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A Robert Frost Style Winter Nature Study for Your Homeschool

You can enjoy a Robert Frost Style winter nature study for your homeschool! Frost’s poem, Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening can be a jumping off point. Enjoy these ideas for your snowy adventure.

You can enjoy a Robert Frost Style winter nature study for your homeschool! Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening can be a jumping off point. Enjoy these ideas for your snowy adventure.

There was so much snow in our favorite woods…it brought to mind the Robert Frost poem that we have been reading in our poetry study the past few weeks.

A Robert Frost Stopping By The Woods Winter Nature Study

“Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

Robert Frost (Few lines from Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, 1923).

Using Snowshoes or Cross Country Skis for a Snow Hike

Our Winter Wednesday color walk and cattail observations were combined into one snowy hike…snowshoes firmly attached. It started off with 18 degree weather but by the time we finished it was around 40 degrees, sun shining brightly.

Look for Winter Colors in Your Homeschool Nature Study

We started off with not much aim other than looking for colors and finding the cattail pond. I decided that it is nice to have something in mind as we head out in the really cold air….otherwise you keep your eyes down and forget to look up and out.

The color palette of this snowy world is actually quite beautiful. The blue sky, the evergreen pines, the red-yellow-orange of the shrubs, the colorful lichens, and the blue of the lake really stand out against all the snow.

1 6 11 Cattails at Taylor Creek with snow
Our cattails this year are quite secluded and we aren’t even sure if we will be able to get out here since we think this is marshy in the spring and summer. It will be interesting to see how the terrain changes by the season.

1 6 11 Cattails in the snow Taylor Creek
Look at the mountain covered with snow! The colors really pop when you have all this whiteness going on…blue sky, reddish-oranges of the willow and dogwood, green evergreens.

1 6 11 Snowshoe trail

Keep Your Cross Country Ski Route in Mind

It seems unlikely that we would get lost but we did wander around following someone else’s path. It is a really good idea to have in mind a route when you are out in the woods like this. We knew our general direction but you get tired trudging through large amounts of snow even with snowshoes on. (I also got hot…too many layers.)

Our problem was that there are two large creeks that run through the snowy meadows and if you don’t plan it right you are stuck on one side with the water running between you and the rest of the path. I could see where animals had just jumped across the gap but with snowshoes on, you don’t jump very well. We had to find a way to go around.

1 6 11 Taylor Creek with Snow
Another factor is that with all this snow, our familiar landmarks are erased. The bushes are flat with snow and there is far more water than we are used to. All those lumps are bushes weighed down with a couple feet of snow. You can’t really hike over the top. Going around again.

1 6 11 Snow Shoes at Taylor Creek
In the end, we made it back to the car by following the creek and finding the bridge. It was a wonderful romp through the woods, successful in refreshing our hearts with some wonderful awesome vistas that you would never see if you didn’t break out the snowshoes or cross-country skis.

You can enjoy a Robert Frost Style winter nature study for your homeschool! Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening can be a jumping off point. Enjoy these ideas for your snowy adventure.

A Homeschool Snow Study

If you don’t have snowshoes or cross-country skis, you can still enjoy a fun homeschool snow study! Browse all of these fun ideas: Homeschool Snow Study

You can enjoy a Robert Frost Style winter nature study for your homeschool! Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening can be a jumping off point. Enjoy these ideas for your snowy adventure.

A Robert Frost Art Lesson and Tea Time

Follow up your outdoor hour time with a fun art and homeschool tea time! Fun ideas for Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening Homeschool Tea Time with You ARE an ARTiST. A printable Robert Frost poem is included in ARTiST Clubhouse membership.

You might also like a Winter Snowflake Study with Snowflake Bentley.

You can enjoy a Robert Frost Style winter nature study for your homeschool! Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening can be a jumping off point. Enjoy these ideas for your snowy adventure.

More Winter Homeschool Nature Study

Here are even more winter nature studies for you to enjoy together:

Be sure to share photos of your Robert Frost winter nature study with us! Tag us @outdoorhourchallenge

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barb McCoy in 2011. Updated by Tricia 2022.

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No Snow Study- Winter Walk Instead

Winter Walk Snow Nature Study
Our winter continues to be warmer than normal…even record-breaking temperatures. As much as I love the warm afternoons and sunshine, I am concerned for the drying up reservoirs and the very dry forest conditions. I know I have no power to bring on the rain and snow so I am trying to make the best of it.

This week’s Winter Snow challenge was a big challenge indeed. We did find a bit of snow up the mountain from our house but not a whole lot. We opted to complete the Winter Nature Walk- Scavenger Hunt activity from Hearts and Trees.

I took an image of the page with my phone and we used that during our hike to remember the things we were looking for as we went.

Here are our results:

An evergreen
Buds on a tree
We decided this duck weed was more interesting than moss.
Trees that have lost all their leaves – aspens
a bird – Steller’s Jay
We didn’t find any berries but this rose hip was certainly colorful.
Something with thorns
Pinecones – The squirrels had lunch on the picnic table!

One last image from our hike at Taylor Creek. The beavers have been clear cutting a lot of the trees along the water. They have quite a few trees that are ready to fall as well. The dam is getting huge! Amazing creatures with incredible strength.

We are still waiting for some real snow here and I will keep the snow study in the back of my mind for a future time. I hope some of you were more successful with this challenge or you took advantage of the scavenger hunt instead.


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Interior or Mountain Rose-Shrub #4

Interior or Mountain Rose
Taylor Creek area of Lake Tahoe

Shrub with thorns, growing 2-9 feet tall.
Flower pink to white and about 2 inches across. Five petals. (not seen during September)
Fruit is a red rose “hip” about 1/2 inch in diameter.
2,500 – 10,000 feet in elevation.

The hips are edible and an excellent source of vitamin C, usually made into a tea or jelly.

This rose is a pretty pink rose that we see along our favorite trail at Taylor Creek. This time of year it is covered in bright red rose hips….which we at first thought were berries until we stopped to take a closer look.

It was an evening filled with smoky air from the Rim Fire at Yosemite. Quiet and all alone on the trail, we enjoyed the peaceful beauty of a late summer walk after dinner.

This time of year you can recognize this shrub by the hips, the leaf shape, and the thorns!

This is the fourth shrub I have recorded in my nature journal this year as part of my nature study goals. One more to go! I am not doing so well on my study of trees….need to get busy.

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Winter Snowshoe Hike – Jays, Tracks, and Weeds

Winter Snow and Weeds
Tahoe National Forest – California

When I posted on Facebook yesterday that we were going to head out to snowshoe, the weather forecast said something like “partly cloudy, high of 52 degrees, and 10% chance of precipitation”. Sounded good to me. Well no one told us that between our house and our hiking spot that there was going to be dense fog, drizzle, and the temperatures were falling into the 30’s.

I knew Mr. B was anxious to test out his new snowshoes so I didn’t want to disappoint him and we kept going up over the mountain. Once over the mountain it cleared up and we had lots of clouds but no rain.

Tracks in the snow
Needless to say, we kept our eyes on the sky, checking for signs we were going to get rained or snowed. We had the snow to ourselves, not counting the many animal tracks that were visible. So many tracks going so many directions…there must be a whole forest full of animals out there.

Stellers Jay in the bushes
Isn’t this a surprising sight of brilliant blue on this winter day? Steller’s jays are common and this one was posing for my camera. I love the blue feathers on the nose. My field guide says that these jays are “inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy”. Yep, that totally describes this bird.

Stellers Jay flying
We couldn’t resist seeing if we could lure the jay closer and Mr. B had a pocket full of pretzels. One little bit of pretzel and that Steller’s jay came swooping down for a tasty treat, making his shook-shook-shook sound as he flew.

Snowshoe Taylor Creek
We had to go the long way around since the beavers have now completely dammed up the water in the creek and the resulting pond has spread over the normal trail. This is where we saw the salmon spawning last fall and the mama bear with cubs. No signs of them now, although it smells rather fishy around this bend in the creek from all the dead fish remains.

Taylor Creek with snow and tracks
We hiked along the creek a little way and we noticed that there are places where the creek mud is piled up onto the banks. We could see lots of little animal tracks around the mud but I’m still not sure what kind of animal did this and what they were doing. Winter hikes can lead to lots of questions. You can see the muddy sludge…it is the black stuff there along the edge.

Aspens in the Snow
I never get tired of looking at the landscape here at Taylor Creek. The patterns of the tree trunks against the Sierra sky in the winter is amazing and beautiful. Some people get to look out their living room windows and view a similar scene and I wonder if they stop seeing the awesomeness of it. I come here a dozen times a year and I never tire of this place.

Snowshoe tracks
When you are on snowshoes, you can follow tracks as much as you want but I am always a little afraid of getting out into the forest too far….I have a terrible sense of direction. This area is easy to navigate because I can hear the highway in the distance and I generally know which direction I need to head to get back to the trailhead. Here is an example of a nice clear print in the snow.

Winter Weeds
We did a little preliminary winter weed study while we were out traipsing around the woods. There were plenty of subjects even with snow on the ground. I just liked the way this one looked. I think it is a corn lily. Next week we plan on doing a whole winter weed study so we will revisit these images then.
Winter Snoeshoe Hike
So our first real snowshoe of the year is over and we didn’t get rained or snowed on. We were bundled up warmly so it was really a delight to be outdoors exploring just the two of us. Mr. B decided his snowshoes were perfect and now we will be able to explore the woods in winter as part of our Outdoor Hour Challenges.

You can read more about hiking in winter on my Squidoo page for tips on how to make it fun:
Winter Nature Walks

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November Nature Study – Autumn Hiking Delights

The mountains and forest had been calling for us to come and explore the season before the winter sets in any time now. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies and perhaps a few snow flurries so we didn’t plan too long of a hike just in case we needed to move quickly to shelter. The sun actually poked through the clouds a few times and that was a welcome treat.

Beaver Work
Right near where we parked the car and started on the trail we noticed that a beaver had gnawed this tree down…can you believe how strong that beaver must be? We weren’t sure if he was going to come back for the log but we marveled at his ability to bring down a rather large tree.

Aspens in November
We hiked through the mixed conifer and deciduous forest, noting that the aspens were all bare but still very beautiful. We listened to the bird sounds and a squirrel chattering too. We saw and heard Steller’s jays, common ravens, California gulls, mallard ducks, white-headed woodpeckers, Canada geese, and an osprey. It was a great day for birds.

Taylor Creek Eagle Habitat
We stopped along the trail to view the meadow and marsh. This spot is known to be an eagle habitat so I had my eyes open wide hoping to see one this day. And…..I was not disappointed. A bald eagle flew very majestically above the meadow from the pine forest and then out over the lake. I was very excited to see this graceful bird as he flew right overhead and then disappeared. It was a moment.

In the photo above you can see how it was snowing up on the mountain peak and we even at one point had soft flakes of snow coming down on us but it didn’t last long or stick to the ground at all. It was a perfect day for a hike.

Tahoe Eagle Journal
Journal tip: It can be overwhelming when you have so many subjects to write about in your journal. It helps to focus on just one of the highlights like our encounter with the eagle and a list of birds. I don’t like to draw birds so I used a photo and then answered the three main questions: when, where, what.

Pinecone - Andy Goldsworthy Style
When I take my creative daughter with me, we always find a way to do something fun. This time we settled on making an Andy Goldworthy style art piece using natural items. There were loads of pinecones on the ground so we decided to feature those in our sculpture.

While we were busy with our sculpture, my husband added this line of pinecones leading down the stairway to our artwork. It made me smile and feel appreciative of the support of a great guy for his nature-loving wife.

Thistles in November
On the hike back we found a patch of thistles to admire. After studying them this autumn I have a new found appreciation for their features. So pretty even now.

Taylor Creek Beaver Dam
We also saw where the beaver is attempting to build a dam across the creek. The creek is flooding part of the trail right now because of the water backed up behind the dam. We had to circle around to avoid needing to wade through the creek. This is exactly where we saw the mama and two baby bear cubs earlier this fall…no signs of them now.

As always, we were rewarded for our efforts to get outdoors and do some exploring. The informal nature study opportunities were everywhere and I made some mental notes on topics we were curious about as we hiked along. Some afternoon on a cold winter day I will pull out some field guides and we will research a few of the answers to our questions. Nature study truly is a life project.

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Snowshoe Adventures…Tramping Through the Woods


I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

~Henry David Thoreau

By now you are more than likely tired of seeing my snowshoe photos but since the season is full of opportunities to hike out there in the snowy goodness, I will continue to share some of the best shots and stories from our wanderings.

This trip was a sisters trip and my big sis and I spent part of our weekend out in the sunshine hiking/wandering, taking photos, talking, sharing aches and pains, and nourishing our love of beautiful landscapes. We heard Steller’s jays and nuthatches as we “tramped” through the woods.The creek sounds were always in the background and every now and then the quack of a mallard was heard over the crunching of our shoes.

This particular place is known for being a bear and eagle habitat. Although I have seen bears here in the summer and fall, I have never seen an actual bear or signs of bear in the winter. There are plenty of other animal tracks around but never any bear tracks. My sister was still a little uneasy but we did not see a bear on this trip, thank goodness, or she would have never let me forget about it.

There has been no fresh snow in awhile but there were places where we really did need the snowshoes. The weather was warm and I ended up just with a fleece jacket, no gloves, and my light knit hat. My sister was trying out a new set of snowshoes which were much smaller and lighter than mine. She said they were very easy to get used to and we felt good about being out for a long walk….not totally by ourselves in the woods but still alone enough to feel peaceful and refreshed.

Aspens with Snow and a Trail
We wandered through the woods and only once did we need to take our snowshoes off and jump across the creek. Yes, I said jump.  I didn’t feel very graceful as I made the leap across into the snowbank but there was no one else around to see me….

The aspens make such a visual treat with their beautiful trunks.

Taylor Creek with winter Bushes Red

Yes, the limbs of the bare bushes are that pinky-red in real life. Amazing color along the creek for a winter scene. I was so surprised that my point and shoot was able to capture the exact look of this winter creek.

Mountains and Taylor Creek Reflection
Does it get any better than this? With a little effort my sister and I made it out to the end of the creek where it spills into the lake. The snow had all melted on this side of the water and we took off our snowshoes and stood in awe of the mountains, the snow, the reflections, the sky, the peacefulness of this place. I felt like I was in some beautiful outdoor cathedral and I sent my thanks to our Grand Creator for the gift of this afternoon.

Outdoor Photographer Sister

There is my sister taking some photos of her own. We share a love for the outdoors and photography and she is an amazing nature photographer. All too soon we realized the day was coming to a close and we needed to make the hike back to the car. We were tired but it was a good kind of tired.

I hope to get up to the snow at least one more time, probably with my boys if we can fit in the time.

I am not the only one that has snowshoes.  Don’t miss reading another mom’s experience with her snowshoes…it will warm your heart: Pink Snowshoes by Richelle at Educating Mother.

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Winter Series Challenge For Mammals: A Hike and a Study of the Douglas Squirrel

Yesterday we were able to take a hike out in the snow at our favorite spot. It felt like spring and the sun warmed my neck in a welcome way. I realized I can smell the forest again. This is the first time I noted that during winter there are far less fragrances in the air. Yesterday we smelled the piney woods fragrance of the evergreens in the warming sun. It smelled delicious.

We tried to focus on finding signs of mammals on our hike as part of the Winter Series Challenge for mammals.
Cone 1
The squirrels have been busy munching on cones.

Cone 2
Isn’t this just the most wonderful cone you have seen in a long time?

Beaver dam Taylor Creek
The snow is melting a little on this familiar hike. The beaver dam is still visible with all the leaves gone from the trees and bushes.

Taylor Creek-Beginning to thaw
Here you can see the snow pulling away from the creek water and exposing the grasses underneath. It feels like spring here for the first time.

dog tracks maybe
I am thinking these are dog tracks but perhaps coyote since we have seen them in this area before.

rabbit tracks
Now these I am pretty sure are rabbit tracks…or perhaps snowshoe hare tracks.

tracks by the creek
We spotted this trail of tracks to the left of the snowy log and if you look carefully you can see them disappear in the distance. I have no idea who made them but they were fun to see and to talk about.

tracks near the ice
Here are some more tracks down by an icy spot on the creek.

We came home and decided to look up and learn about a mammal from our field guide. There are quite a few to choose from that live in this particular area, but we chose the Douglas squirrel (or Chickaree). We often hear squirrels in the trees and now we know that in this particular area, the only tree squirrel is the Douglas squirrel. They have a chattering sound that is distinct, making it easier to identify even if we don’t actually see them in the trees. Our mammal field guide says that they are active all year long, but they still store a winter cache of cones. We also learned that the piles of leftovers where a squirrel eats are called middens. There is an actual name for those piles we see under trees!

We used this online book to learn more about our local mammals: Nature Guide to…
Wikipedia Article: Douglas squirrel
Link to its tracks at BearTracker: Douglas squirrel
This site has some great images: Nature Works

“Nature has made him master forester and committed most of her coniferous crops to his paws. Probably over fifty percent of all the cones ripened on the Sierra are cut off and handled by the Douglas alone, and of those of the Big Trees perhaps ninety percent pass through his hands.”
John Muir on Douglas squirrels, The Mountains of California.

Isn’t that interesting? I love when we take a few minutes to learn a little more about something in our nature study that really is meaningful and will help us understand our local environment better.

This was a great challenge for us this time around.

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Bright Shiny Day Snowshoe Hike

The sun was out and we jumped on the chance to go to the snow for some fun and refreshment.

Let’s just say it was breathtaking….far too awesome for words.
(Not sure if you are on an email subscription if the video shows up, but you can click over to my blog and view a 30 second video of the landscape.)

It was so quiet and we had the whole place to ourselves. This is the best kind of hike…time to enjoy the quiet and the beauty. Look at those cattails. It reminds me that in the summer this place is hopping with red-winged blackbirds and egrets. This day we saw nuthatches, mountain chickadees, and a raven. It was surprisingly quiet.

Taylor Creek 1
The beavers have actually dammed up the regular waterway and it is now flowing around the right side instead of straight through. Fascinating.

Winter Snow at Taylor Creek
Some of the creek is actually all covered over with snow…you can see openings where the water is frozen over. As many years as we have been coming here in the winter, we have never seen this before.

Mammal tracks at Taylor Creek
Not very many tracks in the snow this time…

Snowshoe Jan 2010
As usual, we end up spreading out and just taking the trail at our own pace. We are usually all within eyesight of each other but keeping a nice distance in between.

As much as I hate to miss a day of regular schoolwork, we really needed this day to wander out in the sunshine and fresh air.

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Winter Day Hike: Animal Tracks

Taylor Creek 12 25 09  Aspens

It was a day of hiking in the aspens and pines….there is something so refreshing about hiking in the snow on a sunny day. The light must be different or perhaps it is the air. Whatever it is about winter hikes, I feel more alive. The indoor life does not suit me very well and getting the chance to spend a few hours hiking with my family makes me smile even now just thinking about our time outdoors.

Taylor Creek 12 25 09  Animal Tracks
Although there were no other hikers on the trail this time, we knew there were other living creatures near-by. The snow recorded their activity for us. We always have a great time imagining who the tracks belong to and then discussing what they may have been doing out here in the woods.

Taylor Creek 12 25 09 Hiking to the Lake
Many times as we hike along we spread out and have some alone time. I love to walk and pay attention to the crunching of the snow under my boots. There were a few birds that showed their faces while we walked and a few that just let us know they were there by knocking on the tree or whistling a little tune.

Taylor Creek 12 25 09 Ducks on the Creek
These ducks don’t seem to mind the cold, cold water.

Our Bird List for the Day:
Mallard ducks
Steller’s jays
Red-breasted nuthatches

Taylor Creek 12 25 09 Creek and Animal Tracks
The creek was flowing along with crystal clear water, much deeper this time of year than in the summer and fall. We observed lots of tracks on the other side of the bank….big tracks where it looks like someone came to get a drink perhaps.

Taylor Creek 12 25 09 Dinosaur prints
I told the boys to be on the lookout for interesting tracks in the snow and if they found some to call me over. These are the “dinosaur” tracks they found….very funny.

Taylor Creek 12 25 09 Animal tracks 4
Seriously though, this photo shows the most interesting and most abundant track we noticed through the trees. It looks like footprints with something that made a line to the side….a tail perhaps? I would love to know what made this track in the snow.

Maybe this is why I love winter hikes so much….there is an air of mystery and awe to them that I love and crave. We are looking forward to more snowy hikes in the near future.


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Early Autumn: First of Many Walks

We took a long walk today to enjoy the last of the hot afternoons…we know they will be coming to an end soon. Here are a few things I want to share from our day.

This is a sure sign that autumn is coming quickly. The aspens are beginning to change color and the wind makes them shimmer and shake.

The Kokanee salmon are spawning and their green and red color is brilliant in the clear creek water.

The creek is very shallow and the salmon come here to lay their eggs and die. This becomes a habitat for eagles and bears and ducks this time of year. Can you guess why?

Bear at Taylor Creek
If you click this photo it will enlarge and you will see the outline of a bear at the bottom of the photo among the trees. She was on the other side of the creek sharing a salmon with her baby. We gave her a lot of space and the few of us that were there snapped a few photos and left her in peace.

The whole afternoon was picture postcard perfect.

The Pussy Paws are golden and the Rabbitbrush is golden and the pines are green and the sky is blue……where are my paints?

This was a great afternoon and I feel so refreshed.