Hiking with The Canyoneers & THE NAT!

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I love exploring nature with the kids. My dad took us on hikes a lot when we were kids and it was a great way to learn more about nature and the history of San Diego.

When THE NAT emailed me this morning to share their free, guided nature hikes, I knew I had to share it with my readers!

Canyoneers are citizen scientists and volunteers who have had comprehensive training by Museum scientists and local experts on the natural history of the region. Check out the full schedule of hikes between now and June 2020, and hit the trails with the Canyoneers! Look for the Canyoneer sign at the designated parking area. We are always hoping to see wildlife. Please leave dogs at home and come enjoy nature.

The Canyoneers offer free, guided hikes on trails throughout San Diego County from September through June. The new season kicks off this Saturday, September 8 with an easy, 1-mile hike on the Kumeyaay Lake Trail at Mission Trails Regional Park, perfect for children, seniors, and birdwatchers. 

In total, the Canyoneers are offering 80 hikes. Most are offered on weekends—with a few midday hikes being offered on select dates—and cover diverse terrain, ranging from the coast to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and from the Tijuana Estuary to Palomar Mountain.

  • New hikes in Cleveland National Forest, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and several other locations including Gremlin Way Trailhead in Dictionary Hill Open Space Preserve. 
  • Once a month, the Canyoneers will lead a mid-week hike to locations that are often crowded on weekends due to limited access. Examples include Equestrian Trail in Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (November 13) and Luelf Pond Preserve in Ramona (May 12). 
  • The desert hikes that are scheduled on consecutive days allow for camping opportunities, reducing the amount of driving necessary to get to both hikes. The desert at night is a special treat. 
  • Some trails offer shorter hikes with little elevation change—good for younger hikers—and some very flat and paved hikes that are perfect for strollers and anyone with a disability. One example is the Batiquitos Lagoon Gabbiano Trailhead (September 14). 
  • If the weather cooperates, there’s a chance to see waterfalls on Cibbets Flat to Kitchen Creek Falls hike (February 9) and the Green Valley Falls Loop (June 28). Green Valley Falls is an amazing hike and has pools of water that are fun to play in!
  • Hikes in some of the most interesting geological areas in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, including Fish Creek/Split Mountain (January 4) and Canyon Sin Nombre (February 8)—perfect for slot canyon fans. 

And if you have kids, there is a special program for students and classes too!

“Kids are most inspired by nature when they get outside and experience it for themselves—seeing a Monarch butterfly or a coast live oak in person helps bring to life what they’re learning in the classroom,” said Judy Gradwohl, president and CEO of the San Diego Natural History Museum. 

The program is made possible with support from Subaru of America, who is generously supporting the Canyoneer hiking program for the fourth year in a row.

The Museum aims to serve approximately 550 students this year through the program. Space is limited on the hikes. For more information or to book a hike, visit sdnat.org/schoolnaturehikes or call 619.255.0349. 

If you are looking for books about hiking and exploring the many awesome trails and cool nature spots in San Diego County here are two books I completely recommend!

This is my personal favorite and has TON of kid and family-friendly hikes!

Making Plans for Spring Break? Visit the Nat!

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Microorganisms add red and yellow hues to Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

My kids love the Nat! The Natural History Museum in Balboa Park is a fun place for kids (and adults) to explore.  The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and science institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, today the Museum studies and works to preserve the incredible diversity of life in this amazing region we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park and is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. For more information, call 877.946.7797, or visit sdnat.org.

I am looking forward to taking the kids to check out the new photography exhibit: Photography Exhibitions Bring Nature to Life this Spring and Summer National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Landscapes, which opened on March 9, serves as a virtual tour of the world’s most stunning landscapes, from underwater vantages to the expansive countryside to dominating mountain peaks. The exhibition, inspired by the book “National Geographic Greatest Landscapes: Stunning Photographs That Inspire and Astonish,” illuminates the beauty of our planet through its exquisite collection of 50 images shot by some of the world’s finest photographers.

The kids love the 3-d movies at the Nat too! Did you know that Paid general admission to The Nat also includes access to the Subaru 3D Experience in the Charmaine & Maurice Kaplan Theater? The Theatre features the recently opened Flight of the Butterflies 3D showcasing the extraordinary migration of the monarch butterfly. National Parks Adventure 3D is also currently playing, and will be replaced by Conquest of the Skies 3D on July 1. The film invites visitors to travel through time to unravel the 320-million-year story of how flying animals first appeared and then evolved into the huge variety of aeronauts that fill our skies today—from nectar-drinking hummingbirds to armored airborne beetles to bats hunting in the dead of night. Ocean Oasis, a 2D, 40-minute film produced by the Museum, continues to screen daily. The theater schedule is available at sdnat.org/giantscreentheater. I love the theatre because it’s totally kid friendly, the seats are comfy, and the movies are always so well done, even my three- year old will sit mesmerized (and quiet). 

If your kiddos need to get their wiggles out and play, don’t forget to stop by The Backyard, a fun place for littles to play and parents to relax.

The Nat participates in the Free Tuesday in the Park program, which gives locals free access to museums in Balboa Park on Tuesdays. For the complete schedule of free museums, click here.

Get Out and Play at The Nat!

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Recently the kids and I got to preview the Natural History Museum’s latest interactive exhibit, The Backyard. Even though Henry is 7, he still had a great time playing and exploring. He loves the Nat, it has all the things he loves about nature (dinosaurs, animals, plants, and bugs).

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 7.21.55 PM.pngInspired by a quintessential San Diego backyard patio, The Backyard is packed with experiences that encourage curiosity about the natural world including, a shade tree, live animals, a potting bench, a giant ladybug, stepping stones, a pergola-covered reading nook, a garden bed for infant tummy time, an urban nature soundscape, and more.

The Backyard contains interactive activities and objects that instill a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world.

Exhibition highlights include:

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 7.22.05 PM.pngA garden bed (ages 0-2): Modeled after a self-contained garden area, this enclosed, soft space is separated from areas designed for older toddlers and preschoolers. It is an ideal area for infants to work on tummy time, rolling over, and sitting up. Within this space, older infants have an area to practice crawling, walking, and grasping different textures.

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Dinos enjoy The Backyard too!

An old oak tree (ages 2-5): Children will embody imaginative, dramatic, and realistic play as they dress like familiar backyard animals, crawl on a giant ladybug, and gallivant around an old oak tree. Self-directed play can take many forms as kids build block structures, color mix on the light table, and uncover hidden sounds and live animals in the garden wall.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 7.22.11 PM.pngA potting shed (ages 2-5): Adults can relax and recharge on plush bench seating with free WiFi and a charging station while kids exercise fine motor skills and build imaginations as they create and pot flowers, read books, solve puzzles, and sort shapes. The Potting Shed area has a great selection of kids books (that are available in the gift shop as well).  Henry and I loved the dinosaur books!

The Backyard is located behind the cafe on the bottom floor of the museum. Entrance to The Backyard is included with your museum ticket. In addition to the fun exploration for the kids, there is a new 3-D movie at The Nat called Backyard Wilderness:3-D. It’s all about the beauty and natural wonder that is around us- even in our own backyard. The kids loved it, and Henry has been asking for us to “get into nature” so we can explore more.

If you haven’t been to The Nat lately, its completely different! With lots of great exhibits all about the natural history of San Diego/Southern California, there are lots of exhibits at kids level, with hands on and interactive learning stations for kids. Margaret loved the Coast to Cactus in Southern California exhibit. There were lots of hands on activities and cool stuff to look at at her eye level. Henry enjoyed the Fossil Mysteries exhibit, and of course, Unshelved.

We’re going back to The Nat soon, I hope to see you there!