Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So we took a long camping trip to see California mammals and also--back off uncharismatic microfauna antidefamation league!--bacteria. We were armed with a Game Spy Camera, a rodent trap, a guide to California mammals and, true story, A Field Guide to Bacteria.

The mammal our game camera caught most often was ourselves. Here is Clementine getting ready for a predawn mammal walk. We got up close and personal with some viruses, so a few kids who really wanted to go on this walk had to remain huddled in the tent. The few, the intrepid, those of us without fevers, did spot tracks by Smith river, but my camera battery had died. We couldn't be sure, but we hold out the possibility that they were otter tracks.
We were also all for seeing interesting plants.  Our campsite, surrounded by old growth redwoods, was the best one of the trip.  A really great thing about redwoods is that they don't hide from you.

Evelyn, looking over the brochure for Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park, remarked that the conditions were perfect for the California pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica, California's only native carnivorous plant. She set off to ask the rangers if there were Darlingtonias in the park.

She came back beaming.

A short drive and a very short path brought us to this:

We soon wished that the Darlingtonias were not such passive carnivores as a whole swarm of insects began practicing carnivory on us.  Mosquitoes.

We high-tailed it, pausing only to give this coyote hole left by the miner 49'ers a glance.
We hopped back in our vans headed for Oregon Caves, home to stromatolites, formations created by cyanobacteria.  These bacteria, also known as blue-green algae, once covered large parts of the earth in mats. 

At the visitor center I asked the woman at the desk if we'd hear about stromatolites on the tour.  "Oh yes," she said, "They'll tell you all about them.  The uppy thingies and the downy thingies.  I can never remember what they are called.  We've got 'em all."

The kids got no end of amusement out of this, but I think she was trying to spare my feelings as I'd clearly got the name wrong.

As it turned out, there were, indeed, plenty of stalactites and stalagmites, but no stromatolites on the tour.  They are in parts of the cave not accessible to the public.

But, we did get to see the endearing moon milk formation below which is believed to be caused by the bacteria Macromonus bipunctata

And guess what swooped right over our heads.
A Townsend's Big-eared Bat.
The kids enjoyed themselves thoroughly on the tour and I thought they were really well behaved, but when the ranger swore them in for their Junior Ranger badges he appended "I will always obey my mother" to the oath.
After two hours winding through a half mile tunnel we came out to this:

The next day we were cruising down the I-5 headed for Lassen Volcanic Park when I spotted a coyote loping along a hill.  I called to the kids to look, but they missed it.  Then, on the next rise, there was another coyote, in the same place on the hill running the same direction.  Everyone saw it. 

I've been blogging about this trip for much, much longer than the trip actually took.  One day I hope to catch up with real time, but there is still more to tell.

If I don't get it down I'll forget it ever happened.

In a related note...I hadn't posted in two weeks but my stats showed a big jump in visits.  I investigated and it turns out some kind soul nominated my blog for an award!  Whoever it was, thank you.  It is always nice to have your little corner of the blogosphere get noticed.

It turns out I was nominated for Best Super Homeschooler.  I'm a little sheepish about that because I don't feel all that super.  Before I started blogging I thought we did nothing at all.  We have done some big trips lately, but we've also had amazing experiences just walking around our block and in our backyard, paying attention to the little things.

If the spirit moves you, you can vote here, before Friday.


Kat said...

Ahh put on the cape with pride! You are a super homeschooler. :)

Susan said...

Kat, ok, I've got my cape on now. :) But I'm going to insist that all you homeschooling parents who read this blog put on your capes, too. I have chosen to make this blog a record of the fun we have had and the things that have worked. There are lots of challenges and moments I am not proud of, too, but they are not the subject of this blog.

A couple weeks ago I went to a storytelling workshop with Jim Weiss. Someone at the workshop, new to homeschooling, said all her (nonhomeschooling) friends were telling her how hard it was going to be to homeschool. Jim Weiss, in a Jim Weiss moment, deftly tied this comment up with storytelling. He said something like this: A hero isn't someone who blunders in and succeeds unwittingly. A hero is someone who, knowing what lies ahead, knowing that it will be hard, does it anyway.

If I am a Super Homeschooler it is not because of the things you read about here, but because of the challenges that are not the subject of this blog.

patricia said...

Well, I think you're pretty super for being willing to track down almost 200 native mammals with your kids, and taking them on plenty of trips to make sure that happens! (Although I was relieved at the end of this post to see that this wasn't yet another trip up north, but the same one. I was beginning to feel like a not-so-super homebody.)

Evelyn looks darling beside the Darlingtonia.

Congratulations on the nomination! I'm off to vote. (But who do I fill in for my second and third choice? Just kidding--local joke.)

Susan said...

Tricia, thanks! I thought I'd better stay that I'm still milking that two week trip in September! If I'd known about these awards I'd have nominated you for Super Homeschooler...or maybe Homeschool Methods for your inspiring posts on taking dictation...or maybe Best Layout...or Best Encourager.

Susan said...

Oh, and I have a blog friend nominated for Best Variety. The Stone Age Techie. A great blog. Click on the link in my sidebar to her blog and on to the voting from there.

Karen said...

Congrats! I just voted for you, and put your blog into the list of faves on my blog :-)

You really are, as everyone here has mentioned, a super homeschooler - when I see the kind of things you do with your girls, it inspires me to no end. Thank you very much for blogging about your adventures.

BTW, when we were in Myrtle Beach this past spring, I was SO hoping we might see some Venus flytraps, which are native to the area, but no joy - so, I was excited to read about your pitcher plants today!

J.G. Wilder said...

I am your Number One Fan. (You are amazing.)

Kristin said...

I have no problem voting for your blog. Since the day I discovered it, I've enjoyed every post. Not only are you an inspiring homeschooling parent, but you're a great storyteller, a solid writer, and a freakin' witty one too!

Susan said...

Karen, thanks! So sorry you didn't get to see venus fly traps. They are in trouble--people poach them from the wild to sell. I hope the ones we have were cultivated. They are still alive and thriving a year after we bought them.

Jennifer, I thought I was your biggest fan!

Susan said...

Kristin, you made my day by calling me witty! Me, witty! I try very hard to be in my blog but it does not come naturally. I'm so tickled. Just don't expect me to be witty in person. It takes me two or three days to think of a joke.