Northern California Glory

Paul and I recently returned home from a two week trip to Northern California. Our roots as a couple spread along this northern coastline.* On Southwest Airlines we flew to San Francisco, then rented a Camry and cruised south, exiting the bay area, finally winding through the Redwood lined Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range, taking us to the little community of Mount Hermon where we met 37 years ago.

A Mount Hermon lane carved within the Redwoods.

A Mount Hermon lane carved within the Redwoods.

Mount Hermon is a Christian Conference center with conference facilities, mountain cabins, and a post office. Besides the conference participants coming and going, over 1,000 people dwell year round in these hills densely populated by towering Redwood trees and ornate foliage.

While in college, Paul lived with three other guys in a three story, brown cabin-like house owned by Mr. and Mrs. Miller nestled precariously on the slope of one such hill in Mount Hermon. 

View of the house once known as Miller's Monastery from the lane above. From here, one cannot tell two more stories descend below it.

View from the lane above of the house once known as Miller’s Monastery. From here, one cannot tell that two more stories descend below.

The guys painted a large, brown sign with gold colored letters and planted it in front. “Miller’s Monastery,” the sign read in clear print with a smaller line below: “A Tentative Association.” It is to this house we returned.

Mr. Miller’s daughter, Katie, and her husband, Wayne, have lived there for many years now. When our girls were young, we took them there to meet our friends and play with their girls. Paul and Wayne graduated from high school together in Crescent City, a coastal town near the Oregon boarder. Nearly four years later, it was Wayne who prayed with Paul when Paul invited Jesus into his life. That was forty years ago!


Mr. Miller built this three story home in the Redwoods back in the ’70s next to his house which his son and college friends rented .




Some forty-five or so years ago, Mr. Miller built another three story, brown house up the slope on the same mountain property. Today, Mr. Miller lives there, quietly resting in his bed as Alzheimer’s slowing readies him for his heavenly home where Barbara, his wife, moved less than two years ago.




Wayne, Katie, and their daughter, Kerri, take good care of Dad/Pa, with the assistance of some professionals and planned visits from other family members. They model how a family works together as a team over the decades, with the oil of God’s grace, accepting the tough challenges and embracing joys tiny and large — well fought for and gratefully received.

We stayed at Wayne and Katie’s from Monday evening until Thursday morning and then headed back to San Francisco and on to Crescent City. Thankfully, that short, Mount Hermon visit set the stage for the rest of our coastal travels. Wayne and Katie were married before Paul and I met, actually, about the time I moved from Winona Lake, Indiana (a mid western Christian conference center town) to Scotts Valley, California (up the road a few miles from Mount Hermon). Returning to this area along with the entire trip brought our past to the present.

I wonder what it would be like to live one’s whole life in the same area. All the seasons of one’s life would mingle. The people you knew would know you in context and history.

Mount Hermon begins the history of Karen and Paul. Wayne lives in Paul’s history from childhood. The four of us ate at a favorite restaurant, Eric’s Deli in Scotts Valley, near where I once taught at Baymonte Christian High School.

Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz.

Paul and I walked along Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz on a breezy, cool afternoon.

Paul and I drove to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and walked around Seabright Beach south of the boardwalk.

I learned to stay up late at Wayne and Katie’s in order to be part of great conversations with our friends. We visited Mr. Miller next door in his hospital bed located in his dining room. I sang “Oh, How He Loves You and Me” to Mr. Miller. It is a soothing song I used to sing to my babies. Mr. Miller smiled at us. He ate a salad that Katie fed to her father. His eyes connected with ours. We are so thankful for his gentle demeanor. Paul prayed over him.

We remembered meals there with the family and his wife present. This was/is a pleasant home, snug above a winding trail carved in the Redwoods. I feel a bit like a hobbit in this setting. It is like going both back in time and into another world. I like the quiet sounds of nature: the rush of the wind, the songs of the birds. I love to see the refracting sun rays cut their way between branches and leaves.

In Mount Hermon, I made my adjustment from the dry air and intense sun of the central highlands of Arizona to the nippy breezes, cool houses, and fresh foggy mornings of the Pacific coast’s mountain redwood country. It was the end of July, but I wore my winter, velour night gown every night. My summer nightie never left the suitcase for the entire two weeks.

In these mountains, I always feel enclosed by the mammoth trees, kindly so as if God created them to protect us from something beyond. The view is immediate: lacy foliage, thickly textured bark, intensely green, clustered pine needles; no horizon exists; sun rays fight their way through as welcomed intruders. All of this is quite the opposite of the wide, Pacific seascape nearby or the broad and bright Arizona meadowscape far off. God designs diverse majesties.

Thursday morning, we headed back to San Francisco anticipating a delightful twist in our journey. Our daughter, Amanda, a Software Dev Engineer for Expedia in Chicago, was attending a week long tech conference in downtown San Francisco. Delightfully, our trips overlapped!

Paul, Karen, and Amanda Olsen after a satisfying brunch at Cafe de la Presse in the heart of San Francisco.

Paul, Karen, and Amanda Olsen after a satisfying brunch at Cafe de la Presse in the heart of San Francisco.

We met her at Cafe de la Presse on Grant Avenue near China Town for brunch and shared an hour and a half with her! Ha! We live in Arizona, she in Illinois, and we met in the heart of the bay city!

How tantalizing for a mother to see her daughter for 90 minutes and then to have to leave her! (“I left my heart in San. . . .”) Yet, it was worth it.

The day was a typical, cool, foggy SF day.


Over the Golden Gate Bridge we drove, as we began a beautiful drive on Rt. 101 heading to Crescent City.

Driving over the Golden Gate bridge, the cables disappeared into the mist. On we drove on Route 101 taking about seven hours to get to Paul’s home town near California’s northern border, Crescent City.

I remember the first time Paul took me to his home some 36 years ago. I remember taking our daughters there many times, driving from SF on Rt. 101 north.





Yes, our roots as a couple and a family

spread along this coastal region following the Redwoods.

We journeyed north remembering old and facing new adventures.

To be continued. . . . !



Mr. and Mrs. Elk leisurely cross Rt. 101                          as we near The Trees of Mystery.

*Note:  Some years ago as we traveled along the California coast south of Paul’s home town of Crescent City, I took this rugged coastal view photo you see in my JNC heading at the top of my blog.  One can never tire of these glorious views!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Northern California Glory

  1. Marty and Brenda Zuidervaart

    Your words to describe the Mt Hermon scenery are exquisite, Karen. I met Brenda at the age of 16 in Mt Hermon at a youth camp. Thank you for the nostalgia!

    • kltolsen

      Ah, yes. What a place to meet the love of one’s life! I met Paul in Mount Hermon at a singles’ Bible Study held weekly in someone’s home (I don’t remember whose home) on a Thursday evening in February of 1979. That summer, I moved to Mount Hermon, sharing a four bedroom rental house with three other female friends located off one of those winding trails behind the post office. We girls called our place “The Convent.” Two unions emerged from “The Monastery” and “The Convent.” Both are going strong. And happily, so is yours, Marty and Brenda!

  2. What a wonderful read! You make me glad Katie and I stayed in Mount Hermon. We feel blessed every day. The “Monastery” is a permanent retreat for us.

    • kltolsen

      Yea! I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of you and Paul in this post. I had one set to insert but it got lost somehow. I don’t know what I did or where it went! When I find it, I may include it in another post. We’re glad you are still in Mount Hermon and that your home is still like a retreat — but not a monastery!!

  3. Nice article!

    • kltolsen

      Thanks! I’m now in Findlay, Ohio, where I was born, so it’s Northern Ohio Glory! Keep enjoying God’s amazing creation!!

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