Category Archives: Adventures


Preschool at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

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What an extraordinary day we had exploring Russian Ridge! One of our member families lives up near the ridge and suggested a wheeled toy outing. So all the kids brought their scooters/trikes/bikes/push cars and we circled the lake.

The sun was out and the sky was absolutely beautiful–you feel like you’re right up in it, on the spine of the ridge. Quite cold, though–all the kids were wearing boots and multiple layers of shirts, sweaters, and wind shells. After visiting the grinding rocks where Ohlone women gathered to process their acorns into flour, we decided to head upward toward the sun.

The path around the lake is perfect for bikes and trikes, wide and relatively flat. The trail back up to the parking area from the grinding rocks was a little more eroded, but the kids did just fine. We crossed the road back to the lot and the kids decided to explore up the hill. After they all decided to roll down the hill, there was some quick tick-checking, and then a couple of us decided to explore further up the ridge.

The ridge trail was great for preschool age. Might have been a little steep and long for toddler, but the lake trail seemed to work great for the younger ones.


More Adventures at the Hollow Log

Spring is beginning to unfold in the woods, and the first blossoms are emerging on bare branches, one of my biggest weaknesses. The pears everywhere are going crazy, and the woods are not immune. I originally drafted this post a week or so ago on my phone, then forgot about it, but these pictures were fun so had to share. Right now it is sloppy wet outside from all the rain.20120228-165451.jpg
We’ve been trying to get out to play at the Hollow Log a couple of times a week. My Striiv
usually clocks our walks at about 5-6,000 steps, depending on the tangents we take.

The clover is emerging everywhere, drawing out the deer.


I can never resist the little fresh bright green ones. It was cool to eat them in fifth grade science camp, and it’s still cool. Helen says they taste like “red” and that’s about the nearest description I’ve heard. It reminds me of the red hibiscus cooler at the taqueria.

Anyway, the deer love it, too, so we found lots of tracks like these.

I finally remembered to bring the iPhone camera lenses given to me for Christmas, so I played with the fisheye and telephoto lenses a bit. I also have a macro lens, so I took some closeups.

Here’s another of the roots of the Hollow log with the fish eye:

We even caught a banana slug napping.


We were having so much fun, we hardly realized what a workout we were getting. The Striiv has a limitless game where you build things on your little fantasy island with energy points you get by walking and completing challenges. Helen loves to help me collect coins from my island, and I frequently do stair challenges on the long flight between the Hollow Log and the restrooms next to the Old Swimming Hole. Helen is always urging me to do challenges so that she can press the button to make the plants grow on my island.

All the way back on our walk, she kept checking on our challenge to see how we were doing!

Winter Weed Nature Study

I can’t wait until Helen’s old enough to start a nature study journal–this Handbook of Nature Study entry reminded me of the encounter we had with the little milkmaid by the side of the road the other day. The process of drawing a plant is really the best way to remember it, and to capture a memory of a moment in time in the life of a child at the same time. What unique keepsakes these journals must be!

Finally, some real rain!


The skies cleared a little this morning, so we decided to venture out and see what the rain brought up. Surprisingly, we didn’t see that many Banana slugs. Less than ten on our entire walk. We did see these little guys, though. I’m gradually learning to remember the names of the local native wildflowers with practice, but I didn’t think to bring my backpack with my Redwood Flower Finder for such a short walk. I’m pretty sure these are little Milkmaids (Cardamine californica).

It’s so easy to take such lovely little things for granted, not to even bother learning their names if they’re not immediately useful in our own home gardens.


Or even to think of them as weeds! But now that I’ve been out here in the woods for a few years, the very brief bloom at just that certain time of the year–part of the beauty is in the anticipation of their arrival, and the sadness when they die. My favorites are the trillium blossoms, which I’m hoping to see soon. I look forward to them the way I used to look forward to the crocus when I lived back east.

Milkmaids don’t have the sex appeal of a huge display of hothouse hybrid tulips in the store, but our local wildflowers call our attention to the passing of the seasons even more acutely if we take the time to pay attention. Somehow spring’s lesson of death and rebirth doesn’t have the same immediacy when you can get any color tulip you want at just about any time of year. On the other hand, there is no nursery or grocery store that can sell you a little Milkmaid sprouting up opportunistically along the road.


We’ve been measuring other things besides the passage of time. This enormous earthworm, for one. We didn’t have a tape, so we measured using our hands. Huge!

Helen decided to climb to the top of the Hollow Log to see what she could see, and found some very extremely tiny things, like this little mushroom and the little fernlets around it. No bigger than the tip of her finger!

Then we saw some very extremely large rain-looking clouds approaching, so we decided to head back and make some hot tea!

Hunting for sea monsters!

It might be a terrible winter for the ski resorts, but the gorgeous weather meant it was a perfect day to play at the beach!

I signed up to host our Preschool in the Woods play group at the beach this week. After our opening song, I read a book called Stone Girl Bone Girl,
about a little girl named Mary Anning, who discovered a “sea monster” fossil in Lyme Regis in the early 1800’s, when she was only 12. It turned out to be the first Ichthyosaur fossil, and she went on to discover many more. I never had the dinosaur bug as a kid, but Miss H sure has it. It is unbelievable how difficult it is to find girly dinosaur stuff!

As soon as the story was over, the kids charged off to find some sea monsters in the dunes. They did not discover any new fossils, but they did find this:

So it was a little while before we were ready to come home!

Hike in the woods

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After Labor Day, the local parks are practically deserted–a few diehard campers and some rangers, and us! We had a blast running around the park, enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. The campsites are really well-groomed, so there is a lot of room to run off some steam.


This picnic bench had the loveliest tree arching over it. But no rest for the wicked, we had trees to climb!20111107-104818.jpg

Here’s the path to our favorite hollow log, where we occasionally have meetings of our preschool group. I felt like I was walking through an inspirational calendar.20111107-104842.jpg

Quick detour to climb a smaller log…20111107-104907.jpg

Almost there!


Here’s where the other end lets out.


And here’s what you see when you look up.20111107-104951.jpg

The log has been carved by decades of campers, so we had to spend some time reading the letters and messages. They’re fun to trace with fingers, many of them are quite deep.20111107-105133.jpg


Balancing and practicing some dance moves on a campsite barrier.20111107-105238.jpg

So much space to run around! No one to be disturbed, except the birds.20111107-105307.jpg

These amazing roots are one end of the Hollow Log. They’re way better than monkey bars.20111107-105331.jpg

How shall we climb next?20111107-105431.jpg

The blow hole at the top, where small skinny persons can shimmy through to the hollow interior of the log. Not certain mommies who are too fond of their own kitchen experiments, though.


View from the penthouse.20111107-105619.jpg

Snack time! Homemade yogurt and Maple Almond Granola, one of my new favorite recipes from the Earthbound Farms cookbook, Food to Live By.

We were still having fun, so we decided to do a little more exploring after lunch. We followed the trail down to the Old Swimming Hole.


Must. Keep. Up.20111107-105817.jpg

Another inspirational fall scene…20111107-105857.jpg

On summer weekends this area is packed with campers playing in the creek.20111107-152107.jpg

I passed this draw and couldn’t help but take a picture, thinking about the massive volumes of water that will be shooting through here in another month or two. It’s hard to see the erosion lines with the leaf cover, but this chute has been carved by water from the top down. 


Now this looked like a lot more sliding fun than the last chute. 20111107-152144.jpg

A very cool mushroom. We had no idea what it was, but we examined the gills, touched the soft tops, and talked a little about why mushrooms like to live in logs and how they make baby mushrooms.20111107-152157.jpg

Aha! Two banana slugs. We didn’t see a whole lot of others, compared to some days, but these two were having a picnic just like us!20111107-152214.jpg

Here’s another fallen tree we passed, the crater it tore in the ground was pretty massive–you can see the broken bits of root sticking up out of it to the left.20111107-152228.jpg

These trees are very cool, from the ground they look like the five fingers of a hand, leaning out over the creek.20111107-152248.jpg

Dance break!20111107-152314.jpg

A fun place to hide.20111107-152357.jpg

Finally, we made it to the largest tree! 20111107-152445.jpg

Hugging Grandmother Tree.20111107-152500.jpg

Another calendar-worthy view on the way home.20111107-152428.jpg