"Trask's Keen Observation and Love of Nature ..."
"Who Has Seen All These Islands Through A Poet's Eye ..."
"No Botanist Has Gone Over the Ground of the Islands So Conscientiously ..."
"In Wandering Over San Clemente ..."
BLANCHE TRASK
acknolwedged by
CHARLES FREDERICK HOLDER:
1908
in
THE CHANNEL ISLANDS OF CALIFORNIA

1. "No botanist has gone over the ground of the islands so conscientiously as Mrs. Blanche Trask of Avalon, who has given a most interesting account* of many plants which she has found on San Clemente. She found a new rattleweed (Astragalus robeartsii, Eastwood), which she named in honor of Johnny Robearts, who lived on San Clemente twenty years, and knew it intelligently and well; and in Chalk Cliff Canon a tree daisy, Encelia californica. Out on the points she found Euphorbia misera; but the rarest find was species of Lycium richii ... Mrs. Trask's discovery of one more specimen on San Clemente, Northwest Harbor, is an event, and it is to be hoped that it will be preserved from the fate of the Avalon specimen."

"Mrs. Trask reports from here a new species of Baccharis. Here, too, she found Trask's lotus, L. traskiae, named for her, and many more."

"One of the most interesting papers is that of Mrs. Trask previously referred to. In wandering over San Clemente you will come upon saxifrage; ... Eriophyllum nevinii, Aphanisma, and many more, all chronicled by Mrs. Trask in her list referred to."

"The following I take from Mrs. Trask's list: poppy (Escscholtzia ramosa; ... and many others, tributes to Mrs. Trask's keen observation and love of nature. Had one the enthusiasm of Dr. Hess he could write a book on the fungi of this and other islands alone, collected from rocks, trees, and shrubs by him and Mrs. Trask."

2. "No one has given more careful study to the plants and other features of Santa Catalina than Mrs. Blanche Trask, the island botanist, author, and poet, who resides at Avalon, and who probably knows the real heart of this island better than any one. One of the most attractive trees bears her name as discoverer - Trask's mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae), an extremely rare tree, not only limited to Santa Catalina, but very rare here. It attains a height of about twenty feet; its trunk is short and crooked, but picturesque."

3. Mrs. Trask has reported an interesting list, including Astragalus traskae, the ice plant, cream cups, the sea verbena, Hosackia, Suaedas, and others. Far away, gigantic in mirage, I saw a spectral horse.

4. "All my visits to San Nicolas were made in August and September. In February and March, after torrential rains, the island in parts shows not a little verdure, enough to support a large flock of sheep. Mrs. Blanche Trask, who has seen all these islands through a poet's eye, has collected about one hundred species of plants here, many of which were new. She found on San Nicolas, at its best in March, but one shrub over seven feet high, and leptosyne five or six feet ... I watched myriads of shags coming in from the sea, forming and reforming in a vast convention until the flock made a single black shadow of huge size on the clear water. I saw few birds beyond ravens, ospreys, eagles, shags, cormorants, snipes, and the brown pelicans, all of which were extremely tame, showing the ease of which the Lone Woman obtained the skins she used as protection against the wild wind of San Nicolas."

"No one can visit this interesting island, which was an empire in its way before the arrival of Cabrillo, without being impressed with the fact that here lived a real Robinson Crusoe whose life history is a part of the pathetic history of the world."


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 (that she called "Ischia"), 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 Charles Holder. Perhaps, his best compliment of Blanche Trask is the passage ... "Trask's keen observation and love of nature." Charles Holder was a writer, a promoter, sportsman, naturalist, and a scientist. He even helped begin the Tuna Club and a Marine Aquarium at the pier in Avalon at the turn-of-the-century of 1899-1901, 100 years ago!

Charles Holder recognized the varioius explorations of several Channel Islands by Blanche Trask by quoting her or paraphrasing her in nearly every chapter of his lengthy book. The only error by Charles Holder is the persistent use of "Mrs." since Blanche Trask was divorced by 1897, eleven years before Charles Holder's book was published.

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.

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 Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina) to the five islands that already make up Channel Islands National Park. Both Blanche Trask and Charles Holder would whole-heartedly approve of an "All Eight Channel Islands" National Park. It is only fitting that these three "southern" islands be added to the "name-sake" of the 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" as the current name would suggest. The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel), all four together, 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," San Nicolas is "West," and Santa Catalina is "East."



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