Posts Tagged: pathfinder ranch

The end is here…

It’s that time of the year again folks! Our Outdoor Education season has coming to a close. While it been sad to say goodbye to all of the Naturalists and staff, we are proud to look back and remember all the differences we’ve made in kid’s lives this season. In fact, taking a look at some statistics, we have had….

5436 Amazing Students          11 Crazy Naturalists

274 Awesome Adult Chaperones          16 Hard-working Horses

706  Dedicated Teachers          37 Fun-filled Weeks

67 Fabulous Schools           1 Perfect Mountain Home

 …but even that doesn’t seem to capture it. I guess you will just have to see what we are talking about in person. Come join us for a fun-filled week of summer camp! Or bring the whole family for a Saturday afternoon of adventure at a round-up! Check out our website and Facebook page to stay up to date on all the great ways you can stay in touch with Pathfinder Ranch. Until we meet again, keep enjoying nature!



Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

It’s the middle of spring, and that can only mean one thing… Permaculture is in the air. What is permaculture? Well, it’s a philosophy, it’s a style of gardening, it’s classes we teach here at the ranch, and it’s super easy to understand and practice!

Permaculture starts with three basic principles: care for people, care for the Earth, and return the surplus. Caring for people is as easy as feeding folks good food. Using water appropriately is one example of caring for the Earth. And return the surplus? Do birds ever eat out of your garden? Do you have a compost pile? These are both excellent ways to return the surplus.
It’s also important to recognize the work done by some of our non-human friends. That pesky gopher is aerating and loosening the soil making it easier for new roots to grow later.  Here at the ranch we’ve paid our gophers with at least one Swiss chard, two beets, and a spinach plant (but it was on its way out). That Peter Cottontail who keeps visiting your carrots also helps fertilize for next season. Those annoying insects that buzz around our heads pollinate crops like zucchini and pumpkins. Everybody likes a healthy garden, especially naturalists and their students!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

So you may be wondering, “How can I put these ideas to use?” Where do we start!? Support local farms who practice permaculture principles. Start a garden bed for veggies or native flowers. The Monarch butterfly looooooves milkweed; so check your local native plant nursery. If you have the space, you can start a compost pile for your food scraps and napkins. If you already have a compost pile and you use it for you own garden, you can encourage others in your community to do the same. Then you’ll have someone to trade veggies with. Even if you only have a small space, gardening will help you “take care of people”, by growing your own cooking herbs on your windowsill or maybe a potato tower on your porch. Here’s one more link on how to grow some of your own vegetables in containers.

Spring’s halfway through, but for us here in sunny southern California we still have a long growing season ahead. Happy planting from everyone here at Pathfinder Ranch.

No one here but us chickens….

I am very pleased to introduce you to some of Pathfinder Ranch’s lovely animals, the chickens.

There are a wide variety of chicken breeds that all have unique traits and personalities, and these are able to fill different purposes such as food, pets, or novelty.  Here at Pathfinder Ranch, we have a mix of all three.

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Our Red Stars, Ameraucanas, Leghorns, and Wyandottes lay on average one egg every 26 hours (yum!). We also have our delightful Silkie chickens that make great pets and look amazing.

And of course, normally used for novelty, we have a magnificent Polish hen. Only at Pathfinder Ranch can you find our very own Beyoncé. As one can tell from the pictures of the glorious black and white hen with the crown of feathers on the top of her head, Beyoncé is one beautiful bird. Beyoncé had her name bestowed upon her due to a trial equal to her glamor.

One fateful day our then-nameless Polish hen was discovered with a mysterious leg injury that left her unable to walk. Now, any normal chicken would have been the next pot pie for dinner, but not this one!  No! Instead, one of our staff members gave her just the chance she needed: a safe place to heal with food and water in pecking distance. Slowly but surely each day she could move a little more, and after a week she could prop herself up. Then, a fortnight after the fateful day of her injury, this hen was hopping around. And finally, after a month of recuperation, our polish hen could walk again. She was indeed a survivor. Needless to say, any animal, man, or beast, that is such a survivor and still has such great hair should be given a proper name. Thus Beyoncé earned her keep as well as her name.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Come be in awe and visit her soon!

March Night Skies

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion.

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion. You can see the three stars in the center make up his belt, and the two below and above make up his feet and shoulders.

We have had some great nights of astronomy class recently here at Pathfinder Ranch. If you are a star gazer yourself, make an effort to get out on those nights around the new moon when the stars will be easier to see! If you look into the sky tonight from somewhere on the northern hemisphere, you will see some northern winter constellations glowing brightly – Orion the hunter is by far the most distinct in the sky at this time, and can easily be found by looking for the three bright stars of his belt.

During these moonless nights, you may also be able to spot Comet Lovejoy in the early-evening, as it slowly makes its way from the foot of Andromeda towards Cassiopeia.

Comet LoveJoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Remember that a comet is an object with a nucleus made up of rocks that are trapped in ice! When passing close to the sun, the ice heats up and turns to gas and the particles within are released as dust. This is why many comets have a tail! You can use this online finder chart  from Sky and Telescope to see where it will be tonight!

Happy star gazing from all of us here at Pathfinder Ranch!

Announcing the New Zero Waste Awards!

Household food waste in New York

Household food waste in New York (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)


In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, which averages to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person per month.[i]


Ninety-seven percent of our food waste goes to landfills.  This means that 33 million tons of food goes into landfills each year.[ii]


Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!

Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!



There are things that we can do!  If you have already been to Pathfinder, you know all about Garbology and how you can do Garbology at home.  If you are new to Pathfinder, check out this blog from March 6th to find out all about how Garbology works.  Then, you can practice at home and at school before you come up to Pathfinder.  Practice will be important because we are starting an awards program for schools that achieve zero waste at meals.  In addition to the pride of knowing they are awesome and have zero waste meals, schools can now earn awards for zero waste meals! Schools that have zero waste for three or more meals are awarded the Gold Plate.  Schools that have two meals of zero waste are awarded the Silver Plate, and schools that have one meal of zero waste are awarded the Bronze Plate.  So start practicing, and get ready to earn your school the Gold Plate award!

[i] United Nations Environment Programme. (2015, January 1). Food Waste: The Facts. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from

[ii]  USDA and US EPA. Waste Not, Want Not. Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery. EPA 530­R­99­040

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).

Monster Curse

Every month brings new adventures to Pathfinder Ranch, and October was certainly no exception. The leaves began changing, the weather started to cool, and excitement was in the air. As Halloween approached, the naturalists prepared for their usual festivities. This year, however, something mischievous was afoot!

The evening of October 29 started like any other, with students lining up ready for a night meander that was supposed to include some star gazing and nocturnal animal games. Then, just before the groups left, an evil curse was cast upon the ranch! The staff began turning into horrible monsters one by one. Luckily, the students of Vanguard Preparatory were able to devise a plan- they split into groups to solve the mystery. Over the next hour, they battled monsters, defeated challenges, and explored the dark and treacherous forest. They were able to find all of the ingredients to create an antidote. If they hadn’t been there… Well, Pathfinder Ranch would surely be no more.

Luckily, the antidote saved Pathfinder and turned these monsters back into our naturalists!

Luckily, the antidote saved Pathfinder and turned these monsters back into our naturalists!

Thankfully, Pathfinder Ranch has been 100% monster-free since the incident.

Wishing everyone a happy fall,

The Pathfinder Naturalists

Educator Conference

As always, things have been busy here at Pathfinder Ranch.

Recently, Pathfinder Ranch hosted a semi-annual conference for the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education ( or We had educators coming from all over the southern half of the state. We spent time in the professional development workshops as well as learned some new campfire skits and songs. Several of our own staff presented some of these workshops.

Our Outdoor Education Director, Ryan, facilitated a discussion with other directors to talk about issues we face, and how to improve each of our programs.

Luna and Willow brought out the horses to show how we use them in our classes, and gave participants a taste of our ExCEEd (Equine Centered Experiential Education…team-building with horses) class. Imagine our team challenge programs with a horse as your teammate! There are pictures on our Facebook page of this class in action.

Canyon gave a tour of our nature center including meeting our animals, and discussed how we can make nature center experiences more engaging and meaningful for our students. Look forward to a few more displays and activities when you visit later in the school year!

We went to a workshop on solar energy where we built a solar powered wheelie robot similar to what you can build in our energy class. We also learned some things about solar energy that we will be sharing in our classes.

There was a good workshop on using poetry as a kinesthetic learning tool with some great tips on helping students be very creative while working within the limits of outdoor education.

We also had a great workshop on sustainability, parts of which will go nicely into our permaculture class involving farm animals, garden plants, and energy cycles. It was taught by the Green Camps Initiative (GCI- The GCI Director shared a lot of fun and thought provoking activities that you will be seeing soon in some of our classes. Visit the website to see some great activities that you can implement back at school and at home. We learned that it takes 5,200 gallons of water to process the ingredients and produce one chocolate bar. Staggering!

We also went to workshops about inclusion, Common Core standards, astronomy, Ant-O-Lympics, citizen science projects, and team-building. We are excited to start using the new things we learned in our classes, and we hope you are excited to see them, too!

See you down the trail!

End of the School Year

As our outdoor education season here at Pathfinder Ranch has drawn to a close, it’s hard not to reflect back on what we’ve done over the past year. How does one sum everything up and give thanks to all of the many people and other animals who made it all possible? We can try numbers:

4697 Amazing Students                                      17 Crazy Naturalists

643 Awesome Adult Chaperones                         16 Hard-working horses

232 Dedicated Teachers                                      37 Fun-filled Weeks

63 Fabulous Schools                                          1 Perfect Mountain Home

But that doesn’t really seem to capture what happens here at Pathfinder. Maybe if we think on some of the more memorable things we overheard students saying.…

“The nature takes care of us; that’s why we have to care.”

“Nature peeing is the best peeing.”

“At Pathfinder, I realized that nature is amusing, and interacting with it can be fun.”

“We should go back to riding horses everywhere instead of driving cars. It’s better for the environment…and more fun.”

“Wait…you guys live here?! This is a job?!”

“I think we could fix the whole world if everyone came here.”

“I thought that learning about plants would be kinda lame, but it’s actually really cool!”

“Nature can be peaceful.”

Closer, but still not quite the whole picture….

Students exploring our archaeological dig site on a beautiful day!

Students exploring our archaeological dig site on a beautiful day at Pathfinder Ranch!

There. Perhaps a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Have a great summer everyone! Summer camp has taken over the ranch, but the outdoor education staff will return in the fall!