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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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

 

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Washed out trail bridge

 

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Charmless fire road with a killer view

 

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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)

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Lagoon on the UCSB campus looking inland

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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

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

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Hannah at the same spot in 2019

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The Ithaca Bomber in 2019 at the same spot

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The San Ysidro Falls in 2017

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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.

Dan and Hannah’s Connection to the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks

A young man has died.  We never knew him, but we know of him because we know our friend, Kim.  Way too young, the young man will be laid to rest today in Santa Barbara this third Sunday in November.

mark map of carp

Let me back up.  Last winter, Hannah and I spent the month of February in Carpinteria, California (south of Santa Barbara) because we are soft and the winters in Maine are hard.

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Carpinteria is 18 miles north of Ventura

Renting a VRBO condo for a month, we had the good fortune to be neighbors with Kim.  Over the month, we got to know her – we had dinner together, an evening of wine and hors d’oeuvres, she brought us the local paper each Thursday, and we even went to see Wonder on a Sunday afternoon at the local Alcazar Theater in downtown Carpinteria together.

We’ve been in touch throughout the year as we will return to Carpinteria again this winter.  Yup, we are still soft.

mark ventura county sheriff

Then a week ago, all hell broke loose at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, some 40 miles south of Carpinteria.  Thirteen people were murdered by a domestic terrorist.  Stunned and horrified, residents got an up close and personal view of the tragedy of mass shootings that plagues the United States.

The young man was gunned down that Wednesday night, just having started working at the popular local country bar.  It turns out the young man was the best friend of Kim’s son.  He would have turned 21 tomorrow.

We ache for Kim who we know and love, we ache for her son who we know must be a good guy as he is Kim’s son, and we ache for the young man’s family who we have never met.

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Hannah and Kim

This is not a blog about the insanity of gazillion guns in America killing our fellow citizens.  It’s about our friend Kim, her family, and her community dealing with an outrage that breaks her heart and breaks ours.  It will be nearly two months before we can hug her and have her feel our love in person.

So, we sit 3000 miles away on the coast of Maine and wonder what we can do to support Kim and her son.  We do know that Kim has a tradition with her son and his girlfriend where the three of them go out for breakfast from time to time.

What Hannah and I can do is pick up the tab for breakfast for them in Carpinteria.  They’ll have each other for support, and they’ll know friends in Maine are thinking of them and they are not alone.

Click here for the young man’s story in the Carpinteria’s Coastal View News.

Click here for the Santa Barbara’s Nooshawk story on the young man’s memorial service.

PS  Earlier this morning before I posted this blog, we heard from Kim that she is going to use the breakfast money to “pay it forward” by donating it to the family of the young man.

 

Dan and Hannah – Images of Carpinteria, California

After loving the month of February in the Santa Barbara area, Hannah and I offer you images in four parts from our stay.

Part One – We had trails at the University of California (Santa Barbara), Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara, and the Nojoqui Falls near Solvang.

GB 3C even more pacific cliffs

Pacific Bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus

 

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Hannah on the Jesusita Trail with our trusty Santa Barbara hiking guidebook

Sol 2C H at falls

Hannah at the Nojoqui Falls

 

Part Two – We had our pickleball in Ventura and Santa Barbara

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The women, men, and kids of Ventura Pickleball

 

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Hannah ready to pounce on a short ball on the courts at Santa Barbara

 

 

Part Three – The walks along the Pacific Ocean

BA 3C D and H on pier

 

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seals at Carpinteria Beach

 

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Carpinteria at sunset

 

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Early morning at Carpinteria Beach

 

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Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara

 

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the Douglas Preserve

 

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Carpinteria State Park

 

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Surfers Beach at University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Part Four – But truly the best part were the Californians we met

Nancy Rose

Nancy Rose, our friend from Unity of Santa Barbara, and Hannah

 

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Bruce and Anneli with Hannah and Dan lunching al fresco on fish tacos at Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in Ventura

 

Kim Drain

Hannah with our neighbor Kim, before heading into the Alcazar Theatre

 

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Dan and Hannah with our pickleball compadres, Lynn and Mark, over lunch at Bonnie Lu’s in Ojai, just before our Chinese foot massages

 

Roz five of us with sweatshirt

Together for a mini-reunion with Dan, Gerry, Roz, Linda, and Paul, Class of 1966 Fair Lawn (New Jersey) High School

 

Unity of SB

Rev. Larry Schellink at Unity of Santa Barbara

 

Carp 5A Summerland Beach Cafe

Celebrating Hannah’s 70th birthday at the Summerland Beach Cafe with Nancy Rose and Duncan

 

Carpinteria has become a home-away-from-home.

Dan and Hannah Make a Weak Attempt to Explore Another California Town – Solvang

Hannah and I are just not touristy folks.  Consider this.

Sol disneyland

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, a town where I first taught after graduating from Arizona State

What kind of grandparents are we that we won’t even take our grandsons to Disneyland (California) or Walt Disney World (Florida)?  That would be us.  We are not into crowds, waiting in line, and pricey tickets.  We have our moments of getting it right with Owen and Max, but we’re good if we are not voted into the Grandparents Hall of Fame outside of Orlando.

So, when Hannah and I choose places for us to travel, we opt for out-of-the-way national or state parks or small towns.  When we fly into Los Angeles, we flee north for Carpinteria as soon as possible.  We can’t get out of Las Vegas fast enough when we fly there to visit Utah’s national parks.  Visit New York City?  Not a chance.

Sol 1 Danish house

On Solvang’s main drag

Last Friday, Hannah and I explored the small town of Ojai some 22 miles east of Carpinteria; today we are off to see what’s happening in the Danish-themed little town (pop. 6,000) of Solvang, 45 miles north of Santa Barbara.  First, we are looking for a locals café with booths for breakfast, then chat up some folks, and later explore this walkable town for exercise and then see what happens.

Sol 154

Before Santa Barbara wakes up this mid-February Friday, we sail through town on The 101 and soon exit onto the serpentine mountain route 154, where good drivers and bad go to die.  Strong words, I understand, but it winds through coastal mountains with the occasional passing lane, which tempt drivers to pass recklessly.  We recommend The 101 to Solvang along the coast for you to live to see another day.

Sol Chumash 1

Minutes before we enter Solvang, we pass the glitzy Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, which draws card players and slot machine button pushers from miles around.  Too touristy, too smoky, and indeed too depressing with many more losers than winners.  The only way to leave a casino with a small fortune is to start with a large fortune.

Sol 1A H with windmill

A chilly Solvang morning

Arriving in Solvang just before 8A, we are chilled by Arctic 40F temps for our walk around town to find a breakfast place.  An hour ago, we left Carpinteria on the coast where it was 10 degrees warmer.

Sol 1B Danish Bakery

So, here’s our plan when we come to a small town.  We seek out the breakfast spots that we have checked out first online; cafes preferably with booths, coffee at the ready, and muffins or two eggs over easy, home fries, and multi-grain toast.  That turns out to be a problemo in Solvang, a tourist town with over one million visitors per year.  That means one thing – restaurants are expensivo!

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Dan with Hans

A quick stop in at Paula’s Pancakes (which sounds small time, n-est-ce pas?) shows us a menu with basic breakfasts for $10 and more.   And that doesn’t count the coffee!  Bundled up against the cold, we walk the streets of Solvang for 40 minutes seeing faux Danish shops and restaurants, some where reservations are required; in addition there is a park with a Little Mermaid statue and one of Hans Christian Anderson.  We are so out of our comfort zone.

Sol 1D Santa Ynez Cafe

In less than an hour, we have “done” Solvang as our last attempt at a breakfast place fails.  The Santa Ynez Café offers a Saran wrapped muffin and one cup of coffee that would break the bank.  We can’t leave fast enough as we pick up Subways subs, roll out of town, and skip breakfast entirely.

But things get better.  Motion is lotion.

Sol 2 H at start of Nojoqui Falls Trail

The leisurely Nojoqui Falls trail

Our deliverence comes just six miles south of Solvang in the Nojoqui Falls Park made for families and family reunions.  Wide playing fields, groups of picnic tables with fire pits for large gatherings, Nojoqui Falls is made for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Arriving midmorning on this Friday of President’s Weekend, we have been promised a modest ¾ of a mile round trip hike with stunning falls that I googled.

Sol 2A rocky creek bed

The rocky creek bed foreshadows what kind of falls lie ahead

Finding the rocky trail, which gently climbs towards the falls, we see no water around the boulders of the creek.  It’s pretty clear that the Google image of the falls is not going to match today’s flow.

Sol 2B H at barrier

Approaching a fenced off area with a sign saying Danger  Do Not Enter, we see that foot prints in the dirt beyond tell another story – few pay attention to this sign.  Unable to see the falls from behind the fences anyway, and rebels that we are, we hike 150’ more to a one-inch trickle coming 80’ down the mountainside.

Sol 2C H at falls

Nojoqui Falls in all its sub-optimal glory

We have no complaints – for goodness sakes we are in California in February.  How can that be a bad thing?  Check out my video of the falls.

Heading back to Santa Barbara by way of the coastal 101 along the Pacific, we have another chance at outdoor redemption – the cliff walk at the Douglas Family Preserve, a public park located on a mesa above Arroyo Burro Beach.  This 70-acre property of undeveloped, ocean-front land was so named because Michael Douglas donated $600,000 to support this land acquistion.

Sol 4C blue heron

Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach

Parking easily off Los Positas Road in the late morning, we follow the landscaped trail up to the mesa.  Coming upon Dog Central, we see canines that are catered to with doggie poop bags all along the trail, a doggie wash spa at the trailhead, and dogs off leash and free as dolphins in the ocean.

Sol 3A H at DP bluff

The bluffs of the Douglas Preserve

Up on the cliffs, there are no fences to the beach 60-70’ below.  As in the nearby Channel Islands, the safety guidelines are We don’t have fences, we have common sense.  This morning it works again.

Sol 4 lunch at beach

Lunch at Arroyo Burro Beach with the Channel Islands in the distance

 

Having hiked two miles, we cool our jets at a picnic table above Arroyo Burro Beach where we lunch on our Subway subs and surreptitiously drink cold Dos Equis.  On hard-packed beach sand at mid-tide, we walk for a mile up and back with a light breeze under full sun at 64F.  California Dreamin’ at its best.

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the cliffs of the Douglas Preserve

As the singer Meatloaf reminds us all that two out of three ain’t bad, we hit the Meatloaf standard today with doubles off the wall at Nojoqui Falls and the Douglas Preserve after striking out in Solvang.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara

Jes weather channel

Let’s be real.  And I’m not proud of this, but…as Hannah and I prep to hike in the mountains above Santa Barbara in early February, I turn on the Weather Channel.  I have no shame.  I want to see how much snow and ice are coming to New England.  I take no pleasure in the dismal winter weather, but…I do smile to myself so no one else can see.

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Some of the national parks where we’ve hiked

As Hannah and I start 2018, we are in a traveling/hiking transition.  Having hiked throughout the West, in national parks in nearly every Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast state over the last ten years, we are evolving in our physical activities of choice.  Let me explain.

As we each turn 70, we are pickleballing more and hiking less when we travel.  Have paddles, will travel!  Pickleball, be it Moab, Utah, Beaverton, Oregon, or Eureka, California, has combined our love of being active with getting to know others.

Jes map of trail

Rather than driving, often a thousand miles or more to hike in national parks over two weeks, this year we are nesting in Carpinteria for the month of February.  Not abandoning hiking at all, we still have local trails as well as trails up the coast at Montana De Oro State Park  and Big Sur.  But pickleballing in Santa Barbara and Ventura now drives our bus.

Jes 4 cool jesusita sign

Yet, after three mornings of pickleball this first week of February, we are ready to hit the trail.  Driving north on The 101 for the Jesusita (pronounced HAY-SU-SEE-TA) Trail within the city limits of Santa Barbara, we have one of the few local trails at our disposal.  Many trails are closed since the Thomas Fire (December 2017) and the Montecito debris and mud flows (January 2018), especially some of our favorites in the San Ysidro and Romero Canyons.

Jes 1 H at start

Parking at the Cater Water Treatment Plant at the end of San Roque Road above Santa Barbara, I strike up a conversation with three hiking women to learn from the locals about the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2A view to sea

Jesusita Trail view to the Pacific Ocean

Willing to direct us to the trailhead and describe the first few turns of the trail, the women feel it is a good hike, but they are not buying the inspiring part of Inspiration Point.   True, Inspiration Point has views to the Pacific Ocean, but there are also many spots along the trail with ocean views.  They themselves are all turning around before they get to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2 H on trail

As with many trails in the Front Country of Santa Barbara, they are rocky and climb steeply into the San Ynez Mountains.  The seven-mile round-trip Jesusita Trail with 1200′ of elevation gain fits nicely into our three-hour preference for the length of our hikes. As usual, Hannah leads because (1) she is a stronger hiker and (2) it allows me to focus on photo ops while she blazes the trail.

Jes 1B - cracked mud of trail

Parched trail

 

Due to the drought of the last seven years, the creek bed beside the trail is as parched as a bleached cattle skull in the Mojave Desert.  The trail itself is shaded for the most part with dappled sunshine coming through the trees.  A little more than a mile in, there’s a water fountain with covered picnic tables.  While mountain bikers rest and brag, we motor past toward Inspiration Point.

Jes 1A H on trail beginning

Today is the first Santa Barbara hike for Hannah since her precipitous fall off the San Ysidro Trail just one year ago this month.  (Click here for that blog.)  Though she feels no ill effects from her slide down the rocky ravine that landed her in the ER at the local Cottage Hospital, we are both psyched that today there are no sharp drop offs on this trail; that said, we step carefully on the inside of the mountain trail.

Once past the mountainside McMansions, the trail rises steadily enough to get me breathing heavily.  Hannah seems unbothered on this trail that is very well marked whenever we are uncertain which way to go.

Jes 3 H on switchbacks

Southern California Edison power towers in the distance

Soon, we do the back and forth on the switchbacks up the mountain towards the Edison Road with its high-tension wire towers in the distance.  When we eventually arrive there, it’s just another half mile to the uninspiring Inspiration Point.  But I have not only been hiking but scheming to keep our hike to our three hour limit and have us turn around at the Edison Road at the three-mile point before we get to Inspiration Point.

Jes royal flush

As we approach the towers, I dazzle Hannah with a royal flush of persuasion if we keep hiking: (ten of hearts) that we’ll push us beyond our three hour hiking, (jack of hearts) we’ve been to Inspiration Point four years ago and know it is no big whup, (queen of hearts) we have had inspirational views of the Pacific on the trail already, (king of hearts) we don’t want to be wasted for tonight’s walk to the harbor seal rookery or tomorrow’s pickleball, and (ace of hearts) she just might miss her sunshine at our local Carpinteria Beach.

Jes 4A hearts on Edison Road

At the Edison Road tower, we see the rocks arranged in a heart shaped pattern.  When the universe speaks, we pay attention!  My royal heart flush triumphs as we head for our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria.

The shaded creek trail into the high desert chaparral gives the Jesusita the feel of a forest hike, not some aimless walk in the desert under a blazing sun.  In addition to a heart-pumping workout, we are not in Maine where eight inches of snow blankets our house, our yard, our driveway, the wintery lives of our neighbors, and any dreams of an early spring.

Given that context, this is not just a good hike, it’s a fantastic day on the trail.

Dan and Hannah Explore Ojai, California with an Assist from Penny

Unity of SB

Rev Larry of Unity of Santa Barbara speaking on Collateral Beauty

When we travel, the hikes are cool, the scenery beautiful, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But the best part are the people; whether here in California or elsewhere in the United States.

During our stay on the Central Coast of California, pickleball has been ideal for meeting people in Ventura and Santa Barbara; in addition, becoming a part of the Unity of Santa Barbara connects us with kindred spirits.

Mitch with take out

Mitch

To build further connections, I have a brilliant idea for your consideration.  My best friend from my childhood in Fair Lawn, NJ was Mitch Kaplan.  We played Radburn Rec basketball as sixth graders together, took the buses and subways to Yankees games across the Hudson River into the Bronx, played dice baseball, had our hearts broken by the young women in high school, and even played on the high school tennis team together.

Mitch above waist shot

Mitch

While I moved away to live in California, Arizona, and then eventually Maine for 35 years, Mitch returned to our childhood home in Radburn (section of Fair Lawn) after earning his BA from Antioch College in Ohio and his MFA at NYU.  Despite the distance, we stayed in touch; in part thanks to my frequent visits to see my mom and dad, who for many years still lived across the park from Mitch and Penny’s house.  Which brings me to Penny.

Mitch skiing

Mitch on the slopes, an athletic passion I did not share

Meeting in California, Mitch and Penny later married in Yellow Springs, Ohio with Mitch in a Boston Bruin jersey.  The cliché fits – he walked to the beat of his own drum and orchestra.  As we each approached retirement (he from a successful career as a writer and me after a run as a school and college teacher), golfing together loomed big in our future.

And then, damn it; he died from leukemia and its treatment.  He was 61.  That’s now more than eight years and counting of double bogeys and three putt greens we missed.

Ojai map

Carpinteria is ten miles south of Santa Barbara on the coast

After he passed, I kept in touch with his wife Penny who remained near to their two kids in the East.  Having grown up in Fillmore, CA, Penny came to mind when Hannah and I began traveling to California in winter; I soon realized how close Fillmore was to our month-long condo in Carpinteria.

Ojai 2 D and H with Emma and Theresa at Cafe Emporium

Dan, Hannah, Emma, and Theresa at the Cafe Emporium, Ojai

So, here’s where the brilliance comes in.  (I think you’ll soon see that I’ve checked that box.)  I asked Penny if she had any old (as in dear) friends in Fillmore that might like to have a cup of coffee with Hannah and me when we explore the town for a day.  It turns out she has a high school friend in nearby Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) and sends me Emma’s email address.

Ojai 2B foursome at Libbey Bowl

At the in-town, just off the main street, Libbey Park

I email Emma, who responds enthusiastically that they are early risers and would love to have breakfast with us this early February Friday.  Encouraged to try the Ojai Café Emporium just off the main drag in Ojai, Hannah and I meet Emma and Theresa in a nook of the cafe.  Filling us in why they like living in Ojai, they tell us of their joy in walking to town to get coffee, the pleasure of being away from the cold of New Mexico, and their love of the temperate climate.

After learning their backstory, I mention, in response to their question about mine, that my first teaching job was in Anaheim, 35 miles south of Los Angeles; it was a short-lived job because the US military was clamoring for a piece of me.  Suddenly, I find myself opening up to two women I just met about the fact that I was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War years.

That said, the government didn’t quite see eye to eye with my self-assessment.  Let me explain how I dealt with our difference of opinion.

Ojai draft lottery

After graduating from Arizona State in 1970, I lost my student deferment; in addition, the Selective Service was no longer giving deferments for teaching positions like mine in Anaheim; I was reclassified 1-A.  That was the first year of the draft lottery, which it turns out I lost in a big way.  Out of 365 dates in the year, my December 27 birthday was chosen #78.  Since everyone from #1 to #195 was to be drafted, my goose was cooked.

Ojai conscientious objector

In the summer of 1970, I informed the Selective Service I would not serve because I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.  Basically, my local draft board said, no you are not; you are not a Mennonite or Amish, and anyway you need to be against all war.

Having the right to appeal, I petitioned the New Jersey State Selective Service Board to hear my case.  Fortunately for me, government bureaucracies can work slowly; it took them 10 months into 1971 to decide unanimously (5-0) that I was not a c.o. in their minds.  There is a federal appeal but only if the state board is divided.  So, I waited as an eligible and vulnerable 1-A.

Ojai make love not war

Going to Canada was not an option for me.  Too cold and too faraway.  My resolve was strong that I would never shoot a weapon.  And I waited.  Out of the blue in early 1972, I was reclassified 1-H.  That meant that every 1-A had to be drafted before I would be drafted at all.  Essentially, that meant I would not be drafted.  I never got an explanation why I was reclassified, and I never asked.

With my future noticeably brighter, I got a full-time teaching job in Tempe, AZ in February 1972, proposed to Hannah later that month, and after five years of off and on dating, we were married on July 1, 1972 in East Penfield, NY, at her father’s Christmas tree farm.

Thank you, Ojai ladies, for asking.

After breakfast in Ojai, we walked the in-town Ojai Valley Trail, a former railroad paved for bicyclists, runners, and walkers.  The mountain trails around Ojai have been off limits due to the decimated hillsides caused by the burning brush and trees of the Thomas Fire two months before.

Ojai 3 H on Ojai Valley Trail

On the paved Ojai Valley Trail, which goes all the way to Ventura on the coast

Randomly as we walk the Ojai Valley Trail, I stop what seem to me to be welcoming faces and ask why they like living in Ojai.

The first, a dental hygienist raises her arms out, and beams, the weather.  But she, too, has a story to tell about the Thomas Fire.  After the first flames could be seen in the mountains, all four roads out of Ojai were closed, sealing the town off from the outside.  Scary was her word since she and the other townspeople didn’t know if the fire would come down to their valley to destroy their homes as it had for whole neighborhoods in Ventura the day before.

Ojai 3D OVT

Ojai Valley Trail

Another thirty-something, says she likes the small-town nature (7,400 residents) and the climate.  A gentleman in his 80s adds that he appreciates that the town council wants to keep Ojai the way it is, they don’t have an expansionist mentality.  He agrees it is expensive to live here.  A lower end house in town can go for $600,000.  Ouch, California real estate.

With four miles of in-town trail walking in the books at near 80F, Hannah and I return to 63F Carpinteria 20 miles back to the coast, pleased that my checked box idea produced such dividends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Mix Pickleball with Chinese Foot Massage

There are big T truths (e.g. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) and there are small t truths (e.g. one’s personal beliefs).  I have two of my small t truths for you.

Don’t wait for friendship.  Though introverts by nature, Hannah and I roam beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to meet others wherever we go.  Relationships and friendships are possible.

Chinese Yes

Importance of saying yes.  Previously, I would do a cost/benefit analysis in my mind for new activities.  Worth my time?  Would I really like it?  Today, I generally make no calculations, and just say Yes, and sort out the details later.  Let me explain.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo

Today, Hannah and I swim past our comfort zone into the deep end and drive 18 miles south from Carpinteria to the pickleball courts of Ventura to a place where we do not know a soul.  There, Leonard, the pickleball ambassador, greets us.  Ambassadors our usually genial, welcoming, and supportive, and Leonard is certainly all that.  Then, John steps up, introduces himself, and gets us into a game.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers

Throughout the morning, I pickle on the outdoor courts at De Anza Middle School with the guys, among them Bruce, Leonard, Jessie, Rodrigo, Jim, and Mark while Hannah slices and dices with some excellent women players.

Chinese image of loungers

Ready for action at Bamboo Creek Spa

As the morning of play wraps up, Mark says, some of us go to Ojai for lunch and then get a Chinese foot message.  Would you two like to join us?

That would be a quick Yes.

Jump forward to our final outdoor pickleball Saturday during our California month of February away from home.  As exclusively indoor pickleball players back in Maine, we learn of the challenges of playing in the open air.  Rain in the drought-stricken Central Coast is not one of the issues.  In this winter “rainy” season, we have had barely a tenth of an inch of rain the entire month.

Chinese windy palm trees

The winds of California under blue skies

Wind and sun are another matter.  Always checking my Weather Channel app for the wind speeds, I have learned that five to ten mph is fine for outdoor play, with little effect on my game.  Above 10 mph gets tricky and 20 mph is insane.  Being in California, we have the ever-present blue skies.  On one hand that makes for excellent tans for the New Englanders; on the other, hitting lobs into the sun becomes a roll of the dice.

Today, with the wind picking up throughout the morning, games become less about skill and more about dealing with the elements.  Players with the wind must temper their shots while those against the wind must muster all their power to get the pickleball (like a wiffle ball) over the net.  The comradery and sunshine trump the wind, as play wraps up for another Saturday.

Chinese 2B Mark and Lynne at BL

Lynne and Mark at Bonnie Lu’s

Looking to mix the pairs for our drive to Ojai, I suggest to Mark that he drive with me and Hannah drive with Mark’s wife, Lynne.  Just another stepping out of the comfort zone moment for us introverts.  For the twenty-minute drive, which turns into forty because of roadside power line repair, Mark and I learn of our north Jersey connection (he Hohokus and me Fair Lawn [I know it’s I instead of me, but I don’t like the sound and flow of I.) and learn of each other’s families and past working lives (both public school employees, he a business manager and me a teacher).

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Pre-foot massage lunch at down home Bonnie Lu’s

Once in Ojai, we dine on the king-size sandwiches at Bonnie Lu’s and leave with half our BLT and Rueben for tomorrow’s lunch.

Properly nourished, we four head to the Bamboo Creek Spa in a store front just off the main drag in Ojai.  Learning that there is no talking during the massage, we also only whisper in the waiting area, which makes us three deal with life on Hannah’s terms (she with the hushed voice).

Filling out the registration, we sign-in with our first name, select the service wanted (i.e. foot massage), and decide from 1 to 7 how much hand pressure we prefer on our feet.  Being a first timer and soft, I opt for 3.

Chinese 3 H massage

Hannah mellowing out at Bamboo Creek Spa

First, Hannah and Lynne are taken to a side room, as I trail behind with my ever-present iPhone.  My blog does not wait.  Being as little annoying as possible, I snap and retreat to the waiting area to, well, wait and whisper with Mark.

Mark and I are soon taken to the front room and seated in adjustable lounge chairs with remotes.  In front of each of us are two-foot square ottomans; soon a towel is draped over the lower half of our bodies.  Removing my sandals and socks, I wait.  (nota bene – may I remind you that my socks have played two hours of pickleball)

Chinese 3D D zoned out massage

Soon, a bathroom size waste basket is brought out with warm herbal water in a plastic bag.  The foot soak begins my 30-minute massage ($21 per session seems like quite the bargain).  The theory is that massaging reflex points in the feet restores natural energy flow.  While Mark, a veteran of the foot massage, zones out, a woman approaches to dry my soaking feet and wrap each one in a towel.  She then squirts soothing oil into her hands and let the massaging begin.

Chinese 3C workng on my feet

My masseuse

After two hours of pickleball and a reasonably big lunch, I am ready to nod off, but I have a stronger need to see what she does.  Ever the photo journalist, I take pictures of the masseuse in action.

At times when she is working the sole of my foot, my foot involuntarily spasms as she goes from the front pad of my foot to the arch.  Ever the pro, she senses my tic and continues gently.

Fifteen minutes on the left foot and then fifteen on the right.  Delightfully refreshing, the massage has Hannah feeling that her sensitive and aching feet have never felt better.  Thankful and mellow, we tip our masseuses.

Chinese 3E D and H in waiting area

The look of foot massage mellow

Walking back to our cars with Mark and Lynne, I appreciate the new experience; the feeling of being among new friends made this one of the highlights of our month in February.

Our best experiences are always about the people, which happen more often when we head to the deep end and simply say yes.