Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lower Salal trail

North Lost Lake trail on way to Lower Salal trail
Well, just to show that you can never anticipate what a day in the forest will look like, we stayed close to home today, rather than heading up to the wilderness as we had planned earlier. Why, you ask? I'll explain later. It turned out to be a beautiful day, if a little on the cool side, when we met at our usual Chuckanut trailhead. I had my friends Melanie and Dianne, and the wonderful dog Joe, to share the day with me.
Smiling Joe
We decided to hike up the North Lost Lake trail to the Lower Salal trail, which is a very pretty up-and-down delightful trail.
North Lost Lake trail
The Lost Lake trail meanders upwards at an easy angle, which is good because we knew we would be coming back on the Hemlock trail (which is a little steeper) after navigating the Lower Salal and part of the regular Salal.
Beginning the Lower Salal trail
You can see how this trail narrows to a single person track, after having been on the wide trail, and I am beginning to think this Lower Salal has become my favorite low-country trail. It's easy to get to and well marked and maintained.
Me and Joe
Melanie took this picture of the two of us, just as we were leaving the Lower Salal to join the next trail. We are both posing, as you can see. I am holding my breath so my belly wouldn't hang out over my pants, but I think it makes me look just a little silly. Joe looks natural, though.
Sun-dappled and delightful
Then we headed back to the cars, after a almost six-mile walk and wonderful company. We ended up passing perhaps a dozen people on the return trip, and everyone except one couple were masked. Our county is beginning to get the virus under control, since everyone is taking it seriously.

Now, about why we didn't go on a longer hike. My dear husband had a mild stroke on Sunday and spent the next two days and nights in the hospital. He is able to get around moderately well, but I knew that I didn't want to be gone all day, which would have happened if we had added another three hours just for travel. Hopefully we'll make it up there one of these days, but today was not the right time. I really needed to get out, and since I've been able to take my usual Thursday "forest bath," my spirits have risen and I can take whatever comes my way for the rest of the day.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What day is it again?

Dahlia in early morning light
I especially love how the light seems to be coming right out of these flowers. I took this picture as I and two friends were beginning a nice excursion into the forest from town. We walked, socially distanced of course, for around six miles before returning to town and the treat of a bear claw (which added back all those calories I'd burned on the walk).

One thing I can't get over is how much better I feel after a walk like that. And it's just about the only thing I can do with company these days. I still don't feel comfortable eating at a restaurant, even outdoors. But getting outdoors and moving always seems to help my mood.

The days are running into each other during this pandemic. It takes me a few minutes when I wake in the morning to figure out what day it is. I no longer have much of a schedule, and in the Before Times, I went to bed knowing exactly what the next day would hold. Of course, there were some interesting events that might spring up unintended, but that doesn't happen much when you are stuck inside with nowhere to go.

We are almost halfway through August, and we are experiencing a nice break from the heat. At this latitude, we are losing more than three minutes of daylight every day, which adds up to a noticeable difference in a week's time. Once we get to the end of August, many trees around here will have begun to turn into fall's brilliant hues. So, even though I'm having trouble finding out which day it is, I know that the seasons keep on turning, turning, turning.
But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you. —Stephen King

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Well, that was interesting

Chanterelle trail in the rain
Today Melanie and I tossed out our earlier plans for a long drive south, or even to the Mt. Baker Highway for a beloved hike, because our weather changed. Drastically. From last week's extremely hot temperatures, today we woke to a light rain and a cold front. The forecast called for a light rain in the morning, changing to sunshine by early afternoon. We decided to stay close to home and hike up the Chanterelle trail. It rained on us for most of the way.
The viewpoint 
I grumbled about the rain, which barely let up at all as we made our way up the two-and-a-half miles to this point, but just as we approached the viewpoint, the rain stopped and the clouds began to clear. It was like a switch had been flipped. Just like that, the heavy rain was gone, and August had returned after an interlude into fall-like weather.
Vibrant thistle
And just like that, my spirits lifted and I was suddenly interested in the flowers and plants surrounding me. Melanie suggested we walk up the trail for a short bit so we could extend the hike into a five-mile round trip excursion, and I agreed.
A beautiful drippy yellow flower
I'm not sure what this pretty flower is, but notice that it is still covered with lots of rain. It was such a quick change that it gave me a chance to get some lovely shots. And, as I said already, my mood went from gloom to sunshine, along with the skies.
A fairyland
Just before we emerged from the forest into the open, Melanie pointed out this spot, where the damp forest changes into a beckoning landscape, from darkness into light. And then we walked into partial sunshine as we made our way back down to the car. It was, all in all, a lovely outing, and I now feel quite happy to have been willing to get wet today.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hanging in there

Trail with leaves
We are now experiencing quite lovely weather, with the temperature hovering around 70°F (21°C) and a partly sunny sky. I know it might sound cool to some of my readers, but for me it's perfect. I just returned from a four-mile walk in the neighborhood in order to get in my 10,000 steps for the day. I was surprised to see that we are already losing some leaves, as you can see in the above shot, a precursor to fall, when the scene will be covered with more gold.
Magnificent old tree
I feel incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful places to get out and enjoy during this summer. This gorgeous old cedar tree stands on the trail to Fragrance Lake, which is just a short trip from my home. Well, relatively speaking, that is. I can get to the trailhead in a few minutes, but then climbing up to the lake would take awhile. I do stop to say hello to some of my favorite trees when I'm there.
And last Thursday, my friend Mel and I saw this lovely sight on the Heliotrope Ridge trail, off the Mt. Baker Highway. My spirits are lifted by sights like this one, and the wonderful feeling of the spray took my breath away. If I must be limited in my activities these days, I cannot express my gratitude enough to state what a difference it makes for me to be in nature, taking a "forest bath" now and then.

I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the outdoors wherever you are. It really does give you a chance to adjust your attitude and will bring a smile to your face, I hope.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Heliotrope Ridge

Me and waterfall
Today marks the first day this season when we made it up to the High Country. Melanie, Dianne and I headed up to Heliotrope Ridge off the Mt. Baker Highway near Glacier. When we started out, we noticed how warm it was, but still rather pleasant, since we were at a higher altitude than in Bellingham. This is the first stream crossing out of three (other than the one that has a bridge over it at the beginning of the trail). It was easy, and the water coming off the waterfall was simply delightful. But it turned out to be the only  crossing we were able to make.
Second stream crossing
Now this might not seem to be all that hard to cross, but after spending considerable time trying to find a way to cross without getting our feet wet, we watched several other hikers trying to cross, too, and nobody made it across without putting on water shoes or going barefoot. I had brought water shoes, too, but Dianne had not. We decided to turn around, retrace our steps, and instead go up a side road and look at wildflowers.
Mt. Baker
We also had a wonderful view of Baker, since we couldn't get near the glaciers on foot, we had to admire them from afar. That's goat's beard in the foreground, a lovely and very prolific plant in bloom right now.
We saw plenty of lupine, one of my favorite summertime flowers, on the side road. That's a lone Indian paintbrush looking very red, too. By the time we were snapping these pictures, it had grown very hot indeed.
Tiger lilies
We also saw lots of these pretty tiger lilies, which were everywhere along the side of the road. Although there were plenty more flowers, I was getting very hot and wished we could get back into the car where there was air conditioning. By the time we made it down to the town of Glacier, the temperature had reached 95°F (35°C), way too hot in my opinion. We also hadn't hiked very far, having been turned back from the trail, only having gone maybe four or five miles, before calling it a day.

But still. It was the first trip into the Mt. Baker wilderness this year, so I am happy that we managed to make it before the end of July. Next week we will try again, and hopefully it won't be so hot.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Hot time in the old town tonight

Rose beauty
Well, all that cool and cloudy weather we had last week is long gone. I just returned from an early walk, since it's getting way too hot in the middle of the day for me. Right now it's 74°F, which is about as hot as I ever want it to get. I know that there are lots of people who think that's on the cool side, but I'm not one of them. It is expected to get over 80° this afternoon, but Seattle is expecting it to reach the mid-nineties. Summer has definitely come to the Pacific Northwest. Somehow, I'll make it through.
Lady ferns and maidenhair ferns
We have so many beautiful ferns growing in the forests around here, and I just happened last week to see this juxtaposition of two of my favorite ones: lady ferns and maidenhair ferns. I learned some interesting information about them from those links. The maidenhair are those in the middle, looking roundish, and the outside ones are the lady ferns. Lady ferns are edible, enjoyed by grizzly bears, elk, and deer. From that link:
The leaves of the lady fern were used by native tribes to cover or place food onto, especially for berry drying. The fiddleheads were eaten in early spring. Lady ferns are a very popular landscaping fern due to their graceful and lacy frond.
I have always loved the maidenhair fern, because of its different look. I imagined its name came from perhaps young maidens placing them on their heads to look like a crown, but the name comes from quite a different source:
Maidenhair fern history is quite interesting. Its genus name translates to “non wetting” and refers to the fronds’ ability to shed rainwater without becoming wet. In addition, the plant is the source of an aromatic, volatile oil commonly used as a shampoo, which is where its common name of maidenhair derived.
So I've learned something interesting about these lovelies, and I've passed it along to you as well. I guess I've done enough today to give myself permission to continue my binge watching activity. I can never seem to find a way to stop, unless I get completely bleary eyed or fall asleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Fun, although without sun

Gate at beginning of Fragrance Lake trail
Today my friend Melanie and I went to Fragrance Lake instead of the long drive south we intended, because somehow the weather turned out to be less than stellar. At first we expected rain, but that changed quickly, although there were low clouds and no sun, meaning that it made more sense to stay close to home. Maybe we can get that hike in next week, but for today, we chose an old favorite, Fragrance Lake.
Bellingham Bay from the viewpoint
We took a short side trip to the viewpoint of the bay, since we knew this would not be a long hike and wanted to add some distance. The clouds reminded me of the wings of doves, soft grey and really quite lovely.
Pretty Indian Pipe
We didn't see many flowers, but Melanie had seen this plant on her last trip up into the area. I told her I had heard it called "ghost pipe," and it's actually quite an amazing plant. I found this information on the internet:
Monotropa uniflora, also known as ghost plant (or ghost pipe), Indian pipe or corpse plant, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. The plant is sometimes completely waxy white, but often has black flecks or pale pink coloration.
The thing that makes it so interesting is that it contains no chlorophyll, instead getting its energy from photosynthetic trees. I also learned from that link (above) that it has medicinal properties, having been used as a medicine that inhibits anxiety. Here's a closeup of the flower:
Monotropa uniflora
Also while on our way to the lake, we saw numerous beautiful ancient cedar trees. I asked Mel to take a picture of this one with me in it, so you can see the size of this beautiful old tree.
Two ancient artifacts
And then we headed to Fragrance Lake. As you can see here, there was little breeze, and the cool air made it seem very unlike midsummer. Not that I was complaining.
Fragrance Lake
We watched a young man walk out on that limb, all the way to the end. Although he was careful not to slip, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and placed it out of harm's way, just in case he might be taking a quick dip in the water.

We went back along the service road instead of the trail, giving us a nice six-mile loop. By the time we reached the trailhead, we were both happy to have been out and about, and pleasantly tired. but not tired out. It was a lovely time outdoors, and I realize how important it is to my mental health to enjoy the forest and turn my attention to the natural world. Although lately my Thursday hikes are mostly nearby and easy, it doesn't make them any less important to maintaining my equilibrium during these trying times.