Saturday, April 20, 2019


This article tells about one day, of the six-day Road Scholar Program #21900 ( ) that I recently attended in Marin County, California.  I first heard about Angel Island a few years ago, when I was visiting relatives in Tiburon, California.  They took us to downtown Tiburon, where I saw the information on the ferry to Angel Island State Park, and I was hooked (just like the shark my cousin was able to hook, while fishing from his deck above Richardson Bay in Tiburon!  Since "tiburon" is the Spanish word for "shark", I think it is very memorable that he snagged a "tiburon" in Tiburon!)

Before we exited our van to the ferry boarding area, our leader told us that we would probably see school children on the ferry, as Angel Island was often the destination for students on an overnight field trip to the Civil War-era fort that is located on the island. 

When I expressed surprise about the California coast being significant in the Civil War, our Road Scholar leader explained to me that this area of California was reaping the benefits of the 1849 gold rush, and there were large stockpiles of gold to be protected in the San Francisco area.  Although the South was not famous for a naval fleet that could easily reach the Pacific Coast, there was speculation that the South might have some allies in the better-equipped British navy.  Hence, the goal was to protect San Francisco from invaders looking to steal their gold---regardless of who it might be!

The students were divided into well-organized units, and were very well-behaved.  It was fun to see them march to their assigned seats, as their drummers pounded out a cadence!  I asked one of the leaders which school they were from, and the answer was the nearby city of Cupertino.  Since I knew nothing about that town, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and saw that the per capita income for that town is about three times the per capita income for the town where I live! In addition, Cupertino is considered one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S!

When we arrived at Angel Island State Park, our leader showed us the map of the island, and told us all to take a photo of it with our cell phones.  He indicated that there are usually paper maps from the state park to give to each person, but (perhaps because of budget cutbacks) none were available on the day of our visit. 

From the ferry dock, we started up the North Ridge Trail, which was quite steep and had lots of steps!

However, there were places along the trail with scenic views, so it made the climb worth the effort!

This photo shows the
docks at sea level, as seen from our location part way up the trail. 

All of us took a few minutes rest and catch our breath before we proceeded further on the trail.

As you can see, Angel Island is not very far from the mainland, and can be a destination for ocean kayakers who don't mind a good workout!

The town on Tiburon is easily seen from Angel Island.

From the island, you can also easily see the border of  the undeveloped part of the mainland, that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Private vehicles are not allowed on the island, although there are official state park vehicles used throughout the island. 

No matter where one happens to be around the island, the views are fantastic!

The first stop our group was going to make was the Angel Island U.S. Immigration Station, which i a National Historic Landmark.  Before one goes on a Road Scholar program, you are given the names of suggested books to learn about the area you will be visiting .  In reading one of those books about Angel Island, I learned that it might be thought of as the "Ellis Island" of the West Coast.  It was the place where most immigrants were detained, before they could be absorbed into the general population. 

The hillside building in this photo was one of the official residences for Immigration employees.

The long building on the left of this photo is the dormitory where the immigrants lived during their time here. 

This photo shows one of the Road Scholar ladies reading one of the commemorative placards that tell the story of this period of U.S. history.

This bell would be sounded for significant events that happened on the island. 

An Angel Island State Park employee is shown in this photo, giving a history lesson to a group of students on a field trip.  

Some of the bunks have been left in tact, so that visitors can get a feel of the "density" of people that lived here.  I have slept on a bunk bed that was second level, but never one that was on the third level!

Notice that even the space above the third level bunk is not wasted, as it is use to hang up clothes!

There is a nice picnic area in front of the dormitory, and that is where our group had their box lunches. 

Throughout the park there are maps that tell where you are on the island. 

This chapel was in use during the last century, whenever Angel Island was an active military base.  It was a reminder to me of Psalm 139:8 that says, "If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there."   If I do not feel as close to God when I am out on the West Coast, it is NOT because God is not there!  Perhaps it is because I neglect my morning prayer time, skip my daily Bible devotions, and I am not surrounded by people speaking "Christian-ese", like they do in my home state of Arkansas.  I know the "perceived" lack of closeness is NOT because God has changed, it is because my time with Him has diminished while traveling. (Note to self:  Do not neglect your SPIRITUAL preventive maintenance when away from home!)

I do not want my life to be an empty shell, like the empty shell of the former military building shown in this photo.  A building needs regular preventive maintenance to stay functional.  Likewise, as a human being, I need regular preventive maintenance---Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Mental---to keep me functional!

This variegated century plant was in the yard of one of the military officers residences that look out over the ocean.  Although most of these formerly-elegant homes are now vacant, we saw at least one of them had been renovated and was being used as a residence for park staff. 

This is view that you would have if you lived on present-day Angel Island---the skyscrapers of San Francisco, and a gigantic cruise ship, docked and loading passengers. 

Although visitors cannot bring motorized vehicles over on the ferry, bicycles are welcome, and we saw folks enjoying the paved and hilly roads that can peddled on for miles throughout the island. 

This was the first time I have ever seen a "philosophical statement" carved into a picnic table, and I loved it!

This photo shows a part of the old Civil War-era fort, and some of the student re-enactors out doing their military duties. 

This former lens/light was once located inside the Angel Island Lighthouse, and can now be seen in the museum there.

As our time on Angel Island ended, we boarded the ferry to head back to the mainland.

It was a beautiful day, so many of the passengers enjoyed the breezy trip on top of the ferry, instead of inside the enclosed cabin below.

This is the view we saw as we approached Tiburon on our return trip.

Once back in Tiburon, we went to visit the train museum.

Volunteers at the museum have re-created what Tiburon was like in the early days of its existence, especially during the railroad era. 

This photo shows the tiny street that is adjacent to the Tiburon ferry.  Our leader told us that many of these buildings used to be waterfront "arks", that were later converted into retail establishments. 

The Tiburon fountain looks different, depending the angle you look at it.    From this angle, it might remind you of the fins of a shark--i.e.tiburon!

From another angle, I am reminded of the sails of a group of yachts!   Whatever the interpretation, there is one thing for certain----the experiences I had on this Tiburon/Angel Island excursion gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!!    Tricia

Friday, April 19, 2019


STEP into the beauty of nature, that awaits you along the River Trail at Castle Crags State Park, in northern California!  As you would expect, the parking lot cannot be at river level (because of varying water levels), so after you park your vehicle,  you will need to descend a few steps to get down to the trail.  But the steps are wide and easily maneuvered, and should not be a problem to even "out-of-shape" hikers!

down to the river level, you will encounter a short footbridge that is situated over one of the tributaries to the main body of water, which is the Sacramento River.

At this point, the guy in the photo (my son)  was saying, "Are you going to stay up there taking pictures all day, or are we going to hike this trail??!!"

Bridge over troubled waters!

Cascading water flowing from high up the mountain, and into the river below.

Tributary flowing into Sacramento River.

As soon as I saw these moss-covered tree trunks, I knew they would make a perfect frame for a photo of a loved one!

After much cajoling, I finally got my son to turn around so I could use the tree trunks as a frame for a photo of my loved one!

"This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased!" (Matthew 3:17)

Moss covered foot bridge on the south side of the river, over a tributary of the Sacramento River.

Two trees side by side on the trail---the one on the left is healthy, but the one on the right---"not so much"!

I took this photo to show the massive size of one of the tree trunks along the trail, as compared to most of the others trail side evergreens. 

When ferns completely cover a steep hillside, as these do along the trail, it is sometimes called a "FernFall", as opposed to a "waterfall".

From one part of the River Trail, there is a view in the distance of the pointed rock mountains, crags, and spires, that give the state park its moniker as "Castle Crags".  I do not think I will ever forget the first time I saw the phrase "castle crags".  My son had just moved out West to start his medical residency training.   I received an email from him that said, "Just summitted Castle Crag.  Totally stoked."   One reason he chose to do his medical training out West was because of his love for rock climbing, so I assumed he was referring to some mountain he had climbed.  However, my understanding of the word "stoke" was "to poke", so I thought he might have been "poked" from a fall, and I had no idea where Castle Crag was located!  So after googling "Castle Crag", I saw a photo on the Internet of this towering spire of granite, and was astounded to see what he was talking about.  Then I looked in a lexicon of popular phrases for young people, and learned that "totally stoked", meant "Excited to the maximum! Exhilaration!"  Since that time long ago, I have had the opportunity to visit this area several times, and even though I did not summit one of the crags by rock climbing in a harness, each visit to Castle Crags area has left me "Totally stoked" as well!

Steps leading up to the suspension bridge entrance.

The "famous" suspension bridge over the Sacramento River, at Castle Crags State Park. 

There is a new suspension bridge near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that is said to be the highest in the U.S., and I want to walk across it!  This photo of my son on the Sacramento River Suspension Bridge, which is not very high at all.  However, even if it were, he could handle it, and has even written and published a book about visiting high places, called Mt Shasta Area Rock Climbing by Grover Shipman.  The cover of that book is a photo he took of Castle Crags, that also shows Mt. Shasta in the distance .

There are steel cables that connect the upper and lower suspension cables that form the ever-moving "bones" of the suspension bridge over the river.  A big THANK YOU to the local Mt. Shasta Trail Association volunteers who installed new protective sides for the suspension bridge, as the previous wooden slats had become unsafe.

The Sacramento River was named by Spanish cavalry officer Gabriel Moraga, for the Santisimo SACRAMENTO (Most Holy Sacrament), referring to the Catholic Eucharist.  (Eucharist refers to the Christian  religious service---also called Lord's Supper---when bread and wine are consecrated, in remembrance to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, before his crucifixion.)

This photo of the river taken in mid-April, shows that the deciduous trees were not quite fully leafed out yet.

The suspension bridge has strong netting about three feet high on each side to provide a safety barrier for small children. 

My son is shown looking towards the paved road that provides access to the parking area for those who want to get to the River Trail from the north side of the river.

The River Trail is just one of many enjoyable places to explore at Castle Crags State Park.  In total, there are 28 miles of hiking trails, so everyone can find a place to enjoy a stroll (or roll!) down a trail.  I say "roll" because there is a quarter mile handicap-accessible trail that leads visitors to Vista Point, were there are dramatic views of Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, and nearby Grays Rocks.  To learn more about the park, just click on and put "Castle Crags" in the search box, symbolized with a magnifying glass icon. 

Trail head for accessing the River Trail from the north side of the Sacramento River.

The visitor will need to walk under the rail road tracks, through this "tunnel", if they access the River Trail from the north side of the Sacramento River.

Entrance to Sacramento River Suspension Bridge, as seen from the northern access route to the River Trail.

park has 76 developed campsites that are each equipped with a picnic table, food locker, and a fire ring.  Flush toilets, showers, and drinking water are available near each campsite. 

The Pacific Crest Trail also winds though the Park.  When my son and I hiked the section of the PCT that goes through the park, we got to visit with one of the weary hikers of the 2,650 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.  Her first question to us was "How far to the closest water source?"  She seemed very relieved when we told her it was just around the bend!

I put this photo in the article to illustrate how close the swinging bridge over the Sacramento River is, to a delightful picnic spot.  There is a paved road that provides easy access to the trail that leads to the northern end of the suspension bridge.

Castle Crags State Park offers a variety of camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing opportunities.  Although we did not see anyone fishing on the day we visited, I have seen fishermen in this area in the past. 

Adjacent to the River Trail, near one of the picnic areas, is circular stone grotto, with man-made steps leading down to the base, which has  a pool of water collected in a stone basin.

Seeing my son checking out the area will give you perspective on the size of the grotto.

I was very glad there was an interpretive plaque there, which told us this was the site of the former Castle Rock Natural Mineral Water facility.  The water supplied at the well was quite a popular commodity "back in the day"!  Of course, I was reminded of the familiar story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan "woman at the well", that is mentioned in John 4:13 the New Testament:  Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  Sadly, the Castle Rock Natural Mineral Water facility has gone out of business--defunct.  But we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus is STILL in the business of providing a "spring of water, welling up to eternal life"!!

Basin of water
at the Castle Rock spring beside the Sacramento River. 

Stonework surrounding Castle Rock spring.

I do a little volunteer work with Trail Patrol for the Arkansas Master Naturalists, and have learned that wooden trail reinforcements like the one my son is walking through in this photo, can help maintain the trail integrity by slowing the runoff of water and melting snow, from the steep hillside to the right of the trail. 

Did I mention my son likes to stay well ahead of me along the trail?  If you can imagine----he says I take too many photos, even coining the term "Mamarazzi" for my "shutter-happy" finger, using my camera and smart phone, to take ten zillion pictures of what I am experiencing! ( In his defense, he was just a toddler when I took my first college-level photography course, and he was the subject of most of my photos for that class.  At the time, he was too young to protest, but that all changed as he grew into adulthood!)

Having a simply-constructed wooden bridge across a gully, is a very nice convenience during the wet season!

The long log, shown on the left of the trail in this photo is another example of using a "natural" barrier to reduce erosion along the trail, due to water run-off.

The state park's website encourages hikers to dress in layers, and this photo shows that it was warming up from needing long-sleeve wool jackets at the beginning of the hike, to short sleeves, as the day progressed.

I am always fascinated with the way  green moss carpets the rocks and other surfaces in the outdoors. 

This was one water crossing near the end of the trail, where I had to ask my son to give me help, in navigating the wobbly log that stretched across the stream.  The water was shallow, but I did not want to get my feet wet!

Castle Crags State Park is easily accessible from Interstate 5, Exit 724.  It is six miles south of Dunsmuir, 14 miles south of Mt. Shasta, or 48 miles north of Redding.  

I mentioned that my son wrote a book about this area, and the last sentence he wrote says, "If you see litter, please pick it up.  Thanks. Grover Shipman"  So that is exactly what he is doing in this photo---picking up litter he spotted along the Sacramento River.  He has taught me to always carry a plastic bag, and pick up litter I find along the trail.  I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to him for taking me on this hike of the Castle Crags State Park River Trail.  It gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!    Tricia