Signal Hill has long been a communications point on the Southern California landscape. In an earlier era, Native Americans signaled their brethren with fire and smoke, from Santa Catalina Island to the foothills of the Coastal Range bordering what is now L.A.

Today the signals are electronic, connecting us--at the click of a mouse--to vast, new worldwide networks.

Friday, July 29, 2011

82-Year-Old Biochemist & Trekker Knows About Exercise

"I like to measure things," says retired scientist Mort Civen, as he describes the benefits of walking on Signal Hill. He can tell you exactly how much his blood pressure is reduced with his time on the Hill.

With a Harvard Ph.D. in Biochemistry and 28 years conducting research on the adrenal gland (A "key to life," he says.) in his lab at the Long Beach Veterans Administration facility, you expect this 82-year-old trekker and fitness advocate to know what he's talking about.

Civen points to the physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise; just  a little time on the trail, he says, and any hint of depression vanishes.

He's lived in Signal Hill for 25 years and now that he is retired, he walks daily on the Hill, alternating between trails on the north and south sides of the Hill, while listening to classical music on his iPod.  He is very grateful to the City of Signal Hill for making its semi-rustic trails available to all.

He walks with two lightweight, German-made LEKI trekking poles, with built-in shock absorbers, to give himself an upper body workout and to take a little pressure off his legs.

Civen is no newcomer to trekking, however. Several times, he took extended hikes in Nepal, including a visit to the famous Mt. Everest Base Camp.  He has also bagged peaks in Patagonia, Peru, Bolivia, California Sierras, and used to regularly hike up our local Mt. Wilson.

When talking with Civen, you understand its not just about physical health.  It's clear he's considered carefully what's important in this life, and he's willing to share it.  He reads--mostly about science--he walks, he listens to music, he enjoys the beauty of nature, and travels to distant lands and visits exotic cultures.  He's currently planning  his next overseas trip to New Zealand.

"I feel lucky," he says, to be healthy and so fully engaged in life.  He shares all this with his two daughters--a teacher and a medical doctor--living in Southern California, grand children, and his artist partner-companion with whom he lives.

And I feel lucky to have had this Pleasant Encounter with one of Signal Hill's "regulars."

He also wears a cool hat, just laundered.

---  RCH

(For more, click on the Pleasant Encounters label below or the slide show above right.)


  1. I've met Mort and he is terrific! And his partner is a dear friend of mine.

  2. ... a comment from another great "regular" on the Hill.

  3. He is adorable! I hope I'm as healthy when I'm 82!

  4. I met Mort on the trail again today and, the conversation turned to his use of trekking poles.

    He said, "I guess I'm proof of the pudding. I've been using these poles for 20 years, and I still haven't had a hip or knee replacement."