Saturday, August 30, 2014

Long weekend

Leo showing off his t-shirt
I laughed at Leo's shirt at the coffee shop and asked if I could take his picture. He said sure and then promptly sat down and stuck his knees underneath, so the shirt looks a little funnier even. Two big smiles in that shot. You might notice the little tiny leaves on the ground behind him: they are starting to fall from the trees outside, a sure sign that fall is not far away.

This morning the ladies and I went more than six miles at a fast pace. Everyone was uncertain about what the weather would do, with showers in the forecast, but most of us decided to take a chance on it being dry so we could leave our rain gear in our cars. And it turned out to be perfect: overcast with a light breeze, no rain at all. It won't be long, though, before the rain makes it here. The weather maps show rain at times for the entire holiday weekend, in our part of the country at least.

It's been a wonderful summer, and I'm hoping for two more months of nice weather. This weekend doesn't look good for skydiving, but the long-range forecast looks pretty enticing. I have decided that yes, indeed, this will be it for me, and I'll take some advice from Arkansas Patti at The New Sixty and quit while I'm ahead. Of course, I've still got two months to go in the skydiving season, and I plan to be careful. Promise.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chain Lakes and mountain goats

Mt. Shuksan and morning clouds
Twelve Senior Trailblazers took three cars up to Heather Meadows to begin our hike around Chain Lakes, a loop hike that begins at the Bagley Lake trailhead and goes around Table Mountain, coming back up from Artist Point and down the Wild Goose trail back to the cars. I snapped this picture of Mt. Shuksan from the parking lot, because it looked as though the clouds would eventually fill in everywhere, keeping us from a view.
On the Bagley Lake trail on our way to Herman Saddle
The trail around Bagley Lakes is fairly flat, and then we make our way around to the right to begin the long trudge up to Herman Saddle. That's Table Mountain shrouded in fog in front of us. The temperature was perfect for hiking, however, and nobody was complaining about the cool breeze and overcast. And we also had another reason for not hurrying: blueberries!
That's my hand holding the berries I picked just before popping them into my mouth. It was sometimes hard to resist stopping long enough to gather these beauties, a sweet burst of flavor, with lots of others beckoning. But we had places to go.
Peggy at Herman Saddle before starting down to the lakes
We stopped at the top, before beginning our descent, and had a nice snack before heading downwards to Chain Lakes. This particular hike takes us up to the Saddle, down to the lakes, and a gentle climb back to Artist Point. Although we only went up and down around 2,000 feet in eight miles, I felt every bit of it. We went downwards to our lunch spot at Iceberg Lake.
Peggy in front, Chris and Rich behind
We put on more clothes when we stopped for lunch, except for Mikey and Rich, who is shown here taking off his shirt to allow it to dry out a bit, but he actually did put on another one after he cooled down from his exertions. I never needed my fleece but did don a jacket while we were stopped.
Bob in front of Mt. Shuksan (hiding behind that cloud)
Once we finished our final climb, we stopped to survey our beautiful surroundings before heading back down to our final destination. You can see that finally, at the end of our day, the clouds began to clear off somewhat, but I really enjoyed our mostly cloudy day, which made it much easier to enjoy working so hard. And then somebody yelled out that there were mountain goats spied on the hillside across the valley!
Look! Mountain goats!
I used my telephoto all the way out to capture these goats, which were about a mile away. It's not often you get a chance to see them, so I was thrilled to get a picture that was this good. Off we went on the trail, heading toward Artist Point, when someone spied yet another batch of mountain goats! These happened to be in sunshine, so I was able to capture this shot. Enlarge it for the best effect.
Another six of them
It's obvious who is the Big Cheese in this picture, isn't it? And I think those are a couple of kids laying around in the grass below. It was so exciting to see them; often we know they are there, but they stay out of sight and we come back from our hike having seen nothing much larger than a red-tailed hawk. It was really wonderful to share these sightings with my friends.

And then we returned to our cars, went our various ways, and now it's getting late as I finish this post, feeling pretty darn fortunate after a fine day in the wilderness with some of the best people in the universe. Really.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three more fun skydives

Linny (with red circle), Christy, me, Tyson, Dave
That little lady with the red circle around her head has been missing in most of my skydives this summer. Last September she had a hard opening and injured her neck pretty severely (whiplash), and then in June she came out to make a couple of jumps, considering herself to be almost back to normal. She made two skydives, which didn't turn out so well, as she ended up with a busted lip and pain in the front of her chest. She then went to the doctor to find that something was sprained in there, and she's still trying to work out the problems.

This is one reason why I'm ready to hang up my gear at the end of the season: the older we get, the more likely it is that we can get injured. Christy and Tyson are both much younger than Linny and me (I'm five years older than she is), and Dave is somewhere in the middle. He's still working, so I suspect he's in his late fifties, but I haven't asked him for some reason. His wife Cindy stayed home on Sunday, so the five of us went up and made a skydive, came down and packed up and made one more! Christy, Dave and I had already made a three-way skydive before Linny arrived, and Tyson is actually the Drop Zone Owner, so he's always there. He made time to join us because of Linny.

Although it was a really good day in some ways, it was hard to see how fragile Linny is right now. Before the whiplash injury, she would make up to eight skydives on Saturday and then come out the next day and make eight more! I have always been content to make no more than four in one day, and that's with me paying someone to pack my parachute in between jumps. Last year I did make four jumps in one day and packed up each one myself, but I'm willing to be much more laid back now, in my final skydiving season. I intend to enjoy myself and not push too hard.

That said, as I'm approaching the end of the season, with only two more months to go, I am beginning to wonder if I am being premature in stopping now. I had so much fun on Sunday!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another fine Saturday

Front trees in January (left) and August (right) 2014
I was more than a bit upset when the manager of the apartment complex "trimmed" the trees in our front yard last winter. I thought he had killed them. The little one in the middle was completely stripped, and the two on either side of it were finally completely stripped of any remaining branches in February. In June I took a picture of the beginning of the trees' coming back to life (see it here), but now in August they look like trees again! I guess next time this happens I won't get all bent out of shape. I'm just not accustomed to the way things grow up here in the Pacific Northwest.

The lawn looks pretty brown, just like it did in January, but that's because we've had very little rain during the summer months. That's the usual way of things, and for the past two summers the number of days without clouds has been a bit higher than normal. Some people like it that way, but frankly I don't mind those pretty puffy white clouds in the blue blue sky.
Organic garlic and onions at the market
After my walk with the ladies, I went to the Farmers' Market and picked up some veggies before heading home. I had my cellphone with me and took a couple of arty shots with it, since I had left my regular camera at home. I'm just about ready to get a new one, since my current camera keeps losing the date and time settings at random moments. Very annoying. I saw this wonderful bouquet of dahlias, reminding me that summer is almost over when these beauties come out.
Taken at home with my regular camera
Tomorrow I'll head down to Skydive Snohomish to get a few jumps in with my friends. I would have gone today, but I was still feeling pretty sore from Thursday's hike and needed one more day to recover. I'm already feeling much better, but my thighs and calves are still reminding me they were well used. Both days are supposed to be sunny and warm, so I decided to take it easy and enjoy the fine day. Here's the other arty shot I took with my cellphone.
I think these are red onions but I'm not sure
Ah, yes, summer may be coming to an end, but it's been such a nice one! Nothing in this life lasts, especially the seasons, and I'll be looking forward to the brilliant colors of fall. One of these days, anyway. No hurry.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

All the way up Church Mountain

Al, Jonelle, Carol, Peggy, Bob, Chris, Rich, Noriko, Rita, Char
Today, twelve Senior Trailblazers went out to conquer the lookout area of Church Mountain, now that the snow is gone. In early July, we had lunch right around this spot in the meadow, on top of snow. You can see what it looked like here. This is the third time this season we have visited the Church Mountain area, but until today, it was impossible to get any farther than this area, because of all the snow. Today we were snow-free. And the flowers! They were pretty incredible.
Hiking right into a cloud
Although the fog made it possible for us to keep from getting overheated, it also came and went all day long and robbed us of a full view of the mountains. But as we trudged up the trail, I was secretly thanking the Weather Gods for the cooler temperatures. It was muggy and on the warm side every time the sun broke through.
Pink monkey flowers in abundance in the meadow
We were thinking that the sun would burn the fog away by the time we reached the top. Our destination was the spot where a lookout cabin once stood, which was more than four miles from the trailhead and up almost 4,000 feet of elevation. Like I said, I was happy that the sun kept being obscured by fog now and then. But every once in awhile, on our way up, we would see the fog begin to clear.
Mountain beginning to appear (picture taken by Char)
Doesn't it look like any minute the clouds will blow away? But it was not to be. We continued our climb to the top, which includes about a 50-meter scramble at the very end. This caused a few of our members to stay below. Here's the spot before you begin the final hand-over-hand scramble.
Rita, Chris and Char, with our dramatic view behind them
Well, we never got those clouds to clear off, but those of us who made our way carefully up those last few feet, stopped here to have our lunch. Char took this picture of Rita and me before we sat down to enjoy our repast. It doesn't really look as scary as it felt, but once we were here, we were ready to stop, put on some more clothes to keep our sweaty bodies warm, and have our well-deserved lunch.
No view, but two intrepid hikers ready for a nice lunch
After a leisurely lunch, those of us who went up here carefully made our way back down those scary ledges to join the others. One thing you have to say about Church Mountain: the uphill never lets up, and the reverse is true upon the descent: it was hard on my knees to keep going down and down, with no slackening. I finally put my knee brace on, but I made it quite a long ways before I had to give in to the inevitable.
Fireweed looking pretty
I caught this picture of the fireweed on the way down, with the clouds continuing to give us peekaboo views. By the time we reached the forest, having traversed these beautiful flowery meadows, we had almost full sunshine. But we just kept going in the dappled sunlight through the trees until we reached the cars. We had gone nine miles or so, with all that uphill and downhill, and we were all ready for a treat.
Rich, Rita, Char and Bob enjoying their ice cream
By the time Al's car had arrived at Graham's in Glacier, these four were already busy enjoying their ice cream cones. I went right in and got mine, so I could also enjoy the one thing that I allow myself on Thursdays: ice cream! Boy, did it taste good. And now I'm home enjoying my wine as I finish up this post. It was a great day, a little tired but feeling very accomplished right about now!

P.S. I got a note from the doctor that yesterday's CT scan was normal. Thanks for all your good wishes!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting my head examined

CT Scan information here
I went to the doctor last week because of a curious symptom I've recently developed. He could find no outward reason for it, so tomorrow I'll have my head examined by this machine: a CT scanner. I've never had one before, so it will be interesting to see what he might discover.

Basically, the reason I went to see him is that lately when I awaken from sleep, my left eye doesn't want to open. It's almost as if it's shut because of dried crust, like you get when you have a bad cold. But there doesn't seem to be any of that, and it only happens to one eye. The doctor ascertained that both sides of my face, including my eyelids, are the same, and there doesn't appear to be any weakness on one side of my body or the other. He was stumped.

So, he thought it might be a good idea to have my head examined to make sure there's nothing in there. I do hope they find something in there, like maybe a brain. I suspect they won't find a cause for this curious symptom, other than possibly age-related parts of the body giving out. Although I have used both of my eyes equally, it seems that sometimes one side wears out before the other.

While I was visiting him, I asked about some achilles tendinitis I've been experiencing on one heel, and he thought maybe it's caused by overuse. Well, I use both of my feet equally, too, and why would one begin to hurt and not the other? The pain in my heel has gotten much better since last week, although the eye thing hasn't. It's very annoying, and I have started using artificial tears in that eye to see if it helps at all, but so far (one night), it hasn't made a difference.

Anyway, I'll let you know what happens. One more thing I will have experienced after tomorrow. And it wasn't on my bucket list.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cloudy Saturday

Our trail on Mt. Galbraith
The low pressure system that has been hanging out over the Pacific Northwest the past few days hasn't gone away as quickly as projected. It's still overcast, and on the way home from my Saturday walk with the ladies, it began to sprinkle a little. I just now decided I'll do something different than try to skydive tomorrow, and later today I'm going to the movies with my friend Judy.

Galbraith Mountain trails has been added this summer to our repertoire of walks, and today was the second time we went up. That boardwalk on the right of the walkers is for mountain bikers, who share this trail with walkers and runners. And as you can see, it's very green and quite lovely at this time of the year. I asked if we could take a group shot at the overlook, since we had at least a little bit of a view. We ran into several bikers who were happy to share the trail.
That's Cindy, our leader, in front with the white hair
I took two pictures. In this one, not everyone was present, but it's actually a nice shot, so I decided to put them BOTH in my post to share with you. Behind us you can see Bellingham below, but it wasn't exactly clear and visibility got a bit worse as the day went on. We walked for two hours, though, and everyone worked up quite a sweat (it's humid, too).
Fairhaven Walkers, Saturday group
In this picture, everyone is visible and looks ready for the shot, except for Ebba, who is peeking out behind the two on the right, and another lady whose name I have forgotten. I took the picture, but otherwise everyone is in there somewhere. In the previous shot, you can see Ebba clearly, so that's one reason why I went ahead and just published them both. Heck, it's my blog, and I can do what I want, right?

Anyway, it's a good start to the weekend, and I'm looking forward to taking it easy tomorrow. Relatively speaking, that is. I hope we all have a great couple of days.