BLANCHE TRASK
acknolwedged by
THOMAS HOWELL:
1898 to 1941
In a Scientific Paper Published with the
California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, California

"Most of these were described by Alice Eastwood in the only account of the flora of the island that has been published (Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. ser. 3, Botany, 1:89-120, 1898). Miss Eastwood's report was based on the collection of 1897 of Mrs. Blanche Trask, intrepid and ingenious explorer of the southern members of the Santa Barbara Islands, where several rare endemic plants are named in her honor."


OBSERVATIONS OF A NATURALIST FROM THE 21st CENTURY
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her California wild nature exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915 (spanning 20 Years). Her winter home was located adjacent to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located.

Blanche Trask also explored some of the desert mountains of the west, such as the San Jacinto Mountains, Colorado Desert, Death Valley, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Yellowstone. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as John Thomas Howell, Curator of the Herbarium for the California Academy of Sciences at San Francisco.

Thomas Howell recognized the botanical exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask. The only mistake by Thomas Howell is the use of "Mrs." since Blanche Trask was divorced by 1897. Mr. Howell is great in placing Miss Blanche Trask and Miss Alice Eastwood together in the same paragraph as they were a kind of "mutual admiration society." Obviously, Mr. Howell recognized that both women respected each other tremendously. Both were independent explorers in their own right. Thomas Howell and Alice Eastwood explored together for plants regularly, such as in the 1930's when they used their new "field" car that they named "Lucy." They explored with "Lucy" such places as the Carrizo Plain and the Southwest Desert's mountains. Howell, Eastwood, and Trask, all three, loved "wild"flowers and the "wildness" of the west, including high "wild" places of the mountains. Both Trask and Eastwood loved trees especially. Today, we would most certainly call them ecofeminists. I would term myself an ecofeminist as well. I would place Thomas Howell as an ecofeminist as well in his philosophical-ethical tendencies. Eastwood and Trask travelled together, as noted by Eastwood, but so did Eastood and Howell as mentioned above. Alice Eastwood did an inspiring eulogy of Blanche Trask, that was noted by Willis Jepson in his journals in 1916. Jepson noted that Alice placed sprigs and branches of Trask Mahogany on the casket of Blanche. A few months after the funeral, Alice Eastwood visited Catalina in the spring of 1917. Was this visit to Catalina, apparently Eastwood's visit, a "kind of good-bye to Blanche," and were ashes distributed on Catalina? Did Miss Eastwood travel to Catalina to visit people who would have known Blanche Trask or to explore Catalina for botanical specimens? Miss Eastwood did collect plants during this 1917 trip to Catalina.

Blanche Trask appreciated the desert landscapes of the southwest, as noted in her letters to Willis Jepson, but the California Channel Islands is her "sense of place." Indeed, the Channel Islands have a "desert feel" to them, if one spends some time on them. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island.

Interestingly, Thomas Howell was completing a PhD at the University of California (Berkeley) under Willis Jepson, but a difference of opinion caused Thomas Howell to leave the University. He went across San Francisco Bay to the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco) to work with Alice Eastwood. In this brief synopsis, we see how Blanche Trask via her botanical exploration and geography of San Nicolas Island, that it all weaves together, that the greater good of nature, botany, wildness, and island geography, link together four great botanical explorers: Trask, Eastwood, Jepson, and Howell."

The above narrative was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 7, 2000, for educational and inspirational purposes in the hope of someday adding the last three "southern" islands (San Nicolas, San Clemente, Santa Catalina) to the five islands that already make up Channel Islands National Park. Both Blanche Trask and Alice Eastwood would whole-heartedly approve of a "All Eight Channel Islands" National Park. Thomas Howell would also most certainly approve of this National Park. Mr. Howell was fond of the Sierra Nevada National Parks of Yosemite and Sequoia and always intended to do a flora of these Sierra Nevada Parks. Therefore, it is only fitting that these three "southern" islands be added to the "name-sake" -Channel Islands National Park. If not, I propose that we change the National Park name to more accurately reflect truth: "Eight Channel Islands-Minus Three National Park." My point is that this "great" National Park is not "greater" but "lesser" than the current name would suggest. The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) are a much greater distance from Santa Barbara Island than the three in question. These three "southern" islands are not far from Santa Barbara Island, which, by the way, already is in the National Park. Each of the three "southern" islands is roughly 20 miles from Santa Barbara Island but in different compass directions. San Clemente is "South," Santa Catalina is "East," and San Nicolas is "West,"




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