Monday, October 24, 2016


I was thankful to have the opportunity to attend The Pensmore National Symposium on Religious Liberty, held recently in southwest Missouri.

The event was held on the campus of the College of the Ozarks ( ) .  This photo shows some of the younger students that attend the Laboratory School, operated by the College of the Ozarks.  They led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of the National Anthem.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and former 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate.  The list of awards he has received in his long and distinguished career would be enough to fill the entire auditorium, but he preferred not to speak on those.  Rather, he urged those present in the auditorium to be engaged in the political process and work to assure that our constitutional freedoms are not undermined. 

Dr. Carson emphasized the importance of Christians studying the platforms of each party, and analyze how these platforms agree, or disagree, with the truth of God's word. 

Considering the impoverished youth, rise to professional acclaim, and incredible list of awards that  Dr. Ben Carson has received, he can be a "visual aid" (only as an imperfect human being on this earth, versus Jesus , our LORD, in heaven) for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."   (Ephesians 4:2)

This poster was on display in the lobby of the auditorium, and is a reminder to me that I cannot just read and memorize Scripture---I have to APPLY it in my daily life choices.  That means I am to be humble and gentle; I am to bear with one another in love. 

When the Symposium dismissed for lunch, the hundreds of people in attendance headed outside to pick up box lunches,  with a choice of turkey, ham, or gluten-free. 

Chairs and tables (complete with linen tablecloths!) had been set up outside , on the spacious grounds of the College of the Ozarks.  I was reminded of a phrase I used to hear, as someone who was born in the Ozarks and raised here.  We called it "Dinner on the Grounds".  It started years ago, before air conditioning was invented, and was often held after worship services, when everyone in attendance went outside and shared a "covered dish" they had brought from home for the occasion. 

These high school students that attend the C of O Laboratory School, called "School of the Ozarks", may not fully realize how significant are the opportunities they are having to be present when such distinguished speakers come to visit their campus.  That is one reason the laboratory school is described  as a place with experiential learning activities, whose academic programs exceed the state of Missouri's educational requirements.  More information about attending this school is on the main college website, .

After lunch, I was thankful to be able to attend a press conference, held at the Keeter Center, near the entrance to the College of the Ozarks.  I have written about this remarkable facility in other articles that are in the archives of this blog (April 16, 2016 and January 1, 2016). 

The event was opened by Dr. Jerry C. Davis, President of the College of the Ozarks.  His opening statement in the program said, "As we approach the 2016 election, it is essential that every American cast his or her vote.  As Christians, we are obligated to vote.  Voting is an important part of seeing change unfold in America."

The press conference was moderated by one of the professors at the College of the Ozarks.  In addition to Dr. Ben Carson on the panel, there was Texas U. S. Congressman, Louie Gohmert, Jr., and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William Boykin. 

Members of the media were allowed to randomly ask questions of the three, and not surprisingly, many of the questions were addressed to Dr. Ben Carson, since he had been in the news extensively during the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential election.  He reminded us that Jesus Christ is not running for office, and as such, we are never going to find the "perfect" presidential candidate.  Rather, we are to consider the long-term consequences of our choice of presidents---especially as they relate to the appointment of Supreme Court Judges---and cast our vote accordingly.

I was thankful to get to meet Mrs. Ben Carson, after the press conference.  When I asked her if I could take a photograph of her, she replied, "Only if you will be in it with me."  I was impressed with her graciousness and humility.  She commented on the beauty of the Ozarks, and indicated she was enjoying her visit to this part of the USA.  Mrs. Carson is a successful author and businesswoman, and along with her husband, founded Carson Scholars that provides scholarships to underserved youth with academic excellence.

Mrs. Carson is not the only one impressed with the beauty and hospitality of the Ozarks.  Thousands of tourists come here year-round---many of them drawn by the numerous entertainment venues of Branson, Missouri, which is just across the bridge from where College of the Ozarks is located.  These motorcoaches parked outside the Keeter Center are a common site in this area. 

If  you would like to picture yourself sitting on this porch, enjoying all the amenities of the Keeter Center (which has a gorgeous restaurant, and a boutique hotel recently voted "best in the US by Trip Advisor") , then make plans to visit College of the Ozarks.  It will give you MILES OF SMILES!    Tricia

Saturday, September 10, 2016


The first thing you have to do in order to climb one of Siskiyou County, California's landmarks---Black  Butte---is find the trail head!  To make sure we did not waste time looking for it in the dense forest at the base of the mountain, my son and I did a trial run to find the trail head the day before.  (The reader can find the exact GPS co-ordinates, and driving directions, on the Forest Service website at .) My son took this photo of me the next day, just before we started our ascent of the mountain, on August 31, 2016. 

He is pictured here on the Spring Hill Trail, in the city of Mount Shasta.  I included the photo because it gives the reader an idea of the conical shape of Black Butte.  By the way, a butte is generally defined as an isolated hill with steep sides, and a small top. 

When the trail begins, there is a gentle climb through the evergreen trees of the Shasta/Trinity National Forest.

The further one goes, the steeper the trail becomes, and the fewer the trees.

Upward, ever upward, the hiker will ascend.  In fact, this image reminds me of a verse in the Bible from Proverbs 15:24 that says, "The path of life leads upward for the wise...."  .  Likewise, if you are a wise hiker, you will need to take plenty of water, as there are no water features along the trail or at the trail head.  The distance from the trail head to the summit is 2.56 miles, making for a total distance of about 5 miles.  So while this is not considered a long hike, it is still rated as "difficult" by the Forest Service because the total vertical climb from the trail head to the summit is 1,845 feet. 

At some spots along the trail, there is no easily discernible path.  That is when I relied on my son to show me where to step.  

One can see from this photo that Black Butte is actually a cluster of overlapping lava domes.  A lava dome is defined as a roughly circular, mound-shaped protrusion, resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano.  Wikipedia calls the rock dacite, which just means igneous volcanic rock.  One type of igneous rock we saw a lot of was "hornblende", which has dark flakes in it, made from a complex series of minerals.

On a clear day, a hiker can see Mount McLoughlin, 70 miles north in Oregon. 

I was very excited to get to see the expanse of valleys and mountains and farmlands and big sky, in a way I had never seen them before!

Although I am used to hiking with a single hiking stick, it was extremely helpful to have TWO trekking poles for this particular hike,  One's legs and knees get very tired from the constant upward movement, so the  extra support provided by the trekking poles can take some of the pressure off of the knees.

This photo of two hikers who summited before we did, shows the foundation of the USFS Fire Tower that used to be there.  The first tower was built in the 1930's, but destroyed by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.  It was rebuilt in 1963, and operated until 1973.  After being taken out of service, the fire tower was removed by helicopter, in 1975.   All that remains now is the square foundation.

I was delighted that someone else was at the summit, because I wanted to get a photograph of my son and I with the Arkansas flag, and the Arkansas Razorback logo.  The guy that took the photo had two teenage young men with him, and as one of the teenagers was helping my son get me across the precipice leading to the fire tower foundation, the young guy said to me, "You are the oldest person I have ever seen up here."  WOW, thanks a lot!

Once we had taken plenty of photos at the summit, we climbed down a few feet to have our lunch on a somewhat flat surface beneath the fire tower foundation. My son took this photo of me, with the camera pointed to the north.  By that time, smoke had started rolling into the area from a large forest fire, about 30 miles from our location.  I was very thankful for the blessing of a clear viewing of Mount Shasta, when we had been at the summit a few minutes earlier.  As the day progressed, the giant mountain was completely obscured by the smoke from the forest fires.
This photo below shows my son, as we start the trek back down the mountain.  It was definitely easier going down, than it was going up!
The reader is probably tired by now of seeing photos of hikers with uplifted hands, but I was so incredibly happy to have this experience of summiting Black Butte, I am plastering the image below, of me at the summit,  in my brain, so I can use it as a motivation to keep on trying to live a healthy lifestyle, so I can keep on taking these expeditions, because they keep on giving  me----- "MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia  


Ventura, California, is a city located north of Los Angeles, that has an enviable location between the sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean, the coastal mountains, and two rivers that empty into the Pacific.  The Ventura Pier shown in this photo has was once the mainstay of the area's agricultural and construction trade.  It was once the longest wharf in the state of California, being rebuilt many times in its 144 year history. 

I was visiting Ventura for the first time ever, as part of a Road Scholar program ( ) program on Channel Islands National Park.  The program has chosen the Crown Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel ( ) as the lodging location for the program, and I was absolutely delighted to get to spend a week on the beach there!

Every room has a balcony and a view of the ocean.  I took this photo from my room on the 11th floor.  I could sit on my bed by the window ( or on the balcony chairs ), and watch beach activities 24 hours a day!

The nice thing about staying right on the beach is that I could roll out of bed, and go outside at dawn, to watch the sun come up, and do some photography. 

Ventura was chosen as the hub city for this particular Road Scholar program, because that is where the headquarters and main Visitor Center for the Channel Islands National Park is located.

Inside the Visitor Center, one can find exhibits, video viewing theater, book store, gift items, native plant information, aquariums and the simulated tide pool shown in this photo.  Park interpreters give demonstrations and talks throughout the day to help acquaint visitors about all this area has to offer.  

I enjoyed climbing this tower, which has the visitor starting at the base of the ocean floor ( as represented by the kelp stalks shown on the outside of the building ), then climbing up several stories until you reach the water's surface, and finally a viewing platform at the very top, where you can not only see birds, but get a "bird's eye view" of all the surrounding harbor.  For information on the Visitor Center hours and programs, visit  .

Back along the beach, the wooden board walk ends, and a concrete bicycle trail takes visitors along the river, and inland towards the mountains.

Kayak rentals are available in the Ventura Harbor, as well as standup paddleboards, motor boats, bicycles, and pedal carts.

I did not want to miss the setting sun as I finished up my first day in Ventura Beach, and I was not disappointed.  The smoke from the numerous forest fires north of Ventura, were giving the sun a picturesque red glow.

My hotel was located on Surfer's Point, and there seemed to be non-stop surfing  throughout the daylight hours.  I read that because of Ventura's
unique South-facing waterfront and breaks, the waves there are impressive, such that Ventura beaches have long been known as a surfing paradise.
When our group went to downtown Ventura for a historical walking tour, we stopped at the restored Mission San Buenavenetura, which has been used for Christian worship services for over 200 years, and continues to serve the area in the same way.   The mission was founded in 1782, and was named after a Catholic saint.
Adjacent to the mission is Plaza Park.  This is the location of the historic and famous Moreton Bay fig tree, shown below.  The tree was planted in 1874, and provides 140 feet of leafy shade.  With a trunk measuring 8 feet 8 inches and a height of at least 74 feet, it was a reminder of one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." (Psalm 1:3)  
One way this prosperity is evidenced, is by the stately architecture of the Buenaventura City Hall.  Ventura was founded by Franciscan Friars, and the statue in front of city hall pays tribute to this heritage, by memorializing Fray Junipero Serra, OFM.    San Buenaventura was the ninth Mission in California, and was the last mission founded by Serra before his death. 

Ventura is also the place where Erle Stanley Gardner practiced law, and also authored the famous Perry Mason books about an attorney confined to a wheel chair. 

There is a free trolley that takes visitors all around the downtown, as well as the more distant location of the Ventura Harbor. 

One of our speakers for the Channel Islands Road Scholar program was Don Morris, who served as an archaeologist with the National Park Service for over 40 years.  I could not resist having my photo taken with some of the "visual aids" he brought with him, for his lecture on the excavation of the Channel Islands Pygmy Mammoth.

I like the tag line for the sesquicentennial celebration Ventura is promoting---Historically Hip!  More information about all there is to do in Ventura can be found at  .

The good news is that the Amtrak station is a short two block, straight shot from the hotel to the boarding ramp.

The bad news is that the Amtrak train goes right beside the hotel.  However, the sound never bothered me or woke me up at night.

Baby Boomers like myself may remember the song called "Ventura Highway".  Well, this is the sign that sits above the "Ventura Highway", which is now the 101 Freeway.  It is a retro-style and greets you as you enter downtown Ventura from the California Street off-ramp.  Seeing this sign, and remembering that sign, and reliving my fantastic week in Ventura gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia