Posts in Category: Weather

Season’s Reflections

As yet another season comes to an end here at Pathfinder Ranch we take a moment to reflect back on this fall’s accomplishments. By the end of this week we will have seen almost 2,400 students. We started the season with sunshine and some thunderstorms, and will be ending with rain and cold. Through it all staff and students alike have kept positive and enthusiastic attitudes.

We were lucky enough to make it through this busy fall with minimal illness for Ranch residents including our horses, farm and nature center animals. Unfortunately, some of our free range chickens were taken away by local coyotes, but we’re hopeful for new Silkie chicks in the next few weeks! Hopefully our January and February schools will get a chance to see newly hatched chicks!

One of our most exciting additions to the Ranch is the High Tunnel. It is currently home to many seeds and starter plants that will weather the winter inside, and give us a head start on next spring’s garden plans. It has also proven an excellent shelter from the much needed rain showers over the past few weeks.

Overall this season has been full of improvements, growth and excitement. Here’s looking forward to an equally amazing spring!

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.

Rainy Days!

What a week here at Pathfinder Ranch! The rain came down hard this week, but that didn’t stop us from having a blast! The kids threw on ponchos and loved playing games and even hiking in the rain. Our students got to spend some great one on one time with the horses including feeding, grooming, and saddling on their own! We also got to take advantage of our great Nature Center, where Gwar the ball python got lots of love from excited kids.

Canyon is handling Gwar as he finishes taking care of the animals.

Canyon is handling Gwar as he finishes taking care of the animals.

Although the rain makes it a little more difficult to get outside and play, we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we are finally getting some much needed rain here in California. The below average precipitation over the past decade has led to some serious situations such as drinking water shortages, salmon habitat destruction, farm shut downs, and increased prices for crops and livestock. A study on tree rings recently discovered that we are in the worst drought that California has experienced for 1200 years!

The storm dropped a steady amount of rain most of the week.

The storm dropped a steady amount of rain most of the week.

Our washes are filled with water after several months of being bone dry.

Our washes are filled with water after several months of being bone dry.

So, when we get a good rain storm like this, does that mean the drought is over?? Unfortunately not… Though our washes are full of rain water, and our trees are sucking up moisture for now, we must still remain aware of water conservation! Keep those showers short, and don’t forget to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. At home you can also save water by washing only full loads of laundry, not washing cars as often, watering plants early or later in the day, and using drip system irrigation for gardens and plants. Think of other ways you can help save water! Here at Pathfinder, our leftover drinking water from meals is used to mop the floor, we are limited to 3 minute showers, and all of our unused water from hikes goes to our garden and farm animals! There are lots of ways that you can continue helping out with water conservation at home and at school. And of course, it never hurts to do a little rain dance…

Season of Thanks

Time is flying by here at the Ranch; we can’t believe it is coming up on the end of our fall season! We are having such a great season, and since Thanksgiving is a few days away, we figure, why not look back at all we have to be thankful for!?

First, we are thankful for the rain that the Ranch got this past week! You know we will take any rain or snow we can get, but the fact that it came over night and didn’t force any of our classes inside was even better! Plus, who doesn’t like waking up to the fresh smell of rain and ribbonwood?

We are also thankful for the cool fall temperatures and the beautiful leaf colors all over the Ranch! One of the most beautiful views to see the changing leaves is on the horse trail. What an amazing sight!

Some students are enjoying the fall colors and beautiful landscape during their horseback ride!

Some students are enjoying the fall colors and beautiful landscape during their horseback ride!

Our new Silkies are fitting in well with the other chickens at our farm!

Our new Silkies are fitting in well with the other chickens at our farm!


We have had a few new additions to Betsy’s Farm! We now have three Silkie chickens and two Silkie roosters. They are loving their new life at the Ranch and are a great addition to our farm. The students love watching them and getting the chance to pet them while out at the farm!




Pathfinder is also thankful for our friends and supporters! In case you missed it, we had an amazing time at the Food Truck FriendRaiser on November 16th at The Living Desert! We saw so many old friends and made a lot of new ones, too, all while listening to great music, eating delicious food and enjoying The Living Desert exhibits!

Last, but certainly not least, we are thankful for all of the students, teachers, and chaperones that have been up here at the Ranch this season and all those who are still to come. We love sharing this gorgeous place with you and teaching more about the world we live in!

And what post about the Thanksgiving season would be complete without a recipe for you to share at your table this holiday season!? Hope you love pumpkin as much as our Naturalists!

Pumpkin Swirl Bread:



  • 2 pkgs (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups all- purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped dates


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour three 8×4-in. loaf pans. In a small bowl, beat filling ingredients until smooth.
  • In a large bowl, beat sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and water until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, pie spice, soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins and dates.
  • Pour half of the batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Spoon filling over batter. Cover filling completely with remaining batter.
  • Bake 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in bread portion comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Wrap in foil; refrigerate until serving.
  • Just before serving, if desired, in a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to reach a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bread; sprinkle with walnuts.

Yield: 3 loaves (16 slices each).

California’s Drought

Water Shortage And How You Can Make a Difference!


As summer approaches, we at Pathfinder Ranch turn our attention to the concern of water shortage and how we can conserve this precious resource. In Garner Valley and in the surrounding mountains, there has been a lack of regular rainfall and snow this winter and spring. What this means for Pathfinder Ranch is that we must take certain steps in order to conserve what precious water we do have. Students staying here at Pathfinder Ranch help us conserve water by taking three minute showers, not dumping water from their bottles onto the ground, and not letting water run excessively from sinks and faucets.

When it comes to conserving water, everyone in California making small adjustments in their own lives can have a big impact on our water usage throughout the state. There are many ways in which we can conserve water each and every day. Here are some ways that you can make a difference conserving water at home:

  • Keep one glass for water and reuse it throughout the day, or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
  • Instead of just letting the water run while you’re washing dishes, try filling up two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. You can also use the water you’ve collected to help water the house/garden plants rather than dumping it down the drain afterwards.
  • Time your shower to keep it under 5 minutes. If your bathroom has low flow shower heads you’re using between 1 and 2 gallons per minute. So, if you cut your showers from 10 minutes to 5 minutes, you’re saving up to 10 gallons per shower!
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and you could save up to 4 gallons a minute.
  • Check all of your faucets, shower heads, and hose handles for any leaks.
  • When doing laundry, make sure to match the water level to the size of the load. Try to only do full loads to save on electricity as well.
  • You can also collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts that have pipes leading to large plants/trees/bushes. Or even better, install a cistern or large collection container to store this water for the drier summer months. This water could be used later to water your plants or wash your family’s car.

Most importantly, make sure to spread the word to family and friends that we all need to conserve water. We can’t survive without water, so make sure to use this valuable resource wisely and do your part to help conserve water!

Pathfinder Additions

Hello there! Just like the recent weather changes from hail flurries one week to highs in the 70s the next, Pathfinder Ranch has also been constantly changing with new additions and improvements happening every day.

One of the additions that we are most excited about is our brand new climbing wall structure and zip line! The climbing wall structure has been getting lots of use from our school groups. The students love trying the new routes and obstacles on the different walls. There are now three sides that have been named after places here in California that our Naturalists like to hike and/or rock climb– Taquitz, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite.

Here's a student climbing the Joshua Tree wall!

Here’s a student climbing the Joshua Tree wall!

Climbers going up two of the three sides on our new climbing wall structure!

Climbers going up two of the three sides on our new climbing wall structure!








Along with the climbing wall we have added two new zip lines! Although the zip lines are not ready for this spring’s school groups, we are planning on having them ready for Adventure Camp (June 23-28) this summer. Come and join us for six days of climbing, hiking, explorations, and other fun adventures. Don’t forget about our summer camp (spots are filling quickly so email or call our office for openings), and the fun we’ll be having with all of these amazing additions!

Our albino kingsnake, Cleopatra, is getting some quality attention from the staff.

Our albino kingsnake, Cleopatra, is getting some quality attention from the staff.


We also have a new living addition, Cleopatra (Albino Kingsnake), to our Nature Center.  She is doing well adjusting to her new home. She is still very young and is getting used to all of the love the Naturalists are giving her. We can’t get enough of little Cleo!


We have our fingers crossed that turkey chicks will hatch and add to our flock at the farm! Our mama turkey, Jenny, is currently sitting on the eggs she laid. The eggs are slightly larger than chicken eggs, are brown in color and have dark brown specks. Stay tuned via Facebook and our blog to see if the eggs hatch into cute baby turkey chicks!

Here's "Jenny," our female turkey who laid these eggs.

Here’s “Jenny,” our female turkey who laid these eggs.

So many turkey eggs...hopefully they hatch!

So many turkey eggs…hopefully they hatch!










Hope spring finds all of you well and excited for summer!

See you down the trail,

Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists

Thank You for a Wonderful Fall Season

Things were busy here at the Ranch before our season ended in the middle of December! We’ve had a lot of schools visit us over this past fall (about 20 in total). Thank you to all of our fall schools. What a great season! We’ve enjoyed the holidays with family and friends, cooking delicious foods, and building fires to keep us warm on cold nights. Even some of the animals at the Ranch have had the holiday spirit. Take a look!

Gravy, Our Fun Loving Turkey!

Gravy, Our Fun Loving Turkey!

Breezy decided she wanted to be a reindeer this holiday season!

Breezy decided she wanted to be a reindeer this holiday season!

Madonna, Our Spirited Alpine Goat!

Madonna, Our Spirited Alpine Goat!

Garret, Our Bearded Dragon!

Garret, Our Bearded Dragon!


















When they aren’t playing with the animals and teaching classes, the Naturalists at the Ranch have been hard at work this season designing new programs that can fit into our classes! One of the newest additions is an indoor planetarium that will soon be used during our Astronomy evening program! Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate the way we wish it would, so on rainy or cloudy nights we can potentially use this to help students see constellations and stars in our night sky!


We used a box fan to inflate it, and we cut a door on the opposite end to enter!

We used a box fan to inflate it, and we cut a door on the opposite end to enter!

We used black plastic sheeting and duct tape to secure the edges.

We used black plastic sheeting and duct tape to secure the edges.











Once inside we can project pictures of different constellations, stars and planets that we talk about during astronomy!

If you’re interested in building one of your own or seeing how it works, here is the website:


Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful time of year! Besides the current week of oddly warm temperatures, it has definitely gotten colder and colder here. So, why not warm up with this delicious hot chocolate recipe?!


Slow Cooker Deluxe Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 (6-oz.) pkg. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

2 quarts (8 cups) milk

1 tablespoon vanilla



Whipped cream

Miniature marshmallows

Miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Toffee bits

Cinnamon sticks

Peppermint candy sticks

Assorted liqueurs and flavored syrups

Chocolate cookie crumbs

Crushed peppermints



  • In 3 1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker, combine unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk; mix well.
  • Cover; cook on High setting for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or until chocolate is melted.
  • With wire whisk, stir in 2 cups of the milk until smooth. Gradually stir in remaining 6 cups milk and vanilla.
  • Cover; cook on High setting an additional 2 hours or until hot.
  • Just before serving, stir mixture again with wire whisk. Reduce heat setting to Low; have guests ladle hot chocolate into cups and top as desired.


Happy Holidays and See You Down the Trail,

                             Pathfinder Ranch Outdoor Education Staff

Spring, Slimy Creatures and Galilean Moons

Nature Center at Pathfinder RanchThis Spring has been absolutely beautiful here at Pathfinder Ranch. The Manzanita shrubs are starting to bud along the trail, and we even heard the frogs start croaking along the waterfall! In addition, the extra sunlight shining through to our nature center is causing our ectothermic (cold-blooded) reptilian friends to be more active. They have been helping us to show that reptiles are not slimy or creepy creatures, but instead, animals with amazing adaptations! In fact, snakes can eat prey that is much larger than their heads. They can do this because their jaw is attached to their skull by strong ligaments, and the lower jaw can come apart from the upper jaw. This allows many snakes to open their mouths up to 150 degrees! That’s quite a yawn. As a comparison, humans can only open our mouths to 45 degrees!

outdoor education bridge at pathfinder ranchWe’ve been very fortunate to have clear skies for astronomy the past couple of weeks! The students were able to see Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, but did you know that Jupiter has a total of sixty moons?! We just can’t see them all in our telescopes. If the night sky intrigues you there is a cool website called Earth Sky/Tonight, and it tells you fun facts about the night sky and what you can look for. Check it out!

Some students even had a full moon to light up their night hike last week, which is when they learned about nocturnal adaptations that animals have to help them survive in the dark. While some students found their way through the darkness on their hike, others were at campfire where talents were abundant. I think that American Idol should be looking for talent at Pathfinder campfires with all the talented individuals that have come through here!  I can’t wait to meet all of the new students next week and find out what their interests and talents are!

Until next time,
The Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists 


Harvesting Manzanita Berries and Agave

Manzanita.Berries.FormingIt’s almost like summer here at Pathfinder Ranch. The temperatures have been reaching up into the mid 70s to low 80s during the day and dropping just barely below freezing at night over the last week or so. The manzanitas have been blooming for weeks, and the flowers are starting to drop off exposing small berries. It is the berry of the manzanita that gives it its name (meaning little apple in Spanish). In just a few short weeks the berries will be ready for picking. The dried berries can be ground into meal to be used for food, or they can be picked and eaten fresh.

Import3.28 109On April 6 there is an Agave Harvest off of Highway 74 just several miles from the ranch put on by the Malki Museum (the museum is located in Banning, CA). Go to their website at to find out more and to register to join in the harvest. One of our naturalists will probably be there joining in the fun. The Malki Museum will then teach how to roast the agave on April 13 at their location in Banning.

I have always loved quotes, as well as the author Sigurd Olson. He was one of the authors of the Wilderness Act and helped to form The Point Reyes National Seashore here in California. Read over the following quote and think about two things: 1. What are you curious about that has to do with nature? 2. What does it mean to have an “open mind?”

“While we are born with curiosity and wonder and our early years full of the adventure they bring, I know such inherent joys are often lost. I also know that, being deep within us, their latent glow can be fanned to flame again by awareness and an open mind.” -Sigurd Olson

Lizards and Pythons and Birds, Oh my! Spring is in the Air at Pathfinder.

Ball Python Gwar at Pathfinder Ranch

Hello Friends,

We’ve been having an incredible time at Pathfinder Ranch!  With our 7 inches of snow, some students created some snow herps (like snowmen but in the shapes of turtles, lizards, and other reptiles/amphibians) before meeting our very own reptiles in the Nature Center!  Here is one of our ball python friends, Gwar, and Dandelion.  Some snakes have special organs called heat pits along their lips to sense body heat.  Gwar uses his heat pits to hunt his warm-blooded (endothermic) prey, which are usually rats.

If you’re interested in learning more about reptiles like Gwar you can ask your family to subscribe to Reptile Times’ FREE online magazine!  Fun facts about Reptiles will be sent to your parent/guardian’s email.  Check out their webpage:


Birds Galore!  We’ve been hearing some acorn woodpeckers pecking away at our tall jeffrey pine trees (they are the ones that smell like butterscotch or chocolate!).  One of our new naturalists, Hummingbird, snapped a great photo of one in the forest.

Spring is in the air, two male western bluebirds have been fighting over a female by the climbing wall lately.  They are beautiful blue-colored birds that hop from the ground to low perches.  We will have to start looking out for nests!

Not only is spring in the air, but summer is looming on the horizon. Do you have summer plans? Check out our Summer Camp!  There are still openings from July 22 to August 17, 2013.  Summer Camp is only $325 per student for the whole week of hiking, canoeing, yummy food, sleeping in cabins, and having a blast with friends, new and old!

Call to sign up or find out more details:  951.659.2455

Keeping up with Expanding Sponges

archery-pathfinderA glistening blanket of snow greeted our students as they pulled up to the basketball court Tuesday morning. They rushed out of the bus and immediately flocked to the mounds of snow all over campus, creating their first snowmen of the winter season. The excitement spread like a wave from the students to the staff, and carried over to the many adventures that followed that week. Things started with an epic game of Predator/Prey. The students adapted different roles within the food web and hunted for food, water, and shelter. As in nature they learned the benefits of behavioral adaptations such as ambushing and stalking their prey. In this particular game, the insects bore the hardship when they were attacked from all sides by the lizards and snakes. The students really embraced the trials and tribulations most animals deal with on a daily basis.

pathfinder-canoeThe enthusiasm from the snow and Predator/Prey carried over as the students tried out their trail reading skills while summiting Rock Point. They put to use their ethnobotany expertise by identifying useful plants along the way and even stopping for a quick snack followed by dental hygiene with some hiker’s toothbrush.

garden-willowOur week came to a close surprisingly fast, but new adventures awaited the staff that made the trek to Utah for some skiing and snowboarding. The 9-hour arduous journey provided to be well worth the drive with great snow and a friendly mountain atmosphere. After rejuvenating ourselves it was time to meet our new group of budding naturalists.

Bright and early Tuesday morning our new group arrived starry eyed and full of questions. The students instantly started exploring their new environment and soaking in as much information as nature and the outdoors could provide. They were like sponges about to explode. Their first night at Pathfinder Ranch was dedicated to investigating the night sky. Although there were some clouds, no one’s spirits were extinguished as the students created their own constellations in the Milky Way.


The rest of the week was met with challenges and new experiences for both students and staff. Students were able to test their climbing, riding, and archery skills. The staff was challenged to push themselves to keep up with the expanding sponge-like minds of their students. Some of Pathfinder’s favorite critters helped in this challenge by teaching our students key ecology concepts as well as exposing them to a love for animal care and the environment. A final challenge from Mother Nature that was met with some reservation, but mostly excitement by the end was the hike to a geographical wonder, the Land Bridge. There’s nothing like almost three inches of snow to end a trip to Pathfinder Ranch!

outdoor-education-studentsUntil next time young naturalists!

And remember “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dragonfly and Your Pathfinder Naturalists