Looking for something cool to do with older kids?

Or find yourself a babysitter and make it a date day. However you do it, you're invited to take part in the City Nature Challenge!

Sixteen cities across the country are vying to prove that their area has the most nature and the most nature-loving residents. This is a competition that I wholeheartedly believe in. (the competition that happens at our dining table on who can put the most mac 'n cheese their mouth, not so much)

It's happening April 14-18, 2017. What you need to do is share your findings of plants and animals in any of the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties by uploading photos using the free iNaturalist app. Take photos of nature while out on a hike, while on your walk to lunch, or even in your own backyard! Easy!

Participation is easy:

  1. Download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device.
  2. Between April 14-18, take photos to make “observations” of wild plants and animals in your backyard, while hiking in a park, along your walk to school or work—anywhere you find nature.
  3. Upload your photos to iNaturalist.
  4. Learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations.

Interested in taking part in the City Nature Challenge but not sure where to start?

Join the California Academy of Sciences in a morning “bioblitz” of Ring Mountain in Marin on Saturday, April 15, starting at 9 am. Learn how to use iNaturalist, how to carefully search for plants and animals, and how to turn your findings into observations to help the San Francisco Bay Area win the City Nature Challenge! More information and registration found here.

Sooo... jump in, share this info with friends/teachers/classmates, and go have some fun April 14-18. Your kids will think you're super cool.

(photos courtesy of the California Academy of Sciences and
the amazing Alison Young and Rebecca Johnson)


About tomorrow (you don't need me)

Going on outings like a trip to Morgan Territory was easier back when our two kids were in preschool. Back then I was itchin' to make plans and get outside for long amounts of time. They didn't have lots of activities to schedule around. Plus the boys had more energy than I could handle when we were inside the house... take them outside and everyone is happy.

Now as elementary school-ers, they have activities they're involved in and it's harder to make the time to go meandering through beautiful green hills for hours on end. It's not really a good or bad thing. It just is.

As much as I want to, my family can't go to Morgan Territory tomorrow. The baseball game schedule was announced late this week and there are games that we need to be at on Sunday.


Maybe you will see other families at Morgan Territory tomorrow at 11am? Maybe you could self-organize? I'm all for it.

I've heard from a lot of people that you go the day before or the week after our outings. That's great! Yes!

Here are some tips for where to go:

  • There's a great, short loop going counter-clockwise on Volvon Trail to Condor Trail. You start from the parking lot and walk towards a cattle gate on the other side of the picnic area. After going through the gate, turn right up the hill. Follow trail signs from there.
  • For a slightly longer walk, go on a counter-clockwise loop on Volvon Trail to Blue Oak Trail to Hummingbird Trail to Volvon Trail to Condor Trail. 
  • Bring water, food, and sun protection. 
  • Give yourself and your kids permission to run and climb rocks and explore trees. 
  • There might still be some mud, so bring extra shoes to wear afterwards. 

From I-580 in Livermore, exit onto N. Livermore Ave. and turn north. Shortly after N. Livermore curves left (west), turn right onto Morgan Territory Road and follow it for about 5.5 miles to the staging area. This is one of my favorite drives in the Bay Area.

Note that Morgan Territory Road is closed between Marsh Creek Road and the park's trailhead. So don't attempt getting there from the north and places like Clayton. You have to go in from the south which is Livermore (the directions above).


Going to Morgan Territory, Sunday, March 19

Did you go outside this weekend? I certainly hope so. It couldn't be more beautiful out there.

We gotta go outside. So... join us to explore the green hills of Morgan Territory on Sunday, March 19. We'll meet at the parking lot at 11am. We'll do a 4 mile loop. There's a 1 mile loop for those with little legs or not a lot of time. Bring lunch, water, some curiosity, and your friends. The park is big and the more the merrier. I'll have a map that kids can read, and I'll leave some on the dash of our silver Prius should you come after 11.

This is one of my favorite places to go in the spring. Like right now.

Curious about this place called Morgan Territory? We've been there a few times before with this thing called Outside Kids. Check it out.

Driving directions are:
From I-580 in Livermore, exit onto N. Livermore Ave. and turn north. Shortly after N. Livermore curves left (west), turn right onto Morgan Territory Road and follow it for about 5.5 miles to the staging area. This is one of my favorite Bay Area drives, by the way.


Outdoorsy things to do over Winter Break

The days are short (short!) and the air is cold, but that is no excuse to stay inside. There's so much to do outside at this time of year. And it's good for us to move and breathe fresh air. Not sure what to do, though? I have ideas.

1) Look for ladybugs. Millions of them. They over-winter along Stream Trail in Redwood Regional Park. I cannot confirm that they're already there, but I recommend that you go and let me know. More information and directions here.

2) Go to the beach. When the inland valleys - like Walnut Creek and Santa Rosa - are cold in the winter, the temps at the beach can be quite warm. It's a great time of year to walk Tennessee Valley or explore Limantour Beach or find your spot south of Half Moon Bay

3) Walk up a creek. Because at this time of year, there's actually water in the creeks! We did this 3 mile loop on the north side of Mount Diablo recently. Sunol Regional Wilderness is probably stunning right now. Or go explore your local creek. The Bay Area has so many creeks feeding the bay, even some that haven't been covered in concrete. 

What ideas and plans do you have? Share them on our Facebook page.

Happy Winter!


If you can get yourself to the shoreline...

On December 13-14, 2016 there will be extremely high and low tides known as King Tides. The high tides show us what sea level rise looks like in real time. The low tides show us a whole world usually hidden by water. The low tides are quiet and stunning. They are an absence that open minds and ears and eyes.

Somewhere between 60-70 people converged on the beach at Point Pinole on Sunday, December 11 to explore. The talented Alison Young from California Academy of Sciences demonstrated the coolness of iNaturalist and answered a billion questions about the animals we found out there in the mud. Her timelapse camera captured this:

(Click here if you can't see the video)

My big thanks to Alison for coming out and all that she does to connect people to the wonders of nature.

If you can get yourself to the shoreline over the next few days, particularly in the late afternoon before sunset, I recommend it. It's peaceful in a really important way.