Karen's Blog

Let's take a walk through a brand new day.


In my quest to visit all of the US National Parks, I made my way from Ventura Beach to Pinnacles National Park right outside of Soledad, California.

It was a gorgeous day for a 4 hour drive from Ventura to Pinnacles NP. The Hwy. 101 drive took me through mountains, steep grades, the Salinas River Valley and through agricultural bottomlands including pimento pepper fields and vast wine vineyards.

Arriving in Soledad, I learned that it was named after the 13th Mission established in California and is known as the most technologically advanced and economically productive agricultural region and is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World”. It was a beautiful green (and purple) drive. Can’t forget the fields of radicchio!

After passing through Soledad, the road into the park is very solitary and narrow and often becomes one way as it twists and turns.

The road into the park

The most surprising thing about the park was that I was the only one there. The park had just reopened on the western side.

Mine was the only car in the parking lot.

The park has a strong desert feel and then opens up into these craggy rock pinnacles. Visitors often climb here and also make their way into the many caves.

The jawbone trail. See the jawbone in the distance?

It is definitely not the prettiest national park I’ve been to but I think the hiking, caving, and rock climbing would be excellent. The park is also the place where the California Condor was reintroduced.

As I exited the park, I couldn’t help but notice this last picture. A picture of time passing on.

I wonder about the stories that these buildings could tell.

“It’s going to be a bumpy ride…”

After I dropped David off on the PCT, I drove to Ventura Beach to catch a boat to the Channel Islands National Park. It is one of the least visited national parks due to access.

The boat ride is 1-1/2 hours to either Santa Cruz or Anacopa Islands which are part of the Channel Islands NP.

Upon arrival in Ventura, I booked my fare to Santa Cruz and settled in for the night. Five-thirty AM the next morning arrived along with an email stating that the trip had been cancelled due to stormy seas.

Undeterred, I booked the trip again for the next day even though the agent said, “I’m not gonna lie…it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” Pfffsh! I love the ocean, I love boats, I’m going! Tomorrow!

Finding something to do in Ventura Beach wasn’t difficult. The National Park Center, the beaches, the shops, and restaurants provided plenty of entertainment.

The old time diner had marvelous food.
Lots of old cars
The ocean!

Finally, the morning of my projected “bumpy ride” arrived. After loading up on sunscreen, layering up, packing my pack with food and water and downing a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, I was ready to go! Side note: There is no water or food on the island. There IS a pit toilet. 😩

The ride was indeed bumpy but the day was gloriously sunny and warm.

The boat that got me there… Island Adventure

Upon arrival at the park, I learned that at one time the island was used for ranching. Mainly sheep. It was a family business and over the years with greed and family arguments, the land was eventually given over to the National Park Service and Nature Conservancy. The National Park has one side of the island and the Conservancy has the other side.

There are two major critters that everyone tries to see while here: The Santa Cruz Island Fox and the Island Scrub Jay. I got lucky and saw both. My reflexes weren’t fast enough for my own pictures but here are the critters as seen through the lens of another photographer.

The island is beyond beautiful even though the hiking goes up, up, up. Upon arrival at the top, the views are breathtaking.

There’s even a fair amount of plant life. I love seeing little flowers blooming among all the scrub and thistle. These little flowers made themselves known.

Finally, 3:30 arrived and it was time to head back to Ventura Beach. The wind had picked up considerably and as the man said, “It’ gonna be a bumpy ride!” But, we masked up, social distanced and enjoyed the ride back home.

New Beginnings

The Corona virus is a thief.

Covid-19 stole three big trips from me: Hawaii with my daughter, South Africa with my son, and Alaska with my husband.

The good news is that we are all healthy and the dreaded Covid hasn’t robbed us of our health or life. We are blessed.

My son, David, also thought that he had been robbed. His plan for 2020 was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail … a 2,650 mile trail that begins at the border of Mexico and ends at the border of Canada. But, officials told the would be PCT hikers to stay home. So, he did.

The PCT or Pacific Crest Trail map

Then in May, word quickly spread that the trail was slowly opening back up and hikers were welcome.

David got his gear together, invited me to head to San Diego with him, and off we went. We were a little nervous about the airport, the people, the masks, and social distancing but we believed in our ability to “be smart” as we traveled. The airport was a ghost town and so was the train. The airplanes were half full and impeccably clean! Food was given to us in ziplock bags and everyone wore face masks in the airport and on the plane.

We arrived in San Diego and found that airport to be empty as well. It was a strange feeling. We quickly adapted and began to enjoy the few days we had together before David would spend the next 5 months in the desert and mountains of California, Oregon and Washington.

We went to Coronado Island and had some excellent Mexican food at Miguel’s.

Miguel’s on Coronado Island

The beautiful Coronado Hotel

We were saddened to see that the fabulous Coronado Hotel which opened in 1888 and has been continuosly open for 132 years was closed due to Covid-19.

Heading back across the bridge into San Diego, we had some free time to enjoy some of the restaurants and breweries

One of the last times he will be well groomed for 5 months.

Then, on National Trails Day, with a loaded down pack and 5+ gallons of water, I dropped my son off in the little desert town of Agua Dulce. It was a small community with lots of horses on both sides of the canyon road.

The cactus in front of the sign says it all.

To get to the trailhead, it was up a gully washed rutted road that went straight up. Once there, I knew it was only minutes before he headed off into the desert alone to fulfill his dream of hiking the PCT. There was only one thing left to do…take as many pictures and get as many hugs as I could before I said, “Have a blast and hike on!”

The PCT marker which will guide his hike through three states.
That pack is heavy! I tried to lift it and oh my! It is loaded down with food and water.
But first….a selfie!
Checking on things one last time before hitting the trail.
And off he goes…

See that dot of blue headed into the desert? That was my final visual. It was a happy and sad sight all rolled into one. David living his dream. Me missing him already.

As I drove away, this was the first sign I saw as I stopped at the red light. I hope it’s a sign of good things to come for my first born and favorite son.

David Way

If you would like to follow his journey for the next five months, you can find his blog at www.rutteric.com.

If you feel like sending up some good wishes, prayers, or positive thoughts into the universe, they would be greatly appreciated.

“We’ve already bought the cheese and crackers!”

I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals in my adult life. Thankfully, I was not the one in the hospital bed but rather the one sleeping in the lie flat recliner beside the patient. I prefer to call it my “Delta One Bed”. The made up name just makes the bed seem a little more comfortable than it really is.

I first had the experience of staying nights in the hospital with my mother since I was the daughter that could sleep anywhere, anytime.  After my mother passed, it was time to stay with my father and then later with my husband. It’s important, in my opinion, for someone to be there to pay attention to details and provide help or comfort when needed.
But, sometimes, it is the caregiver who needs comforting. And, sometimes, the caregiver doesn’t even realize that she needs comforting. (more…)

Marriage…or Not

Traveling to Cuba this past week had me thinking about all sorts of things from politics to religion to lifestyles. Traveling always makes me think. This time, a chance encounter in the beautiful blue waters of the ocean left me pondering an age-old question.

I was floating around in the ocean on my hot pink inflatable float (more…)

Mr. George

A recent visit to the Birthplace of Mardi Gras brought the usual… bands, floats, parades, outlandish costumes and BEADS! It was fun to watch the parade and be in the line of fire of the “throwers” on the floats who not only hit us with beads and trinkets, but also with rice, ramen noodles, honey buns, and moon pies! Mardi Gras is a grand time.  (more…)

There’s no place like…

Traveling in Southeast Asia was new experience for me and one I totally embraced from the minute I walked off the plane.  The smells were different.  The people looked different.  The actions were different.  The food was different.  Sanitation was different.  Even the toilets were different.  I embraced it all.  Well… maybe not the toilets. (more…)

Traveling is a Hassle!

I’ve been preparing for a trip this holiday and I’ve been reminded just how much work preparing for extended travel is!  Let’s just cut this commentary short and sweet and make a list: (more…)


Lately, I find myself very eager to learn new things and have new experiences. I am, by nature, a curious person. Not as curious as Isaac Newton, (considered by some the most curious human of all time), but curious just the same. I am curious about people, places, nature, opinions, emotions, reasons, things, mechanics, physics, chemistry, religion….and the list goes on. (more…)

Order among Chaos

As Hurricane Willa makes landfall near the resort towns on the Mexican Riviera, I am reminded of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in Georgia and Florida. So many friends were affected by power outages, fallen trees, destroyed crops, and mangled houses. But, thankfully, no friends or family lost lives. As I reflect on that powerful storm and my experience, I want to share my observation as I outran the hurricane by going west.

My cousin and I had planned a trip which was to begin on the Florida Panhandle and end in Baton Rouge. We realized on the day before we were to leave that Hurricane Michael was at sea and was possibly headed directly to the area where we planned to spend part of our vacation. Undeterred, we decided to go forth with our plans and keep tabs on mighty Michael. As luck would have it, Michael decided he’d like to land in the exact same spot we were to start our trip. (more…)