Dan and Hannah Hike the Franklin Trail above Carpinteria, California

My first go-round with California was as a brand new fifth/sixth grade social studies/science/Spanish teacher in Anaheim in 1970.  Renting an efficiency apartment in town at the South Bay Club, I had a fifteen-minute commute to Patrick Henry Elementary School that took me under the Garden Grove and Santa Ana Freeways in Orange County.

Frank map of anaheim

Anaheim, home to Disneyland

My point is that living 25 miles south of Los Angeles, I was part of the 120-mile top to bottom metroplex of sprawl from Ventura in the north to Mission Viejo in the south.  I had no idea that just 15 miles north of Ventura was the little town of Carpinteria.   Finding this “small town Maine” here in California, I continue my love affair with the Golden State.

In addition to winter highs in the mid-60s and the summer highs in the mid-70s, Carpinteria has the beaches of the Pacific as well as the small town feel on Linden Street with its low-key shops and restaurants.

With their own local Indivisible Carpinteria chapter challenging Trump, I’m at home with the progressive politics of California with its fighting Governor Jerry Brown; he has taken on Republican Washington and the Climate Change Deniers.  Click here for reporting on the governor’s assertion that the recent executive order on climate change is a colossal mistake.

Frank 1AA chief at Carpinteria HS

Out in front of Carpinteria High School, a school built the year Hannah and I graduated from college

And then there is the civic pride of Carpinteria which has manifested itself in the three-phase creation of the Franklin Trail into the Santa Ynez Mountains.  Phase I begins at the Carpinteria High School where the trailhead begins at the base of Franklin Canyon.  (If school is in session, park on the neighborhood streets across from the high school.)

I emailed a local Carpinteria historian about the trail name.  He replied:  The Franklins first came to the Santa Barbara area in the late 1800s. The Franklin trail is named after Franklin Canyon which was the access to back country from Carpinteria.  The original Franklin Trail was completed in 1913 through the National Forest section. This portion now known as phase 3 of the current project will be reopened sometime this year.

Frank 1 fenced trail

On the trail of Phase I

Taking the trail to the west of the high school, we pass the high school campus with some of the greenest baseball and football fields known to man or woman.  While chain link fences bracket us on either side, we hike the straight and narrow past green houses and fields of avocados.  Following the well-placed brown trail signs, we walk with very little elevation gain out of town.

Frank 1B fenced trail to mountains

Heading into the mountains on the Franklin Trail

On this second Sunday in February, the trail is happy with dog owners, “loving life” solo hikers with ear buds, and couples who are testing their relationship with their different paces, different temperments, and varying interests in hiking at all.

Frank 2A H on switchbacks

Taking to the switchbacks

As we approach the switchbacks of Phase II without any of the fencing, we have the full sun on a day heading to 70F; while back in York, 17” of the white stuff is falling on our snowbound brethren on the coast of Maine.

Frank 3 bear sign

Heading into b’ar country

As legend goes, bears inhabit the region.  Still with so many of us on the trail, I feel it quite unlikely that some big ole black bear needs an afternoon snack of Dan and Hannah.  Rather, our heart-pounding is due instead to the steady climb into the mountains.

Frank 3A trail with D

Ascending relentlessly with very little shade early in the afternoon, Hannah sets the pace as we can often walk side by side.  Never does the trail have a “too busy” feel, even on this first sunny day after the past week of rain.  (February is the rainiest month in southern California.)

Frank 3D fire road

Fire road of Phase II

Above the trail of switchbacks, we encounter a charmless fire road into the wilderness.  Without the native appeal of woodland trails, fire roads do get us conveniently from point A to point.  Our goal is to hike up to the Franklin Bench some 3.5 miles up the trail and chill there above the Pacific.

Frank 3E trail sign with mountains

Climbing from the Front Country towards the mountains for the past 75 minutes, we meander along the fire road still wondering where the hey is the Franklin Bench.  Doing the math of our pace with the distance traveled, we know we gotta be close.  We agree that we’ll turn around in another twenty minutes if we can’t find the bench.

Frank 4 trail angel

Trail angel

Finally, we hail a hiker passing in the opposite direction and ask how far to the bench.  Oh, you just missed.  It’s back a few tenths of a mile.  Leading us down the hill, he has saved us a mile or more on this sun-exposed trail.  The backside of this unknown Samaritan is pictured to the right.

Frank 4C double picture D and H

Omi and Poppa with Owen’s Woodstock and Max’s Blue Elephant

Debooting and looking out to the Channel Islands of the Pacific, Hannah takes five while I do my millennial thing by sending this dual picture of the Queen and her King to my Instagram and Facebook friends.

Frank map

Having climbed 1000 feet of elevation gain, we look to the mountains where Phase III will eventually include a 2.7-mile section of the trail that goes up to 3,720′.

Sum sunset

But that part of the trail is for a next lifetime for us.  (Click here for May 2017 opening of Phase Three of the Franklin Trail.)

We’ve hiked on a sunny California Sunday and are ready for an afternoon siesta back at our cottage and a cold Dos Equis to toast the Pacific sunset.

 

Dan and Hannah Hike to Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks, California

PF Nolan

While we are away, our friend Nolan plows and shovels us out.

Winter in Maine is serious and lasts well into April, despite March’s claim to the first day of Spring.  (In fact, 11″ of snow fell on April 1, 2017.)  Coming to California to take a bite out of winter, Hannah and I leave behind our neighbors on Chases Pond Road this second week of February.  They are getting pummeled by 14” of gale-blown snow while we have a midday waterfalls hike in Thousand Oaks, roughly half way between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

PF map of TO

Over the last week, we’ve had very improbable southern California weather – light rain, heavy mist, and outright rain.  Even so, we know how fortunate we are compared to our snowbound New England brethren as we drive south in heavy, pea soup fog on The 101 highway through Carpinteria to Ventura and on to Oxnard.

PF 6A how green is my valley

Wildwood Park in all its glory green

And then with the wave of her hand, God whisks away the fog to reveal blue skies and sunshine.  Turning left on Lynn Avenue by the upscale houses of Thousand Oaks, we travel a mile down Avenida de los Arboles to the trailhead.

PF 1 H at start of trail

The trail to Paradise Falls begins

There, surprisingly the Wildwood Park trailhead parking lot is empty with a metal bar blocking any cars from entering; we do see 15 to 20 cars parked on the side streets in front of the million dollar homes.  Following two women to the park entrance, we see a sign indicating the park is closed.  We can only guess that it is due to the muddy trails.

PF 1B D at trail closed sign

They can’t mean me!

But as we look around, we see hikers 100 yards ahead on the trail.  Like many rulebreakers, we can’t believe the authorities really mean “us.”  So we and many others just ignore the sign.  Over the first hill, we have a scene out of Ireland at its greenest.  After six years of drought, the heavens have opened and how green is my valley.

PF 1A H at trail start

The trail to Paradise Falls all within minutes of the Los Angeles Metroplex

The trail is moist and muddy but not so messy that we can’t step around the puddles and mud slop.  A young mother pauses with her four-year-old who explores every puddle, rock, and spilled Cheez-it that he sees.  Seeing our grandsons, Owen and Max, in this preschooler, we think he’ll be in first grade before they see the falls.  Let me say, the mom is patient, sweet, encouraging, and, as are many great moms and dads, a master of distraction, which moves them a little further down the trail, step by step.

PF 2 river above falls

Arroyo Conejo Creek above the falls

After nearly a mile, switchbacks take us down to the pools beneath the Paradise Falls where fifteen others are enjoying this Thursday noontime break.  Though the falls have been but a trickle of late, today we are here for the Grand Re-Opening thanks to Mother Nature.

PF 3C falls after crossing

Paradise Falls

Strategically placed stones allow us to balance across the modestly flowing stream.  Check out this Paradise Falls video.

Waterfall-satisfied, we take the trail to Lizard Rock which follows the North Fork of Arroyo Conejo Creek to the Wildwood Canyon Picnic Area.  Crossing the creek three or four times, we find it all quite easy with planks nailed together to allow us splash-free crossings.

PF 4 H on creek trail

Our trail map is fine, but our best advice comes from our fellow hikers.  A young couple directs us with lefts and rights to the switchbacks approaching Lizard Rock.

Climbing high above the Thousand Oaks water treatment plant, we are transported to County Kearny of the Old Sod in Erin Go Bragh.  Having traveled to the Santa Barbara area for the last three winters when brown was the new green, we are flying high with the rich verdant carpet to our right, left, and center.

PF 5A H climbing to Lizard Rock

Trail to Lizard Rock

With 800’ of elevation gain, the trail to Lizard Rock gives us a workout.  Breaking off the main trail at 1p, we summit and ponder the advantages of delayed gratification.

On one hand, we can eat our chicken sandwiches and sip our Dos Equis brewskis uncomfortably next to an oversized rock OR…

PF 6B cactus on green valley

Or we can refuel with water and granola bars now; then hike the short 45 minutes to the car, drive the a mere 50 highway miles back to the cottage, where we can shower and sit in comfort on our deck that overlooks the Pacific.   We choose option B.

PF 5C H on Lizard Rock

Athena, aka Hannah Banana

As we come down from Lizard Rock, Hannah has an idea; she knows that she doesn’t want to miss what professional photographers call the golden photo op.  Zipping back up the mountain crag, she soon positions herself as the Goddess of Light, high above as I click picture after picture of my sweet Athena.

PF 6 green valley of Wildwood park

Two hours of hiking in, we head for the trailhead along Stage Coach Bluff.  High above Paradise Falls and its meandering creek, we have come to Ireland without going through customs, drinking warm beer, or sleeping in small beds.

 

Wisdom from The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring

Readers of my recent blogs of Hannah’s adventures on the San Ysidro Trail near Santa Barbara, California were introduced to the wisdom of David Michie in The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring.  It’s a book that Hannah and I heartily recommend and most pertinent to us after Hannah’s fall off the trail.  To give you a taste of its practical suggestions for living, I include these eleven quotes.  Enjoy.

In the stillness, we discover that there are other ways of knowing things than through the intellect.

[Be] uncompromising on the importance of actions over words and others over self.

Buddha himself said…It is only when we have faced the reality of our own death that we really know how to live.

Life is finite; every day is precious.  And simply to wake up in good health truly is a blessing, because sickness and death can strike at a moment’s notice.

Page 89 – Formula for happiness?…The formula is H equals S plus C plus V… Happiness equals what’s called your biological set point or S, plus the conditions of your life, C, plus V, your voluntary activities.

What arises for you depends on your actions, on the karma and conditions you create.

Dalai Lama Art of Purring

Page 142 – The marshmallow experiment at Stanford University.  The advantages of delayed gratification and self-control that signal success.

Page 143 – A study about the circumstances whether or not prisoners would be granted parole.  Low blood sugar affects our judgment.  Eat well and regularly.

Four tools to practice equanimity (calmness, composure)  

First: impermanence.  Never forget: this, too, will pass…

Second: what is the point of worrying?  If you can do something about it, fix it.  If not, what is the point of worrying about it…

Third: don’t judge… When it happens, you think bad.  Later you may think [that’s] the best thing that ever happened. 

Fourth: no swamp, no lotus.  The most transcendent of flowers grows out of the filth of the swamp.  Suffering is like the swamp.  If it makes us more humble, more able to sympathize with others and more open to them, then we become capable of transformation and of becoming truly beautiful, like the lotus.

Happiness comes first, then success.

The Holy Secret is this: if you wish to end your suffering, seek to end the suffering of others.  If you wish for happiness, seek the happiness of others.  Exchanging thoughts of self for thoughts of others – this is the most effective way to be happy. 

 

Dan and Hannah’s Reflections on the Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding

Dan’s Reflection:

SY2 D with family

That Hannah might die never entered my mind. That said, people could die from such a fall if they, as she did, slide uncontrollably down a nearly vertical wall of sharp rock and dirt towards the waiting San Ysidro Creek 40’ below.  At that moment of her fall, I was comforted in four ways: first, that she looked safe on the perch below; second, it didn’t appear she had hit her head; third, that we had Molly and Tip for support; and fourth, I had no idea how bad her injuries were.

I guess one is never ready for sudden death.  I can’t imagine what it was like for our friend Amelia, when her husband and my college roommate, Big Steve, died in his sleep as a seemingly healthy man just turning 60.  The deaths of my parents in their 90s were not unexpected, indeed a blessing after rich lives.  I had no idea that I might be a widower when I woke up that morning in late February, 2017.

I know tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but the events on that Montecito mountainside gave new meaning to that cliche.  I am very glad that the curtain didn’t come down on Hannah’s life story that day.  But as I think about it, in time, I would have been very grateful for my many years with Hannah.  Hannah was always the one!

On a lighter note, Hannah’s sunny disposition has served her well for 69 years.  Despite deep wounds in her leg, she smiled and limp-walked steadily for a mile and a half out of the woods.  Her confidence and perseverance gave me confidence.

This is a great country for seniors like us with health insurance.  Hannah’s bill from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was $4200.   The ER was $2755, IV Therapy $1010, Drugs $152, Pharmacy $140, Medical Surgical Supplies $103, and Clinical Lab costs $37.   Since we have Medicare coverage, we ended up paying a mere $75!!  It’s not a stretch to think all Americans deserve such coverage!

I’m stunned how quickly she is recovering.  Get this, the very next day after the accident, she was slow-walking a half mile, within two days she was hitting the pavement for a mile, three times per day.  Within three weeks, she was working out at our local gym on the treadmill, elliptical, and Wave (roller blading motion).  Within a month she was back playing pickleball as if she had never been gone.  Her recovery is a testament to her lifetime commitment to fitness.

I buy the wisdom of The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring by David Michie. I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live… Life is finite; every day is precious.  And simply to wake up in good health is truly a blessing, because sickness and death [and falls off the trail] can strike at a moment’s notice.   

Our daughter Molly married very well. Tip is the kind of husband, father, and son-in-law we are thrilled to have.  That said, Tip hit the jackpot with Molly.

Life is not an exam. Life is for learning and healing.  We are learning and she is healing.  Hannah and I will be hiking the waterfall trails of northern Georgia and playing pickleball with our Yonah Mountain family in late April.

With my one degree of separation, I got quite the reminder that every day is precious and there is no time to waste.

 

Hannah’s Reflection:

SY2 4A five on trail

It is when we are confronted with…poignant reminders of mortality that we become most aware of the strangeness and wonder of our brief life on Earth.  Kathleen Basford

 

Nearly a month after my fall on the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California, I feel more tuned in to life than perhaps ever.  My perspective has once again been “re-set,” as challenging times have a way of doing.  I never did feel fear or pain – thanks, I believe, to my body going into “protective mode” to sustain me til medical attention was available.  Also thanks (especially) to Tip, our son-in-law, who provided his calm reassurance that We’ll get you back on the trail, Omi.  Mostly I feel grateful – that it wasn’t Max or Owen or Molly or Tip who fell.  And grateful that I didn’t fall any further, hit my head, or break any bones.

I believe I experienced what David Michie in The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring calls a “realization…”

A realization is when our understanding of something deepens to the point that it changes our behavior.      I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live.     A realization helps us to let go a little, to experience deep appreciation, even awe – just to be alive.      …time is precious and we must use it wisely.

I am grateful just to be alive and oh-so-grateful to those miracle workers and magic weavers (below) who, truly, brought me Home.

Tip

Molly, Owen, and Max

Danny

Zach and Dominique of AMR

Tony Anagnostou, MD

ER personnel at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Corky Thomson & Jane May of York Hospital

Elizabeth Helmer, MD & Alicia, RN  – both of York Hospital

sy-2d-o-and-o-on-rock

 

Eleven things my San Ysidro Falls fall taught me…

It’s all about the people.

Life just gets better.

We do not know what is in store tomorrow – or whether there is a tomorrow or even a tonight! But still, we have the golden present.

Our physical bodies are beyond magnificent.

I have so much to be grateful for.

How much I adore our grand boys.

How equally much I adore our children – and their father.

That I would give my life –in a heart beat – for any one of them.

What a rich, full life I’ve already had.

That I agree with Albert Schweitzer once again:  If there is anything I have learned about men and women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident.  Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released.

How proud I am to be our son in-law’s mother-in-law.

April 2017     Hannah B. Rothermel (aka Omi)

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 6 of 6

Part 5 ended with the successful surgery to repair Hannah’s gashed upper and lower left leg.

While Hannah is in a hazy fog from the medication, Tony, our surgeon, returns to the operating room.  He mentions that he will implant a drain that will siphon off excess fluid from deep within her thigh while it is healing.  Then looking to me, he says, Would you like to empty it?

SY2 drain

Under his guidance, I invert the plastic bulb and pour it into a plastic cup.  Then, he says to us, before you drain the plastic bulb, squeeze down the tube from near the leg to force the excess red liquid down to the bulbThis will help prevent the bloody fluid in the tube from clotting.  Would you like to try it, he says to me?  Experiential learning at its finest.

I squeeze the red discharge down the tube, knowing that I will remember little back at the cottage if all he does is show me how to do it.  He wants Hannah to take it easy this Thursday, gentle walking Friday, and by Sunday she can do anything she feels up for.  Whoa.

There are no limits to what she can eat or drink.  We should change the bandages after 48 hours and empty the drain 2 to 3 times per day, measure the discharge, and note the color.  In time, the color should turn from red to yellow.

While Molly has arrived to take us back to the cottage, first Kasey, an Ed Tech, wants to give Hannah a lesson in using crutches.  Taking us to a quiet place in the hallway, he demonstrates lifting the injured leg back, stepping forward with the stronger leg, and moving the crutches one step forward.

After adjusting the crutches for Hannah’s height (they are ours to keep and she never uses them; we later donate them to the Montecito Fire Department), Hannah tries, wobbles and flops back into the wheelchair behind her.  She mentions that she sees two Kasey’s; at this point he gets that she needs to be wheeled out in a wheelchair to our waiting car.

SY2 Han on couch

At the cottage the evening after the trail gave way

Once back at the cottage with Owen and Max in bed, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I talk about our day on the trail.  Famished, Hannah eats two big bowls of Trader Joe’s salads and the big half of a Los Arroyos chicken burrito.  She toasts her day with a glass of white wine.  Oh, that we all could celebrate so after such a day.

We all know how fortunate we are that Hannah is sitting with us six hours after the ground gave way beneath her feet.  That her leg is sutured and stapled, and not…  We just don’t go there.  To what end?  The subjunctive can be positive when it brings up good possibilities but not when it goes down Alice’s rabbit hole.

Aftermath

Within a day, Hannah and I are slow walking a half mile.  Two days after, we slow walk over a mile, three times a day.  Two weeks after we walk a mile at a normal pre-fall pace.

SY2 Han in park 3 days after

Three days after our hike to San Ysidro Falls

Three ibuprofen before bed for the first five nights are all the pain meds she takes.

Repeatedly we hear from the health care professionals, You are healing so well because you are in such good shape.

Tony our surgeon gives us his cell number and calls us at the cottage the day after Hannah’s surgery.

The drain comes out seven days later, the 25 staples are removed 13 days after.

After a month, she’s back on the pickleball courts at home in Maine!

 

So, we thank these angels in our lives:

Tip, for his rescue of Hannah off the cliffside.

Molly, for getting the EMTs in position once Hannah came off the mountain.

Zach and Dominique, American Medical Response EMTs, for diagnosing her wounds and safely delivering her to the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The Ed Techs and Karen our RN at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who prepped and cared for her pre- and post-surgery.

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Tony, our surgeon

Dr. Tony Anagnostou for his surgical skill, comforting bedside manner, follow-up calls, and accessibility.

Corky Thomson and Jane May of York Hospital who made Hannah’s appointment happen the very next morning back in York, after we landed in Boston from Los Angeles.

York Hospital’s Dr. Elizabeth Helmer and nurse Alicia for picking up the ball once we returned to Maine.

To conclude Hannah’s saga, Hannah and I reflect on the entire adventure.

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 5 of 6

Part 4 ended with Hannah prepped for surgery in the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.  Three hours before on the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, she fell 15’ into a 40’ ravine of jagged rocks when the trail gave way beneath her feet.  The two significant, deep left leg wounds are on the very same leg that she busted while water skiing five years ago.  Click here for the first of the three part series on Hannah fracturing her tibia while water skiing in 2012.

SY2 ER 3 Tony surgeon

Tony our surgeon, another angel

In walks another angel on Hannah’s journey.  Dr. Anthony Anagnostou introduces himself as Tony, her surgeon.  As he looks around the wound, he is calm, professional, and encouraging.  After getting the details from Hannah of the accident, he says, This is a deep cut.  It must be thoroughly irrigated to reduce the risk of infection.  I will place needles of medication around the wound in your thigh.  The anesthesia will take about ten minutes to kick in.  This is a serious cut, but it is something I have seen before and it is routine.

With those words (it is routine), I feel elation and relief knowing that this isn’t his first rodeo and Hannah is going to be okay.

SY2 ER 3B Tony irrigating

Tony irrigating the wound

Explaining that he will first repair the deepest tissues near her thigh bone, then sew the middle layer of tissue and finally the outer layer.  There will be staples to keep it all altogether until they are removed in 10 to 14 days.  Amazingly, no muscles have been ripped, no tendons torn nor bones broken.

Three two-quart bottles of saline cleanse the wounds.  Hannah and I both feel she has been most fortunate that her capri pants weren’t torn away by the slide over the sharp rocks when she fell.   In fact, the upper part of her capris never ripped.  How could they not tear at all when she had such a deep wound?  They kept more dirt and grit from infecting the wound.

One Ed Tech squirts the solution from the first bottle while another siphons out the bloody liquid, like dental hygienists do as they clean your teeth.

SY2 ER 3C Tony with five watching

At this point, Tony comes in to irrigate the wound with the final two bottles.  Always looking to his expression for signs of good news, I see a dedicated professional going about his business.  Later, he is referred to as an Ivy Leaguer who wants to save the world; he’s going to Africa.  That is music to my ears that we have such a man.

Now that the medication has kicked in, Tony goes to work.  Karen and the Ed Techs all watch the deep tissue work, something I cannot see, or even want to see, sitting opposite where Tony is operating.

When he needs assistance, he is professionally polite, and appreciative of their support.  As he works calmly and intently, Tony pulls out his smart phone to take pictures of the wound and the stages of his care.  Later, he mentions that the wound on her thigh was so deep that he could put his hand in up to his wrist.  He says he will send the pictures of Hannah’s wound for us to see, if she wants.  (Two weeks later, Hannah sees them, but I am still not ready to look at them.)  Though Hannah will have scars from the surgery, Tony wants Hannah to know how fortunate she is with just scars.  Hannah knows!

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Hannah, eyes closed, face turned my way, feels nothing.  She is on major painkillers that will keep her in a fog till she gets to bed tonight.  Only later do we count the 8 staples in her lower leg wound and the 17 staples to close the thigh wound.

Soon an orderly comes in and says that there is a need for examination room 4.  Tony turns matter of factly and responds that he’ll be done in five minutes.  That works for everyone and pleases me no end that he is almost done 40 minutes after he began.

SY2 ER 4 wrapping leg

Tony our surgeon and RN Karen wrap first her lower leg, then upper leg in gauze; they then put a compression bandage over each section.  She is good to go.  That said, when she looks at me, she says, You have three noses.

 

sy2 cleveland clinic

Cleveland Clinic’s attention to the patient

This six-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic captures the importance of encouraging words when doctors are dealing with patients.  Tony our surgeon could have starred in this video.

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 4 of 6

(Part 3 ended with Hannah strapped onto the ambulance gurney on her way to the ER of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.)

sy2 AMR 2

With eight miles to go to the county’s trauma hospital, I sit up front with Dominique, an EMT for six months, while Hannah is in the back with Zach, the more experienced EMT.  And Zach does what good EMTs do, he lifts Hannah’s spirits by keeping up the conversation by providing information and asking her questions – all to keep her mind off the subjunctive – the what ifs, the might have beens.

While Dominque drives through Montecito and then on The 101 for the hospital, I notice there are no lights and sirens.  Wondering to her if that is a good sign, I see Dominique smile and nod that it is.

Once within ten minutes, Zach calls in our ETA to the hospital ER; it is not lost on me that it is a call I couldn’t have made if I were driving Hannah to the hospital myself.

SY2 SB cottage hospital

ER entrance on the right

Arriving at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in the downtown of this city of 90,000, we have still another advantage since I didn’t drive Hannah to the ER – we bypass the waiting room as they whisk us through the dedicated ambulance entrance, directly into an operating room of the ER.  I hear that room 4 is ready, and within 60 seconds the Ed Techs are lifting Hannah off the gurney and onto the operating table.

SY2 ER 2 h in er with nurse

RN Karen (far right) prepping Hannah for surgery as the Ed Techs look on

Karen, an RN, takes charge with assurance and warmth.  Soon, she puts a clip on Hannah’s finger to measure her oxygen level.  An IV is inserted for the pain medication.  A nasal cannula breathing tube is put in her nose to deliver supplemental oxygen.  Throughout this time as I sit next to the operating table, Hannah is alert and turns my way to remind me how fortunate she feels.

Throughout the 1.5 mile hike out of the woods after the trail gave way beneath her feet, Hannah has mentioned how lucky it was that it was she and not our grandsons or their mom and dad.  She tears up with that realization.  The subjunctive, when it goes down to the dark place of what ifs, what might have beens, can cloud judgment and focus on regrets rather than the beautiful present.  Karen and the Ed Techs can’t believe she is not in any pain since they now have all seen the wound that goes to the bone in her upper thigh.   This is the same leg that she fractured her tibia five years ago when water skiing.

SY2 ER 3A preparing for irrigation

Karen asks about medications, allergies, blood thinners or diabetes.  Hannah’s answers are none, none, no, and no.  Coincidentally, they describe Hannah as the patient-of-the-year, just as the EMTs had, because, despite the large wounds, her disposition remains sunny.

SY2 ER 2B Dr Richmond

Dr. Richmond, head of the ER, examines Hannah’s wounds

Dr. Richmond, the head doc of the ER, comes in upbeat and talks to Hannah as he examines both the deep calf and the deeper thigh wounds.  Turns out he had been hiking on the very same San Ysidro Trail that we were this morning.  Looking for clues, I see no distress in his voice or worry lines on his face.  It seems Hannah’s upcoming surgery is not crisis surgery; and for that I am again grateful.

We don’t know who, but another angel is about to come upon the scene.

SY2 dark side of subjunctive

Phuc Tran on the TED stage

With my use of the term subjunctive, you would be correct if you had guessed that I had recently listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast on the subject.  Here is the thought- provoking Dark Side of the Subjunctive by Phuc Tran, a resident of Portland, Maine (15 minutes).

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 3 of 6

(Part 2 ended with our son-in-law Tip bringing Hannah off the ledge to my waiting arms.)

After Tip brings Hannah up from the cliffside, she and I hug and hug some more.  I put aside the subjunctive – the what ifs, the what could have happened.   Startled and so grateful, as is her outlook on life anyway, Hannah lets the tears flow, knowing how fortunate she is to be on terra firma.  Looking down at her left leg, I see some scrapes above her ankle below her capris but am oblivious to the sizable gash that Tip and Hannah have both seen.  With no time to lose, we begin the mile and a half trek to get Hannah and her left leg out of the woods and to the trailhead.

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The side creek that we just passed before the trail gave way beneath Hannah’s feet

With an hour on the rocky trail ahead, I clutch her left elbow as she takes her first tentatively step and leans forward.  On a trail of sharply angled rocks, I brace her left side as she puts her weight on her solid right foot.  Fortunately, we have already crossed the widest side creek, but there are still others to navigate with Hannah on one good leg.

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The San Ysidro Trail that Hannah descends

I have no clue to the gaping gash on Hannah’s calf, which is a good thing, as I focus on supporting her as she gingerly steps down the trail from rock to rock.  When the trail levels out, she says to me, we can go faster; knowing that the sooner we get to the bottom, the sooner she will get the medical care she needs.  Remember, while I think she has just a few scraps, she has seen the deep gouge in her lower left leg.

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Picture Tip took as he followed us down the trail with Hannah and her three tourniquets

On our slow walk down the trail on this Thursday in the last week of February, I think how Hannah and I usually never hike with others; but again good fortune smiles on us as today we have Molly and Tip.  That said, if it had been just us two on this trail just above suburban Montecito in metropolitan Santa Barbara, we would have had many other hikers here to support us.

Stepping carefully and rarely looking up, we take no breaks and beeline it for the trailhead.  The three tourniquets Tip tied on her leg are working as Hannah never complains, in fact, smiles her way down the mountain.

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The San Ysidro Trail that we came down; earlier in the hike Hannah and I had hiked up it with Molly, Tip, Owen, and Max

Both Hannah’s sunny disposition and our steady pace off the mountain has fooled me into thinking that she is okay and that the medical attention she will need may be minor.

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Hand in hand, hiking to the trailhead

At the junction with the McMenemy Trail to Saddlerock Mountain, we have a mile down, with just a half a mile to go.  Our daughter Molly has gone ahead with our four-year-old grandson, Owen, to get our car in position for me to take Hannah for medical attention.

Fifteen minutes later, we see Molly waving from behind a chain link fence with their rented Toyota in the foreground.  Behind them, we are surprised to see three bright red vehicles: a full-length fire truck, an American Medical Response ambulance, and a fire department SUV.

Hannah turns to me as says, I don’t want to go in an ambulance.  I want you to take me to the hospital.  How bad can her leg be if she doesn’t think she needs an ambulance?

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Zach explaining the reality of her injuries to Hannah

Arriving at the staging area, we see Zach, an EMT, who says, you must be Hannah?  Hannah smiles and nods, as he leads her to the back end of the ambulance to sit and be examined.  Still convinced I can take her to the hospital ER, Hannah is smiling, in no pain, as Zach checks out her lower leg; he quickly assesses that this is no simple gash that just a few stitches will heal.

Saying to Hannah, It is your choice to go with your husband or go with us in the ambulance, but our service is free.  Hannah remains unconvinced that she needs an ambulance.

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American Medical Response ambulance

As the four EMTs gather around, they are stunned that she is feeling no pain.   To a person, they call her the patient of the year.   Maybe they say that all the time, but I doubt it.  Hannah is a rock star who has walked out a mile and a half with a gaping wound – never complaining.

As they are about to wrap up, Hannah mentions a spot of blood on her capris on her left thigh.   Asking if it is okay that he cut away her capris, Zach soon sees a much larger and longer gash, twice the size of the lower one, that goes all the way to the bone.

Zach looks at Hannah and says, You can do what you want, but you are coming with me.  Hannah readily agrees.

 

I asked Molly to write a reflection of what she was thinking when she went ahead for help.  In Molly’s words:

Owen and I walked/ran ahead. Owen seemed to be leading the pace.  We sang some songs together as we ran, as a way to pass time and keep our focus on getting down back to the car.  We talked about how far he has hiked that day.  I told Owen that   “Omi is one tough cookie,” to which he asked, “what does tough cookie mean?”   I explained that even though she was hurt, she was walking to get down the mountain.  I told Owen that we were going to get the car to go back up part of the side road to pick her up when she got back down to the access road.  And then she would get help. 

As we got to the bottom of the trail, we ran 200 feet on the road to my car. As we got to the white rental car parked behind Omi and Poppa’s car, a man in a white Audi wagon pulled up right behind our car. Not sure whether to call 911 or not, I asked him if I could get through the locked gates on the access road to get closer to my injured mom.  I explained that my mom fell and hurt her leg near the top of the hike – and was coming behind us with my husband and dad and another son.  The man said that I could call 911 to get support – he was very encouraging and reminded me that “this is what they do — and they are close by.” 

After realizing that I had no idea if mom was getting worse or if she was even able to walk at this point, I decided to call. It crossed my mind that my mom probably would not want an ambulance, I figured I’d rather be on the safe side and get medical attention if she needed it.  I called 911 as I sat in my car.  Owen was sitting in the back seat eating mixed nuts.  

In general I felt pretty calm until I started talking to the dispatcher because I had somewhat incomplete responses to her questions – where exactly I was, how my mom was doing…  I tried to describe where I was and where my mom might be.  I knew they were walking down, but not sure at what pace. I told her that I wasn’t sure if she’d need medical attention but she had a bad fall 1.8 miles up the trail… the dispatcher said they were sending an ambulance to meet me at the trail head.

Owen and I drove up the access road to get closer to where Omi would be coming down and wait for the ambulance.  We saw the man (from earlier) again who was hiking up the trail as I was talking to Tip (who had just come back into cell reception area).

Tip wanted me to look up a hospital in the area – and the man was walking by and heard the conversation – and told me about Cottage Hospital. He said it’s close and it’s the best in the vicinity!  The man continued hiking – and I told him that he’d see my mom soon and asked if he could relay about how far they had to go when they crossed paths. Within 3 minutes, I could see Omi, Poppa, and Tip at the top of a hill — and simultaneously the ambulance pulled up the access road.  Since the road was locked at the gate, the EMTs encouraged Omi to keep coming down the trail – and they met her there. 

 

Here’s Tip’s take on the hike out after the accident in his own words.

So, after Hannah and I had climbed back up on the trail we were going to take a look at the “gash” on her thigh that was hidden under her capris, but then I thought better of opening up the wound to the elements even more, so we grabbed another long sleeve T-shirt and wrapped around her thigh to slow the bleeding.  Once we all started moving down the trail toward the car and help, I had Max on my back and just watched Hannah slowly make her way down the narrow path. 

I knew the cuts I saw were deep, but they didn’t seem to be gushing blood and Hannah just kept on going–there was no stopping her. 

I was trying to think of a way to support her to get down, but other than carrying her on my back, which I offered, there didn’t seem to be much I could do. 

When we’d pass hikers going the other direction many that noticed her injury would offer help and Hannah would say something like “I have these two guys to watch over me, I’m good.”  Some would then look at me with questions on their face and I would just shrug my shoulders and then give a nod of thanks. 

I’m not sure if we should have taken them up on their offer, and if so, what they could have done. 

Once the trail was wide enough for two to walk down Dan was there to support Hannah. 

Once we had cell service I got in contact with Molly, about a half a mile away from her, I knew she called someone for help. I wasn’t sure who was coming whether it was just a police officer to open a gate Molly’s car was stuck at or the ambulance. I didn’t mention that to Hannah and Dan. I thought that Hannah was a little embarrassed by the whole thing. 

When we got close enough to see Molly and the car we also saw multiple rescue vehicles pull up. After we saw them Hannah told Dan that “she wasn’t going anywhere unless it was in his car.”  I wasn’t sure that was the case and was glad there was someone professional who could look at her leg. 

As we went down the trail, I felt like I wanted to do something but there wasn’t much I could do. I am grateful she is okay.  

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 2 of 6

(Part 1 ended with the cliffside San Ysidro Trail giving way under Hannah’s feet)

Hannah immediately slides down the rocky cliffside, 15’ or more, into the ravine; and I know because I am standing directly behind her.  The vertical drop between Hannah and me now is jagged with rocks and unstable dirt due to the recent heavy rains in the Santa Barbara area.  As a human mudslide, she later told us she grabbed for saplings on her descent down this nearly vertical rocky cliff.

And then suddenly, she is perched on a small promontory, some 25’ above the San Ysidro Creek, rich with boulders and trouble.  On the good news/bad news continuum, the good news is that it appears she has not hit her head on the way down.  I don’t know if there is any bad news… It turns out she and Tip do.

Rescuing her down the hillside of rocks and mud where she slid is not an option.  Any effort to save her that way will just push more rocks and mud onto Hannah and may propel her further down the steep chasm.

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Tip on the cliffside preparing to take Hannah back to the main trail.  See the sheer cliff, the occasional sapling, and the creek far below

At this point, Tip passes their son Owen off to Molly, who is hugging their son Max, and sprints fifteen feet down the trail to a point parallel to where Hannah is.  Shaken, Hannah knows the enormity of the danger that she is in.  Tip uses the saplings sprouting from the hillside for support and steps carefully along the side hill to reach her.

Her left leg has taken the brunt of the rocky slide.  Though there are abrasions by her ankle, a major gash has been ripped open on her lower leg.  Hannah and Tip see it all; he quickly takes off his long sleeve tee shirt to make the first of three tourniquets on her left leg.  At the time, I am half way down the same path Tip has taken but see nothing that they have seen.

Later Hannah told me, Tip said to her, Omi, Omi, (her grandmother name) with a tone that “this is serious, but with the reassurance that we’ll get you through this.”  Comforted, Hannah knows she is in good hands.

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Earlier in the hike on the way to the falls, Hannah in her capris.  The trail gives you an idea of the jagged rocks of the trail.

Wearing capris down to her mid-calf, Hannah feels a strong pain in her upper thigh, but neither she nor Tip can see if there is a wound there.  Surprisingly, there is no tear to the capris above her knee.  But Tip has seen enough of the gaping gash in her lower leg to know that she could use more tourniquets, one below her knee and another around her upper thigh.  It appears nothing is broken, but adrenaline might mask a break anyway.

With all the skill of a veteran EMT, Tip slowly moves Hannah along the side of the cliff, towards the main trail.  All the while Molly, above on the trail, is distracting Owen and Max.  She is especially thankful when Max notices a bug on the side of the hillside that grabs both boys’ attention.

With Tip leading Hannah to the trail, I reach for her, and see a smiling and thankful Hannah.  Her sunny disposition belies the wounds to her left leg; I have no idea what lurks beneath her capris on her upper thigh, nor does she or Tip.

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Hannah and I rarely hike with others.  Fortunate this day that Molly holding Owen and Tip with Max in his backpack joined Hannah and me for the hike.

Later Hannah remembers four things about the fall: (1) the loud pop as she hit the first sharp rock (perhaps the puncture of her leg that didn’t rip her capris! Whoa!), (2) looking down at her lower leg and seeing a gaping gash that she quickly decides she doesn’t need to look at anymore, (3) when her fall stopped on the small promontory, she could see the drop to the boulders and rocks in the creek below, and (4) her good fortune that our son-in-law Tip was the reassuring rescuer that she and we all needed.

By the way, when Tip chooses his next career after being the Tom Brady of stay-at-home dads, the world will be a better place if he considers being an EMT or a firefighter.  Hannah remembers how cool and encouraging he was under “saving her life” pressure!

Holding Hannah tightly, I now hug her with all the gratitude that she is safe.  Having seen none of what Tip has seen and buoyed by Hannah’s belief that she is doing well and can walk the mile and a half to the trailhead, she and I step carefully down the trail.

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Earlier in the hike, Molly with Owen and Tip with Max.  Molly’s quick thinking had her and Owen hike ahead to get transportation at the trailhead.

Thinking quickly to save time at the other end of the trail, Molly goes ahead with Owen to get our car as close to the trailhead as possible.  Molly is doing what we need on this sunny day in the 60s, though ironically she herself is in the dark, uncertain if her  mother will even make it out without additional support.

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding and Then…  Part 1 of 6

sy2-2-family-at-start-of-trailEarlier this past February, Hannah and I had hiked the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California.  With the relentless rains of the winter of 2017, the waterfalls at the end of the trail had grown from a trickle to a thunderous applause of water.  That waterfall trail jumped it to the top of our list of favorite hikes in Santa Barbara.  Click here for that blog.

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Raging stream for stick throwing, not for crossing

Five days ago, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (nearly 3) flew from Massachusetts to spend their school vacation week with us at our rented cottage in nearby Summerland.  On Molly and Tip’s first full day in California, they hiked this very trail while we took Owen and Max to Carpinteria Beach.   Molly and Tip got sidetracked onto other trails and never ended up at the San Ysidro Falls.

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Max by San Ysidro Creek

So, with sunny weather this last Thursday in February, we all decide to hit the San Ysidro Trail for the ideal “family” hike.  “Ideal” if you have two athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly encouraging parents like Molly and Tip to deal with the challenges of hiking with preschoolers; who begin the hike moving and grooving, then get tired, and finally want to be carried.

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Tip with thier sons, Owen (left) and Max (right)

Driving in two rental cars, we six arrive at the trailhead on East Mountain Drive and park beside the hedges of five to ten million dollar houses of Montecito, home to Oprah, Kenny Loggins, and Ellen.   Thankfully, long ago the Montecito Trail Foundation established trails up the mountain so the public can enjoy the same scenery as do the landed gentry.

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Athletic Omi with her grandson Owen

When you hike with preschoolers, you are in for a “stop and smell the roses” kind of hike.  Not wanting to control the boys’ enthusiasm, Molly and Tip watch Owen and Max explore, run, sometimes fall, and then they are there to help Owen and Max throw away their “ouchies.”  At the end of the hike, Max will need three band-aids on his knees.

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The boys race, we follow while Molly and Tip remain alert.  Trees with hollowed trunks are favorite stopping points for the boys as is the storm-fueled river where they watch their thrown sticks follow the current past stones and boulders in the stream.

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A six to eight-inch rain storm fell just six days ago, so the trail has puddles and mud that Molly and Tip swing their boys over.  The trail is rocky with side creeks that require careful stone-stepping to cross.  Having Tip’s strength and agility makes all the difference.

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After a mile of the two to the falls, Max finally turns around, raises his arms up, the signal that he is ready for the backpack.  Interestingly twenty minutes later he wants to get down; but Tip has seen this show before on other hikes.  First down, then literally 30 seconds later Max wants to go back up in the backpack.

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Last week’s rock slide impeding our hike

Along the way, we see boulders from mudslides that block the trail that we step around and over; not impenetrable, but testament to the power of the recent storm.

Within two hundred yards of the waterfall, we come upon the widest side creek, where seven days ago, Hannah and I easily stone-stepped across.  Today, Tip climbs atop the larger boulder (see below) mid-creek and extends his arm to each of us, all the time having 40-pound Max on his back.

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San Ysidro Falls

And then, just around the bend is the San Ysidro Falls in all its storm-fueled glory.  Hannah and I see that the trail in front of the falls has narrowed to 18”, due to the erosion caused by the storm.  The force of the water over the headwaters is double what it was just ten days ago.

It’s been two hours for two miles; about par when hiking with preschoolers on a trail into the mountains.  Older brother Owen has impressively walked the entire two rocky miles with 1150’ of elevation gain – a chip off his mom and dad’s block.

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The rock Tip perched on to get us all across the side creek, within 200 yards of the falls

A little after 1230P, we head back for the trailhead on East Mountain Drive, which requires Tip’s strength and balance to support us again over the side creek torrent that we just negotiated twenty minutes before.

And then…

… with Molly in front with Max, Owen on Tip’s shoulders, Hannah following them, and me just behind her on the trail, the trail above the forty-foot ravine suddenly gives way beneath Hannah’s feet.  One minute Hannah is there, the next she is feet-first, rock surfing down the vertical cliff side towards the ravine 40′ below.