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.

Dan and Hannah Come Away Amazed with Grace at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SBIFF pickleball

Hannah at the Santa Barbara pickleball courts 2020

Hannah comes up with some great let’s-give-it-a-shot ideas.  Five years ago, she read in the York (Maine) Parks and Rec Program of Activities about something called pickleball; we never heard of it.  After one session, we were hooked, lined, and sinkered.  Wherever we travel, we play pickleball, as we did today in Santa Barbara.

SBIFF Grace image

Grace Fisher

Earlier this week, Hannah read in the local Montecito Journal about a film, Amazing Grace that she wanted to see.   It’s a documentary of the story of an active, musical Santa Barbara teenager, Grace Fisher, who on her 17th birthday was struck by a polio-like disease (Acute Flaccid Myelitis) in her spine.  In 24 hours, she needed a tube to breathe and was unable to use her arms and legs.  24 hours!


Emmy Award winning director, Lynn Montgomery, also a Santa Barbara resident, took on the challenge of bringing Gracie’s triumph over tragedy to film, which debuts this week at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Fiesta Five Theater.

SBIFF logo

SBIFF is big time!  Two years ago at SBIFF, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone came to town to claim their prizes as Outstanding Performers for their acting in La La Land.  This year Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver of the Marriage Story showed up to be so honored.

Though Hannah and I do not have tickets for Amazing Grace in downtown Santa Barbara this Friday afternoon, we know that there are Rush tickets for $10; Rush tickets are available if there are any unsold tickets at showtime.

SBIFF rush ticket line

We are in the designated Rush ticket line (sign behind first fan palm)

Arriving 25 minutes early at the theater for the 120P viewing, we see lines for the Platinum ticket holders (those are the big shots) as well as the Pass ticket holders (those are ones who planned ahead).  Once they all get in, those on the Rush line can purchase tickets.  We are the 11th and 12th spots in the Rush line.

While we wait outside in the typically delightful January weather of Santa Barbara (62F and sunny), a woman who seems to know everyone stands next to us.  When I ask about our chances of getting in, she thinks we have a shot.

SBIFF Han and Debbie

Hannah with Debbie Fisher still waiting on line

As we talk we learn that we are, in fact, talking to Grace’s mom, Debbie Fisher.  Though jazzed that we are in the presence of a celebrity, we learn now at 125P that even if we get in, we will miss the first five minutes of the film, Debbie’s favorite part.

At this point, an SBIFF usher comes out and says to the Rush line folks that it’s pretty unlikely they’ll be any tickets left.  We think, she didn’t say there are no tickets left, so we decide to wait.

SBIFF from the back row

Screen from our back row seats

That usher tells those in the Pass line that there are only seats in the first two rows, which gives us hope that some Pass folks will leave and open up seats for us.

Debbie informs us that the SBIFF organizers have told her that they might have a third showing of Amazing Grace if this second showing is sold out.  She offers to contact us if that happens.  Typing my number into her smart phone, she then texts me with her number.  Just like that, the mother of the star of the film, a co-star herself, gives me her number.  How cool is that!  So California!

Ten minutes later, another usher comes out shaking her head and says, They can’t count. There are still some seats.  So now at 135P, we pay our $10 to be ushered to seats, but… not in the front row.  We are directed to the cushy seats at the back of theater.  And, to boot, they have held the film for us, the late arrivals.

SBIFF Grace with mouth stick

Grace Fisher composing

Settling in, we love Grace’s story.  Despite the Acute Flaccid Myelitis, Grace Fisher is an upbeat young woman who paints with a mouth stick as well as uses it to compose music as a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Grace reveals that her mom  is the one who got her past feeling sorry for herself and to start finding her way in the world.

SBIFF Grace at theater

Grace after the film’s debut


I’ve always been inherently happy.  I can’t be mad – no one caused this.  It was just this unexplainable thing that happened…I used my body in so many ways and was physically active (before).  Now the biggest things that’s been enhanced is the ability to sit still and work on art or music.  My ability to use time in a different manner. – Grace Fisher

We hit a home run this afternoon with this amazing film; we wallop a second dinger meeting Debbie Fisher who trusted us with her phone number; and our third four bagger is the reminder that we all have choices how we interact with the world, no matter our circumstances.

You gotta believe that Hannah hit a moon shot today with one helluva choice!

Dan and His Fascination with California!  The Getaway Part 2 of 2

In part 1, readers learned of the backstory of why it’s California, not Arizona and Florida, in winter for Hannah and me.  Part 2 lets you in on our getaway.

Flying is Hannah’s least favorite way to travel.  On the other hand, I am no fan of cross country road trips; you see, I can do the math.  Planes allow us to get from coast to coast in six hours; it’s five days of mind-numbing tedium to cross the good ole US of A by car.

Leaving home in York, Maine mid-Friday afternoon during first week of January, Hannah and I spend the night before we fly out of Logan Airport with Molly’s family in Massachusetts.  Playing Uno, then Legos with our grandsons, Owen (7) and Max (5), we read to the boys before bedtime.  While Tip is out with his buddies digging Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for the night, Hannah and I settle down with Molly for evening wine and then Wegman’s subs that Molly provides for us all.  Hannah and I know how fortunate we are to have Molly in our lives; she’s a daughter who is a friend, who thinks of us regularly, who is as just as active as we are so hiking together works really well; and she is just damn good company night in and night out.

I recently found this quote that spoke to me.  It’s not enough that you love them, they must know that you love them.  – St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier.  I’ll check in this weekend to see how I am doing on that score with her.

Getaway 1A window seat

At 515A, Molly drives us to Logan in the pre-flight dark.  Since Hannah and I know when we are going to California each year, we are able to purchase tickets seven months in advance when the prices are at their lowest.  How sweet is $378 each non-stop, round-trip Boston to LA!  As such, you might think Jet Blue might value us as customers.  But noooooo.

Getaway 1B from window seat

Hannah is exiled to seat 12F by the window while I am ostracized in 12A by the opposite window.  Jet Blue punishes us for our timely purchase even though they have had the use of our money for seven months.  They rightfully have earned a 2 of 5 rating!

We suck it up, watch the excellent Downton Abbey movie while the pilots work their magic.  In a move that defies physics, the pilots take us to LA by way of the upper peninsula of Michigan.  Arriving 45 minutes early at 1120A Pacific Time, we take the LAX shuttle bus to Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  Literally in 20 minutes, we are heading north on The 405 to Carpinteria 85 miles away.  Travel tip, it’s so worth the extra dollars to rent from a brand name company like Enterprise; we get such good service and personal attention.

Getaway map of lax to carp

Soon we are on The 101 through Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and by 2P arrive in Carpinteria.

Getaway 2 on the beach at Carp

Within a half hour, we are walking the sandy beach by Carpinteria State Park in shorts and tee-shirts in January!  Our getaway is complete; our escape has begun.

Carp Sunset 1

Carpinteria sunset