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Outdoor Mom’s Journal + New Printables for Members

Dave Moore Feb 2016

I apologize in advance for the number of times I use the word “amazing” in this blog entry.

February was an excellent month for this Outdoor Mom! I had the pleasure of my daughter’s company for ten whole days and we crammed in as much California outdoor time as we could to refresh her from the New York winter. We started off locally with a hike to the river with our crazy dog who loved taking a swim even if the water was cold!


Then it was off to southern parts of California for a camping trip at San Clemente beach (between Los Angeles and San Diego). The campground is up on the bluff and you can take an easy trail down the hillside, over the railroad tracks and out onto the beach. The ice plant was in full blossom and so very pretty. The air was warm in the high 60’s and low 70’s the whole time we were there. What a joy!

IMG_0460There is a trail from the campground down to the San Clemente Beach Trail. This is about 2 miles in length and passes right by the pier. We walked out onto the pier and the image above shows the turquoise blue water and the pretty little beach town. We spent one morning just enjoying the beach trail, flowers and all!

San Clemente Beach Trail Feb 2016

The trail parallels the train tracks and it was fun to see the Amtrak Surfliner come by and the Metrolink too. The view looks right out onto the Pacific Ocean which we thoroughly enjoyed.


 Another day we drove into San Diego and went straight to Balboa Park. I have been to the San Diego Zoo in the past but our family has never done any exploring in the adjoining park. Of course, we decided to visit the Botanical Building first. Well, we did actually go to the visitor center first to get a good map because this park is massive and we had no idea how to navigate the roads, paths, and shuttle system. We quickly figured it out and had fun walking and learning about this historical park.

If you are ever in San Diego, I highly recommend this park with its free shuttle and free exhibits. Check this link out: Balboa Park – San Diego.

Orchids from Balboa Park San Diego

Here are a couple of the gorgeous flowers found in the Botanical Building. It was awesome!


We also visited Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and I will be sharing a complete entry on this park in a future entry. For now, here are a few of the highlights from our tidepooling adventure. Can you believe the size of the shell? It was the biggest intact shell I have ever found. Of course, we took photos and left it there for someone else to “discover” as well.


Look at those smiling faces! We both thought the tidepools were the highlight of our whole week…that and the sunshine.


Switching gears, we also made a drive out to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park during our trip down south. My husband and I had been there before but my daughter was experiencing the desert landscape for the first time. It was hot! We had most of the trails we took to ourselves and it was fun to see the two of them rock scrambling!

 Rock scrambling Joshua Tree National Park Feb 2016

I was content to be the camera person.



Here is a sampling of the wildflowers we saw on our hikes. I will of course be sharing an entry about Joshua Tree in the near future for you to get all of the details of this amazing place!


Back at home, spring came to visit. I want to share this image of my redbud in bloom…truly a miracle of color in my yard this year. Drought or no drought, this plant has survived and is flourishing.

mushroom with cow

One last image from a guest….my husband. He takes a hike just about every day and he is always sending me images of things he finds as he walks. He wanted me to share this mushroom with what he says is a “happy California cow” on the top. Do you see it?

I hope you enjoyed seeing my outdoor life over the past few weeks. I know here in California we are spoiled by incredible February weather this year. As I write this entry, I am thinking about the past four days and the over 9 inches of rain we received…totally flooded my basement room! It isn’t always so perfect here but I hope it inspires you to look for spring in your neighborhood. Don’t miss the new printables for members below!

Outdoor Moms Journal @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Mom’s Journal

Whether your family spends a few minutes a week outside or hours at a time, share what is going on in your world.

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…


Handbook of Nature Study New Printables March 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section.


Getting Started FAQ Button
Need help getting started with your nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study? Check out the fresh “Getting Started” page here on the website!



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Joshua Tree National Park – Tips and Images

Joshua Tree National Park tips and images @handbookofnaturest

National parks give us the opportunity to experience things that are out of the ordinary. National parks give us some space to breath in the wilderness and take a break from the same old routines of modern life.  Joshua Tree National Park is just such a place with its unique rock formations, fascinating plant life, and creatures of the desert. What is a Joshua Tree? Well, it is not really a tree at all but a species of yucca. They can grow to be over 40 feet tall and they bloom sometime between February and April. They are part of a fascinating desert habitat in southeastern California.

Joshuar Tree

This national park is only about 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, 2.75 hours from San Diego, 3 hours from Las Vegas, and 3 hours from Phoenix. It is reachable for many of my readers as a weekend trip or even tacked onto another destination as a bonus. The park is easily experienced in a day but I highly recommend giving this special place two days to explore (suggested itineraries here). The hiking here is not difficult so families with even young children can enjoy getting outside in the sunshine together.

Joshua Tree scene

Tip:We purchased the Road Guide To Joshua Tree National Park at the Visitor Center and I highly recommend this as a guide through the park. The book starts with stop at the Oasis Visitor Center and Nature Trail and then continues along the park drive, giving you mileage points and this to view and experience. We did the trip in one day and stopped at various spots to hike, picnic, and take photos. I always love knowing what we are looking at so this book was a huge help.

visitor center joshua tree

We started as usual at the Oasis Visitor Center near 29 Palms (trip taken in 2009 when my boys were teenagers). This was a simple way to introduce the park and to get our bearings. (There are 3 different visitor centers for you to visit.) There is a Junior Ranger program for children to complete at Joshua Tree.

joshua tree national park map

Joshua Tree National Park is situated in a unique place within parts of both the Mojave and the Colorado Deserts. It is the only place on earth where the Joshua trees grow in large numbers in the wild.

arch rock

Arch Rock was a great place to stop and stretch our legs in the warm California sunshine. This is a wonderful place to talk about the geology of the park and share a bit about the granite arch and how it was formed.

desert scene

The beauty of this place can not be truly appreciated unless you get out of your car and walk out into the landscape. The harsh environment creates plants that are strong and rocks that are carved out in interesting formations. We spent a lot of time giving names to our favorite rocks.

not blooming yet

The Cholla Cactus Garden trail was lined with menacing cactus. There are many other nature trails within the park for you to choose from.

lizard joshua tree

There were lizards, birds, and spiders to distract us from the cactus. This lizard posed for us on the top of a rock!


This is an amazing place that we hope to visit again someday, hopefully camping to experience the night sky and to slow down to take in more of the parks plants and animals…and birds too! Don’t be fooled by thinking that the desert landscape is barren and empty. It is a rich habitat with much to learn about along with your children.

Other things you might like to know

  • Entrance Fee is $15
  • Camping is available in the park.
  • Palm Springs is a short distance for hotel rooms of all kinds. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Palm Desert.
  • There are three visitor centers at each of the entrances to the park: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, Oasis Visitor Center, and Cottonwood Visitor Center.
  • Visiting in the spring and fall are recommended. We were there in February and the weather was perfect and there were many wildflowers and blooming cactus to view.
  • There are places to picnic but you will need to purchase your meal before you enter the park.
  • Educational materials to download before your trip are available.


You can read more of my national park tips in these entries:


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Desert Walking Again….Just a Glimpse

I can always tell when I am ready for a road trip. It is a very good thing that we live in a place in the world that with some driving we can totally change our environment. From snow to the desert sunshine…I feel so much better.

The desert is getting really close to bursting out in blossoms. This is a cholla cactus putting out its buds.

Here is what the cactus looks like as we hike along in the desert.

I added this photo for those that know how much my husband is into alternative energy. He was amazed at the wind turbines out here in the desert.

A little rock climbing went on. Well, maybe A LOT of rock climbing. How about this natural arch?

Here is one critter that we saw while we were out hiking in the desert…he sat still for a very long time while I took a few photos. If you click on the photo you should be able to see his blue spots.

My husband spotted the desert cottontails in this area of the trail. Very, very cute little mammals to observe!

One last photo….here is the star of our desert hike. The Joshua tree is a unique plant that we are just now starting to get to know.

Winter will soon change to spring. Sigh.