Dan Joins Hannah at Woo Girls Reunion III in Richmond, Virginia

I am soft.  Let me explain.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Two years ago, Wendy from Maryland, Maxine from New York, and Bambi from Virginia, all who graduated with Hannah in 1970 from the College of Wooster in Ohio, came to York for the first Woo Girls Reunion.  Last year we all went to Maxine’s place in western New York for the second get-together.  This year we head to Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia for Numero Tres.

Rather than manning up and driving the 600+ miles from York through the choking traffic of the Northeast, we decide to fly.  Flying first to Atlanta, we hike the waterfalls trails of Alabama as well as hike and play pickleball in north Georgia.  After five days loving the South, we are set to fly from Atlanta to Richmond for Woo Girls III.

Woo 1 D and H by Delta sign

Arriving two hours early at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport south of Atlanta on Friday morning, we are given the option at the check-in kiosk to volunteer to take a later flight.   If we do, we have the choice of five Delta dollar reimbursements – $100, $200, $300, $400, or $500.  Hannah selects $400, figuring we might get chosen over the “greedier” $500 selectors.

Arriving at the waiting area, soon we are called to the counter and asked if we are still willing to volunteer to take a later flight.  Agreeing to take the 222P flight rather than our 955A, we are now offered $800 in Delta dollars each.   We can’t say yes fast enough.

Having only six volunteers when they need seven as the flight is ready to leave, Delta ups their offer to $900 and nabs their last volunteer.   After the 955A flight departs, the young counter woman calls us up to get our $900 vouchers!  We feel like we won the lottery.

Woo 1A Delta scheduled departure

Waiting four more hours in the Atlanta Airport for $1800 is no sacrifice.  Sending emails and texts from our phones, Hannah writing postcards and me revising blog drafts, sharing a turkey Subway sub, and reading the USA Today, in no time, we are lining up to take our 222P flight to Richmond.

What do you know but Delta overbooks again!  It is NASCAR race weekend in Richmond.  This time they get to $1500 before they get enough volunteers.  We are not a part of the auction.  Earlier I had learned that the next flight is tomorrow.  Wanting no part of finding a place for the night in Atlanta in addition to missing the opening night of Woo Girls III, we board the plane with our hot little $900 bonanza in hand.

Woo 2 welcome to VA sign

After landing at Richmond International, we drive on I-64, then country roads to Quinton (Richmond Metro Area), where our hosts Bambi and Skip welcome us.  With Wendy, Maxine, and her husband Don already here, we catch up on each other’s lives over water, wine, and Coors Light; Bambi’s mouthwatering lasagna from the classic Moosewood Cookbook follows.

Woo 3 H at little library

Little Free Library

Come Saturday morning while the others sleep, Hannah and I drive a couple of miles down Quaker Road to the half mile oval at Quinton Park.  Before walking five laps, we find a Little Library, where one and all can take a book or place one in the outdoor cabinet for others to take.  Finding a family favorite from the Little Bear series, we add it to our own Owen and Max home library.

Our hosts for the weekend, Bambi and Skip have planned this Saturday in nearby CW.  Do you know what CW is?   I had no idea.  I am not talking the cable station, but a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Woo 4B King's Arm sign

On this unusually warm 90F summer Saturday in late April, we walk the car-free Main Street past period homes from the Revolutionary War era.  Lunching at the King’s Arms, we have an updated repast in a Revolutionary Years setting.  Later, in nearby Yorktown on the James River, we take in Surrender Field where General Cornwallis in defeat offered his sword to George Washington.

Back in Quinton after dinner, it’s game time.  Bringing a new Rothermel Family favorite, we introduce the Left Center Right dice game.  Played with three specialty dice, the game becomes even more “interesting” when we each bring a few dollar bills to the table.  Being an entirely random game with no skill needed, the first time player has the same chance of winning as the veteran player does.

Woo 5 LCR game

To explain, the six sides of the specialty dice have an R, an L, a C, and three single black dots.  Rolling three dice to begin, if the player rolls an R, she passes a dollar to the person to her right; an L, pass to the left and a C means she puts the dollar in the center (the pot).  A black dot means you keep your dollar.  Once done, the turn passes to the person on the left; when only one person has a dollar, that one wins the pot.

Woo Girls dice

With seven of us each starting with three dollars, we are playing for a $21 bonanza.  Hannah is especially adept at the pre-roll movements (e.g. holding the dice with one hand pointing to the ceiling, then extending the other arm, blowing on the dice, all the while smiling, and enjoying the attention).

Woo 5 Don and Hannah win

Don and Hannah, Big Winners at Left Center Right

It turns out Maxine’s husband Don wins the first game and the $21 bounty.  In the second game, Don and Hannah have the last two dollars.  A black dot roll for Don has him keeping his dollar, then a black dot roll for Hannah lets her keep her greenback.  Then Don rolls a C, putting his dollar in the pot and Hannah comes home the winner.

Board, card, or dice games bring groups together in laughter and celebration.  For Woo Girls IV next year in York, we have the classic Mormon Bridge for the gang.

Dan and Hannah Play Pickleball with their North Georgia Kin

When we travel, the trails matter, the weather matters, but it’s the people we meet that add quality and connection to our adventures.  Let me explain our connection to the American South, Yankees that we are.

LL map of cleveland

Cleveland is the county seat of White County

In our quest to hike in all 14 Appalachian Trail states, we had only Georgia to hike to complete our set in the fall of 2015.  In October of that year, after flying to Atlanta, we drove the back-country roads to hike at Springer Mountain, the start of the AT itself.  Later, we threw in a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were hooked on hiking south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  And then it got even better.

LL H and L at her place

Laurie and Hannah

Returning the following October 2016, we again hiked the Great Smoky Mountains as well as the waterfall trails of northern Georgia.  But the added bonus was finding our own version of pickleball heaven at Yonah Mountain, near Cleveland in northern Georgia.   Yonah Mountain pickleball ambassador Laurie Lee welcomed us with open arms and the Yonah Mountain club players greeted us as family.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Then, when Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion III (four grads of the College of Wooster in 1970) was scheduled for late April 2017 in Richmond, Virginia, we saw it as a golden opportunity to avoid driving 600+ miles to Richmond and rather, fly to Atlanta first.  We’d hike in Alabama and then spend three days with amigas and amigos in Georgia hiking and pickleballing before flying to Virginia’s capital city.

LL H and L on court 2

Hannah with Laurie at the White County Parks and Rec pickleball courts

One small monkey wrench.  Not with our hosts or with the hiking, but with the tendinitis in my right elbow this Monday in late April as we arrive in north Georgia.  Hannah and I love us some pickleball as we play three times per week.  But for me…pickleball, my love, had got to the point where it just wasn’t any fun because of the pain in my elbow.  Finally realizing I just needed to rest, which is hell on athletes of all ages, I took nearly 14 full days off knowing that doing that would give me the best chance to play in Georgia.  Still I was grumpy for a fortnight.

LL D and H and Billy and Marcia

Han and Dan with Billy and Marica

Knowing we were coming to Yonah Mountain to play pickleball, I pumped the ibuprofen, iced my right elbow, and, yes, rested; turns out, that’s just what I needed.  Arriving on Tuesday morning at the indoor pickleball courts, we were greeted by Billy and Marcia at the White County Parks and Rec Center.  Whacking the wiffle ball, dinking (hitting short shots just over the net itself), and just enjoying their friendship, I feel like I am back to my old pickleball self (Hallelujah, brother!).

LL new paddles

Looking to upgrade our paddles, Hannah and I borrow ones from Laurie and later Pat to see how they feel.  Trying out Laurie’s Onix and later Pat’s Triton, I find my shots solid and deep with no vibrating to aggravate my elbow.   Of course, when I want a new paddle, I can rationalize “the need” for one with the best of them.  I order a sweet Onix paddle while Hannah goes with the Groove, engineered for women.

LL Treehouse pickleball players with Pat

Pickleballers on the deck at Linda’s Tree House (She is in yellow.)

That Tuesday evening, our friends Laurie and Linda throw us a party of pickleballers to further make us feel a part of the community.  It works.  We are among kindred spirits; feeling special.

LL D and H at Immokaulee Falls

Dan and Han at Immokalee Falls

Each bringing a dish to share, the guests make the evening a community celebration, similar to what Hannah and I try to do when we have potlucks back home in Maine.  To kick off the party, 14 of us hike a half mile down to Linda’s tree house cabin, just below the Immokalee Falls.

LL Superior Health care

The next morning (Wednesday) before afternoon pickleball, Laurie arranges for Hannah to have a consult with a local doctor on her voice condition, spasmodic dysphonia.  Having tried 100 ways to improve her voice over the last 15 years, Hannah (and I) drive with Linda to Canton, GA to have Hannah checked out.  Their experimental voice rehabilitation program has potential; we will explore this option further in the months ahead.

LL Yonah Mt

Yonah Mountain

After the Wednesday morning consult, we return in time for two hours of afternoon pickleball.  My right elbow holds up for the second day as the rest, daily icing, and ibuprofen have made a difference.

With time for drills, Pat gives me some dinking pointers.  Basically, I am reminded of the value of the undercut cross court slice backhand that keeps the ball low and close to the net when dinking.  I feel like I have a new toy and can’t wait to practice.   As a recreational pickleball player, I just love the opportunities to improve my game.

On our third night (Wednesday), we dine with fellow pickleballers the aforementioned Pat and his wife Clarissa at their place in Cleveland.  With salmon on the grill, we have conversation like old friends.

Come Thursday morning, rain wipes out our planned hike up Yonah Mountain with Clarissa and Pat, but… the silver lining is that we are back on the indoor pickleball court by 730A to play for the third day in a row.   Playing mostly with the guys while Hannah crushes it with the women, I get quite the competitive workout.

LL Pat and Clarissa with Han

Hannah with Pat and Clarissa

After our pickleball, but before we head to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta for Richmond, we feast with Pat and Clarissa on the breakfast of champions – oatmeal with all the fixings – nuts, seeds, and fruit.  Though the oatmeal is fantastico, the best part of morning is sitting over coffee, hanging out with new friends.

Thanks to seeking out the AT in Georgia, we have our Georgia family in the sunny South.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Raven Cliffs Trail in Georgia after a Storm

While it’s another morning with rain in the American South, we continue to lead a charmed hiking life.  For the last two days of our late April hiking trip, it rains early, stops midday so we can hike, and then between 4 and 5P the heavens unload while we are safely under cover.

Rav map of north georgia

Raven Cliffs is to the north of Gainesville, Georgia

Hoping to continue our hot streak, we wake at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Dalton, Georgia (just south of Chattanooga) to light rain.  Our plan is to hike the Emery Creek Falls Trail some 20 miles to the east, but there is a major red flag – the trail has 21 stream crossings.  With our hike on the inundated trail at the Walls of Jericho in northern Alabama still fresh in our minds, Hannah and I both want no part of soggy socks, soaked shoes, or wearing our heat-inducing ponchos on this six-mile trail.

Rav 1

Dodds Creek on the Raven Cliffs Trail

Dismissing the Emery Creek Falls Trail, we choose to drive two hours to the east near Cleveland, GA, where we will be staying with friends for the next three nights, to hike the Raven Cliffs Trail.  It’s a trail we hiked just seven months ago during the height of the drought when no water flowed in Dodd’s Creek and barely a trickle fell from the falls.  Today should be spectacularly different.  Click here for the blog of our last hike at Raven Cliffs.

After two hours of driving the country roads of northern Georgia, we cross the Appalachian Trail on route 75 south and pull into the parking lot to stretch our legs.  Seeing a couple our age with full packs, we learn that they were thru-hikers in 2015 (i.e. they hiked the 2180 mile AT from Maine to Georgia).  As they prepare to head out, I catch their attention and ask what’s ahead for them.

Rav AT map

Appalachian Trail

Mango, (trail name) the older gent, says its more of the same.  A trail with trees.  Not in any sort of self-pitying way, just realistic about the tedium that can be the AT.  His wife, trail name Sunrise (she gets up early to capture pictures of the, you guessed it, sunrise) smiles and says,  not bragging at all, we are hiking the 150 miles to Hot Springs, North Carolina.  That’s about 144 more miles than Hannah and I would ever hike on the AT at any one time.  They mention dealing with the nasty storms two nights ago; from the same system that nearly caused us to go into the tornado storm shelter in northern Alabama.  I never did get to ask why they hike the AT.  There are obvious facts: the hiking in rain, the eating of freeze-dried everything, the hard ground, the snoring of other hikers in the shelters, the mice scurrying over sleeping bags.   It’s clear that I just don’t have the “want to” to be a thru-hiker.  And, let’s be real – I’m soft.

Rav 1A H at start of trail

On the Raven Cliffs Trail

Minutes later, we arrive at the Raven Cliffs Trailhead to sunshine peeking through the clouds.  Though we’ll have no rain today as we hike in the mid-60s, heavy rain is in the forecast once we are done hiking.

Rav 2A stream

Dodds Creek with Hannah on the trail (upper right)

Though we learn the trail has 687’ of elevation gain to a trio of waterfalls, it doesn’t have the feel of a climb at all over its two and a half miles.  Due to the days of rain, the trail is still just moist, with minor pooling in places.  Fact is, it’s a delightful, mellow walk in the woods as spring has just begin to leaf out in northern Georgia.

Rav 4 more stream

Hiking the entire way along Dodd’s Creek, we have a good workout as we have the music of the stream’s symphony to our left; something we didn’t have this past October.

Rav 5 lower falls thru trees

Lower falls from the trail

After an hour of easy hiking, we arrive at the end of the trail.  The middle falls is accessible and has the up-close feel of tumbling white water.  The lower falls is difficult to see as we can only peer at it from the distance or stand at its headwaters.  The upper falls has crashing white water, but it is tucked within the mountain and barely visible.

Rav 5A H at middle falls

Hannah at the middle falls

Turning and heading for the trailhead, Hannah and I cover a random selection of topics – friendships, travel, and how fortunate we are.  It’s similar to the scattered thoughts that come into our heads when we meditate.

One conversation is about our friend Brenda planning to write her story in retirement.  I’ve given her my two cents, make that five cents worth (five thoughts) for beginning writers.  And I share them with you now.

Rav keep writing quote

One, focus on quantity over quality in the drafting stage.  Your writing does not need to be perfect right off the bat.  Write and write some more.  Play with words.  Try out different words, phrases, whole paragraphs.  The fine tuning that comes with revising happens later, and is truly one of the great joys for me as a writer.

Two, always keep the pen or computer keys moving.  Don’t let the internal critic overrule what the creative spirit has to explore.

Rav writing as discovery

Three, writing is about discovering what you want to say.  You don’t need a plan nor an outline.  Write and learn what is in your heart.

Four, read your drafts out loud to see how they flow and whether they catch the rhythm you’d like.

Rav writers need encouragement

(diffident means modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence)

Five, as a beginner, find encouraging people to read or listen to your writing.   Have them do two things: one, tell you what they specifically like and two, where they would like to know more.   Many of us have had well-intentioned teachers who thought critiquing our writing was most helpful.  It’s not.  It can kill the spirit of the novice writer.  Many of us can be quick to believe we are not very good writers.  We are fed by encouragement.  Agatha Christie in the panel to the left nails it.

With five miles of hiking in the books, we are off to our friend Laurie Lee’s place near Yonah Mountain.  She is the pickleball ambassador for the local club who last October welcomed us with open arms and a warm heart.   We are back in northern Georgia seven months later, in large part, thanks to her love and attention.

LL H and L at her place

Pickleballers, Laurie and Hannah

Amazingly, we learn over dinner that she was born in the same era and in the same hospital that Hannah was – Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY.  This Georgia girl!  Now we take the leap and wonder could Hannah’s dad, Dr. Kraai have delivered her in the 1950s?  He did deliver 5000 babies as a general practitioner.

Laurie will check her safety deposit box for the paperwork around her birth to see if there is any indication of who delivered her!

Stay tuned.

From Laurie soon after this posting.   Love the writing advice! It is truly wonderful. Love the kind words, but it’s easy to be kind to kind souls 😇. Love the picture of the pickleballers! And thanks for the reminder. My birth certificate did NOT name the doctor who delivered me; but a call to the hospital did give me suggestions on how to find out. Signing out: from Yonah to York!

Dan and Hannah Hike to the Walls of Jericho in northern Alabama

WJ map of huntsville 2

Sleeping in at Brenda’s home near Huntsville, Alabama, we wake to her bustling in the kitchen, preparing a down home southern country breakfast for her Yankee visitors.   Having seen the Facebook pictures of Hannah making biscuits with our grandson Owen in California, she asks Hannah to team up to bake these primo biscuits this morning.

Over breakfast, while we feast on her Sweet Home, Alabama scrambled eggs, biscuits, coffee, and hash brown casserole, I think back on the sequence of events that improbably brought us to Brenda’s place.

Bren BS with Han and biscuit making

Brenda and Hannah abiscuit making

Eighteen months ago, we came to Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail, our last of 14 AT hikes.  Loving our Georgia hike at Springer Mountain, the Southern terminus of the AT, we also explored the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.   Sold on hiking in the American South, we vowed to return to its warmth the following October.

FD 4C James' boots

James’s boots

And that we did, hiking again in the Great Smoky Mountains, and then traveling south in North Carolina to hike the AT near Fontana Dam.  There we came upon two hiking boots filled with beautiful pebbles, a living memorial to Brenda’s husband James who had passed on from cancer.  She encouraged hikers to take a pebble and carry it for James who never got to hike the whole AT.

Bren door to storm shelter

Storm shelter in Brenda’s backyard

Taking two, we emailed Brenda, sent a picture of us on the AT, and became North/South email buddies.  Graciously, she invited us to her place when we next came south.   This April we return and begin an in-person Alabama friendship with Brenda.  Click here for the Brenda/Fontana Dam blog.

Bren H in storm shelter

Hannah in the storm shelter built for nine

After breakfast, Brenda shows us the tornado storm shelter in her backyard that we nearly needed during last night’s deluge with tornado warnings.  With room for a snug nine folks, Hannah checks out the interior; more than Fenway Park, these truly are the “friendly confines.”

WJ 1 explanation

Mist falls throughout the mid-morning, but Hannah and I, ever hopeful, still drive an hour to the Walls of Jericho on the Alabama/Tennessee border, just to the west of Chattanooga, TN.   Traveling in the South on Sunday morning, we are amazed how few others are on the road with us; they are all in church.

WJ 1A H as trail begins

The trail to the Walls of Jericho

Heading towards the Alabama trailhead, I drive slowly in fog that engulfs the mountains.  With rain forecasted later in the afternoon, we pull on our hiking boots, knowing its going to be one messy trail, given the 3” of rain that fell last night.  The online reviews for this trail make it sound like a tough hike; but with a waterfall at the end of the 3.6 miles of hiking, it has Dan and Hannah written all over it.

WJ 1B H on muddy trail

With gently sloping switchbacks through the new spring green this last week in April, we know that while we will descend over 1000′ to the waterfalls, we also have that same trek back up the mountain when we are most tired.

WJ 1C D on trail

Meeting up with an older (our age!), athletic hiker dude, we listen as he encourages us to go all the way to the falls themselves (i.e. hiking through a foot, foot and half of raging water).  Though he is quite enthusiastic, the thought of climbing over slippery submerged rocks in ice cold water leaves me, well, cold.  We smile and nod as we part, but I think there’s no way in hell am I going to do that.  Hannah keeps an open mind.

WJ 3 pooling on trail

The trail gets more than soggy

Once at Mill Creek, we walk until we come upon a 50’ log bridge with a railing that allows for an easy crossing.   But now in the low areas of the trail, the water begins to pool, including one spot where the water covers a wide stretch of the trail.  No fans of hiking with wet socks and soaked shoes, we look for alternatives around the mini-pond.  Bushwhacking 30’ down the trail, we plod through the grass using dead branches to step over the soggy spots.

WJ 2C H on log bridge 2

Hannah, high and dry

Then, a twenty-something couple, returning from the falls, tells us that we have to hike through the river to the falls themselves.  Looking like reasonable human beings, they add 2% to my likelihood of water walking to the falls.

WJ 3E rope on trail

As the path narrows, the cliffside rope is just what is needed with Walls of Jericho above and the river below

While we hike, Hannah tries out a new trail name for me.  Cameo.  Since I am the one taking pictures with my iPhone, she is in most of the pictures.   Let’s be honest, she is photogenic plus.  Occasionally, I do make a “cameo” in one of the pictures when we hike.  By the way, trail names are usually given, not self-selected.

WJ 3D trail beneath wj

The trail beneath the Walls of Jericho

Crossing a second log bridge, our mellow hiking is over.  Arriving at the vertical Walls of Jericho themselves, we hug the mountainside above the raging “River Runs Through It” torrent for nearly a mile.  As you might guess, given her recent fall, Hannah walks close to the mountainside of this cliff trail.  She asks me if I wouldn’t walk so near to the edge.  Her 25′ fall from the San Ysidro Trail was just two months ago.

WJ 4B downriver from falls

The river just downstream from the fall

After 3.6 miles, the trail ends at the wide part of the raging river with an island beyond and then a narrower shoot of the stream roaring by.  Seeing the reality of crossing on slippery submerged smooth stones, Hannah and I quickly agree that we want no part of a river crossing in 6 to 18 inches of water.   To what end?  We’ve done what we love about hiking – getting lots of exercise in a wilderness setting.  Walking through the water to the falls doesn’t change that.  And why risk her leg and my iPhone to a watery grave?  It’s a “no way Jose” moment for us both.  Check out the video of the end of “our” trail.

WJ 4C across to base of falls

The water crossing to the distant falls that we’ll do next time.

Anyway, we can return next spring when the conditions may be different.  We are told by a fellow hiker that normally you can walk across these river rocks without getting your shoes wet.

With still have 3.6 uphill miles back to our rental car at the trailhead, we hike without an ounce of regret.  Light rain filters through forest as we climb back up the mountain and past this mini-falls to the right.

WJ 5 H at minifalls

Just down from the trailhead

The Walls of Jericho is a tough hike but rewarding indeed.  Within ten minutes of getting in the car, it starts to pour.  The universe is again smiling down on us.

Dan and Hannah Hike to the Waterfalls of DeSoto State Park in Alabama

Even days before our departure to hike and pickle in the South, I am rethinking the wisdom, or really the lack of wisdom, of my scheduling our flight from Boston to Atlanta at 610A this Saturday morning.  On one hand, such early flights are often less expensive; another plus is that by arriving at 9A in Atlanta, we can then hike in northern Alabama and still have an evening with our friend Brenda. DS map of DS

On the other hand, we sleep poorly and awake at 130A to get to the airport on time.  It will be amazing if we are coherent and at all good company for Brenda this evening.

DS La La Land

Fortunately, we are flying Jet Blue with their seatback TVs!  Today for our 2h 30m flight we have La La Land.  Having seen it on a rainy afternoon in Santa Barbara two months ago, I know I am going to La La Love It.  The lovable Emma Stone!  The dashing Ryan Gosling!  The foot taping music!  The dazzling choreography!  The hope that comes with choices!  Believing in possibilities!  I can’t get enough of the inspirational grit and resilience of Mia and Sebastian, let alone the humor of the screen writing.

Stick with me for one example of the humor.  Mia and Seb are coming back together after he has been on the road performing while she has remained in Los Angeles preparing for her one-woman show.  He asks if she wants to join him on the road.  Where she asks?  Boise, he responds.  Boise?  To which he says, you’ll be able to check it off your bucket list.

Arriving in Atlanta on Saturday morning at 9A, we easily navigate the rail system to the rental car center miles away.  Being an Avis Preferred member (you get that status by merely signing up), we are given express service and have none of the usual fear-based questions that the attendants usually ask about buying more insurance and being responsible if you are an accident.

DS 1 D at state line

As planned, by 10A we are driving through Atlanta north on I-75.  Saturday mornings are great times to drive through the city since we have none of the snarling weekday commuter traffic.  Well north of town, we turn west on route 140 to Alabama, eventually stopping at the state line for pictures.

As a lifelong northerner, I come to Alabama with some uncertainty.  With its troubled racial past and conservative politics, I just don’t know what to expect.  Movie stereotypes of Deep South southerners often have them as threatening, xenophobic, and intolerant.   What is in store for the two of us who enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?  By the way, both were winners of the popular vote for the presidency.

DS 2A H on trail

Ever-trusting, we drive on to DeSoto State Park in Mentone, Alabama for waterfall trails.  Today will be Hannah’s first hike since she fell from the San Ysidro Falls Trail in California two months ago and ended up in the ER.  With no fear, she leads our hike as she always does.

DS 2B DS trail

This family-friendly hiking area has color coded trails that make it easy for one and all to find their way without fear of getting really lost.  Taking to the orange blaze trail, we are loving our time in the great outdoors, rich with rhododendrons, just above the West Fork of the Little River.

DS 3C D and H at Laurel Falls

Dan and Hannah at Laurel Falls

At Laurel Falls, we see dads watching their sons splash in the chilly pool beneath the falls.  In conversation, we learn that they are from Trail Life, a Christian group from near Birmingham, getting away for the weekend.  These dads have hit the lottery, creating memories with their sons that crush any afternoon games on TV.

DS 4 H at Lost Falls

Hannah at Lost Falls

Weaving between the campground and the river, we hike on to Lost Falls, our favorite of the three that we will see today.  Immediately climbing the cliff edge to approach the waterfall, Hannah is doing just fine on her reconstructed leg.  Check out the video below for confirmation.

With rain imminent, we feel like we are stealing a day of hiking that we easily might have missed.  To a person, the Alabamians we meet are friendly and helpful as we hike in near 80F, when it was 42F when we left Maine this morning.

DS 6 Indian Falls

Indian Falls

Looking for more waterfalls, we cross country road route 89 and hike to Indian Falls.  From there, we take the yellow blaze trail along the same West Fork of the Little River.  Big mistake.  In addition to never finding the promised Lodge Falls, we must rock scramble up and down with no hiking rhythm.  Abandoning ship after ten minutes, we backtrack and head for our overnight with Brenda in northern Alabama 90 minutes away.

Under threatening skies, we arrive at Brenda’s place minutes before the deluge.  Let me explain our connection to Brenda, whom we have never met.

FD 4C James' boots

Last October, we hiked the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina to Fontana Dam.   There we came upon two hiking boots filled with brightly colored pebbles, a living memorial to Brenda’s husband James who had recently passed on from cancer.  The explanation sheet by the boots asked hikers to take a pebble and carry it for James, who never got to hike the whole AT himself.

FD 4 BamaHiker overview

James, Bama Hiker

We took one, emailed Brenda with a picture of us there on the AT, and became North/South correspondents.   Graciously, she invited us to her place when we next returned to the South.   Click here for the Brenda/Fontana Dam blog.

Greeted like family this stormy evening, we see the cobalt grey skies, which soon morphed into a hail-filled downpour.   The threat of a tornado has Brenda thinking we may just need to go underground into her storm shelter buried in the backyard.

Bren biscuits with H

Hannah with Brenda the next morning

Fortunately, the tornado warnings end, but Biblical rains continue throughout the night.

Before Brenda’s lasagna dinner, I ask if I can give an Irish blessing.  It comes from my niece Tara’s wedding; we’ve used it in California, Georgia, and whenever we are invited out in Maine.

Thank you for the food before us, the friends beside us, and the love between us.

Brenda is the friend beside us and clearly all that’s good in Alabama; in short order, we feel like family.

Click on this link for a newspaper story about the continuing Brenda and James love story.   http://www.waff.com/story/35528290/late-alabama-hiker-inspires-others-to-finish-appalachian-trail

Dan and Hannah with Owen and Max in Santa Barbara

Once a week throughout the year, Hannah and I live the grandparents’ dream and head an hour south to Massachusetts to spend the afternoon with our preschool grandsons, Owen and Max.  In warm weather we have parks and lakes while in winter we turn to indoor fun centers: Loch Ness Fun Center in Chelmsford, Imajine That in Lawrence, or One Stop Fun in Westford.

Ratt map of SB

This winter, we have an entire week of days with the boys since they are coming to southern California to hang out with their Omi and Poppa.  Our plan is to take the boys for daily “adventures” while our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip get some time to hike or head to the beach.

Prior to the boys’ arrival, Hannah and I take in the Carpinteria Bluffs to learn whether this is a place for preschoolers.  With the few seals that we see far below the bluffs, that this is not the active experience we’d like for Owen and Max.   Preschool compatibility index – Not really.

OM Carp boys with bat

Owen and Max at Carpinteria Beach

Though this has been the rainiest February since Noah and his Ark, we have a sunny Sunday to take Owen and Max to the Carpinteria Beach just ten miles south of Santa Barbara.  With our guys, we know they love the filling of sand in their buckets, then dumping it all; then filling and dumping on and on.

OM Carp flying gull at vball

A tennis ball and fat bat as well as a Frisbee keep them on the move.  At the beach volleyball court, they make up their own game of throwing the ball over the net and trying to catch it.  The ocean water in February is fine for surfers in wet suits, but we all are just fine going to the water’s edge.  Preschool compatibility index – Off the charts.

Monday is a day when the rain gods bark, You’ve been bitching about the drought for six years; so tell me, what is your problem when I give you Biblical rains!  On such days, the universe provides the Sea Center on Stearn’s Wharf on the Santa Barbara beachfront for Owen and Max.

OM Zoo skates

Sea Center

OM Pier theater

Pulling onto the half mile wooden wharf itself, we have free parking for the first 90 minutes.  After, it’s $2.50/hour.  You can bet Dan and Hannah will make this an 85-minute visit.  For $7.50 each for seniors and $6 for kids age 2-12, the Sea Center begins with the boys petting baby sand sharks, sea anemones, and star fish. That lasts for about five minutes and then the boys are off.

The movie about sharks and the marine fishing vessel experience hold no interest for our guys.  It’s running around which they love!  As we move to the top floor, a barnacled large gray whale model dominates the airspace; this wows them for a good 15 seconds, and then run they do.

What does interest Owen and Max is the Marine Puppet Theater with stuffed animals such as a gray whale, hammerhead shark, two kinds of turtles, a purple squid, and octopus.  Though they never put on a play for us, they imagine with the stuffed animals, run about, tug over their favorite (the purple squid), and spend more time there than any other place at the Sea Center.

Hannah and I feel that the $27 admission fees are money well-spent supporting the Natural History Museum of Santa Barbara, of which the Sea Center is a part.   But….  Preschool compatibility index – Not so much; it’s a dry place on a misty day, but the place is more for interested adults and school age kids with a marine bent.

Tuesday, when it rains with preschoolers at the cottage, our choices of outdoor activities are limited.  Molly and Tip take the boys to story hour at the Montecito Library.  Later in the afternoon we adults watch The Best of Men DVD (PBS – Outstanding) while Max naps and Owen watches Dinosaur Train.

OM Lookout Point O and M

Lookout Point in Summerland

But by 3P, the sun comes out and we have the chance to give Molly and Tip their daily break (daily bread?).  Lookout Park on the Pacific here in Summerland is just down the hill from our cottage.  Walking with Owen and Max the half mile through town to the beach, we have a playground with a climbing wall, slides, and swings.

The train track gives Hannah an idea from her childhood.  She has Owen and Max put pennies on the track itself to be crushed by the next passing Amtrak train.  The boys are learning the meaning of watched pot never boils.  Eventually distracted, the Amtrak train roars through and delivers in a big way – squashed coins beyond recognition.   Preschool compatibility index – Late afternoon playground time after a day of rain – elixir for the whole family.

OM elephants

Max with the big fellas

Wednesday, the sun comes out and we are off to the Santa Barbara Zoo.  While Molly and Tip hike Romero Canyon in nearby Montecito, we drive the six miles to the Zoo just off the main beach in Santa Barbara.   To save the $7 for parking we park across the street from the Zoo entrance at Dwight Murphy Field.  Tickets for 2-12 year-olds are $10 and seniors get in for $13 each.  Money well spent.

OM gator

See you later alligator

The boys really love running anywhere – this time in a park setting.   Seeing the colorful parrots, the boys’ interest lasts about twenty seconds.  Let’s go is their refrain as Owen leads, Max follows and repeats whatever his big brother says.   They never stop.  We see flamingos, foxes, gibbons, elephants, condors, snow leopards, and alligators.  Surprising to me, Max has a fascination with the zoo map as he points out where we’ll go next.

But the Santa Barbara Zoo delivers in three big ways.  First, there are the lions that perch on manmade boulders at eye level.  Though they don’t roar, that doesn’t stop Owen and Max from communicating with them with their own best king-of-the-jungle roars.

OwenMax O and M with giraffes

Then there is the herd of giraffes.  Regal and stately, they are so much more impressive than what we see in books.   Later we hit the gorilla compound.  At lunch time the gorilla picks at his celery, beans, and lettuce through a grate in the ground, which, I am guessing, is to improve his dexterity and to teach him to eat in a civilized manner.

OwenMax H as trainer

My kind of zookeeper

A mid-zoo playground with a climbing spider web and a hill for sledding down on pieces of cardboard grabs the boys’ attention.   After three hours of running, we and they are pooped.   Preschool compatibility index – You’re in the running for grandparents of the year if you take your grandkids to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

SY 3B T with boys

Owen and Max with their Dad

On Thursday, our Owen and Max activity is hiking the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, California with their parents.  When hiking with preschoolers, Hannah and I have the one important ingredient today to make this activity fly – parents like Molly and Tip.  This four-mile round trip to a rocking waterfall needs playful parents who can distract their boys when they get weary.

SY2 4A five on trail

Prefall Hannah on the San Ysidro Trail with the Family Rawding

For much of the way, Tip carries nearly 3-year-old, 40+ pound Max in a backpack.  Such endurance is out of my league.  Owen, five in July, walks and runs most of the four miles, often holding the hand of his mother Molly.  Preschool compatibility index – Only try with athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly positive parents.  It’s too much for us alone.  Click here for that blog.

On Friday, we rest as Hannah recuperates from her fall from the above trail the day before.

Grandparents the world over will nod their heads and know that it’s been gold to have five days with our Dynamo Duo.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Storm Ravaged Coast of Santa Barbara, California

Despite a rainy month of February in southern California, Hannah and I walk every morning before breakfast while here on the Pacific coast.  For me, sub-freezing, windblown, bundled up morning walks on the coast of Maine are just not my thing.  I wouldn’t disagree if someone said I was soft.  Here, just south of Santa Barbara, we have trails into the hills, sandy beaches, and walks through the neighborhoods above the Pacific, all in 50 degrees or more.  We indeed are California Dreamin’.

Go 1B tree on the cliff

Tree living on the edge at Goleta Beach State Park

Even on days when it rains, we can take to the hillside roads with our umbrellas for our two to three miles of a morning pick-me-up.  This Friday, with rain threatening again, we take to the nature trail that is the Ortega Loop above The 101 highway here in Summerland.

Heading back to our cottage by way of the main drag (Lillie Avenue), we pass the antique shops, the liquor stores, the Summerland Café, and then the fire station.  On the wall of the fire house is this sign to the right.

Wondering just what it might mean, I google The Safely Surrendered Baby Law.

Sum safe surrender site

Safe Surrender sign on the Summerland fire station

The Safely Surrendered Baby Law responds to the increasing number of newborn infant deaths due to abandonment in unsafe locations. The law’s intent is to save lives of newborn infants at risk of abandonment by encouraging parents to safely surrender the infant within 72 hours of birth, with no questions asked.  Since 2001, more than 770 newborns have been surrendered in California.

Sum safe 2

You Go Golden State.   Damn, Californians have got to be so proud of their state!  Later, I learn from our social worker friend Maggie that most states have a variation of this law.  I had no idea.  This can be such a good and decent country.

Gol map of GB

Back in the cottage, we are housebound thanks to the deluge this mid-February Friday.  It’s an ideal time to head into Santa Barbara to the Paseo Nuevo Cinemas to see La La Land, the surprise non-winner for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.  Later that day, we learn that up to 70 mile per hour winds have lashed the area with heavy rains turning creeks and rivers into brown torrents of mud.

Gol 1A another buckhoe at beach

Early the next morning, skies are clearing but we realize that our plan to hike into the San Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara is out of the question; what with the heavy rain making the trails sloppy with mud and pools of water.  We don’t even think about the possibility that mudslides might block the trail or that the trail itself might give way beneath our feet.  Click here to read about one trail giving way while we hiked.

An obvious high and dry hiking choice this Saturday morning is the Bluff Trail that starts at Goleta Beach Park and wanders for two miles along the edge of the Pacific and the campus of the University of California – Santa Barbara.

Gol 2A UCSB coast line

Bluffs with UCSB to the left

Pulling into Goleta Beach parking lot, we join the gawkers who are out to see the crashing white waves that have closed access to the beach.  Marveling at the power of the storm-whipped surf, we spot the surfers who have found the silver lining to this bluff-pounding storm.

Gol 2D Han at coast

From the online Noozhawk: Weather and waves have never been kind to Santa Barbara County’s most popular park.   Officials have reported that over the last three years, Goleta Beach Park has seen 53,000 square feet of land eroded by storms and wave action, prompting regular emergency action to protect the shoreline, parking lots, a restaurant, and picnic areas.

Gol 2E han wide out at coast

Rock revetments (retaining walls) have been constructed along the shore in the past, and last year, a geotextile mesh was buried below the beach to hold sand in place before becoming exposed.  In January, a sand berm was put in place, and though it protected the beach during a storm, it was wiped away in two days.  More rock revetments were installed in February after especially powerful storms, and the pier was closed for a month for significant repairs.  Click here for the full article.

Gol 2 warning sign at UCSB

Fence between the bluffs and the UCSB campus

Noticing the heavy earth-moving equipment, we see that the sea is taking what it wants of Goleta Beach.  When Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy rings true as Mother Nature is more than just a little p.o.-ed this weekend.  Talking with a construction worker, we learn that the park is losing two to three feet of shoreline a day.

Gol 3B more of Pacific coast

Having hiked these very bluffs two weeks ago, prior to the recent triumphant Tom Brady Super Bowl LI with our Maine friends Donna and George, we see the receding shoreline despite the county’s best efforts.  My advice to you is go to this park as soon as possible, rather than see it later only in pictures at the local historical society.

Gol 3A more of pacific coast

On this four mile loop above the bluffs and back through campus, palm fronds are here, there, and everywhere as the raging sea passes for entertainment for the student body.   Walking in tee-shirts on the sunny, blustery afternoon, we are appreciative of the turn in the weather.

Upon our return to Goleta Beach, I capture the excavator in action.

Even in stormy weather California delivers; for the day after the rain washes down the hillside into the seas and reservoirs, there is no shoveling to do.  At this moment in Maine, two recent storms have dumped nearly three feet of snow on Chases Pond Road, snow that will still be there in April.

Here are two votes for California in winter.

Dan and Hannah Pickle, then Hike to Black Hill at Morro Bay State Park

Mor map 3

Not every day do we hit a home run in California.  Today we doubled off the wall.  Though yesterday, we did hit a three-run homer on Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands off Ventura.  Click here for that blog.  Saturday past, we hit a grand slam at our first of two hikes to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito.  Click here for that blog.

But back to the baseball analogy, we all know that a double is good hit.  We’re not complaining, but we have been getting used to four baggers here in California.  Let me explain.


With the forecast for sun on this mid-February Wednesday, we drive one hundred miles north from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo.  We have a 9A date with pickleballers from the central coast of California.

Mor SLO courts

Pickleball courts at Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo

Arriving at Meadow Park, we are immediately included in a game of doubles.  Here, guests don’t pay (we pay $4 each time we play at our home courts in Saco, Maine).  We notice that we are among family (i.e. seniors), which gives us a break from the high powered juices of the thirty-somethings we play with in Santa Barbara.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

When in Maine, we play indoors; today in the great outdoors, we have sunshine to deal with when hitting overhead shots.  With only ten players by 910A for the three courts, it looks like we’ll have lots of playing time.

Mor SLO D on court

Not so fast, my friend.  Alas, twenty more soon show up, so we wait and wait some more for our next game.  This is not an uncommon problem with the growth of pickleball over the past few years.

You may not know that most pickleball sites have ambassadors.  These angels have a challenging job as they try to balance the competing interests of the different levels of players.  Understandably and most appropriately, ambassadors want to grow the sport and are excellent in embracing newcomers.  Fact is, most pickleball players welcome new players.   That said, beginners thrive in a setting where they learn with other newbies and are supported by the advanced players.

Mor SLO H on court

Advanced players were once beginners and feel a kinship with those just learning the game.  But advanced players also like the competition of other advanced players.  It’s an extraordinary balancing act for the selfless people who choose to be pickleball ambassadors.

One of our Maine ambassadors has the wisdom of Solomon.  Check his email out.

Recently an advanced player wrote me to ask what my thoughts were regarding “picking on” the weaker player on the court.  The following was my reply to him:

“Identifying and attacking the weaker player is a strategy very often used and should only be used in competitive tournament play.  To apply that same strategy in recreational play is just not the right thing to do. It is demeaning and embarrassing for the weaker player.  Many players feel that winning is everything!  It serves no purpose to “smash” a weaker player.  It makes more sense to try to improve your game by feeding the stronger player and attempting to return his/her shot….in other words, challenge yourself!

A little common sense goes a long way….an attempt should be made to balance returns between both players.  All of us, including myself, at one time or another are probably guilty of consistently taking advantage of the weaker player on the court. Let’s try to remember that Pickleball is about having fun….and that includes all players.

Roger Huppe, USAPA District Ambassador, New England

Today we model Roger’s suggestions with the beginners and intermediate players; we know that in the days ahead back in Santa Barbara, we’ll have the competitive games we seek.

Hiking Black Hill

Mor 1 sign at black hill trail

Let the hiking begin

With still lots of hiking miles left in our legs, we drive to the northwest twelve miles along The 101 highway to Morro Rock State Park.  Morro Rock is a 581-foot volcanic plug  located just offshore from the resort town of Morro Bay.

Mor 1A H on trail

On the trail.  Not Black Hill

But before we head to Morro Rock, we’ll hike to Black Hill in Morro Rock State Park a few miles away.  With a mile or so to the top, we’ll get a fine workout with a decent 535’ of elevation gain.  The trail climbs easily through the sage brush with the mountain top always in view.

Mor 1D H near top

We like to hike trails where others hike.  One, we are less likely to get lost.  Two, we enjoy the connection with others, however briefly.

Mor 2 H at top with MB

Atop Black Hill with the Morro Rock in the background

Though the trail is basically well marked, we find a way to miss a turn and start heading around the mountain rather than up it.  As the path narrows through dense sage brush, we realize the error of our ways, backtrack, and find our way to the top.   The fact is, this is an easy peezy hike, to be enjoyed by hikers of all ages.

Mor 2 D at top with MR behind

Looking out to the Pacific Ocean from Black Hill

Throughout the climb, we have the massive Morro Rock as a backdrop.  Dominating the coastline, it reminds me of Beacon Rock on the Columbia River Gorge in the state of Washington.

Mor 4 MR explan 2

Driving a roundabout four miles to explore the base of the Morro Rock itself, we wonder if there is more hiking for us.  It turns out not.  To the north of the monolith, there is a surfers’ beach with families on this last sunny day before the upcoming weekend of heavy rain.

Mor 2A MR

Morro Rock

Around to the bayside, there is more parking; on this day, we see a class of middle schoolers acting the part, – cool, bored, and disinterested.   That said, three cheers for these public school teachers for their commitment and perseverance to extend the student learning beyond the classroom’s four walls.  Whether they know it or not, they are planting seeds of exploration that will likely grow in the years ahead.  These teachers are among America’s heroes.

Mor 3 H in crook of tree preview

Morro Rock State Park

With non-competitive pickleball and a modest four miles of hiking, we wait on second base with our double.  With no teammates around, we are stranded there and decide to drive ourselves home (you get the pun, don’t you?) to our cottage to the south.  Fact is, a double means we are still batting 1.000 this February in California.

Dan and Hannah Hike on Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands off Ventura, California (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 concluded with the uncertainty whether my breakfast would return due to the rolling seas on our one hour high seas voyage from Ventura to Santa Cruz Island.

SC dock

At last, the metal framed, erector set dock at Scorpion Beach on Santa Cruz comes into view.  Victory is in sight as my oatmeal stays happily tranquil in my stomach.  None of the other 140 passengers is aware of my gastronomic triumph, but it’s those small victories we all embrace that get us through our own personal stormy seas.  (Chew on that.)

SC 3 H at start

Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands, 22 miles long and from 2 to 6 miles wide.   Click here to access excellent descriptions of these National Park hiking trails and maps of Santa Cruz Island.

SC 4 cliff

The cliff edges are indeed close to the trail

Debarking, we passengers are collected for some final instructions by our volunteer guide.  She tells us, We do not have fences, we have common sense.  Trails can be as close as ten feet to the cliffs.  And we later learn these bluffs aren’t just 70-80’ above the beach as we saw in Carpinteria, but hundreds of feet directly into the salty brine.

In conclusion, she reinforces that the boat leaves at 330P, not 335P.  The next excursion to Santa Cruz is not until Friday, three days away.  We get the message.

SC 3A cavern pt trail

Later I ask this volunteer what happens if someone does get left behind.  She tells me sometimes people do get lost on the island but not often.  The park service has some provisions and finds a place for the errant ones to spend the nights.  From what we can see, they are not deluxe accommodations.

SC 3B H at cavern point

From the Cavern Point Loop Trail

Ready to rock and roll on the trail, we choose to climb to the moderately rated Cavern Point Loop Trail along the bluffs of Santa Cruz.  Within feet of the edge of the rocky cliffs, we are taken by what we imagine Ireland would be like.   Green on green meadows, beautifully highlighted by yellow flowers; unfortunately, we learn they are invasive.   We were told that with the previous years of drought the landscape had turned a gray brown.  Today, we, with about fifteen others, have miles of trail to ourselves.

SC 3C trail with yellow flowers

The meadows of grass are nearly treeless so our view is for miles.  At times, the trail is wide enough for two, and soon turns into the just slightly larger Potato Harbor Road.  Hardly a road, hardly a fire road, it is a delightful walk in the fields of emerald green.

On the North Bluff Trail, we meet Kirk and Alison, who ask us to take their picture.  Soon learning that today, Valentine’s Day, is their second anniversary, we feel a good vibe with them; but I forget to give them my business card with info about my blog. Damn, I’ve got to be quicker.

SC 4C potato harbor coral

Potato Harbor

Two plus miles in, we are high above Potato Harbor.  Though we have no access to the harbor below, we do see coral blue water, something out of Hawai’i or the Caribbean.

With no comfortable place for lunch, we hike back through the meadows to the campground with picnic tables, bathrooms, and potable water.   We day hikers know the value of sitting at a picnic table for lunch rather than hunched over on a rock or log.  Of course, we are soft and these accommodations suit us to a T.

SC 4F trail

As we leave, the aforementioned Kirk and Alison arrive to take our picnic table for their lunch.  Playfully, I point out that we warmed it up for them; not missing a second chance, I hand them my business card, mentioning my Saturday blog.  I add that this hike will be reported on in the weeks ahead.  They smile broadly; say they’ll look it up.

Funny, I hear from maybe 1 in 20 we connect with on the trail.  I get it that the trail encounter is a moment that fades once we are all back home with our routines, jobs, and network of friends.  (Not bucking the odds, they haven’t checked in… yet.)  That said, I am still in touch with Rob from Georgia who we met on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.

SC 5 Smugglers cove trail

The Smuggler’s Cove Trail beyond the windmill

With two hours before we must be at the dock at 3P for the 330P departure for the mainland, Hannah and I look for more.   Climbing the rocky Smugglers Cove Trail above Scorpion Beach for more exercise on this beautiful sunny California day, we find a trail that is badly eroded by the recent rains, and awkward to walk on.   We persevere but wonder why.

SC 5B looking down from Smugglers

Scorpion Beach from the Smugglers Cove Trail

Taking a side trail to the bluff edge, we know that we can’t make it all the way to Smuggler’s Cove, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.  Hyper-cognizant of the departure time, we are aware how much we prefer a shower, a glass of wine at our cottage rather than the unknown accommodations here on the island for three nights.

SC 5A looking down from Smugglers

The view to the visitor center at Scorpion Beach

Like so many others, we arrive a good hour before the Island Explorer leaves the dock.  Weary from nearly eight miles of hiking, I plop down on the bench in the stern of the Island Explorer for the mellow trip back to Ventura Harbor.

SC 6 H by boat at end

Made the 330P departure.  Last ones on.

On our return, Captain Luke slows the boat, having found a pod of Pacific gray whales heading north in the Channel.   Within a hundred yards of these glorious mammals, we see the blows of six to eight whales; they then arch their backs, bursting out of the water.  This is all followed by their tails flipping up as they re-submerge.  Later, after the final blows, as if choreographed, six whales wave good bye in unison with their tails.  It’s nature poetry in motion.

SC island packers

On the ride home, which is incredibly smooth as promised, Hannah gets the brilliant idea to have the captain acknowledge Alison and Kirk’s anniversary.  Having passed the information on to the captain, we finally hear the announcement as we head into the harbor.  Beaming as the proud parents of this fine idea, we wonder if they’ll guess it is us.  We do hear clapping above on the second deck.

Hannah and I are just not “going out in any kind of boat” people, be it in lakes, rivers, or oceans.  But we both would say don’t miss this boat trip.  You have the trifecta of bluff hikes on unsullied terrain, whales, and dolphins on the ride to and from Ventura.  No race track could beat that winning combination.

Dan understands “It’s not all about me.”

I got a same day appointment for the doctor to check out the growth on my cheek and my right elbow tendinitis.  By 330P she was 30 minutes late.  My first thought was that the patient she was with really needed the extra time.  When she gets to me, she’ll spend all the time I need.  It’s not all about me.  (By the way, she did.)

its not all about me 2

This morning in bed before dawn I lay happily awake, Hannah beside me.  She moves and pulls the covers her way.  I think how comfortably snuggled in she must be.  It’s not all about me.

Good friends are moving away.  My first thought is how happy I am that they are on their next adventure together.  Our relationship is just taking a new form.  It’s not all about me.

I play ping pong each Thursday with a good buddy.  I am just so pleased when he hits a good shot, and I say so.  Funny, he’s that way with me, too.  I win some, he wins some.  It’s not all about me.

It’s taken awhile.