Thursday, January 21, 2021

Hemlock Trail and Chuckanut Falls

The turnoff to the falls

Today, three of us set off from the Chuckanut Mountain trailhead for Raptor Ridge, a place we often visit during the winter months. This year, it's been visited more often than usual, but we didn't actually make it there today. As we headed up the Hemlock trail, I began to lose steam and had to make several stops just to catch my breath. Melanie and Sue let me make the call to stop and turn around, rather than continue. I don't know why I was feeling so tired today, but they didn't make me feel too bad. We decided to turn around and make a trip to Chuckanut Falls.

Melanie, "the Dude," and Sue

We often stop to visit this interesting little configuration in a tree, which looks like a face, often with a doobie sticking out of his "mouth." The reference is to an old movie, "The Big Lebowski," with Jeff Bridges playing the part of "The Dude." It's fun to watch it again, which I did after we discovered the tree. It's on the trail to the falls.

Overlooking Chuckanut Falls

We chatted about the falls for awhile, enjoying the mild weather and lack of the you-know-what coming out of the sky. (Earlier we thought today was going to be very wet, but the front disappeared, thank goodness.)

We enjoyed seeing the falls

After spending some time at the falls, we turned around and began our return trip to the cars. However, Sue saw some Christmas decorations that had been forgotten on a tree , and she was concerned about birds mistaking them for something edible.

A Christmas bell and sign

Melanie and Sue took down the bells and other Christmas ornaments and placed them in a bag, which was left at the trailhead. They are mostly made of glass, and Sue was concerned about windstorms breaking them and causing harm.

Doing a good deed

We then turned around and made our way back to the trailhead. We had a short discussion about the ferns that grow out of trees around here. I had learned they are called "licorice ferns," but I'm not sure exactly why.

A pretty fern-and-moss bouquet

Although we didn't go as far as we intended when we began, we did manage to get some five or so miles out of it, with plenty of elevation as well. And we were home early, as opposed to last week's hike when I barely made it back in time for our weekly Zoom call with the other Senior Trailblazers. It wa a fine day out, and now I am feeling quite rested and happy to have been exploring with my friends.


Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK Day 2021

Whatcom Falls

The Falls, which I visited on Saturday, are roaring and fuller than normal from all the rain we've been having. I say that while looking out the window at full sunshine and a few white puffy clouds. Although it's cool, it's also beautiful and would be a wonderful day to go for a nice walk. I'll do that once I've written my Monday post.

As we walked around the park, you could hear the falls roaring from quite a ways away. We (four of us ladies) got in about five miles and really enjoyed the outing. The only real problem was the number of people also enjoying the park. Almost everyone was masked, and since we were outdoors, I didn't worry too much about virus transmission. 

Two-toned tree

And last Thursday, when Melanie and I went on a hike, we saw this strange tree that seemed to be weirdly decorated with moss. I don't think it had anything to do with the old story about how moss grows on the north side of vegetation. But it sure caught my eye. I love the beautiful area where I am privileged to walk and hike, with all its variety and charm. You just never know what you'll be seeing next.

Speaking of which, I think I'd better get out the door while the sun is still shining, and get some steps! Hope you are staying safe and warm. And because it's MLK Day, I leave you with a wonderful quote from him:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A fine day and windstorm aftermath

Forest sunlight

 Melanie and I went up to Blanchard Mountain for one of our favorite hikes, where we might visit Lily and Lizard Lakes and return. The trails were a little muddy in places, to be expected after all the rain we've been having. Two days ago we had quite a windstorm in the area, too, which caused lots of people to lose power, but we were fortunate and only had some flickering lights during the worst of it. As you can see from the picture above, it looked like the forest had been spared.

Samish Overlook

We decided to extend the distance a little by taking the trail to Samish Overlook to see if we might have a view under the clouds. As you can see, we certainly did, looking out over the Samish Valley, and if you use your imagination, you can see a dim bump along the horizon, which is actually Mt. Rainier, seen through the clouds. We don't usually get to see it at all. And lots of evidence of recent rainfall with all that standing water.

Samish Bay

Also visible from the Overlook is this delightful view of Samish Bay. We had just about perfect weather, with those high clouds and little wind. Although we had hiked several miles by this time, we had seen little evidence of the windstorm. That was about to change, as we continued on the trail towards Oyster Dome, on our way to the junction with the Lily and Lizard Lakes trail.

Mel in front of downed trees

As we ascended, we saw plenty of uprooted and downed trees, and there were times when the trail was completely obscured. All of this happened just the day before yesterday, and the crews have not begun the cleanup.

Plenty of mangled trees

It seemed odd, since the damage only seemed to be in one part of the forest, in the area heading up towards Oyster Dome. We lost the trail several times and had to work hard to find our way to the junction, but we did. As we continued towards Lily Lake, the wind damage became less and less.

Lily Lake

By the time we made it to Lily Lake, there was little destruction to be seen, but considering that we had lost perhaps a full hour by having to climb over and under trees, and that we still had plenty to distance to cover, we decided to skip Lizard Lake and just head back to the car, given the shortness of our January daylight.

Although it was difficult in some ways, it was also a wonderful way to spend the day, with my friend Mel in rather perfect weather. We covered almost nine miles and more than 2,000 feet up and down. I'm tired right now, but feeling pretty good now that I'm home and finishing my blog post, albeit a little late!


Monday, January 11, 2021

Days of rain ahead

Kayaks in Bellingham Bay

Last Saturday, four of us masked walkers met on a very foggy day and decided to enjoy the walk that Melanie and I attempted the week before and had to call off because of heavy winds, along with rain (which we took for granted). We saw these kayakers on our way back, as the fog began to lift a little. We had no rain, and by the time we finished the five-mile walk, the sun was shining brightly.

At this time of the year, we fully expect to have rain most days, and we have not been "disappointed" in our rainfall so far this year. We have already had more rain than usual, and the next few days are supposed to be bringing us even more. Luckily, I have plenty of rain gear and much of it actually works. And for some reason, the weather gods have spared my Thursdays from the heaviest of the deluges, and even our Saturdays have fared pretty well. 

This morning, when I left the house to walk to the bus, it was pouring and very windy, but now it's calm and relatively dry. You just can't tell from one day to the next what we'll be seeing, but I intend to use my rain gear to the fullest. With Covid keeping us all practicing social distances and keeping me from hanging out with friends, I really need the exercise.

Oh, and by the way, the way my city has altered bus riding, I feel quite safe and protected while riding. Every other seat is blocked off, everyone is wearing a mask, and a total of only 9-10 people can ride at a time. When there are more people than that, another bus follows behind the first bus to carry overflow riders and pick up new ones. And the buses are sanitized after every route. It seems to be working well, although the county case count is going up after the Christmas and New Year's gatherings. 

I can hardly wait to get the vaccine. We are supposed to keep up our vigilance even after having received the second dose, since we are unsure whether a person can transmit the virus to others even when protected. This is definitely a tough time for so many of us! Please stay safe and don't go to any gatherings or parties for the foreseeable future, dear friends.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

South Lost Lake trail to Burnout Overlook

Service road and ferns

Today my friend Melanie and I walked up this service road from the Lost Lake trailhead on our way to the Burnout Overlook. This day was rain free, surrounded by plenty of rain in previous days, and plenty in the days to follow. So I figure this was a gift from the Weather Gods, and I am very grateful.
Beautiful waterfall

We walked past this gorgeous waterfall, filled with all the rain we've been having lately, and making a most satisfying roar as well. We walked along the service road until we got to the South Lost Lake trail, which would take us either to the lake, or to the viewpoint at Burnout Overlook. We also stopped to view Samish Bay, but for some reason my photos are stuck in limbo. No worries, though, I did get some of Mt. Baker at the Overlook.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters

You can see that we were very fortunate to be able to see this magnificent sight, since the low clouds (the fog in the valley) had begun to clear, and the high clouds overhead were high enough not to hide them.
Melanie greeting her favorite mountain

We stayed here for quite awhile, although when the wind came up, it felt much colder than without it. We thought about having lunch here, but decided after all to find a place out of the wind.
Me admiring the view (thanks, Mel)

Melanie took this one of me and the mountains, which I like very much. I don't have a visible double chin in the photo, which makes me very happy, and it will be a  reminder of the fabulous day we had.
Mossy tree in sunlight

On the way back, we saw more and more sunshine, and I had to show you this lovely tree backlit to show off its "mane" of moss. It's hard for me to know if the tree is truly dead, or whether the leaves are missing because of the time of the year. In any event, we covered almost eight miles and went around 1,900 feet up and down. So, by any metric, we had a great day. I'll take another one just like it next week, thank you very much. (But it will probably be raining.)

Monday, January 4, 2021

A brand new year

Big ol' cedar tree

 I am so lucky to live in a place where magnificent old growth trees are everywhere in the forests just a quick drive from my home. Last Thursday I admired this pretty tree, amongst the big old trees we hiked past. I like the bark on the cedar trees especially, but I also love the old fir trees with deep pits in their bark. 

The ferns in this part of the country pretty much stay around all winter long, with new growth coming out in the spring, but rarely do they just turn yellow and die, as they do in colder and drier environments. The ferns in our forests add green beauty all year long. I found this information about PNW ferns:
The Pacific Northwest is home to about forty species of ferns. They can be found in nearly every area of our region, and so there are many appropriate for nearly every garden condition, even sunny rock gardens! True, the majority are shade and moisture lovers and are thought of as a backbone of the shade garden and rightly so. Evergreen or deciduous, they are virtually disease and pest-free, and can provide a range of textures and heights. (from Portland Nursery website)

I can now distinguish several varieties from one another, but my favorite will always be the pretty maidenhair fern. I look for it whenever I'm out and about. This year, I look forward to being able to hike with my Senior Trailblazers once again, and hope I will be in line to get the new coronavirus vaccine sometime early in the year. This past year was really only survivable for me because of being able to get out most weeks with my friend Melanie on some familiar hikes. 

Maidenhair ferns

Now that we have begun a new year, with a promise of a return to some semblance of normalcy, I can begin to dream of trips into the High Country again. I've missed them!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve hike

Melanie on the Hemlock trail

My friend Melanie texted me yesterday and told me to meet her at the Chuckanut trailhead, one of our favorite places to hike these days. She also said we'd have a couple of other people join us: Sue (who did a long hike with Mel on Monday) and Al, who is slowly getting back in the groove of a weekly hike. Also in the parking lot were two more Senior Trailblazers, who went off for a much longer (and faster) hike than ours.

Polka dots?

Al is wearing a new mask, one made by his wife. I complimented him on the polka dots, but he said no, those were supposed to be Covid viruses. In any event, it's a good look for him. It was raining lightly for much of the early part of our hike, but he was more than prepared, including with waterproof overmitts.

Huckleberry Point

Our first destination was up to Huckleberry Point, and since there was no view whatsoever, I took a picture of a fallen mossy branch, with a bit of the bench (also mossy) on the right side of the picture. The trail was plenty muddy, but it was still nice to be out and not fending off a downpour.

Mel assisting

We decided to head from there down to see Chuckanut Falls, which we knew would be pretty full with all the rain. We encountered two women on horseback who were helping to open up the trail by sawing through big fallen logs. That's Mel helping to move that big section of log out of the path.

Chuckanut Falls

The falls were indeed very impressive, filled with lots of roaring water. I've seen this scene when the falls were no more than a trickle, but today it was just beautiful. We have more rain in the forecast, which should increase the volume even more.

Fog amongst the trees

We didn't go all that far today, but it was definitely a delightful way to wind up an unusual year of hiking. We covered 5.5 miles and a bit of elevation (I'm not sure exactly how much). We also enjoyed the company and the shortened distance on a mostly dry day. I always have a great time when I'm able to hike with little to no discomfort and with fun friends, like today's.