Dan and Hannah Are Thrown a Curve, Rebound to Hike Stone Mountain, Georgia

St map of sandy

Up at 4A on this Tuesday in late October 2017, Hannah and I are flying 900 miles southwest from Boston to Atlanta for Hannah’s stem cell injections; it’s an experimental procedure to see if stem cells will improve the quality of Hannah’s voice, diminished for the last 15 years with spasmodic dysphonia.  Hannah has a 1P appointment at Superior Healthcare in Sandy Springs, 25 miles north of Atlanta.

Our Delta flight from Logan Airport is delayed by federal regulations that require the flight attendants to have enough downtime between flights.  Our attendants arrived late last night, so our flight leaves 30 minutes late this morning.

Landing in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Georgia’s capital later than we expect, Hannah calls Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior, to let her know that we are on our way.  Hearing their conversation in the next seat, I gather that Houston, we have a problem.

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It seems that earlier in the morning the UPS truck arrived at Superior Healthcare without Hannah’s own stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida.  Though ordered by Julie for today’s procedure, they are nowhere to be found.   The long and short of it is that Hannah will not be getting her stem cell injection today.  Julie apologizes and does her best to make things right.

Having already paid for a flight for each of us, our hotel room, and our rental car, Hannah and I have an angel looking out for us.  It’s Julie to the rescue as she reschedules Hannah’s appointment for next Thursday; the stem cell bank will pick up all our expenses for our return to Atlanta.

Even so, how is a guy and a gal to feel about this snafu 900 miles from home?  Clearly, it was not the outcome we wanted.  St anger

Angry?  What does that get us?  We all know that anger just poisons the angry one.

Disappointed?  Not even.  Life happens.  Punches are thrown.  This is a love tap.  A first world problem.  Today, we’ll rock and roll with this beautiful sunny day in Georgia!

No, the snafu turns out to be one helluva opportunity.  We have sunshine for our hike at Stone Mountain, to the east of Atlanta.  We always have a choice how to deal with the unexpected.

Stone Mountain has a checkered past.  It’s the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, the heinous racist organization that terrorized blacks, Jews, and gays in the South with lynchings and daily fear and dread.

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Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Also, upon Stone Mountain is the bas relief of two prominent Confederate Civil War generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.  In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, jr. spoke of the importance to let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.  Clearly a pointed reference for those who passed 8th grade history class.

St 1 h at sign

Stone Mountain Park has its own exit off four lane Route 78.  For $15, we have the run of the park to hike on a gorgeous southern afternoon.  Parking near the trailheads is plentiful as we boot up for the one mile Walk Up Trail to the top of Stone Mountain.  Though three hundred yards of paved road begin the trail, we soon turn 90 degrees left to climb bare stone to the top.

St 1B D on stony slab up

Stepping up and over stone ledges, I have never seen a trail like this one – a rising all-stone path to the top of the mountain.  Even on this mid-week day, the trail is happy with people but not swarming as it must be on spring and fall weekends.

Climbing steadily, we have a workout that most can do; that said, it’s no walk in the park.  Near the top there is a double railing for climbing a particularly steep section of the trail.  Welcoming the assistance, we see twenty-something athletes using the trail for an afternoon workout.

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The double railing above Hannah on the way to the top of Stone Mountain of Georgia

Atop Stone Mountain, the wind picks up, but the sunshine and joy of the climb warms us up and down.  Spotting the Sky Tram that floats visitors to the summit, we make a pit stop at the lodge’s rest rooms; across the lobby, there’s a snack shop, worthy of any Regal Cinema in America, selling sugar products; and then even more sugar if you like.

St 3A D on Cherokee

The white blaze of the Cherokee Trail

After a half hour of climbing to the top, the descent is easy-peezy.

Arriving back at the trailhead an hour after our start, we turn right for the orange blaze Connecting Trail that soon hooks us up with the Cherokee Trail that circles the mountain.  It’s a delightful dirt trail within hailing distance of an active railroad under the canopy of deciduous trees.

St 4B H with Generals good too

Confederate Memorial carvings, 400′ above the ground and nearly 200′ wide  (A Confederate Mount Rushmore?)

Within twenty minutes, we are at the base of the Confederate Heroes in all their glory on the flat vertical side of Stone Mountain.  What’s a Yankee to make of all this?

I don’t doubt the sincerity of these men, but I can’t but wonder how misguided was their defense of slavery (euphemistically referred to as the Peculiar Institution); it seems so transparently bogus to claim that the South was fighting for states’ rights in the Civil War.

Were the Southernors rebels or traitors?   Inflammatory nouns serve little purpose.  They divide rather than unite in this time when bullying and name-calling are the order of the day from the Oval Office.

So how do we unite?  One possibility is that we start by not seeing the other side as the devil.  We do the Stephen Covey thing (the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

We listen.  We approach them with love in our hearts, not retaliatory invective.   We believe that good will win out.  And we don’t lose faith.

Later, over wine and cheese and crackers at our Comfort Inn and Suites near the Atlanta airport, Hannah and I toast our unexpected glorious day and thank the turn of events for making it so.


Dan and Hannah Say Good-bye to Wayne Turley

Wayne and Nancy June 2017

Wayne and Nancy at home – June 2017

Our Arizona friend Wayne died this past Thursday (December 2017), after two years of “living” with dialysis.  Having lived a full life as father to seven kids and husband to Nancy, he was one helluva good guy.   No lie, he was one of the planet’s best.   Hannah and I met him and his wife Nancy 40 years ago; we last visited them this past June at their new home in Utah.  In fact, I began a recent blog about them.  And here it is to give you an idea of the man.

When I think of Bryce Canyon, I think of Wayne and Nancy.  Let me explain.

BC 1 Bryce sign

Living in the shadow of Arizona State University in the 1970s, Hannah and I were recently-weds when Wayne and Nancy came into our lives.  I was scuffling along as an elementary school teacher, looking to find my way – wondering if teaching was for me.  Hannah, too, was searching; she tried nursing school, but the paperwork and condescending doctors sank that ship.  Since tuition for us as in-state residents was $300 per semester at ASU back in the day, she, without much financial pain, gave the counseling program a shot.

In her studies, Hannah met Wayne, who was teaching a course in motivation for the Educational Psychology Department.  Hannah loved the class that fall semester; and then Hannah, being Hannah, invited Wayne and his wife Nancy to our house in Tempe for dinner.  We clicked and the magic began.

BC 1AA BC with no people

Bryce Canyon National Park (It is not technically a canyon but an amphitheater.)

Though six years later we moved from Arizona to raise our family in a small town on the coast of Maine, we have never lost our love of the West, its trails, its national parks, and its Nancy and Wayne.

In 1992 when our family of five traveled West, our four-cylinder Subaru wagon pulling a homemade trailer could barely climb the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona.  That’s when Nancy and Wayne came to the rescue.  Near their home in Mesa, AZ, they found a mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a radiator working at 30% capacity on a vehicle that was never meant to tow a trailer of any size. 

A few days later, leaving the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix Metro Area) at 1100’, they towed our trailer with their GMC Yukon to Heber at 8000’ in northern Arizona so we could roll downhill from there for home in Maine.

Turley Rothermel 1993 Bryce Canyon

Our joint family trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in 1993.  From right to left, Nancy Turley, Hannah, Ty Turley, Cara Turley, Janis Turley, Hilary Turley, Will Rothermel, and Molly Rothermel

The following year, Nancy and Wayne arranged for their family of eight (soon to be nine) and ours of five to camp side by side at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, UT; we would then hike in Bryce Canyon National Park

Whenever we would fly to Arizona for a week, they would seamlessly add our five to their household, treating us as family; and all under one roof!

They are stunning folks; they think when we are together, what would make Hannah and Dan’s visit more enjoyable?   And they love playing card and board games.   As members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, they are the ones who taught us Mormon Bridge; now the Family Rothermel’s favorite card game.

Wayne and Dan in sunglasses

Two cool guys, Dan and Wayne (1991) when the Family Turley came to visit us in Maine

When Hannah and I saw Wayne this past June, I put the thought that he soon might die out of my mind, though I knew it was a possibility.  We talked, we played games, we laughed.

My life has been richer knowing Wayne Turley.  He was like a brother to me.

Hannah eulogizes Wayne below.

I was pregnant with our to-be-first born, Molly, when I sat in my first counseling class with Wayne.  I knew instantly that I had signed up for one of the best experiences of my life – because of the teacher, J. Wayne Turley.  Within weeks, we had invited him and his wife Nancy to our home for dinner.  From that moment on, dinners together became a tradition. Wayne was the most kind, thoughtful, sensitive listener/teacher I’d ever known. He believed each of us in the class had something to offer one another – we were all students and teachers, including himself. 

His wife Nancy turned out to be equally loving and love-able. Through the years, we’ve shared the births of kids, the deaths of parents, the illnesses and heartbreaks that come with children and life…and kept in touch when we left Arizona for Maine. At some point, the whole Turley family came to the coast of Maine – for further bonding. (A total of 9 kids later.)   

Now, 10 kids combined and more than a dozen grand kids later, we feel as close as ever….and as grateful as ever that Wayne has never stopped teaching us – by example – what  really matters. Wayne lives on because of the place he continues to reside…in my heart, in my mind, in my soul…in my life.

Thank you, Wayne. Vaya con Dios.  

Dan and Hannah and 93 Words for 2017

This year, mend a quarrel.

Seek out a forgotten friend.

Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust.

Write a letter.


Give a soft answer.

Encourage youth.

Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.

Keep a promise.


Forgo a grudge.

Forgive an enemy.


Try to understand.


Examine your demands on others.

Think first of someone else.

Be kind.

Be gentle.

Laugh a little more.

Express your gratitude.

Welcome a stranger.

Gladden the heart of a child.

Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.

Speak your love and then speak it again.


Howard W. Hunter


Dan Goes 0 for 10, Then Hits Gold (Well $20!)

There is no way to sugar coat it.  0 for 10 is pretty bad.   Let me explain.

20 larry stewart

Inspired by Larry Stewart, I had a plan for my 70th Birthday Road Trip to California National Parks to give $20 away every day.  Larry made a purposeful life by giving small amounts of cash away on a regular basis.  It all began in a diner when Larry, down on his luck, was given a free meal.  Years later in 1979, he saw a carhop, in need, and gave her a $20 tip when 50 cents was a big deal.  Click here for his full story.

Alas, Dan is not Larry, and that’s a good thing.  Dan is Dan and Larry was Larry (He died at the age 58 in 2007).  But Dan has his moments.  On this road trip, I just haven’t made giving $20 away a frontal lobe priority; I got caught up in our traveling, driving, hiking, pickleballing, new towns, and new people.  Blah, blah, blah.  What I now realize is that I needed to create a “to do” list each day with giving $20 away in bold letters.  But it’s a vacation; who makes out a “to-do” list on their vacation?

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On our third night in Three Rivers, California at the gateway to Sequoia National Park, Hannah and I did something cool.  After hiking to the Marble Falls (Click here for the link to that hiking blog.), we chatted up Patty, the manager at the Subway in Three Rivers late in the afternoon.  Her story touched us, including her upcoming marriage to the love of her life.  Once home, we sent her some wedding dollars.  That’s certainly a positive, but that was not technically part of my plan.  Ten days into our road trip, I still had not given one single Jackson away.

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Hannah in red playing pickleball at the roller skating rink in Fortuna, California

Waking in Eureka and then morning pickleballing in Fortuna, CA, 20 miles to the south, on our last full day in California, Hannah and I head south on The 101 towards the Good Nite Inn in Rohnert Park, just five miles south of Santa Rosa, California.  The same Santa Rosa that ten days later was devastated by wild fires wiping out whole communities and killing some 250 people.

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Eureka is to the north in Humboldt County and Santa Rosa is to the south in Sonoma County


As Hannah drives south on this section of The 101, often referred to as the Redwood Highway, from Humboldt County through Mendocino County, we make a pitstop in Laytonville.

As Hannah pulls our rented Hyundai Accent into a shaded parking spot, she doesn’t see a man with dirty-blond, shoulder length hair sitting on the curb, cooling his jets on this 93F late September Wednesday.

Seated on the passenger side, I clearly see the man with a sweatshirt that says Bamboozled, a week’s growth of beard, ragged jeans, and perhaps his worldly possessions in a bag to his side; all the time with a dog as sidekick.

Opening my passenger side door, I say, Sorry for getting so close.  He smiles disarmingly and nods that’s not a problem.

Once in the Chevron Quick Mart, I realize that I can raise my .000 batting average of giving to .091 with a little timely generosity.

20 $20

Grabbing a $20 bill from my wallet, I return to the car before Hannah does, wondering what to say to the man, maybe my age, to maintain his dignity.

Inspired at the last minute, I walk over to him and say, Could you find a good use for $20?

He said he could, smiled, and the moment was over that quickly.  Soon, Hannah returns and we are heading south on The 101 towards our overnight just north of San Francisco.

20 wayne dyer 1

Hitting a robust .091, I am not in line for the Hall of Fame of Giving.   But I’ll give the final word to a man who likely is – Wayne Dyer.  Click here for his full four-paragraph blog on giving.  (Thank you Mitch Sakofs for reintroducing him into my life back in 2002).

Reduce what’s in excess in your life and then offer it where it can be utilized.  Begin with your stuff: clothing, furniture, tools, equipment, radios, cameras, or anything that you have too much of.  Don’t sell it; rather, give it away (if you can afford to).  Don’t ask for recognition for charitable acts—simply behave in harmony with the Tao by reducing your surplus.

Look for opportunities to fill the empty spaces in other people’s lives with money; things; or loving energy in the form of kindness, compassion, joy, and forgiveness. 


Dan and Hannah Hit the Pickleball Hotspots in Northern California

HC 1A group picture

Reno Pickleballers

Though hiking five National Parks (Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Lassen, and Redwood) in California is a dream quintet, Hannah and I do love us some pickleball, too.  A week into our national parks road trip for my 70th birthday (in December 2017), we found quality pickleball in Reno, Nevada, a town that was not even on our original schedule.

After a weekend in northern California hiking at Lassen Volcanic and Redwood National Parks, we are ready for a day off from the trail; pickleball to the rescue.  Fact is, we are fried.  After nine hikes in seven days in the Sierras, we need this Monday for chilling; and pickleball is our chilling of choice.

PB map 3

Lassen is 60 miles east of Redding and Redwoods are 40 miles north of Eureka

Turns out this day in Eureka, we scored an $89 promotional rate room to the classy Clarion Hotel by Humboldt Bay.  Treated like royalty, we find the breakfast elite.  Sit yourself down and prepare to have your mouth watered.  For the first time on a road trip, there are flaky biscuits, and gravy for Hannah.  Add freshly-made oatmeal in a cauldron as well as eggs that are not left on an island, but are accompanied by crispy home fries and crispier bacon.  Heaven at Seven (AM that is!)

PB Arcata five

Arcata Pickleball

Our day away from the trail begins with morning pickleball at the Community Center in Arcata, minutes from the Pacific Ocean.  Ambassador Jan organizes a few drills; since there are only eight of us, we play non-stop for more than two hours.  Two other visitors, Rick and Eric, raise the level of competition and quality pickleball is had by one and all.

PB HSU sign

HSU has an on campus redwood trail that we hiked!

A day of chilling is followed by an afternoon walk through the campus of Humboldt State University in the aforementioned Arcata.  I do have one plea for HSU.  Both the men’s and women’s athletic teams are called Lumberjacks!  WTF!   Humboldt State could learn a thing or two from Northern Arizona University, where the men’s teams are the Lumberjacks and the women’s teams are the Lumberjills!

With temperatures going to the low 90s three hours to the south in Santa Rosa (an hour north of SF) this week, Hannah and I decide to spend an extra night in Eureka (Its summer temps are often in the 60s, winter in the 50s.)  And yes, that is the same Santa Rosa that ten days later was devastated by wild fires.

So pickleball in Eureka it is.  We know the gold standard of ambassadors in Laurie Lee of the Yonah Pickleball Club in northern Georgia and Roger Huppe in Springvale, Maine.  Well, my communication with the Humboldt Bay Pickleball ambassador Colleen Foster has been nothing short of supportive and attentive.  Her prompt and detailed emails kept us informed of the play in Eureka as well as play in the nearby towns of Arcata, McKinleyville, and Fortuna.

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Hannah ready to serve at the Adorni Rec Center in Eureka

After two games with Hannah and two women on the Eureka courts, I step aside and wait to play with the guys on the last court, who look tough.  They slam, they bang, and they dink (soft shots strategically placed just over the net) at a high level; I’m pushing it to play with them, but I think, what the hey.

Watching from the sidelines for a while, I see they are going to switch partners and continue playing as a foursome.  Having more confidence than I ever did in high school, I approach them and ask to play.  They welcome me in, as Luis, a thirty something, gives me his spot; I play with Javier against two accomplished 4.0/4.5 rated players.

PB ratings

In pickleball, beginners are rated 1.0 to 2.0.  3.0’s play more consistently and are beginning to learn that pickleball is more than just slamming the ball as hard as possible.  3.5’s play the finesse game.  I think of myself as a 3.5 who, when on fire, approaches 4.0.  4.5’s and 5.0’s have it all.  I’d have to practice eight days a week to even sniff those ratings; call me soft, but I am just not motivated to reach that rung.  Being a three-days-a-week recreational pickleball player is just my cup of tea.

Playing with Javier, I see that our opponents have all the shots.  I can play with these guys but for the first time in a long time it is clear that Javier and our opponents are stronger players than I am.

For a little background, when I play on the road, I am often one of the strongest players, and, on occasion, the best one on the court.  At our home court in Saco on the coast of Maine, I am not Norm, the top player, but I hold my own.

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Dan has seconds

Today is different as I am on the “competitive” court and these guys make me pay by smashing any shot of mine that was just a little too high above the net.  I play four games with different high-quality players and never win once.  There’s no denying it, I am the weak link.  Once when my partner and I are up 10-7 in a game to eleven, our opponents talk strategy at the baseline, then drill me with their slams.  It works; they win 12-10.  Make mine a slice of humble pie!

Today, I take the long view and am so appreciative of the chance to sharpen my skills with these excellent players.

Eureka PB gang 1
Rockin’ Eureka Pickleballers

And it all began because of Pickleball Ambassador, Colleen Foster, who made Hannah and me feel that we had a home away from home on the Pacific Coast in Eureka, California.

Thank you, Colleen.

Dan and Hannah at the Nolan and Kara Wedding

Mainers like Nolan are the reason people move to the Pine Tree State and spend their lives here, as Hannah and I have done for the past 35 years.  When our friend George Derby got his van stuck in the mud of our side yard on a ping pong Thursday, I called Nolan to see if he could help us out.  Fifteen minutes later, (15 minutes!) Nolan hooked up a heavy metal chain from his truck and pulled the van out.

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Good guys (Donal and Dorant) sought us out during the wedding reception

When I asked Nolan how to best get rid of poison ivy along the road by our house, Nolan sent two of his Patten Ground Care employees to pull out the poison ivy for us.  By the way, the two are Jamaicans (Donal and Dorant) who thanks to their body chemistry do not develop rashes from contact with poison ivy.

When Will was off at St. Michael’s College near Burlington, VT, Hannah and I bought a heavy-duty ping pong table from Dick’s Sporting Goods in Portsmouth.  Having no way to get it to home and in need of some serious muscle, we called on Nolan who used his truck to transport it back to our place on Chases Pond Road and help me set it up.

kn snow in driveway

And now with winter coming, Nolan is the first one on the scene when the big snows fall.  Nolan makes it a priority to plow our 150’ driveway, shovel out the garage doors, shovel a 70’ path to our generator, and dig a path to the propane exhaust vent (which if not done, shuts down the heating to our house which causes our water pipes to freeze).  He’s done this time and again when winter nor’easters come to York.

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Our generator is in the distance

Nolan has looked after his best friend’s parents for a long, long time.

Friends since second grade, Nolan and our son Will played indoor soccer and youth basketball during their elementary school years.  Will still thinks of the basketball coaching he got from Nolan’s dad John in sixth grade as the foundation for his success as a high school and college player.

Working side by side with Nolan, Will got his first full time summer job as a landscaper for Patten Ground Care, which lasted for eight years.

H and Nolan at VCU

Nolan with Hannah at Will and Laurel’s rehearsal dinner reception at VCU in 2015

Years later in Virginia, Will asked Nolan to be his best man at his wedding to Laurel Ann near Richmond, Virginia.  Months ago, Nolan returned the favor in kind by asking Will to be the officiant at his wedding to Kara on a late November Wednesday.

Though Will speaks regularly to groups of athletes and alums in his position in the Athletic Department at Ithaca College in central New York state, he has had no more important speaking engagement than for today’s Kara and Nolan Nuptials.

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At the reception with Will and Nolan’s York High School classmates, Adam and Zack Kilgore (Will, Laurel, Adam, Zack, Camille (Adam’s wife), Hannah and Dan

Pleased that Will asked for Hannah’s and my feedback on his speaking plan for the wedding, we are further gratified that his words are to keep the focus on Kara and Nolan, not on him, the officiant.   We have been to weddings where the minister sadly makes it all about himself with his clever word play and dominating presence.  Will gets it.  It’s Kara and Nolan’s Day!

Owen and Max Fosters 2

Three days after the Nolan and Kara Wedding, we took Owen and Max to Fosters to use the tickets Kara and Nolan gave everyone attending the wedding for the chance to win a special Christmas tree

As the localest of local boys, Nolan (and Kara) have chosen the Foster’s Downeast Clambake in York Harbor as wedding venue.  The Wednesday wedding is timed nicely for the kickoff of the Festival of Fostering Trees.  Foster’s raises money to help kids who have not been adopted and have aged out of the system.  In lieu of presents, Kara and Nolan have asked guests to donate to the Foster’s program.

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Kara with her dad coming down the aisle at Foster’s Downeast Clambake

Come 530P on November 29, 2017, with Will and Nolan waiting at the front of the hall, Kara and her dad come down the aisle.  A hundred plus have gathered on the benches at Foster’s to hear Nolan and Kara’s story of finally making it to the altar after 16 years.

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Kara and Nolan with Will officiating and Nolan’s brother Travis as the best man

Eloquent and brief, Will sets the stage.

The purpose of a partnership is to create something greater than we can create alone. Not because of any deficiency or incompleteness, but because each of us is unique, with our own talents and abilities.  In partnership, we improve the opportunity for creating something meaningful together. 

With Kara’s sister Bethany reading an email Nolan wrote to Kara and then Nolan’s brother Travis reading an email that Kara later wrote to Nolan, the ceremony is touching and personal.  Standing in front of Nolan and Kara, Will ends with some of my favorite lines ever to conclude a wedding service.

Before we send you on your way, I would first like you both to savor this moment. Not just the feeling of immense love for one another, but the feeling of love and support from those gathered here today. It is a true testament to what you mean to the people in your lives.

NK six at wedding

Will, Laurel, Kara, Nolan, Hannah, and Dan

Kara … Nolan—I could not be more excited for you to write this next chapter of your lives together.  And with that, it is a distinct honor to pronounce you husband and wife.

And it’s all a wrap in 15 minutes.  Is that a crowd favorite or what!

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Quite the couple!

The reception right here at Foster’s is equally cool with lobster rolls, clam chowder, fruit, cheese and crackers all washed down by champagne, wine, or beer.  Though there are tables for sitting, this reception is not a sit-down affair served by wait staff.  People can move around easily to connect and reconnect with old friends.  It’s relaxed and comfortable and so fits who Kara and Nolan are.

The best of it all for Hannah and me is to see the genuine love and affection Nolan and Kara show to each other throughout the evening.  Smiles, holding hands, looking at each other and listening when the other is talking.   This evening Hannah and I see the embodiment of love in Kara and Nolan.

Dan and Hannah Hike in Redwood National Park on the Pacific Coast in California

RW map of coast

After 1300 miles of driving for my 70th birthday California Road Trip, we come to the northern California coast to our fifth of five national parks.  Previously, we’ve hiked in Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Yosemite, and Lassen Volcanic, in addition to the Hunter Creek Falls trail in Reno, Nevada.  Today, it’s the Tall Trees of the Pacific Coast.

RW map of area

Driving 150 miles from Redding, CA in the Central Valley where temperatures this last week in September are in the 90s, we cross the Coast Range to get to Redwood National Park, with its year-round, sublime moderate temps.   Winding along route 299, we have one-lane delays as crews are dealing with the aftermath of the late summer wild fires.  We see the grey black metal structures left from decimated businesses and trailers and the concrete foundations that are all that’s left of some homes.

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Banana slug at Hannah’s feet

Heading north at Eureka on the Pacific coast, we drive 45 miles north to Orick, where the Thomas Kuchel Visitor Center is located, with rangers at the ready.  Having been to the Redwoods National Park once before in 1993 with our three kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, we remember the towering redwoods and the disgusting banana slugs.

RW 1D towering redwoods

Given our desire to hike three hours, the ranger suggests the West Ridge Trail out and the Prairie Creek Trail back for six plus miles of hiking through all the redwoods we could ever want.

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Hannah among the redwoods on the West Ridge Trail

He mentions a “trail closed” sign at the start of the return trip on the Prairie Creek Trail.  But it’s a Hakuna Matata situation (no worries), for the creek is not high and fording the little water in the stream is not a problem; the sign is for insurance purposes only.  In addition, there is also a 100’ section of a massive redwood that has fallen across the trail that must be circumvented.   He reassures us that that, too, won’t be an issue.

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In the 1960s, legend has it that then Governor Ronald Reagan said, If you have seen one redwood, you have seen them all.  From my research, that does appear to be exactly true.  It is more likely he said, You know a tree is a tree.  How many more do you need to look at?  It seems Reagan was trying to balance the interests of the lumbering industry with those wanting to protect our disappearing natural resources.  His speech writer must have taken the afternoon off.

RW 1H H among more redwoods

What is a fact is that 95% of all old growth redwoods have been logged.  And the few pockets of redwoods, all of which are along the Pacific Coast from Big Sur, south of San Francisco, to southern Oregon, are all we have left.

RW 1G H among redwoods

On a sunny 65F afternoon, we take to West Ridge Trail with its 700’ of elevation gain, which is primarily a stout climb at the start.  Among these numerous redwood giants, the mostly dirt trails are occasionally covered with pine needles and crossed by smoothed, exposed roots.  It couldn’t be a better massage of our hiking feet than if Dr. Scholl herself were caressing our feet.  (I’m guessing the good doctor is/was female.)  [A valued reader sent me a link to WILLIAM Scholl.  Who knew?   Click here for the full story of the good doctor.]

RW 2A trail thru redwoods

At the start of the steady climb, we find it a workout.  But after hiking at 7000’ at Lassen yesterday, this trail is not oxygen-starved as we hike at 100’ above sea level.  The trail is Mohammed Ali-like (it bobs and weaves throughout the mountainside of angled terrain), which may be the reason it was saved from the 19th and 20th century loggers.

RW 2 Zig Zag trail

Hiking over two mph, we then arrive at the Zig Zag #1 trail, the link trail to the Prairie Creek Trail.  Zig zag it does, as we switchback down the 700’ of elevation gain to the trail along the Prairie Creek that will take us back to the visitor center.

RW 3A bridge out

Where there was once a bridge

Soon finding the river crossing where once there was a bridge, we take to using well-placed stones to cross a creek that is no more than a few inches deep.  After 3+ hours of driving through mountains to the coast and now two hours into our hike, the level trail back is just what our tired bodies need.

Along the trail, Hannah spots a fallen giant redwood with light at the far end.  She and I walked through a Sequoia in King’s Canyon earlier in the week, and she wants to hang the pelt of walking through a redwood to her wall as well.  Scampering through without delay, she rejoins me on the creek trail.

RW 5A log

The trail continues to be easy on the feet: dirt, without rocks and maybe a root or two.  Nearly two and a half hours in, we arrive at the fallen king-size redwood.  Chainsaws have not sliced and diced it because it’s still the nesting season of the marbled murrelet.

RW 5 Han by fallen redwood

One big timber

Skirting the trail to the left as many have done, with each other’s help, we stretch enough to step up and over the fallen timber.  All a part of supporting each other for now 45 years.

RW marbled merrelet

Marbled Merrelet

At this point, there is no joy in Mudville as we both are just ready to be done.  No longer do the redwoods hold any majesty as we put one damn foot ahead of the other to just make it to the trailhead.

Nearly three hours after our start, we return to the Elk Meadow by the Visitor’s Center.  On cue, the obedient elk appear and munch away for our viewing pleasure.

RW muir woods with hannah

It turns we are tough graders.

Redwoods National Park earns the bronze on our list of impressive redwood parks.  The gold goes to the boardwalk trail of redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, fifteen miles north of San Francisco (Click here and here for these blogs).

The silver is the little known but amazing Big Basin Redwoods State Park near our friends Tammy and Mike in Boulder Creek, near Santa Cruz (60 miles south of San Francisco) (Click here for that blog).

That said, bronze gets you on the medal stand.

Driving an hour south from the park on The 101 to our Clarion Inn in Eureka, we celebrate, as only we can, by tapping a fine boxed merlot to celebrate our afternoon among the northern California redwoods.

If you are thinking, these are two wine connoisseurs, you couldn’t be more right.


Dan and Hannah Hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

LV map 2

A chance meeting with an older couple (our age!) in the elevator at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Reno this Saturday morning in late September gets me wondering about our plans for the day.  They tell us that they couldn’t get into Lassen (Volcanic National Park) because of the snow yesterday.  In the high Sierras, Lassen is where we are headed today.

LV map

Checking online, I find that a section of the park road is indeed closed due to snow; though we can get into the park, we will not be able to drive through as we had hoped.

LV shoe tree 1

Heading north out of Reno on highway 395 in California, we spot a tree with hanging ornaments at, what we later learn is, Hallelujah Junction.  As we whiz by at 65 mph, we see that they are athletic shoes.  Wanting to explore this mystery further, we double back and find that we are at a classic shoe tree.

LV shoe tree 2

I learn online that A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch. It usually ends there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade. Soon, teens are gathering up their old Adidas and Sauconys, families are driving out after church with Dad’s Reeboks and grandma’s Keds.

LV 1B sign with D and H choice

After cruising the flat high desert route 395, we turn west at Susanville onto route 36 to climb into the mountains where Lassen reigns.  At the entrance to the park, we learn the entire park road has reopened, and there are two waterfalls trails for our hiking pleasure.

LV 6B KC falls even better

Kings Creek Falls

On our park map, the ranger circles the 3.5-mile roundtrip Mill Creek Falls Trail that leaves from the visitor center and another 3-mile hike to the Kings Creek Falls Trail eight miles into the park; we would not have had access to the Kings Creek Falls yesterday due to the snowfall.

Different from most waterfalls hikes where we climb along the creek bed up into the mountains, the Mill Creek Trail has us hiking first up, then down along the hillside; but perplexingly mostly downs.  WTF!  Adding to the up and down-ness conundrum, the trail has no signage; after 15 minutes, I wonder why no one else is on this made-for-the-average-Joe-and-Jane trail; the trail is short, promises waterfalls, and leaves from the visitor center.

LV 2B picture of valley from MC falls

Valley below Mill Creek Falls

Hiking on for ten minutes more, we have to be a mile into the 1.6-mile hike at 6500’.  Still no signs and still no other hikers returning from the falls at what would be a very popular hiking time (130P).  I am ready to bail; Hannah is not; she pulls out the faith card.  Though I don’t have much faith in the trail, I do in her, so we continue.  Listening intently, I don’t hear any sound of a rushing creek or thundering falls; seems like a wild goose chase to me.

LV 2 Mill Creek falls

Mill Creek Falls

Finally, spotting two couples returning from the falls, Hannah learns that we are indeed on the right trail.  Forty minutes after leaving the trailhead, we arrive at the Mill Creek Falls.  Hiking an additional tenth of a mile to the bridge at the top of the falls, we have a classic picture of the valley below.

Upon our return to the visitor center, Hannah goes in to buy postcards as I sit in the sun on the bench outside the front entrance.  Ready to change into sandals from my hiking boots, I head to our little nothing rental Hyundai Accent, when I see an older couple approach.  She looks familiar.  Being semi-bold as any good introvert would be, I speak up and say, Do I know you?  She doesn’t seem to recognize me, but I am pretty sure and introduce myself.

LV sweet dreams robyn book

Joy responds, Dan Rothermel, yes.  Turning to her husband Ted, she mentions I told you about his book, “Sweet Dreams, Robyn.”   We have not seen each other in 25 years!  Her Centering Corporation published my first book back in 1991.  Joy was the one who believed there was a market for my narrative poetry about our family dealing with our four-year-old daughter Robyn’s leukemia (Robyn is now 36!).  Joy’s belief in me as a writer set in motion my writing career.  I am forever indebted to her for taking a chance on me.

LV 4B Joy and Ted choose

Joy, Dan, Hannah, and Ted at Lassen Volcanic National Park Visitor Center

What are the odds of us all meeting in this out-of-the-way national park, miles from civilization?  If there was thirty seconds difference in timing, we never would have met.

After sitting with them in the café for thirty minutes and still happily stunned at our chance good fortune, Hannah and I then take the winding park road (which was closed yesterday) past the 8501’ Lassen Pass for the King’s Creek Trail.

LV 5B roaring river at KC falls

Roaring creek just above the Kings Creek Falls

At 3P, we hike on the meadow trail, again unprepared for the steady descent over rockiness down to the Kings Creek Falls.  A mile and a half later, we see the rushing river down the canyon which ends at a fenced off area for viewing the falls.

LV 6B KC falls even better

Kings Creek Falls

Seeing twenty-somethings, and even a family with preschoolers down the cliffside, I descend for one more picture while Hannah follows.

Leaning into the rocky cliff away from the chasm below, Hannah is not loving the descent at all.  Once back at the rim, she tells me that this is the very last such rocky descent – ever!  It was only this past February that she fell 25’ off the San Ysidro Falls Trail near Santa Barbara; cliffside hiking is no longer her thing any more.

LV 6D H at falls

One last climb into the belly of the beast

With that realization, we blissfully return to the trailhead for our drive to Redding for our overnight.  We toast common sense with a fine Merlot.

Dan and Hannah Pickle in Reno, then Hike Hunter Creek Waterfalls Trail

HC pickleball

I just hate being the newbie.  I can guess what you are thinking, who does, Danny Boy?   Point well taken.  With introvert tendencies, I want to get past the initial awkwardness when we play pickleball at a new venue.  Showing modest courage, I suck it up and walk through these self-doubts to play when we travel; with Hannah, I’ve been that newbie in White County, Georgia, Santa Barbara, California, Moab, Utah, and Beaverton, Oregon.

Approaching 70, I love hiking with Hannah and playing pickleball.  There’s a significant difference between the two; hiking is an activity where we are not competing, just completing.  (Like that little word play?  As you can probably guess, I do!)  Man and women v. the mountain or canyon.  While pickleball is mano y mano, a  competitive contest.

That said, with two years of experience on the court, Hannah and I do love us some pickleball.  Whenever we play in a new venue, I wonder if my play be good enough?  It’s a self-imposed pressure, I get that.  When I pickle, I just want to work on my game with good folks.   That said, I prefer not getting crushed when I play.  I am not a tournament player; I am what you would call a recreational player, who loves to compete and improve.

HC Reno map 2

After yesterday successfully navigating a late summer snowstorm through the Donner Pass in California, this late September Friday Hannah and I are looking for pickleball love in Reno.  Who knew Reno, a town of 250,000, would have five venues for pickleballing?  Feeling confident, Hannah and I select the one site that is specifically for advanced players.   How is that for introverted-ness chutzpah!

HC 1 pickleball courts

Evelyn Mount Rec Center indoor pickleball courts

Arriving at the indoor Evelyn Mount Recreation Center in Reno, we hear the pickleballs beyond the gym door.  Stepping into the gym, Mark introduces himself and says there should be lots of play since not many are here.  While eight others play doubles on two courts, Hannah and I set up a third net and begin to rally.  Soon Chad and Pete join us, and play begins.

HC 1A group picture

Within the first hour we are reminded of why we love pickleballing.  One is that the overwhelming majority of pickleball players are friendly and welcoming, which these Reno players certainly are; and two, Hannah and I love whacking the wiffle ball with damn good players.  By no means are we better than the top players, but we are in their range.  After two hours of play, we feel like part of the group; taking a big risk, we ask for a group picture.  But… we are not so bold to ask for a group hug.

It is not lost on us how fortunate we are this morning to be in Reno rather South Lake Tahoe, our planned destination.  After hiking in Yosemite National Park yesterday, we had planned to go to South Lake Tahoe through the Sierras to play outdoor pickleball.  Since the cold and snow kiboshed that plan, we took the long way around to our new destination (Reno), 300 miles by way of Sacramento.  This morning, in the town of South Lake Tahoe at 7000′, pickleballers, if there are any playing, are outside in the upper twenties.  Ouch!  Today, we hit the jackpot playing in the warmth of the indoors with a good bunch of women and men.

As for being the newbie?  I just walk through any self-doubts or fears and come out the other side better than I went in.  Just got to remember that.

HC 2 start of trail

The Hunter Creek Trail begins

At noon, we head to the Hunter Creek Trailhead at 5000’, not twenty minutes away in the nearby mountains.  Booting up, we have three miles of hiking to the Hunter Creek Falls in the Toiyabe National Forest.  It’s a brisk 48F, and later on the trail we see yesterday’s snow high above the valley.

HC 2A fording stream H

Knowing that there are some water crossings as a part of this trail, we find the first, not 100 yards into the hike.  With large stones and branches over the white water of Hunter Creek, we have 25’ of river fording ahead.

HC 2BB more H fording stream

Finding a staff-like branch for me to use to balance my way across the creek, Hannah watches me first teeter then settle, finally making my way above the six inch rushing waters.  With her surgical repaired left knee (a skiing accident) and left thigh stitched together in a Santa Barbara emergency room (a fall off a mountain trail), Hannah deftly makes her way across the crick, and soon, we are on our way.

HC 3BB D with snow

September snow in them thar hills

Keeping the creek to our left, the Hunter Creek Trail is obvious.  From dirt to loose rocks, we are rocking along, warmed up after our morning pickleball.  Never perilous, the trail has expansive views of the neighboring mountains and the Hunter Creek Valley.  From grassy hillsides, we eventually turn into the forest.  There, we have two more creek crossings, but they are stone-stepping-ly easy to navigate.

HC 3D H on log

With the roaring creek to our left, eventually we must cross a 30’ log, eight feet above the stream.  Eighteen inches in diameter, the log is our only passageway to the falls.  Hannah crosses first and then I take the babiest of baby steps inching my way across, only staring down at the log before me.  Piece of cake.

HC 4B D at falls

Hunter Creek Falls

After hiking three miles in 80 minutes, we hear, then spot the 45-foot Hunter Creek Falls.  Unfortunately, a leafy tree has fallen to block a full view of the falls.  The Chamber of Commerce needs to do something about this visual.  Nonetheless, check out the falls video.

Now at 6300’ with cooler temperatures, we have gray, could-rain clouds above; cooled off noticeably during the ten minutes hanging out at the falls, we about face and beeline it back to the trailhead.

HC 3 trail into mountains

Reno Valley in the distance

Seeing what might be rain/snow clouds above us, we increase our stride length out of the mountains.  Navigating the two easy creek crossings, we soon are out beneath the threatening clouds into the sunshine.

HC 6 H fording steam

No fear.  The five foot drop off is to the left of the wobbly branch in the center of the picture.

One last obstacle – the initial 25’ roaring Hunter Creek crossing.  Hannah goes first, but something has changed.  The large branch is wobblier as she tries to cross to the other side.  She wavers and wobbles, then steadies herself.  Hoping she will just step into the 6” stream of smoothed rocks, I see her continue to teeter, pause, and pause some more.  The five-foot downstream drop-off into the rocky, soaking abyss makes me shudder.  Balancing precariously, she inches forward.

HC 6A H with staff

A true pioneer

Finally, she makes it to the other side; but she has made my choice of creek crossing an easy one.  I just stomp into the turbulent stream and walk across, soaking my socks and shoes while maintaining my dignity.

With soaking feet, I’m a believer (a la the Monkees).  When in doubt, balancing on river stones and well-intentioned logs comes in a poor second to just tramping through the stream itself.

What do you know?  Semi-maturing at nearly 70!  It’s never too late.

Dan and Hannah and the September Snowstorm at Donner Pass, California

Over wine poolside this late September Wednesday evening (70F!), Hannah and I wonder if we should roll the dice to squeeze in just one more hike in Yosemite National Park?  The weather forecast for Thursday is not promising.  Is just one more hike on the Taft and Sentinel Dome Trails off Glacier Point in the central Sierras too much to ask?

Y 3AA four on trail

Wayne, Hannah, Mary Lynne, and Dan with the Vernal Falls in the background

Moteled in Oakhurst, California, 16 miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, we struck hiking gold yesterday with our longtime friends from York, Wayne and Mary Lynne Boardman, climbing to the spectacular Vernal and Nevada Falls, on a golden day in the mid-60s.  Click here for the link to that blog.

Waking Thursday morning, we look out our motel window to see heavy gray clouds, smothering the nearby mountains.  The forecast hasn’t changed, but we have.

At 40F here in 2200′ Oakhurst, CA, we know it’s not likely that we’ll be hiking at 7000’ Glacier Point.  If we did drive into the park to hike, our plan was to continue to the 9945’ Tioga Pass to South Lake Tahoe.  Any precipitation today will likely be snow.  If the pass is closed, we will have to backtrack on winding park roads that will make our travel day a travel day and night-mare.

DP central valley map

Choosing not to roll the dice on the Glacier Point trails, we do the Columbus thing.  No, not wipe out the indigenous population, but go west to reach the east.   Driving west to Merced in the Central Valley, then north on the four-lane route 99 to Sacramento, we have the clouds parting and the sun emerging.  Though stormy in the Sierras, it’s 70s here in the valley.

Texting us as we drive east, Wayne confirms our suspicions about the weather in the Sierras; he lets us know that Glacier Point Road has been closed due to snow.  In Sacramento, I take over the driving with a sweet 100 miles of four lane Interstate all the way to Reno, Nevada.

DP dp map in california

In short order, ominous clouds are covering the mountains to the east where we will summit at the 7000’ Donner Pass.  Passing signs saying 1000’ of elevation, then at 2000’ and 3000’, we have threatening gray/black clouds blocking the sun.  Driving by pull offs for putting chains on tires, we are rolling along on this last day in summer.

DP sleet out front window

Hannah riding shotgun doubles as snow photographer

Clearly, if there were to be weather issues at the Donner Pass, the California Highway Department would close the highway.  They haven’t, and we motor on.  But now the car thermometer has dropped from 73F in Sacramento to 40F and the first rain drops spot the windshield.  Soon, heavy wet snowflakes bombard the windshield as the car thermometer keeps dropping, now to 37F.

As a major east/west truck route, the big boys are exiting the highway.  Clueless, I don’t make the connection to their leaving the highway and the increasingly nasty weather.  Cautiously driving at 40 mph, we are still climbing into the Sierras.  Only later do we learn of the forecast of 3 to 6 inches of snow along Interstate 80 above 7,000 feet!   That’s Donner Pass country, cowgirls and cowboys!

DP cbs snow

CBS News photograph

On the opposite side of I-80, we see a car off the road; for ten miles, as we head east, we see little movement in the trucks and cars heading west.  Later we learn that the slick roadway caused a chain reaction crash involving 16 vehicles with at least one fatality.  Click here for CBS News report

DP car passing by

SUV leaving me in the dust (snow dust that is)

Having travel issues on our side of I-80 as well as we climb to Donner Pass with low snow clouds, we crawl at a snail’s pace as two lanes merge into one.  Relentlessly, the snow comes down in large flakes as the wiper whips them away; we hear thunder and see flashes of lightning as the snow begins to accumulate.  Over 45 minutes, we stop, we crawl, we creep, we inch, but we mostly stop.

DP donner summit

Seeing signs for Donner Pass State Park, I notice another sign that warns us of a 7% grade descent over the next five miles.  On one hand, that’s good news that we are getting off the summit; on the other, we’ll be picking up speed going down the mountain on these slick roads.

DP donner party

And all the while the ominous history of the Donner Pass comes to mind.  Led by George Donner and James Reed, pioneers in the mid-19th century found snow blocking this very pass through the mountains.  Forced to spend the winter in the Sierras, only 45 of 81 settlers survived.  Reportedly some of the 45 resorted to cannibalism.  Clearly, Hannah and I hope the snows don’t cause any such historical reenactment.

Even though I am the slowest one on the road, I never feel the rental car slide or shimmy on the wet, snowy highway, despite it being a little Hyundai Accent nothing.  With few 18 wheelers on the road, we are trending well as we pass through Truckee at 6000’; the snow lightens and begins mixing with rain.

Soon the car thermometer rises to 35F, then 37F and the changeover to rain is complete.  Nevada’s warmth beckons.  Once in Reno at 4500’, 15 miles to the east of the California border, we are home free.

Tonight, at our Quality Inn, there are no news reports of cannibalism on I-80; Hannah and I celebrate with a gluten-filled mushroom pizza.

Click here for news link of this late summer storm.

One month later on Halloween, an early fall storm is on the horizon.  Forecasters said Monday that gusty winds and 1 to 2 feet of snow are likely Saturday and Sunday along California’s main mountain passes, including Donner Pass near Lake Tahoe, Tioga Pass at Yosemite, Ebbetts Pass and Carson Pass, with perhaps a foot along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe this weekend.  “There’s a potential for chain requirements, travel delays and possible road closures.” said Chris Hintz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.