Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fly me to the moon

Astronomy Picture of the Day 17 Jan 17
This picture on today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, something I look at as part of my daily routine, is especially lovely, don't you think? You can go to the link under the picture for more information about who took it and why it's that color. Although there are most often pictures of galaxies and stellar nurseries on APOD, sometimes the pictures are closer to home. Like this one.

I don't really want to fly to the moon. Today's weather here in Bellingham is pretty much back to normal: rain last night, overcast today, and a warm wind from the south. In fact, the temperature has gone all the way up to 58°F (14.5°C) from the frigid cold and wind we've had around for what seems way too long. Yes, it was sunny, but it was COLD, too. Now it's about ten degrees above normal and feels balmy outside. I rather like it.

I've decided not to stress too much about my blog posts any longer. This one on Tuesdays has been difficult for me to maintain, but what if I just put up a pretty picture, or a poem, or something like that? Easy peasy, and nobody (me!) gets stressed out. I might just miss another one or two, like I unintentionally did last week. Nobody was more surprised that I was when I went looking for what I'd written about and found nothing at all.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Getting tired of all this sunshine

Whatcom Falls this morning
We are soon to get a break from all this unaccustomed sunshine that we've had for weeks and weeks. We did have a short respite when we got some rain (for a day) and it warmed up a little, but not for long. Then the deep freeze started up again. Last Thursday when I got up for our hike it was 12°F, but this morning it was 20°, so gradually it is getting back to our normal winter temperatures.

I wouldn't mind the sun so much if it wasn't accompanied by a cold north wind and ice everywhere. If you look carefully at the above picture, you can see lots of icicles, along with the beautiful rushing waterfall. I took this today while we were on our walk with the ladies (and our sometimes guy, Ray). For the first part of our walk, we saw no sun at all, but gradually it came up high enough for us to see it.

Now I don't want you to think that I'm going to start taking a lot of selfies, but here is one more, comparing this morning's look to the one I took last Thursday. I got some purple highlights in my hair yesterday, and I just had to show you the comparison. I am also wearing the same glasses, which are Transitions, obviously.
I tried out a new stylist, Dyan, and she asked if she could also shape my eyebrows. I was very hesitant, but she didn't charge me and did it anyway. I like the look, and she knew I would, of course, and I will let her do it again. It's been so long since I've had any color in my hair at all that I was a little bit surprised at how much I like it!

Now, about that Tuesday post I didn't write. I'm beginning to get rather forgetful, it seems, and I think I'll just leave it off without any guilt whenever I don't post. Last week, I didn't even remember that it wasn't there until I went looking for it before I put up my Thursday hiking post. Oh, well, I'm probably the only one who lost any sleep over it. I'm willing to let it go. Or not.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Frosty Lost Lake

First rays of the sun
Nine Senior Trailblazers went out on a VERY cold and clear day. When I woke this morning, the temperature was 14°F and clear as a bell. After scraping my car windows and heading off to the Senior Center, I wondered if we would have very many people on a day like this, on a rather long hike as well. In the above picture, you might notice a dog on the trail with us, this was Toby who came with his owner, Kathy, who didn't know that we don't allow pets on the hikes. (She'll be back, but Toby won't be.) She met us in the parking lot, along with two regulars, Mikey and Kirk, so off the nine of us went up the old logging road to Lost Lake.
Mostly frozen waterfall
By the time we got to this waterfall on the old road, we were all very warm from the uphill walking and shed some clothes, if you can believe it. It amazes me how exercise makes my internal temperature rise enough to make even subfreezing temperatures feel comfortable. For the first part of the hike, we didn't see any snow or ice, but that changed as we gained elevation. That first picture shows you the first ice and snow we had to deal with.
More ice
At another place with running water, this time along the trail to Lost Lake, we saw evidence of how cold it has been around here lately. The ice sculptures are unusual to me, so my camera had to come out for these. I didn't take as many pictures as usual, because I had to take off my gloves and haul out my phone to do so. Which is, by the way, a new iPhone 7, which I got yesterday. I love it so far, but I kept it close to my body so it wouldn't get disturbed by the extreme cold.
Melanie's cool hardware
Before too long, those of us who had anything to strap to our boots to give us some traction on the snow and ice (which I neglected to get a picture of), made use of them. When we got to our lunch spot, I managed to capture Melanie's brand-new ice cleats, which worked like a charm. I had my less fancy (and less effective) Yak-Trax, but they kept me upright through the worst of it.
Our lunch spot
We had lunch at our usual spot overlooking Lost Lake. This is the first time I've seen the lake completely frozen over, and just before noon we had only a little bit of sunshine, but because the wind wasn't blowing, we managed to stay quite warm. Here you see Chris, Melanie, and Ellen enjoying themselves.
Lost Lake this around noon today
We yearned for that sunshine on us, but because the angle of the sun is so low at this time of year, we mostly enjoyed our lunch in shade. Some previous hikers had been throwing rocks into the lake, obviously, showing that it's not frozen over all that much but still, it's frozen. Just ignore that dark mitten in the top of the picture (grrr!).
First selfie with the iPhone 7
Since I have learned that both the front and back cameras of the new iPhone have been improved, I tried this selfie with my new phone. It is better quality, although there's nothing to do about the subject, it seems. Anyway, by the time we got back to the cars, we had traveled more than nine miles (some instruments said even farther), but we were happy to be back after at least five hours of hiking in the wilds of Bellingham.

It was a good day, for sure, and now that I am home safe and sound (and warm!), I'm glad I went, even if I did take a spill on the ice and tweaked my left knee a little. We Senior Trailblazers are nothing if not resilient.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Eagle Huntress

Aisholpan Nurgaiv and her eagle
I just got home from my morning adventures. No, not with an eagle, but a nice walk with the ladies and then a documentary playing at our local independent theater: The Eagle Huntress. It's about this 13-year-old Kazakh who was raised in a family of eagle hunters. It's not something that girls are usually allowed to do, but her father and grandfather were one hundred percent behind her and helped her capture and train her own eagle. The documentary is wonderful, for many reasons, but the photography (with the use of drones and GoPro cameras) shows the amazing Mongolian countryside, as well as the trials and tribulations she faced to become a true eagle huntress. Here's the video:

I enjoyed it for many reasons, but the best part is watching this young girl who decided that nothing was going to make her happy except this pursuit, and her family's support of her efforts. Not to mention having to do it in -40°F conditions! If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chilly sunshine at Deception Pass

Deception Pass Bridge
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers drove the thirty-some miles from Bellingham to Whidbey Island to take one of our regular winter hikes up Goose Rock. It's been really cold and clear this week, and since I seemed to have recovered from my cold enough to bundle up and join my friends, I decided to go along. Al, our leader, didn't go (because of a cold), so Ward was our hike leader. He decided we would take our regular loop route to Goose Rock, but counterclockwise instead of our usual direction.
Melanie on top of Goose Rock
After the ribbing about how difficult it would be to walk backwards, I found that it really did make the hike seem fresh and new, with views we don't usually see. It was incredibly clear and, as you see here, we could see the Olympic Mountains clearly, and even Mt. Rainier, although my picture of it didn't turn out very well because of the sun's glare.
Taking in the view at the top
We wandered around for awhile at the top and had a quick snack, but it was too early for lunch, so after basking in the brilliant sunshine, we decided to head back to the beach for our lunch break. This is not a long hike in any event, but it wasn't exactly warm and the winter sun could only keep us up there for so long; we wanted to get going again.
Me in my new pink fluffy (and warm) jacket
I had bought myself a new down jacket for the cold weather, and it's been wonderful for the wintry blasts we've been having. Melanie took this picture of me in it. It won't do for rain, but I have been very happy with its ability to keep me warm. It compresses down into its own pocket, so once I don't need it for the cold, I'll end up carrying it with me on most hikes anyway.
Mt. Baker framed by madrone trees
One view I hadn't noticed on other trips here is Mt. Baker in all its wintry glory. Walking in the other direction I guess I missed it. I'm not used to seeing the mountain from this angle, either. Pretty!
Bark on madrone trees
These trees are very special and native to the Pacific Northwest. I found this link if you wish to know more about this tree (Arbutus menziesii) and why it is disappearing. The Native Americans used the bark and berries for medicinal purposes, but the tree needs naturally occurring fires to keep the conifers in check. It's an interesting tree, and unusual to look at.
We walked along the beach, looking for someplace for lunch
We finally made it down to the beach, but it was very cold without the sunshine to warm us, so we went looking for a bit of sun, which we could see way down the beach, almost out of sight. We did finally make it to some sunlight, but the rays were low in the sky and didn't warm us as much as we hoped.
Our lunch spot
As you can see, we weren't exactly going to hang out for long, but it was well after noon and we were all hungry. Once we refueled, it was time to make our way back to the cars and head back to Bellingham. All in all, it was a lovely day, with some challenges but nothing we couldn't handle.
 A fairy house?
We did find this sweet little place that someone had constructed and admired it in both directions, since we did find it again on our return journey. Unfortunately, someone had taken the pretty rock (or whatever it is) from its depths and put the shell below it in its place. I wasn't sure whether it really was the same one, but I took pictures of both and compared them. Yes, someone decided to purloin the pretty bauble. Maybe karma will show them the error of their ways.

In any event, we traveled somewhere between five and six miles on our journey and never suffered too much from the cold, all the while enjoying the brilliant sunshine and incredible views. It was probably one of my favorite trips to Goose Rock. I think we all might agree.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Down with a cold

A touch of snow around here
I didn't go to my workout class this morning, since yesterday I couldn't continue to escape the fact that the constant sneezing, sore throat, and general feeling of malaise wasn't just my imagination. I've been busy medicating myself with day- and nighttime OTC stuff (generic Dayquil and Niquil). It's made it possible to stay upright and not park myself in bed.

Today I'm feeling a little bit better, but it wasn't more than a few weeks ago that I got sick with the norovirus, and believe me, everybody around me knows how much I don't like being sick. I'm a terrible patient, but my dear partner has been making me tea and crumpets (Crumpets? What the heck are those anyway?) and I've got a huge 600-page book to read. Unfortunately, it will be gone before the day is over.

My sister introduced me to David Baldacci, who writes the kind of book that, once you get hooked, you cannot put down. Just what I needed for today. I am reading Absolute Power, a 1996 thriller that was made into a Clint Eastwood movie the next year. Maybe that's what I should do once I finish with it: watch the movie. Anyway, I'm on the upside of being down and out. I hate colds, especially when it's cold out.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last day of a very long year

A selfie taken at Big Rock Garden
There's an art to taking selfies, and I'm learning, little by little. At least my nose doesn't look any different than it usually does; in my normal selfies I don't get the camera far enough away, due to my short arms. Just a bit higher and it would have been better. This was taken at a pit stop during our 5.5-mile walk this morning with the ladies. Fifteen of us showed up, and if it doesn't snow tonight, we'll meet for our annual New Year's Day gathering at Lake Padden, for once around the lake and then coffee and goodies.
Enjoying coffee as we gathered after the walk
The "wintry mix" held off while we were walking, and hopefully it will move through quickly. Next week we have some very cold weather coming, but for now it's just normal winter. This afternoon I'm going to see Manchester By the Sea, which was given rave reviews by all these ladies who have already seen it. It's playing at our local independent theater, so it seems like just the right thing to do for the last day of a very long year. Maybe it seemed to be longer because of the contentious election season, or maybe because of the long list of some of my favorite celebrities who left us this year. In any event, I'm glad to see it gone! Better times are ahead, I just know it.