Dan and His Fascination with California! The Back Story Part 1 of 2

Carp Sunset 1

Carpinteria sunset 2020

At this moment, Hannah and I are flying over Iowa on our Jet Blue flight from Logan Airport in Boston to LAX in southern California.  For the seventh winter running, we have come to the Golden State to take a big bite out of the Maine winter.

boston to la map

So, why California and not Florida or your home for ten years, Arizona? you ask.  There’s something about California that has had a hold on me since my teenage years.  Here’s the back story.


During the mid-1960s in suburban north Jersey, I was buried on the depth chart in the pecking order at Fair Lawn High School.  Neither a Rah-rah (class leaders, athletes, the good looking, and/or cheerleaders) nor a Bopper (a hood with a black leather jacket), I did have my core of close friends.  Truth be told, we were all two or three orbits out from the In-Crowd.  (Somewhere beyond Uranus – that’s always funny.)

You see, my dad was the principal at FLHS when I was a student there.  Of course, that’s not his fault, but I was unable to break out of the expectations of how a principal’s son should behave.  I was not about to go Footloose on anyone.  And to compound the challenge, as a first child, I was born with the double obedience gene.

Carp Mamas Papas

With a transistor radio pressed to my ear, I listened to Cousin Brucie and Big Dan Ingram on WABC as I connected with the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas.  My head filled with what life might be like on the Left Coast.  You see, California seemed to be everything New Jersey was not.  Sunshine, palm trees, surfing, and especially surfer girls!

John Philips of the aforementioned Mamas and Papas spoke to me.  Go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do.  Pretty seductive to a dreamer like me.

Carp Sunset 2

Carpinteria sunset 2020

So the fascination with California comes from my desire to escape a teenage life of daily expectations and impossible standards, self-imposed and otherwise.  Escape from being the good boy, the dutiful one who was flexible to a fault.

As a college senior, I got 85% of the way to California by transferring to Arizona State University.  Upon graduation, I jumped at the chance to teach at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California (25 miles south of Los Angeles).  Though my teaching career ended before it began four months later due to complications with the draft during the Viet Nam War, California continued to have a hold on me.  Though Maine is home, my heart strings pull me to California each winter.

Carp Sunset 3

Carpinteria sunset 2020

And today landing at LAX, I am already California Dreamin’.  (You see, the Mamas and Papas were kind of life coaches for me.)

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding at Rattlesnake Canyon in California

Rattle SB map

Hiking with our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, our grandsons, Owen (kindergarten), and Max (pre-school) has become a family tradition for Hannah and me when they come to California.  Choosing the four mile round-trip Rattlesnake Trail, we have what is referred to online as the most popular hike in Santa Barbara.  Traveling a mere 12 miles from our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria on The 101 north, we pull into the city of Santa Barbara Skofield Park.  A hopeful sign of the times greets us.

Rattle 1AA Omi and Owen at trailhead with sign

Rattle 1 Rawdings at the trailhead

Not two hundred yards away, we begin our trek by crossing the canyon stream.  Today, Tip calmly steps on stones 2/3 of the way across the creek, turns back with his hand reaching for first Owen, then Max, followed by Molly, Hannah, and me.

Rattle 1 Family R and H on trail

Tip, Molly, Owen, Hollywood Max, and Omi on the trail

Maybe half a mile into the hike, the trail diverges – to the right along the mountainside, to the left back to towards the river.  I swear that when Hannah and I were here two years ago that we hiked this trail to the right.  Click here for that blog.  My memory?  It’s not batting 1.000.

Rattle 2BB D and family on trail

Max, Tip, Owen, Omi, and Poppa on the tree shaded trail

Not my shiniest moment.  Climbing up and away from the luxury homes of Santa Barbara, we are soon walking single file on the steep mountain-side – Owen with his Omi and Max with me skipping along the trail.  As the trail narrows and falls away sharply to the creek, Hannah and I turn to the first team, their parents, to take over and guide them along the trail.  Later, three athletic women call this the “technical” path to the meadow on the Rattlesnake Trail.  My bad.

Rattle 2C another excellent family on trail

The Family Rawding far from New England

Eventually crossing back over the creek with Tip’s reassuring support, we reconnect with the original (and by that, I mean reasonable) trail, which is a gentler climb towards the mountain meadow.  A good hour and 45 minutes after we started we arrive at the meadow beneath the towering Santa Ynez Mountains.

Rattle 3A we six at meadow end point

Returning by way of the advertised main trail, we pass the mini-waterfalls (and by that, I mean tumbling cascade) during the rainiest winter in eight years.  On the main trail back, we do have two more water crossings.  At the second, Tip again confidently steps ¾ of the way into the creek, first lifts Max, then hoists Owen over to the other side.  Molly follows without aid as does Hannah.

Being a tad less agile than these athletic women, I reach down for the creek boulders to lower my center of gravity to steady myself.  At that point, Tip reaches for my hand to support me mid-creek.  As I’m about to step to the dry side, Owen reaches out his hand to get me to dry land.

Rattle 4A mini-falls on way back

Hannah sees it all and tears up.  Like father, like son.






More pictures from the Rattlesnake Trail

RAttle 2AA O and P with O and M

Poppa, Owen, Max, and Omi on the trail where we never see a rattlesnake

Rattle 3 Nooshawk photo meadow

Rattlesnake Trail Meadow

Rattle 4B hail

On our descent, hail rained down on us all

Rattle 4 H on trail coming back

Rattle 4BB Molly and Max

Molly and Max with the Channel Islands of the Pacific Ocean in the background

Rattle 4CC Omi and fam on trail

Hannah – always pumped


Rattle 4AA Molly and Tip

Molly and Tip

Dan and Hannah Make California Memories with Owen and Max

Vent family rawding with O and P

Tip, Max, Molly, Poppa, Owen, and Omi at the beach in Carpinteria.  Yes, it was incredibly windy.

Heading West during their February school vacation week, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (kindergarten) and Max (pre-school) are coming to California for some R and R and some O and P (i.e. Omi and Poppa).  Hannah and I are pumped to ride the rails with our grandsons.  If it sounds like we are hobo wanna-bes, you just might be right as we do have wanderlust in our souls.

Staying in a rented house in Carpinteria a mere mile from the train station, Hannah and I have planned a twenty-mile train ride for the four of us to Ventura with its beachfront promenade, sandy beaches, and unexpected in-town adventure.

Vent map of train route

Carpinteria is 85 miles north of Los Angeles

Once the Amtrak Surfliner pulls into the Carp station, we climb the steps to the second deck where the comfortable window seats are.  With others buried in their phones and laptops, we four have the good fortune to get oceanside views.  Paralleling the six-lane 101 highway, we are traveling slower than the mid-morning traffic.  Rolling along between the mountains to our left and the multi-million dollar beachfront homes to our right, we have begun another adventure with our guys.

Vent 1AA train receipt

Vent 1B O and O on the train

Owen and his Omi looking out to the Pacific

Vent 1C M on train

Max checking out tides with the Channel Islands in the distance

Vent 1 H the drama queen

Yours and my favorite drama queen

Vent 1A P and M

Max ready for some crazy eights with his Poppa

Vent 1D boys holding their ears at train

The horns of the train are indeed LOUD!

Once in Ventura, we disembark at the County Fairgrounds, which is just a parking lot away from the Pacific Ocean.  Soon, we are strolling down the wide beachfront sidewalk among the President’s Day crowd enjoying another sunny day in Paradise.

Vent 2 on beach with surfer

With ocean temps near 60F every surfer wears a wetsuit

Vent 2A M on promenade

The Ventura Promenade with the Ventura Pier in the distance

Walking ¾ of mile towards the Ventura Pier, we hit sandy beach gold for two kids who have come from New England’s snow and temps in the 20s .  They race to the water’s edge, then run back before the incoming tide washes up over their feet.

Vent 2B M at beach

Vent 2C M at beach

Max with Owen in the distance

Vent 2D M at beach again

Just before lunch time, we head into downtown Ventura to meet up with our fish taco and pickleball friends, Bruce and Anneli.  They are our fish taco friends for last year they invited us out for lunch al fresco at Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in downtown Ventura.  Click here for that blog.

Today, they surprise us with gingerbread cookies at the upstairs loft of their architectural firm.  Check ‘em out.

Vent 3 cookies with Anneli

Max, Owen, and Anneli

Vent 3A cookies with Bruce

Max, Bruce, and Owen

Max looks at one with the number 12 and immediately says, Tom Brady!  In addition to a pickleball player, there are two more challenging identifications needed.  The boys say lizard for one, but Bruce nudges them and says, It’s a little more than that.  He gives them “amphibian” as a clue.  Owen nails it “gecko.”

Vent 3B O and M with hot chocolate

Anneli wonders if they know the other gingerbread figure.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Max blurts out, The Eiffel Tower.  As impressed with our grandchildren as we are, they offer the boys hot chocolate.  Oh, they have one more thing for us: 30 minutes of Calilfornia love for us New Englanders.

Vent 3D six of us

Spending two winter months in California, Hannah and I are beginning to create a community of folks, like Anneli and Bruce, that is making Carpinteria a home away from home.  It’s the latest chapter in our journey – where we find good people again and again.

Vent map from york to carp

Sounds like a great road trip, but we flew from Boston to Los Angeles


Dan Meets Up with an Old High School Buddy in California

Sh flhs cutters

As a 1966 graduate of Fair Lawn High School (New Jersey), I appreciate that my classmate Roz makes things happen; last year it was a California mini-reunion for five of us grads.  She lives in T.O. (i.e. Thousand Oaks), an hour down the road from our rented house in Carpinteria.  This year she has the idea that she and our fellow classmate Dave from San Diego will get together with me.  They’ll ride the Amtrak Surfliner to Santa Barbara for lunch, then we’ll all walkabout town.  Great plan, but…

Roz comes down with a nasty flu and can’t make it on this mid-February Wednesday.


Giving Dave the chance to reschedule (he does have a five hour train ride to Santa Barbara each way), I am pumped when he says, I’m comin’!   I smile it has commitment and am riding high for a day with my Cutter bro 3000 miles from our Garden State high school!

In high school, Dave and I had our Venn diagram overlap on a regular basis as we ran with many of the same friends.  Of late, we text, especially of our mutual love of all things Roger Federer and your Super Bowl Champs New England Patriots.  When we last met at our 45th high school reunion, he was the one who found a place for me at his reunion table when I really had no place to go.

SH 1 surfliner

Amtrak arriving in Carpinteria

So, what does one do on a rainy/showery day in the Santa Barbara area when pickleball and hiking are not an option?  Let me show you in pictures.

Shiffy (as he was none at FLHS) arrives at noon on the Amtrak Surfliner as the morning showers pause.  From the train station to the Carpinteria State Park, we walk with umbrellas in hand a mere 200 yards to the beach.

Sh 1A D and D at beach

Wanting to chill over lunch, we get Italian take-out at Guicho’s on Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria.  Over meatball subs and grilled chicken salads back at the house that Hannah and I are renting, we talk of our high school lives; I do wish he had played on the high school tennis team with me, as he is a left-handed serving machine.

Sh 1B Dave outside of Guicho's

SH 1C Dave at Calle Ocho with subs and salad

With showers here and there, I drive Dave to the trailhead of Romero Canyon to show him what debris flows from the past year look like up close and personal.  Stunned myself to see that the road which was impassable on January 21, repaired by January 28, was again closed this February 13 afternoon due to last weekend’s Montecito canyon debris flow.

R2 truck in boulders

January 21, 2019

R2 creek crossing 2

January 28, 2019

Sh 2 DS at washout

February 13, 2019

Backtracking down the mountain, I weave around the fallen rocks in the road from the unstable cliff sides.

Sh 2C fallen rocks at Romero

To conclude his four hour, stay in the Mediterranean of the Pacific, we catch another break in the showers to walk the bluff at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Sh 4 D and D at UCSB

Bluff trail at University of California, Santa Barbara


Sh 4B Dave at bluff


Sh 4C Dan at bluffs

Recently retired, Dave’s low maintenance, up for anything, laughs easily, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  We end with bro hugs, appreciative of our rainy day on the Pacific coast.  Already we have plans to meet up with Roz next year when Hannah and I return to Carpinteria, our home away from home.

Dan and Hannah Return to San Ysidro Canyon after a Weekend of Debris Flows

SY2 map of carp

In winter, California is not Florida with its 70s and 80s.  Our days in the Golden State are often sunny, with low humidity, and 60s, which, it turns out, is ideal for pickleballing and hiking.  Since winter is the rainy season here on the Central Coast, there is, of late, the ever-present danger of life-threatening debris flows when rain falls.

SY2 map 2

Ever since the Thomas Fire of December 2017 denuded the local mountainsides, mandatory evacuations occur when the forecast is for rains of at least an inch an hour.  Why, one morning at 430A, our iPhones blasted us awake with warnings of the possibility of dangerous debris flows due to heavy rain.  Where we are in Carpinteria, three hundred yards from the Pacific, there is no danger;  even so, everyone is on high alert after the January 2018 deaths of twenty-three from mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

SY mudslide dump into Carp ocean

After heavy rains and mud flows, Santa Barbara County dumps the mud and stones from the inland catch basins at the beach in Carpinteria.  This mud, over time, replenishes the beaches.

On the first Saturday of February, The 101, the major coast highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and north, was closed in Montecito for most of the day due to mudflows across the highway.


Dan, Hannah, Nancy Rose, Duncan, Patty, and Kent at the Summerland Beach Cafe

With our Arizona State Sun Devil friends and fellow hikers, Patty and Kent, in town from Oregon, we decide to hike Montecito’s San Ysidro Canyon to see what the heavy rains did to the trail since Hannah and I hiked it four weeks ago.  Click here for that blog.

SY2 1AAA reconstituted creek

The scoured San Ysidro Creek that was V-shaped and tree-lined before the January 2018 mudslides

First, to celebrate Hannah’s mid-week b-day, we breakfast at the Summerland Beach Café.  (You get a free breakfast at the SBC if it is your birthday!  Hannah loves when free and breakfast are in the same sentence!)

SY2 debris flow with H, P, and K

On the trail with Patty and Kent with the stony and cobbly evidence of the force of last weekend’s rain

Driving just minutes away in Montecito, we have  two miles of trail to stunning waterfalls.  Very soon, we see evidence of mountainside cobbles spread across the trail from this past weekend’s rain.

After a mile of fire road hiking, we veer off along the one-person-at-a-time creek trail.  With Hannah and Patty in the lead, Kent and I watch these two buds loving life and regaling in their forty-year friendship.

SY2 1C P and H at pink ribbon

Hannah and Patty at the pink caution tape

Stepping carefully by where Hannah fell two years ago, we come to a pink police caution tape across the trail.  Wondering why, for the trail that is still quite passable, we soon arrive at a roaring side creek within 200 yards of the falls; the speed and volume of the side creek flow make it clear that we are not fording this torrent today.

Looking beyond, we finally put two and two together about the pink caution tape – the trail ahead has fallen away.  There is, in fact, no safe passage to the falls.  In the distance, we do make out the pounding waterfalls through the trees.  But it will be another year before we can return to the base of the falls for picture taking to satisfy the yearning, nay the demand of my 82 Instagram followers.

SY2 2 at side creek

The white water side creek in our way to the falls


SY2 2A trail out with creek in front

The damaged trail beyond the side creek


SY2 2C falls zoom

Zooming in on the distant San Ysidro Falls


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 Hike the UCSB Bluff Trail Above a Stormy Pacific

ucsb map 1

Just to the north of Santa Barbara

Traveling cross country on Delta Airlines, Hannah and I come to the mid-California coast of Santa Barbara for an extended break from Maine’s winter.  During our first week on the Left Coast, we return to an old favorite – The Bluff Trail around the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in Goleta, CA.

ucsb 2c crushing surf with h

The angry sea at Goleta Beach

Parking at the Goleta State Park Beach, we see big time, high tide waves crashing on and over the stone boulder retaining wall into the parking lot.  As we walk towards campus, we hear sirens, then see a red fire fighter SUV pulling two wave runners, and don’t think much of it.

ucsb 1a surf boards and surfers

Surfin’ USA

Walking the half mile to the campus, we stop to see that there are indeed surfers out in the turbulent waters.  Stopping to watch against a fence feet away from the slowly disintegrating bluff, we talk to a young man who tells us that he heard a surfer in distress below and called 9-1-1.  (Ah, the towed wave runners make sense now).

ucsb 1 h by cliffs

Notice no beach at high tide against the cliffs on the south facing coast

At high tide, there is no beach.  In fact, the bluff walls are unforgiving stone facades with nowhere to go.  As we watch, the distressed surfer paddles back out to avoid being a crash test dummy against the stone cliff.  The fire fighter wave runner streams from the Goleta Beach to the obviously hurting surfer.

At the same time the wave runner approaches, another surfer with a paddle board heads further out to sea.  Beyond are fifteen other surfers, paddle boarders, and one with what looks like a mini-kayak riding the wild surf.

ucsb close up rescue

All’s well that ends well for the surfer as the fire fighters secure his board and pull him to shore at the far beach away from the bluff.  Talking with another surfer as he ascends the stairway up the cliff side, he tells us that this is as wild a surf as he has ever seen in the area.  He feels good surfers can handle these waves; left unsaid was the rescued surfer was not in that category.

ucsb surfer rescue

His surfing buddy tells us that typically surfers get in trouble because they are totally exhausted from fighting the rip currents and the relentless incoming tides.

We learn later that there were five rescues this first Wednesday of the new year, including one by helicopter.  Thankfully no deaths are reported.

ucsb helicopter

Should the surfer have to pay for the rescue?  I am in the “no” camp.  Shit happens.  Mistakes are made.  That’s why we pay taxes.   California has services for its citizens and its visitors in distress (e.g. free ambulance service to emergency rooms that Hannah took advantage of after her fall two years ago).

With the drama behind us, we continue our bluff hike, forty to sixty feet above the surf.  (See pictures below.)  Ah, to be in California.

ucsb 1b plane by cliffs


ucsb 2a cliffs

West facing cliffs.  Previous pictures within the text were the south facing cliffs.



ucsb 3 lagoon on campus

Lagoon on the UCSB campus looking inland


ucsb 3a lagoon dos

The lagoon on the UCSB campus looking out to the ocean

Dan with Hannah As She Gets Back on the Horse on the San Ysidro Trail

sy 4aa cliffside tip

Tip rescuing Hannah (February 2017)

Crashing down a 25’ cliff, ripping open her thigh to the bone, and having a hot shot Ivy League surgeon sew her back together has not deterred Hannah in the least from returning to the scene of her epic fall.  Two years ago, she plummeted down into the San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, California, thankfully to be rescued by our son-in-law Tip.  Click here for part 1 of the blog.

A year ago, Hannah and I had planned to hike this trail when all hell broke loose.  First, the Thomas Fire burned 300,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.  Then three weeks later the debris flow with car size boulders, whole trees, and Biblical mud roared down this canyon killing 23 people and totally reconfigured the landscape and closed the trail.

sy 1 h at start

Hannah at the start of the trail in January 2019

Today, fearlessly, Hannah joins me on the San Ysidro Trail to see if we can find where she fell and lay to rest any apprehensions for either of us about her fall.  Fact is, I am not nervous at all.  Hell, I didn’t fall down the cliff; Hannah does now hike on the inside of mountainside trails.  Her momma didn’t raise no fool.

sy 1a non tunnel of trees

The non-tunnel of trees in 2019

With few cars parked at the trailhead on East Valley Road, we begin hiking on a trail once a tunnel of trees that now has clear views to a creek bed strewn with massive boulders that once were high above in the coastal Santa Ynez Mountains.

Paralleling the now scrubbed and scoured reconfigured mountain creek, we are stunned to see the hammering and sawing of workers rebuilding homes on the other side.  What part of deadly debris flows don’t they get!

sy 2a scoured creek

The scoured San Ysidro Creek.  Two years ago we could only peek through the trees to see the water flowing

Within a few hundred yards, we come to the staging area where two years ago a fire department ambulance waited for Hannah; she had heroically walked a mile and a half down the mountain with gashes in her leg so deep infection was an ever-present danger.

sy 3 narrow trail

Heading on the single file trail in 2019

As we climb towards the scene of her fall today, we wonder if where she fell is even recognizable given the recontouring of the creek.  At the one mile mark, the trail narrows, and we walk single file, climbing towards the waterfall now a mile away.  Over jagged rocks, we head to the falls on a trail that is mostly intact but has been shored up in places by the Montecito Trail Foundation.

sy 4e where h fell

A 2019 view down to the creek where Hannah fell in 2017

Ninety-nine per cent sure, we see the wide spot in the trail where our daughter Molly distracted our grandsons, Owen (then four and a half) and Max (nearly 3), while Tip rescued Hannah from her perch on a cliffside of sharp, angry rocks 30’ above the unforgiving creek boulders below.

Much of the area where Tip climbed horizontally to rescue Hannah is now gone, but clearly this was where Carol King had it so right for Hannah when she sang, I feel the earth move under my feet!

Hannah doesn’t flinch as we examine the area and we both count our lucky stars.

sy 4f where h fell

In 2019 trailside where Hannah fell

Hannah remembers:

We head back to the trail (San Ysidro) from which I plummeted two years ago…feeling just slightly uneasy, but not afraid. It’s both about getting back up on the horse – and also thanking the powers that be (both the terrain and the people involved in my rescue) for bringing me back from the edge. As we hike, I find I hug the inside of the trail.  Much more sensitive to “edges” since my slide – I wish Dan would be likewise.  We find familiar places along the trail ~ one of our favorite trails, still ~ smiling at the memories: Tip lifting us up over a rushing brook; Tip and the boys walking three across on a wider stretch of the trail; Tip being his calm, reassuring self as he “bandaged” me (with diapers) and brought me back up the cliff; Molly and Owen running ahead for an ambulance to meet us upon our return to the trail head; walking hand-in-hand with Dan that last mile and a half after the fall; then compassion-in-action as I’m lifted into the emergency vehicle for the eventual ambulance ride I was so sure I wasn’t going to accept.

sy 4c where h fell

One last 2019 look at the spot where “the earth moved under her feet”

Yup, I’d rather not have taken that fall…but so much good came of it that I would otherwise have missed. I’m overcome with gratitude as Dan hikes back down the trail with me.  Again, I walk hand-in-hand with him as we head for the trail head – and Home.

Pictures from two years ago and today fill in the spaces of my narrative.



sy 1aa tunnel of trees

The start of the trail in 2017 with its tunnel of trees with our daughter Molly, Owen, Max, and Tip

sy 2 scoured creek

The recontoured San Ysidro Trail after the Thomas Fire and the Montecito Debris Flow in 2017


sy 3b h on trail

Hannah on the trail in 2019 where once a torrent came down the mountain into the main creek

sy 3ccc rawding spot

On the trail in 2017 with Owen, Molly, Hannah, Max, and Tip twenty minutes before her fall

sy 3c h at rawding spot

Hannah at the same spot in 2019

sy 3cc d at rawding spot

The Ithaca Bomber in 2019 at the same spot

sy 5 falls two years ago

The San Ysidro Falls in 2017

sy 5 falls contrast with before

The barely visible San Ysidro Falls in 2019.  Brush covered the trail so Hannah and I couldn’t get within 200′ of the falls as we did in 2017



Dan Returns to Junior High on the Pickleball Court

pb logo

For the sixth year running, Hannah and I have come to the Central California Coast to take a bite out of winter.  Returning to the Santa Barbara area, we have come to hike its mountains, walk its bluff trails, renew friendships, lunch in the sun, write and rewrite, and play lots of pickleball.

sbp 2 d in action

Working on my third shot drop

On our first Tuesday of the new year, Hannah and I venture to the pickleball courts in Santa Barbara to see three players needing a fourth.  I offer to Hannah, Why don’t you play here?  I’ll warm up on the far court, where I see three others.

sbp 1 h in action

Hannah always at the ready

As I approach, one woman immediately asks, What’s your rating?  I am naked, blindsided by her question.  I expected to just hit a few balls as I did two days ago in Ventura and establish my pickleball street cred.  With no pretense nor subtlety, she lays it right out with her underlying message, Are you worthy?

Similar to my days at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Fair Lawn, NJ, I feel exposed and vulnerable.  Will I measure up?  Am I good enough?  As a teenager, the answers were no and no back in 1962 .  Will today be any different?

Ratings in pickleball determine the pecking order of the sport.  Beginners are 1.0 to 2.5.  Intermediate players are 3.0.  The 3.5 rating gets us invited to the pickleball courts for advanced play at the Westbrook Community Center in Maine.  And 4.0 is cool, not as amazing as the 4.5s and 5.0s.

sbp 3 d and paula

One of the many 4.0 faces at Santa Barbara Pickleball

I say to her, 4.0, without choking or looking at my feet.  She is appeased but only slightly.  She wonders about tournament play and I nod 4.0. This is a modern day version of the junior high lunch room, where the cool kids determine who makes the grade.

Having stumbled on to the 4.0/4.5 courts in Santa Barbara, I team up with Paula v the killer team of Betsy and Jim.  Distracted by self-doubts on this outdoor court (I play indoors most of the year in Maine), I am having my feet put to the fire right away.

My first shots float over the net and fall at their feet.  I exhale and realize that they are not 4.5s who would eat me for lunch.  But they are good.  The game is both subtle with third shot drops and dinks as well as slams when any of us leave the ball just a little too high.

sbp 4 d and jim

Former tennis champion and another face of 4.0 in Santa Barbara

Down 4 to 1 in a game to 11, I hear Good shot Dan when I angle the ball out of our opponents reach at the net.  Soon it’s 6-4 our favor as my soft game of drop shots and dinks proves successful more often than not.  I’m starting to feel like I belong as I my serve, though not powerful, is consistent and my short game mostly on target.

Unbelievably to me, we win 11-8.  At the net, we knock paddles in appreciation of a good game; they smile and nod at the newbie.  As we walk off, Betsy adds with a smile, You belong.

Mon dieu, it’s not Junior High Part II!



PS  Two days later, I match up with a bevy of 4.5s and feel what’s it like to be chewed up, spit out, and picked clean.

PSS  After two months, Santa Barbara Pickleball has been a godsend with good play with good folks.  Two of my favs are pictured above (Paula and Jim), but many others have made me feel welcomed (Dave, E, Amanda, Paul, Sal, Juan, Andres, Brent, Tim, Venetia)