Saturday, September 13, 2014

Next to last Saturday of Summer 2014

We used to talk to each other: Gene, me, John
I asked a young man at the table behind us to take this picture. He kept smiling at us as I was explaining to John how to do things on his new tablet. The guy said it's the same thing with his mom: he had to teach her how to text so that they could talk to each other. Gene doesn't have wifi in his home, so he brings his tablet to the coffee shop to use their connection, check his email and Facebook. John wanted to know how to get onto Craigslist. He's catching on fast.
Leo and his dad
I was also very pleased to see Leo at the coffee shop; he said his dad brought him in before school and would be taking him after his breakfast (and after Robert's espresso). Leo goes to a Montessori school, and I was going to link to it, but I just discovered that Bellingham has FOUR of them. Although Leo told me the name of his school, I can't remember which one it is. Anyway, he's growing up so fast, it's wonderful to see him now and then. He'll soon be six years old!
Pricey but beautiful
After my morning walk with the ladies, I stopped by the Farmers' Market to pick up some veggies, and I saw these beautiful heirloom tomatoes calling my name. I grimaced when I priced a few of them and decided to be happy with the regular ones from my own garden. Maybe next week.

And yes, summer is quickly coming to a close. A week from Monday, September 22, marks the Autumnal Equinox, and after that day, the nights will get gradually longer than the days, until we descend into winter. But you sure wouldn't know it today: it's sunny (again!) and has already warmed into the 70s, with tomorrow forecast to be even warmer. Oh, all right, I'll take it! Happily.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A beautiful day at Lake Ann

From back: Mary, Rebecca, Carol, Diane, Bob, Steve, Peggy
I know this post is late, and it's because I only walked in the door a few minutes ago from a long day out in the Mt. Baker Wilderness with seventeen Senior Trailblazers. And then downloading my pictures caused another delay, so here it is after 7:00pm and I'm just getting started. The group was so large that we needed to break into two groups, and these are the people I hiked with up to Lake Ann on a beautiful, sunny and cool day.
Mt. Baker from the valley
This hike starts off at about 4700 feet and descends into a valley, where you cross a couple of streams and lots of rocks before you begin your ascent up to Lake Ann at 4800 feet. Along the way you get this marvelous view of Mt. Baker. By the time you climb out of the valley through the rocky shale, you lose sight of this mountain, but there are other benefits.
Rebecca and Lake Ann
As you lose sight of the mountain, you finally see Lake Ann below you after a long climb, with a wonderful vista behind. This was Rebecca's first hike with the Senior Trailblazers, but she didn't have any problems and I really enjoyed getting to know her. Once we got to the top we ran into the other group, who had followed around a mile behind us, so that we wouldn't get into trouble with the rangers (groups are supposed to be 12 or fewer in the wilderness).
Enjoying our lunch while we admire the glaciers on Mt. Shuksan
That's Mt. Shuksan's backside and the upper and lower Curtis glaciers that we're looking at. The day was simply gorgeous and although I feel like I got just a bit too much sun, it was a glorious day. We've come up here in October when the leaves are aflame, and other times when this spot has been covered with snow. But today, it was a perfect hiking temperature, not too hot, not too cold: just right.
Rebecca, Diane, Al, Carol, Steve
I'm using this picture, even though Rebecca has her hand in front of her face, because it shows the glaciers and some of my colorful hiking companions. After lunch, we decided to walk around the lake before heading back down. But before we did, I wanted to get a picture of our newlyweds, Jonelle and Carl, who have been a married couple for ten days now. We give the relationship at least a few more weeks.
Jonelle and Carl, who tied the knot on August 27, 2014
Who knows what lies in our futures when we get out and hike together? They now have combined their lives and destiny but I suspect we'll be seeing lots more of them both for a few years to come. I hope so, anyway. And then we walked around the lake before heading back.
Looking back at Mt. Shuksan and the upper and lower Curtis glaciers
We began our descent across the rocks, then through the valley before starting the final push upwards back to the cars. The temperature stayed cool, but it always seems longer on the way back, being tired and wishing for the hike to end. We call it the "trail stretcher" that comes out on the return trips. But just before we reached the end, I turned and looked back.
Goodbye for another year, Lake Ann
Here you can see where we had been: way over the valley on the other side, where the glaciers and Mt. Shuksan await our return next year, if all goes well. It was simply a wonderful day, filled with so much sunshine, incredible views, and joyful company all day long. I just took the last sip of my wine, so now I'm ready to sign off and rummage in the fridge for dinner. Blessings from Bellingham!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Sunday hike

Fred, Peggy and Diane in front of one of the twin lakes
Well, there I was vacillating about whether or not to go skydiving on Sunday, when on Saturday Peggy mentioned, while on our walk, that three of the Ferndale group were going to Winchester on Sunday and there was room for one more person. Since I had never been there before, that answered my question: let's go hiking!
Blueberries within reach of the trail
The hardest part of this hike up Winchester Mountain to reach a fire lookout is the drive there: It's 6.5 miles on a rutted one-lane road, with cars going in the other direction needing to pull over if possible, or back up until you find a good spot. It took us 45 minutes to travel that short distance. And there were so many cars! I remembered why I'm so glad I get to hike during the week, avoiding countless people, dogs, cars and screaming kids. But we started early, so we beat the crowds for the first part of our trek up to the lookout. It's under two miles and up 1,300 feet (meaning it's steep but short), but the views!
Twin Lakes from the top of Winchester Mtn
We didn't hurry up the trail; it was hard not to sample as many blueberries as we could. When we first reached the lookout, all the people who were up there for the night had started down, and the hordes coming up were still below us. If you look closely at that picture, you can see the parking lot between the two lakes. It holds more than 30 cars, and almost every spot was taken by the time we returned.
Cabin and Mt. Baker in the distance,  sign giving elevation of 6,521 feet
We explored the pristine cabin, which is available to anyone who wants to spend the night there (first come) and signed the guest book. Wouldn't it be incredible to see the stars on a clear night? It would be so quiet and peaceful. And the views!
Diane, Peggy and Mt. Baker
When I took this picture, I was inside the cabin looking at the view of my friends and the mountain. Then I set up the self timer and got this picture of the four of us before we started back down. We spent close to an hour on the top, and before we started our descent, more than a dozen people had arrived, plus dogs, and on the way back down we passed dozens more, with rambunctious kids and their canine companions.
Diane, me, Peggy, Fred
We thought we might saunter down the trail to the High Pass junction and then mosey up that way a little ways, but while we were up here at the top, we noticed that it's not exactly flat to get to High Pass, meaning you would need to descend into a valley and then climb up to see the view. Instead, we were happy to try to beat the crowds of cars that would be all trying to leave at the same time.

As it was, even though it was fairly late in the afternoon, there were still plenty of cars filled with more people on their way up the road. It was actually good that we finally got out when we did. We stopped at Graham's and had our obligatory ice cream cones before heading home. I'm glad we didn't try to cram more into the day, as I was still plenty tired and was glad to have earned my wine. What a great way to spend a Sunday!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Clouds, where are you?

We get some pretty ones around here
I took this picture early in the morning one day last week, before it started to get really sunny again. I find it amusing that we here in the Pacific Northwest are currently warmer than most places in the country. This morning I went out walking with the Fairhaven walkers on a crisp, clear day and walked more than 7 miles. Since Cindy had warned us about the length (longer than our usual walks), only nine of us showed up. That's the smallest group I remember in the years I've walked with them. Several of the ladies are preparing for a marathon in Vancouver, BC, in a month or so, and they have been walking longer distances. Next week is a 15K (9.3 miles) here in Bellingham sponsored by Fairhaven Runners and Walkers. Many of my friends will be running or walking it.

Not me, though. My knees won't take it, and I'm gingerly walking longer distances without using the brace, since I'm not in any pain. I carry it with me, however, and slap it on at the first sign of any discomfort. I was able to get in more than two hours of fast walking today and it feels fine. But I'm still not going to train for a marathon and will take care of myself with shorter pursuits.

It reminds me that once, long ago, I decided to run a marathon and began training for it. Every time I would get above 30 miles in a week, I'd get injured. And now several decades have gone by to remind me that I no longer have to even try. Tomorrow, however, I'm going out with some friends to experience a new hike and enjoy these waning summer days.

The clouds will return, and I'll be happy to see them, too. But for now, sunscreen and my wide-brimmed hat will join me. My raincoat hangs dejectedly in the closet, but I've assured it that it won't be long now.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Heliotrope Ridge on a perfect day

Nice little waterfall on the trail
Ten Senior Trailblazers set out for Heliotrope Ridge on a day without a cloud in the sky. I've done this hike on days when we couldn't see much because of the fog, and times when we couldn't get across the creek. But today, we traveled up the much-used trail to get up close and personal with two of Mt. Baker's glaciers. The Washington Trail Association has a good write-up about the trail here, and I've added an excerpt from that link that says it very well:
As you travel through stunted evergreens, the incredible hulking Baker makes its presence known. Soon encounter the first of two challenging (potentially dangerous) crossings of braided Heliotrope Creek. Plan on getting your feet wet in icy-cold, rapidly moving waters. Be aware, too, that if it's a hot day your return will be even more difficult because of melting snows from above.
We were all together, still, when we reached the first of those challenging stream crossings, but some of us decided to cross, and others didn't want to. (We had also run into three of our friends who were hiking separately. They also decided not to cross.)

Some crossed, some didn't
 I didn't think I'd cross over the stream. Al is busy giving walkie-talkies to the group who will go up the climber's route instead of crossing the stream. It wasn't easy, and thinking of the return route I wasn't sure I was making the right decision, but I made my way across anyway and kept my feet dry!
Pretty flowers at one of the stream crossings
And it was worth it, as we got closer and closer to Coleman Glacier and Mt. Baker, the most amazing pictures caught my eye. It looked as if we could simply mosey up Mt. Baker if we wanted, but it was actually several thousand feet above us. I can see why the people use this area to summit the mountain.
The summit of Mt. Baker, with glacier ice in the foreground
Doesn't it look like you could saunter up there on a nice day? It's much farther than it looks, but the glacier! We were above it, looking down at Coleman Glacier, and it was so close we just gaped at it in awe. So beautiful!
The glacier, Mt. Baker, and Rita
Look at that massive glacier! And we were not far from a very nice lunch spot, but we needed to climb a little more to get there. I was beginning to tire, but I kept trudging along, following my friends to a nice place for lunch. Full sun and incredible views made it possible for me to continue. Time for lunch!
Al and Mike enjoying lunch, others behind them
It was nice to stop and fortify myself with a nice lunch while we stopped to enjoy the amazing views. Al pulled out his binoculars and spied the rest of our group on the other side of the ridge, having lunch as well. We confirmed all this with the walkie-talkies and decided on how we would rejoin them. I used my telephoto and got this shot of the others. They had a great view, too, just different from ours.
There they are! Farther away than last week's mountain goats
The best part is that, since we were line-of-sight with our companions, the walkie-talkies worked great. We all left our lunch spots at the same time and got back together to continue down the trail to our cars. For once, it all worked perfectly.

And now I am sitting in my own living room, the day's work done. I had a great day, as did all the other Trailblazers. I would like to leave you with this picture of me, taken in front of the glacier and magnificent Mt. Baker.
What a great day! Me in front of a glacier and a mountain
I took a few pictures of my friends in this same spot, and once I get this published I will send them their own wonderful pictures taken in front of our old friend Mt. Baker and one of her many glaciers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Garden party

Carol's Labor Day harvest
Yesterday, I decided that it would be a good way to get my exercise by going into the garden and working my little plot. Lots of buttercup leaves had begun to encroach into my area, and the sweet peas and other plants were ready to join the compost heap. So that's just what I did.
One of Nate's sunflowers and clouds
At first it was on the hot and sunny side, but then these clouds came in to give us some cover from the sun. I was joined by Carol, Nate, Hedi and Joan before too long. Joan didn't stay, but the rest of us did, and we worked on clearing our various areas. Nate has finished earning his degree and is currently looking for a job. He's been offered one from Boeing and another from some place in Georgia. We all hope he takes the Boeing job because then he'll be nearby, even if he has to move from our apartments.
Nate's garden spot, next to mine on the left side
Since we still have some open spots, I think it might be possible for me to take over Nate's plot, at least for next season. If there are more people who want to join us, we'll work from there. On the back fence he's got some really good raspberries, and you can see my strawberry plants on the left are encroaching on his plot. They are the best strawberries I ever tasted, so it sure would be nice to have more room for them. We'll see.
Nate sipping his drink, Carol clearing the community garden
We gathered chairs and brought our drinks of choice: Nate had something with gin in it, Carol got a beer, and I drank my wine (Hedi doesn't drink), while we talked about the successful season, with what worked and what didn't. In the picture, the ground under Carol's feet was full of old squash plants and weeds, and she had finished clearing the area when I took this picture. Soon after, she joined us in libations. It was fun, and I have to say I have enjoyed this, my third planting season, the most of any so far. And I'm looking forward to next year!

Right now I'm cooking a stew, made with one of Carol's onions, Nate's parsnips, my garlic and zucchini, and Hedi's crookneck squash. I could add more, but the pot is full, bubbling away happily as I write this. And it will be enjoyed for dinner tonight, along with some good bread! Who would ever have thought I'd actually become an accomplished gardener, looking for more garden real estate? Certainly not me!

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.