Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time to start packing

Taken by Ross Schram von Haupt (Bellingham)
I found this picture of the supermoon/eclipse on the LoveBellingham site on Facebook, with credit given to a local real estate agent (linked to his page underneath the picture). It's pretty darn wonderful. I'm afraid I didn't get any pictures, because I ended up drinking wine with my next door neighbor and had a bit more than usual. I decided I wasn't in any shape to go looking for the perfect spot to take pictures. I knew there would be some wonderful ones.

One of my friends at the gym told me of some friends of hers who drove all the way to Artist Point (an hour and a half drive) in order to photograph the eclipse. It was so cold that they were unable to get out of their car for awhile, and then their hands kept freezing as they set up the camera. And they had to wait for the moon to rise above Mt. Shuksan, so for a good while they were battling the freezing temperature. It was cold down here, too, so I can only imagine.

Only two more sleeps before I get together with fellow Vashonista friend Linda and take the ferry to Vashon Island. It's going to be wonderful to have so much time! Instead of three days/two nights, it will be six days/five nights. Wow! I'll be skipping the Trailblazer hike on Thursday, but I'll probably manage to get something up on here from Vashon before the day is over. I feel a bit like a kid going off to camp!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A beautiful fall day

Connie and Carol on the Lake Padden trail
We ladies usually spend one Saturday walk at Lake Padden, because it's a known quantity. We take two loops, just over 2.6 miles once around. One direction is considered harder than the other, because for some reason the hills seems steeper (that's not possible, but perception is everything). Today we went around the "harder" way first, counter-clockwise, and finished with the clockwise version. I decided to use my new smartphone app today, MapMyWalk, since it's a known distance and I figured I could see if it's accurate.
A screen shot from my phone
There was a slight discrepancy, I thought, because it showed .09 miles more than it should, but Cindy, our leader, told me the actual distance really is a little more than exactly 2.6 miles. Close enough, I'd say. I was a little surprised when a female voice gave me my stats at each mile (something I can probably turn off), and when I looked at the final information, I was pleased to see I could tell how fast I covered each mile as well. Pretty cool!
Fall feast
Then I headed over to the Farmers' Market, which goes almost year round here, closing up for the season on the last Saturday before Christmas. I will enjoy purchasing the fall produce, since my garden has been put to bed for the season. A couple of years ago I grew some delicata squash myself (the yellow ones with the dark green stripes), but I found that for whatever reason mine weren't as succulent as the ones from the market. So I happily fork over my dollars for a chance to eat these instead. I am very aware that I live in a wonderful part of this beautiful country and wish everyone had such bounty available to them. Virtual hugs all around; there's plenty of those!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A bit of everything at Lake Ann

First glimpse of Lake Ann today
Yes, I know it's late for my blog post, but I just got home after a long day in the High Country. Only nine Senior Trailblazers showed up, probably because the weather forecast was for rain, but it kept getting pushed later in the day. Still, you might notice that because of the drought, a hike we took two years ago, almost to the day, shows a much larger Lake Ann. We need all the rain we can get, so none of us would have been unhappy if it had turned out to be a wet day.
Climbing the rocks to Lake Ann
The reason this hike is considered difficult is because you descend 800 feet to a valley at the beginning, cross the valley, then climb a long rocky traverse to Lake Ann and the back side of Mt. Shuksan. This must all be reversed when you return to the starting point. It's sort of uphill both ways. It was overcast for most of the day, but every once in awhile we would see patches of blue and get a dose of sunshine.
Jacqueline and Peggy on the trail
As you can see in this picture, it was a beautiful climb, with fall colors everywhere, and us needing very little to keep us warm as we hiked. At any minute we expected the heavens to open up and drench us (we were ready), but instead the clouds came and went and we stayed mostly dry.
Mt. Baker partially obscured
As we climbed higher, we got some wonderful views of Mt. Baker (Komo Kulshan), with Al and Doug in this picture at the head of our group of nine. The sky was so grey at this point that even if you could have seen the top of the mountain, it would have blended in. But it was still stunning, and nobody had felt even one raindrop by this point.
The glacier on the back of Mt. Shuksan
And then we reached the top, where we saw that first glimpse of Lake Ann, and to the left the back of Mt. Shuksan with its glacier, much diminished from past years, but still magnificent. You can see the top of the mountain shrouded in fog, and plenty of red foliage in the foreground.
The Trailblazers on the left
And then it was time for lunch. We stopped here, gazing at the beauty all around us, getting the occasional ray of sunshine as we enjoyed the splendor of our surroundings. We didn't stay very long, less than half an hour, before we turned around and began our return journey.
Me in front of Mt. Shuksan
I asked Carol to take a picture of me in front of the glacier, and this turned out quite well, I think. (That's why you're seeing it, of course.) I put my raincoat on for warmth, but at this point we were all getting just a bit chilled from the breeze and altitude. We packed up and headed back down. And up.
Hillside colors
When we reached the cars, it was 4:00pm, after a long day in the beautiful wilderness that we are so privileged to appreciate and enjoy. It was simply a wonderful day, and if you had been able to join us today, as we hiked around eight miles and went up and down somewhere around 2,500 feet, you would have said so, too. The rain was intermittent and didn't even cause us to put on our raincoats, and the wind and weather only added to our virtuous day. What a day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blecchh to blepharitis

Pretty clouds and trees
I'm starting this post with a picture of some pretty clouds, so that those who don't want to go further and see pictures of blepharitis can leave now!

Last week I noticed that my left eye was itchy and uncomfortable, tearing badly, but then again, it didn't seem all that bad. Until a few nights ago when I could hardly stand to touch my eyelid, and it had become very painful and swollen. Like this:
From ByeByeDoctor website
I found this picture that pretty much shows what my eyelid looked like. I've never had anything like it before, and although I do get an occasional stye, this was different. No bump and WAY more painful. So of course I went to the internet to find out how to treat this condition, and I learned that warm compresses applied several times a day would help to unplug the glands in the eyelid, and that there was probably a bacterial infection as well.

I went to the drugstore to buy myself some stuff to help me out, so that I wouldn't have to apply a warm washcloth for ten to fifteen minutes by continually having to change out the cloth, as it would only stay warm for a few minutes. I bought a hot water bottle and some eyelid wipes, and something that appealed to me called "Eye-Press" that promised to get warm on its own and be reusable up to ten times (in a package of ten). Well, it sort of worked the first time I used it, but I was then supposed to put it in a bowl of water in the microwave for four minutes to get it back to a usable state. It exploded. After wondering what I had done wrong, I found some reviews on line and learned that I'm not alone in being very unhappy with this product. Don't buy it!

The hot water bottle would have worked, but it's big and unwieldy, and not what I needed. Back to the warm washcloth, trekking back and forth to the sink. Little by little my eye has been getting better, and now a stye has formed and the swelling of the eyelid has begun to recede. I managed with my trusty iPhone to get a picture of my own eye to show you.
The stye is in the outer corner, inside the eyelid
You can see how much better it is today, but I am still applying compresses. In the middle of the night, the solution hit me! How about those little hand warmers that I carry on my hikes? You take it out of the package and it stays warm for hours. So at midnight last night I opened a package and wrapped it in one of the eyelid wipes. It soothed me enough so I could get back to sleep, and this morning that little hand warmer was still ready for me to use on my eye. I had tucked it under my pillow and was astounded at how warm it remained! Here's a link to the hand warmers (Hot Hands) that I bought from Amazon.

So remember, any time you need to apply warm compresses to something, this trick should work for you. Plus those hand warmers are great to tuck into a glove or mitten when your hands get cold while hiking or otherwise playing around outdoors in the winter.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rainy Saturday

Park Butte last Thursday
I took this picture last week on our hike, but it sort of looks like the outdoors here in Bellingham this Saturday morning. When I went out earlier for the walk with the ladies, it hadn't started raining yet, but once it started, it kept up all through the hour-and-a-half walk. I was prepared with my new rain hat and a light raincoat, so it wasn't bad at all, although that's partly because it's warm and not windy. When that happens, it's pretty miserable to be wet. But we were all just fine, if a bit on the drippy side at the end.
Quite a project to move all that stuff
Our apartment neighbor to the south is moving out. There is a little pathway through her things (for us), and this has been going on for pretty much a week. She brings stuff out, packs it into her car and repeats the process again and again. I knew she was a bit of a pack rat and really doesn't like to throw anything away, but now it all needs to be moved. I'm so glad it's not me having to sort through all that stuff. It's important to her, though. I have commiserated with her plight, but I don't think she would be happy to have me help. Anyhow, I really will miss her, since she's quiet and has been a good neighbor.

I'm going to the movies with my friend Judy, and I just got a notice that it's time to get ready to leave. We're going to see Grandma with Lily Tomlin. See you later!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ridley Creek on a rainy day

Al and Kirk traversing the Nooksack River
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers gathered on a day projected to have a fair amount of rain and not be just wonderful hiking weather, so we opted not to follow the schedule and drive south to Baker Lake (around 70 miles one way) and instead repeated a hike we made three months ago: Ridley Creek to Mamaza Park. That day was hot and dry, but today it was cloudy, cool, with intermittent rain showers.
Fall colors with brightly colored rain gear
We started out without rain gear, but that changed pretty quickly, once we started to have a sprinkle or two. It was really pleasant in many ways, with the colors are all changing for the fall, the temperature just about perfect for hiking. We had to climb up and down four steep ravines on our way to Mazama Park, with the rain making it very muddy and slick. Although I managed to stay on my feet, some of my other hikers took a spill or two. But then, after almost three hours of hiking less than four miles, we reached Mazama Park Campground. And what did we find?
WWU freshmen on their initiation hike
The campground has a shelter (seen behind these guys), but it was filled to the brim with twelve Western Washington University (WWU) students about halfway through their freshman initiation, a three-day two-night backpacking trip. I took this picture and promised them I would put in on my Facebook page (I did). Why didn't things like this get offered when I was their age? It's simply wonderful to meet these young people and think about how much they're learning.
Lisa, me, Dave, Joy, Ann, Chris, Rich
Carol took this great picture of some of our group who went hiking on a day like today. We had our lunch and were getting ready to head back down the way we had come. When I think of us, most of us more than a half-century older than the previous group, I am not only thrilled, but glad to see the direction that we have taken as seniors. What will those young people be like when they are our age? I feel pretty good when I think of it.
Colors in the meadow (thanks to Carol)
By the time we had started our return trip, we realized that the rain was not going to let up, so we just hunkered down and kept going. Although it was only a seven-mile (or so) hike, we went UP and DOWN more than 2,500 feet of elevation. My knees are feeling every bit of it.
Middle Fork of the Nooksack River, what's left of it
And no one was more excited and happy than I was when I heard the rushing of the river, which marked nearly the end of our hike today. We crossed the river and made our way back to the parking lot, happy to be able to change our shoes, sit down, and enjoy a leisurely drive back home. It was amazing to be in light rain and mist, and then just a few miles from Bellingham, seeing that the sun came out! It was sunny and bright in town, but not where we were. We traveled into the High Country and had a great time but we spent it in a much more Pacific Northwest-ish sort of day. And it was lovely.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September song

August 25 ---> September 14
That tree I see from my seat on the bus is continuing to grow more brilliant, as you can see from the above comparison. Still no leaves have begun to fall, while other trees have plenty of leaves already on the ground. When I ride by the tree, I've taken quite a few unsuccessful pictures from the moving bus, but yesterday I was finally happy with this one. They are not taken from exactly the same angle, but almost. Close enough for you to see the change in just a few short weeks.
Broccoli and kale leaves, grapes, lettuce, tomatoes
And the last gasp of my garden, shown here. The grapes are from my neighbor's arbor; I went over to their house and asked if I could pick a few of the grapes from their incredible bounty. They were very happy to oblige, as they aren't going to be using them for anything special (like wine), and we have both enjoyed them very much. "Just help yourself, you don't have to ask." Wow!

So this is my September song, halfway through the month. It's filled with lots of happy memories from the summer gone by, and the cool temperatures and cloudy skies are way more comfortable for me. Just my cup of tea!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A change is coming

Taking a breather on Winchester Mountain
This picture shows the incredible weather we had last Thursday on our Trailblazer hike. And it's been clear and beautiful ever since. Bob took the picture of me, Carol, and Gus and sent it to me by email. This morning we woke to fog, which continued during our five-mile-long Saturday walk. It was cool and delightful as we walked along and caught up with one another, but now it's noon and all the fog is gone. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to change, and it will be cooler with a return of rain by mid-week. I don't mind; it's the most beautiful time of the year to me.

I am going to try a yoga class that was recommended to me this morning: Gentle Yoga with Joani, which sounds really pleasant from all the descriptions I've received. I'll also try a class at 8 Petals Yoga studio in downtown Bellingham. Both places have received rave reviews from friends, and I'm looking forward to telling you more about them once I've sampled them. There's a class at 8 Petals tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:00pm that tempts me. I'll let you know what it's like. It's Iyengar style, as far as I can tell (whatever that is).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Winchester in the fall

Colors, sunshine, and happy Trailblazers
Today fifteen Senior Trailblazers gathered to go on a fairly short but beautiful hike on Winchester Mountain. It could not have been a more perfect day. This hike, while short, is spectacular when you have a day like today. One of the reasons we don't do it more often is the horrendous road to the Twin Lakes trailhead. It takes almost an hour once we leave the highway to make our way up a terrifying rutted one-way road, which only the most hardy vehicles even attempt. But our three cars made it and we began our hike in incredible sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.
Trail junction: Winchester to the left, High Pass to the right
About a half-mile from the start, we have a junction. Six of our group went up to High Pass and the rest, nine of us, made our way to the lookout on the top of Winchester Mountain. I went with the larger group, and we made our way up the two miles without any hurry at all, since we didn't have far to go and all day to do it in.
Larrabee Mountain on the left
On our way to the top, we saw a snow field, even though it's been horrendously hot this summer. This is probably around 6,000 feet (1,830 m) of elevation, so it's quite high. We start above 5,000 feet and climb about 1,300 feet to the lookout tower.
Sign on lookout tower
As you can see from this sign, our elevation at the top is 6,521 feet (1,988 m). That's pretty darn high, with a 360-degree view all around. Notice that beautiful mountain? That's Komo Kulshan, otherwise known as Mt. Baker. I just learned recently that the Lummi and Nooksack Indian name for the mountain means "White Shining Mountain," or "Great White Watcher," which seems much more appropriate a name than "Baker." The mountain was a beautiful part of the fantastic view we had today.
Incredible mountains and view behind me (taken by Carol)
It's a rare hike when we have so much time to lounge around and not hurry from one place to the next. From here we could look across at High Pass and see our other six Trailblazers as they enjoyed a very nice lunch in the sunshine. (You needed binoculars to see them, but we had some.) And then we began our descent, rather reluctantly I must say, and we stopped to take lots of pictures. Here's what Twin Lakes looks like from the top of Winchester.
Twin Lakes
I did not mess with the color of this photo at all. I was simply amazed at the incredible color and detail that just happened with my cellphone. You can see the parking area between the lakes, showing quite a few people out enjoying the day, even though it's Thursday. What must this area be like on the weekends? I don't want to find out firsthand.
One of the lakes with colorful grasses in the foreground
As I was returning down the trail, I saw Carol crouching low to take a picture, and when I got there, I saw why: the beautiful reds, yellows, greens and blues of this picture just take my breath away! What a view we had. What a day we had.
Four nude swimming Trailblazers
And once we returned to the trailhead, four of the Trailblazers crept quietly away to strip off their clothes and take a quick dip in the water. Of course Rich was there (he always is), but three other Trailblazers who will remain unnamed also went into the cold water for a quick swim and splash. I hurried over to see if I could catch them in the act. Nothing to see here, just the fall colors and four screaming Trailblazers. It was a perfect way to end the day, just a perfect day filled with laughter.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Searching for a new direction

Person practicing yoga at Lake Padden
Yesterday I walked by myself around Lake Padden, since the Y was closed and the buses weren't running. It was one of those pesky holiday interludes that interrupted my daily routine. Since I'm long retired and having recently sold my skydiving gear, I'm now looking for a new direction that is appropriate for me at this time.

As I was walking, I saw this person practicing yoga, and it gave me the idea to check out what kinds of classes are offered here in Bellingham. I did attend the Bikram Yoga class here, but it's not for me at this time. I did practice it for seven years in Boulder, but it has lost its appeal. (That's the hot yoga style.) It's hard to go back to where I was, plus I'm interested in a more gentle experience. I see that there are classes in Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa, just to name a few. Wow! I guess I'd best find out what the differences are, and figure which one might be right for me.

Do you know anything about yoga? I'm on a quest to find out more. I'm really interested in seeing whether it's the next best direction for me. What do you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A fabulous Saturday on a holiday weekend

Farmers' Market hurdy-gurdy man
I just got back from my usual Saturday morning walk with the ladies (and fast becoming a regular walker, Stewart). After a brisk 7-miler, we had coffee and some of us then sauntered over to the Farmers' Market. The weather is in the mid-sixties (around 18C) and sunny, just perfect. We were all smiles and at the Market, everybody was all smiles there, too. The busker in the picture above is playing a hurdy-gurdy. I had to wait until he finished a song to find out what it is. He bought it in the early 1980s after having played a dulcimer for a long time. The link can tell you more about the instrument.
Anonymous person at the Market
I saw this pretty scene at the Market, a woman with a white topknot with escaping curls, and a bunch of beet greens (or is it chard?) sticking out of her backpack. I asked for permission to take her picture, as I just loved all the colors on this beautiful Saturday. I had heard that there would be a flash mob at the Market this morning, so I was watching when I saw a few people beginning to dance to recorded music.
Rather sedate flash mob
It started with two dancers, then four, and it ended up with about twenty by the time everyone had arrived. They were well choreographed, but they really needed more people to make it more fun. When the song ended and they dispersed, I realized I had enjoyed it very much, as did many of the other onlookers. On a day like today, everybody is in a good mood. You can see the leaves in the tree behind them beginning to turn. Fall is in the air!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Keeping cool on the Keep Cool trail

The forest on the Keep Cool trail
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center on a Thursday with plenty of rain in the forecast. Our regularly scheduled hike was to head down south and a 65-mile (one way) drive, but nobody was all that excited about driving all that distance to walk in the rain. So, instead, we decided to hike up the Keep Cool trail. We've done it many times before, and a good deal of the trail is in the trees, which would keep us out of the direct rain. We started out in patchy sunshine and quite a few clouds, but no rain.
Crossing the meadow
At about two miles, we broke out into the meadow, following the trail up to a lookout spot where we usually stop for lunch. You can see it a little bit in the clouds, but we still had no rain, even though the clouds had thickened to keep us from having a view. (For comparison, look at this post, which was our first hike with Doug, who is now a seasoned Trailblazer.) We didn't mind much, since it wasn't raining and we had been expecting some downpours.
Rich, Bob, Dave, Peggy, Carol, Doug, Susan, and Al
This is not the entire group, but we stopped for a minute and I couldn't resist this picture. You can tell a lot from it: we are NOT wearing our rain gear, it's pretty warm, and we have gained almost all of the elevation at this point. Just a bit more, maybe another 500 feet before lunch.
Snow near our lunch spot
And what did we see as we climbed a little higher? Snow, fresh snow! Obviously the rain we had at lower elevations was descending in the form of snow up here. This is above 5,000 feet, more than 2,000 feet higher than our starting point. Time to stop and have our lunch. We also put on more clothes, since it wasn't anywhere near warm.
Settling down to have some lunch
As we started to eat our lunch, a few of the others went down to the nearest tarn (mountain lake) and one of our most avid swimmers, Rich, decided to take a dip! I wasn't there to capture it in all its glory, but I heard from Doug and Susan that it was spectacular. For some reason nobody joined him.
Carol took this of me with my new hat
On Saturday, I used my old rain hat for the first time in awhile, and then I seem to have lost it. I've looked high and low and it is not to be found, so yesterday I bought myself a new Seattle Sombrero. I found one with a purple top, which I like very much, and here you can see how it looks. It got a workout, since the fat snowflakes began to fall at about this point, and we continued to have precipitation for the remainder of the hike. Mind you, it was just a little bit, nothing like what we expected to face, so nobody really minded.
Fall colors, a little misty rain on our return trip
This is an out-and-back hike, so once we finished our lunch and wanted to warm up a little, we retraced our steps. It's pretty steep in places, and many of us managed to slip and fall on the return, but no real damage was done. Once we reached the cars, we had covered somewhere between five and six miles, with a fair amount of elevation gain, but we all had a pretty wonderful day, lots of fun, exercise, and great company. Now that I'm home, I can hear the rain outside, but it was never like that in the High Country today. We lucked out, that's for sure!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Things are returning to normal

My neighbor's grapes
The house right behind our apartment complex has a huge garden, and a grape arbor leads into their back yard. Every year there are a few grapes, but this year they are incredibly abundant! I couldn't help myself, I had to taste them and they are not your usual grapes, seedless and amazingly tasty. I might go over to their house and see if they would allow me to pick some that have grown outside their fence.
Kale and salad greens in my garden
Because of that incredible windstorm on Saturday, our power was off for a total of 35 hours before it came back. It began to flicker and then everything went dark about 11:00am on Saturday, and it was after 10:00pm on Sunday night when it came back on. We've been eating stuff that thawed in our freezer, but basically I'm just thankful that it's back already, as there are still many people in our area who will not get theirs back until sometime later today. It rained all day yesterday, but right now there is a lull in the rain so I went out to see how our community garden fared in all the wind and rain. I'm so pleased to see my kale looking so beautiful.
Surprisingly, my broccoli plant that I didn't pick earlier in the season has sprouted more florets and delicious leaves. I'll harvest this as soon as we can find a place for it in our very full fridge. I took a look around at the other plots in the garden, and I see that Keith's pumpkins are looking good, although his cornstalks all blew down. I suspect that he had already picked the corn.
Pumpkins and blown down corn on the right
Now that the ground has softened up, I can go out there and get my plot weeded and ready for next year's planting. I still also have tomatoes on the vine that are doing just fine, so they will stay for awhile longer. I sure do love this gardening business, having a produce garden right out my back door is wonderful!