Saturday, July 4, 2015

A great way to start the holiday

Helen, Ebba, Peggy, Cindy, Terry, Penny
Fifteen of the Fairhaven walkers met at Cindy's home (she's our leader) for our annual Fourth of July walk and potluck. (The Cindy in the picture above is a fellow walker, not the hostess.) This is the first time since I joined the group that the holiday falls on our regularly scheduled Saturday. We gathered in the cool of the morning (8:00am) and took off for a hilly four-mile walk right from Cindy's front door.
Our trail
We are so fortunate to live in a place that gives you the opportunity to walk out a front door and in just a few minutes reach a fantastic maze of trails. We walked for about an hour and then came back to enjoy a really wonderful potluck together.
On Cindy's back porch
Cindy's back porch is shaded by some enormous trees, and we settled down to the task at hand, to experience some fabulous dishes brought by our friends. We only had a few cooked dishes, because it's been so warm, but the variety of flavors was wonderful.
I had a really interesting dish among all the others: watermelon squares seasoned with feta cheese and basil. It sounds a little strange, but it was simply wonderful. I brought curry lime chicken from the Co-op, which I've had before and knew everyone would enjoy (they did).
Me showing off my earrings
I received many compliments on my shirt and earrings. Ebba, in that first picture, is an artist who creates wonderful glass earrings, among other things, and I bought these from her. The shirt is a Royal Robbins UPF 50 shirt that is supposed to keep the sun from burning through. I wanted it in white (so it would be cooler), but they didn't have one in my size, so I got this one. Fortunately it matched my Ebba earrings perfectly.

I think I'll settle in for the day and stay inside where it's cooler. We've got a teeny bit cooler temperatures today (it's only supposed to reach 82) before ramping back up to 93 tomorrow. Hope you stay cool and safe on America's 239th birthday today!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chain Lakes on a hot sunny day

Ward, Linda, Susan, Roger, Bob, Diane Peggy, Carol, Rich, Chris
Today we had eleven Senior Trailblazers head out for a loop hike of around eight miles. We've done it several times before, but this was the earliest I can remember us attempting the loop, which usually has plenty of snow to deal with. Not this year. Our nonstop sunshine and low snow level from last winter has given us a chance to attempt hikes we usually make at the end of summer. In fact, I found that last year we made this hike at the end of August with plenty of clouds and saw mountain goats!
Mt. Baker from the trail
We decided to make the hike in reverse order from our usual direction, and we went up the Wild Goose Trail (very steep) to Artist Point and then began our trek down to Chain Lakes, with the intention to stop at Iceberg Lake (our usual lunch spot) and then head up Herman Saddle and back down to the cars via the Bagley Lake Trail.
Beautiful wildflowers
We noticed that the wildflowers were only really abundant when they had a water source. And those sources are drying up quickly. We were all very glad we made this hike today, since most of us think that in a month, when we usually try this hike, they will be all gone and it will be totally dry, if conditions continue as expected.
Iceberg Lake and four Trailblazers swimming
As soon as we reached the lake, four intrepid hikers tore off their clothes and jumped in. Since it had been so hot, I believe their shouts of joy and screams of delight made a few of us think that maybe we were missing something. A few of us headed down to the lake to... take off our boots and get our feet wet!
Me, Carol, Linda (taken by Chris)
Although it felt really good, I realized that taking a pair of flip-flops (as Chris had done) was a great idea for walking on slippery rocks. However, my feet were very appreciative anyway and sent little frissons of joy up to the rest of my body. Maybe next time I'll consider actually jumping in.
Lupine and daisies
Right now all around the lake are spectacular fields of wildflowers. There were also a few biting flies and even a stray mosquito or two, but basically that's another benefit of the dry weather, the bugs are not all that bad. That said, we hauled out the repellent while we enjoyed our lunch.
Iceberg Lake with Mt. Baker
And then we headed up to Herman Saddle, an uphill slog in full sun, with a light breeze the only positive element as we climbed up. I stopped to rest and saw this wonderful picture of Mt. Baker, with Iceberg Lake, our lunch spot, looking perfectly serene. And even a little tiny cloud! 
Shuksan Moutain, with Trailblazers in the foreground
We made it to the saddle and then headed down to the Bagley Lake Trail, which would lead us to the cars. Without our usual hike leader Al, we had to take the word of our other hikers as to the distance covered, and we decided that it was an honest eight miles, with somewhere around 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. In this kind of heat, it was not what I would call an easy hike.
Carol and wildflowers
This is the last picture I took, of Carol among the amazing wildflowers, before I just put my head down and placed one foot in front of the other until we reached the cars. I was very tired, but as soon as I got there, I began to feel better. We piled into our respective cars and headed down to Graham's for some ice cream. And then home. Now I am showered, wined, and soon will be dined to celebrate the end of a wonderful day. We missed Al, who was busy getting some medical procedure or other, but I look forward to his return next week. All in all, a very good day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thinking about the long hot summer ahead

Lots of green tomatoes in my garden
The one good thing about all this heat and sunshine is that I will probably have a ton of tomatoes to enjoy before this summer is all over. This year I planted two varieties. This one is from Joe's Garden, called Red Pac, an early intermediate sized tomato. I've only planted cherry tomatoes in previous years because, after all, it's the Pacific Northwest and often tomatoes don't have a chance to ripen. Not this year. It's still June, and I've got an amazing number of green tomatoes and lots of flowers still coming out.
Rob's awesome raspberries
My gardening neighbor Rob has an incredible crop of raspberries and went out of town yesterday. He suggested that I help myself to some of these guys, since he won't be able to harvest them himself. They are literally falling off the vines onto the ground. I did pick a few yesterday and will go out there after awhile and gather some more. They don't last long once I bring them in the house. I saw in the paper today that the commercial pickers are out in full force, since all the fruit is ripening much earlier than normal.
Carol and her lovely front porch flowers
My apartment neighbor Carol has many more flowers to water on her front porch than I do, and she had just picked up one that had fallen and showed it to me. We marveled at its complexity and beauty. And that tree on the already-brown front lawn is one of those that had been butchered a little more than a year ago. I didn't believe they would come back the way that have. I guess they knew what they were doing.
A lovely pistil on this flower, eh?
I just went on line quickly to see if that yellow curly thing is indeed called a flower's pistil. That was what we were speculating as we admired it. (I'm not sure what the flower is called, either.) So that is the good part of all this sun and hot weather. But the other side is what is happening in parts of my state: the town of Wenatchee has an out-of-control wildfire that has already burned 25 or so homes in the last two days. It's called the Sleepy Hollow fire and is only 10% contained as of this moment. Many more homes are in jeopardy, but the firefighters are hard at work.

And with Independence Day right around the corner, with all those fireworks, I'm worried about what might happen. On our weather channel, it shows temperatures in the mid-80s to 90s and not a drop of rain as far out as they forecast. On the east side of the Cascades, temperatures are in the triple digits. I've got my fingers crossed that we will get through all this intact.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A momentous week

Terry showing what's left of Chuckanut Creek
My morning walk with the ladies started at the Ferry Terminal and traveled down to the Arroyo Park trailhead and over the bridge that spans Chuckanut Creek. I was really shocked to see how little water is in the creek, and we are just now starting our normal dry season. In the fall, the salmon spawn in this creek, but who knows what will happen this fall? Terry would normally be standing in water to mid-calf. Not this year. And hot? We Pacific Northwesterners are not used to this kind of heat, and it's just beginning. Our summer usually starts (read: dries out) after the 4th of July.

But! Most momentous of all this week are the two Supreme Court rulings that surprised me. The Obamacare challenge worried me the most, because if they had ruled against it, the cost of everybody's insurance would have skyrocketed. I was so relieved when I heard the news that I woke up Smart Guy (it was 7:00am here) and told him about it. And that the ruling was 6-3 surprised me even more.

And then yesterday, they affirmed that gays have the right to marry in every state in the nation. This one was a 5-4 decision, but still, it means that we have now joined twelve other nations in recognizing that we are all equal under the law. I didn't expect this one.

Oh, and we got our advance directives for our end-of-life care notarized and filed, and today I sold my skydiving gear to a wonderful young woman. What a week! It will take me awhile to integrate it all.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sauk Mountain, Sauk Lake, and oh the flowers

Trailblazers moving the tree
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center this morning to carpool down past the town of Concrete to the Sauk Lake trailhead. It's a long drive for a fairly short hike, but we expected it to be gorgeous, and it was. But first, as we started down the seven-mile-long access road to the trailhead, we discovered that this tree had fallen right in the middle of the road, blocking our access. Fortunately we had enough good strong fit men to get it moved out of the way, and then we continued our journey to the trailhead.
Trailhead signage and yes, we watched out for bears
We finally got started a little after ten in the morning, with the weather simply perfect. In the shade it was even a little cool, but those high clouds didn't help us with the temperature, which continued to grow warmer as the day wore on, even as we exclaimed at the fabulous flowers everywhere. We hit this trail at its peak of wildflowers.
Our first view of Mt. Baker
As we climbed higher, the views of the surrounding mountains grew more spectacular. Although I didn't get a picture of it, we could also see Mt. Rainier off in the distance. We stopped now and then to identify a flower we didn't recognize immediately, but there were dozens of varieties as we continued our upward journey up Sauk Mountain.
Carol and Bob at the viewpoint, Sauk River Valley behind
You can see that we were still in full sunshine, and the temperature was beginning to heat up. Usually, we don't get a chance to decide whether or not to go down to Sauk Lake because snow has stopped us in previous years. Today, we decided to try to make it down to the lake, as it was not an issue.
Heading down to the lake
The wildflowers were simply spectacular; there were times when I fell behind from taking so many pictures. Al cautioned us that in making the trip down to the lake would lose all of the elevation we had gained at this point, with the task of climbing back up out of the valley one we would be choosing to make. We all decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Sauk Lake
As we descended, the lake seemed to grow no closer, and I was thinking about the return trip, but we kept on going down. Finally we reached the lake, and four of our number set about stripping off their clothes and going for a swim. (Rich, who swims in every lake he sees, had s swimsuit.) I was envious but not willing to go myself; instead I sat down instead in some shade and ate my lunch while I took pictures.
There are three swimmers, do you see them?
They exited from the water completely refreshed, and then they also joined the group of us for lunch. We spent close to an hour in this idyllic setting, with the bugs being rather subdued, probably because of the lack of rain we've been having, and then we realized we needed to hike back up to the ridge and reluctantly began the journey.
On our way back to the Sauk Mountain trail
On our way back up, I realized I was having a very hard time, feeling exhausted and overheated and fell behind the others. At this point they stopped to wait for me, and when I reached them and told them of my distress, I received a salt tablet from Rich, and Roger took my pack and carried it along with his own until we reached the top. Before long I was feeling much, much better and made it the rest of the way without any other concern.
A day in Paradise
We had a wonderful day, with so many flowers to enjoy, plenty of sunshine, some thrills and chills, and finally reaching our cars after having covered about six-ish miles and around 2,400 feet of elevation. Because of the heat, it felt like much more than that, but the stats don't lie. I would do it again in a minute, with the same friends who helped me and shared this adventure with me.

Now I'm home, wine by my side, having had a shower to wash off the salt and sunscreen, and my post almost completed. I hope you enjoy this trip as much as I did.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sailing, sailing on Bellingham Bay

Robert, captain of his sailboat
Yesterday Robert, Leo's dad, asked if I'd like to join the two of them on their sailboat for a little jaunt around Belllingham Bay. It has been years since I've been on a sailboat, so of course I said yes. We spent the afternoon tootling around in this 25-footer, with only one sail up, since it was pretty windy. We also got sprayed by the waves fairly often, enough for me to be covered with salt by the time we came back in. We cut it short because it was pretty rough out there, and we went off to Elizabeth Station (another place that Robert and Leo hang out other than Avellino's). Instead of coffee, the Station has really good beer.
My beer
While Robert and I enjoyed a beer, Leo drew pictures, drank water and ate a few pieces of licorice. It was really a lot of fun to be with them, especially since we had an adventure. Leo is only six and a half and is already learning to sail! My biggest worry was the fact that I knew there would be no, um, facilities on the small sailboat (and I was right), so when we headed back early I was kind of glad I wouldn't have to ask.
Robert, Leo, me
After such a good day, I am hoping that we'll get a chance to do some more sailing. We would have gone across to Chuckanut Bay but it was too windy and Robert really would have liked to have another sailor with him. Next time!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My built-in health app

Peggy and Judith taken on our walk this morning
I'm not sure what Peggy is staring at in the picture above, but I know that several times today I was also staring at my health app on my iPhone 6, while we were on our 5- or 6-mile walk. I didn't even know it was there, but one day earlier this week I saw Smart Guy pacing back and forth and staring down at his phone. "What are you doing?" I asked, and he told me about this built-in step counter on the new IOS 8 operating system (it's only active on the 5S and 6 phones, though).
The health app has a heart on it
I had placed that app in that upper-left-hand folder called "Unused Apps" because I didn't know anything about it and didn't really care. But when I learned that it has been logging my steps and mileage, along with elevation, without me doing anything at all, I pulled it right out of that folder and started paying attention to how many steps I take every day.
My weekly steps and mileage
And lo and behold, there without my doing anything special except carrying my phone with me, I found my daily activity level. So now I keep checking and try to keep my phone on me whenever I'm exercising. The early ones in the week had my iPhone in my locker during class, and then I started to carry it during my workouts, and sure enough, I get enough exercise to be mostly classified as "highly active."

If you take fewer than 4,500 steps a day, you are considered sedentary. From 4,500 to 7,500, you are "low active." And by the time you get to 10,000 a day, you are "active." Actually, above 12,500 steps is where you are considered "highly active." I figure that those two first days of the week would push me into that category (I'll know more next week), but you can see the upward spike for Thursday's hike, and when I looked at the monthly log, there it was: Thursday is always showing a spike.

It's a little scary to realize that while I wasn't paying any attention, my smartphone was watching me and counting my steps! But now that I know about it, I'll be keeping my eye on IT!