Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan and Hannah Hike Zuma Canyon in Malibu, California

Zuma Beach!  Zuma Canyon!  I just love saying the word Zuma.  Gimme a Z, gimme a U, gimme an MMMMM, gimme an A.  By the way, Zuma is the Chumash word for both abundance and peace.

In our seven years coming to California, Hannah and I have never been to Malibu, just an hour south of Carpinteria.  Malibu lies 28 miles due west of Los Angeles, hugging 21 miles of shoreline on the Pacific Coast Highway.  A year ago, the Woolsey Fire (November 2018) and subsequent damaging flooding closed many canyon trails in the area.

Zuma map to Zuma

On this last Tuesday in January 2020 with the Zuma Canyon Trail open for business, we jump on The 101 to Oxnard and then drive west to the Pacific.  With the steeply rising Santa Monica Mountains to our east, we tool along the Pacific Ocean shoreline heading for sunshine and blue skies on the hiking trail.  Like the opening number of La La Land, it’s Another Day of Sun.

As an exclusive enclave of oceanside mansions and uber-mountain homes, Malibu is a town of 13,000, home to Easy Rider’s Jack Nicholson and to America’s favorite berry, Halle Berry.  Taking a left on Bonsall Drive at Zuma Beach, we have trailhead parking for thirty at Zuma Canyon.

Zuma 1 trailhead sign

Zuma 1A Woolsey fire

The trail begins and the skeletal remains of trees from the Woolsey fire are silhouettes to its power.

On an immediately obvious single track trail, we have lush green leafy plants guiding us into the canyon.  The black skeletal remains of oaks and sycamores bear testament to the destructive Woolsey Fire.  Followed by winter rains in 2019, the landscape is alive with fresh branches sprouting from the riverbed trees as well as there are bushes in full bloom, all regenerating in one year’s time.  By the way, the fire began in Woolsey Canyon inland from Malibu.

Zuma map Woolsey to Malibu

Wildfires can travel at high speeds over long distances very quickly

Zuma 1B more Woolsey Fire

Zuma 1C D at burned out sycamore

Zuma 1D green hillsides

Lush hillside just fourteen months after a devastating wildfire.

Billed as a hike of 2.8 miles round trip, the trail is well-marked until it leads us across the dry riverbed.  The parched stretch of rock and stone reminds us of what we would see hiking in the Arizona desert.  Knowing that we are going up the canyon, we don’t find it difficult to cross the dry creek bed and find the trail on opposite side.

Zuma 2 H crossing dry riverbed

After about a mile the trail peters out.  Gone girl.  We can only guess where it once was.  Bushwhacking along the creek going from one side to another, we learn from another hiker that there was once a lake at creek’s end.  Today, there is a meandering mini-creek through the boulders of the now narrowing canyon.

Zuma 2A creek near end

Zuma 2C creek even further inland

How cool is this creek!

Knowing we cannot lose our way, we enjoy the rock scrambling and stepping in and around the mountain creek.

Zuma 4 dry riverbed from above

The dry creek bed from the Zuma Loop Trail

Returning for the trailhead, we take to the Zuma Loop high above the creek bed with a panorama of the dry arroyo that yells Arizona from the mountain tops.  In less than two hours, we are back at the trailhead and ready…

Zuma 5 zuma beach

… to feast on our Subway subs with potato chips for lunch at Zuma Beach.

Dan and Hannah Bring You a Coast of Maine Symphony

This morning Hannah and I awake to five inches of heavy, wet nasty snow.  If you live in the north, you know it’s the back breaking kind.  Knowing we’ve this heavy lifting ahead, we get out at 630A to put shovel to snow.

Sym 1 House

Our home on Chases Pond Road predawn on March 24, 2020

Sym 2 H shoveling

Hannah shovels as part of Team Rothermel

Since the coronavirus has temporarily turned our lives upside down and inside out, we no longer play pickleball, go to the gym, and now we can’t even walk the beaches here in town.  Just yesterday the town closed the beaches because, the story goes, they were drawing too many out-of-staters to York.  Suffice it to say, many beach walkers were not six feet apart.

Sym 6 YH beach

The beach at York Harbor at high tide on March 24, 2020

Sym 4 notice of closure of beach

Sym 5 beach closure up close

Though bummed, we understand.  Beaches or not, Hannah and I still gotta walk every day during all this uncertainty.  Today, we park at the York Public Library and walk to the north end of the Cliff Walk in York Harbor.

Sym 3 H on Cliff walk

The north end of the Cliff Walk starts just to Hannah’s left

There we have front row seats to the coast of Maine symphony.  And now you do, too.

Dan and Hannah Hike the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

Learning just last week (January 2020) that the Cold Spring Trail had officially reopened after the January 2018 debris flows through Montecito that took the lives of 25 people, Hannah and I take The 101 north from Carpinteria.  Winding through Montecito, we come upon the trailhead parking at East Mountain Drive in twenty minutes.

EF Carp to EF

At the trailhead, where once East Mountain Drive crossed the Cold Spring Creek, now a forbidding chain link fence blocks all but foot traffic.  Following the yellow lines dividing the former road to the creek’s edge, we look over to the road forty feet beyond.  There is no evidence of any bridge abutments, let alone the bridge that washed downstream from the amazingly powerful flow of water, mud, car-size boulders, and trees.

CSE 1AAA chain link fence

CSE 1AA road to nowhere

CSE 1 where once there was a bridge

Immediately, we have a choice of two trails thirty feet apart.  A hiker returning from her climb suggests the second trail which will take us along the creek bed to the east.  It turns out to be a fortunate choice as we head into the mountains on the shady side of the East Fork of the Cold Spring Creek.


CSE 1B D at trail sign

We choose the East Fork this morning

CSE 1A H at start of trail

As a narrow single track, the trail has overhanging trees providing protection from the penetrating sun.  As the trail’s soft, moistened dirt caresses our feet, the switchbacks take the hurt out of the climb on this 67F morning on the central coast of California.

CSE 2 Falls

We come across a small waterfall, which begs to be videotaped.  Enjoy.

Easily crossing the creek two or three times, we climb further into the mountains in light shirts and shorts.

CSE 1E more of trail

High above the valley, those more adventurous than us can go further up the mountain.  Opting for the trail to the right back down, we have a steeper descent (due its one mile length as opposed to the 1.5 miles we took to climb up) on a trail with full sun that has switchbacks with views to the Pacific.

CSE 3 trail turn down

CSE 3A valley below heading down

Santa Barbara County looking out to the Channel Islands

CSE 3B dusty trail

CSE 3E H above trailhead

Looking down to the trailhead

Though the Thomas Fire of 2018 denuded the landscape and made it ripe for the deadly debris flow, Mother Nature takes a W today with regenerative green carrying the day.

CSE 3F H at switchbacks

After we park in downtown Montecito to pick up the Thursday special, Mojado chicken burritos, at Los Arroyos, I wonder if you can guess which is the car we rented from Enterprise?

CSE 4 Montecito cars

Post script – Click here for Ray Ford’s history of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow of January 9, 2018.  Ray Ford pictures from 2018

Cold Spring Ford 1 fire in Montecito

Cold Spring Ford 2 CS canyon

Cold Spring Ford 4 shed in tree

Cold Spring Ford 5 CS trailhead

Cold Spring Creek after the debris flow


Cold Spring Ford our trail coming back

East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail after the debris flow

How Dan and Hannah Remain Hopeful in these Coronavirus Times

Lying in bed this morning a little after 6A, Hannah and I are in no hurry to get up as our day is wide open now that the coronavirus has turned our world upside down.   On Day 3 (March 18, 2020) of me getting the importance to self-quarantine, to keep a social distance, and to not go out unnecessarily, Hannah says pillow to pillow how important it is to remain hopeful and to trust.  I am sensing she is reminding herself what she has always believed.

Attitude can carry the day during times of crisis.  I embrace the belief that these times don’t happen to us, they happen for us.

So how do Hannah and I remain hopeful in face of this unprecedented upheaval?  It’s early, but this is what we are trying now.

One, stay in contact by phone, email, and text with the good folks in our lives.

Two, think what we can do for others.

Remain H in YH

On a March 16, 2020 walk in York Harbor, Maine

Three, get our 10K steps by walking twice a day and soon biking once the temperature hits mid-fifties.

Four, write.  I draft for an hour or two every day and publish this blog to connect with the people in my life as well as to have a creative way to express myself.

Five, continue to sit evenings with Hannah sipping a glass of red wine.

Six, avoid cable news.

Remain titles

Seven, read.  Currently, I take all week to go through the Sunday New York Times, especially feasting on the Sunday Crossword Puzzle (yes, I do use my iPhone when I am stuck).  I have two books going, The Penny Poet of Portsmouth by Katherine Towler and The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday.

Eight, listen to the inspirational talks from the ministers at Unity of Santa Barbara on YouTube.

Nine, have our grandsons read a book to us while we FaceTime.  Then we read a book to them since we are not going to visit them each week for a while as we usually do.

Remain journal

Ten, start our day with stretching exercises, then journaling for me, letter writing for Hannah, and finally meditating for twenty minutes.

Eleven, shower early in the day.

Twelve, listen to podcasts together, then discuss how we can continue to remain hopeful.

Thirteen, watch TV that inspires.  Currently, we are watching season 3 of This is Us.

Spark any ideas for you?  What do you do to remain hopeful?  Please comment in the space below so readers of this blog have more ideas from which to choose.

Dan and Hannah Want to Be a Part of the Global Solution to Coronavirus

I admit, my focus on the Coronavirus was way too narrow during the past weeks (early March 2020).  Then all hell broke loose in York, Maine and all over the country.

McM 2C D and H closeup

Hiking in Santa Barbara

Reasonably, I figured that, though I am in the danger zone being well north of 60 years old when it comes to the Coronavirus, I believe I am one healthy 72-year-old.  I pickle, rock the elliptical and recumbent bike at the gym, and recently hiked up and down a slew of canyons into the mountains above Santa Barbara.

I figure that if I get the Coronavirus, I’ll feel crappy and feverish for a while and then I’ll get over it.  A week ago, I even thought, how bad could it be if I just got the damn virus, and then was done with it.  I’m healthy enough to weather that storm.  Or so I think?

Even four days ago, I thought that Hannah and I would still go with our daughter Molly’s family of four as planned to Utah to see its national parks during school spring vacation week in April.

Then last Thursday night Molly got word that her Lexington, MA school district was shutting down for two weeks.  That got my attention.  I never saw that coming!   A helluva wake-up call.

CV patty hymanson

State Rep Patty Hymanson

Then Friday an email from a family friend, Patty Hymanson, who is also an MD neurologist and the Maine State Representative for our part of York, advised against any unnecessary air travel within the US.  That was enough to kibosh the Utah trip.

CV ellipticals

The ellipticals at Coast Fitness in Kittery, Maine

But Hannah and I still went to our Coastal Fitness gym on Saturday.  At the gym, we play it safe by wiping down our elliptical and recumbent machines before and after using them.  The staff is wiping down more of the hard surfaces.  And, there are fewer people going to the gym these days, which reduces the possibility of infection, doesn’t it?  Now that I think of it, maybe fewer people should have been my first clue to rethink my choices.

Face Timing with our daughter Molly and her whole family Sunday night, we found the first seeds planted in rethinking our position about indoor pickleball and working out at the gym, that we promptly dismissed.

CV flatten the curve

After indoor pickleball was cancelled early Monday morning (March 16, 2020), Molly texted us about the importance of social distancing in order to slow down the spread of the virus.  You see, if the rate of infection can be slowed, we the people can minimize the chance that the health care system will be overwhelmed by a spike in cases needing hospitalization.  More than just thinking of ourselves as individuals, we need to start thinking of our whole community and to “flatten the curve” of this potentially deadly virus.

CV molly's fam

Dan, Molly, Hannah, Max, Tip with Owen in front in Big Sur, California (February 2020)

Molly sent along a link to The Daily Podcast from the New York Times, Learning to Live with the Coronavirus.  It is compelling.  Click here to listen to this podcast.  It’s well worth your thirty minutes.

And just like that we gave up the gym, for the time being; we’ll walk in the neighborhood, at the beach, on a local golf course, or through the in-town woods and bike when it gets just a little warmer here on the coast of Maine.

CV cv

I finally got it!  There’s a new normal that I am going to have to get used to.

Rather than focus on how the virus affects us as individuals, Hannah and I want to start being a part of the global effort to support the health care community in fighting this pandemic.

Join us.

Dan and Hannah With Their Son Will Hike the McMenemy Trail in Montecito, California

Before Hannah and I hit the beach this morning in Carpinteria, our son Will, still not adjusted to the three hour time change from the East Coast, gets up very early and runs five miles through predawn Carpinteria to the high school; he then warms down by walking with us for three miles on our Pacific sands.  Ah, to be healthy at 36!  And at 72!

SY map

Returning to the San Ysidro trailhead with Will this morning, we have a new trail in mind, the McMenemy Trail.  This trail has been inaccessible due to the devastating debris flow of 2018 and then the heavy rains of 2019 throughout Santa Barbara County.

McM 1D W and H on trail

Will and his sweet Mama

Shaded by Eucalyptus trees, the McMenemy (pronounce enemy with an M) Trail is soon a meandering series of switchbacks up the hillside with views to the Pacific.  As Will and Hannah hike ahead, I think of our third child.

McM St mikes

Through his public school years, Will balanced sports, studies, and friendship without obsessing in any one area.  As a Division II basketball player at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Will had his most fun athletically when he left the team his senior year and played intramurals with his buddies.

McM Brooks

Brooks, the big brother

With his wife Laurel and our nearly two-year-old grandson Brooks, Will eagerly awaits May when he will double his fun as his family will grow in an unexpected way.

Since I was born without the grilling gene, much to Hannah’s chagrin (make that horror!), Will takes control of barbecuing, be it fish, burgers, steak tips, or chicken when we get together.  I figure, we each play to our strengths!  Do I hear an Amen!  Tonight in Carpinteria, he will lightly char chicken chunks to a barbecue crispness for our dining pleasure.

On his last visit home in York, Maine where Hannah and I still live since we moved from Arizona in 1982, Will looks for things to do to support us around the house when he comes home.  He gets right to mowing our lawn, solidifies our brick walk with polymeric paver sand, and puts cold pack tar from our garage to our sinking driveway to provide a smooth ramp in for our cars.  Yeah, he plays to his strengths.

McM 2B D and H

Reminiscing done and now the steepness of the climb getting my full attention, I join Hannah and Will for views of the mansions of Montecito as well as the Pacific coast shoreline out to the Channel Islands.

McM 2D D on trail

McM 2A mansions

The McMenemy is a moderate workout with a 1000’ of elevation gain into the Santa Ynez Mountains.  While the trail is mostly dirt at the lower elevations, it is rocky into the mountains.

McM 2B sandstony trail


McM 1B stoney creek

Creek crossing

Once at the high point, we swiftly descend on the dusty and rocky trail back to the San Ysidro Creek.  Fording the miniscule creek, we retrace the first mile of the aforementioned San Ysidro Trail back to the trailhead.

McM 4A Los Arroyos facade

McM 4 Arroyos daily specials

Driving into downtown Montecito minutes away, we order take-out from Los Arroyos, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara County.  Today’s specials (take-out and specials are how Hannah and I roll) are chicken burritos (Dan) and steak burritos (Hannah and Will) topped with a chili-based mole (pronounce mol-lay) sauce has a chocolaty look.  The special includes ice tea, which both Will and Hannah claim is the best they have EVER tasted.

McM 2C D and H closeup

Proud parents

And by the way Will and Hannah each hit 30,000 steps!  It’s the least we can when Will comes to sunny California in January.

Dan and Hannah Make Things Happen for Their Son Will in California

Will Carp Beach 1

Carpinteria morning

Environmentally-induced exercise is in our DNA.  Hannah and I began running regularly in 1973 at the start of the running boom.  After running five times per week for thirty years, we woke one morning to hear our creaky knees say no mas.  Our three kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will,seem to have the same genetic predisposition to move and groove.   As you all know, motion is lotion.

Will Carp Beach 2

The beach at Carpinteria with Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance

Ergo, prior to our son Will heading to Anaheim, California to represent the athletic department of Ithaca College at the 2020 NCAA Convention, he takes the Amtrak north to spend a few days with his sunshine-induced, exercise-crazed parents.

Will early Carp with H

Will and Hannah on the bluff above the beach in Carpinteria

Before breakfast, Hannah and I walk three miles at the Carpinteria Beach just 300 yards from our winter rental.  Will does us five better by running five miles before he joins us for a cool down.  He’s on his way to a day of 30,000 Fitbit steps!

SY map

After Hannah’s to-die-for buttermilk biscuits and my oatmeal with blueberries, chia seeds, flax, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, protein powder, raisins, and cinnamon, Will is sufficiently fueled to hike the San Ysidro Canyon just twenty minutes away in Montecito.

Will 2 H and W at start of trail

Will 2A H and W on trail

Will and his mom on the San Ysidro Trail

The San Ysidro has become our trail of choice when we introduce visitors to hiking on the Central Coast of California.  On this typical January day in the 60s, we skirt the now bowl-shaped ravine, scoured by the January 2018 debris flow.

Will 2C W and D

Will and his pop

Will 2E on trail with H and W

Will and his mama

With Will in the lead, he takes it easy, well aware of the years of exercise recorded on his parents’ 72 year old bodies.  With a 1000’ of elevation gain to a dribbling waterfall this dry winter of 2020, the trail is always one we try to determine exactly where Hannah fell in 2017, the year before the catastrophic, channel-changing debris flow of 2018.  Check out the pictures below.

Will 3 where H fell

Though the landscape has changed because of the 2018 debris flow, we think this is where Hannah fell 25′ in 2017


Will 3A H near her fall

After a short siesta, Will and I take our beach cruisers to ride the Carpinteria Beach at mid-tide.  Will can both bike on the wet sand and take selfies, a talent that he has not as yet passed on to his old man.

Will 4 on beach cruisers

Will zzzzz

Dining on take-out of Los Arroyos grilled chicken burritos washed down by a Dos Equus, Will is no match for his three hour time change and the fact that he awoke at 3A in New York this morning; he heads for bed at 730P.

I am sure he is well aware that we will not let up and have a full day of activity for him tomorrow.  Oh yeah, mission accomplished; Will hits 32,000 steps, a current Rothermel Family personal best.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Bluff Trail at the University of California, Santa Barbara 2020

UCSB calle ocho

Our winter rental ranch house in Carpinteria

Let’s lay all the cards on the table.  The stories from the West Coast are true!  California is one muy expensivo place to live.  As homeowners in Maine, Hannah and I couldn’t own a comparable home here in Carpinteria, let alone in upscale Montecito or Santa Barbara.  The modest three bedroom ranch we rent in winter (their off-season) is valued at $1.3 million.  Click here to check out our VRBO.  Who else can’t afford to live in Carpinteria?  Their teachers, fire fighters, and police!  In their dreams.

UCSB gas prices

Gas price in Carpinteria with my one-speed beach cruiser in the foreground

Check out these gas prices in Carpinteria when gas is $2.65 in Maine.  That said, California is a leader in reducing emissions and giving a sh** about the Climate Crises that has our lives staring down the gun barrel of trouble with a capital T.

Stepping down from soapbox, I present to you one of the jewels of the University of California system – The University of California, Santa Barbara.

UCSB map

Twenty-five minutes north along The 101 are the bluff trails of UCSB.  Even for Californians, the total cost of one year at UCSB is $36K.  Out-of-state students pay $64K for this selective state school (36% acceptance rate).

UCSB 1A east cliffs

Parking at the Goleta Beach State Park on the first Tuesday in January, we walk a half mile along the coastline to the bluff trails to enter campus.  Being low tide, we take the stairs down to the surfer’s beach to check out the cliffs above us.  A year ago at high tide, we saw officers on a ski-do rescue a distressed surfer.  Click here for that story and pictures.

UCSB 2B north cliffs north

North side


UCSB 3A from the beach north

North side

Once on the north edge of campus, Hannah and I take another bluff trail facing the Pacific.  Much of this Campus Point is covered with ice plant, an exotic invasive scourge that competes with native plants by forming thick mats that cover the landscape.  It’s California’s bad brother to the South’s kudzu.  Click here for the kudzu blog.

UCSB 4 ice plants

Ice plants

UCSB 4A heron with ice plants

Up close and personal with a heron among the ice plants

Easily descending on a trail to the beach, we see three coeds dive into shoreline surf of the 59F waters of the Pacific this first week of January.  When we ask how it feels, one claims it’s amazing!  But for us, we believe the math: 59F is 59F.

UCSB 5 apts on cliff

Off-campus student housing at UCSB

UCSB 5A deck above cliffs

Over time, the bluffs they are acrumbling.  Notice the vulnerability of the deck this winter of 2020.

UCSB map to PT

After two hours of hiking/campus walking, we lunch at Pilgrim Terrace in Santa Barbara.  PT is an affordable living complex of apartments whose director John believes that if his lower income residents have at least one nutritious meal per day in a social setting, their health will improve dramatically.  To that end, the complex grows vegetables on site.

UCSB towers of lettuce

Towers of lettuce grow efficiently at Pilgrim Terrace

To raise funds, PT allows others to lunch for a mere $7.  Check out the lo mien shrimp dish (count ‘em five shrimp) with roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts, a green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, cottage cheese, and, a personal favorite, croutons.  In addition, the pea soup has kale for those of you who donate blood and need to raise your hemoglobin level.

UCSB 9 PT meal H

Lunch al fresco at Pilgrim Terrace in January

Our treat next time you come to California’s Central Coast.

Dan and Hannah Hike Romero Canyon in Montecito, California 2020

Romero mapOn this mid-January Wednesday, it’s a simple 15 minute drive from Carpinteria to the trailhead of Romero Canyon in the foothills of Montecito.  Parking near the trailhead at Belle Vista Drive, we see the road again in rough shape but nothing like it was in 2019.

Romero 1 trailhead road

2020 (the creek naturally flows over the road)


Romero 2019 road

2019 after debris flows

Fact is, the rainy winter we spent in California last year is a distant memory as we have had 11 straight sunny days on the Pacific.  We’ve had effective temperatures in the 70s! Though the daytime highs are generally in the low to mid-60s, as a trained meteorologist (by that I mean I watch the Weather Channel), I add 8-10F to the ambient temperature (temp in the shade) to get the true “feels like” temperature in the sun.  Please, it’s not rocket science!  I just do the math!

As we begin the dusty trail, we see what appear to be volunteers with white flags.  As we approach them, I ask, What are you doing?  (By that I mean que paso?)  They tell me and now it’s time for you to figure out what’s up from the pictures below?  Answer at the end of the blog.

Romero 2 flags

Romero 2A flags

The trail up Romero Canyon is relentless (by that I mean there is 1500’ of elevation gain in just over two miles of hiking).  Popular with mountain bikers, the Romero Canyon trail has the distinctive jingle of bike bells when riders approach.  The bells are free and available at the trailhead.  Throughout our two hours on the trail, we see five or six rockin’ riders; we are never startled by their passing.

Romero 3D Hannah with bell

Romero 4C better biker

With little rain since December, the trail is dusty with creek crossings that we take with a simple step or two.

Romero 3 trail with H

For the most part tree covered, the very rocky trail meanders into the mountains for a mile and a half with vertical drops of 20’ or more just a few feet from the trail.

After our final creek crossing, we follow the mostly shaded switchback trail into the mountains.  Our turnaround point is the fire road; there is much more hiking into the Santa Ynez mountains available for the adventurous.

Romero 4A H on upper trail

Romero 4 D at top

Adventurous we are not today, so we return for the trailhead knowing that we love our hikes of about four miles roundtrip; they are our bread and butter, our peaches and cream, our yin and yang, our Ali and Cat… I think you get the idea.

Romero Canyon?  It’s a workout but worth the effort.

White flags?  The volunteers are taking a tick survey.  Really, active ticks in January?  Yes, in California.

Dan and Hannah Return the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California

SY Dr. A

Dr. Aganostou working his magic on Hannah

This morning we return to hike up San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito; later tonight we will look out over the Pacific to thank a trio of our lucky stars.  Three years ago Hannah fell 25’ down a steep, sharp-rocked canyon, ripping her leg open to the bone.  Perched on a rock, 30’ above the unforgiving creek boulders, Hannah was rescued thanks to our son-in-law Tip.  Thanks to our daughter Molly who raced ahead with our grandson Owen to the trailhead so an ambulance was waiting for Hannah.  Thanks to Dr. Aganostou of the Cottage Hospital ER in Santa Barbara for stitching her back together.


SY 1 H at trail head

Having been to this fateful canyon three times before, Hannah comes to the trail without fear or dread but cognizant of how the stars aligned for her to hike another day.  If you know Hannah, you are not surprised to learn that she was truly grateful that it was she, not Owen, Max, Molly, or Tip who fell down the canyon that day in February 2017.

SY 1A creek and trail at the start

The no longer V-shaped canyon after the debris flow of 2018

SY map

Today, we drive The 101 highway to Montecito, then on to the trailhead on Mountain Drive.  On this early January 60F morning, we take to the narrow, single track trail where creek side houses are being rebuilt, two years after the Thomas Fire that raged in this and other Montecito canyons (the year after Hannah fell).

Denuding the mountainside of all vegetation including large trees, the fire paved a path for torrential rains to cause mud, car size boulders, and rock debris to overwhelm the creek bed and inundate the creekside neighborhoods.  Tragically, 23 people died and two children were never found.

SY 1B D on fire road

In sight of the mansions, we take to creek-side fire road heading into the mountains.  Passing a first, then a second flexible debris flow net across the creek, we see a curtain of metal rings that hang high enough above the creek to allow for wildlife and water in the creek  to pass through but are still able to trap and block debris in case there is another catastrophic natural event.

SY 2A H on trail with nets in distance

Debris flow nets in the distance


SY 2B nets closer

A closer look at the debris flow nets over the San Ysidro Creek

SY 2BB nets better

Up close and personal view of the debris flow nets


SY 2 H as trail narrows

One mile in, we take to the trail that narrows as we walk single file stepping higher into the Santa Ynez Mountains; it’s a moderately strenuous workout with 1000′ of elevation gain.

SY 3 H on narrow trail

SY 4 h close up family picture

Hiking on, we continue to puzzle out where Hannah fell.  We can’t be sure since the canyon has been scoured and re-sculptured due to the 2018 debris flows.

SY 5 where hannah fell

We think this is where Molly distracted our grandsons, Owen and Max, while Tip rescued Hannah in 2017.

SY 5A cliffside where hannah fell

This just may be where Hannah fell

Today the trail to the falls is blocked by branches purposefully left to keep hikers out.  Today the falls are a shadow of what they are when it rains.  Check out the falls in 2017 and 2020.

SY 7A more falls 2020

The San Ysidro Falls trickle down in 2020 with the branches blocking the trail to the base of the falls

SY 2017 falls

At the base of the same falls three years earlier (2017)

After hiking two miles up the canyon, we return with none of the drama of three years ago.  Sometimes routine is good, very good.

Click here if you have not read Hannah’s terrifying descent off the San Ysidro Trail.