Thursday, April 30, 2015

Oyster Dome and Samish Overlook

Maidenhair ferns
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers went on one of our regular Chuckanut hikes, this one from Chuckanut Drive up to Oyster Dome and then a loop back around, visiting Lily Lake and Samish Overlook. We've done it once a year, sometimes with good weather, and sometimes like today, some clouds and some sun but no You-Know-What (starts with an R). It's springtime here in the Pacific Northwest, and many of the pictures I took today were of springtime beauty.
Old trail on the left, new trail on the right
This has always been a very hard hike because of the steep uphill to Oyster Dome over lots of roots and sketchy trail. But today we discovered that much of the difficulty has been alleviated because parts of the difficult and muddy trail have been improved. As you can see here, much of the old trail has been replaced with a wonderfully designed new one.
This is what most of the trail once looked like
Towards the top, before we reached Oyster Dome, we ran into old trail that is apparently scheduled for renovation. The amount of improvement on the trail already means that if we had wanted to, we could have turned around and descended with a minimum of fuss and bother. Before, it was so treacherous that we have always extended the hike by making a longer trip out of it, going back by way of Lily Lake and Samish Overlook, and that's what we did today.
The view from Oyster Dome
We reached the top right around 11:00am and discussed whether we should wait until we got to Lily Lake to have lunch, but nobody was all that interested in waiting. All that uphill (well more than 2,300 feet of uphill in around three-and-a-half miles) made us all interested in resting before going on. We had covered about a third of the entire hike but had most of the uphill behind us.
Sword fern unfurling
Everywhere I looked as we hiked towards Lily Lake, I saw sword ferns, wood ferns, and (as Peggy informed us) lady ferns. Although many of them looked the same to me, there was no shortage of greenery and flowers to look at. I saw Siberian miner's lettuce, star flowers, and when we got to Lily Lake, Peggy told me that this pretty double flower is called a twinberry. I looked it up, and sure enough, it's called a twinberry honeysuckle.
Twinberry honeysuckle
That's Lily Lake in the background, and this pretty yellow double flower will become a twin fruit during the summer. I was so pleased to be able to capture it today. And then we left to start our hike to Samish Overlook via Max's Shortcut. As we walked, we know that there was a rather unpleasant part of our trip ahead: for many years, we have been seeing signs that the area would be logged.
Our beautiful trail to Samish Overlook
Although I had seen the signs on the trees for ages, it has finally come: this is what we had expected to see all the way to Samish Overlook because the timber sale has done its work. Instead of all the greenery we knew from before, we saw this:
The trees are all gone
We trekked through what seemed to be endless devastation, but this is what Washington state allows and even condones. This area, I have been told, will be reseeded once again. It will never be what it once was, but one day it will recover to some degree. I wish I could say I don't use or care about wood products, but it's not true; you and I all use the products that will come from the trees that once stood here. Some day we may find a better way, but until then, I will mourn the loss of habitat.
Samish Overlook
And then we reached Samish Overlook, at low tide as you can see here. It was finally beginning to clear, since we had clouds and some sun until we got to this place. As you can see, there is a little breeze, and we commented to one another that it was perfect for parasailing. We know that many parasailors use this spot as a starting point, and while we were there, several of them showed up. We watched them set up, and I saw this guy launch right in front of us.
Top left: before takeoff; top right, stepping off; bottom, flying
It was really exciting to watch the parasail catch the wind and watch him step off the side of the cliff, right into what looked to our eyes like the void. But his sail caught the wind and carried him high above us. Many asked if this is anything like skydiving, but it really isn't. The shape of the parasail is nothing like a parachute; it's a different thing altogether. Although we watched another launch, by the time we left to continue our hike, that parasail was still catching updrafts and flying high above us.

And then we finally reached the cars, having covered almost nine miles and climbed around 2,500 feet total. I'm sitting here in my chair finishing this post, and thinking how glad I am that I was on today's hike. It was a wonderful day, filled with lots of highs and lows, lots of ups and downs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A little diversion

Some of Terry Border's Bent Objects
What to write about today? As many of you know, I have given myself a writing schedule for this blog: every Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I don't like to let one of those days of the weeks go by without posting something. Although during the week many ideas occur to me, I sometimes don't know what I want to say when the time comes. It doesn't always have to be good, ya know. Just regular.

I kept this couple of Terry Border's creations on my desktop as a possible fallback. For one reason or another, both of these images are a little risqué: the first because of the demented banana, and the second because of the shameful Yale lock. They both not only make me laugh, but also snicker as well. I hope they do the same for you. Terry Border continues to create his Bent Objects, and his page should give you many delightful moments.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A fun group

Joanne in orange 24 April 2015
Joanne has often commented that several of the more than twenty-some participants in her Mon-Wed-Fri aerobics class will end up wearing the same color or shade just by chance. Marilyn, the woman on the far left, whispered to us all the previous week that this past Friday we should all wear blue to surprise Joanne. Well, the vast majority of us did it, although there were a few more people not pictured because they had forgotten or didn't get the message. This was before the class started, and a few more people showed up later, also in blue. There were 27 people in the class by the time we started working out, and all but five or six were in blue. It was fun!

When you work out year after year with many of the same people, they become like old friends. Joseph, the second from the left, is a retired professor and we celebrated his 80th birthday with him a couple of years ago. Next to him (in the back row) is Joanne's husband Les. I know the names of most of these people and have been working out with them for ages. You might notice a few faces from some of my outdoor activities.
My birthday pictures 2009–2012
Each of these pictures was taken on my actual birthday, with the first picture from my Tuesday class, and Joanne's class the next year fell on a Wednesday. Then in 2011, my Thursday Senior Trailblazers had a snowy hike on my 69th birthday, and because the next year was a Leap Year and skipped a day, my Saturday walking group helped me celebrate my 70th birthday.

I have developed quite a happy life here in Bellingham, with lots of really good friends who help keep me in shape. I feel very fortunate indeed.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pine and Cedar Lakes

Jacqueline laughing, Peggy watching, Ward looking on
I have no idea at the moment what was so funny, but I like the picture, so there you are. Twelve Senior Trailblazers decided to brave the elements today, with rain and cooler weather forecast, but we are a hardy bunch, that's for sure. Right now I am warm and cozy inside my home while the rain pours outside, but we actually had a pretty nice beginning to our hike.
For those who want even MORE uphill
The first mile and a half of this trail off Old Samish Road goes pretty much straight up, gaining 1,300 feet (almost 400 meters) before leveling off somewhat. At that point, the trail above gives you the option of making a loop that will give you even more uphill. Nobody was interested, even though by this point we still had no rain. The temperature was cool but nice for hiking.
Another woodpecker sculpture
This tree caught my eye, with plenty of woodpecker holes that give them access to beetle and other bugs that inhabit mostly dead or dying trees. This tree must have provided plenty of sustenance to the pileated woodpeckers in the neighborhood.
We also saw lots and lots of trillium on the hike up to the lakes, as you can see here. They looked pretty good at this point, but by the time we saw them on the way back down, they were drenched and looked bedraggled. We were fortunate to make it all the way past Cedar Lake and over to Pine Lake before the rain started.
Kirk settling down for lunch, pulling out his rain poncho
You can see the raindrops on Pine Lake behind Kirk, but really the rain was gentle and not a downpour while we sat under the trees and had a nice lunch. We discussed whether or not we wanted to head over to Raptor Ridge, but because of the dampness and the cool breeze, we decided to head back down the way we had come.
Boardwalk near Pine Lake
Both Pine and Cedar Lakes have these boardwalks to allow visitors to keep your feet dry (if you don't accidentally step off them), and the picture shows the state of the skunk cabbage today. They grow quite large, but I was rather surprised to find that the bogs on either side of the boardwalk are relatively dry. There have been times when water was right up to the top edge of the walkway.
Pretty log at trailhead
By the time we returned to our starting point, we had traveled a little more than six miles, skipping our usual Raptor Ridge journey that adds another two miles, because we were anxious to avoid the heavier rain that was coming. And come it did: I am so glad we were not out walking around in the elements any longer than we were. The rain did pick up and we would have gotten pretty soggy, so it was a good call. And we got a fairly decent, if shortened, workout with good company.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Early 2015 garden pictures

Not exactly the garden but close by
Although I wanted to write this post about the state of our community garden, I couldn't resist sharing this picture of the lilacs by the fence, which are just about exactly one month early. By mid-May, when they would usually be blooming, they'll be gone. But they sure are pretty right now.
Rob's is on the right, mine in the middle, and Linda's to the left
Here's what my garden looks like with the first plants put in. I always use starts rather than seeds, because they get a much better chance to survive the onslaught of slugs if they come into my care a little larger. In the front, closest to the camera, is Romanesco broccoli, then lettuce, and regular broccoli. Farther on down are last year's leeks, which I could harvest at any time, but I'm not quite ready.  And behind the leeks?
Strawberries in bloom
Strawberries! Lots and lots of them, and judging by the number of blossoms, I'll be enjoying them for weeks, I'm hoping. They are super sweet and last year they hardly got a chance to ripen before I picked them and popped them into my mouth. I did give a few to Smart Guy, but I never told him how many I ate before they came into the house.
The cut and the uncut weeds
Yesterday I bought a weed eater (a Ryobi cordless one) and Rob made the first pass at the weeds. The battery died before he was half finished, so today I'm going to see how it works and make a stab at the next part. As you can see, the weeds are tall and tough to cut. That's our community garden on the left, still being prepared for our tomato and zucchini plants. But things are definitely coming along.
Miller High Life slug bait
Rob has inserted these little cups throughout his garden, filled partly with beer, which attract the slugs and gives them a happy demise, I suspect. I'm going to get some of these into my own garden, but I feel very lucky to have his plot next to mine, because that means there should be fewer of them around my vegetables, too. Don't look too closely at that picture, which contains at least one drowned slug. That's the state of the Pinewood Heights 2015 community garden in mid-April!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tulip fun and coffee buddies

You might recognize these folks
Well, Kay and her family are back in Hawaii, so I can now show you these wonderful pictures I took of them when I was visiting the tulips a couple of weeks ago. When Kay and her family go on their trips, she posts ahead of time and waits until she returns to let others know they've been gone. Kay posts almost daily on Musings, so when they came to Seattle and drove up to see the tulips, I drove down from Bellingham and we spent the day together. It was simply wonderful, as I felt like I knew Kay, Art, and her mom from her frequent posts. She had also mentioned her brother Dennis now and then, so it actually felt more like a reunion that a first meeting. We had fun!

In my quest to find better ways to export pictures for my blog, I found this really fun free app called Fotor that allowed me to create that collage in nothing flat! I am very pleased with it; Fotor also gives me some powerful editing tools as well. I'll play with it when I have a little more time. In a few minutes I've got to leave for my movie date with my friend Judy.
Having coffee with the ladies
I did get up early (not unusual for me) and made my way to Boulevard Park to head up the hills with the ladies this morning, and we stopped afterwards at Woods Coffee with a great view of the bay before separating. I truly enjoy this wonderful group, and again I am struck by the beauty all around us every day. It certainly helps to get me out and about when I have all that sunshine and great company to boot!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bright and beautiful Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf

Fairy slipper or calypso orchid
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers drove for some 40 miles to the Heart Lake trailhead near Anacortes, where we hiked up to both Sugarloaf and Mt. Erie on a beautiful sunny day. The forest is filled with green plants just bursting forth everywhere, and we spied these tiny little fairy slippers. I had to try to get a decent picture, and this is the best I got while hoping not to hold everybody up for too long while I tried to focus on it. They are not very big at all but so pretty.
Little Round Top summit
Our first summit was this spot, which is simply a wide-open space with a bit of a view but not much at all, called the Little Round Top. It was nice to stop for a minute before we headed off to the Sugarloaf summit, with great views. By the time we got there, we did stop for a quick snack before heading off to the summit of Mt. Erie.
Looking out at the view from Sugarloaf
Along the way, we saw some beautiful fawn lilies, identified for us by Peggy, who really knows her plants. I love this pretty white flower, and she told me that they also come in pink, but those are very rare. These white ones were seen a few times along the trail.
Fawn lilies
Peggy says they have their name because of the speckled leaves, similar to a baby fawn's markings. If you enlarge the picture you can see them; I already looked. From the summit of Sugarloaf, I also got my first view of the San Juan islands that we'll see up close from the summit of Mt. Erie. I couldn't resist this picture with my telephoto.
Looking out to the San Juan islands
And after some more hiking, right at noon we arrived at the summit of Mt. Erie, where we would stop and have a leisurely lunch in pretty darn perfect weather: no wind, warm sunshine, and magnificent views. Glacier Peak is one of those you cannot see from many places, but today we saw it in the distance from the top.
Glacier is the white one on the left
After taking some really nice pictures and settling down for a nice lunch, I promptly dropped my own lunch in the dirt, spilling the rice dish I looked forward to eating where only the wildlife would appreciate it. Fortunately, I was able to scrounge enough from my fellow hikers that I actually ended up eating more than usual.
Our lunch view
This was one of those times when we took our time at lunch, because it was such a spectacular view and nobody was in a hurry to head back down to the cars. There is actually a road to this place, with lots of viewpoints for people to enjoy, so there were other people there with us who drove their cars to the top. I noticed that some of my group had decided to make themselves very comfortable.
Jacqueline giving her toes a sun bath
Jacqueline reminded me of a time last summer when the two of us took off our shoes and basked in the sunshine. Today I didn't, because I was afraid I might not want to put my boots back on and head down the trail. Jacqueline also gave me a Kind Bar, and I was immediately smitten with these snacks. The link tells you all about them.
Thank you, Diane, for the great picture
I also asked Diane if she would take a couple of pictures of me in this marvelous spot before we headed back down, so I can remember the great day we had in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands today. We hiked somewhere right around eight miles and went up and down 2,400 feet of elevation gain and loss (which seemed endless while we were hiking it, but not so bad now). I am so glad to have this group to exercise with, and I hope I can continue for many years to come. But for now, I'm just grateful for this fabulous day in the sun with great friends.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New photo app

Such a pretty cup of coffee
My local barista made this lovely cup of coffee for me to enjoy. It's almost too pretty to drink, don't you think? I had some difficulty exporting it onto my desktop in a small size to put into the post, because Apple has just done a major upgrade to its Yosemite operating system, including a complete overhaul of its photo program. No more iPhoto. I read everything I could find about the new system before downloading it, but I figured that I'd have to do it sooner or later, so I jumped right in.

Well, when I put a picture from my MacBook Air onto a blog post, I first export it into the lowest resolution possible, since I don't want my pictures to take forever to load in full size, which looks exactly the same on the screen anyway. And of course, with the new program, my old way of doing things just wasn't there. I did finally find out how to export my image in a smaller size, but just for grins, I went to Google to see if there were better ways to do it. I found that the Preview app is even a better way to resize photos. I found that information on this How-To Geek website.

Just because I had to step out of my comfort zone, I might have found a better way to get just the right size pictures for my posts. My camera and phone both take photos in a size way too large to post directly. This one went from 1.4MB to 66KB, which is just fine. Anyway, I'm happy with the new program, now that I'm able to do pretty much everything I need.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ah, the tulips

Early morning light through the tulips
You will have to indulge me, as I have had the hardest time deciding which of the hundreds of pictures I took at RoozenGaarde Tulip Gardens last Wednesday to share with you today. This is the latest I have ever been at the gardens, because the warm springtime temperatures and sunshine made everything two to three weeks ahead of the usual schedule. By the time this weekend is over, most of the color will be fading quickly.
Just amazing
We arrived early, since it was a beautiful day and we knew that hordes of people would be coming later. I arrived fifteen minutes before opening time at 9:00am, and there were already dozens of people queued up to be admitted. I was hoping for pictures with the early morning light coming through the tulips, and I have been very pleased with the result.
Hyacinths among the tulips
The display gardens are as beautiful as I've ever seen them, and I enjoyed walking through them for a couple of hours. My eyes were getting quite full, but my camera gives me the possibility of walking through them again as I share them with you.
Snapping pictures right and left
As you can see in the picture above, more and more people began to arrive to view the tulips as well. In the foreground, you can see that some early bloomers had already been "topped" and are gone. But there were still plenty of tulips to see.
A favorite shot before the crowds arrived
Within a short time, maybe an hour after arriving, I would have been unable to capture this picture because of the sheer numbers of people who were also enjoying the tulips. This path was actually crowded before we left. Although I had traveled to the Skagit Valley alone, I met some friends there, and I'll tell you about that adventure at another time.
Tulips for miles
We then traveled down to the tulip fields after seeing the display gardens, and that was also an amazing treat. As you can see here, on the left and right of these tulip rows are more colors, more to see than was possible to absorb. Since we had several days of warmth and sun before Wednesday, the fields were almost dry.
Now that's pink
And the colors! I loved seeing the incredible variety of tulips for us to enjoy. I thought this color was my favorite, until I saw this field.
Purple ones
Yes! My favorite color in a beautiful tulip, with full sun and the most perfect day for seeing these beauties. By this time, however, I was almost full up to the brim with eye candy, and I was getting hungry. We headed off to Nell Thorn Restaurant in La Conner for a sumptuous lunch with delightful company. Then it was time to head back to Bellingham, after a wonderful day.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A hard hike on a gorgeous day

The dense forest in early morning light
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers met to go on the hike we call the "Olsen Creek Ogallala Loop." It starts at the same trailhead where we do several other hikes, but some of those are now inaccessible because of logging activity. I suspect this one might be in the same boat before too long. Anyway, I'll explain the name as I chronicle the day's events.
Olsen Creek May 2012 <-> April 2015
You can see that Olsen Creek is much lower today than it was in May 2012. I shudder to think what it will look like in May of this year. We are only 15% of normal snowpack in the mountains around here, and I've never seen the creeks so low and the spring season so early. We just had the warmest March ever in Washington State. The climate is changing in so many places: here, too.
Just before leaving the road for the Ogallala Loop
The mountains in the background are, I believe, in Canada. Although we started out quite cold, with the temperature in the low forties (around 5 C), with the full sunshine and open areas, we warmed up quickly. We were all fresh and raring to go at this point.
Ogallala sign: only 1,450 miles to go
We start out on a wide logging road and then leave it to head into the forest on a sketchy, not much used trail at this sign. Somebody decided that he (or she) needed to show people how far it is to Ogallala, Nebraska. They are probably from there and a little lonesome. Over the years that sign has begun to fade, but it still begins our forest trek. After wandering through some muddy spots and a lot of uphill through the dense forest, we came to a nice clearing.
Me, Bob, Al, Lisa
I asked for a picture of the group wearing Tilley hats, with our newest member Lisa, who bought Rich's unused Tilley (he already had one and received this one as a gift). Before long, it will become the dominant headwear, it seems. I love mine. After this picture was taken, we headed up a long series of switchbacks to the one of the summits on Stewart Mountain.
Heading up some more
Although it was very sunny, we were in the forest and trees through much of the first part of this hike. It was very green and beautiful, but for whatever reason it seemed much longer to me today than it has in the past. We were getting close to lunchtime and I was ready to stop. But we made it to the top, with somewhat of a view, at lunchtime. Here's my best shot of Mt. Baker.
Mt. Baker and clouds
After a leisurely lunch in the sunshine, we began the second part of the hike, a loop on logging roads and into forest onto a faint trail that had plenty of blown-down trees and obstacles to go over, under, around or through. Plus there was some new logging across our trails, so it added to the feeling of difficulty. As I grew more and more tired, I stumbled now and then and had to catch myself. Thank heavens for my trekking poles: they kept me from falling on the uneven trail more than I would have otherwise.
Our canopy of trees
At one point I just looked up at the trees above me, and I snapped this picture with my cell phone. Frankly, I am constantly amazed at the quality of the pictures I get with my iPhone 6. After what seemed to be a very long time, we finally emerged from the forest and onto the logging road in a loop that gave us a full ten miles or more, with just under 3,000 feet of elevation. Not an easy day, and we all agreed afterwards that we would rate today exertions as "hard."
Today's trillium
No, it wasn't an easy day, or even a moderate one, but now as I sit here writing this post, I am so glad for the wonderful company of my fellow Trailblazers, and the ability I still have to walk through less-then-optimal conditions for such a distance. Right now, I would rate my day as "awesome."