Thursday, September 3, 2015

Keeping cool on the Keep Cool trail

The forest on the Keep Cool trail
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center on a Thursday with plenty of rain in the forecast. Our regularly scheduled hike was to head down south and a 65-mile (one way) drive, but nobody was all that excited about driving all that distance to walk in the rain. So, instead, we decided to hike up the Keep Cool trail. We've done it many times before, and a good deal of the trail is in the trees, which would keep us out of the direct rain. We started out in patchy sunshine and quite a few clouds, but no rain.
Crossing the meadow
At about two miles, we broke out into the meadow, following the trail up to a lookout spot where we usually stop for lunch. You can see it a little bit in the clouds, but we still had no rain, even though the clouds had thickened to keep us from having a view. (For comparison, look at this post, which was our first hike with Doug, who is now a seasoned Trailblazer.) We didn't mind much, since it wasn't raining and we had been expecting some downpours.
Rich, Bob, Dave, Peggy, Carol, Doug, Susan, and Al
This is not the entire group, but we stopped for a minute and I couldn't resist this picture. You can tell a lot from it: we are NOT wearing our rain gear, it's pretty warm, and we have gained almost all of the elevation at this point. Just a bit more, maybe another 500 feet before lunch.
Snow near our lunch spot
And what did we see as we climbed a little higher? Snow, fresh snow! Obviously the rain we had at lower elevations was descending in the form of snow up here. This is above 5,000 feet, more than 2,000 feet higher than our starting point. Time to stop and have our lunch. We also put on more clothes, since it wasn't anywhere near warm.
Settling down to have some lunch
As we started to eat our lunch, a few of the others went down to the nearest tarn (mountain lake) and one of our most avid swimmers, Rich, decided to take a dip! I wasn't there to capture it in all its glory, but I heard from Doug and Susan that it was spectacular. For some reason nobody joined him.
Carol took this of me with my new hat
On Saturday, I used my old rain hat for the first time in awhile, and then I seem to have lost it. I've looked high and low and it is not to be found, so yesterday I bought myself a new Seattle Sombrero. I found one with a purple top, which I like very much, and here you can see how it looks. It got a workout, since the fat snowflakes began to fall at about this point, and we continued to have precipitation for the remainder of the hike. Mind you, it was just a little bit, nothing like what we expected to face, so nobody really minded.
Fall colors, a little misty rain on our return trip
This is an out-and-back hike, so once we finished our lunch and wanted to warm up a little, we retraced our steps. It's pretty steep in places, and many of us managed to slip and fall on the return, but no real damage was done. Once we reached the cars, we had covered somewhere between five and six miles, with a fair amount of elevation gain, but we all had a pretty wonderful day, lots of fun, exercise, and great company. Now that I'm home, I can hear the rain outside, but it was never like that in the High Country today. We lucked out, that's for sure!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Things are returning to normal

My neighbor's grapes
The house right behind our apartment complex has a huge garden, and a grape arbor leads into their back yard. Every year there are a few grapes, but this year they are incredibly abundant! I couldn't help myself, I had to taste them and they are not your usual grapes, seedless and amazingly tasty. I might go over to their house and see if they would allow me to pick some that have grown outside their fence.
Kale and salad greens in my garden
Because of that incredible windstorm on Saturday, our power was off for a total of 35 hours before it came back. It began to flicker and then everything went dark about 11:00am on Saturday, and it was after 10:00pm on Sunday night when it came back on. We've been eating stuff that thawed in our freezer, but basically I'm just thankful that it's back already, as there are still many people in our area who will not get theirs back until sometime later today. It rained all day yesterday, but right now there is a lull in the rain so I went out to see how our community garden fared in all the wind and rain. I'm so pleased to see my kale looking so beautiful.
Surprisingly, my broccoli plant that I didn't pick earlier in the season has sprouted more florets and delicious leaves. I'll harvest this as soon as we can find a place for it in our very full fridge. I took a look around at the other plots in the garden, and I see that Keith's pumpkins are looking good, although his cornstalks all blew down. I suspect that he had already picked the corn.
Pumpkins and blown down corn on the right
Now that the ground has softened up, I can go out there and get my plot weeded and ready for next year's planting. I still also have tomatoes on the vine that are doing just fine, so they will stay for awhile longer. I sure do love this gardening business, having a produce garden right out my back door is wonderful!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rain, so welcome today!

Part of my walking group this morning
This morning it was raining HARD when I left to go walking with the usual group. I figured if nobody showed up, I would at least be able to head to the Y and get on the treadmill. But no, actually we had fifteen in total, and once we started to walk, the rain began to let up, and the wind picked up. This was no usual wind, because it swirled all around us and whipped up the trees.

By the time I got home, there was no power. And when I don't have power, I can't write blog posts! It's almost 6:00pm and I finally decided to head for town and see if I could find some place with internet. Avellino's doesn't have it yet, but I headed to the Community Co-op and they have it! So that's why I am sitting here with a decaf latte and writing this post so late.

I'm hoping by the time I get ready to write my Sunday Eye on the Edge post, our power will be restored. On the way here, I saw many traffic lights that are still not working, so I might be late tomorrow as well. I'm hoping not. Many trees and telephone poles were knocked down today, because it's early for one of these windstorms and all the trees still have their leaves.

But the rain is so welcome! We all agreed, down to the last person, on our five-mile morning walk! :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ptarmigan Ridge 2015

Mt. Shuksan behind the trail to Ptarmigan Ridge
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers got together this morning to enjoy a beautiful sunny day on Ptarmigan Ridge. When we all finally got together at the Glacier Ranger Station, we sent our four Super Hikers off to start ahead of the rest of us, since they were all in a car together and raring to go. That left nine of us to make our way along the ridge. I have to tell you, the picture above surprised me with what looks like a mountain sprite right in the middle. I don't know what it is really, but that's my story: a mountain sprite. The clouds were absolutely beautiful all day long.
Haze looking towards Baker Lake
The weather couldn't have been better, and we headed from Artist Point off to the ridge, admiring all the wonderful sights and enjoying a light breeze and cool temperatures. While we were looking off in the distance, we spied some mountain goats! I took this picture with my camera, using the zoom all the way out.
Mountain goats basking in the sun
We stopped for a clothing adjustment just before we got to Ptarmigan Ridge, and we remarked that it was just the kind of weather where as long as you were moving, you only needed light clothing, but once you stopped for any time at all, it felt cool with the breeze. Perfect hiking weather!
Linda, Al, Peggy, Ward, Kirk, Chris (Mt. Baker behind)
As we made our way along Ptarmigan Ridge, we saw plenty of other people on the trail, even though it's Thursday and school is back in session around here. But this is the last sunny day we are expected to have for at least a week. It was just delightful as we made our way to our lunch spot.
Haze (from fires?), sky, and shrubs turning color
I thought this picture turned out to be my very favorite of all I captured today. Interestingly, on the way back, all that haze was gone and the skies had cleared completely. I'm not sure if the wind direction changed, or what caused the difference. Earlier, I was thinking we were seeing the change between sunshine and rain, but now I'm not so sure at all.
Heading toward the Mt. Baker portals
 As we made our way towards our lunch spot along the ridge, the clouds thickened and the temperature dropped. We kept going, knowing that we had gained the majority of the elevation and just needed to stop at an appropriate place and have lunch. We expected that the Super Hikers were probably already on the top!
Rich, Doug, Dave (Roger took the picture)
I just received a set of pictures of Doug, who told me that they had lunch at the West Portal on the way to Mt. Baker. Can you see how close the mountain is to this spot? The rest of us stopped well short of the portals, and enjoyed a very nice lunch but noticed how cold it seemed. We turned around a little after 1:00pm to start our descent. This is an out-and-back hike, and we could only speculate where the Super Hikers might be. (We ran into them at Grahams when we stopped for ice cream.)
Our trail and M. Baker behind
What amazed all of us is how what seemed to be weather moving in just seemed to depart in an instant! When I looked back at the trail we had just covered, every single cloud in the sky was departing, with only a clear blue sky accented by a stiff breeze.
Jacqueline and me
Carol took this picture of Jacqueline and me, and although it was taken before our lunch (as you might notice from the clouds), I wanted to end this post with a picture that included me! The hike was around eight-ish miles in total (the Super Hikers added at least another three), with around 1,500 feet up and down (nothing like last week), but now I'm sitting in my chair, writing this post, and hoisting my wine glass to a simply wonderful day and wonderful friends!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall is here already

Trees turning color
Yesterday when I saw these trees from the bus, I realized that they are already begin to turn color. These particular trees become scarlet and very beautiful in the fall, and this is the start of their change. Today I was ready with my cellphone to take this picture. The black dots are on the bus window, and there are a few reflections since I took it on the fly through the window. I was actually pretty amazed it turned as this well. The wonders of the iPhone 6 camera.
My tomatoes, red and juicy
Then I went out to the garden to check on the progress of my tomatoes. As you can see, they are ripe, or almost so. I picked one off the vine and ate it and decided to let the rest stay there for a little longer. Plenty of the tomatoes are just beginning to get color, but these, as you can see, are ready to eat. Will they get sweeter if I leave them on there, or should I bring them in for the final ripening? Any instruction will be appreciated for this novice tomato grower.

By the way, my sister identified that spider for me. It's an Eratigena atrica, or giant house spider. When I first looked it up, I was unsure if it was the same one, since they are mostly found in Central and Northern Europe. Hmmm. But upon reading more, I found this:
The giant house spider is indigenous to north western Europe. However, it was unwittingly introduced to the Pacific Northwest of North America circa 1900 due to human activity and strongly increased in numbers for the last century. Its original habitat consists mostly of caves, or dry forests where it is found under rocks, but is a common spider in people's homes.
They show pictures of the nest and web of this spider, so I'll be checking around to see if I can find where this one might have come from. They only bite when provoked, and you can be assured I'll try very hard not to do so.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Another sunny Saturday

Crazy Sally, me, Carol Bee
I had a really nice lunch with some old friends on Wednesday, and I snagged a passerby (you can see his reflection in the upper right) for a picture. Sally and Carol used to hike with the Senior Trailblazers, but Sally moved away to the East Coast and is here for a visit. Carol still walks by herself but not with groups any more. She looks pretty good for 78, don't you think? We discussed being "young old" and "old old" and she revealed to me that she's in the latter group. Both Sally and I are still "young old" at 71 and 72, but we're getting there. Somewhere I read that one is considered "young old" from 65-75; "old old" 75-85, and "very old" after that. Makes sense.
Unidentified spider
I found this guy in my bathtub yesterday morning. He's pretty large, around 2" across including legs, and I managed to get him outside into a plant. He stayed still while I took this picture with my phone. After checking on line to see what it might be, I couldn't figure it out, since most of the descriptions suggested checking the markings on the underside. No, thanks! Anybody have an idea?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another fine day at Church Mountain

Joy's hands, Diane, Kirk, Susan, Bob, Doug, Al
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers gathered this morning to hike up one of our favorites: Church Mountain, with every possibility of making it all the way to the summit (around 9 miles and 3,800 feet elevation gain and loss). But first we needed to make it to our first view, and often our destination: the meadow.
Our first view of the meadow
This place is about three miles into the hike, and it was overcast with low fog but with every possibility that it might lift before we went much farther; in actuality the fog never gave us a view of the mountains. We went up at the same time last year, and even though we didn't have a great view then, it was even more socked in today. But the fog helped to keep it cool as we ascended.
Notice how dry it all is
We decided to let the fast hikers head on up first, and the rest of us would follow along a bit more slowly. That would be me, as I'm not in as good condition as I was two years ago, when I made it to the summit with the others. But back then we also had a great view, and today there would likely be nothing to see, so little reason to get there.
Blanket of fog rolling in
Every time it seemed like the fog might lift, it would begin to roll back in, as you can see in the picture above. Once in awhile I would look up from my feet and see that it looked as if the clearing was imminent, with bits of a view, but then we would suddenly be caught in a whiteout again. With ten of my fellow hikers ahead of me, I continued to trudge upwards.
Carol and Peggy stopping for lunch
When I reached this spot, I saw that Carol and Peggy had decided to stop here for lunch, as it was a little after 12:00pm. Al and I decided to stop here, too, while Lisa continued to the summit. I didn't see what the point would be to push myself to join the summiteers, when I had good company to share my lunch.
After a satisfying lunch
As you can see in this picture, the clouds didn't clear, but when I joined them by resting in the grass, I found that it was very warm from the radiant heat making its way through the clouds. The summiteers would have to pass us when they began back down. It was not far to the summit, but Al decided to rest instead of going upwards, so I did too.
Al's post-lunch snooze
You can clearly see the trail ahead, but we didn't have much desire to peel ourselves off the slope and join them. Soon the others began to descend, one or two at a time, and then we all began our final four-mile downhill trek to the parking lot. The four of us fell in and our trip to our starting point for some reason seemed much longer than the trip upwards. We laughed about the phenomenon we call the "trail stretcher" that makes the return seem so much longer than the beginning.

We finally made it to the cars and all headed off to Graham's for our ice cream before heading back home.  Now that I am at home with my wine half consumed, almost eight miles and 3,000+ altitude gain and loss under my belt, I am feeling very happy and glad to have gone out with my friends today. I am busy counting my blessings as I post this. Yes!