Saturday, July 22, 2017

Overcast today but still beautiful

Hertz trail
We ladies met this morning at the Hertz trailhead, a longish drive from Bellingham proper, so I stressed a little as I realized we (Lily and I) would not get there by 8:00. However, I was only a few minutes late and they had not yet taken off to walk the three-mile-long trail. And a few more ladies arrived even later than we did. Here's some information about that trail:
The Hertz Trail (also known as the North Lake Whatcom Trail) follows the eastern shoreline of Washington's fourth largest freshwater lake. The relatively flat, fine-gravel pathway traces the former Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad, which was used to transport coal from the Blue Canyon Mine at the south end of the lake.
One of the nicest things about this trail is that it is flat. We hardly ever have any other ones like this on Saturday mornings. We venture out to this trail a couple of times a year, and the Senior Trailblazers have also made use of it in the wintertime when we're looking for a short distance hike before a party or other gathering.

Anyhow, less than a dozen of us showed up this morning, because when we left early on, it was raining. Foggy and rainy weather doesn't make many people anxious to get going. However, it was simply perfect for walking, and the rain stopped before we started out, so it was dry, too. We did see some Pacific Northwest wildlife:
Banana slug
 This is a native slug, as opposed to the black ones that are taking over the banana slug habitat, so whenever she sees one, Peggy stops to remove it from the trail so it won't get stepped on. Look at those long eye stalks on the front end. The back end seems to have picked up some debris as it makes it way across the trail. More information about the banana slug is here. It does look a little like an overripe banana, doesn't it?
Veggies for sale
Then we made it over to the crowded Farmers' Market to get ourselves coffee and a treat. Although the skies were overcast, it wasn't a bit cool or uncomfortable, so we leisurely made our way home. I did a little housework (which is pretty unusual for me) and now I'm sitting in my easy chair, listening to the birds and other sounds coming through the screen door. A lovely day indeed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Soaked on Yellow Aster Butte

Al on the trail
Nine Senior Trailblazers showed up at the Senior Center on a day that was forecast to be a little rainy, with showers expected on and off all day. It was raining here in Bellingham when I set out for the Center, and we were ready for any weather (we hoped). Since it's been dry for well over a month, I was not unhappy about having a little rain to freshen things up. We expected that, if we had any luck, it would clear enough to give us a view. Not even close. Here's what we missed this year. Last year it was hot and sunny.
Looking toward Yellow Aster Butte

When we started out, the rain had lessened enough that we didn't immediately put on our rain gear, thinking that it would get better as we hiked. The weather was cool and it was actually quite lovely, especially since we all expected it to get better, not worse.
Junction on trail to Tomyhoi
By the time we reached the junction to Tomyhoi Lake, it had started to rain hard enough for us to put on our rain gear. Almost everyone had ponchos, which was perfect gear for some air to move around us while hiking.  As it turned out, we didn't get to take our rain protection off again.
Al and Carol with a snowfield behind them
Much of the time, we didn't have any view at all, but every once in awhile the fog and rain would let up enough for me to get at least a smidgen of a view across a valley, as in the above picture. We had to cross that rather large snowfield, as you can see here.
Ellen smiling as we crossed the snowfield
I was enjoying the adventure, as well as the rain, since I STILL expected that it would stop coming down at some point. The flowers just kept getting more and more beautiful, although I only stopped to take a few pictures. I was worried about my iPhone in the wet conditions. It is supposed to be somewhat water resistant, but I don't know what works and what doesn't, quite yet.
Linda and Ward, hiking separately from us
After awhile, we ran into Linda, Ward, and Peggy hiking down the trail, after they had hiked a bit farther up the trail. They were not sure where the group was going today, and they wanted to see Yellow Aster for sure, so they went on their own. Plus our groups have been getting much larger than the Forest Service group size, limiting us to 12. As it was, they would have made our number exactly right. But they started earlier and at this point were busy looking for a place out of the wind and rain to have lunch. We said goodbye and the nine of us continued our trudge upward.
Looking at the fields of valerian
I didn't take many pictures of the flowers because I really was worried about how wet it was, but this picture showed that they were incredibly abundant. We also saw lupine, columbine, penstemon, heather, and much more. I wish I could have captured it better. After awhile, we looked for someplace out of the rain for our own lunch spot. We turned around and found a relatively dry place under some trees for a quick lunch before heading back down the way we had come.
Heading back down the trail
I didn't get a picture of our lunch spot, which I usually like to do, because I was unable to keep myself or my belongings dry. It was raining hard by this time and stayed that way until long after we reached the cars. After we turned around and it was still raining, I began to lose my enchantment with the rain and was very glad to finally reach the trailhead. We only went around seven miles and around 2,000 feet up and down, but because of the difficulty factor, I think we should add on another mile or two!

After a scare trying to take a picture with my phone, I was reluctant to do an more photography after this last shot. Now that I am home and was able to ascertain that my phone and my pictures are safe, I feel a little silly that I was so anxious about it all. By the time we reached Bellingham, we learned that it didn't rain here at all after those first few showers early this morning. So we drove many miles to hike in the rain, and down here everything is still parched. But we Trailblazers who hiked the Yellow Aster Butte trail today got soaked to the skin!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Getting rather warm outside

Chicory in front of Bellingham Bay
On Sunday, my friend Lily and I went for a nice leisurely walk along Boulevard Park. Not a fast walk or anything, just a nice stroll enjoying the light breeze and morning clouds. Before we finished, these clouds were gone and it had begun to warm up. I started the walk with a light jacket but removed it once the clouds dissipated. Absolutely, to my mind, perfect weather for being outside on a summer's day.

But today I am sitting inside the apartment after discovering that it's beginning to get uncomfortably warm, with full sunshine and the temperature hovering around 75°F. Any warmer than that, with full sun, and I don't walk around without complaining. I know, I know: I'm a wimp. There's a reason I moved to the Pacific Northwest; the weather is perfect for me most of the year. I do get tired of the incessant rain now and then, but mostly I enjoy it.

Which reminds me: last Thursday we had clouds and cool weather when we went on our hike (no rain, though), but there have been only a few morning clouds like the ones in the above picture since then, but what's coming this week? Take a look:
What is it about Thursdays?
Ever since I stopped skydiving, the weather seemed to change from cloudy weekends to cloudy Thursdays. I had to laugh when I saw this forecast. However, the clouds make hiking uphill much more attractive. I'm not sure where we're headed this week, since the place we have on the schedule is probably not safe yet because of large snowfields on the trail.

Oh, well, you know what they say about how in everybody's life some rain must fall. Sometimes it appears as snow showers, too. But not this week!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I almost forgot my blog post

Our group returning from our Thursday hike
Good grief, I almost forgot my post again today. I got involved in a thriller that I picked up at the library yesterday and am already halfway through. My sister got me involved with the author David Baldacci, and I had put a hold on his latest book awhile back, maybe two months ago. I was something like #149 in line (out of 22 books) and my name came up!

I only get to keep the book for two weeks, but I will actually be done with it before the day is over, I fear. The book is The Fix, the third in a series about Amos Decker. Baldacci likes to write numerous novels about his characters, so you get sort of involved with them, not to mention that he's one of those writers who knows how to make the book impossible to put down. At least for me.

Plus I am still in recovery mode after our Thursday hike. My friend Barb (who is not in the above picture because she took it) sent me some pictures from her phone, and since I'm in this one, I really like to look at it. I'm right in the middle of the lineup, fourth from the end. I couldn't very well say that I'm the one in the white hat, since most of us are wearing one.

Since my quads had been given quite a workout the week before, I thought that this week I'd escape the soreness, but no. I was so worn out on Thursday that I am still recovering, not just the legs, but general tiredness. This morning's walk with the ladies was lovely, however, and it did help me feel better. But I sure didn't mind curling up in my favorite chair with the book once I got home. Suddenly I realized that I had not written my Saturday post, slapped the book down and pulled out my laptop.

I'll bet you can guess what I'll be doing as soon as I finish this.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Excelsior Pass 2017

Our Excelsior Pass hikers
Eighteen Senior Trailblazers showed up this morning for our scheduled hike to Excelsior Pass. We tried this hike twice last year and were turned back by snow before we reached the pass. But the first order of the day was to get our number down to the required no-more-than-twelve in one group. Six people offered to change their destination to Welcome Pass, which the rest of us went up last week. Bob, however, decided to go again, so he went with the others, meaning he's in MUCH better shape than I am. I couldn't have done it again today. The rest of us headed off to the trailhead for Excelsior Pass.
Our beautiful trail today
The twelve of us knew that if we made it to the pass, it would be hiking more than four miles uphill and 3,500 feet of elevation. Although last week's Welcome Pass hike was less elevation gain, it was over much less distance, meaning today's switchbacks seemed tame by comparison. And it was so cool, perfect for hiking, since we had cloud cover that was supposed to clear off later in the day. More about that later.
Almost to the pass
Here we are, much farther than we ever made it last year, on our way to the pass, the final push to the top. It was already past noon but nobody was ready to stop; we did take a quick break for a snack awhile back so we could keep going, however.
First big snowfield almost at the pass
And then, there we were, almost able to look over to see the Damfino Lakes area and beyond to the Canadian border, but as you can see, those pesky clouds were still hanging on. A few glacier lilies on the right show that the area has only recently become free of snow. Lots of plants ready to bloom, too.
We made it!
And there it was, the top! Looking over to the other trailheads, you can see the dark clouds that obscured our view, which we thought would be gone by now, but no. See the other hikers just sitting down to have lunch in the distance?
Our lunch spot today
Yes, we mostly put on more clothes so we could hang out and enjoy the views, what there was of them, that is. Clouds came and went, giving us some sunshine and then more clouds. We fully expected they would be gone by this time, well after noon, but no such luck. However, it was pretty wonderful, cool and pretty much a delightful place to replenish ourselves.
Chris and Sue
Although it wasn't at all what we expected (it almost never is), we were not in a big hurry to leave and start back down. We had climbed more than 3,500 feet and now had to descend back to the trailhead, so we lingered for quite awhile.
Excelsior Peak and Jim settling in for lunch
If there had been a real view, we would have climbed to the top of the peak in the middle of the picture, Excelsior Peak, which has a great 360-degree view, but with all the clouds and snow, it just didn't give us much desire to ascend any further. If you look carefully, however, you can see that there are a couple of people right on the peak.
Our peaks hidden mostly by clouds
As we started our return journey, this was the best picture I could get of our wonderful mountains that showed themselves in such glory last week. I realized that the other group would do all that work and have obscured views, but I hoped they had a good time anyway. We certainly did.
About a mile from the trailhead, we stopped to admire what we call the "flue," which seems manmade (but I really don't know its history) and asked if anyone wanted to take a short cut by sliding down. Nobody did, so we finally made our way back to the cars and a short trip over to Graham's for some ice cream before heading home. It was a LONG day, as it's now way after 7:00pm and I'm just now finishing my daily duty, the blog post, before taking a shower and soon getting horizontal.

I did have a great day, and I made it to the top of Excelsior Pass, even if I didn't make it to the peak, and after eight-and-a-half miles and all that elevation, I'm feeling a little bit crispy. I hope the other group had a good day, too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I thought it was done

Ellen showed up yesterday to work on the mural
I was sure surprised to see Ellen show up yesterday with more paint to finish the mural. I didn't realize that she had way more to do. Notice the yellow on the right side? Well, she did that and started painting the white parts into colorful flowers. She's out there right now touching up stuff, but here's the finished product, or almost anyway.
Color, color everywhere
Wow! I guess I just didn't know what she had in mind. I'm pleased, but I've learned that many of the men who live in the apartment complex, they are not so happy. My guy loves it, but he was a hippie and said it reminds him of his days back then. I think we will all get used to it. What do you think? Be honest!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer garden news

The whole garden, with painted fence behind
When our next-door neighbors put up a privacy fence, complete with lots of rusted metal, I asked them if they had any problem with me getting someone to paint a picture on it. When they said it was fine, my friend Ellen came out and took a look, and yesterday she did it! There's SG standing in the garden with a shovel (just for display, he doesn't actually USE it), and now you can see that our garden is looking very, very fine.
My garden plot, with flowers in the foreground
You can see that my flowers are looking good, with three tomato plants just behind them (that's one of those garden lights that uses solar power and looks fantastic at night when I'm asleep), then my sugar snap peas, right at the end of their life, and behind them are my prolific raspberries. I'll be spending some time today out there picking, since they are all ripening at once. Here are some of my gardening pals.
Lily is working in her garden spot
Lily got her corn in rather late, and it's now coming along well, but it was only a few inches high on Independence Day. You know what they say about that. (It should be knee-high by the 4th of July.) Her spot is right next to mine; you can see my flowers in the middle left of the picture.
Pat working hard in his garden
Pat's corn, however, really is knee high, right on time. He was gone for awhile on an extended bicycle trip and is now catching up on his weeding. Obviously he rarely wore a shirt on his ride, because he's brown everywhere I care to see! He also used his weed whacker to rid us of lots of pesky grass.
Hedi, with her garden on the left, under her right arm
Hedi's garden is doing really well. I think she has planted more different items in her garden than anybody else, and it's all growing like crazy. I gave her some of my scarlet runner beans and they are already beginning to climb the fence. I'll show you some pictures when they really begin to take off.
SG inspecting the raspberries
Um-hmm. Here is SG out there helping me pick the raspberries, except during his "inspection" they don't seem to be making it very far from the vine before ending up in his tummy! I know how it is; by the time I'm finished picking, I'm not hungry at all for some reason.
Ellen's painting
And finally, a closeup of that fence Ellen painted. In the foreground is our community area, which has squash plants and sunflowers, which aren't looking like much. I really like that cloud that looks like a backwards arrow. Well, that's what our community garden looks like today. Isn't it wonderful?