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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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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – October 2016

Outdoor Moms Journal @handbookofnaturestudy

“Bright yellow, red, and orange,
The leaves come down in hosts;
The trees are Indian Princes,
But soon they’ll turn to ghosts;
The scanty pears and apples
Hand russet on the bough;
It’s autumn, autumn, autumn late,
T’will soon be winter now!”

I think October is a very surprising month. It never is the same from year to year as far as weather and mood. October 2016 has been another busy outdoor month in our family because the weather has been fairly mild with some rain but all of that at once over the course of a weekend. This allowed for getting out and experiencing a little fall color in our area.

Oct 2016 sly park and caples lake (4)

During the first week of the month, a friend and I hopped in the car on a bright sunny day to take a drive up in the high country and look for some pretty trees. There were some aspens with golden yellow color but not as many as usual. I think our “normal” is changing along with our weather patterns. Still, it was a wonderful outing and we were able to fit in a nice day hike up at Lake Tahoe.


Then, mid-October, we took off in our truck and trailer to visit Oregon again. We had some places to check out and friends to meet up with so although the weather wasn’t ideal for being outdoors the whole time we were in Oregon, we did manage to sneak in a few hikes along the various rivers. Our first few nights we stayed in the Eugene, Oregon area along the McKenzie River.

Deschutes RiverWe camped at Tumalo State Park in Bend, Oregon...a new favorite spot! The camping was so enjoyable even with sprinkles from time time. The hiking along the Deschutes River was peaceful and we went in both directions along the river’s edge starting from the bridge at the campground. There is a wonderful day use area at this state park too and I imagine in the summer it is a busy place! But in October it was empty and quiet.

IMG_5948We also strolled along the Deschutes River right in the town of Bend at Drake Park and Mirror Pond. This particular autumn day was colorful with storybook houses along the riverbank and the snow capped mountains in the distance. Just perfect.

IMG_5866The high point of our trip was a hike to Tumalo Falls outside Bend. It was a misty morning but we still wanted to take advantage of our time in Bend by experiencing this popular hike to the top of the waterfall. The parking lot was empty when we arrived and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We extended our hike up the trail paralleling Tumalo Creek. Amazing!

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We were also able to squeeze in a visit to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. More about this in a future post!

Back at the homefront, our garden was starting to show signs of fading for the season. We did a big clean up before our Oregon trip and left just the few things that might produce a bit more (being hopeful).


Now begins the slow slide into winter here in my neck of the woods. This is the time of great activity in my yard, the leaf raking kind of work that just always seems to be calling me. Thank goodness I have two grown men in my house to help gather and dispose of the great heaps of leaf death. Sigh.

I miss the long autumn walks with my kids but they send me images of their autumns for me to enjoy.

Hudson Valley Hiking
Hudson Valley hiking October 2016-from my daughter

So what have you been up to this month? Join me here by commenting or leaving me a link to your blog entry.


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…


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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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – September 2016

Outdoor Moms Journal September 2016


This Outdoor Mom had a fantastic end of the summer! This post features our second Oregon trip of the year and lots of kayaking adventures. Technically, the Oregon trip was at the very end of August but after my August Outdoor Mom’s post so I want to include it here because it was a fantastic trip.  I will be dedicating a complete post in October to the many Oregon State Parks we visited on this latest trip. It was a perfect trip!

bend oregon old mill district deschutes river 2016 (2)

We spent four days in the Bend/La Pine, Oregon area. It was a heat wave for them and most of the lakes and rivers were super busy with so many people swimming, using stand up paddleboards, rafts, and kayaks. I was really glad we had our kayak and we made the most of the time out on the water. We are in the middle of training our Labrador to ride along with us and she is quickly getting the hang of jumping in and enjoying the ride. The image above was taken in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon along the Deschutes River. It was a perfect night for a walk along the banks of the river and for sitting at an outdoor patio for dinner. We read in a brochure that Bend, Oregon is the most dog friendly town in the U.S. We believe it!

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Oregon  (47) sharps lake kayak

I think this is first photo I have shared where you can see our awesome tandem kayak (Old Town Loon 160T). We LOVE it! Both my husband and I are tall and there is enough room for our legs and the 70 pound Labrador. The image above shows us launching at Sparks Lake on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. It is a large shallow lake within view of many of the area’s signature mountains: Mt. Bachelor, South Sister, Broken Top.

Kayaking Beaver Creek Oregon Aug 2016This collage of images is from our stay in Newport, Oregon. We found an amazing spot to kayak just south of town at Beaver Creek (Brian Booth State Park). First we paddled up the creek and saw some interesting birds: Belted kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Turkey vulture, and several different ducks. Then we paddled back down the creek and all the way to the ocean! What a day!

silver falls oregon august 2016 (67) south fallsThis is the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park near Salem, Oregon. We had three days of hiking in this amazing place! There are actually TEN waterfalls that you can hike in a loop. This one was our favorite because you could actually hike behind the waterfall…look at the image carefully and you can see the trail. You can be sure I will be sharing more about this destination in my October Oregon State Parks entry.

nature journal pages osprey and heron august 2016 (3)I did fit in some nature journaling on this trip. I learned some interesting things about the heron and I actually heard the loud sound it made as we paddled too close to one and it flew off. Loud! It surprised me. I will be sharing a bit more about my nature journals in an up-coming post.

garden renees sunflower august 2016 (5)A little closer to home, my sunflowers bloomed! I looked out the window one morning and discovered this beauty. I love the sunflower time of the year and look forward to it each summer. This is one of the sunflowers from Renees Garden Seeds. So perfectly perfect.

IMG_5148We did some hiking closer to home when my two New Yorkers were home for a visit. We camped at Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe in California. It was perfect weather and the hiking was filled with wonderful autumn air and sunshine. IMG_5246This is Fallen Leaf Lake on a crisp September morning. We all took turns taking the kayak out for a spin on the water to take in the high Sierra views.

IMG_5358The last place on our travel list this month was to Yosemite National Park. We hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome with our children and they posed at the top for this amazing photo. It captures so much of what our family is about as we adventure in the big outdoors together. It was a day of laughter, refreshing vistas, and friendship. I tried to soak in the family time since it is hard to gather us all in one place anymore. We end up outside when we do get a chance to spend time together….habit? necessity? mutual love for God’s creation? I think it is a little of all of those things.

I hope you enjoyed my entry this month and if you want to play along, there are instructions at the bottom of this post.

If you missed my August and September nature study entries, here are the links:

Our Wildflower Observations: This entry shares our August wildflowers, both in California and in Oregon.

Snail Observations at the Tidepools: We had a fantastic time hunting, observing, and learning about marine snails in response to the August newsletter topic. This is one of my favorite blog entries of the year!

Insect Nature Study -Potpourri: We had several opportunities to observe insect homes up close. We even identified something new to us!


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…


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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Yosemite in Winter – Winter Colors

We finally finished our four seasons visits to Yosemite National Park. This was our winter trip that turned out to not be so wintery at all. The temperatures were in the 50’s and we enjoyed sunshine for most of the trip.

We decided to take a hike on the north side of the Yosemite Valley where the sun is shining. The Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is just across from the lodge so that is where we began. There was very little water in the falls so we chose to go up the trail about a mile and a half and see the view from Columbia Rock.

We did see a few hikers on the trail but during the winter there are very few people to be found in the park. I think this year there are even less than normal because Badger Pass ski resort is closed so there aren’t even skiers to be found in the valley. At Columbia Rock we met with a family from England, two young college students from Korea, and a Croatian girl.

Here is the view from Columbia Rock overlooking a meadow and the lodge. In the distance Half Dome looms up and dominates the vista. We stood for a bit and gazed at the beauty and then hiked back down the four dozen or so switchbacks to the valley floor.

We started off the hike with lots of layers and by the time we reached our destination we were in shirt sleeves and sweating. It was really warm in the sun on the exposed trail.

The first of my colors in the winter color challenge is black. The Common Ravens are the bird most commonly seen and heard in this area of the park. They are black AND iridescent purple in the sunlight. Their loud and clear CRUCK CRUCK CRUCK can easily be identified. We also saw and heard other birds during our stay like the Steller’s Jay, the Nuthatch, and the Acorn Woodpecker.

In the Village you can see the browns of the trees, acorns on the ground, and the evergreens to make a winter color palette. In this photo you can see Yosemite Falls in the distance, nearly dry. As the day wears on, the falls flow a little more but in the mornings they are nearly dry.

Here is a little green lichen I spotted along the trail, landing among pine needles. The bright green really pops out this time of year when the world is filled with grays, browns, and blacks.

In spots where the sun doesn’t shine, the snow is still seen in patches. This meadow has lots of winter weeds showing through and I spotted some milkweed left from the past season.

The second day we hiked to the Merced Grove of sequoia trees. These giants really stand out in the forest with their reddish bark and large trunks. We shared this forest with the trees for a bit, sitting quietly and reveling in their ancient history.

I tried to capture what the bark looks like close up…it is soft and squishy and shreds easily. Amazing.

My husband decided this was the best way to enjoy the sequoia’s beauty…looking up at their tall stature.

So ends a complete year of Yosemite National Park visits. It has been a wonderful experience personally for me to achieve a goal and to learn a little more about one of my favorite places on earth. I feel blessed to live so near such an awesome place to get outdoors and build memories with my family.

My husband and I celebrated our accomplishment with a little pizza and Half Dome California Wheat beer at the Yosemite Lodge. Perfect ending to a fantastic day, trip, and year.

You can read about our seasonal visits to Yosemite in these entries:
Yosemite in Spring – Waterfalls and Biking
Summer Trip to Yosemite – Hikes, Wildflowers, Rocks, and More
Yosemite Autumn Trip – Panorama Trail

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Yosemite Autumn Trip!

Our much anticipated trip to Yosemite for our autumn visit was a huge success. We didn’t plan it but we were leaving the day the park was closed because of the government shutdown. I was very grateful that we were able to get in our visit and hikes before the trails and campground were closed indefinitely.

The image above shows a glimpse of the devastation from the Rim Fire. This is along Hwy 120 above Groveland, CA. It was an awesome sight to see and you could see signs of the fire as we continued into the national park itself and up along the Tioga Road. Much of the area along the road had been cleared before the fire so my husband thinks that many of the trees, although scortched, will revive. We shall be anxious to see if he is right.

We had reserved a campsite along the Merced River in the Lower Pines Campground…perfect! We enjoyed our two nights in our tent with a show of stars at night that was unbelievable. The camping was a little quiet for us with no children along for this trip but it was fun to just be a couple again.We sat in chairs and watched squirrels and birds. We huddled around the campfire and enjoyed the peaceful cracking and snapping of the flames on the oak wood. The air was crisp in the mornings but not so cold we couldn’t break from the cocoon of the sleeping bag.

One afternoon we took a long walk along the valley floor. This time of year there are no big crowds around so you see lots of wildlife. In the image above, you can spy a bobcat! He was wandering along the trail and then he went down to the river. We also so numerous deer…adults and babies too. One time we saw a herd of 20+ deer grazing in the meadow.

Yosemite Falls is bone dry right now. I felt sorry for all the travelers who came from all over the world to visit Yosemite when the falls are dry…just not the same. Autumn is not a time for huge waterfalls in Yosemite but their are other reasons to come at this time of year. The story of Yosemite in the autumn is the change of season with colors and the quiet awesomeness of viewing the granite that also change in color with the light.

Our campsite was visited by many, many squirrels. They were busy collecting seeds of some sort and having a feast. The Stellar’s jays and Common ravens also came to visit and first thing in the morning they were very noisy. The seemed to say, “Wake up! Wake up! You are missing the sunrise!”

Our second day we hiked the complete Panorama Trail. This is an eight mile hike that includes three waterfalls…that actually have water. The image above is the very top of Nevada Falls and although it is not running with much water, it is still a fabulous waterfall. (see below)

Here I am after hiking down from the top with Nevada Falls in the background. Isn’t it an awesome sight? It is hard to describe the sound of a big waterfall, especially this one back in the corner of the valley. The sound cracks and echoes all around you. About this time in the hike, I am getting tired and the downhill climb is harder than climbing up.

Here is a portion of the trail that is a little easier and the views are phenomenal. I love the sky in this image. When I’m hiking, I always watch the sky for signs of storms but this day it was perfect with partial cloud cover a lot of the time. Breezes would cool us off as we hiked. Autumn really is a terrific time to hike at Yosemite.

This is also about the point where we observed a mama Black Bear and her cub…off in the distance but we still became hyper-aware of our surroundings. There were several other hikers, some in front and some in back of us, so we alerted them to our sighting and shared bear stories before we all spread out again.

I was in the mood for looking for fall colors. The maples and oaks were starting to turn color and I found this large leaf along the trail. My husband thinks I’m nuts sometime but he cooperated and took my picture so I could share it with you. This is a good place to point out that hiking in Yosemite is a bit of a rock scramble at times (that is the trail behind me). These are not smooth, easy trails that you can hike along without paying attention. You are always looking down for your next step…not many flat trails here. This is why I started using a walking stick…it makes my hiking so much more pleasurable.

I was so inspired by the Bigleaf maples that back at the campsite I created a nature journal page with some of the information I found interesting. My leaf sketch was a bit of a fail..I think I was hung up on trying to get it to fit in the box I had created on the page and so it looks sort of squished. Oh well, you get the idea of a maple leaf.

The last day of our trip we took the long way home and drove out Tioga Pass, along Hwy 395, and then across on Hwy 89 and 88 to get home. This took us through the high country where the aspens were ablaze with color. We stopped several times to enjoy the views. Now this is what autumn should look like!

It was a fun trip and I am looking forward to the winter season and visiting Yosemite National Park to really see the full circle in this amazing place. We are aiming to hike in the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees whether there is snow or not. Not sure where we will stay yet…hoping that the government closure is over by then.

You can read about our seasonal visits to Yosemite in these entries:
Yosemite in Spring – Waterfalls and Biking
Summer Trip to Yosemite – Hikes, Wildflowers, Rocks, and More

This post is part of my Nature Study Goals for 2013 – to visit Yosemite National Park in each season.

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Summer Trip to Yosemite – Hiking, Wildflowers, Rocks, and More

Yosemite National Park in the summertime is an outdoor adventureland. There is so much to do! This trip was very different from our usual summer trips because it ended up only being my husband and I that were able to go. It is a far different experience to have just the two of us as opposed to having all six of us hiking around the Sierra. Both of us love this place so spending time together here is a pleasure and a delight.

There was a large wildfire further south from Yosemite but the smoke laid thick all three days of our trip. It was worse in the mornings but afternoon breezes swept some of it away. Yosemite Falls was dry! The park rangers were calling it “Yosemite Wall” instead. I am so glad that we had visited last May and enjoyed the cooling mists of the waterfalls then and for this trip it changed the focus from the valley to the surrounding areas of Tioga Road and Glacier Point.

We came into the park from the Tioga Pass side (east) and stopped just inside the gates to hike up to Gaylor Lake. This new to us hike (part of my nature study goals for 2013) was at a high elevation which always adds an element of breathlessness as you climb the trail. This is the view back down the trail…we listened to thunder and watched the clouds closely to make sure we would not be caught in a thunderstorm.

The landscape was green and there were quite a few wildflowers to enjoy from my resting spot along the trail. There were few other hikers on the trail which makes it seem as if you own the place as you hike along. We did see a man hiking back from the lake with a sack full of fish he had caught.

The trail crests and you look down over a beautiful basin where Gaylor Lakes have formed. I was still a little nervous about the thunderstorm but it seemed to be moving off in another direction.

Here at the top of the trail the trees are growing slanted and I can imagine how the wind must howl over the top of the mountain in the winter.

This is the Middle Gaylor Lake and on this day we didn’t go any farther. We sat for a long time enjoying the view before heading back to the car and on down Tioga Road.

We stopped along the way and took a quick hike over to Lukens Lake to see if there were any wildflowers but the conditions are much like you would find in mid-September and there were no wildflowers at all. It was still a nice hike and we did see lots of Bluet dragonflies along the edge of the lake.

The next day we decided to hike up at Glacier Point, taking the Panorama Trail as far as Illilouette Falls and then back. What were we thinking? We have done this hike before and it is a killer! The sign at the trailhead says two miles one way but both of us registered 3.5 miles on our Fitbits. That wouldn’t be bad but it is a steep, steep hike back up that 3.5 miles and in the hot sun exposed for most of the way. Guess what? It was worth the effort!

Along the trail we saw this wasp nest in a decaying tree. The insects were flying in and out but I got just close enough to take a good photo.

Here is a view of the whole tree and nest. The nest is quite beautiful and amazing to see…we were wondering how long it took to build this work of art.

Here is my victory shot after making it to the top of Illilouette Falls. The bridge behind me is just back from where the falls spill over the edge and down a 340 foot drop. We stayed on the upside of the falls for a long time just enjoying the beauty with our eyes and ears.

I sat on the top of a rock where the water was running down and swirling into the pool below. I was a little sad that my kids weren’t there this time to jump in or dangle bare feet in the cold water. My boys have even slid down the rocks here like a big slide into a deep pool where there are fish swimming in the crystal clear water. Great memories.

That evening we walked through the meadows in Yosemite Valley which is my favorite time of day to view the granite walls. The golden sunlight makes them come alive and the cooling air is filled with the sounds of the twilight creatures like crickets. Later that night we sat and watched the bats dart overhead. There is just so much to take in…

Here is another sunset visitor to Cook’s Meadow.

Early in the morning the smoke was filtering the sunlight and obscuring an otherwise glorious view of Half Dome from Tunnel View Turn Out.

Our last day we rented bikes from Curry Village and took off to explore the bike trails. The path is nearly flat or at least a gentle up and down so going is easy. This is such a wonderful way to explore Yosemite Valley away from the crowds and hustle of the popular areas. We had a nice pedal around the whole loop which includes several bridges over the Merced River where you can stop to take a break.

I of course stop to take a few photos of wildflowers. The goldenrod was so brilliantly yellow pretty.

This was something new to me…yet to be identified so if you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated.

So there ends another glorious trip to Yosemite, the second in my goal to visit every season. We have a camping trip planned for late September and I am already looking forward to that time in a season of changes.

These topics I will be adding to my nature journal and hopefully sharing here on the blog as part of my nature study goals:
1. Mountain chickadee
2. Rhyolite
3. Obsidian
4. Chinquapin (shrub)
5. Unidentified shrub with berries the squirrels were eating

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Winnemucca Lake Hike – Alpine Lake and Widflowers

In our continuing quest to fulfill my nature study goals for 2013, we took another new hike close to home. This particular hike has been on my list of things to do for a few years. My sister called me one day all excited about Winnemucca Lake and the number of wildflowers to be seen along the trail. I just have never been able to fit it in during July but my husband and I found ourselves without anything to do one day and so we hopped in the car and within an hour were standing at the trailhead. (Woods, Round Top, and Winnemucca Lakes Trail)

The first part of the trail winds along Woods Creek, in and out of the sunshine through the tall conifers. The trail is easy going and we enjoyed listening to the birds and glimpsing the creek but don’t stop too long to admire the flowers or the mosquitoes get you.

After a mile or so, the terrain opens up and we were delighted to see the hills covered in wildflowers.

We met two fellow hikers that were on a wildflower quest and they had a wildflower guide to identify the many, many flowers that were visible from the trail. I knew quite a few of them but there were some new ones.

So many colors painted the landscape…it wasn’t too hot and the breezes were delightful which was a relief from the 100 degree weather back at our house.

This was one of my favorite flowers from the day, Meadow Penstemon. I love finding “new to me” flowers along a trail. I thought it was a variety of penstemon but the color was so much more purple than I had seen before. I looked it up in my field guide when I got home and it was indeed a penstemon.

I have only seen this flower in Yosemite National Park so it was a delight to see it along this trail. We knew it as Mountain Lungwort but it is also called Mountain Bluebell. Pretty!

The trail climbs up big granite slabs and eventually you reach the lake. This is a panorama view of the terrain and wildflowers once you arrive. There were quite a few people up at the lake enjoying the view, fishing, and swimming too.

We sat on a big rock and ate our lunch, watching the clouds blow in and we wondered if there would be some thunderstorms later in the afternoon. This was the view behind where we were sitting…yes, there were that many flowers in bloom!

For some reason I didn’t take a very good photo of the lake but this one you can see the small waterfall and the snow still left around the edges. There was a big patch near the trail and there were people throwing snowballs at each other. It actually was quite warm up at the lake so I doubt the snow will be around much longer.

Hiking back down we took a side trail to see the water cascading down the rocks…just the sound of the water made it so peaceful.

This is the view as you hike down the trail towards the trailhead. The climb is gradual but you do hike up in elevation which at around 9,000 feet. Your body tells you to slow down and we just took it easy since we aren’t used to that altitude. I didn’t hurry anyway because I was stopping to take photos quite a bit.

What a great hike and a great day! It is on our list of July hikes from now on because it was truly enjoyable.

So that completes new hike #3 for us….working on those nature study goals has really encouraged us this year.

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Yosemite in Spring- Waterfalls and Biking

 Nature Study Goal – Visit Yosemite in all four seasons.

Our spring trip to Yosemite National Park happened this past weekend…under brilliant blue skies and with warm spring breezes. Our original plans were for my husband and I along with the two younger boys to make the trip. When it came down to it, my nineteen year old and I were the only ones who were able to go. Fire season came early this year so my husband had to work a fire in Southern California. See? I always make plans but then remain flexible.

We were up and out of the house early and hit the road for the four hour drive to Yosemite. The time went by fast and I have to say it is super nice to have children that can drive me places while I enjoy the scenery flash by the window. After an uneventful trip there, we parked at Curry Village and took the shuttle to the trailhead at Happy Isles.

 The trail to the bridge below Vernal Falls is mostly paved and sections are rather steep. The biggest obstacle are all the people! This is a popular day hike and on this particular Saturday….lots and lots people from all over the world. My son commented on how many different languages he heard as we hiked…Yosemite is a world-class destination for sure.

The one thing I really like about this hike is that you can hear and see the river as you hike. This makes it appear cooler and it reminds you that there will be a spectacular view just around every corner. I am always amazed at the power of water.

Here is what the lower trail looks like as you go from Happy Isles up to the bridge below Vernal Falls. Granite boulders and slabs surround you and the river runs along one side.

From the bridge up the trail to the falls the trail turns into slippery wet granite steps. You can tell how steep they are by observing how much the hikers are leaning over as they climb.This part is called the Mist Trail because you get the spray from the waterfall drenching you with water. I didn’t capture it this time but you can see whole rainbows in the misty air coming off the waterfall as you look over and back. Amazing!

Want to see how wet you get? Here is a video: Mist Trail at Yosemite National Park

At last! I am up at the top of Vernal Falls after a last heroic effort of encouragement from my son. He was such a great hiking partner and really cheered me on when I thought I had gone as far as I could up the HUGE granite steps and then inching my way up the last ledge with just a hand railing to keep me from falling off the cliff. See my smile? I was happy to up there and it was so very much worth the effort for this 50+ year old woman to be there. It helps that I have lost 40 pounds in the last three months…not so much weight to haul up the trail.

Here is the video from the top: Vernal Falls.
We had lunch and then hiked further up the trail to the bridge below Nevada Falls which was beautiful this time of year. We took our time going back down the trail and called it a day. Our tent cabin at Curry Village was super clean and comfortable. I think I slept better that night than I have in the last six months. I highly recommend the tent cabins at Curry Village for a camping experience without the fuss of taking your own equipment.
Milkweed with Half Dome in the distance
Our second day was spent biking around Yosemite Valley on the bike trails. This is my favorite way to take in the sights and we made the grand loop from Curry Village to Yosemite Village and then around the Swinging Bridge back to the Lodge and then on back to Curry Village where we had our car parked. There are 12 miles of biking trails around Yosemite Valley and you can rent bikes from Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge.

My son took a panoramic photo of the valley floor with Half Dome in the background and me on my bike. Awesome morning ride and we can hardly wait to go back and do it again this summer.

We are always sad to leave but we made some great memories and I feel great for having accomplished the hike to the top of Vernal Falls.

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Waterfall Hike – Early Spring at Eagle Lake

Grabbing the opportunity to take a day hike up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, my husband and I decided to visit Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. The trailhead is about an hour from our home and we couldn’t resist the time out in the sunshine and fresh air.

Hopefully this is the first of many day hikes for the spring and summer seasons.

Eagle Falls Hike

It is an easy hike to the falls and the water was gushing over the rocks…love the sound of water when I am hiking since it makes me feel cool just hearing it. We crossed the bridge and continued up the mountain. If you look carefully in the top left of the photo you can see the rock staircase leading up to the trail.

The lake is about a mile past the waterfall. The trail is uneven from here on up to the lake and is characterized by large granite steps and slabs as you work your way up. The literature all says this is an “easy” hike but I would say it has sections that are ‘strenuous”. This is all uphill hike to the lake and then all downhill on the way back. There are sections of this trail that are rather muddy from where the streams cross the path.

view of Lake Tahoe from Eagle Lake Trail

The altitude got me on this hike and I found myself a little out of breath from time to time but that gave me an excuse to look around at the scenery and the view of Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Eagle Lake May 2013

We finally made it to Eagle Lake which is a pretty little alpine lake surrounded by mountains and trees. We sat for a long time just enjoying the views and eating a snack before heading back down to the car. I forgot to bring my hat so I was a little red from the sun…and gained about a million freckles.

Eagle Lake El Dorado County

One last view of the lake before we left…perfect hike on a perfectly spring-like day. The water shimmered like diamonds!

Arrowleaf Balsamroot El Dorado County

This is Arrowleaf Balsamroot that was in full bloom along the trail and the roads. What a happy flower!

Well, that is a glimpse into our day hike from last week. I hope you get the chance soon to get out into the spring sunshine with your family. Look for an entry this week from our Yosemite National Park visit which included a hike to the top of Vernal Falls and a day biking the valley.

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Watercolor Clouds Nature Journal – Cure for the Winter Blahs

We had plenty of opportunities to observe clouds in the past few days. It has been really cloudy and wet…only a few breaks in the weather where we were able to get outside and breathe some air. I tried to enjoy the rain but it really did just bum me out. I was really glad that this week’s challenge was to pull out some art supplies and make a watercolor entry for the weather in my nature journal.

I collected some water for my watercolor project from the rain gauge. Now that I had my supplies ready I was anxious about actually watercoloring in my journal so I decided to make the painting on a separate sheet of paper and then add the painting to my journal with tape.

I played with my gray watercolor pencil before starting the actual artwork, experimenting with different methods of applying the color to the paper. You should try this if you have a few minutes just to see how different the effects are on your artwork.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, here are the options I used.

  • Left box: Use the pencil to draw the square, then apply water with a brush.
  • Middle box: Dip the tip of the watercolor pencil in water, draw the square.
  • Right box: Use a wet brush on the pencil tip, apply to paper.

All of these squares are made with the same pencil….very different results.

Creating a journal page always cheers me up! Between the journal page and taking advantage of the breaks in the rain to get outside, I was starting to feel not so blah.

One morning we woke to actual sunshine and we decided to take a hike to see our neighborhood waterfall. Kona loves this trail since we can let her off leash. She runs ahead and finds something interesting to sniff, following the scent until she detects another trail to follow. She definitely enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and stretch her legs alongside us on the trail.

We were rewarded for our hiking efforts with the rushing sound of water coming down the hill and over the rocks. We took a few minutes to just enjoy the moment and then we all headed back up the hill, just in time for the rains to return. I realized that without the rain we would have had no waterfall to hike to…..sometimes we need to be reminded of the benefits of all that wet weather.

This will wind down our weather study for the month. Just for fun, I will be keeping our rainfall records as we move through January. We might get a dusting of snow later this week which would be the perfect way to wind up the month.