Saturday, September 28, 2013

About that party

Wearing the oldest thing in our closets
When I returned from this end-of-summer party at Jonelle's home last Tuesday, I realized I had left my camera behind, and I was unable to post any pictures to explain this picture (which was sent to me byAl that same evening). The picture in my camera that was making everyone smile is this one of all of us. Peggy's bridal veil kept getting in someone's face until we thought of this creative solution. The theme of the party was to wear "the oldest thing in your closet." Here's the story of each one:
1970: Army uniform
Doug didn't actually wear this hat with his uniform, but he found this one years before and it just went perfectly with the outfit, don't you think? Looks smashing to me!
Jonelle, Rita, Amy
Jonelle is wearing a dress from 1939 that belonged to her mother. It's an exquisite velvet item, set off with a beautiful necklace that was also her mom's. There were a few spots on it that she thought might have been from her spit-up when she was a baby. Rita is wearing a silk punjabi that she had made while in India in the 1960s. Amy is wearing a beautiful two-piece outfit that she had made in Hong Kong in 1966. (I'm not sure of the exact dates, now that I'm writing this post. I'll correct them if they're wrong.)
Peggy, her husband Lyle, Jonelle
Peggy is wearing her wedding veil from 1969. She said she also has the dress hanging in her closet, but it was just a wee bit snug. The veil still fits, though! Lyle is wearing his high school letter sweater from 1965; Jonelle is holding his arm so the number would show.
Jonelle and Al
Al didn't know the exact date of this ensemble, but you can certainly tell it's got a few years on it. The width of the tie, the burgundy shirt (which is coming back in style) and the jacket tell an interesting story. I don't know what Jonelle was exclaiming about; by this time I think I'd already had at least a half glass of wine.
Udo and Diane
Udo said he can get into these old pants only because he lost some weight recently. His cool hat makes the outfit complete (along with the suspenders). Diane definitely got some use out of those old jeans, don't you think? If they are STILL in her closet, which made me wonder if she wears them around the house even today.
Ward and Linda
Ward's jacket is made of wide wale corduroy, and Linda is wearing a scarf from a long time ago. I don't remember if I learned any dates for their old items, but I was pleased to see their smiling faces at the party. They were leaving the very next morning off on another camping trip, so I wasn't sure if they would be there.
Me in my dad's Harris Tweed
When I was about ten or twelve, my dad came back from a trip to Hong Kong with a Harris Tweed jacket made especially for him, with his name in it and everything. When he died, my mother had the jacket remade to fit her, and when she died, I inherited it. It's very heavy and a bit scratchy, but it still is quite wearable. I bought the hat at a secondhand store; I was looking for a fedora, and this is as close as I got. My dad always wore the jacket with a bolo tie; I wore a silk scarf, since I didn't have a tie.

We had a great time and I'm already looking forward to next year. We discussed what kind of a theme we might come up with for end-of-summer 2014, with some ideas already percolating in our heads. Last year, we all dressed up. Apparently I didn't write a post, though, since I can't find one.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ptarmigan Ridge starts fall

Baker at the start of the hike
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers headed up to Artist Point to begin a hike on Ptarmigan Ridge. Since this was more than the twelve allowed in a single group in the wilderness, we split into two groups: one group of six which would hike much faster than the other group of eight. I was in the slower group, which suited me just fine. We could see the others for most of the early part of the day, which was glorious! Cool and clear, with a few clouds and a light breeze.
Time for a short break
This picture shows the slower group as we stopped for a short break before continuing on. By this time we were on Ptarmigan Ridge itself, after having hiked from Artist Point to the turnoff (one way goes to Chain Lakes, the other to Ptarmigan Ridge). We had run into a little ice on the parts of the trail that were in shade, but otherwise the trail was clear.
Fall colors making an appearance
The trail was lovely, and there were even a few blueberries left, although most of them are past their prime eating date.  I still enjoyed them, however. Once we stopped for lunch, the fast group (which had already stopped and eaten) sauntered by on their way to the East Portal, the farthest you can go on the trail before being stopped by Mt. Baker itself. I decided to follow them, and we ended up breaking into three groups.
Magnificent Mt. Shuksan
Clouds began to build, and sometimes they were even a little dark and gloomy, but we never saw much coming out of the sky. You can see that there is new snow on Mt. Shuksan. We began to ascend into fresh snow as we climbed higher, and I begged for a quick stop to take a picture. This was all I got before everyone took off again.
8-10 inches of new snowfall
I was never so happy to have my trekking poles than I was on this part of the hike. The trail was actually just tracks in the snow where previous hikers had gone, and parts were very steep and treacherous. The poles made it possible to continue. Not long after this picture was taken, only four people continued on, and Jonelle, Peggy and I turned around to head back down.
Jonelle and Peggy, with Shuksan peeking out from the clouds
We had agreed that wherever we were at 1:45pm, we would turn around and head back down to join the others. The three of us decided to separate from the intrepid four who would make it all the way to the East Portal before that time. We were tired and ready to head back. We had traveled more than five miles and still had the return to consider, making it more than ten miles. My knees feel it as I write this post.
Me, Jonelle, and lots of snow
Once we all got back together in the parking lot, Amy pulled out her birthday cupcakes in order to celebrate the birthdays of Diane and Steve. Amy is our "social secretary" and never misses a birthday. Although we were tired,  we had no problem eating the cupcakes and singing happy birthday to our dear friends.
Udo, Diane, Steve, and Rita
Some people went eight miles, some a bit over that (I was in that group), and some made eleven miles by the time this picture was taken. Diane and Steve, the birthday celebrants, both made it the whole way! If it had not been so steep and snowy, I like to think I would have done it, too. But the way I feel right now makes me think I stopped just in time. It was a great day, and a wonderful beginning to the new season.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Al took this picture, me with my missing camera
I just returned home after attending a wonderful end-of-summer party at Jonelle's home, celebrating the end of a super hiking season. Eleven of us Trailblazers showed up at her house to show each other what we have found to be the oldest items in our closets, as directed by Jonelle. I took lots of pictures, and got home to download them, and guess what? No camera. I left it at her house, so now I'm reduced to finding a poor substitute. Al just sent me this picture, with me showing my captures to Ward, Peggy, Jonelle, Rita, and Udo. Sigh. The story of our party will have to wait for another time. What else has happened in my life lately?

Well, I saw a really good movie last week, and I enjoyed it more than I expected I would: The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker as a black butler who was in the White House during several administrations. It was really well done, with cameo spots by people like Robin Williams playing Eisenhower, Oprah Winfrey playing the butler's wife, and many, many more interesting performances. It was very entertaining, and I enjoyed it immensely. I would see it again in a minute.

This week I also finished a very interesting book. I was at the bookstore when I saw it on the shelf, never having heard of it before, and I toyed with buying it. I loved the title: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. I had a sudden thought, was it available at the library? I looked on line and found that it was indeed at my local library, drove there and picked it up instead of buying it. I enjoyed it, too, although it wasn't exactly the kind of book I would read again. The protagonist lived a very interesting Forrest-Gump kind of existence in his early days, and I had quite a few good laughs thinking about his life.

The author of this book is Jonas Jonasson, who lives in Sweden and is now in the process of making the book into a movie. If it comes to this country, I will definitely see it, finding that many Swedish movies I've seen have been very interesting. I loved all the Dragon Tattoo movies, just so you'll know my taste in Swedish movies, which is not to everyone's liking.

Well, that's about all I can come up with, since those wonderful pictures of our fun party are languishing inside my camera, which is sitting on Jonelle's coffee table, she tells me. One day you will get to see us in some amazing costumes, but not today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Harvest moon

Harvest moon from my front porch
One of my neighbors knocked on my door as I was sitting in front of my computer the other night and told me I needed to come out and see the harvest moon, and she was right! I captured this shot Friday night, when the moon was emerging right in front of Mt. Baker. I tried to use my cellphone camera, but it wasn't as good as this one. Just a few seconds before, as I was fiddling with my camera, it was even bigger on the horizon.
Thursday's sunrise
The sunrise was also spectacular the day before. Those clouds all left and we had a beautiful day on Thursday, but I think they were just hanging around for the sunrise shot from my front porch. Today is blustery and rainy, with winds blowing steadily at 20mph and gusting to 35. Yep, not a day I'd want to find myself under a parachute.

I just called Linnie to see how she is feeling after her hard opening. She wouldn't have been able to skydive today, even if the weather had cooperated. She thinks she may have turned a corner and will be getting better every day from now on. She's able to go to work every day now, but she is probably done skydiving for the season. She makes these pretty little cards and sends them to her friends, so I suspect she'll be doing plenty of this kind of work for awhile, rather than jumping her buns off. I love the little airplane making its way above a very plump house.

Well, the sky gods must be thinking of the Senior Trailblazers, because the only really good day we had last week was Thursday, and we've got rain and wind projected all the way until... Thursday. I know it's too early to know for sure (it's only Sunday, after all), but I'm hoping for another great day! Today is the Autumnal Equinox, which will happen here in the Pacific Northwest at 1:44pm. I hope you have a great day!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lake Ann ends summer 2013

First view of Lake Ann today
Today, thirteen Senior Trailblazers headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to hike to Lake Ann. Actually, ten Trailblazers and three guests: Carl, Jonelle's friend who goes home tomorrow, a new hiker Bob who hasn't yet joined the Senior Center, and Karen, a friend of Rita's who is visiting her. So off we went from the parking lot on a beautiful day with lots of sunshine.
Rita and friend Karen (plus boots)
The first time I hiked Lake Ann, I asked why it's considered difficult, since it's just eight miles round trip and somewhere around 2,000 feet elevation gain and loss. I was told it is because it's uphill both ways. Truth is, you descend about a thousand feet into a valley, which you cross before starting up another thousand feet to reach Lake Ann and the back side of Shuksan. And then you head back, with the uphill at the end of the day.
Lots and lots of rocks to cross
It's also pretty rocky, with plenty of difficult-to-maneuver boulders. But today we were making really good time, having crossed the valley and started up the final push to Lake Ann, when suddenly we noticed that five of our number had fallen behind. We waited quite a while before finally sending a delegation down to find out what the problem was. It turned out to be a "wardrobe malfunction," since Karen had not used her hiking boots in a couple of years and on these rocks, they began to disintegrate. The soles came right off from instep to heel. Carl had some duct tape, so he tried to make the boots good enough for her to use, at least for a short distance. That's when we all got back together.
Karen's boots getting doctored
Fortunately, Diane had an entire roll of duct tape in her pack, and she donated it to Al and Carl, who put almost all of it on Karen's boots. This took close to an hour of total time lost on today's hike, but we gamely continued on, until we got to our lunch spot and Lake Ann (see first picture).
Doug in front of the Lower Curtis Glacier on Shuksan
Once you get to Lake Ann, you also get to see the beautiful Upper and Lower Curtis Glaciers on Mt. Shuksan. (Note: I am having a terrible time trying to get pictures into Blogger tonight. Sometimes the magic works, but mostly I'm getting error messages. Therefore, I'm going to be brief from here on.) Once we had lunch, we decided to walk around the lake, which we only did once before, when there was an actual beach around the lake and not lots of snow. It was really lovely. Here (I hope) is another picture.
Lake Ann, Shuksan and Upper and Lower Curtis Glaciers
(Aside: I finally left my browser and went to another one, because nothing was working, and now maybe I can finish this post!) Anyway, here's a picture I got of Mt. Shuksan and the glaciers taken when we walked around the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but we did lose some time because of the boot situation. However, Karen did make it back to the cars with her boots plus duct tape.
Heading back down
It was just about the most perfect hiking weather anybody could have asked for today: a light breeze, sunshine, cool temperatures, and time enough to finish our day. The sun is down now, and Sunday brings the first day of fall, but today we had the perfect ending to a fantastic summer in the Pacific Northwest. I just hope we have a wonderful fall season, too. Sending blessings to everyone!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What did I do to deserve this?

Smiles and banana hats
When I got up to make my tea, I found that the fruits and veggies that were on the kitchen counter had been rearranged. Those are two figs for eyes and my squash had been topped with a banana. There was only one way this could have happened: a gremlin got up in the middle of the night and fiddled with them so that I could have a good laugh this morning. So now you get to enjoy them, too!

Smart Guy is one of those people who could be unappreciated if you don't pay attention to his subtle humor. Just imagine if I hadn't noticed! He also puts little bows in the fridge on top of delicacies he has prepared for me, so that I won't forget to look inside. I'm pretty darn lucky, don't you think?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Being yelled at and more

Nobody likes being yelled at, and it doesn't happen all that often to me. But it did last Thursday at the Senior Center.

The previous Thursday, the weather had been forecast to be simply awful, and we discussed whether or not to head out to the High Country. We decided to go anyway, and it was one of the finest days of hiking we could have had. But it might have gone differently. I wrote about it here, and I called the day simply miraculous. We could not have had a better day. The other hiking group, however, decided to take a different hike because of the forecast. (There are two groups that head out on different hikes, one being longer and harder and the other shorter and not as fast a pace.) When I arrived this past Thursday, I was chatting with some of the women from the other group who had seen my blog post and mentioned again that the forest ranger had cautioned us about possible lightning. The leader of their group walked up right then and began to yell at me for having taken such risks. His voice rose in volume and soon several people were watching and listening as he went on about how much danger we had exposed ourselves to. Before long a couple of others from my group had joined us, and we sort of backed away from the angry person.

He focused on me as he wagged his finger and yelled, and I felt myself shaking and felt the awfulness of being targeted by his anger. Although I was only one of the group, it seemed to me that he felt that somehow it was my fault that we had taken such a risk. It is true that the forest ranger did not think it was a good idea for us to head out, but she made sure we knew how to minimize the risk and gave us some tips about lightning safety. We listened all the way up to the top for signs of thunder, but the forecasted weather didn't arrive. We were not being unsafe at all, in my opinion.

I have carried that load of anger around ever since, and I woke up last night reliving the experience and feeling the leftover karmic baggage. When I was little and my dad would yell at me like that, I would get the same feeling, but at least in most of those cases I had earned it. It occurred to me that maybe writing about it here would give me a chance to let it go. So there you have it.

It's been an unsettling week in other ways as well. I was distressed to learn about the controversy over Diana Nyad's swim from Cuba to Florida. After having watched her rise up out of the sea at the end of her historic swim, I cried with happiness, not only for her, but for all of us people of a certain age who attempt things that we are not supposed to be able to do any more. She didn't even know about the controversy until she saw it in the news, when she should have been exulting in her achievement. It appears that she was in some very favorable currents that helped her swim faster at times, and the resulting faster speeds made some skeptics jump on her for cheating. Why in the world would she have done that?
From Florida Keys News Bureau 
I read somewhere that some swimmers who were looking for sponsors for other difficult swimming events felt that if a senior citizen could do what Diana did without cheating, they wouldn't be as likely to gain funding. I don't know if that's true, but it will make me very happy when this controversy has been laid to rest.

And last of all, I did get to go skydiving last Sunday and had one of the most fun skydives I've experienced in years. Four of us, including my dear friend Linnie, were playing in the sky and having a great time. When it came time for us to separate and open our parachutes, she experienced a very hard opening. She has a very sore neck and what she thinks is whiplash. This can happen, rarely though, when a packing error can cause even the most docile of parachutes to open way too fast. It's happened to me a few times, and I'm very careful, as is Linnie, to do everything possible to minimize their occurrence. She is still too sore to skydive this weekend, and I am concerned and hoping that by next weekend she will be back to her normal self. It was our second and last jump of the day. Christy and I went off to see if we could find her a neck brace, and all we could find were soft cervical collars that did little to help. Linnie has been to the doctor several times this week for treatment.

Well, things can only go up from here, right? After a fine week of exercise and time spent in the beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness, I am looking forward to another wonderful week, and one without angry words or untoward parachuting accidents.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Church Mountain summit

Steve, Doug, Amy and Carl, Jonelle, Mike
While we were waiting for Al to finish getting ready, I asked the Trailblazers for a picture with the trailhead sign. Eight of us went up to Church Mountain today, this time to gain the summit. Last time we went, the meadow was covered with snow. It was Fourth of July weekend, and since we were not scheduled to hike on Thursday (a holiday), we went on a Tuesday. Today, there was not only no snow in the meadow, all the flowers have come and gone since early July.
Emerging from forest into full sunlight
This was one of the driest hikes up to the top of Church Mountain I can remember. But there was one thing that we've been seeing on various hikes lately: lots of blueberries! They are so abundant that again I lagged behind the others as I sampled them. Whether you call them huckleberries or blueberries, they were incredibly sweet and delicious.
Doug and blueberries
As you can see, I was not alone in my quest to taste the perfect blueberry. Between the sunshine on this part of the hike and the blueberries, we took our time getting toward the top of the pass. After awhile, the heat and humidity began to slow some of us down, while others wended their way up the switchbacks a bit faster. (You all know what switchbacks are, right? If not, learn about them here.)
Slowly but surely we gained altitude
It was very dry and places where we usually see snow were free of any moisture at all. You can see in the above picture how dry everything is. But finally we got to the summit, which requires us to scramble on a very exposed stretch (not long, maybe fifty feet). We all gained the summit except for Mike, who has been there previously and didn't want to attempt it today. A nice fellow hiker, Eric from North Carolina, took this picture of the rest of us on the summit, where we could see 360-degree views in every direction.
Doug, Amy, Carl, Al, Jonelle, Steve, and me
Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan were prominent as we gazed around at the view. There once was a lookout on the spot where we are standing, but it's been gone for a long time. To think that supplies were hauled up to this spot regularly is rather amazing to contemplate. Today the only thing that remains of the lookout is the flat spot, and some lumber lying in the bushes just below the summit. Looking the other direction, we could see Kidney Lake (on the right).  Al said he cannot remember another time when there was no snow anywhere around the lake.
Kidney Lake on the right; I don't know the name of the other one
It was hot, although a gentle breeze blew through every once in awhile while we were on the summit, but there was not even a little bit of shade while we ate our lunch. I think most of us didn't want to linger too long up there. I did get this wonderful picture of Amy with Mt. Baker behind her.
Amy and Mt. Baker
By the time I took this picture, we were just a minute or two from heading back down, with the treacherous fifty feet uppermost in our minds. But we made it without incident and began our trudge back down to the meadow.
Stocking up with fresh water at the stream
Both Al and Steve brought water filters so we could safely drink the stream water without worrying about picking up any bugs. We managed to drink all of our water on the way up to the summit and our return trip. From here, we had another three miles or so before we were back at the cars. Although it is pretty late, I am now happily sitting in my chair, my wine glass beside me, and another wonderful day in the beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness under my belt. It was about nine miles and almost 4,000 feet, meaning this week I've hiked 19 miles. I guess it's all right for me to be tired at this moment, almost 7:00pm on a Thursday, after a great day!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stujack Pass 2013

Stujack Pass 2011 and yesterday
One of the real benefits to having a blog like this is going back to past adventures, with pictures and narrative. I wasn't sure exactly when we went to Stujack Pass previously, but I found it was at the end of August 2011. That was the year when the snow didn't melt for a long time, and the flowers, even at the end of August, were incredibly prolific everywhere we went. Not so this year. Although the seasonal difference in the two above pictures was less than two weeks, the divergence in conditions could not have been more striking. Take a look here at the pictures I took two years ago.
Is that pepper? Looks ready for the frying pan
There had been some serious rain up here a few days before we arrived, and the mushrooms had sprouted everywhere we looked, as we made our way up toward the pass from the trailhead. We must have seen a dozen (or even more) varieties, where some had popped up through the ground so quickly that the ground cover was pushed hastily aside.
Red fungus on a dead tree
The colors of some of them were amazing. This one caught our eye as the sun shone right on this pretty one. I have no idea if any of these are edible, but nobody was willing to pick any of them and give them a try! Soon, a lake came into view on the trail, and I realized I had forgotten about it until I actually saw it again.
Al checking out the lake
Most of the first part of this hike is in dense forest, beautiful and shady, which was a boon to those of us hiking up to the pass. We climbed pretty steadily in the trees until we reached the clearing where those first two pictures were taken. From then on, it was all in sunshine, but we did have a pretty nice breeze and stunning views of the surrounding mountains as we climbed. I remembered seeing this rock outcropping from our previous trip, which looks very much like a castle.
Castle with mountains behind
And then we had reached the summit! One of our hikers had gone on ahead of us so he could climb to the top of Mt. Pugh, but none of the rest of us had any desire to try it. The pass itself revealed our old friend, Mt. Baker, from the other side than we usually see this mountain. This is looking northwest from the pass and using my telephoto lens. It wasn't really that close.
Mt. Baker, with White Chuck in front
Once you reach the pass, there aren't many places to sit comfortably, since this trail drops off precipitously in both directions. I found a place to sit in the sparse shade, but it was on a pretty steep slope, and I almost lost my camera when I dropped it in its case and it went bouncing merrily toward the dropoff. I held onto Diane's hand as I retrieved it.
Stujack Pass summit
After enjoying our views and finishing our lunch, we headed back down to the car. We were a little worried because Mike had not yet returned from the summit of Mt. Pugh, and we had expected him before we headed back down. But since he's an experienced climber, we didn't worry too much.
Peggy and I, getting ready to head down
Once we got back to the view from the clearing just before the forest, we hung out and watched that little low spot on the pass until we saw him. Al's binoculars confirmed that it was indeed Mike, so we took off, expecting he would catch us before long, and that's just what happened.

We were all pretty tired by the end of the day, having traveled ten miles and gained and lost somewhere just under 4,000 feet of elevation. We stopped in Arlington at a Mexican restaurant and had dinner. It was pretty late by the time I pulled into my driveway and I had to walk up the steps to my apartment. My knees were not happy, but now that it's the next day and I've had a good night's sleep, all is well. I think I'll be ready for another hike on Thursday.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall is in the air

Red mountain ash berries
Last Thursday I noticed that not only the blueberries are abundant and ripe, the other colors of fall are beginning to show up, too. Those berries (if I'm not mistaken) have changed from a light color to red, heralding the change of seasons in the High Country. It's been more humid than normal around these parts, but nothing compared to what the Midwest and East Coast experience on a regular basis. I noticed this morning that it was 62 degrees when I first woke up and checked the weather, and saw we had a dew point of 61. This is quite high for our area, where dew points generally remain in the mid-40s to mid-50s. So it's been feeling a bit on the sticky side.
From the web cam at Harvey Field in Snohomish, 3:15pm
Why was I checking the weather first thing? Well, I wondered if I might be able to go skydiving today. The web cam showed rain and low clouds until just a few hours ago, and it's almost 4:00pm. Those people who live close by might be making their way to the DZ, since it's now quite nice and, as we skydivers say, "jumpable."

I'll wait until tomorrow, when it's supposed to be much nicer weather in the Puget Sound region. My friend Linnie will be at Skydive Snohomish, weather permitting, and I'm hoping I'll be able to get my knees in the breeze a time or two. Once we get to the end of October, skydiving is pretty much over for the season in the Pacific Northwest. I sure do love it here, the change of seasons, the incredible beauty of the area. The autumnal equinox is only two weeks away: September 22 at 1:44pm on the West Coast. So let's go skydiving!