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Yosemite National Park – Hikes and Wildflowers

Evening Primrose - Yosemite
Evening Primrose

Up until last year I would not have know what this flower was called but we focused on it during the Summer Series of challenges last year. There is something wonderful about being able to name a flower or tree or bird, making it a part of your world. You can own it.

Yosemite Creek Trail

We took two hikes in Yosemite while camping this week, one new and one familiar. We drove up Tioga Road towards Tuolumne Meadows and stopped at Yosemite Creek. We hiked down the creek about two miles, enjoying the sound of water running over the rocks. This creek eventually filters down to fill Yosemite Falls…the iconic waterfall that so many come to see from all over the world. This time of year it is not much more than a small stream coming over the top but come next spring it will be a torrent.

Yosemite Creek and Wildflowers

Here is another view of Yosemite Creek which right now is lined with wildflowers. We stopped and took a break sitting on rocks as we took in the sights and sounds of the wilderness. We only saw two other people hiking on this trail the whole afternoon we were out there. It is an amazing experience to have this spot of the wild all to yourself.

Ranger Buttons with Insect

Well, unless you count the insects. These Ranger’s buttons had a variety of insects enjoying the summer sunshine. We couldn’t name these critters but it was interesting to watch them do their work.

Tree with Bark Scratched by Bear

This trail was also home to quite a few trees that showed signs of bear scratchings. The bark on this cedar tree was roughed up by bear’s claws.

Tree with Bear Curls

I started calling these “bear curls” since they were where the bear had pulled the tree bark down making it twist into curls. Interesting? I think so.

Giant Fungus on Tree

We also spotted this HUGE fungus on the side of another tree…really high up. Can you believe the size of it? Amazing to see!

Taft Point Trail

The second hike we took was to Taft Point which is off Glacier Point Road. It is a favorite hike for the boys since there are lots of boulders to climb and the view once you get to the point is incredible….and high.

Taft Point

Here is a shot of the boys at the railing which is right at the edge of the cliffs….sorry no photos of the view to the valley or over across the valley to Yosemite Falls since my camera batteries were both dead. I broke my camera when we were at the Grand Tetons and I now have it duct taped shut but the battery door opens up and somehow the battery drains down very fast. I am in the market for a snew point and shoot.

Yosemite Snake - Rubber Boa

The hike was highlighted by a slithering Rubber boa crossing the trail right in front of us. He was about 24-30 inches long and not in a very big hurry. We were able to get a really good look at him. Funny thing is we were just talking about how we never see snakes while in Yosemite and then we saw this one….weird.


Okay, so if you are not into snakes, how about a pretty wildflower? This is Monkshood and I have only seen in two places at Yosemite so I was happy to catch it in bloom. The yellow in the background is Arrowleaf groundsel.

Bull Thistle and Milkweed - Yosemite Valley

We spent some time in the Valley walking the paths under the trees and I was on the look out for some thistles in preparation for the up-coming thistle challenge. I was pleased to find both milkweed and thistles growing right together along the trail. The thistles are in a variety of stages of life…some blooming, some going to seeds, and some getting very dry.

Dragon Fly on Bull Thistle

Guess who came along for us to observe? Mr. Dragonfly was enjoying the Bull thistles right along with us. So very pretty to look at!

Bull Thistle with Insect

Here is another insect coming to feast on the thistles…this one was very buzzy and I took a quick photo and then got out of his way.

Milkweed Beetle

The Showy milkweed is all producing large seed pods and we found this milkweed beetle crawling on one of the pods. These pods are amazing to see and touch…just like velvet.

Sierra Lessingia

So this is my new wildflower for the trip. We identified this lovely lavender flower as Sierra lessingia. We read in our field guide that Mary Curry (of Curry Village) called it Summer Lavender and I would agree with her that because it grows in such large patches in the flat spots along roads and in the valley, it looks like clouds of lavender. I love learning something new and now I can name that pretty flower that grows so profusely this time of year in the Valley.

So there you have our hikes and wildflowers, bears and beetles, dragonflies and snakes. So many things to enjoy and learn about when you get the opportunity to get to know a place….

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Dragonfly Study Using the Handbook of Nature Study

Pond study is always a great summertime activity and that is one reason I chose ponds as the theme of the August Newsletter challenges. We spend one day a week at Grandpa’s helping him with yard work and he has a small pond that is spring-fed and we enjoy investigating it when we visit.

Dragonfly in Our Backyard
Dragonfly in our backyard earlier this summer

We started off our dragonfly study with the dragonflies that visit our backyard everyday during the summer months….some looking like little hummingbirds and others looking like helicopters. We sometimes even have a swarm of dragonflies all at once in our yard and then they disappear.

For the August Newsletter challenge to observe some dragonflies, we visited Grandpa’s pond with the intention of expanding our dragonfly study. He has blue damselflies which are so pretty and before we knew any better, we called them dragonflies. There are some simple differences between dragonflies and damselflies.

  • Dragonflies land with their wings out and damselflies land with their wings in
  • Damselflies have wing pairs that match and dragonflies the wing pairs are dissimilar
  • Dragonfly eyes touch or nearly touch and damselflies have clearly separated eyes

We read in the Handbook of Nature Study about the dragonfly and made some notes on our nature notebook pages. Mr. B drew both the Bluet damselfly and the Red skimmer dragonfly and they will go side by side in his nature journal.

Red Skimmer Dragonfly nature journal

For more information on using the OHC to learn more about dragonflies, you can see OHC #28.

Dragonfly BEST

I cannot resist sharing the prettiest dragonfly I ever saw and was able to get a good image for my nature journal. This one we saw when we were in Atlanta, GA a number of years ago. I think he is magnificent!

Dragonfly Link to Lapbook Pieces on HomeschoolShare: Dragonfly Animal Study. If you have little ones you could print out the “What is the difference?”, “Dragonfly Design”, and “Dragonfly Diagram” pieces and include those in your nature journal. What could be easier?

I look forward to seeing some of your pond studies or any other nature studies you have been cooking up this month. Make sure to submit your entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. The link is at the top of my blog and on my sidebar.

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Keeping Up Our Outdoor Time: May Nature Study

Dragonfly in Our Backyard
Dragonfly Beauty from Our Backyard

The new idea for using the Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter instead of a weekly nature challenge has liberated our family to follow our interests. I hope that your family is enjoying the subjects that come your way and that you take advantage of following up interest with the Handbook of Nature Study.

Lemon Queen Sunflowers sprouting
Lemon Queen Sunflowers sprouting in the lavender box.We are growing these as part of the Great Sunflower Project.

There have been several comments and emails asking if you can submit any nature study topics to the upcoming blog carnival. I would love to see whatever you do for your Outdoor Hour Challenge using the Handbook of Nature Study, or journal entries using the suggested ideas from the newsletter, and/or notebook pages from your own backyard studies.

Please feel free to submit your entries as you go along, just as you would have done with Mr. Linky. Here is the submission page for your entries to the carnival:
Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival 

I hope to get our next study posted over the weekend….probably our garden flower entry.

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Insects – Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges

Field Guides I have Used With My Family

Please note the above links are Amazon affiliate links to books I own and love!

Outdoor Hour Challenge Insect Nature Study Challenges Index @handbookofnaturestudy
NOTE: If the challenge is included an ebook, it is noted directly after the challenge. If you have an Ultimate Membership, you will be able to pull up the ebook and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your nature study.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

Ants – Spring ebook



Black Swallowtail – Spring Nature Study Continues


Caddisfly and Caddis worm – Summer Nature Study Continues

Cockroach – Autumn 2015

Crickets – Summer ebook and another cricket study

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Fireflies – Summer ebook

Gall Dwellers – More Nature Study Winter

Grasshoppers – Summer ebook


Insect Printables

Insect Study with Bug’s Eye View Printable

Katydids – Summer ebook

Lacewing – Summer Nature Study Continues coming soon


Leaf Miners and Leaf Rollers – More Nature Study Autumn

Monarch Butterfly – More Nature Study Summer

Moths – Summer ebook and another moth study

Mosquitoes – Summer ebook

Mud Daubers – More Nature Study Summer

Winter Insects – Winter Wednesday ebook

Yellow Jackets – More Nature Study Summer

Newsletters With a Insect Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)
  • September 2012 – Insect study grid. Ant study. Lesson plans for insect and spider study.
  • April 2014 – Making a bug hotel.
  • June 2016 – Insect Wing Study notebook page. Insect nature study and nature journal ideas.
  • September 2016 – Insect home study ideas. Gall dweller nature study. Insect study grid. Insect coloring page.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #28 Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonfly in Our Backyard

This summer has been filled with lots of dragonflies and damselflies and it has made me more aware of the variety of life we have all around us that we sometimes forget to notice.

Here is a great website that will help you with your state’s dragonfly and damselfly identification.
I learned how to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly this summer. Here are some facts that should help you in your identification.


  1. Generally strong fliers
  2. Eyes touch on top of the head
  3. Fore-wings and hind-wings are of different shape
  4. At rest, the wings are held away from the body at an angle of approximately 180°


  1. A weak, fluttery flight
  2. Eyes are well separated
  3. Fore-wings and hind-wings are of similar shape
  4. At rest, the wings are held close to the body

Outdoor Hour Challenge #28
Focus on Insects-Dragonflies and Damselflies

1. This week read about dragonflies and damselflies in the Handbook of Nature Study, pages 401-408. You also may enjoy reading page 400-401 about the insects of the brook and pond. Remember our focus right now is on insects so if you don’t find a dragonfly or a damselfly to observe, you can always look for other insects to study.

“A pond without dragonflies darting about it, or without the exquisitely iridescent damsel flies clinging to the leaves of its border would be a lonely place indeed.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 401

2. Your 15-20 minutes of outdoor time this week can be spent looking for insects. If you have access to a pond, this would be a great week to make a short trip to the pond’s edge to make some observations. If you are sticking close to home and in your own backyard, look for any insects that you can observe. Remember to look under rocks (carefully if you live in snake country), under logs, on tree trunks, on the backsides of leaves, inside a flower, in a flowering bush or tree, and even in your window sill.

3. Give the opportunity for a nature journal entry. Dragonflies and damselflies are lots of fun to draw. Here is a website that tells you step by step how to draw a dragonfly…try it together as a family. (or you could just Google “how to draw a dragonfly”)

4. If you are keeping a running list of insects you have observed during this focus period, add any new insect names to your list. This is our last week to focus on insects in the Outdoor Hour Challenges. It might be enjoyable to take a few minutes this week to review the insects you have learned about and observed during the last seven weeks with your children. If you have a list of insects that you have observed, make sure it is complete before we move on to something new next week.

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So Beautiful It Makes Me Cry: Dragonfly Morning

“It is while we, ourselves, are dreaming in the sun by the margin of some pond, that these swift children of the air seem but a natural part of the dream. Yet if we waken to note them more closely, we find many things very real to interest us.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 404

I don’t know if you have ever had this experience but it has happened to me a few times that I can remember: Something that you see in our natural world is so beautiful that it makes you cry. It could be a sunset, an autumn tree in full color, or in this most recent case, a dragonfly.

I know. You all think that I have lots my marbles over that one but I am going to post some photos that will only give you a hint of how beautiful this dragonfly is in real life.

Here’s the story. I have been putting together an Outdoor Hour Challenge about dragonflies over the last few weeks. I have had my camera at the ready many times because I have several kinds of dragonflies in my backyard and I hoped to get a photo for the blog entry. Will those dragonflies sit still for just one photo? Not usually.

This morning I was up and out on the back deck early, around 6 AM. I was just out of the shower and I usually go out and comb my hair as I survey the morning’s happenings outside. It is my routine. Well, as I was standing there looking out over the yard, I tried to focus on something that was on a beach towel on the deck railing. I knew it was an insect but without my glasses on it looked like a blur. I went into the house and grabbed my glasses and camera.

I couldn’t really get a good photo at first because it was still pretty dark out. Then he flew away and I was so sad to see him go. But, he landed on my lemon tree and he has been there ever since. This gave me lots of time to take a good photo of him. I think that this was a gift to me this morning and now I will share my gift with you.

Black saddlebag dragonfly

See the coloration on the wings that look like “saddlebags”?

You have to click the photo to make it larger so you can see the colors of the wing in this photo. It was like lace with all its fine detail. I actually was able to measure his wing span, 4 inches!

His head is so big and I know he was looking at me too. Click this one for a better view of him up close….you may never get this close to a dragonfly so here is your chance. 🙂

Look at the pattern and colors in the wing…iridescent in one light and spun from gold in another. It looks just like stained glass.

I know my original intention was to share a photo with you when I posted the challenge but this was so special that it gets its own post. The beauty in creation is such a testament to our Creator. Only He could think to spin this dragonfly’s wings out of gold, to make his coloration so distinct, and to give his face a dash of brilliant blue. I am amazed at the beauty and it truly did make me cry.