of the specific things you are viewing along the way to the actual grove and then a little background and information about certain trees as you hike the loop. We encountered a handful of people during our hike and it felt as if we were there all on our own. I love that!Calaveras Big Trees Sequoia We had a friend along with us that had never seen sequoias before and it was interesting to hear her comments about the massive size of these trees. Calaveras Big Trees Creek The quiet is broken only with babbling creeks and birdsong. Imagining these trees growing for thousands of years boggles the mind. We learned a lot about the sequoia life cycle on this hike, the interconnected web of seed dispersal that includes a certain squirrel and a beetle, and the value of a good fire to the stability of this forest ecosystem. We also saw a snake! Calaveras Big Trees North Grove If you want to see some sequoias and are not wanting the crowds of Yosemite, this is a great alternative place to visit. There are two large campgrounds if you like to camp. We stayed at North Grove and it was very pretty. There was a creek running through the camground and there were places for kids to dip in a net to catch a minnow or a tadpole. The large meadow adjacent to the campground has a boardwalk across it so you can walk out and enjoy the plants, insects, and other sights in this habitat. Please note that the main highway runs alongside the campground and it might be smart to check the area map when you are making your reservations to see if your site backs up to the road. We could hear the cars go by from our site but it wasn’t distracting. Calaveras Big Trees StumpHere is the obligatory image from atop the big stump (Discovery Stump). We enjoyed our stay at the park and highly recommend it to families who are looking for camping, hiking, and exploring in Northern California.

Additional Tips

  • Distances: From San Francisco – about 150 miles. From Reno, Nevada – about 125 miles. From Sacramento- 100 miles. From South Lake Tahoe- about 90 miles (gorgeous drive!)
  • There is a fee to get into the park for day use.
  • It does snow here in the winter so you will want to check the park’s website for information on road closures.
  • In winter, there is a warming hut for those that use the trails for snow shoes and skiing.
  • Towns near-by for hotels, restaurants, and gas: Arnold, CA and Murphys, CA.

You can read more of my national park entries by following these links: