Last weekend we were invited to join in a hike through Black Star Canyon with Joel from Naturalist For You.

If you have never been on a guided hike, you must add this to your bucket list immediately, especially if you love hiking with kids.  Joel (from Naturalist For You) is amazing, and my kids (who love to hike), not only got to spend some much needed time outdoors, but loved learning about the plants, birds, and critters we came across.  I enjoyed hearing about some of the myths (particularly ghost stories), not that you will ever find me hiking there after dark, but the stories are fascinating to hear.

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Yes Joel hikes barefoot. Through mud puddles. Into creek beds. I'm surprised my kids didn't immediately whip off their shoes and insist I carry them.

We hiked roughly 3 miles, it was actually quite a busy spot, with quite a few people out running, biking, and walking dogs.  Apparently there is a waterfall further into the hike, it's about a 6 mile round-trip and can be quite a hike, especially for kids. You can see where we went on the map below.

Black star canyon hike map of route via Runkeeper

I'm going to do my best to share some of the things we learned on our hike, although note taking on my cell phone whilst kid wrangling and juggling a camera didn't go as well as I had hoped.

For example, look at shelf fungus and moss we found growing.

Black Star Canyon moss
Black Star Canyon shelf fungus

Have you seen mistletoe out in nature, and not just above your door at Christmastime?  On a recent hike to Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve we came across it and we had no idea what it was at the time.

The second photograph is of milk thistle. Apparently it can be used as a natural antidote if you accidentally eat a poisonous mushroom.

Mistletoe and milk thistle

Flynn's favorite part of the hike was learning about trapdoor spiders and how to spot their burrows.

Can you see the letter 'D' below?  That's the trapdoor leading into the burrow.

How to spot a Trapdoor Spider Burrow
Now look when it's opened.

Trapdoor Spider Burrow
We found a few of these that were just burrows, the doors had dropped off, but we did find a couple that still had the doors intact.

As you can see, between spotting trapdoor spider burrows and looking for frogs in the creek the kids were over the moon with this trip … and the fact that it had been raining recently was even better, because there were plenty of mud puddles to jump in.

Black Star Canyon hiking with kids
Black Star Canyon Creek
Now, do you know what poison oak looks like?  If not, here it is.  Right alongside it is mugwort, which is apparently a natural antidote to poison oak.

Poison oak and mugwort
"Leaves of three, let them be.  If it's hairy, it's a berry."

Joel is a wealth of information about the vegetation in the area.  In the first photograph below there is Black Sage, which apparently makes for a great natural sage to cook with.  The second photograph we have a plant that has died back due to the recent frosts and hail storm.  These plants are a good indicator of where citrus trees won't grow well.

Black Star Canyon Vegetation
And last, but certainly not least, we have a turkey vulture soaring overhead.  There were actually three of them circling above us, but it was difficult to photograph them with power lines in the way.

turkey vulture
If you've hiked at Black Star Canyon before I'd love to hear your thoughts.  I'd love to go back there again (not at night), and tackle a longer hike, hopefully to the waterfall next time.

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