unschooling

Del Norte camping

We headed over to the redwoods forest and the beach in Northern California.

The salt flats of Utah are on the first leg of the trip and we got out to see for a few minutes. It looks like snow but it is all salt and it is hot out there!

Our campsite was in the redwoods. It was cool and beautiful and so, so green. We even had banana slug and millipede visitors along with sweet singing birds. After 95-100 degree days in Utah, it was lovely to have mid 60s weather there.

The beach we love nearby was closed due to landslides on the trail so we had to adjust our plans. We headed to Crescent beach for some walking and shell collecting.

We really wanted to do some tidepooling so we found a few other possible places and tried one out the next day. The area the rangers were setting up was very slippery and hard to maneuver and we couldn’t find much of interest besides the most common shallow critters like anemones and crabs so we headed to the other side of the beach and we found sandy pools that Lilah could easily get around and so many fun things to see!

There were ochre sea stars in a rainbow of colors

and leather stars

and another kind I’d never seen before except at the aquarium which some research indicates may be a blood star.

There were crabs, both hermit and bigger.

There were barnacles and limpets and mussels and anemones and snails.

There were several types of fish.

There were nudibranchs! We found lots of one type with orange tips and one of another that was beige, flat backed with dark brown polka dots.

There were baby sea stars!

And best of all, we even spotted a small live jellyfish flowing in the currents

and an otter!

I spotted the otter in the ocean looking at us and then as I yelled, “It’s an otter! Loooook!” it swam up toward the beach near us and then galumphed up, rested, then galumphed more into a pond up at the top of the beach where Gavin spotted it! We think it was a river otter.

Here’s the “I just saw an otter!” face on Lilah:

And here she is, looking at fresh otter prints.

We hiked to Hidden Beach, a beautiful walk with wildflowers, ferns, views of the ocean below, a few seals sunning themselves far out on the rocks.

The kids built forts, with Chris’ help.

We spotted more amazing animals during low tide there too. Here’s a limpet that had come off it’s rock.

A couple of things I’m still working on figuring out what they are:

these orangey red blobs, which were further down in the tidal zone, which look like they may be red ascidians (commonly called sea pork) which the nudibranchs above particularly like to eat

and this, which may be a tunicate, but I’m not certain.

We also did quite a bit of hands-on (feet on) research about which seaweed types are slippery, or good for gripping while maneuvering through wet rocks in the tide pools.

In between our beach fun, we played Hero Realms, Yahtzee and Dragon Farkle, roasted marshmallows, explored the campground and while driving we listened to The Land by Mildred Taylor, a book about race relations and a young man with a white father and a black mother finding his way in America right after slavery ended, some short stories and The Land: Founding by Aleron Kong, which is a role playing game themed series with some crude humor that I’d prefer was left out but otherwise is quite entertaining.

 

It was a wonder full week.

 

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art, books, unschooling

a trip to Joshua Tree & San Diego

We left Utah for a week and visited Joshua Tree National Park, a barely visited place for Chris and I; a new place to the kids.

There was climbing

exploring

photographing.

Lilah took this one:

Gavin took this one:

There was lizard spotting, oasis hiking. The palm trees in the far right of the picture are at the 49 Palms Oasis, at the end of our hike.

The frogs were singing when we arrived at the oasis and there were birds settling in the for the night. We hiked back in the twilight and at the end, the moonlight.

We stopped at a free air art gallery of Noah Purifoy’s work near Joshua Tree, preserved since the artist’s death, to look at a huge variety of art made with things used and thrown away. Toilets, metal trays and tires were some of the most used objects in his creations.

 

Between Joshua Tree Park and San Diego we stopped through the Anza Borrego desert preserve to see wildflowers in bloom. We were a bit early for the full effect but it was still amazing.

In San Diego we visited tide pools nearby

and the beach.

We made forts out of driftwood

and watched sandpipers and cormorants

and played in the water

 

and collected shells.

While tidepooling we spotted lots of snails of various kinds

and hermit crabs and bigger crabs, and fish, tiny and medium, one itty bitty sea star, lots of sea grass and kelp, tops, a few cowrys, a shrimp, mussels and barnacles, a huge keyhole limpet,

anemones,

lots of sea hares

and several nudibranchs of the Spanish Shawl variety plus one other I think was a Red Sponge nudibranch.

We saw a few seals swimming about offshore and then in La Jolla we visited their pupping beach and there were so many mom and baby pairs, swimming and sunning and enjoying life.

It was a lovely trip. We finished listening to Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan while driving.

When we got home were greeted by spring weather! The tree over our deck has burst into blooms and smells lovely and is bringing bees and butterflies to visit. There are so many┬ávisible buds and we’ve been eating outside every evening.

 

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unschooling

Salt Point, Gerstle Cove

We went back to California, to Salt Point State Park, this time, an area new to all four of us.

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We camped in a forested area a ten minute drive from the ocean, which was the main attraction. There was a tree right on top of where we put the tent and the kids were up up and away within minutes after the very long drive. They are up above our tent here, probably between 12 and 15 feet off the ground, the little monkeys.

We went to the visitors center and asked where to go look at tidepools which is one of our favorite activities. Following their directions the next day we were a bit disappointed, but the following day we struck out in the other direction and soon met a family of seals as well as a plethora of really fun tidepools. I’m left wondering why they would give information about the tidepools being best in an area they really weren’t unless they were trying to keep kids from clambering on rocks and maneuvering between waves which is part of the fun and necessary if you want to see what I call “the good stuff”. Anyway, we found them, the amazing tide pools.

We saw hundreds of urchins,

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a bat star,

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racoon prints in the sand,

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rocks that had had seaweed washed up and dried to them, then peeled off by the water or wind, revealing prints of the seaweed on the rocks in the algaed surfaces,

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lots of seals, swimming, sunning, looking at us, patrolling, fishing,

 

pools filled with tiny swimming orange creatures that Lilah first spotted, not sure if they were fish or shrimp or something else entirely,

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mussels, anemones and barnacles, limpets and snails of course,

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sea stars,

hermit crabs and dungeness crabs and small fish who rested in the shadows of small pools,

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It’s so much fun making discoveries in the pools, and then calling everyone over to share.

Between tidepooling, which is best done at low tide, we drove down the coast to find sandy beaches that the kids love to play in the water on. One day we stopped at a beach which is well known for it’s undertow so we learned about what makes a beach safer or less safe, especially how steep the slope is under the water and breakers area. Gavin thought it was pretty cool that it was one of the deadliest beaches in California. I was a bit less thrilled and watched the kids like a hawk. Another day we stopped at a much shallower beach which had sandy areas and pebbly areas to explore.

Back at the campsite the kids did the dishes, their idea, alternating who was washing and drying and who was rinsing. They enjoyed it and Chris and I enjoyed supporting their interest in helping and having time to get other things done.

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On the drive there and back we alternated between listening to music and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. The kids are enjoying having ipods to listen to music that they choose, when they like. It’s fun to watch them enjoying picking out songs and bands they like and comparing notes with each other.

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