Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rain, so welcome today!

Part of my walking group this morning
This morning it was raining HARD when I left to go walking with the usual group. I figured if nobody showed up, I would at least be able to head to the Y and get on the treadmill. But no, actually we had fifteen in total, and once we started to walk, the rain began to let up, and the wind picked up. This was no usual wind, because it swirled all around us and whipped up the trees.

By the time I got home, there was no power. And when I don't have power, I can't write blog posts! It's almost 6:00pm and I finally decided to head for town and see if I could find some place with internet. Avellino's doesn't have it yet, but I headed to the Community Co-op and they have it! So that's why I am sitting here with a decaf latte and writing this post so late.

I'm hoping by the time I get ready to write my Sunday Eye on the Edge post, our power will be restored. On the way here, I saw many traffic lights that are still not working, so I might be late tomorrow as well. I'm hoping not. Many trees and telephone poles were knocked down today, because it's early for one of these windstorms and all the trees still have their leaves.

But the rain is so welcome! We all agreed, down to the last person, on our five-mile morning walk! :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ptarmigan Ridge 2015

Mt. Shuksan behind the trail to Ptarmigan Ridge
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers got together this morning to enjoy a beautiful sunny day on Ptarmigan Ridge. When we all finally got together at the Glacier Ranger Station, we sent our four Super Hikers off to start ahead of the rest of us, since they were all in a car together and raring to go. That left nine of us to make our way along the ridge. I have to tell you, the picture above surprised me with what looks like a mountain sprite right in the middle. I don't know what it is really, but that's my story: a mountain sprite. The clouds were absolutely beautiful all day long.
Haze looking towards Baker Lake
The weather couldn't have been better, and we headed from Artist Point off to the ridge, admiring all the wonderful sights and enjoying a light breeze and cool temperatures. While we were looking off in the distance, we spied some mountain goats! I took this picture with my camera, using the zoom all the way out.
Mountain goats basking in the sun
We stopped for a clothing adjustment just before we got to Ptarmigan Ridge, and we remarked that it was just the kind of weather where as long as you were moving, you only needed light clothing, but once you stopped for any time at all, it felt cool with the breeze. Perfect hiking weather!
Linda, Al, Peggy, Ward, Kirk, Chris (Mt. Baker behind)
As we made our way along Ptarmigan Ridge, we saw plenty of other people on the trail, even though it's Thursday and school is back in session around here. But this is the last sunny day we are expected to have for at least a week. It was just delightful as we made our way to our lunch spot.
Haze (from fires?), sky, and shrubs turning color
I thought this picture turned out to be my very favorite of all I captured today. Interestingly, on the way back, all that haze was gone and the skies had cleared completely. I'm not sure if the wind direction changed, or what caused the difference. Earlier, I was thinking we were seeing the change between sunshine and rain, but now I'm not so sure at all.
Heading toward the Mt. Baker portals
 As we made our way towards our lunch spot along the ridge, the clouds thickened and the temperature dropped. We kept going, knowing that we had gained the majority of the elevation and just needed to stop at an appropriate place and have lunch. We expected that the Super Hikers were probably already on the top!
Rich, Doug, Dave (Roger took the picture)
I just received a set of pictures of Doug, who told me that they had lunch at the West Portal on the way to Mt. Baker. Can you see how close the mountain is to this spot? The rest of us stopped well short of the portals, and enjoyed a very nice lunch but noticed how cold it seemed. We turned around a little after 1:00pm to start our descent. This is an out-and-back hike, and we could only speculate where the Super Hikers might be. (We ran into them at Grahams when we stopped for ice cream.)
Our trail and M. Baker behind
What amazed all of us is how what seemed to be weather moving in just seemed to depart in an instant! When I looked back at the trail we had just covered, every single cloud in the sky was departing, with only a clear blue sky accented by a stiff breeze.
Jacqueline and me
Carol took this picture of Jacqueline and me, and although it was taken before our lunch (as you might notice from the clouds), I wanted to end this post with a picture that included me! The hike was around eight-ish miles in total (the Super Hikers added at least another three), with around 1,500 feet up and down (nothing like last week), but now I'm sitting in my chair, writing this post, and hoisting my wine glass to a simply wonderful day and wonderful friends!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall is here already

Trees turning color
Yesterday when I saw these trees from the bus, I realized that they are already begin to turn color. These particular trees become scarlet and very beautiful in the fall, and this is the start of their change. Today I was ready with my cellphone to take this picture. The black dots are on the bus window, and there are a few reflections since I took it on the fly through the window. I was actually pretty amazed it turned as this well. The wonders of the iPhone 6 camera.
My tomatoes, red and juicy
Then I went out to the garden to check on the progress of my tomatoes. As you can see, they are ripe, or almost so. I picked one off the vine and ate it and decided to let the rest stay there for a little longer. Plenty of the tomatoes are just beginning to get color, but these, as you can see, are ready to eat. Will they get sweeter if I leave them on there, or should I bring them in for the final ripening? Any instruction will be appreciated for this novice tomato grower.

By the way, my sister identified that spider for me. It's an Eratigena atrica, or giant house spider. When I first looked it up, I was unsure if it was the same one, since they are mostly found in Central and Northern Europe. Hmmm. But upon reading more, I found this:
The giant house spider is indigenous to north western Europe. However, it was unwittingly introduced to the Pacific Northwest of North America circa 1900 due to human activity and strongly increased in numbers for the last century. Its original habitat consists mostly of caves, or dry forests where it is found under rocks, but is a common spider in people's homes.
They show pictures of the nest and web of this spider, so I'll be checking around to see if I can find where this one might have come from. They only bite when provoked, and you can be assured I'll try very hard not to do so.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Another sunny Saturday

Crazy Sally, me, Carol Bee
I had a really nice lunch with some old friends on Wednesday, and I snagged a passerby (you can see his reflection in the upper right) for a picture. Sally and Carol used to hike with the Senior Trailblazers, but Sally moved away to the East Coast and is here for a visit. Carol still walks by herself but not with groups any more. She looks pretty good for 78, don't you think? We discussed being "young old" and "old old" and she revealed to me that she's in the latter group. Both Sally and I are still "young old" at 71 and 72, but we're getting there. Somewhere I read that one is considered "young old" from 65-75; "old old" 75-85, and "very old" after that. Makes sense.
Unidentified spider
I found this guy in my bathtub yesterday morning. He's pretty large, around 2" across including legs, and I managed to get him outside into a plant. He stayed still while I took this picture with my phone. After checking on line to see what it might be, I couldn't figure it out, since most of the descriptions suggested checking the markings on the underside. No, thanks! Anybody have an idea?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another fine day at Church Mountain

Joy's hands, Diane, Kirk, Susan, Bob, Doug, Al
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers gathered this morning to hike up one of our favorites: Church Mountain, with every possibility of making it all the way to the summit (around 9 miles and 3,800 feet elevation gain and loss). But first we needed to make it to our first view, and often our destination: the meadow.
Our first view of the meadow
This place is about three miles into the hike, and it was overcast with low fog but with every possibility that it might lift before we went much farther; in actuality the fog never gave us a view of the mountains. We went up at the same time last year, and even though we didn't have a great view then, it was even more socked in today. But the fog helped to keep it cool as we ascended.
Notice how dry it all is
We decided to let the fast hikers head on up first, and the rest of us would follow along a bit more slowly. That would be me, as I'm not in as good condition as I was two years ago, when I made it to the summit with the others. But back then we also had a great view, and today there would likely be nothing to see, so little reason to get there.
Blanket of fog rolling in
Every time it seemed like the fog might lift, it would begin to roll back in, as you can see in the picture above. Once in awhile I would look up from my feet and see that it looked as if the clearing was imminent, with bits of a view, but then we would suddenly be caught in a whiteout again. With ten of my fellow hikers ahead of me, I continued to trudge upwards.
Carol and Peggy stopping for lunch
When I reached this spot, I saw that Carol and Peggy had decided to stop here for lunch, as it was a little after 12:00pm. Al and I decided to stop here, too, while Lisa continued to the summit. I didn't see what the point would be to push myself to join the summiteers, when I had good company to share my lunch.
After a satisfying lunch
As you can see in this picture, the clouds didn't clear, but when I joined them by resting in the grass, I found that it was very warm from the radiant heat making its way through the clouds. The summiteers would have to pass us when they began back down. It was not far to the summit, but Al decided to rest instead of going upwards, so I did too.
Al's post-lunch snooze
You can clearly see the trail ahead, but we didn't have much desire to peel ourselves off the slope and join them. Soon the others began to descend, one or two at a time, and then we all began our final four-mile downhill trek to the parking lot. The four of us fell in and our trip to our starting point for some reason seemed much longer than the trip upwards. We laughed about the phenomenon we call the "trail stretcher" that makes the return seem so much longer than the beginning.

We finally made it to the cars and all headed off to Graham's for our ice cream before heading back home.  Now that I am at home with my wine half consumed, almost eight miles and 3,000+ altitude gain and loss under my belt, I am feeling very happy and glad to have gone out with my friends today. I am busy counting my blessings as I post this. Yes!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What could possibly go wrong?

What would make YOU go to the doctor?
My sister Norma Jean recently began taking blood pressure medication. I've been taking it since 2000, so I didn't think much about it, but I got to thinking about how many things can go wrong with one's physical body, and it gets worse the older you get. I'm beginning to think about how to celebrate by 73rd birthday, and the first thing I want to do is give thanks for being vertical and in pretty good shape to boot!

But the older I get, the more I wonder about new aches and pains and whether they might be something to take to my doctor. First of all, my pal Dr. Whitehead has moved on to another office and now I've got a new doctor to break in, and I don't even remember his name. I did remember that he's a D.O., a doctor of osteopathy. I needed to look it up to find out what that is. Basically, it's a medical doctor who has also been trained in physical manipulation, sort of like a chiropractor, I guess. I''ll find out.

Anyway, my sister and I both have blood pressure cuffs at home to keep track, and we also both go to the doctor at least annually. But last night I woke up with a pain in my bad hip, and after tossing and turning for awhile I finally got comfortable again. I debated about calling the doctor today, but it's much better in the light of day. I'll wait for awhile. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

We got a little rain

The sunrise yesterday morning
We were all excited around here yesterday, when we finally got a forecast of rain. After so many days (weeks, months) of dry weather, nobody minded much. When I opened the front door, right at sunrise, I saw the above scene. Although the sky was cloudy, there was a small opening between the clouds, and within a minute or two after this picture was taken, it was dark again. This was one of the first pictures I've taken with my camera lately, because I needed to use the zoom and my cellphone was not going to capture this. Maybe I should carry the camera around with me; who knows when another wonderful shot like this one might be missed?

Anyway, we only received a bit more than a tenth of an inch of rain here in Bellingham, although it was cloudy all day and spit some rain now and then. Only once all day did it really rain, and that was when I was getting ready to head out to the movies with my friend Judy. We saw Tangerine, an art type movie filmed completely on the iPhone5s. It has gotten great reviews and is billed as a comedy, but it's not. It's about the rather tragic lives of transgender women of color, pimps and prostitution. That is not to say I'm sorry I saw the movie, but it definitely left me feeling sad for these people I ended up liking and caring about. Afterwards, I read several articles on the internet about the dangerous and precarious lives of these women.

Today or tomorrow we'll go see Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep. Although the reviews are not good for this one, I suspect I'll leave the theater with a smile. After all, who can resist thinking of Meryl as a rock star guitarist? Her real-life daughter also stars in the movie. Now I'm off to the library to pick up some books I put on hold. They always seem to show up at the same time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Canyon Ridge 2015

Looking out at the view
Only eight Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to start our hike up Canyon Ridge. I'm not sure why, but it might be because it had been almost five years since our last time on this trail, and we might have forgotten how nice it can be on a sunny day. Since that's all we've been having for many months now, you can see how dry everything has become.  All the flowers are long since gone, and even the late-summer fireweed has gone to seed. We last hiked this in October 2010 and you can see here what it looked like back then. Although it was October, the blueberries had just gotten ripe. But today... well, more on that in a minute.
Mt. Baker was a little hazy today, but still beautiful
We didn't have a cloud in the sky, but there was a distinct haze as we looked across at the mountains. Apparently we are getting smoke from the wildfires in California, which is being lifted up over the high pressure ridge that has been keeping all the sun and warmth around here. But one thing that is very positive about all this heat: the huckleberries and blueberries are already ripe!
Brought to a standstill by all the berries
There have been many years when we have seen little to no berries, but we really did luck out today. In fact, it was hard sometimes to keep going on the trail, as you can see from the scene above. You may wonder about the difference between huckleberries and blueberries, so here's a little tutorial.
These huckleberries are high on the plant, usually at about eye level. And this year they are incredibly sweet and succulent. Usually they are nowhere near ripe at this time of year, but today they certainly were. And then, down low to the ground, are the blueberries.
The blueberries, although abundant, were small and nowhere near as sweet this year as in past years. Perhaps it's the drought, but it didn't seem to keep many of them from producing berries. We managed to pick plenty of both before we reluctantly returned to the trail.
Bob and Jacqueline show their stained fingers
It was fun to stuff these little guys in and reach for more. See how small those blueberries are? When you compare them to the juicy large huckleberries, I'd say you get more bang for your buck from the huck. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) But finally, we made it to our lunch spot after about three miles. This is where we always stop.
Our lunch spot
Al led us to this lovely spot, but you might notice there is no shade. I took it for as long as I could, and then I retreated into the woods a little ways to find some shade while they continued to bask in the sunshine. That's Mt. Shuksan in the far distance, faint but still visible.
The brown foliage in front, and a view of our trail
If you look carefully at the mound directly in front in this picture, you can see the faint trail showing where we ascended to this spot. But frankly, it's much more visible in the 2010 pictures. In October, much of the foliage had turned colors, where today they are pretty much just brown from the lack of moisture.
Mountain ash berries
It was hot today, but not brutally so, as we've had on previous hikes this year. We also had a fairly short hike of just under six miles round trip, with an elevation gain and loss of 1,600 feet. Plus some of the time we were in the trees, so it turned out to be a very enjoyable outing. It's a little disconcerting to see all the dry foliage, but it's still very beautiful and a wonderful way to have spent my Thursday.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Time for a change

Before I forget, I want to thank whoever it was who mentioned that you can bring green tomatoes in and they will still ripen, because as I was trying to get my tomatoes staked so that they weren't on the ground I accidentally broke off a stem that had two very green (but large) tomatoes on it. Well, I put them on the kitchen counter, skeptical that they might actually ripen, but they did! They are now almost ready to eat, so I've been bringing in some almost-ripe ones to join them. They are so tasty, and I wait until they are just beginning to soften and then slice one open. Ahhh! They taste nothing like the ones in the grocery stores.

What is the title of blog referring to? That forgetfulness I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I missed an appointment with my dermatologist that had been made six months ago. Although I received an automated phone call the week before, I simply spaced it out. I was sitting in my living room thinking that I had that appointment coming up, but when I checked, it had occurred three hours before. Usually I put a reminder in my phone for the day before, but I had made it so long ago that I simply forgot that I hadn't scheduled a reminder. My doctor's office sent me a letter telling me that I'm now on a probation list and if I do it twice more within the next few months, I'll have to find another provider.

Well, I have gone through ALL my upcoming appointments and have set my phone to remind me the day before, and an hour before. Hopefully I won't miss any more important ones. But the thing is, I never used to forget such things, and I realize that my ability to remember has begun to slip. The change I am referring to is to use my smartphone to help me out. Plus I had a really good idea for today's post, but I cannot remember what it was at all! If I had put something in the "Reminder" app on my phone, I'd be writing about it. Hopefully it will come around again and I'll quickly capture it before it goes away.

My memory is very capricious: I can remember some things I wish I could forget, and other things go in one ear and out the other. There is a definite difference in this area during the past few years. That is yet another thing that a blog is good for: it can act as a diary. My friend Judy and I were having coffee this morning and we chuckled over the fact that we are both getting very forgetful. It's nice to have company in this stage of life. How do YOU cope?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday again so soon?

Some of the ladies on the Arroyo Park bridge
I swear, this summer is just streaking by. And these are the kinds of days I enjoy the very most: some sun, a few clouds, a breeze, and a nice walk. We met this morning at the ferry terminal, all fifteen of us with the inclusion of a MAN who had never walked with us before. I do hope he decides to return, since it's pleasant to have new people join us. We walked somewhere between five and six miles at a brisk pace and then had coffee afterwards, as we usually do. It's a great way to start my weekend, being exercised and feeling good, all before noon.
Railroad Grade from the Scott Paul trail
About our last Thursday's hike: Al sent me this picture to help explain to the Furry Gnome who left a comment as to why is this called Railroad Grade? It is very impressive from this vantage point, isn't it? And Hootin Anni asked why the hike is limited to twelve: it's an archaic wilderness regulation that all groups remain under the number of twelve, so if there are more than that number, you must split into two groups with a mile in between. This is enforced by the rangers, and if they catch us (since we are sponsored by the Senior Center) breaking the rules, they report us. It's happened before. But it's really crazy, because now there are so many people going into the wilderness areas, that on the weekend it's a steady stream of hikers on the trails. Apparently if you don't know each other there's less damage to the wilderness?

Anyway, we try to stay within the boundaries set by the Forest Service, so there you go.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Railroad Grade 2015

Starting out
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers set out from the Senior Center this morning in foggy conditions, with every expectation that it would clear off, since we've been having nothing but blue skies for weeks. We drove in four separate cars to the Schreiber's Meadow trailhead to make our way up Railroad Grade (which has nothing to do with railroads but has earned its name because of the way it looks). Anyhow, we sent the fast hikers, who were in their own car, on ahead so that we could stay within the limitation of 12 hikers in the wilderness area. It was still foggy when we started hiking, with a light mist, but it only made it feel very pleasant.
Notice that Al is leading once again
As we continued our upward trek, the sun didn't magically appear like I thought it would. Instead, the fog grew thicker, and one might even be tempted to call it rain, but we never went that far. Some of us did put on our raincoats for the thick fog, but we were SURE it would clear and we'd have wonderful views. You can see what we missed today by looking back to 2012. Nevertheless, we kept going and had beautiful views, but they were mostly of the fog.
Climbing higher, we could see Railroad Grade
We ran into many groups who are actually going to make camp tonight and attempt to climb Mt. Baker tomorrow. They were carrying full packs and heading up to the climbers' camp on the far side of the Grade. We were just wanting to climb upward until it was time for lunch.
The final push to the knife edge
You can tell the ones who were not with our group in this picture, because are carrying much more supplies than we did. Two of them are right at the top of the edge, while we made our way up behind them. 
The knife edge along Railroad Grade
It's hard to describe what it feels like to reach this spot, because on one side you climb up a steep slope, and on the other you reach a sheer drop-off into a deep moraine scoured out by an ancient glacier. You hear the sound of the water rushing at the bottom before you can actually get a feel for the immense open space on both sides.
Starting back down the Grade
After we had gone a fair distance along the knife edge (which only has a few really scary spots), we decided that the view was not getting any better, and we made our way back to the safety of the trees to have lunch.
Our lunch spot
You can see the nice protected spot where we chose to have our lunch before heading back down. And from our clothing, you can probably surmise that we weren't exactly bathing in sunshine. Yes, it's true: the sun never made an appearance on the entire trip today. I went looking for a picture to show you what the day was like.
Mountain ash berries covered with moisture
Yes, you might be tempted to call that heavy mist rain, but we were certainly not going to. After we began our downward trip, it never got any worse, but it wasn't until we were almost in sight of the cars at Schreiber's Meadow before we saw our shadow. By the time we drove back the 65-mile-long return trip, the sun was completely out. 

On the plus side, we had perfect hiking conditions, covered around 7-and-a-half miles and went up and down around 2,000 feet of elevation, making it pretty darn wonderful, even if we never saw Mt. Baker today. And the company could not have been better! Now that I'm home, my wine only half finished, and my post complete, I can say it was definitely a great day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It won't be long now

My intermediate sized tomatoes, almost ripe
I just now went out to my garden and snapped a this picture of my tomatoes. Every day now I see some difference in them. In my neighbor's gardens, all the cherry tomatoes are ripe and I've been sampling them to make sure they pass inspection. I was beginning to wonder when my baseball-sized tomatoes would begin to ripen, since one of my Saturday walking friends brought dozens of beautiful, big ripe ones last week. I can hardly wait! I have two different varieties here and look forward to sampling them.
Rob's pumpkin
Just last Saturday this pumpkin was dark green, and today it's turned orange! At this time of the year, it's amazing how quickly everything in the garden is maturing. I've got some yellow onions in the ground, but I'm going to leave them for now. I've also been given sweet corn and beans from my friend John's garden, even though he tells me they are just a little early.

I have planted some kale and more lettuce for a fall harvest, but pretty much everything else in my own little garden has been harvested. I never thought I would be eating full-sized tomatoes from my plot, but this year, well you KNOW how much sunshine we've been having. The upside of the unaccustomed heat and unrelenting sun is all the amazing veggies!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Excursion to Seattle

Me, the Wicked poster, and Judy
Last Sunday my friend Judy and I traveled on a pre-arranged bus tour to Seattle with nary an empty seat. Tomorrow is the last day that Wicked will be performed here before it moves back to New York. I just looked at their schedule on line and learned that after tomorrow's performance, they will be performing again the very next day! Then, after a short stay in New York, they will move on to Portland. During the month of August, they seem to be hopping from one coast to another, so they must have a permanent setup in New York and a traveling one as well. But I suspect that many of the actors must be in both places.

I loved the show, but I was a little hesitant at first. Of course, Judy and I who are both short, got seated right behind two giant people. I swear he must be a football player, and his partner was every bit as tall, but we managed. I was taken aback by how LOUD the songs and music were, but fortunately I never go anywhere without my earplugs. They were very necessary at the Paramount Theater where we were seated in the middle of the first batch of seats. By the time we had an intermission, I was completely taken in by the show.

If you have never seen it, or know nothing about the story, I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that the Wicked Witch isn't such a bad sort after all in this version of the story. I immediately went to the library to place a hold on the book on which the play is based: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. It came yesterday, but I haven't started to read it yet. Apparently, though, from several reader reviews, you either love or hate the book. It seems to be a parable of the nature of good and evil. I'll let you know what I think of it.

But the play? What a show! I simply cannot imagine how the actors turn out such performances day after day, week after week, year after year. Don't miss it if you get a chance to see it, and you'll marvel at them yourself.