Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mission Santa Clara de Asis

Along the Mission Trail

I was immediately struck by how beautiful the Mission Santa Clara church is.  Rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1926, the new church was built in the more popular neo-colonial style.  I love its simplicity.  From the visitor's parking lot, you turn left and there it is in the distance behind a large fountain. It is in the center of an equally beautiful university campus--the only one of the missions located on college grounds.  In fact, the Mission Santa Clara and its surrounding land was the site of the first college of higher learning in the new state of California.  This makes this particular mission an important stop on the mission trail.

I also found it interesting that this mission transferred from Franciscan hands to Jesuit ones.  The year was 1851. After being banished by Spanish Royalty in 1767, they were once again in control of a mission. Today, Santa Clara University is a Catholic, Jesuit run institution.
This mission was founded in 1777 by Padre Junipero Serra.  It was the 8th of the 21 missions in Alta California.  He named it after a woman--a very rare thing in those days!  Chiara Offreduccio was born into a noble Italian family, but left her privileged life in order to follow Francis of Assisi in 1212.  Inspired by the Franciscans' austere lifestyle and compassionate teachings, she started her own order, commonly known as The Poor Clares.  The nuns went barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and lived in silence.  In 1216, she became abbess of San Damiano.  She was canonized in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV and has been known as St. Clare ever since.

Statues of her at the Santa Clara mission represent an event which purportedly took place in 1240.  She stepped outside her convent with a massive staff and a receptacle containing the Holy Eucharist and faced a group of marauding mercenaries who were about to ransack the town of Assisi.  It is said that the sight of this courageous woman of faith made them retreat.

The interior of the church is very beautiful, as well, with several religious statues and paintings of note.  I picked up a self-guided tour brochure when I entered and read it as I walked through the mission's sanctuary and chapels. 
Padre Junipero Serra

The above adobe building is the oldest one on campus.  It was originally used for the storage of food and today is a dining room for the university staff.  The olive trees are the same ones used by the early padres.

The first Santa Clara mission was built along the banks of the Guadalupe River, but was relocated five different times because of fire, floods and earthquakes.  The current site was chosen in 1822. It was considered to be a successful mission with a large population of Indians from the Ohlone tribe.  More baptisms were registered here than at any other California mission.  However, because of its proximity to the San Jose pueblo, there were continuous disagreements over cattle, water and land.  When the Alameda was built between the pueblo and the mission church, the road helped to ease the tensions a bit.  The pueblo's citizens could now easily attend Sunday service and became part of the mission community.

Even when secularization occurred in the 1830's, the mission continued to be used as a parish church, unlike the other missions.  Nevertheless, with only one priest in attendance, it fell into disrepair.  Of course, once it was transferred over to the Jesuits and the decision was made to build a college on the mission grounds, the place was quickly restored to its former glory (and then some!)

On the day we were there, the campus was being readied for graduation ceremonies.  Getting in the way of caterers and gardeners and stressed-out students, we left the main campus area and walked around the back of the church where hundreds of roses lined the sidewalks.  I don't know what it is about these mission gardens, but the roses they grow are among the most beautiful flowers in the world. 

As we left, I couldn't help but point at the big cross on the way out and tease my travel buddy. 
"Only one more mission to go," I told him.

"Thank god," he muttered.

 "He that perseveres to the end shall be saved, you know."

"Harrumph.  I just want a cold beer and a plate of nachos."

I didn't dare mention the ten missions in Baja I have yet to see!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Climbing Bishop Peak

The Nine Sisters
Central California

I'm not done with California yet.  Far from it.  There are still many places to explore in this diverse and beautiful state.  Because I have family there, I will be making an annual pilgrimage to see them AND to visit all those places I didn't quite get to.  Climbing all Nine Sisters in San Luis Obispo County was one goal I started, but didn't finish.  In 2014, my travel buddy and I climbed Cerro San Luis.  Last week we climbed another one--Bishop Peak.

Bishop Peak is the highest of the Nine Sisters at 1,559 feet.  It is a challenging hike, but a popular one.  Even though it was a weekday, there were several hikers on the trail.  Most of them were millennials and I was happy to hear one young man call this hike "intense."  Why?  Because part of the trail is a scramble over boulders and it takes strength.  It begins with an easy trail through a scrub oak forest but then a series of rocky switchbacks take you to the summit with alot of huffing and puffing to get there.  I thought I was in good shape after all the hiking I do in the Pacific Northwest, but this hike took me a full three hours to complete.  Guess I'm not in that great of shape!

"Don't be so hard on yourself," my travel buddy reminded me.  "We stayed at the top for nearly an hour!"

Oh . . . right.  (And I stopped often to take pictures!!!)

There are a couple of places to pick up the trail.  We started at Patricia Drive.  To get to the trailhead, take exit 203B in San Luis Obispo, from Highway 101.  Drive north for one mile toward Morro Bay and then turn left on Highland Drive.  Drive half a mile, then turn right on Patricia Drive.  Go another mile where you will spot the trailhead sign, opposite several houses.  Park on the street.  It is a 4.2 mile round trip hike from here.

Compared to the Cascades, these mountains (hills?) are puny, but in geology-speak, they are far from it.  The Cascades are less than 2 million years old and the highest peaks are young--a mere 100,000 years old.  But the Nine Sisters?  These babies were created 20 million years ago!  What I am climbing are all that's left of these ancient giants--their volcanic plugs.  I am walking on the congealed lava that once filled the vent inside the mountain.  I swear it gives me the shivers thinking about it.
 These volcanic plugs range in height from Morro Rock at 576 feet to Bishop Peak at 1,559 feet.  They stretch from the city of San Luis Obispo to the ocean.  Not all of them can be climbed, however, so my goal may not be attainable.  The five that have public access are Black Hill at 665 feet, Cerro Cabrillo at 9ll feet, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis at 1,292 feet and Islay Hill at 775 feet. 

Climbing Morro Rock is forbidden because it is sacred to the Chumash.  Hollister Peak, Cerro Romauldo and Chumash Peak are all privately owned.  I will keep checking, however, hoping . . . hoping. . . hoping . . . that one day there will be access.
At the summit is a bench marking the end of the trail.  The views of San Luis Obispo and the other Sisters are amazing from up here. 

It was a glorious day.  A glorious hike.  Can't wait to return.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Marina del Rey

They are pretty, aren't they?
These boats bobbing in
their own reflections.
Neglected by the one percent
To be boarded.

They are admired, aren't they?
For their flawless hulls and
polished brass
Lines touching with tension
To be untethered.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Climbing Beacon Rock

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

I can't believe it's taken me this long to climb one of the Columbia River Gorge's most majestic icons:  The 848 foot monolith, Beacon Rock.  Why?  Intimidation.  Pure and simple.  I didn't think I had the strength.  Or be able to control my dizziness.  But let me tell you, folks, it's a PIECE OF CAKE.  AND SO MUCH FUN.

I had one of those shit-eating-grins on my face during the entire climb.

The trailhead begins at the parking lot of Beacon Rock State Park on Highway 14, near Stevenson, Washington.  The climb begins very gently with a stroll through a shaded forest.
But then the real fun begins--a series of switchbacks and wooden bridges that take you up and around the south side of the rock.  The engineering of this trail is a remarkable feat.  To think it was built 100 years ago is an amazing fact in and of itself.  It is one of the oldest trails in the Columbia River Gorge.
There are railings to hold on to the entire way and the boardwalk bridges are well maintained.  I never felt frightened; I felt elated.  The views along the way are breathtaking.

We were at the top in no time.


Other hikers soon joined us.  One family was from Alaska.  We were actually embarrassed to admit this was our first time here and we're local!

Climbing to Beacon Rock is going to be our "Go To" hike when out-of-town guests come to visit us.  Because of the switchbacks, the climb is very gentle.  There were many folks older than us who were attempting it.

Lesson Learned:  Don't let intimidation stop me from having fun.  Ever again.