Saturday, November 29, 2014

What a difference a day makes

As warm as it got all day today
Last night in Bellingham, we went to bed after having had a nice warm day in the mid-fifties, and we woke to 21F. Al had suggested that we might have a nice weekend hike today, maybe even into the mountains, if the weather cooperated. But it didn't. The temperature would not have been so bad, but the wind! Oh my, it's blowing a gale out there. He sent around an email last night suggesting we cancel the outing, but he said he'd show up at 8:00am to see if there were any other takers, and if we decided it was too terrible, we could all just go out for coffee.
Carol and me with Samish Bay behind us
Four of us headed out on a favorite hike near town, so that if we didn't feel we were having fun, we could just head for the coffee shop from there. We didn't know for sure whether this was a good idea or not, but with proper gear it wasn't so bad when we were sheltered from the wind. Just stopping to take this picture made me feel cold again. The bad part is that as soon as I tried to get any water out of my hydration pack, the water had frozen solid in the tube! The same thing happened to Al and Carol, but they had less tubing hanging out from their packs. Al suggested that I could take my entire hydration pack out and put it under his coat.
Ah, sweet water: nectar of the gods
Once it got under his coat, it thawed enough for me to get a drink, but I had to go running over to Al every time I got thirsty. We laughed at this picture, so I just had to share it with you. He kept his own bite valve under there, too, so that his wouldn't freeze. He generates quite a bit of heat when he is hiking, so we were both able to stay hydrated. Carol managed to keep hers open but was drinking slush most of the day.
Mt. Baker and clouds
We got to this high point and I snapped this picture, but the wind was so fierce that I didn't try to take any more shots. Besides, my camera's batteries were showing that they were low, even though I knew they weren't. The extreme cold (wind chill is real!) affected it, plus it was impossible for me to change settings without taking off my mittens, which I was unwilling to do.
We have seen this waterfall many times, but it usually isn't flowing with such incredible volume. All we could figure is that is must have been caused by the rain we've been having for the past week. The vegetation and log on the right are covered with frost. But look at that sunshine; it's been clear and beautiful all day, and except for the wind we would have been very happy to make it a longer hike. But any stopping meant instant cold, so we stood while we ate a quick lunch and then headed back to the car.

Now I'm home, and I'm finally feeling warm. Although it was quite an experience, I'm glad I went, and although my face feels a little chapped from the cold and wind, otherwise we were none the worse for wear. Much better than sitting around inside eating leftovers. They are still there, and now I can eat them feeling quite virtuous!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Grateful for this beautiful planet

From Astronomy Picture of the Day 3 Nov 14
Part of my usual morning routine is to check the Astronomy Picture of the Day, after reading the news online, my morning blogs, and a few comics. This picture is so stunning that I've gone back to look at it several times, so I thought that I would share it with my readers today, Thanksgiving in the US.

I am grateful for many things, but none of them would be possible if I didn't live on this beautiful planet. The above picture was taken in northern Norway last March. I am also grateful for the people who take such photos and share them. The internet has truly changed my life, enriching it in ways I could never have imagined a few years ago.

Today there is no hike, so I am home with Smart Guy cooking up a Thanksgiving feast. I'm making a couple of things to honor my mother in particular, and my family of origin in general. I wish I were with them today. Holidays often do this to me: make me nostalgic for times gone by. I hope you have a truly wonderful day, whether in this country or elsewhere. Blessings from the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What a dreary day

Tulips from April
I needed to see some pretty flowers after today's constant rain. We will probably end up with more than an inch for the day, before it finally lets up a little. I walked to the bus stop early this morning with my umbrella and raincoat, and for the rest of the day the rain hasn't stopped, even a little bit. Having some last minute shopping to do for Thanksgiving, I ventured out in it and even went to a movie with my friend Judy.

That was the highlight of the day, and now it's dark and still raining. I can hear it drumming on the roof, and the forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same. Well, we won't be hiking this Thursday, so that's a plus, I guess. A few of us will go out on Saturday, when the weather is supposed to clear up and get sunny and cold, so we can get some exercise and sunshine.

Is it my imagination or has the weather been unusual lately? It's hard to tell, although seven feet of snow in New York in just one day is a bit on the amazing side. Rain here, though, is normal for this time of year. I'm determined to enjoy my outdoor time anyway, but even I am glad I didn't have to spend much time out in it today. Getting soft in my old age.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What to do about cookies

No, not these cookies
The other day I was reading one of my blog friend's post about instant underwear: just open this little package and out comes a tiny pair of underwear that only needs water added to make them expand and wearable. They made me laugh, and I thought they might be a fun gag gift to order for the holidays to surprise someone. So I went over to Amazon and searched for them. Sure enough, there were the exact same ones that she had shown on her blog post, which she entitled "In Case of Dire Rear."

Well, you know what kind of cookies I'm talking about now, I'll bet: once you go look for something on line, suddenly you get all these little notices in your sidebar about items that are related to what you searched for earlier. That's because our computers place "cookies" on our computers, files showing what you searched for and how you might be interested in something along the same lines. Here's a website that gives you all the information you need to know about computer cookies.

Anyway, I'd show you a picture of the underwear, but I'm not willing to look at anything along those lines again. For awhile I was getting little popups wondering if I'd be interested in buying a pair of jeweled handcuffs. How that is connected to damp underwear, I'm not sure. In any event, she has a picture of them in her post, which I linked above. She's got a great sense of humor.

The picture of the eating kind of cookies is making me feel hungry, though, in a Pavlovian sense. Don't stare too long at that picture or you'll have to buy some!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pine and Cedar Lakes, plus Raptor Ridge

Peggy, Kirk, Chris, Rich, Jacqueline, Doug, Al
Eight of the Senior Trailblazers met to hike up to Pine and Cedar Lakes, with a two-mile side jaunt up to Raptor Ridge today. It was raining when we met, but not more than a little sprinkle when we started out, and we were ready for just about anything. It's back to our usual fall weather: instead of cold and dry, we are now warm and damp. Perfect for the Pacific Northwest hardy bunch that we are.
The sign at the trailhead
We've done this hike many times before, and I remember well the first part: pretty much straight up, gaining 1,300 feet in 1.6 miles to start out. Enough to get us nice and warm, and by the time we had gained that altitude, the rain was gone. During the day we had a few light sprinkles, but nothing much, really. The fog came and went.
No sun today, with intervals of fog
After so many really cold days, it seemed balmy to have the temperature in the forties and fifties as we hiked along. Pine and Cedar Lakes look almost the same, and although I took pictures at both places, they are unremarkable. Here's a look at Cedar Lake.
A few forlorn lily pads and bare trees on the other side

The round trip from our start was only five miles, so of course we decided to add a little bit more by taking a short side trip to Raptor Ridge. As we approached the ridge, we could hear the wind blowing hard. Although we took a quick trip to the overlook once we reached the ridge, there was little reason to stay, as there was enough wind to make us feel cold immediately.
View of Raptor Ridge today
I  know you can't see the wind in this picture, and I fully expected us to have no view at all, so I was pleased to see that we actually could see a few ridges away under the dark clouds. We quickly went down to a nice dry spot out of the wind and had our lunch.
Big leaf maple leaves underfoot
Then it was time to head back the way we had come, through the fallen leaves and downward toward the cars. That steep part on the way up was pretty hard to navigate on my less-than-happy knees, but since we went slowly, it wasn't too bad. We covered somewhere under eight miles and more than 2,100 feet of elevation before we got back. There was a little rain as we covered our last few hundred feet, but it was otherwise almost dry for the entire excursion.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I'll be missing the hike and my friends this time next week. It is a wonderful community here in Bellingham, and I've grown quite accustomed to spending time outdoors with these folks. We each will be doing our own version of the holiday, and I will be giving thanks for many things, not the least of which is this group and the many wonderful trails we hike together.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weather and whatnot

Skyline Divide a few weeks ago (taken by Al)
I'm sitting down at the laptop without the slightest idea what I will write about. I've given myself a schedule of when I write blog posts, and the only one that doesn't vary is the Thursday Senior Trailblazers hike. On Saturday I usually go for my early morning walk with the ladies, and for much of the year I then attend the Farmers' Market before heading home. That usually takes care of the weekend post. Three posts a week, it doesn't sound like much, does it?

But Tuesday is the day when I often cast about for something of interest, and I suspect it shows that I often must hunt around for something that might be moderately entertaining for my readers. And I always have to have a picture, at least one. Al sent me this picture when he had gone to one of our summer favorite spots to see how the snow level was. Obviously, there was plenty, then.

However, afterwards we've had a really cold snap, with temperatures well below freezing at night, and clear sunny skies during the day, causing the daytime heat to escape each night, what there was of it. For example, last Thursday when we met to hike to Oyster Dome, it was 23 degrees F (-5C) when we headed out. And then on top of all that unseasonably cold weather, the wind has been blowing hard, making those of us in the Pacific Northwest drag out all our warm clothes and still end up shivering uncontrollably. It actually felt much more like Colorado in the winter; my skin dried out and my hands got chapped in nothing flat.

This morning, however, there are a few clouds and the temperature is warmer by about ten degrees than it was yesterday at the same time. The forecast says the cold and sunny skies will moderate, and our usual chance of showers will return by Thursday. Whew! Just in time for the hike. We are still more than a month away from the official start of winter, giving us plenty of chances for cold and snow. I'm happy to put it off for awhile. How's the weather where you are?

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Maziar Bahari <--> Jon Stewart
Yesterday I went to see Jon Stewart's Rosewater. Since I am a fan of The Daily Show, Jon's satire about the news of the day, I wasn't sure exactly what to think about this. Therefore, my expectations were lowered, since I knew he had never written and directed any film prior to this one. I also knew he had taken three months off last summer to do this movie, and I wondered what caused him to consider going into a project like this one.

It turns out that back in 2009, when Iran was embroiled in the reelection campaign of Ahmadineijad as President of Iran, the "election" was marked by fraud, and Maziar Bahari, an Iranian/Canadian, had gone there to cover the election for Newsweek. While there, Jason Jones, from The Daily Show, interviewed Bahari for a comedy segment aired on the show. Jones called himself a spy and accused Bahari of being a terrorist. It was funny, but when the Iranian authorities saw it, they took Bahari off to jail and threw him in solitary confinement until he would admit to his crimes.

Stewart must have felt pretty awful about being part of the reason for his imprisonment, and I remember during the four months that Bahari was incarcerated, Stewart mentioned it almost every day on his show. When Bahari wrote a book (which I have on order from my local library) about the experience entitled Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, Stewart decided to write a a screenplay based on the book and direct it himself.

I loved the movie. The main part is about Bahari's imprisonment and interaction with his interrogator, whom he called "Rosewater" because of the scent he wore. Since Bahari was blindfolded much of the time, he recognized the man by his smell. The actor who plays Bahari is actually a Mexican actor (Garcia Bernal), and although most of the dialogue is in accented English, I didn't find this to be a problem. The story was much more about how to stay sane when enduring psychological (and sometimes physical) torture. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine said it perfectly for me:
Though not really a comedy, Rosewater is a demonstration of the creed behind The Daily Show: belief in the crucial need for impious wit against entrenched power. The freedom of the press is also the freedom to depress, and to inspire. That’s a message that can outlive any Oscar season. It would be nice if it could also overcome any regime.
It is a really good movie. I hope you go see it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A cold, sunny Oyster Dome hike

Noriko, Al, Rich, Doug, Peggy, Jacqueline 
Eleven Senior Trailblazers showed up in freezing weather for today's hike up to Oyster Dome from Chuckanut Highway. It was in the mid-20s (around 3.5C) when we started our hike today, but it was sunny with no wind, since we were on the lee side of the mountain, meaning we had plenty of sun but were blocked from the wind. This picture was taken just a short mile from the trailhead, and by this time we had all shed some clothes. (Rich always wears way less than everybody else, except Mikey, who was not with us today.)
Looking out at Samish Bay and across to Anacortes
Our first view of Samish Bay as we hiked upwards towards Oyster Dome shows the clear skies and beautiful views we had. You can see the plumes from the refinery near Anacortes, and behind are the Olympics, showing up quite clearly on the horizon. The conditions could not have been more perfect for us: no breeze, cold but not frigid, and all of us happy to find sunny conditions at the top of the dome. But after a short break (since it was still early), we headed off to Lily Lake for lunch.
Frozen ice on Lily Lake
We found a nice place in the sunshine, and we had a very leisurely lunch, with some people even taking a short nap in the sun. I think the temperature might have reached close to 60F (15C) in the sunshine, so nobody was anxious to jump up and go back into the shady forest. But of course we did need to do that in order to continue the hike.
Illuminated moss
The low angle of the sun allowed me to capture this picture of moss hanging from a branch as we were making our way back to our cars. Although the temperature was cold and we were sheltered from the wind, the humidity today was so much lower than usual it felt a bit like I had returned to my old Colorado haunts: until I would see such sights as moss hanging from the trees like this. I never saw anything like it before I came to the Pacific Northwest.
Samish Flats, with hikers in the foreground
With only two miles to go before we would return to our cars, we enjoyed the beautiful view from the newly constructed parking lot at Samish Flats. You can see the lush valley behind the hikers in the picture above. I love this particular spot, although today by the time we reached this place, I realized I was very tired and would be glad to see our cars. In total, we covered almost nine miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss on today's hike. There's a reason it's rated "moderate to hard." It is.

But now that I am home and enjoying my wine, my feet don't feel nearly as tired as they did. Another wonderful hike with the Senior Trailblazers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Times they are a-changing

DJan and Leo at the coffee shop
I am simply amazed at how big Leo is getting. I had a friend take this picture with my new iPad Air. With pictures this good, I'm wondering if one of these days cameras separate from our cellphones and tablets will exist in the future. There are also tons of editing options available, but this is right out of the tablet. Leo and I will both be having birthdays next month. He will turn six and I will be a little older than that.

My gift to myself will be to get an iPhone6. I debated about whether or not to upgrade from my iPhone4S to a 5S, but once I saw how good the camera is in the 6, I was sold. (The new iPad and the iPhone6 have the same camera.)

Today is Veteran's Day here in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada. It also marks Armistice Day in Europe, the day when World War I ended and an armistice with Germany was signed: the 11th month of the 11th day at the 11th hour. I forgot to notice the moment at 11:00; I was standing in the cold wind waiting for the bus to arrive and completely forgot about it until I began to write this post. When I was a young woman, I thought that maybe I would live to see the end of war. Now I know better, but still one could hope for that someday. Emily Dickinson wrote this poem about hope:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all, 
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm. 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Thank you, one and all.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Late for a very good reason

Mt. Shuksan, taken today from Chain Lakes Trail
The reason my Saturday post is so late is that I decided to join Al and three others for a Saturday hike into the High Country. Because of the good weather forecasted for today (and it was really nice), and because the days are very short at this time of year, we met at 7:00am and headed up to Heather Meadows to begin our hike at Bagley Lakes. The road all the way to Artist Point is already closed for the year, meaning we would start at a lower elevation and make our way around the Chain Lakes loop, finishing a bit later in the day.
Al and Lisa, Mt. Shuksan behind
We started out before 9:00am after a fairly long drive to the trailhead. It was mild and overcast, although we hoped it would clear before too long. As you can see here, the sun was shining on us as we made our way to Herman Saddle before hiking down into the Chain Lakes area.
Cloud formations over Mt. Shuksan
As we hiked ever upwards, we saw the sky begin to clear, and some amazing cloud formations over the mountains. I captured this one as I glanced back to see what was happening in the sky. You know it was windy over there, with these particular lenticular cloud formations. Where we were, we had a light breeze but little more than that.
Ice bubbles in a frozen stream
The trail, however, had quite a bit of ice as we walked carefully along. I was very happy to have my trekking poles to help me keep my footing. I don't think any of the five of us had a spill all day, because of them.
Magnificent Mt. Baker
Once we had reached the top of the saddle, we had a great view of Mt. Baker, and the clouds had cleared away as well. To have such a day on November 8, here in the High Country, was almost more than we could have imagined. The sun would come and go all day long, however.
An ice forest underfoot
Everywhere we stepped, we saw these frozen ice formations. Because it had been very wet and then got cold, these striations of ice popped out of the ground to make what seemed to be almost tiny forests of ice trees, covered with a layer of light snow. Sometimes little pebbles were on top of these as they froze, and they seemed to be suspended in space. Of course, this also made our footing a little slippery, so we had to be careful as we walked.

By the time we reached our cars again, we had traveled almost eight miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. After adding Thursday's hike, I think I am fair in saying that 17 miles and 5,000 feet is the reason why I'm feeling so tired. But it was a fantastic day, and I am happy to be home on a Saturday night with nothing to do but enjoy my well-deserved wine and dinner. I'll sleep well tonight, for sure!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Not what we expected

Chris, Peggy, Lisa, Mike, Ward, Linda, Kirk, Al, Rich
The weather forecast for today was another wet one, with lots of wind. We were under a high wind warning in our area, so we figured it would be one of those days with sideways rain, huddled miserably in our rain gear. And still, eleven Trailblazers showed up anyway! I took the above picture in the parking lot. Steve was still getting his gear on when I snapped this picture to show us in our own version of how best to stay dry. Mikey and Rich left their umbrellas behind, since with the wind they don't work very well.
The old logging road part of our hike
The trail on the south side of Stewart Mountain that we call "Cub Creek" covers both old logging roads and trails through the woods. As we began our hike, all ready for the heavy rain, it began to diminish, and by the time we had gone less than a mile, it stopped. Completely. Although the wind would whistle through the trees as we hiked, most of the time it didn't make it to us. And for the rest of the hike, we were dry as a bone.
View of sunny Bellingham
We had an occasional ray of sunshine, but as you can see in this picture, mostly we had low clouds above us, while Bellingham enjoyed lots of sunshine (and wind, too I learned later). As we trekked upwards, covering more than 3,000 feet up and down, we would get an occasional gust of wind that made us realize that the high wind warning wasn't kidding: at one point, Peggy's glasses were blown right off her face.
Heading back down in the fog
After we had a rather hasty lunch, we noticed that every time the wind would die down, fog would begin to fill in. We last did this hike in April of 2013, and it was sunny and bright, as you can see here. I didn't get very many pictures today, since I didn't bring my camera and relied on my cellphone for pictures. I could easily have brought even my new iPad Air if I had known how dry it would have been today, I am glad I didn't have to worry about my new toy, though. My cellphone is protected in an Otterbox, which makes it easy for me to take pictures with it.
Maple leaves among the greenery
All in all, it was a MUCH better day than we expected, and that's a good thing. There is a reason that I always go out on a day when we expect rain and wind, because it doesn't always happen. Of course, I've also come home soaking wet, everything I own dripping. But there's always a nice hot shower, a glass of wine, and my partner to come home to, so even then it's good. But not as good as today. Walking just under nine miles with good friends and coming home dry. Oh, and as soon as we reached our cars and started back, the rain began again. Our timing was impeccable!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November musings

Wet leaves on a sidewalk
I took this picture on the way to the bus this morning. All the leaves came down after we had a windy night and over a half-inch of rain. Because of the time change, I actually had some light at 7:30am. These are really leaves and not colorful stars in a slate sky; I couldn't help but pull out my ever-present cellphone and get this shot.

I am enraptured with my new iPad Air 2. I take it everywhere, but it's just not as easy to take out and get a picture with a tablet, I'm finding. My phone was in my pocket, and the iPad was in my purse, zipped into a secure place. Although I'll find myself more likely to use it for pictures when it's actually out and in use, for now the cellphone is my camera of choice. But the other aspects of the iPad are wonderful: it's light and easy to use, and MUCH faster than my old iPad. I never thought I'd appreciate the retina display, but I sure do. When I compare the two screens, I realize how much sharper and beautiful my pictures look on the new iPad. I'm very happy with my purchase.
Me with Gretchen
I got my hair cut today by a new stylist, since my usual one is out of town for an extended period. I heard about the Honey Salon from a friend at the YMCA. Although the stylist she recommended has a waiting list until next year, I was able to get into see Gretchen in a little more than a week. She specializes in razor cuts and short hair, so I was happy to get a chance for a new look. She is very good, and I'll wait until I see how my hair looks after I've slept on it, but right now I'm very pleased with the way it feels. Somehow it never looks quite the same after I've shampoo'd and styled it myself, you know?

The sun has come out after several days of rain, and it should be nice until late tomorrow night, Wednesday, with Thursday looking like a complete washout. Our hiking day. That will make three Thursdays in a row, and after such a nice dry summer, October and now November have been really wet. If we didn't get another drop of rain, we'd be right at average for the entire year. And we still have two months to go. Well, you know what they say: into every life some rain must fall. Does it always have to be on Thursday, though?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween fun

A spooky walk in the cemetery
Although it's not technically still Halloween this morning, my Saturday morning walking group went for a very foggy walk in the cemetery, which was perfect to continue an atmosphere of spooks and goblins. The hardest part of the walk was getting there in the dense fog, although around twenty of us showed up and really enjoyed the cool weather and lack of rain.
My great niece Lexie
My niece Allison sent me this wonderful picture of Lexie, Norma Jean's granddaughter, in her fancy Halloween costume yesterday. She's growing up so fast and although I might be a little prejudiced, she is just adorable, isn't she?
Spooky barista
I think that the barista, Carrie from the coffee shop I frequent, had the best costume I saw all day. Little Leo was there, too (not in costume yet), and he was afraid of her and wouldn't give her a hug, for some reason. He told me he would dress up as a rainbow later on in the day, and I'm sorry I didn't get to see his costume.
Samurai and tennis pro
Two of the ladies who work at the YMCA were in costume, too, and I had to capture their costumes. Although the picture isn't quite in focus, I did manage to show that they have a sense of humor. Love that samurai headdress.
The cemetery this morning
It's such a nice way to start the weekend, going for a brisk five-mile walk and having coffee together afterwards. I don't always stay for coffee, but I had to show off my new iPad Air 2 to the ladies, who were suitably impressed. Maybe Apple should give me a commission; I might have sold a few today.