Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heliotrope Ridge 2015

Parking lot, filled with cars on a weekday
Twelve Senior Traiblazers gathered at the parking lot for the Heliotrope Ridge hike, without our leader Al, but with Ward (yellow shirt) and Steve who acted as his stand-ins. We had three hikers, Roger, Doug and Susan, who decided to ride together and do their own thing separate from us. They are what I call Superhikers, much stronger than some of the rest of us, and who would go much farther and faster. We bade them goodbye at the parking lot.
Crossing the first creek, the only one with a bridge
This parking lot is not only the place where people climb to see the Coleman Glacier on Mt. Baker up close and personal, but it's also where those who are going to climb to the top of Mt. Baker begin their trek to the base camp. We saw lots of strong-looking guys with full climbing gear starting out at the same time we did.
The second creek crossing, no bridge
Then we reached the second creek crossing, which looks pretty innocuous in the picture; it wasn't. We had to pick our way across the rushing water, which is coming down from the Glacier and with the warm weather wasn't all that easy.
Steve helping me across, Joy on the left after crossing
Steve went across first, and then helped those of us who felt we needed a hand. Although it wasn't too much of a stretch, my short legs were glad to have some assistance as I leaped across the rocks. All was well as we continued on the hike to the third crossing. Before we got there, we came to the junction to the Climber's Route, which takes you steeply upward to a ridge. Most of us wanted to see whether we would be able to get across the third, and most difficult, crossing, so we could see the Glacier up close.
One of our first great views of Mt. Baker
The weather could not have been better, although some of us might have appreciated a cloud or two, and Mt. Baker looked close enough to touch. Just a short jaunt to the top, right? But before we could get to the glacier overlook, we had to cross that last stream. I was hoping against hope that we would be going over there to take a look around.
Linda going up to that log to see if she could cross
Because of the extreme warmth we've been having, the glacier is releasing tremendous amounts of rushing water across this stream. Linda is heading up to that horizontal log to see if we might be able to make it across. She tentatively evaluated the situation, but before she could start to cross, both Ward (her husband) and Steve said NO. Although it doesn't look like much, the water is very strong, and a fall would inevitably mean an injury. So we turned around and started up the Climber's Route.
Coleman Glacier and Mt. Baker (Carol's picture)
As we climbed up the steep trail, we did get some fabulous views of the glacier and Mt. Baker. But when we are on the other side, you really do feel like you can reach out and touch the glacier. We did this hike last September, and we were able to cross and see the magnificent views. Check them out here
Aphids munching on a dead lupine
Because of the heat, all the flowers were gone except some fireweed and monkey flowers (near water sources), and I noticed that all the lupines have gone to seed and attracted plenty of aphids. If you enlarge this picture, you can see lots of fat aphids who are enjoying them. Someone said that all members of the pea family (which includes lupines) attract them. There was no doubt about that!
That first bridge, on our return journey
And then we made our way back down the trail, having covered somewhere under seven miles and more than six (6.2, 6.3, 6.7 were our various readings) and around 2,000 feet up and down. It's interesting that my feet have learned to notice eight miles, since that's when they get tired, and I wasn't anywhere near that today. We hopped in our cars and drove to Graham's in the town of Glacier where we enjoyed ice cream cones and more, and then headed home.

It was a wonderful day. I think this is one of my very favorite hikes, and I don't need to say it, but I will: it's much more enjoyable when we have our fearless leader with us. I hope next week he will be able to be with us again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another hot spell ramping up

A neighbor's grape arbor
We have just finished a wonderful cool period, with the temperatures during the day not making it much past 70 (21C) in the heat of the day, with wonderful cool nights allowing for comfortable sleep. And we even got a third of an inch of rain Friday night here in Bellingham, which was also delightful, after having been in a prolonged drought. But it was short-lived. Starting today, when the clouds clear off, we won't be seeing any more of them for quite awhile. A high-pressure ridge is building over the area, so here we go again.

Every morning when I walk to the bus, I pass these grapes and have watched them develop. They are not seedless and will turn deep burgundy colored before they are ripe. But this year the neighbors will have a bumper crop, the most I've seen in the seven years I've been watching. I stole a few once, and they are tart and filled with seeds (maybe Concord?) and very delicious. Of course, anything stolen tastes better, doesn't it?

My tomatoes are still green but some of my neighbors' cherry tomatoes are ripe enough to be quite delicious indeed. And my friend John tells me that his sweet corn is not too far from being ready to eat. I'll be the benefactor of as much as I want! It's getting to be that time of the year when harvesting the fruits of our labors is in sight. I've eaten broccoli and kohlrabi, as well as lettuce and spicy salad greens from my own garden since June, but those fruits that require a whole season are coming along nicely. Oh, is there anything better than food from your own garden? Or an unsuspecting neighbor's?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sleeping on the ground versus a camper

Linda and Ward's 17-footer
I wasn't at all sure whether I would still be able to sleep on the ground with just a little skinny Thermarest mattress between me and the ground, but it turned out to be just fine. In some ways it was just as comfy as being in my own bed, as long as I didn't think about it too much, and kept turning every now and then. But Linda and Ward have their very own trailer with everything one needs: a nice comfy bed, stove, fridge, and even a tiny but efficient freezer!
Carol and Linda inside, Riley in Linda's lap
While the other three of us had tents and camp stoves, it seems this is a really nice way to experience the wilderness: take your home right along with you. They drove into the campsite and disconnected the trailer from their vehicle, leveled it, and were all ready to go. I was quite impressed with how nice it is. You can see their bed in the back, a small table with plenty of room for up to four people to sit around and chat.
Linda putting the tablecloth on the picnic table
But the most impressive thing of all to me was this tablecloth. Linda has been using this for fifty years, as it was a wedding gift and they just had their fiftieth anniversary last month! It has no holes in it, and she said the hummingbirds are attracted to the pattern. They just don't make things like that any more, do they?

The only problem I had with the camping trip is the mosquitoes. I am still scratching at least a dozen spots, even though I keep doctoring them up with anti-itch cream. It was a small price to pay for such a good experience, though. (scratch, scratch)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Camping out and Noisy Creek

Me sitting in Steve's chair, drinking a Bud Lite
Well, the five of us arrived in plenty of time to set up at the Shannon Creek campground on Wednesday afternoon, all ready to charge out on a hike, but somehow, we ended up just visiting and enjoying the lovely mild weather and skipping the evening hike. I realized once we arrived that I had forgotten to bring my usual red wine, or even some good beer! Steve, however, had this Bud Lite, which I did really enjoy (it was cold), but I hankered for a real beer.
Mark, his dog Lakota, Gary, and Tom
I happened to notice that our neighbors were drinking Heineken beer (a nice brew) and sauntered over to see if I could buy one off of them. Of course they gave it to me free, and soon Carol wandered over, and we ended up enjoying some very good beer with our neighbors. They were off very early this morning to fish for sockeye; I hope they got some, but we were already off on our hike before they returned this morning. They were up and about by 5:00am, off by 5:30am.
Linda (with Riley), Ward, Steve, and Carol (I took the picture)
I slept great in my little tent (not shown, that's Steve and Carol's in the picture), and Carol fixed us a wonderful breakfast before we left to go on our Noisy Creek hike this morning. Linda, Ward and Riley have their very own camper, a wonderful 17-footer with everything one would need. But I was very impressed with the new version of the Coleman stove, the great breakfast, and all this before we started our hike!
Who wouldn't be impressed by this tree?
Once we got to the trailhead and enjoyed seeing so many old growth trees and walking on the Noisy Creek trail, we noticed that we had to work HARD not to step on little tiny toads that proliferated along the trail. I've never seen so many of them! I saw a bunch of they trying to climb a little spot, who knows where they were going? We must have seen more than a thousand of these newly hatched little toads.
How many do YOU see here?
Poor Linda, who was leading, was really not wanting to step on any of them in the trail, but it was hard. She tried but hated it when she couldn't avoid stepping on one of them. I've seen these little guys here before, but today it was amazing how many there were. Thousands, at least.
Hidden creek, with very little water
Although it was still very beautiful, I was saddened to see how little Hidden Creek was today. Usually there is plenty of water spraying us at this point, but as you can see, it looked almost ordinary today. Still, it was wetter than many other hikes we've visited so far this year.
Mt. Baker hiding from us behind the clouds
And then we reached the lake and our lunch spot. It had been cloudy all morning, but they cleared off pretty much everywhere except right over the mountain. This is the best view we had as we enjoyed our lunch. And then we headed over to Noisy Creek. See the bridge in this picture?
The bridge is in the center
We then walked over to the Noisy Creek bridge and looked at all the tiny toads underneath. And then it was time to head back home, giving us more than ten miles and around a thousand feet of elevation before we returned to the campground. I headed home in my car, but I had to take a couple of detours before I made it home because of a fire in the area. It added another half-hour or so to my return trip, but when I got home, I hit the shower and poured myself a glass of wine. Now it's almost 8:00pm, my post finished, and my adventure behind me. But there will be more!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Need to get packing

My tomatoes as of today
Tomorrow morning I leave for my adventure camping with four of my favorite people, and I haven't even started packing yet! I just went out to the garden to see how it's doing, with only a few things left that have not been harvested. My tomatoes are just bursting out all over, but when they will begin to ripen? It can't be long now, can it?
Yellow onions
The onions are coming along quite nicely. I have no idea when I'm supposed to harvest them, but I accidentally knocked one over while pulling weeds, and I brought it into the house. Even though it's small, it's certainly ready to be eaten, but I do think these will keep on growing in size for awhile.
Volunteer hollyhock
I didn't plant this hollyhock flower this year, but last year I tried to grow some which didn't do well. I was quite surprised to see this volunteer appear among my vegetables. It's pretty and I like to see it doing well, even if it's a year later. I bought some black kale starts and need to get those in the ground before I take off. Time to pack up! Hope I don't forget anything too important. (let's see: toothbrush, teddy bear, sleeping bag, headlamp...)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday musings

Diane took this of me last Thursday, July 16, 2015
On our Thursday hike, Diane took two pictures of me, and once I saw them I immediately realized that I need a haircut! I got online to see when I had the last one and realized it's been exactly six weeks. Short hair doesn't last any longer than that without beginning to get rather, um, unwieldy. I don't wear makeup and I don't pay much attention to my hair until it gets right around this stage.

I made an appointment to get it cut Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I'm going to do something I haven't done in ages: camp out with some of my hiking buddies. Five of us are going to drive to a campground near Baker Lake, make a nice hike on Wednesday evening and then a longer one on Thursday. I'm not going to join the usual Thursday hikers, who are going to Hannegan Pass, which is supposed to be sunny, if not as warm as past weeks, and most of the hike is in full sunshine.
My weekly step counter
And I have to admit that I am definitely addicted to this new app on my phone. I wrote about it awhile back, but I didn't think that I'd actually be more likely to walk and work out MORE because of it, but that's what's happened. You can see that before noon today I had walked almost 15,000 steps (it was partly because of my usual Saturday walk with the ladies). Anything over 12,500 is considered highly active, so I guess I qualify. My daily average for the week is also quite respectable. You can see the spike on Thursday, which represents our Skyline Divide excursion of almost eight miles. I take Sundays off from exercise, which is the low point on July 12, last Sunday.

Isn't technology wonderful? And you'll be subjected to my next Thursday's post of our Noisy Creek hike instead of the Trailblazers trip up Hannegan Pass. I hope they have fun without me; I know I'm looking forward to this adventure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Skyline Divide on a cloudy day

Mt. Baker is behind those clouds
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met to make our annual trek up to Skyline Divide. When we started out, we were in total clouds and fog, but we expected that as the day wore on we would see more blue sky and fewer clouds. This picture is the best it got all day. We never saw Mt. Baker in full view, but it didn't matter. It was a wonderful day in many ways.
Plenty of flowers still left up there
Five of our strongest hikers decided to split off from the rest and hike up fast, and the plan was that we would meet again later. The rest of us, eleven in all, took a slower and more leisurely trip to our usual lunch spot. Because of the constant heat in previous weeks, all of the lupines have already gone to seed, but bistort, valerian, and lots of arnica are still in full bloom. And we were actually cold for some parts of the day, needing jackets and gloves, after weeks of over-the-top heat.
Layers of colors, taken by Carol
The clouds came and went, until we finally found a nice place for lunch. We thought the other five were ahead of us, so we sat down and looked for some signs of them, but in the meantime we were actually quite comfortable and enjoyed the view.
Carol getting ready for lunch
I just happened to see Carol with the clouds suddenly behind her, and I knew this was a shot I had to share. I loved the way we were right at the edge of clouds for part of the time, and then in full sunshine. I almost cropped this picture, but, frankly, I like it just the way I saw it.
Trailblazers settle down for a leisurely lunch
It was almost like having your own private show, watching the mountains come and go, feeling the hot sun for a minute and then a cool breeze and clouds taking over. I loved it. And I had no problem keeping up today, with the coolness and... NO BUGS. We were so sure we would have to deal with them, but I didn't see even one. It was glorious.
I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the clouds today. Even though at times they obscured our view, it didn't matter, because they were so magnificent. At lunch, Diane offered to take a couple of pictures of me, and this one made me smile.
DJan posing for a picture
Although much of the ground was very dry, as you can see in the above picture, it was the first hike in weeks that felt familiar: the temperature, the clouds, and the views were all pretty darn perfect. And then, reluctantly, we decided it was time to head back down to the cars. Since we had not yet seen our missing five, we asked people who were coming up if they had seen them, and they had. So we knew they were ahead of us as we hiked downwards.
Bob stopping to study a flower
Although there were plenty of flowers, they are more like what we might see at the end of August, rather than the middle of July. That's because of the extreme heat we've been experiencing. I don't know what the summer has in store, but I have to say that today was one of those days that makes me so glad I have the privilege to hike in our wilderness. My friends today completed the circle, and it would have been simply perfect if our leader, Al, could have joined us. Soon, we all hope.