Dan’s Academy Awards for Film in 2019

Hannah and I have come to the Central California Coast to take a big bite out of winter.  It turns out our mere presence has been the tipping point to put a serious dent in the eight-year drought in the area.  Despite the rain, we still walk the beach in Carpinteria daily, hike in the Montecito mountains, and pickle in Santa Barbara and Ventura three to four times per week.

Yet, when it does rain, it’s show time for Dan and Hannah.  I have four cinematic gems for you (in the order that we saw them) that insiders know will crush at tonight’s Academy Awards.

Movies Green Book

The first hearty recommendation is Green Book with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.  It’s the story of a white man driving a black musician throughout the South in  racially charged 1962.  With the developing relationship between the two highlighted by their spirited back and forth repartee, Green Book is a film Hannah and I will take our three grandsons, Owen, Max, and Brooks, to see when they enter middle school.

By the way, the actual Green Book was a guide for African-Americans to find restaurants and motels from 1936 to 1966 where they would be allowed to eat and stay in the South.  Many Black Americans took to driving, in part to avoid segregation on public transportation.

Movies On the Basis of Sex

The second film focuses on the life of a modern day hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice.  Having previously seen the fabulous documentary on her full life, RBG, Hannah and I found On the Basis of Sex a riveting tale of her earlier life in law and how she made a difference in all our lives, especially women.  Felicity Jones rocks the lead role.

Movies Crazy Rich Asians

Hannah and I were a little late in coming to this third blockbuster, Crazy Rich Asians.  No longer in theaters, we borrowed the DVD from the Carpinteria Library.  The basis of the story is the male lead (Henry Golding) who grew up filthy rich, then decided that maybe there is something more to life than money.  Constance Wu takes center stage as Rachel Chu in this inspirational story of family and couple dynamics.  The casting is superb.

Movies Bohemian Rhapsody

And finally on a rainy Thursday, we ventured to the Regency Buenaventura Six eighteen miles south in Ventura for Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of the rock band Queen.  I never followed Queen in the 1980s (my loss!) and never knew the backstory of  the lead singer Freddie Mercury played convincingly by Rami Malek.  As a film-goer, I took the ride with his life of triumphs and valleys.  Concluding with the Live Aid Concert to address poverty in the African continent in 1985, Bohemian Rhapsody is a soaring musical tribute to Queen that rocks for even me, the uninitiated.



Dan and Hannah Hike the Actual Romero Canyon Trail in Montecito, California

R2 map

A week ago, on a busy Martin Luther King, jr. Monday, Hannah and I missed the turn for the Romero Canyon creek trail and headed up the mountain on a fire road.  Only at the end of that fire road hike did we learn where the turn was.

Ergo, today we begin our hike at the first of three creek crossings, stunned to see a newly laid concrete road where seven days ago a pickup truck sat marooned in the creek of boulders (see before and after below).

R2 truck in boulders

January 14, 2019


R2 creek crossing 2

January 21, 2019

Sh 2 DS at washout

February 13, 2019 with my high school classmate, Dave Shiffman

For the first half mile, the creek trail is indeed the steep charmless fire road of last week.  Turning left after the third creek crossing, we finally hike into the Santa Ynez Mountains along the creek bed; just a year ago (2018) this creek channel funneled debris and mud killing twenty-three and destroying Montecito.

R2 1A H by eroded trail

In many places, the trail itself is eroded with exposed rocks and stones, making hiking challenging, but doable for we, the motivated.  In many places, the Montecito Trail Foundation has shored up the trail to make it passable at all.

R2 1B H by creek edge

Reinforced trail

In places, the trail narrows such that we are vigilant not to stray to close to the edge, wanting to avoid an unexpected trip to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, a la Hannah 2017.

R2 2 H by Thomas Fire burn

Upper trail with evidence from the Thomas Fire and regrowth a year later

Creek crossing happens again and again, but well-placed rocks make the crossing very manageable.  Steadily climbing what turns out to be 1500’ of elevation gain, we cross the creek one last time, then climb on switchbacks of foot-soothing dirt.  Semi-summiting at the upper fire road, we figuratively smell the roses for 60 seconds (there are no roses) and return down the mountain for the trailhead.

R2 3 H at cairn

Our hand-made cairn next to Hannah’s left foot

An hour later when we step off the trail for the lower fire road back to the trailhead, we think, unless hikers are locals, they are not going to see the sharp left of the creek trail.

It’s cairn building time!  Taking it upon ourselves to right this wrong, we pile eight stones to make a cairn to indicate the creek trail junction.  Figuratively patting ourselves on the back, we head for the trailhead where Karma is about to greet us.

R2 3A couple who asked for directions

The couple from Boston about to discover a newly created cairn

Not 200 yards later, we chat up a couple from Boston who are first timers on the trail.  Once they say they want to hike the creek trail, Hannah pulls out her iPhone to show them our cairn handiwork and describe its location.  They are so appreciative; Karma taps us thankfully on the shoulder, and whispers, You two are okay.  I’ll be back.


PS You may remember from the final paragraphs of the previous Romero Canyon blog (Click here for it.) that Hannah was mistaken for a “Kimmie” by a hiker we met on the trail last week.  After hiking today, we drive to the Knowlwood Tennis Center in Montecito where she teaches tennis.

R2 Knowlwood Kim

That’s Kim in the far court who graciously came over to talk to us during a tennis lesson


Briefly interrupting her lesson, we tell her the story of meeting her friend on the trail, and we just want to meet a person that the friend said looks just like Hannah.  Hannah has pouches of her monster cookies for both women.

It was just one of those feel good moments as Kim is as sweet and appreciative as Hannah would have been.   In fact, Hannah saw her sisters Bettsy and Leni in Kimmie!

Two days later, Hannah gets a text from Kimmie!  Hannah, Thank you so much for the wonderful cookies!  I am so sorry I was in the middle of a lesson when you came to the club…I would have loved to chat:)  I had a cute pixie like you two years ago.  We are similar build, yes?  Anyway…I hope you have an amazing stay in SB.   Blessings, Kimmie

Whoa, sounds like Hannah, oui?

Images from the trail and recent mud flow

R2 1 H at start of trail


R2 1C D by creek mini-falls


R2 1D wiped out bridge

The trail bridge is gone!


R2 creek crossing


R2 2A D at fire road

After two miles of hiking, we’ll return to the trailhead at Bella Vista Road


R2 H by exposed root system


R2 4 sunset from Rincon

Carpinteria sunset


Five days later the rains fell again, Montecito had a mandatory evacuation, and the six lane 101 highway was closed in both directions for a good part of Saturday.  Images from Nooshawk/Independent.

R2 flooded 101

Flooding on the 101



R2 flooded and muddy 101

Mudflows across the 101


R2 mud across 101

A river of mud


R2 flooding five days later

Montecito side street


Dan with Hannah Hike the Romero Canyon Trail (Sunshine Version – Fire Road)

rr map of montecito

When we are not playing pickleball in Santa Barbara or Ventura, we look for trails up and down the California coast to spark our hiking joneses.  Today, we return to an old favorite – the Romero Canyon, which has been “remodeled,” due to the catastrophic January 2018 mud and debris flows into Montecito.

r1 h by cars

Roadside parking near the Romero Canyon trailhead

Driving a mere fifteen minutes north from Carpinteria, we snake up the narrow two lane Romero Canyon Road looking to see what Mother Nature has wrought.  With no trailhead parking per se, we are about the tenth car in line, occupying 2/3 of the right lane.

r1a at river corssing with stuck truck

Pick-up deep in boulders

Immediately, we spot a truck marooned in the boulder-strewn stream where there was once a road.  I am not sure what he was thinking.

The trailhead looks similar to our 2015 hike here, though there is no signage and that proves problematic later today.  Click here for the 2015 Romero Canyon blog.



Man-made debris basin

Soon, we come to a man-made debris basin constructed of boulders cemented together as a barrier to catch trees and boulders flowing down the mountain during heavy rains.

As we venture up the steep trail, we cross the stream easily in two other places and take to the obvious fire road that we have been following up the mountainside.  None of this looks familiar, but we figure the savage storms of last winter have destroyed the trail along the creek.


With temperatures muy frio back East, we take to the full sunshine of the fire road with views of the mansions of Montecito (home to Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey) and then on to the Pacific.



There is little natural charm to a fire road, but we hike into the Santa Ynez Mountains for an hour under brilliant blue skies and all the vitamin D we could ask for.  Mistakenly, we figure this is the new reality of the “Romero Canyon Trail.”


Out to the Pacific with the Channel Islands in the distance

Returning down to the trailhead, we see an athletic woman with her friend who looks at Hannah and says, “Kimmie?”  She takes another step looking at Hannah directly and says, “Kim?” a little less certain.  Not until she is five feet away does, she say, “Oh, I thought you were my friend Kim.  You look exactly like her.  She’s athletic, runs marathons, in fact, she teaches tennis locally.”

I chime in, Kimmie must be beautiful (i.e. she must if she looks Hannah).  All three women smile and acknowledge momma didn’t raise no fool.

After five minutes of back and forth, they tell us there is indeed a Romero Canyon Trail along the creek.  On your way down, take a trail to your right just before the first creek crossing.


Evidence of the December 2017 Thomas Fire on the trail.  Rebirth has begun.

Totally hidden from the fire road where we had ascended, the trail veers off into the creek-side forest.  Stay tuned, for we return to Romero Canyon – part deux.






Images from the trail


Romero creek cascade just up from the truck stuck in the creek boulders



Washed out trail bridge





Charmless fire road with a killer view



Mansion of Montecito from the fire road


R1 debris basin on saturday of storm

After a recent storm, the heavy machinery clears mud, stones, and boulders from the catch basin (Nooshawk, Independent photo)




Dan and Hannah Pickle on their Way to the Mega-Landslide in Big Sur

cam 2d landslide preview

The Mud Creek Landslide

Living 3000 miles away on the Atlantic Coast in May 2017, I read about the big time landslide at Mud Creek in Big Sur, California that heaped six million tons of rock and dirt on a quarter mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway.  The PCH is the coastal artery running through Big Sur, home to iconic California State Parks of truly awesome redwoods.

Finally fourteen months later (July 2018), the PCH reopened for travelers driving up and down the coast.  Being but a mere 175 miles away in Carpinteria for the winter, I had to see the engineering wonder for myself.  Hannah smiles and comes along for the ride.

cam 1 h by sign

234 miles north of Los Angeles and 233 miles south of San Francisco on the Pacific coast, at the southern gateway to Big Sur

As hard core pickleballers, we seek out venues whenever we hit the road.  As good fortune would have it, just 45 miles south of the landslide is Cambria, the last town of note until Carmel and Monterey; it has a spanking new pickleball facility.  Learning of Wednesday morning play this late January, we leave Carp at 615A and arrive just after 9A to see players aplenty whacking the wiffle-like ball.

cam 1a d and h at cam

Hannah and I warm-up together and very soon are asked to join a game.  The people are genial, intermediate players.  Sizing up the situation, I realize that today will not be a day to work on my game or to be challenged, but to be an encourager, a cheerleader for others.  Let me tell you, taking on this role is no sacrifice.  In addition to it being a decent thing to do, it’s 60F and sunny while in Maine today temps are just getting into the teens.

lk 1 map

Leaving Cambria, we have twenty miles of two lane PCH through farmland and pastures past the elephant seals rookery, the Hearst Castle, and San Simeon State Park.  Then the fun begins.

cam 2a more landslide

Waiting for our lane of the PCH to open (landslide in the distance)


The PCH narrows and we are on the road etched into the mountainside.  Driving on the inside lane, we are nearest the mountain and a good twenty feet from the plunging cliffside into the Pacific.  The hairpins have us going 15 miles per hour in places.  While Hannah drives, I get to check out the coastline; eyes firmly on the road, she is laser-focused on the winding road ahead.

cam 2b landslide frontal

During a drive-by of the landslide

Then we see a sign for work ahead.  Though the PCH has been opened for six months, heavy machinery still reinforces the shoreline by dumping car-size boulders for support.  With only one lane open, we wait, and I snap a picture or two.

Soon, we are waved through and that’s it.  No vista point parking to check out the magnificent reconstruction.  No pull-offs for close-up pictures.  We have driven by the landslide in 15 seconds!   We can’t see a thing over the cliff to the ocean.  Thank goodness for Internet aerial photography.

cam 2e internet landslide image

Mud Creek Landslide

Our experience is, in fact, underwhelming.  But hey, we pickled in the morning and are off to the waterfall trail of Limekiln State Park in Big Sur.  Click here for that blog.

To conclude, we are reminded just how much California rocks.  A little landslide humor.

Very little.

Dan and Hannah Slosh to the Limekiln State Park Waterfalls in Big Sur

lk 4 pch

January on the Pacific Coast Highway with Hannah

Yes sir, Big Sur!  It’s an area of nearly one hundred miles on the Pacific Coast Highway that clings to the mountainside, a guardrail away from the unaware plummeting hundreds of feet and meeting their maker.

lk 1 map 3

Returning to Big Sur today, we have California Dreamin’ memories of hiking its big three state parks with their majestic redwoods thanks to the state protection, growth-inducing coastal mist, and temperate climate.  (Click on each name for these blogs – Andrew Molera, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, and Pfeiffer Big Sur.)

lk 1a great creek scene

Redwood country

Fearlessly, Hannah has driven the first 24 miles of the PCH’s winding, cliffhanging two lane road with 15 mph hairpins thrown in for good measure.  Pulling into the middle-of-nowhere park entrance of Limekiln State Park in Big Sur, I think this has got to be the Siberia for California State Park rangers.  Paying a mere $10 to hike their trails, we are drawn to this park for its waterfalls, not its lime kilns.

The lime kilns (see the photo at the end of the blog) were used in the late 1800s to purify the lime that was used for the mortar for the brick buildings in San Francisco to the north.  By the way, the redwoods in this area were clear cut to provide fuel to heat the kilns.

lk 1b more creek

The foot-friendly dirt trails have us checking out the little brother redwoods that fill the forest sky; but they’ve none of the majesty of the towering, ravishing redwoods of their big sister state parks.

The park brochure mentions that hiking to the waterfalls requires some water crossings.  Arriving at the first one, we are amazed to see a raging creek 20’ across, with submerged stones, boulders, and semi-submerged logs.  Seeing three coeds taking off their shoes and socks and wading across the churning creek, we have all the encouragement that we need.

lk 2 h ready to enter water

First crossing

Removing her socks and hiking shoes, Hannah takes three steps into the creek and turns back saying, I can’t do it.  My feet just hurt.

Having forded 20-30’ of cold water streams in Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur and outside of Reno, Nevada, I know that I can no longer cross this stream in my bare feet due to the rounded rocks, swift current, and normal balance issues of a 71 year old.  We do have a Plan B.

lk 3 h at river crossing

Fourth crossing


Taking off our socks and hiking shoes, we pack away our socks and put our hiking shoes back on to slosh across the raging, few inches to a foot and a half deep creek.  It works!  Our soaked-to-the-bone hiking shoes even out the creek bed stones and with the grab of a creek log here and there, we get across.

Success!  Hmmm, not so fast my friend.

lk 3a d and h at waterfall

Water-logged at the Limekiln Falls

Within 50 yards, we have an even wider, swifter crossing.  Stepping into the ice cold stream, we take baby steps, hang on to creek logs and protruding boulders as best we can and successfully navigate the second of four creek crossings.

lk 3d better waterfall

It’s an afternoon of unexpected joy, having stumbled onto this challenging water crossing trail.  It all ends at the fabulous Limekiln Falls.  Enjoy two waterfall videos.



Images from the trail

lk 1 h at start of trail

Skinny redwoods as a backdrop


lk 1d arty mushrooms

This photo was inspired by my artistic Arizona State classmates and photographers extraordinaire, Rich Meyer and Gale Nobes


lk 3b h at waterfall lower


lk lime kiln

One of four one-time lime kilns