Yes. Two in one. Because we were out of town last week and took advantage of the beautiful landscapes around us.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this installment of The Handbook for Nature Study Blog Outdoor Hour Challenge as much as we did. So very unexpectedly…

Starting with #3 at Mount Jefferson State Park.

I’ve been in a bunch of state parks. I have a conflict of interest with state parks. I do not believe the government should own land. I believe the government should not TAKE land from private owners. So how can I step foot in a state park?

Well, pretty much the same way I feel justified in walking into a public school at any time… My name is on the property deed. As a tax-paying citizen (keep in mind that fewer than 40% of the population actually pays taxes after their entitlements, including education, are deducted), I am a landowner.

Most of NC’s state parks have been given to the people or sold to the people for less than market value. Not all. But most. And many of the education materials and exhibits in state parks are fully funded by private enterprise. Not all. But most.

Nonetheless, as an owner and knowing money is voluntarily given, I still get queasy when entering a park. During each trip to a park, municipal, county, state, or national, I have made it clear to our children that *we* own this property. It is not “the government’s” and I’ve used the opportunity to (hopefully) instill that we should all be stewards of God’s creation, preferably without the unjust government’s hand.

So, here we are at Mount Jefferson. After being so sadly disappointed that the Summit Trail was closed to hikers because of exposed wiring from the installation of an updated fire tower, the ranger (there’s another story) guided us to Luther Rock. Boy am I glad that Summit Trail was closed.

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The above is not Luther Rock. But it’s a cool rock.

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This is under that cool rock. Still not Luther Rock, though.

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Some cool fungi. Can someone identify it for me? This required a lot of touching, well, poking, and wondering I it would make greens taste good.

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No. Still not Luther Rock. Are we there yet? Are we lost?

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We are not lost. Reade is pointing the way!

And… Here. Is. Luther Rock.

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To the left is Tennessee. To the right is Virginia. And yes, we could see them. And there was a *hush* throughout the crowd. I’ve never heard my Loudens so very quiet… They journaled.

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And they journaled.

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And they journaled.

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The goal was just to get something in a journal “while on the walk” today. I believe we met our goal. Meeting goals makes a momma happy.

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It tuckered us out. We loved the quiet. We hardly spoke on the way down the mountain.

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We hardly spoke until we found a table at the park entrance to enjoy or trail snack of sausage, cheese, crackers, popcorn, and water.

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Then they couldn’t stop talking…

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CHALLENGE #4

In this challenge, we are narrowing our focus in our study. I did not consult the children. I chose for us. Trees. Autumn is nearing and they will be changing quickly, therefore in my mind making for a quick conclusion to our first focus. And it won’t be just trees because studying trees means studying insects, birds, mammals, lizards, lichens, moss, diseases, etc…

What a perfect place to begin: The Talking Tree Trail at Rendezvous State Educational Forest .

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Each talking tree had a beautifully carved “character” face on it. The faces featured some part of the tree – leaf, fruit, flower – on it. Pushing the button associated with the tree produced a talk about the tree itself including uses, benefits, and life cycle, to conservation measures.

There were also signs along the trail with fantastic information. Here’s one of my favorites:

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I like to photograph the signs along trips because it gives me information o which I can look back. It also helps me keep events in order.

This was a tough hike for tired children. It was not on the same day as our previous hike, but knowing the kids were tired, I didn’t want to focus on journals, just listening and absorbing the beauty of this dense forest trough which we hiked. The hills were steep. And long. I took notes, but they simply were.

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What did we learn? We learned that we have a lot to learn. We learned that there’s a lot more to a tree than a trunk and some leaves. We learned we need to narrow our focus even further. And so we will.

Later this week we will choose three trees that were present on the Talking Tree Trail as well as on our property. Reade will take charge of one; Kelly Mae will take charge of one; and the younger ones, with more of my direct guidance, will take charge of one.

We’ll revisit Mount Jefferson (4200 ft in elevation) and Rendezvous Mountain (2500 ft in elevation) in October. We’ll be able to compare how they’ve changed to the changes in the same trees at our home (650 ft in elevation). We’ll also have the opportunity to visit a coastal community (10 ft in elevation). But it will all be gradual. Because in Challenge #5, we’ll make a list of *what* we want to learn. We can’t learn it all at once. No one can. But we did learn to be a bit quieter…

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