Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A quick Tuesday post

Pink snow?
All around Bellingham there are places where you see this these days: is it pink snow? No, it's petals falling from the flowering trees, I think flowering plum (I could be wrong) that don't actually have any fruit. I see these sights everywhere right now. Not only is Bellingham in the midst of exploding blossoms, but my allergies are also in full song at the moment. I'm glad I have stuff to take to allow me to keep from being required to hole up inside an air-conditioned building. My favorites are Claritin and Flonase (generic brands, of course).

I learned that two dear friends of Eike Hohenadl (referring to my last post) drove from southern California to Arizona to pick up his gear and car, so that his wife of many years would not have to. I also learned that he was observed to be completely unresponsive under canopy, so he probably had a wonderful skydive where he performed impeccably, and for whatever reason lost consciousness as soon as he opened his parachute. The landing was not the reason for his death, so I'm comforted, in a way, knowing that Eike probably never knew what happened.

Now, that said, I want to state right here that, even though it might have been right for him, that's not how I want to leave this life. We were of a similar age, and I realize anew that I've made the right decision for this to be my final season in the skydiving arena. Never does one door close but that another opens. Who knows what is next for me? I'm looking forward to finding out!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Farewell to a good man

Eike Hohennadl is in the center
Yesterday I received an email, sent to all of us who were recently in Lake Elsinore for the Skydivers Over Sixty event, that a very familiar face to all of us who knew him, Eike, died skydiving at Eloy in Arizona on Friday. He was attending an invitation-only 88-way event, because he was a very good skydiver, and he also happened to be 72.

Nobody knows for sure what happened, but when his parachute opened in a spin, he was unresponsive under canopy, slumped in the harness, and never did anything to stop it. It continued until he hit the ground, killing him. That is, if he was not already dead, or at least unconscious, from who knows what. Maybe a heart attack, maybe not.

I jumped with him for years, whenever I attended one of those events where we would both be included because of our advanced years. I was never in the same category as far as skydiving skill went. He was a local skydiver in the Lake Elsinore area, and he traveled often to events and was always sought after. It is a great loss to the jump community.

Plus he was just an all-around good guy. It happened yesterday, and every time I woke in the night, I would think of him and feel very sad that he is gone. There are many things I didn't know about him until I read about him in a local Lake Elsinore article, written by Sarah Burge.
Hohenadl had thousands of jumps under his belt and held numerous U.S. Parachute Association licenses and ratings, including safety and training adviser. Hohenadl had escaped from East Germany as a boy and eventually made his way to the United States. He had described that experience as “way more nerve-wracking than jumping from a plane.” Hohenadl fought in the Vietnam War, stationed aboard a 173-foot minesweeper that patrolled the Mekong Delta and the Gulf of Tonkin. In the 90s, he served as manager of a major disposal project at the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Facility involving Vietnam-era napalm. He retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of captain after more than 30 years of service.
I was going to write about something else, but I just need to say goodbye to him, and wish him Godspeed. I also hope that his family and friends will find solace in the outpouring of love and respect that people all over the world are expressing for Eike. He will truly be missed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

To the Boardwalk at Pine Lake

North Chuckanut trail
Now I know how tough we Senior Trailblazers are: we learned that Al, our leader, would not be joining us today, since he's down with a cold. At 6:30am, I looked outside to see that the rain had become a deluge, and I also learned that more than an inch fell during the night. Sigh. I drove to the Senior Center and parked in the empty parking lot, figuring I might be the only one to show up. But no, within a few minutes, ten of us had gathered in the rain to decide what to do.

Our original destination is difficult to follow, since there are no signs and lots of detours. We decided to go to the Pine Lake trailhead and see what happened. Steve, our leader for the day, wanted to start from the North Chuckanut Trailhead, which was not our usual starting point. It's beautiful, and I really like it!
Carol, Peggy, Diane, Linda, Kirk, Mike, Fred, Ward
Steve is out of the frame, as he is giving us some background about the trail, and I, of course, am behind the camera. It's just sprinkling lightly by this time, and I had even removed my raincoat. I was in the front of the group, as it was my job to set the pace, since Steve walks too fast, and I hike at about the same pace as Al does. We made our way to Pine Lake's boardwalk.
It's slippery and you sure wouldn't want to fall in!
It's raised up to allow you to walk carefully to a nice lunch spot, although it doesn't go all the way around the lake. It was a little early, but we decided to have a nice lunch here before heading back. The rain had started to increase a little bit; you could see raindrops on the lake.
Pine Lake in the mist
We didn't linger very long at lunch, since even though we were protected from the rain while having lunch under the trees, before long those same trees began to drip on us. We donned our rain gear and began our descent back to the cars.
Battening down the hatches for the return trip
We started back, all ready for the rain. But of course, since we had prepared for it, before very long it had almost stopped, and we even saw... sun breaks! Yes, the day had improved immeasurably from its dubious beginnings. And we must have seen several hundred trillium flowers in bloom. It was an amazing display.
One of the many groups of trillium in bloom
We all commented on the fact that we were in this area at just the right time, to see so many trillium flowering all at once. And you might also be able to see the faint hint of sunlight on these very wet leaves. We had covered nine-and-a-half miles and around 1,900 feet of elevation gain and loss by the time we returned to the cars. And not to mention there was sunshine filtered through the trees, right as we finished. We all agreed it was a really good day, and nobody minded a little sprinkle now and then.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good news about my eyes

Tulip pickers gathering bouquets to sell
This is another picture from my excursion to the tulips a week ago last Sunday. I love taking pictures, I love seeing the tulips, and I cherish my eyesight. Yesterday I went for a six-month checkup with my retina specialist, who is treating my AMD (age-related macular degeneration). A year ago I went to him for the first time, and this, my third visit, included another one of those "dye jobs." My first was exactly a year ago, where a dye is injected into my veins while pictures are taken of its progression through the eye. After the injection, I was taken into a room. The technician took the pictures and put them onto a screen, with last year's photos next to them, for comparison.

I saw all these dark areas on the screen while I waited for the doctor to come into the room. That looked very bad to me, but when he came in and looked at them, he was quite pleased to see that very little had changed since last year. I told him how the dark areas looked scary to me, and he said no, that's really really good. It's the white patches that are not good.

We discussed the changes that have been made in supplement treatment since the conclusion of AREDS-2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study). You can learn about it here. Apparently the supplements that I am taking are considered to be beneficial, except that fish oil has not shown much efficacy (I started taking it twice a day last year), but he said that since I'm already taking it, why not continue, since it's also good for heart health. I will, indeed.

Being able to see is very important to my quality of life, since I couldn't take pictures like that one, or read, or do much of the things that give me so much joy. So I will continue to eat right, take my vitamins, and think positive! Oh, and Happy Earth Day; that would be today.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

First garden starts are in the ground

Looking good after two days of rain
Last week when it was sunny and warm, I went to Joe's Gardens for some starts. I know it's early enough that I could just put seeds in the ground, but I always like to have them a little bigger so that the critters (especially slugs) are not likely to eat them right away. On the left are six red cabbages, in the middle some lettuce, broccoli behind, and the strawberries left from last fall.
Sugar snap peas
Behind the strawberries are the sugar snap peas, and I put a bunch of the actual peas in the ground along with the starts but haven't seen any sign of them yet. Hopefully I'll have plenty, because these were the highlight of last year's garden. And where I had the nasturtiums last year, several plants are coming up and I'll need to thin them, obviously. I also put in some beet starts, but they aren't doing nearly as well as these others; I may have to plant them again. And I also have a package of purple carrots to go into the ground. It's still a little bit too muddy out there to work in the garden, but every day it's a little drier.

I walked almost seven miles with the Fairhaven walking group this morning, and I am pleased to report that my knee is just fine! Last time I did this particular walk, it was sore for two days afterwards. While it will never be healed, I'm glad to see that taking care of my knee is giving me a chance to resume my usual activities without too much pain.

Tomorrow is Easter, and the sun is supposed to return. I'll spend some time in my garden, but mostly I'll take time to be thankful. It's a beautiful time of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A drippy Anderson Mountain day

A misty, wet day
Well, today only seven Senior Trailblazers showed up to head to Anderson Mountain, a short drive south of Bellingham. The weather was predicted to be, in a word, wet. After we received a half-inch of rain overnight, the thought that maybe we would luck out disappeared when I drove to the Center in a steady rain. The best we could hope for was that it wouldn't be a downpour.
Al and Doug in front of the Big Stump
We walked on the old logging road until we got to the trailhead, which added a mile each way to the hike. As you can see, it wasn't raining very hard in this picture, and Al had even removed his jacket. This is the beginning of the actual trail. We travel through some clearcut areas where the replanted trees are just beginning to flourish.
New tree with raindrops
There are many trees like this one in the clearcut area, big enough to show quite a bit of growth from year to year. Those are raindrops on the needles, which made me wonder if this sort of effect gave people the idea for ornaments. It's naturally decorated.
Mikey and Mel
When we stopped for lunch, the rain had begun to pick up a little more, and it continued to treat us to the usual Pacific Northwest light drizzle: enough so that you needed rain gear and warm clothes, never really stopping for the entire five hours we were out. But no downpour!
Wet trail, lots of mud
I had to take a picture to show how muddy and wet the trail was today. Those regular hikers who didn't show up today will be relieved to see that it wasn't a super wonderful day, but we did get lots of exercise, covering almost eight miles and climbing and descending around 2,100 feet. It pleases me to know that my knee doesn't seem to be protesting too much these days.
This trillium sort of tells the tale: by the time we returned to the cars, we were in much the same condition: a little bedraggled and wet, but glad that we went out into the woods for some recreation and good company. Just like the trillium, we'll turn our faces to the sun, when we see it again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tulip Festival 2014

RoozenGaarde display
Every year since I first moved here, my friend Judy and I have gone to the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley together. This year, however, she's traveling and was unable to go with me. I planned to go on Monday, but since it was such a beautiful day this past Sunday, I decided to drive down there myself. It was also Palm Sunday, and I figured if I started early, maybe lots of people would be in church. No such luck.
Don't they look like fireworks?
The traffic was horrendous. For more than a mile before I arrived at the RoozenGaarde display, I was in a long line creeping to the gardens. I was pleased, once I got there, to see that there would be plenty of parking for all of us, provided free, which was nice. However, it cost $5 to enter the gardens, but it was sure worth it. The clear blue skies allowed me to take wonderful pictures, and the shadows of the trees gave me some wonderful light play.
It was difficult to get pictures without people in them, but in some cases they didn't detract. I heard what seemed to be dozens of different languages from passersby, and everyone was in a very good mood, me included. I found that I got the best photos by letting the strong sunlight illuminate the flowers.
These fields stretched out for miles
I then left the gardens and walked across the street to the amazing fields of flowers, tulips as far as the eye could see. They were right at their peak on Sunday, and I had a hard time trying to decide which pictures to post.
Lots and lots of people
This photo shows you how many people were visiting these gardens on Sunday. I also noticed that the red tulips, when the light catches them, were so brilliant they seemed to be on fire.  After about an hour of walking all over the place and taking more than fifty pictures, I got in my car and headed home. It was a wonderful way to spend Sunday morning.
Me amongst the tulips
A nice woman saw me taking pictures and asked if I'd like one of me, and I was very pleased with this one. I am very fortunate to live in such a place. Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had never heard of anything like this outside of Holland. This festival continues through April, but you'd better hurry if you want to see them like this!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I sure like my home town

Blossoms, blue sky, and pretty clouds
After the heat of southern California, I continue to wake up in the morning and smile to realize my good fortune, that I live here in the Pacific Northwest. While the larger group of skydivers is still trying to make a new record in Elsinore (this is Day 5), I am content to have gone walking this morning with my usual Fairhaven walking group. Although the walk is open to both men and women, we had 19 women this morning and no men. One might show up once in awhile and feel outnumbered, and then we're back to all women again.
Waiting for the slower walkers to catch up
We went five-and-a-half miles this morning at a brisk pace, then sat in a coffee shop and chatted for awhile before going our separate ways. I know all the women in this group now, and it's fun to try to walk with someone whose pace is just a little faster than mine, so I can get a real workout. We covered those miles at a brisk pace, just under four miles an hour. My knee didn't bother me a bit, which made me very happy.
Flowering trees on the way to the bus stop
Although there was no sun yesterday morning, I just had to capture these beautiful trees in bloom on my way to the bus. It was my first time to see them since I returned home, and they are just spectacular. In no time at all, these blossoms will be replaced with leaves, and I'll have to wait another year to see this display again.

And now it's time to think about my garden, with a trip to the local garden spot to get some starts and seeds on my agenda for today. It's one of the most beautiful times of the year, with the days getting longer and the temperature starting to climb into the sixties. I hope you're having good weather in your part of the blogosphere, too!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oyster Dome 2014

The hike starts up steeply from Chuckanut Drive
Wow. Just wow, for this beautiful, wonderful day. Eleven Senior Trailblazers headed up from Chuckanut Drive to visit Oyster Dome on a day predicted to be "partly cloudy." That's just what it was. As my first day back in Bellingham, I couldn't have been more pleased to be with my hiking buddies in 50-degree weather. After the heat of southern California, it felt like I was in natural air conditioning.
Al having lunch and contemplating the view
Although it was only 11:30, once we ascended the steep terrain, we stopped at Oyster Dome to have lunch and bask a bit in the sunshine. Last December we were in serious rain when we did this hike. It wasn't a lot of fun, as you can see here. But today, although there were a few clouds and when the sun disappeared it got quite cold, nobody was complaining. We had already accomplished the hard climb, and we knew that we would be taking a loop hike and not having to descend down the steep and rather treacherous trail that got us to the Dome.
Lunch at Oyster Dome
We spread out and enjoyed the sunshine for a half hour or so before heading to Lily Lake and Max's Shortcut. When we left the Dome, we were all bundled up and stayed that way while we traveled in the trees, with sunshine dappling the path now and then.
Soaking up the sunshine at Lily Lake
By the time we sat down at Lily Lake, we were just beginning to warm up in the sunshine. It was a nice respite as we watched the local drama going on. An eagle was perched up on the top of an old tree snag, looking for lunch.
Eagle at Lily Lake
Yes, there he is, surveying the lake below him. Some ducks were in the lake having a great time, and we all knew that the eagle was thinking about perhaps swooping down and capturing one. He might have done that after we left, but I didn't want to stick around to see it. We started down Max's Shortcut to Samish Overlook.
Skunk cabbage as it looks today
We saw lots of skunk cabbage on the way. We could also smell them, and we discussed how different the smell presents to different noses. I find it to be rather refreshing, Al thinks it smells rather sweet, and a few others think it's hard to detect. I smelled it before I saw it. It's definitely at the odiferous stage; there are so many of them coming up at once.
Trifecta of trillium
The other sign that spring is definitely here are the beautiful trillium flowers. I saw this group of three and smiled to realize that this is the sign of spring that I look for in the wilderness. They are so beautiful and delight me to no end. Three leaves, three petals, and three of them!
Samish Flats
Finally, we reached Samish Overlook, which also is accessible by car and overlooks Samish Flats. It was such a beautiful day, and a magnificent view, we stopped and spent another half hour just hanging out in the sun, the third time today we took the time to do that. We covered almost nine miles and climbed around 3,000 feet up and down, but everybody was happy and tired by the end of the hike. Who could ask for a better day? Not me! Aaaahhh....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Holder of a new world record

Before our first jump yesterday
There we are, all nine of us WSOS (Women Skydivers Over Sixty), getting ready for our first jump of the day yesterday. Our coach, Jeff Jones, concentrated on getting us relaxed and gave us a skydive that was well within our abilities. In the back row is, left to right, me, Ronda from Michigan, Hollis (I'm not sure where she's from), Louise from Arizona, Chris (a local), and Alicia from Long Beach. In the front row, kneeling, are Monique (Canada), Sandra (another local), and Caroline from the UK.

To make a record, everyone must be in the pre-designated formation in her own slot, with the proper grip, and we must declare ahead of time whether it will be a one- or two-point skydive. We decided to go with the easier of the two, since we had not jumped together before, and we made the single point with time to spare. It was a wonderful feeling to be under canopy, realizing that we had just set a record. When we returned to the ground, all the husbands and other interested men were there to congratulate us, and we then watched the video and debriefed the skydive. We were so high from the experience that I cannot tell you how happy I felt.

Then we decided to go up and do the same thing again, but add a second point, which means that at least half of the people on the skydive must let go and re-grip again, in a different formation. Well, we had to try twice to get that accomplished,  but we did, and now I am the holder of several different world, country, and state records for Women Skydivers Over Sixty! I snagged a picture off Terry's Facebook page (our vidographer), which is why you see the little marks, but I paid him for some good resolution pictures, which of course I will frame and keep forever.
WSOS World Record 7 April 2014 (by Terry Weatherford)
That's me in the 3:00 position, in purple. My heart is full today, as we all said our goodbyes after a wonderful Skills Camp and Women's Record Day. I will not be returning to Skydive Elsinore, and we all got a bit emotional, but I am so incredibly happy that I decided to come here and make a wonderful beginning to my last season as an active skydiver.
Canopies landing at sunset
I took this picture from the packing area as the sun went down at Skydive Elsinore yesterday. It was a wonderful time, I'm plenty tired and sore, but I couldn't have asked for a better last day at this wonderful Drop Zone, with my friends, new and old.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Skills camp begins today

Gary, me, John
Well, I got my knees in the breeze with these two gentlemen yesterday, one I knew from last year (John), and a new friend, Gary from Italy. We went up in Skydive Elsinore's Twin Otter and played in the sky together, although I realized that it would have been much easier for me on this jump if I had had some weights to allow me to fall faster. But it was still a good jump and we had fun.

I found a packer and got ready to make another skydive, but it was almost noon so I skipped the second jump being organized with the SOS (Skydivers Over Sixty) crowd so that John and I could get some lunch (he was hungry too, while Gary was just hungry for another jump). When we returned, the jumpers were just packing up after having made an 11-way that they enjoyed very much, so I agreed to make another skydive with the group.

However, it had grown so large (16 of us, all men, and some very much larger than me) that I decided not to go. They went and had a so-so skydive, with some problems that continue to happen when skydives get bigger and people don't know each other very well. I was glad to sit it out, because today the Skills Camp begins, and I will make four skydives with organizers who will be working with our skill levels in small groups, appropriate to each person's needs.

After the day's skydiving, we returned to the hotel and John, who bought an incredible amount of beer and wine yesterday, had put some of the beer on ice. We gathered in the breakfast room to enjoy it, about ten of us, all guys except for me, from all over the world. As music was mentioned, one fellow, Joe, left the room and returned in a few minutes with... music!
Joe playing the bagpipes
If you can call it that; I have a hard time hearing the nuances of bagpipes. He played us two songs before putting his precious instrument on a nearby table and rejoining us with cheese and crackers. He also brought in two large sandwiches which he cut into pieces and shared. After awhile, some were interested in having a real dinner, so we made our goodbyes and went our separate ways for the evening.

These are great people, and I am glad to be here, looking forward to learning a lot with my friends. I've already told several old skydiving friends that this will be my last visit to Skydive Elsinore, as this, my twenty-fourth year of skydiving, will be my final season of playing in the sky. Most understood and some even felt honored that I chose to spend this time with them, here.

I'm a little superstitious about saying "last" and "final" in relation to skydiving, just as I'm beginning two days of making four jumps a day, and then there's the women's record attempt on Monday, which will probably be another four. I get tired just thinking about it, but really, I have every expectation that it will be an incredibly wonderful experience with some of the best people in the world, and everybody will be safe.

Although I will return home on Wednesday, most of the group will be staying for the rest of the week to attempt to make the largest formation of SOS skydivers ever. The record right now stands at 60, set in 2012, since last year they failed to make a new record. The organizers will have video of many of the skydives, so that they can pick and choose those who are most likely to be able to perform well. The rest will be "on the bench" and will make skydives together as well. I know from experience that these record attempts are stressful times for everybody, and I'm glad I'll be going home and skipping all the stress. It will be hard enough to make the women's record attempt, but there will only be 11 of us, not 80.

So that's it from my part of the world, sitting here in the dark with my laptop. I'll need to be at the Drop Zone by 8:00am, and there's breakfast here at the hotel. Time for a shower to begin my day. I'll be making another post on my other blog tomorrow morning. It's going to be a great day in southern California! Hope you will all have a wonderful day, too. Signing off from the world of palm trees and blue skies.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

First class traveling is the way to go

My iPad, coffee, snack, and travel pillow
Since I was given a $300 credit from Alaska Air for last year's tribulations getting down to Elsinore, I decided to try traveling first class for a change. Well, I could really get used to this, if more travel were in my future. I rode the Bellingham Airporter to SeaTac in order to catch a 7:20am flight direct to Elsinore, and I went first class; I will do the same coming home. Since I got to the airport two hours before my flight, I saw the Alaska Board Room and wondered if I could go in there with my first-class ticket. Yes! I had an espresso, a coffee, used their internet, and had a snack as well, free of charge.
Early morning flight, first rays of the sun
I was also able to board right way, as I was in the front of the plane, with a big cushy leather seat and lots of leg room. My, my! And they even fed me a nice breakfast. Do you know how long it's been since I got a "free" meal on the plane? I can't remember when.
Mt. Rainier from the airplane window
As we traveled south, beautiful Mt. Rainier showed its face. In just a few minutes after I snapped this, though, it was obscured by the clouds as we climbed into the gloom. And as we were traveling south, the sunlight became quite brilliant once we got above the clouds, and my seat-mate wanted to use his laptop. I was happy to oblige, since there was really nothing much to see. (I did keep taking a peek now and then.)
Southern California mountains and fog
Once we began our descent, I took a look out the window and was really surprised to see the fog in the valleys, with blue skies above. It was so lovely, but when we landed and I stepped off the plane, I was surprised that it was quite chilly, not even 50 deg F! But that changed quickly. Once I went through the rental car process and received an almost-new 4-door Nissan, it was already beginning to get warm. For someone who rarely sees full sun and 70 degrees, it was beginning to feel a lot like southern California. I drove south for an hour to get to my hotel.
My pretty room, with a sitting area and a view
I was really pleased to see the room I will inhabit for the next six days, with a fridge, microwave, sitting area, and a bed that looks out towards Skydive Elsinore!
Skydive Elsinore is at the base of the mountain in the distance
Sitting propped up on all those pillows, this is the view I see from that window. Right now, in the late afternoon, sunshine is spilling into the room, making me happy to be here, and looking forward to tomorrow. I went out to the Drop Zone to get my gear registered, and to sign all the waivers that are required when you want to hurl yourself out of airplanes. And I'll start doing that tomorrow. Tonight, I'll recover from all the travel and psychologically prepare for the adventure!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sugar snap peas are in

Sugar snap peas along the fence, strawberry plants in front
Well, March came in like a lion in these parts, and went out like a lamb! This picture was taken yesterday, the last day of March, with 60-plus temperatures and full sunshine in Bellingham. Since I'm leaving in two days, I decided to put some sugar snap peas into the ground, to join the only other intended bit of green in my garden. Last fall another gardener transplanted some of her strawberries into my area, and although I did nothing to help or hinder them, I've now got some strawberries to look forward to, along with the sugar snap peas in midsummer. They should germinate within the next two weeks, so when I come home I will anxiously peruse the area to see if any of them are coming up.
Me with fellow gardener Carol
Carol's son took this picture of the two of us soaking up some Vitamin D. Carol is a really accomplished gardener, and it was her efforts with the Garden Claw that got me started last week. Today when I went out to water my peas, I also looked to see what might have tried to survive my hard work of clearing out the weeds, and I pulled up another bin full of bluebell plants and the occasional dandelion. Everything that Carol plants comes up and looks great. I enjoyed some of her broccoli last fall and may try to plant some of my own this year.
Buds just about to pop into flowers
It amazes me how quickly the process of budding trees turns into flowers, and then leaves. Tomorrow I will capture this same spot and am sure those buds will have opened in all their glory. Every year I take a picture of this tree, since it's on my way to the bus stop. After I go to the Y tomorrow, everything will then shift to my upcoming trip on Thursday. I will try to document the journey so I'll have something interesting to post after I'm settled into my hotel room in southern California. I'm almost ready to go!