Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heliotrope Ridge 2015

Parking lot, filled with cars on a weekday
Twelve Senior Traiblazers gathered at the parking lot for the Heliotrope Ridge hike, without our leader Al, but with Ward (yellow shirt) and Steve who acted as his stand-ins. We had three hikers, Roger, Doug and Susan, who decided to ride together and do their own thing separate from us. They are what I call Superhikers, much stronger than some of the rest of us, and who would go much farther and faster. We bade them goodbye at the parking lot.
Crossing the first creek, the only one with a bridge
This parking lot is not only the place where people climb to see the Coleman Glacier on Mt. Baker up close and personal, but it's also where those who are going to climb to the top of Mt. Baker begin their trek to the base camp. We saw lots of strong-looking guys with full climbing gear starting out at the same time we did.
The second creek crossing, no bridge
Then we reached the second creek crossing, which looks pretty innocuous in the picture; it wasn't. We had to pick our way across the rushing water, which is coming down from the Glacier and with the warm weather wasn't all that easy.
Steve helping me across, Joy on the left after crossing
Steve went across first, and then helped those of us who felt we needed a hand. Although it wasn't too much of a stretch, my short legs were glad to have some assistance as I leaped across the rocks. All was well as we continued on the hike to the third crossing. Before we got there, we came to the junction to the Climber's Route, which takes you steeply upward to a ridge. Most of us wanted to see whether we would be able to get across the third, and most difficult, crossing, so we could see the Glacier up close.
One of our first great views of Mt. Baker
The weather could not have been better, although some of us might have appreciated a cloud or two, and Mt. Baker looked close enough to touch. Just a short jaunt to the top, right? But before we could get to the glacier overlook, we had to cross that last stream. I was hoping against hope that we would be going over there to take a look around.
Linda going up to that log to see if she could cross
Because of the extreme warmth we've been having, the glacier is releasing tremendous amounts of rushing water across this stream. Linda is heading up to that horizontal log to see if we might be able to make it across. She tentatively evaluated the situation, but before she could start to cross, both Ward (her husband) and Steve said NO. Although it doesn't look like much, the water is very strong, and a fall would inevitably mean an injury. So we turned around and started up the Climber's Route.
Coleman Glacier and Mt. Baker (Carol's picture)
As we climbed up the steep trail, we did get some fabulous views of the glacier and Mt. Baker. But when we are on the other side, you really do feel like you can reach out and touch the glacier. We did this hike last September, and we were able to cross and see the magnificent views. Check them out here
Aphids munching on a dead lupine
Because of the heat, all the flowers were gone except some fireweed and monkey flowers (near water sources), and I noticed that all the lupines have gone to seed and attracted plenty of aphids. If you enlarge this picture, you can see lots of fat aphids who are enjoying them. Someone said that all members of the pea family (which includes lupines) attract them. There was no doubt about that!
That first bridge, on our return journey
And then we made our way back down the trail, having covered somewhere under seven miles and more than six (6.2, 6.3, 6.7 were our various readings) and around 2,000 feet up and down. It's interesting that my feet have learned to notice eight miles, since that's when they get tired, and I wasn't anywhere near that today. We hopped in our cars and drove to Graham's in the town of Glacier where we enjoyed ice cream cones and more, and then headed home.

It was a wonderful day. I think this is one of my very favorite hikes, and I don't need to say it, but I will: it's much more enjoyable when we have our fearless leader with us. I hope next week he will be able to be with us again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another hot spell ramping up

A neighbor's grape arbor
We have just finished a wonderful cool period, with the temperatures during the day not making it much past 70 (21C) in the heat of the day, with wonderful cool nights allowing for comfortable sleep. And we even got a third of an inch of rain Friday night here in Bellingham, which was also delightful, after having been in a prolonged drought. But it was short-lived. Starting today, when the clouds clear off, we won't be seeing any more of them for quite awhile. A high-pressure ridge is building over the area, so here we go again.

Every morning when I walk to the bus, I pass these grapes and have watched them develop. They are not seedless and will turn deep burgundy colored before they are ripe. But this year the neighbors will have a bumper crop, the most I've seen in the seven years I've been watching. I stole a few once, and they are tart and filled with seeds (maybe Concord?) and very delicious. Of course, anything stolen tastes better, doesn't it?

My tomatoes are still green but some of my neighbors' cherry tomatoes are ripe enough to be quite delicious indeed. And my friend John tells me that his sweet corn is not too far from being ready to eat. I'll be the benefactor of as much as I want! It's getting to be that time of the year when harvesting the fruits of our labors is in sight. I've eaten broccoli and kohlrabi, as well as lettuce and spicy salad greens from my own garden since June, but those fruits that require a whole season are coming along nicely. Oh, is there anything better than food from your own garden? Or an unsuspecting neighbor's?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sleeping on the ground versus a camper

Linda and Ward's 17-footer
I wasn't at all sure whether I would still be able to sleep on the ground with just a little skinny Thermarest mattress between me and the ground, but it turned out to be just fine. In some ways it was just as comfy as being in my own bed, as long as I didn't think about it too much, and kept turning every now and then. But Linda and Ward have their very own trailer with everything one needs: a nice comfy bed, stove, fridge, and even a tiny but efficient freezer!
Carol and Linda inside, Riley in Linda's lap
While the other three of us had tents and camp stoves, it seems this is a really nice way to experience the wilderness: take your home right along with you. They drove into the campsite and disconnected the trailer from their vehicle, leveled it, and were all ready to go. I was quite impressed with how nice it is. You can see their bed in the back, a small table with plenty of room for up to four people to sit around and chat.
Linda putting the tablecloth on the picnic table
But the most impressive thing of all to me was this tablecloth. Linda has been using this for fifty years, as it was a wedding gift and they just had their fiftieth anniversary last month! It has no holes in it, and she said the hummingbirds are attracted to the pattern. They just don't make things like that any more, do they?

The only problem I had with the camping trip is the mosquitoes. I am still scratching at least a dozen spots, even though I keep doctoring them up with anti-itch cream. It was a small price to pay for such a good experience, though. (scratch, scratch)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Camping out and Noisy Creek

Me sitting in Steve's chair, drinking a Bud Lite
Well, the five of us arrived in plenty of time to set up at the Shannon Creek campground on Wednesday afternoon, all ready to charge out on a hike, but somehow, we ended up just visiting and enjoying the lovely mild weather and skipping the evening hike. I realized once we arrived that I had forgotten to bring my usual red wine, or even some good beer! Steve, however, had this Bud Lite, which I did really enjoy (it was cold), but I hankered for a real beer.
Mark, his dog Lakota, Gary, and Tom
I happened to notice that our neighbors were drinking Heineken beer (a nice brew) and sauntered over to see if I could buy one off of them. Of course they gave it to me free, and soon Carol wandered over, and we ended up enjoying some very good beer with our neighbors. They were off very early this morning to fish for sockeye; I hope they got some, but we were already off on our hike before they returned this morning. They were up and about by 5:00am, off by 5:30am.
Linda (with Riley), Ward, Steve, and Carol (I took the picture)
I slept great in my little tent (not shown, that's Steve and Carol's in the picture), and Carol fixed us a wonderful breakfast before we left to go on our Noisy Creek hike this morning. Linda, Ward and Riley have their very own camper, a wonderful 17-footer with everything one would need. But I was very impressed with the new version of the Coleman stove, the great breakfast, and all this before we started our hike!
Who wouldn't be impressed by this tree?
Once we got to the trailhead and enjoyed seeing so many old growth trees and walking on the Noisy Creek trail, we noticed that we had to work HARD not to step on little tiny toads that proliferated along the trail. I've never seen so many of them! I saw a bunch of they trying to climb a little spot, who knows where they were going? We must have seen more than a thousand of these newly hatched little toads.
How many do YOU see here?
Poor Linda, who was leading, was really not wanting to step on any of them in the trail, but it was hard. She tried but hated it when she couldn't avoid stepping on one of them. I've seen these little guys here before, but today it was amazing how many there were. Thousands, at least.
Hidden creek, with very little water
Although it was still very beautiful, I was saddened to see how little Hidden Creek was today. Usually there is plenty of water spraying us at this point, but as you can see, it looked almost ordinary today. Still, it was wetter than many other hikes we've visited so far this year.
Mt. Baker hiding from us behind the clouds
And then we reached the lake and our lunch spot. It had been cloudy all morning, but they cleared off pretty much everywhere except right over the mountain. This is the best view we had as we enjoyed our lunch. And then we headed over to Noisy Creek. See the bridge in this picture?
The bridge is in the center
We then walked over to the Noisy Creek bridge and looked at all the tiny toads underneath. And then it was time to head back home, giving us more than ten miles and around a thousand feet of elevation before we returned to the campground. I headed home in my car, but I had to take a couple of detours before I made it home because of a fire in the area. It added another half-hour or so to my return trip, but when I got home, I hit the shower and poured myself a glass of wine. Now it's almost 8:00pm, my post finished, and my adventure behind me. But there will be more!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Need to get packing

My tomatoes as of today
Tomorrow morning I leave for my adventure camping with four of my favorite people, and I haven't even started packing yet! I just went out to the garden to see how it's doing, with only a few things left that have not been harvested. My tomatoes are just bursting out all over, but when they will begin to ripen? It can't be long now, can it?
Yellow onions
The onions are coming along quite nicely. I have no idea when I'm supposed to harvest them, but I accidentally knocked one over while pulling weeds, and I brought it into the house. Even though it's small, it's certainly ready to be eaten, but I do think these will keep on growing in size for awhile.
Volunteer hollyhock
I didn't plant this hollyhock flower this year, but last year I tried to grow some which didn't do well. I was quite surprised to see this volunteer appear among my vegetables. It's pretty and I like to see it doing well, even if it's a year later. I bought some black kale starts and need to get those in the ground before I take off. Time to pack up! Hope I don't forget anything too important. (let's see: toothbrush, teddy bear, sleeping bag, headlamp...)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday musings

Diane took this of me last Thursday, July 16, 2015
On our Thursday hike, Diane took two pictures of me, and once I saw them I immediately realized that I need a haircut! I got online to see when I had the last one and realized it's been exactly six weeks. Short hair doesn't last any longer than that without beginning to get rather, um, unwieldy. I don't wear makeup and I don't pay much attention to my hair until it gets right around this stage.

I made an appointment to get it cut Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I'm going to do something I haven't done in ages: camp out with some of my hiking buddies. Five of us are going to drive to a campground near Baker Lake, make a nice hike on Wednesday evening and then a longer one on Thursday. I'm not going to join the usual Thursday hikers, who are going to Hannegan Pass, which is supposed to be sunny, if not as warm as past weeks, and most of the hike is in full sunshine.
My weekly step counter
And I have to admit that I am definitely addicted to this new app on my phone. I wrote about it awhile back, but I didn't think that I'd actually be more likely to walk and work out MORE because of it, but that's what's happened. You can see that before noon today I had walked almost 15,000 steps (it was partly because of my usual Saturday walk with the ladies). Anything over 12,500 is considered highly active, so I guess I qualify. My daily average for the week is also quite respectable. You can see the spike on Thursday, which represents our Skyline Divide excursion of almost eight miles. I take Sundays off from exercise, which is the low point on July 12, last Sunday.

Isn't technology wonderful? And you'll be subjected to my next Thursday's post of our Noisy Creek hike instead of the Trailblazers trip up Hannegan Pass. I hope they have fun without me; I know I'm looking forward to this adventure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Skyline Divide on a cloudy day

Mt. Baker is behind those clouds
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met to make our annual trek up to Skyline Divide. When we started out, we were in total clouds and fog, but we expected that as the day wore on we would see more blue sky and fewer clouds. This picture is the best it got all day. We never saw Mt. Baker in full view, but it didn't matter. It was a wonderful day in many ways.
Plenty of flowers still left up there
Five of our strongest hikers decided to split off from the rest and hike up fast, and the plan was that we would meet again later. The rest of us, eleven in all, took a slower and more leisurely trip to our usual lunch spot. Because of the constant heat in previous weeks, all of the lupines have already gone to seed, but bistort, valerian, and lots of arnica are still in full bloom. And we were actually cold for some parts of the day, needing jackets and gloves, after weeks of over-the-top heat.
Layers of colors, taken by Carol
The clouds came and went, until we finally found a nice place for lunch. We thought the other five were ahead of us, so we sat down and looked for some signs of them, but in the meantime we were actually quite comfortable and enjoyed the view.
Carol getting ready for lunch
I just happened to see Carol with the clouds suddenly behind her, and I knew this was a shot I had to share. I loved the way we were right at the edge of clouds for part of the time, and then in full sunshine. I almost cropped this picture, but, frankly, I like it just the way I saw it.
Trailblazers settle down for a leisurely lunch
It was almost like having your own private show, watching the mountains come and go, feeling the hot sun for a minute and then a cool breeze and clouds taking over. I loved it. And I had no problem keeping up today, with the coolness and... NO BUGS. We were so sure we would have to deal with them, but I didn't see even one. It was glorious.
I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the clouds today. Even though at times they obscured our view, it didn't matter, because they were so magnificent. At lunch, Diane offered to take a couple of pictures of me, and this one made me smile.
DJan posing for a picture
Although much of the ground was very dry, as you can see in the above picture, it was the first hike in weeks that felt familiar: the temperature, the clouds, and the views were all pretty darn perfect. And then, reluctantly, we decided it was time to head back down to the cars. Since we had not yet seen our missing five, we asked people who were coming up if they had seen them, and they had. So we knew they were ahead of us as we hiked downwards.
Bob stopping to study a flower
Although there were plenty of flowers, they are more like what we might see at the end of August, rather than the middle of July. That's because of the extreme heat we've been experiencing. I don't know what the summer has in store, but I have to say that today was one of those days that makes me so glad I have the privilege to hike in our wilderness. My friends today completed the circle, and it would have been simply perfect if our leader, Al, could have joined us. Soon, we all hope.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pretty front porch flowers and more

Taken yesterday on my front porch
Notice all the clouds in the sky? We've had wonderful weather for several days now, with temperatures topping out in what I consider to be perfect: low 70s, with clouds. Yay! These flowers still do need to be watered every day, though. I thought I'd better show you a picture of them before I head out to see what the garden is doing. It's been two days since I visited it.
What a smile!
And when I opened the fridge, wondering if there were any hard boiled eggs, I found this guy sitting there smiling at me. What do you do with a guy like I've got? He makes me smile but also makes it awfully hard to actually EAT this egg. I did, though.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Our heat wave finally broke

Trees sending out suckers
The only green on our front lawn are the suckers following the roots of these trees. They were trimmed way back in January 2014, and I took a picture of them and how they looked last year in August. When they had been trimmed back to just stubs, I was worried that they might not recover, but they did. However, this year during our drought they have sent out all these little sprouts that are known as suckers.
The midwest will now get some summer
This graphic from the Climate Prediction Center shows what we have been going through, and what the midwest has had going on while we were baking. Now that our heat wave has finally broken, with the temperatures back in our normal range (low 70s for highs), the rest of the country will begin to warm up. And thank heavens for that!

I had a really nice walk with the ladies this morning, cool and cloudy like it's supposed to be around here. Now I can fix myself a leisurely lunch and settle in for the day, with my daily exercise done. I hope wherever you are, you are enjoying yourself and that the temperature is to your liking.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Yellow Aster Butte in a drought, all right

Steve at the beginning of our hike, with hazy Mt. Baker behind
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers met to start our earliest annual trek up to Yellow Aster Butte. Because of medical issues, Al decided not to join us, so Steve agreed to be our leader for the day. Since we had some people (like me and Noriko) who didn't want to make the trek in the heat all the way to the top, four of us decided to make a car-full who would slowly make our way up to the flat place that divides the trails downward and the trail upward to the top. If you want to see what the top looks like from one of my earlier jaunts, you can see it here. In fact, that post was from just last year, at the end of July.
On the trail with Carol and Noriko
I was surprised by how dry everything was, but I suppose I shouldn't be. Just today I learned that we in this part of the country have been declared to be in a severe drought, and we haven't seen any measurable rain in what seems ages. And the forest fires burning in Canada are causing a great deal of visibility issues around here.
Mt. Baker is still visible, but barely
And it was hot. Not as hot as last week's hike, but still very much warmer than what we are accustomed to. If you want to see how much, just type in "yellow aster" in that search box on my home page, and you'll be astonished at how much different it is today than it was in past years. The four of us caught sight of the larger group ahead of us now and then, but we were enjoying our slower pace.
Butterflies enjoying the aster
We saw several different kind of butterflies fluttering around these flowers, so many I just had to stop for a picture. If you study it carefully, you will see at least half a dozen in this picture alone. Although the lupines were already gone to seed, there were still plenty of other flowers to take their place.
The last of the snow
In years past, we have always had to cross this huge snowbank, which gives us a chance to filter some water if we need it on our return trip. You can see the trail snaking above it, and given the size of it today, I  believe that within another month or two, it will be completely gone. It's the only water we saw on what is usually a rather wet trail.
Beautiful flowers still to be seen
This was the most I saw today of flowers, which are usually filled with lots of blue from the lupine, but still it was so lovely. This is almost to the top of my hike. The others had already summited the top of the Butte, while the four of us stayed  below. Just a few hundred feet below us, the closest tarn called our fellow hikers to take a dip. For the third week in a row, they went down to the water and stripped, although it wasn't the same four.
Last year, 28 July; this year, 9 July
Here is a graphic picture that will show the difference between what we usually see here, and what we saw today. That is the same tarn in both pictures, but the one below actually has four Trailblazers swimming in cool water, and the one above shows what we saw last year! Nobody would have gone swimming at the end of July last year, I don't think.
Our return trip to the cars
After comparing our adventures today as we all gathered as they sauntered up from the tarn, we decided to let the faster hikers go on ahead and we would make our way back home. I just received a text from Chris (who was in the faster group) to make sure we all made it back safe and sound. And now I am showered and almost finished with my wine and my post, feeling really good but a little scared about the condition of some of my favorite places in the world. We need rain really badly, and there is none in the forecast that will make much of a difference.

But in spite of my fears, I still had a wonderful day, filled with sunshine in abundance, friends galore, and (thankfully) a shower, a partner, and contentment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our smoky skies

The sun from my front porch this morning
When I woke and saw that it was still dark in the living room after the sun had come up, I took a look outside and this is what I saw: sunlight filtered through the smoke from the British Columbia forest fires. Our heatwave has broken early, because we are getting sunlight through thick haze, and the temperatures have dropped precipitously. Right now, at noon, it's only 65 degrees F (18 C), and although it's supposed to get almost to 80 today, I don't think it will.
Precipitation % of normal for last 30 days (National Weather Service)
This fascinating graphic is from a website I found this morning while looking for more information about the BC wildfires that are causing such a degradation in the air around here. It's called Wildfire Today, and the guy behind it, Bill Gabbert, seems to be posting really interesting stuff daily about (you guessed it) wildfires. He's got plenty of them to choose from, unfortunately, but he must be scouring the web because he's got some great pictures and graphics. It doesn't look like it will get better around here until the end of the week when we've got a cool front headed our way.
From Gene's page on Facebook
And guess what? I finally saw a picture of my pal Gene, who is on his boat Hobo up in Alaska for his annual salmon catch. He left in early June. That's his crew with him. I sure will be glad when he's home; it's just not the same around the coffee shop without him.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A great way to start the holiday

Helen, Ebba, Peggy, Cindy, Terry, Penny
Fifteen of the Fairhaven walkers met at Cindy's home (she's our leader) for our annual Fourth of July walk and potluck. (The Cindy in the picture above is a fellow walker, not the hostess.) This is the first time since I joined the group that the holiday falls on our regularly scheduled Saturday. We gathered in the cool of the morning (8:00am) and took off for a hilly four-mile walk right from Cindy's front door.
Our trail
We are so fortunate to live in a place that gives you the opportunity to walk out a front door and in just a few minutes reach a fantastic maze of trails. We walked for about an hour and then came back to enjoy a really wonderful potluck together.
On Cindy's back porch
Cindy's back porch is shaded by some enormous trees, and we settled down to the task at hand, to experience some fabulous dishes brought by our friends. We only had a few cooked dishes, because it's been so warm, but the variety of flavors was wonderful.
I had a really interesting dish among all the others: watermelon squares seasoned with feta cheese and basil. It sounds a little strange, but it was simply wonderful. I brought curry lime chicken from the Co-op, which I've had before and knew everyone would enjoy (they did).
Me showing off my earrings
I received many compliments on my shirt and earrings. Ebba, in that first picture, is an artist who creates wonderful glass earrings, among other things, and I bought these from her. The shirt is a Royal Robbins UPF 50 shirt that is supposed to keep the sun from burning through. I wanted it in white (so it would be cooler), but they didn't have one in my size, so I got this one. Fortunately it matched my Ebba earrings perfectly.

I think I'll settle in for the day and stay inside where it's cooler. We've got a teeny bit cooler temperatures today (it's only supposed to reach 82) before ramping back up to 93 tomorrow. Hope you stay cool and safe on America's 239th birthday today!