Explore Sunset at the Laguna!

In December we will meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail during the most exciting and most beautiful time of day! The crepuscular hours are when many raptors can be seen hunting and many mammals are out in the open. Every time I walk this trail near sunset I’m surprised by how many birds I see and by the incredibly lit landscapes. Last time, I saw a family of owls!

We will focus on techniques for drawing and painting quick landscapes and how to crop and choose a good composition. We will also work a lot on colors and light as the sun drops. While we are working on these, there will probably be cool bird sightings mixed in.

This trail is a very easy hike on flat and mostly paved paths. It is wheelchair accessible. We wont cover much distance and we will probably have long stationary moments. The weather is unpredictable and can get cool as the sun drops. Bring a packable potluck “Linner” item to share because we will eat on the trail. A foldable lightweight stool and binoculars will be very handy on this trip.

For this trip we will meet later than usual at 1:30pm until 5:00pm to allow us to be out in nature at a special time of day. Our potluck will therefore be more of a “Linner” than a lunch. Meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail parking lot off of Hwy 12 just before the entrance to Sebastopol.

$20 recommended donation

Second Chance Elk at Tomales Point!

In November we will hike back out to Tomales Point for a second chance or a double dose of the Tule Elk! There should still be some of the mating season behavior at this time of year and we will get an opportunity to document it in our journals. We will focus on learning how to draw ungulates, how to draw antlers, and how to creatively depict action sequences in your journal. There will also be plenty of opportunity for painting landscapitos.

The weather is variable at this coastal location so be prepared for everything. The hiking will be moderately strenuous due to the distances we will try to cover but the terrain will not be too technical. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring a folding stool, binoculars, and a potluck item to share on the trail.

We will meet at 10 am at the Tomales Point trailhead parking lot at the very end of pierce point road near the old white barns. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks. This excursion will go longer than our usual meetup to take advantage of this special opportunity. 10am-4pm, potluck lunch at 12:30.

Be prepared for Nature Journaling goosebumps and a good dose of charismatic mammalian megafauna!

$20 suggested donation

Draw Majestic Elk and Epic Landscapes!

In September we will hike out on Tomales Point to see the elk herds during their rut and enjoy the overall epic scenes! The Tule elk will be on their most dramatic behavior this time of year and we will get an opportunity to document it in our journals. We will focus on learning how to draw ungulates, how to draw antlers, and how to creatively depict action sequences in your journal. There will also be plenty of opportunity for painting landscapitos.

The weather is variable at this coastal location so be prepared for everything. The hiking will be moderately strenuous due to the distances we will try to cover but the terrain will not be too technical. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring a folding stool, binoculars, and a potluck item to share on the trail.

We will meet at 10 am at the Tomales Point trailhead parking lot at the very end of pierce point road near the old white barns. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks. This excursion will go longer than our usual meetup to take advantage of this special opportunity. 10am-4pm, potluck lunch at 12:30.

Be prepared for Nature Journaling goosebumps and a good dose of charismatic mammalian megafauna!

$20 suggested donation

Adventure and Learn at Abbott’s Lagoon!

In August, the North Coast Nature Journal Club will head to the incredible dunes of Abbott’s Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore! Badgers, otters, harriers, and bobcats are just a few of the species to be found in this epic landscape in Marin County. We will meet at the trail head parking lot and make our way to the dunes. There will be ample opportunity to study and sketch animal trails and to practice drawing landscapes and water. Last time I was there we saw a peregrine falcon, multiple harriers hunting, and great horned owl tracks!

I will invite some of my tracker friends and raptor geeks to join us!

Half of the hike will be on an easy flat gravel path and the rest will be on the uneven and soft sand of the dunes. We might split into two groups if some people want to do more challenging hiking into the sand dunes and others want to stay near the flat trail. The coastal weather is variable so wear layers and sun protection. We will have our potluck around 12:30 on the trail so bring a packable item to share.

$20 recommended donation

 

 

Scope Out Schollenberger Wetlands!

In June, the North Coast Nature Journal Club will scope out the marshes of Schollenberger park near Petaluma. This convenient park provides ample opportunities to sketch water birds and learn about California’s coastal wetlands, the most endangered of all our ecosystem types. There will also be expansive views of the long extinct volcano that is Sonoma mountain. We will focus on drawing and learning about the plants and birds that inhabit this area and we will also practice composing and executing small landscapes showcasing Sonoma mountain in the background.

Meet at the parking lot at 9:00. Earlier than our normal time! We are meeting earlier to beat the heat a little bit.

The address below might only get you to the intersection of Cader ln if you are following a GPS. From South Mcdowell blvd you will turn onto Cader lane/ Schollenberger park rd and continue to the parking lot. It could be a warm sunny day and we will be out in the open so plan accordingly. Sun hats, sunscreen, lots of water. The walk is very gentle, flat, and wheelchair accessible on a paved route. We will return to the parking lot before the potluck so you can keep bulkier food and beverage items in your car. Bring a light folding stool if you have one, we will do some more extended landscape and plant paintings at this location.

As usual be prepared to get super-curious in nature and connect with like minded people! Bring a potluck item to share for lunch around 12:30.

Suggested donation $20

Delve Deeper at Bodega Dunes

In the month of May the North Coast Nature Journal Club will be going to one of my favorite locations, Bodega Dunes! This is another great spot to learn the usefulness of a tracking perspective and how reading tracks can accelerate your learning as a naturalist and nature journaler. We will also get a chance to explore the edges of seasonal ponds, coastal wildflowers, the digs of coyotes and badgers, and perhaps osprey and other raptor activity. Last time I was there I found huge owl pellets filled with vole bones, watched osprey fly by with fish, and saw hundreds of sandpipers on the beach.

This is a coastal location so the weather is variable and often windy. Sometimes it is foggy and drippy. Wear layers and sun protection, sun hat. The hiking will be mild and we will mostly avoid walking on the difficult loose sand dunes. Our potluck will be around 12:30 on the trail so bring a packable potluck item to share. Binoculars and light folding stools could be useful.

We will park and meet at 10am along the cypress trees at the entrance. Parking in this area is free.

Be prepared to recognize patterns, draw birds, and add story-telling elements to your journal practice. Students from my Santa Rosa Junior College class might join us on this day!

$20 suggested donation

 

“Easter Egg hunt” Hood Mountain!

I plan on going despite some rain in forecast.

Do you want to go on an “Easter egg hunt” with a bunch of curious and fun nature nerds? What better way to spend part of your Easter? Bring a friend or some family members for a healthy, outdoorsy, brain-stimulating way to spend the holiday. The North Coast Nature Journal Club will hike around Hood Mountain regional park, using our nature journals as a lens for engaging with the natural world. Instead of looking for plastic eggs filled with sugar we will look for precious natural nuggets of wonder that are just waiting to be found by a curious eye. Some dark chocolate might be involved as a cognitive enhancer. There will be great opportunities to compose and paint landscape sketches in the mixed oak woodlands and meadows. Depending on the group we might opt for a more adventurous hike to see some of the North Bay panoramas available from the ridges, where we can try our hand at painting “grand landscapitos” and study atmospheric perspective. There are also beautiful creeks to explore.

This outing will involve more strenuous hiking and areas with very uneven ground. Please wear layers, sun protection, and comfortable hiking shoes. Bring a potluck item that can be carried on the trail. Easter themed is fun if you want. As always bring your sketching and watercolor supplies. Light folding stools might be useful but focus on mobility and comfort.

We will meet at the Pythian Rd entrance parking lot. Please do not accidentally go to the Los Alamos rd entrance. This is a Sonoma County Regional Park so there is a $7 parking fee. (I recommend becoming a member. Many of our meetings will take place at these parks so a membership could be a good commitment).

$20 recommended donation

The North Coast Nature Journal Club

I started the North Coast Nature Journal Club as a way to share my personal passion for observation and learning and as a way to connect with other people in nature. Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California are full of diverse and rich ecosystems and there are many people interested in connecting with nature. On the third Sunday of every month we explore a different location, from sand dunes to mixed oak savanna. We use our sketchbooks as a substrate for our interaction with the natural world.  I’m passionate about facilitating learning in a group and we constantly bounce ideas off each other and otherwise benefit from nature journaling as a group.

We also share a potluck lunch on every outing!

What is Nature Journaling?

When do you meet next?!

 

Are there other nature journal clubs? Check out the nature journal club facebook page for more info about other groups and the Bay Area group that started it all.

Discover Salmon Creek!

For the magnificent month of March we will meet at South Salmon Creek, just North of Bodega Dunes campground on Hwy 1. This is a very fun location to observe coastal wetlands, waterbirds, and to explore animal tracks including red foxes. This will be the perfect trip to learn more about animal tracking, how to draw tracks, and how to frame and paint 5 minute landscape sketches.

We won’t hike long distances but the terrain is slightly challenging because it is mostly sand dunes. The weather is variable and can be windy. Be prepared for sand and wind. Bring sketching and watercolor supplies, binoculars, and a potluck lunch to share. We will return to the parking lot around 12:30 for the potluck so you don’t need to pack your food/beverages on this trip.

We will meet in the parking lot at 10am. Parking here is free.

Directions: Drive north on Hwy 1 from Bodega Bay, after the big sign and turnoff for Bodega Dunes Campground stay attentive on the left. Just before the bridge over the creek there is a small turnoff onto Bean ave. Turn left onto bean ave and follow this small street until it dead ends at a parking lot covered in sand.

Be prepared to see something you have never seen before and to add 3 new tricks to your mental toolbox!

$20 recommended donation

 

 

 

The Most Powerful Learning Technology

Journaling is the most powerful toolkit for dynamic human learning. It is affordable, accessible, democratic, and it can be modified and specialized in almost infinite ways. All you need is a pad of paper and a pencil.

Whether your learning is emotional, scientific, or artistic, journaling should be an essential part of your toolkit. Some of the greatest minds of history relied heavily on diaries, journals, and sketchbooks as a substrate for their thought process. Notable examples include Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, and of course Leonardo Da Vinci.

marie-curie-notebookPages from the journal of Marie Curie

How it works: I have done my best to break down journaling into what I see are the 7 major benefits.

Commitment and Attention : When you sit down to draw a flower in your journal or write about an idea you make a commitment to focus on that thing. This is very different from daydreaming where your brain might briefly consider something in passing. By writing about something or sketching it in your journal you show your brain that this is something important and you give your brain a chance to actually work on this subject. You will notice more about your subject, be more creative, and have better problem solving ideas when you attend to something by working it out on paper.

Visual-Verbal-Manual: Words are abstract and language is a recent innovation that uses a limited part of our brain. Many problems can not be solved in this part of the brain. However, when we put words on paper, when we write by hand, and especially when we combine images with words, more and more of our brain is engaged in the task. Even off-topic doodling during a lecture has been shown to improve retention of information (doodling).Visual thinking in general is a very powerful tool and incorporating graphic facilitation or sketch-noting into your work can be very beneficial. Sketch-noting

Externalizing your thinking For Objectivity: Another huge benefit of journaling or keeping a diary is that it allows you to get ideas, feelings, and emotions out of your head and down on paper. This is a powerful way to break cyclical thinking, unproductive rumination, and downward depressive thought spirals. If you are feeling super frustrated about a team that you work with and you start to write down how you feel on paper you immediately put some distance between yourself and the emotions. Now you can be more objective. Even if your only goal is to record your feelings you will find creative solutions start to bubble up on their own. For more artistic projects or group projects, externalizing your thinking is essential for feedback. And you know how I feel about feedback! Put your logo idea, business model, or permaculture design on a piece of paper where you can stand back and evaluate it. Now, it is not so personal, now, you can see the strengths and weaknesses, now, you can learn, now, you can move forward. Your journal can document these feedback loops and revision cycles.

Externalizing your thinking For Mental Space: Another benefit of getting your ideas out of your brain and onto paper is that it frees up mental space for higher level thinking. One of the main weaknesses of the human brain is our inability to simultaneously hold many pieces of information in mind. The more you are trying to hold the less freedom you have to make connections between the pieces or solve problems in a creative way. Get that stuff out of your brain and you will find new energy and inspiration to take your ideas to the next level.

Venting: People have used pen and paper to vent their emotions for a long time. This is another form of externalizing your thinking and your emotions. Just by expressing the emotions onto paper you get more relief than cycling it through your mind. The paper won’t get exhausted, judge you, complain, or resent you (some of the common drawbacks when venting to friends or family.) Venting in your journal or diary is healthy and can be emotional or intellectual. For example, when I am nature journaling at an aquarium and I am trying to accurately draw the subtle profile of a salmon I might get frustrated at my inability to quite capture the look. In my notes next to my sketches I will often write something such as: “This curve is tricky! Gah!” Or I might write a funny expletive next to an indelible mistake that I made. This helps me  get over it fast, not take myself too seriously, and not get to precious about the appearance of the page.

Chronology and Trajectory: The human brain is weak when it comes to remembering precise dates, times, and chronologies. It is also weak at noticing (or caring about) long trajectories and big patterns. Journals and diaries by their very nature become valuable sources of chronological information. When a journal keeper looks back at a journal from 3 years ago they are often able to see connections and recognize patterns. Is the snow on the mountains melting earlier this year then it has for the last 10 years that I have been keeping a journal? Am I noticing a pattern in my romantic relationships over the last decade since I have been journaling? These are the types of insights that by themselves make journal-keeping infinitely valuable because they are precisely the things that our human brain would often miss.

Record: Last of all, a journal provides a record. Do you need to double check how you conducted an experiment last year? Do you want to remember the name of someone you met or a secret waterfall you found? What about once you are dead? The world would be a much poorer place if Leonardo DaVinci and Frida Kahlo did not leave a piece of their brain behind on paper.

If you are already keeping a journal I commend you. If you are thinking about starting a journaling practice then I remind you: all of the great geniuses had a journal.

darwin-journal Pages from the journal of Darwin.

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