Whiskeytown Waterfall Challenge

One of my new favorite places is Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.  Within the park, are four wonderful waterfalls, accessible year-round.  The National Park Service, in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle and get families outside, encourages visitors to take part in a waterfall challenge.  You can download their colorful waterfall passport (or use a nature journal of your own) to document your visit to each of the falls.  Along the trail to each of the falls is a metal pedestal with a relief carving perfect for crayon rubbings.  If you are taking part in the challenge, you are asked to do a rubbing at each of the waterfalls.  Visitors who complete the challenge are awarded a free “I Walked the Falls” bandana.

Crystal Creek Falls
Crystal Creek Falls

Crystal Creek Falls is the only “man-made” waterfall in the park. When the Central Valley Project was designed in the 1920s, an important component was the diversion of a large portion of the Trinity River to Whiskeytown Lake and from there to the Sacramento River. A 17-mile tunnel was excavated to transport the water underground from Trinity Dam to Carr Powerhouse and the tailings were dumped in the area near Crystal Creek Falls.  When it is necessary to shut down Carr Powerhouse for maintenance or to enter the tunnel for cleaning, the valve is turned and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek.  When the overflow structure was built, the Bureau of Reclamation rerouted Crystal Creek. The creek was moved about 50 feet to the left to make a shortcut over the cliff, creating this picturesque waterfall.

Whiskeytown Falls

For over 40 years this 220-foot waterfall was only a secret to the few that knew it existed. For a variety of reasons, some people decided not to share the falls’ existence with others. Today, people from all over the world have heard about the hidden secret.

Brandy Creek Falls
Brandy Creek is noted for five large cascading falls that sweep down across the polished granite rock in the upper box canyon. Upper Brandy Creek Falls plunge in a unique split formation through the steep vertical walls. The trail to the falls was improved in 2005 with hand-hewn rock steps and a metal railing to help hikers safely reach the top of the waterfall. 
Boulder Creek Falls

At over 138 feet high, Boulder Creek Falls was thought to be the tallest waterfall in the park until Whiskeytown Falls was re-discovered in fall of 2004.  The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. 

Old Time Holidays :: Field Trip

Each year in early December, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Old Shasta State Historic Park team up to offer numerous holiday activities for families. Ever intrigued by living history opportunities, we were eager to take part.

 Our first stop was at the historic Camden Tower House, built in 1852, the Camden House is the oldest house in Shasta county.  Here, the kids cooperated together to create a Christmas wreath of evergreens. We then toured the inside of the house (though it is furnished minimally in only two rooms).  It was fun to imagine living here in the late 1800s and looking out upon the orchards.  Upstairs, we enjoyed listening to a Christmas story read aloud by a volunteer in modern clothing.

Returning outdoors, the kids selected a old-style picture postcard and used a feather quill and ink to write a seasonal greeting to a family.  We had tried to make our own feather quills some time ago … the directions had stated to bury the feather in an aluminum pan of hot sand.  We did so … but apparently the sand was too hot and the feathers blistered, warped, and burned.  The kiddos were thereby very excited to give this a go.

We then made our way to Old Shasta where we were able to walk along the row of old, nearly-ruined brick buildings.  Once the “Queen City” of California’s northern mining district, these ruins and some of the nearby roads, cottages, and cemeteries are all silent today.  Volunteers dressed in period attire introduced the kids to numerous children’s games – Hoop & Stick, Game of Graces, and Jacob’s Ladder.  Sweetie asked if perhaps we could volunteer here, “I miss dressing up and pretending I lived in 1880.”  I promised I would inquire, but sadly the park is one of several state parks slated to close in May.

We then walked down to the Blacksmith shop where kids could try their hand at forging a piece of iron into a wall hook.  Sadly, we arrived late in the day and the last visitor they would have time to tutor was just getting started.  Buddy was fascinated … as I’m sure any young boy would be … and he begged to come back another day.

We were able to dip candles, however.  As there weren’t many children at this late hour, they were even able to get back in line a second time.  Each of the kiddos brought home two hand-dipped candles.

Everyone had a great time and it was a fun way to kick off the holidays.  We hope that funding or alternatives can be found to keep the museum accessible.   

California State Railroad Museum

This has been a long awaited trip … the California State Railroad Museum is well known throughout the western states and it’s been on Buddy’s ‘Bucket List’ for years.  Now that we live in California .. the trip was an easy few hours drive from home.  The museum is located within Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

As the commercial center of the California Gold Rush, Sacramento became a crossroads of transportation, connecting steamboats to San Francisco, supply roads to the mining regions, and to Folsom by the first railroad in the West.  Though the commercial district gradually moved east of the the riverfront, today there are 53 historic commercial structures on 28 acres that make up Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

While the focus of our visit was the Railroad Museum – we’ll definitely be back again when our history studies bring us to California.  The railroad museum houses more than 20 restored locomotives and railroad cars along with thousands of smaller artifacts and a variety of exhibits in its exhibition facility. In addition, the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station and Freight Depot make up a part of the historic district.

The passenger station is a reconstruction of the western terminus of America’s first transcontinental railroad (circa 1876).  Here you’ll find the ticket office (where we purchased tickets for the Spookomotive Train event), telegraph office, main waiting room, and a separate waiting room for women and children only.  The museum’s steam-powered excursion trains arrive and depart from the reconstructed late 1800s transcontinental railroad freight station.

We planned our trip to coincide with the Spookomotive train ride – a whimsically decorated train staffed with an entertaining ‘skeleton crew’.  We had hoped for a spooky ride – perhaps a little mystery in which we’d get to take part onboard.  As it turned out – the ride was a simple down and back along the riverfront with the crew wearing skeleton printed t-shirts and passing out silly plastic toys.  It was suitable for ALL ages.
Buddy’s favorite exhibit was the 4294 locomotive.  The unique cab-forward design of the locomotive saved engineers from being asphyxiated by smoke fumes in Southern Pacific’s numerous long mountain tunnels and snow sheds.  Sweetie’s favorite exhibit commemorated the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the ceremony that took place at Promontory Point, Utah.  We were surprised to learn that the paintings we see so frequently in the history books portraying this event were staged.  Some of the people pictured were not even there when the infamous gold spike was nailed in place.  Sadly, the people that were responsible for the construction of the train – most of whom were immigrants from China and Ireland – were not featured at all.
While we were there, Buddy completed the Junior Engineer assignments.  He was disappointed though that his special award was game token for Old Sacramento Historic Park.  He’d hoped for a patch or lapel pin.  Ah well – the important thing was what he learned not the tangible reward.

Children’s Creativity Museum

We were in San Francisco last week and thereby took the opportunity to visit the Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum).  We weren’t quite sure what to expect (they opened only a few days prior to our visit) and upon our arrival, there was a school group ahead of us awaiting the museum’s opening.  The girl at the admissions desk gave us a 25% discount assuming it might be a little crowded but as it turned out, we still had the place nearly all to ourselves … one of the joys of homeschooling.  🙂

We went to the Claymation Studio first and were given a quick tutorial on how to create the characters for a short claymation movie.  We decided to cooperate together to bring to life the characters in Sweetie’s newest story … the Adventures of Perry the Porcupine (or so it is presently named).  Sweetie created Perry (shown in progress above), I created the king (visible for only a brief second in our movie), and Sweetie asked her brother to create the monster Perry encounters in the first chapter.  “You can create any monster you want!” she encouraged him.  
Believe it or not, we spent more than two hours working on our clay characters. When we were satisfied with our creations, we moved over to the backdrops.  The first scene in the chapter takes place in a village.  Sweetie, our director, selected the yellow building for the conversation between the king and his friend and loyal subject, Perry.  In the picture below, you can see how the camera and monitor were set up in relation to the ‘stage’.  

Buddy worked the camera, essentially pressing the space bar to take a photo.  Sweetie would thereafter move the characters ever so slightly to give the appearance that the characters were actually moving.  The entire process was surprisingly simple and we discovered after the first take that we could scroll back and manually delete specific photos as desired.

We spent only about 20 minutes creating our video, in total we were in this studio for nearly 3 hours and we were ready to move on and see more of the museum.  We learned that we needed to take many more photos than we originally anticipated.  The first scene was entirely too short.  We were also limited by the props available.  We would have like to make it appear as though Perry were walking through the countryside.  As it was, there was no way to elevate him.  It was also difficult to maneuver the snake monster in the film without our arms showing.

Despite our shortcomings, we were ecstatic with the results.  We had a fabulous time and look forward to creating more short films … to bring to life our characters and imagination. 

Here’s the final product: 

To create this video, we used a program called iStop Motion.  We hope to purchase it soon.   

  

The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds

The Weaverville Joss House, a Taoist temple, is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. On display are art objects, pictures, mining tools, and weapons used in the 1854 Tong War. This Taoist temple is still a place of worship and a fascinating look into the role played by Chinese immigrants in early California history. The Joss House was built in 1874 as a replacement for another that had burned.

In an effort to preserve this important part of California’s Chinese tradition, the temple became a part of the California State Park System in 1956. Many of the historical objects have been restored and the structure itself stabilized. In addition to the temple equipment, park visitors will see Chinese art objects, pictures, mining tools, and wrought iron weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.

We visited the Joss House for the first time during the annual Moon Festival.  We first explored the exhibits inside the museum and then ventured out into the garden area for a few activities targeted for children.  Sweetie and Buddy most enjoyed the calligraphy … learning a new word and character … (Yuè or moon).  The other activity in which they took part was decorating paper lanterns .. both choosing to practice writing a few other characters they knew.  

We then walked across the bridge and up to the temple. Unfortunately, we had arrived too late to enjoy the lion dance that took place on the lawn in front of the temple.  
Just beyond the two large doors, the entrance to the temple proper, are two more high wooden doors, “spirit screens” to keep out evil spirits.  According to traditional Chinese belief such spirits can go only in straight lines, not around corners.
Inside, we marveled at the intricate details of the carvings, sculptures and of course the Chinese calligraphy.  We listened to a docent describe how the artifacts were transported from China, first by ship and lastly on foot 80+ miles from Red Bluff.   There are three ornately carved wooden canopies containing images of gods along the back wall opposite the spirit screens and in front of them is an altar holding candles, incense sticks, oracle fortune sticks and an oracle book, wine cups, and pictures of immortals painted on glass.  Before this altar is a small wooden table on which food offerings are placed and a stone urn used to offer alcoholic beverages, usually whiskey.    
The temple has been in continuous use as a place of worship since its construction.  The family of Moon Lee, whose grandfather contributed toward its building, are know to worship here, along with other Chinese from all over California.  Worshippers visit the temple alone, with their families, or with a small group of close friends to pray and to place some incense, candles and other offerings such as food and paper money before the images of the gods Health, Decision, or Mercy.  The docent explained that the Chinese would bring offerings to the spirits of their ancestors … generally the foods or beverages that their loved one had most enjoyed in life.  Worshippers are forbidden to pray for such things as wealth or revenge on an enemy, and the temple attendant would punish those who made such requests with fines.

Prior to our departure, we were also able to glimpse the caretaker’s quarters adjacent to the temple room as well as the conference room which sometimes served as a courtroom.  Each were much more demure and lacked the adornments so prevalent in the temple room.  
We enjoyed the excursion but were sad that the schedule of activities hadn’t been advertised better.  Sadly, 2011 may be the last year that the Joss House celebrates the annual Moon Festival.  The state has decided to close the doors of the museum and close it to the public.  
For more information about The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds and how you can help keep the doors open, visit the Weaverville Joss House Association.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry :: Field Trip

A couple weeks ago, we the kiddos and I went to OMSI.  The kids had been since Buddy was just a baby … Sweetie only vaguely remembers it.  Presently there is a special exhibit on space exploration so it was the perfect opportunity.

Upon arrival, we spent an hour or so in the Life Science Hall … exploring hands-on activities that introduced the kids to nanotechnology.  During the second half of the twentieth century, scientists and engineers learned to observe, measure, and manipulate individual atoms and molecules. The areas of research related to this activity—known as nanoscience and nanotechnology—are leading to the creation of materials, processes, and technologies that many scientists believe will dramatically change our daily lives.

Their favorite exhibit was a large display of human fetuses whereby they could become more familiar with the different stages of human fetal development during all nine months of pregnancy.  One of my good friends is a doula and we’ve frequently talked about birth … the kids also request to hear their birth story regularly.

From there we spent time in the lab where visitors generally get the chance to hold and touch a variety of animals and insects.  This was not the case during our visit but we did get to observe.  I would have expected the kids to be intrigued by the animals we don’t have … snakes, a tarantula, a scorpion, walking sticks, turtles, etc. … but they spent most of the time observing the rats. Go figure.

They also enjoyed the earth science lab where they got their hands wet in the Watershed Lab. They created their own rivers and explored the microscopic world that supports us all.  In this area were several gallon jugs with varying amounts of sand to represent the different magnitudes of earthquakes.  We discussed the recent quakes and the damage that resulted in Haiti and Chile.

We were not able to get into the Paleontology Lab – much to our disappointment – as there was a special class taking place.  We did, however, get to explore the many exhibits on dinosaurs and prehistoric life.  This helped to make our previous studies more real for them.  Buddy still insists he would like to be a Paleontologist.

After we explored these permanent exhibits, we went down stairs to the OMNIMAX theater where we watched Hubble!  We then went to the planetarium for another show called Stars.  Both were very informative but went over Buddies head.  Sweetie really enjoyed them.

We concluded our trip exploring the temporary exhibit, Space: A Journey to Our Future.  This dynamic, multimedia exhibit looks back into the history of aeronautics and examines the many unknown questions of existence posed by future space exploration.  This was a lot of fun for me as it brought back many memories of the weeks I spent at Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena as participant of a NASA Education Workshop for teachers.

What surprised me was how much the kids had remembered from our previous reading – this always surprises me – images and models sparked their interest and thereby their narrations.  The kids most enjoyed the Gemini spacecraft replica.  They climbed aboard and announced, “I’m Buzz Aldrin!”  “I’m Neil Armstrong.  Mom you can be Mike Collins!”  Okay.