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


The first thing you will need if you plan to visit Santa Cruz Island, one of several islands making up Channel Islands National Park, is a mode of transportation to get there.  This article tells about the method I used, which was via Island Packers ( ), which is the official boat concessionaire, of Channel Islands National Park.

I was making the trip with a favorite group travel organization that I use, called Road Scholar ( ).  Since I live thousands of miles from the Pacific Coast, it was to my advantage to make this "once in a lifetime" trip, with an organization that had the hotel, meals, bus transportation, boat transportation, and program leaders, all finely tuned, and running smoothly.  This photo shows our group lined up, and waiting to present our Boarding Pass to step onto the boat, and the beginning of our adventure. 

I have a tendency toward motion sickness, so I was wearing a scopolamine patch to reduce that risk.  Even with that, I had been advised to sit on the lowest part of the boat, as far back as possible, to reduce the effect of the open water voyage out to the islands.  When I got to the lowest down, farthest back corner of the boat, I saw that the space was already taken!  I was surprised to see what appeared to be dog carriers on board, because I had read that no pets were allowed on Santa Cruz Island.  When I asked the woman beside the carriers about her "dogs", she told me they were actually California Sea Lions--one male and one female---who had been in a rehabilitation facility for nine months, due to injuries and low body weight.  The lady in the blue shirt was a worker for the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Rescue service, and she was there to oversea the release of the sea lions back into the "wild", that is, the waters within the Marine Reserve surrounding Santa Cruz Island.  She showed me before and after photos of the Sea Lions, and it was a testament to the rehab facility's good care, that the animals now appeared much healthier.  What made the event even more special, was that the release was occurring on the actual day that the National Park Service was celebrating their 100th Birthday!!  The date was Thursday, August 25.  So needless to say, I had a "ringside" seat to get to observe this very special occasion/release!  (Note:  On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the "Organic Act", creating the National Parks System.)
After about one and one-half hours crossing the Santa Barbara Channel, our boat reached the Prisoner's Harbor landing pier on Santa Cruz Island.  Our group had been briefed on how there would be a ladder for us to climb, from the boat to the top of the pier, so our folks were geared up and ready, as soon as we approached.   Note to reader:  For more details about other locations to land your boat, visit   .

Decades ago, when the island was owned by private individuals, it was an isolated ranching enterprise, for raising sheep and cattle.  Some of the structures from the ranching days have been kept, as a reminder of the history of the island

Santa Crus Island is the largest in the national park, with 61, 972 acres.  It is 22 miles long and from two to six miles wide.  There are numerous hiking trails across the terrain, which varies from pristine beaches, rugged mountains, lonely canyons, and grass-covered hills. 

I went with a hiking group that was taking the more strenuous hike, which was led by a representative of the Nature Conservancy.  The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service both own land on the island, and seemed to have a good working relationship.  I had previously signed a legal form that outlined the regulations for visiting the Nature Conservancy property, which included a stipulation that the Nature Conservancy leader had to be the first on the trail, and the last off the trail.  There was also a rule that visitors could not bring a wooden hiking stick to the island, to reduce the risk of non-native "bugs" being introduced. 

Because of a long series of events affecting the "food chain" of the native species of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Island Fox has been on the endangered species list for many years.  Fortunately, due to aggressive efforts by the interested parties, it was taken off the list just this past month .  By the way, all the cars you see in this photo, had to be brought over via boat.  They are service vehicles, and not for use by visitors.  Obviously, visitors are not allowed to bring cars to the island.

Our group had the good fortune of getting to see one of the Island Foxes, as it strolled across the parking lot, and then took cover, in the tall grass behind an old fence.  It is about the size of a large housecat, and is known for being able to open up the snapped backpacks of hikers, who have left their gear unattended.  Of course, eating "human" food is not good for them, so lockers are provided for hikers to store any belongings that might attract the foxes.

Our group started up the mountain side, with our young Nature Conservancy fellow in the blue shirt, leading the way.  He set a good pace, and was there to answer questions, or provide climbing assistance, as needed.

About a mile from the pier, we came across this historic structure.  In the days before electronic communication, it was the "lookout" for ranch operations, to let them know when a cattle boat was on the horizon, to take the herd to market on the mainland.  It has exhibits inside it now, that tell about the ranch history.

There is a lot of beautiful hiking in the Ozarks where I live, but NONE of them have the stunning ocean views one gets when hiking on the Channel Islands .  I had to keep reminding myself not to "Walk and Galk".   A Road Scholar hike leader I had in Sedona a while back, used that term repeatedly to me, when he would notice that I was paying more attention to the scenery, than to where I was placing my next step!

Fortunately, we stopped long enough about midway up the mountain, to get a photo of me with the Arkansas Razorback logo.  The alumni magazine from the University of Arkansas ( ) had included the red hog on the back of its most recent issue, asking subscribers to take it with them for a photograph, to show where the U of A alums traveled to this summer.  The whole thing was very weird to my new Road Scholar friend from the Bronx in New York, who was standing next to me.  She had never heard of the Razorbacks, or "The Hogs", and was totally amused when I tried to teach her how to properly "Call the Hogs", with the WHOOOOoooooo Pig SOOOIEeeeeeeee yell!

She is pictured here trying to distance herself from the wacky lady of Arkansas!  Maybe the New Yorker knew about the island's controversial history with feral pigs, and she did not want to be seen with someone carrying a picture of a pig in her backpack (even if it was just a college sports team mascot)!

Some of our group stopped to have lunch in the shade, under one of the very few big trees of the trail leading to Pelican Bay. 

Once we returned from our Pelican Bay hike, we met up with the other Road Scholar participants who had hiked on different trails, and we swapped stories and photographs , of what we had seen.  One thing we did NOT do, is share photos via our phones, as there is absolutely NO cell phone service on either Santa Cruz, or Anacapa Islands. 

I had read the warning on the NPS website, about aYellow Jacket infestation on Santa Cruz Island, several weeks before I came.  However, it never occurred to me that it would still be a problem for my visit.  Yet in our pre-hike lecture the day before we left for the island , our leader told us to keep as much of our body covered as possible from the time we left the boat, until we had gotten off the pier, and a good distance away.  I am thankful to say that I did not get any stings!

The yellow jacket surge was caused by a huge washup of Pelegic Red Crabs, shown in this photo.  The line of red, decaying crabs extended the entire length of the beach and was several inches in width.  I believe the cause of the phenomenon is still under investigation .

The boat coming to pick us up was a bit late, so our Nature Conservancy hike leader was getting ansy, wondering what had happened to them, when he could not get them to respond to his queries via Ship to Shore Walkie Talkies.

When they finally arrived, we found out the boat was delayed because of the numerous siteings of marine wildlife they encountered, just out of radio contact of our leader.  The boat that was picking us up is also a "Whale Watching" cruise, for customers who are not getting off on the island.  One of the "Channel Islands Naturalist Corps" told me it was the best day she had all summer of getting to point out the creatures to those on the boat. 

As I was resting my weary bones at the back of the boat returning to the mainland, after hiking all day, I was thanking God for the wonderful experiences I had on my visit to the Channel Islands.  I thought about how the very name of Santa Cruz island references the Christian missionaries that visited there hundreds of years ago.  The legend says that the Christian missionary who went ashore, accidentally left his staff ( a.k.a., hiking stick!)back on the island, when he returned to the big boat that carried him there.  The staff had a cross attached to the top of it, signifying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a cross.  The natives knew enough about the cross symbol, to know it was important, and got in their little wooden canoe, paddling furiously, to try to return the staff with a cross on it, to the missionary who forgot it.  The missionary and his explorer companions were so amazed by the actions of the natives, that they included the word "cross" in the name of the island!  Hence, the name "Cruz", which is Spanish for Cross.  All of the Channel Islands have the word "Santa" (Saint, in English) as the first part of their name. ( I found this history about the staff/hiking stick that was "left behind", particularly amusing, because I have had to tie several strands of bright yellow "Caution" tape to the handle of my hiking stick, as I have a habit of walking off and leaving it, when I put it down to take a photograph.  Glad to know that I am not the only one that has the "hiking stick left behind" problem! )  

 Like the natives of Santa Cruz Island, the Apostle Paul knew about the importance of the cross symbol, when he wrote, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  (Galatians 6:14)  Because of Paul's admonition, I do not want to boast about this expedition, except to say that God's glorious creation, and the fantastic weather I had for my visit, gave me "MILES OF CHANNEL ISLAND SMILES"!   Tricia