Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mud Lake Marathon

Chris, Bill, Barbara, Bill (in front). , Rich, Steve, Sue, Doug (and me)
Nine Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to enjoy a hike to Mud Lake, which was a first for many. I had gone twice before, but we didn't have our leader Al (with his GPS) again; however, we were fairly confident that we would have no problems. Wrong. This hike starts up the Pine and Cedar Lakes trailhead and takes a turn off to an old logging road. That first part never fails to be challenging, up 1300 feet (400 meters) in just a mile and a half. But then it seems easy as we walk on lovely trails.
A beautiful day, a lovely trail
We took the trail towards Pine Lake but turned off onto an old unmarked trail to head to Mud Lake. It could not have been a more wonderful day, with full sun and little to no breeze. This trail then turns into an old logging road, which we followed to another trail that took us right to Mud Lake.
The narrow dock at Mud Lake, with Trailblazers checking it out
Although it sounds rather swampy, most of Mud Lake is really rather pretty. While we were admiring the view, Rich was busy shedding his clothes for one of this favorite activities: a dip in the lake. And I managed to capture him right as he dove in!
Rich and his reflection at splashdown
Rich is well known for his propensity to use any available large water source for a quick dip. I recently learned that he never takes hot showers, instead preferring cold showers. And his wife Chris is no less hardy: it was not even a week ago that she had surgery on her broken wrist, and here she was today (check out that first picture again) with one trekking pole and a cast on the other arm!
See a trail anywhere? Neither did we
But when we turned back to retrace our steps, we accidentally took a bike trail instead of the one we should have taken. Several of us in the back had misgivings about this trail, since it bore little resemblance to what we remembered. However, we soldiered on, as it seemed likely we would run into the trail to Pine Lake eventually.
A conference, what to do?
But where were we? Would it be possible to find a shorter way back to Pine Lake than to backtrack where we left the road? We had Barbara's phone which showed that we were on the east side of Pine Lake (where we hoped to have lunch) and a quickly deteriorating trail. Here's what Tall Bill's track showed:
Blue dot, start, and red dot, lunch spot
I had to differentiate between our two Bills today somehow, so one I called "Tall Bill" and the other "Doctor Bill." Tall Bill showed our track on his phone (above), with the straight line showing where we were without cell coverage. The left track showed us at Mud Lake, but the red spot showed where we ended up in relation to Pine (lower) and Cedar (upper) Lakes. With nothing between us but unknown terrain.

So we backtracked back to the road and then easily found the proper trail. By this time I was so tired I didn't know if I could make it, but since Chris was still gamely plodding on with a cast and her single trekking pole, I just kept going. Once we were on the correct return path, it was easy to just put one foot in front of the other to the end.

For everyone but me, that is. I don't now how much elevation we actually ended up climbing and descending, but my knees began to give out on the final descent. Steve carried my pack for the last quarter mile, as it was getting very hard for me to keep going. That helped me so much! We covered around twelve miles and close to 3,000 feet up and down before we reached the cars.

Now that I am home with my wine and ibuprofen, I am feeling MUCH better. But that's why this post is called the "Mud Lake Marathon." Yup. I'm not getting up for awhile.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tulip Festival 2016

RoozenGaarde Display Gardens
Last year, I went to see the tulips in the Skagit Valley in the middle of April, and it was just past the height of the season. Check out last year's post to see the difference. Today it is still March and the Tulip Festival has not officially begun, and I found that many of the tulips have not yet opened. The people who plant them try to have early and late bloomers so that everybody gets to enjoy their incredible beauty for as long as possible.
Me and Lynn
I went with my neighbor and friend Lynn and her son Soren. It was a treat for me because Soren drove and I could just enjoy the excursion. Soren took this picture of us. We got there just before the display gardens open at 9:00, and the early morning sun and dew on the tulips made for some wonderful pictures.
Tulip covered with dew
We chose today because we are at the beginning of an extended sunny period with no rain, and I felt that if we got there early we could leave before the crowds arrived, and that's just what happened.
Tree in front, daffodils behind
I've taken pictures of this tree every year. Sometimes they have arranged it differently, but today I was mesmerized by the daffodils behind and the strong sunlight casting shadows. Last year that entire field of daffodils was filled with tulips of every color, so that was a little disappointing. I guess they rotate the field every year.
Tulips and grape hyacinth
The sun shone right on top of these tulips and made for a lovely contrast in light and dark. Although the camera would have taken a better picture if I had found a little shade to keep the rays of the sun from washing it out, I still really like this picture.
Budding leaves
We walked in solitude around the gardens before the people began to arrive, but soon enough, we saw many more people and even a couple of buses filled with school children pulling into the parking lot. We decided to go ahead and leave and drive to the surrounding tulip fields, but none of my pictures were very good, as the tulips are still just beginning to bud out. By this coming weekend, they will all be in full bloom.
Morning shadows
Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time looking at the early tulips and the displays. It is only a half-hour drive from my house to the tulips, but I know from experience that you want to go early and never ever go on a weekend! I did that once, and that was enough. So, with that I will leave you to enjoy the tulips and the unaccustomed sun! I'm heading out to the garden.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

My first Washington state caucus

My caucus location
This morning I only made one trip around the lake with the ladies, since I didn't want to be late to the Democratic Caucus, my precinct location being at the local middle school. When I walked in, early, parking was still available but within a very short period of time there were people streaming in who had no place to park. Once during the meeting an announcement was made to plead with those who parked in the convalescent home across the street to move their cars.

I was very interested in the process, but I left after the first tally. We had, just in our little precinct, 134 for Bernie and 11 for Hillary. I saw Bernie stickers everywhere, but none for Hillary. It's actually an interesting phenomenon to have TWO good candidates to choose from, and I would happily vote for either one. I've been feeling the Bern lately myself. There, I said it. That's the most politics you'll get from me, though.

Today my friend Judy and I are going to see that new movie that Sally Field is in, Hello, My Name is Doris. We saw the previews and decided it looked like it would be fun. It's billed as a comedy, but we'll see if we think it's funny. It will be a good way to spend the rest of the day; today is known as Holy Saturday, between Good Friday and Easter. I'd better find some chocolate for tomorrow; I never deprive myself on Easter!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Annual visit to Burnout Point

Mikey, Peggy, Linda, Ward, Steve
We were a small group of six today, for reasons I'll tell you about in a minute. First, our weather forecast was again not exactly positive, and we knew it wouldn't be a completely dry day, but we hoped our luck would hold. It did; we had some rain, some wind, muddy trails, but nothing we couldn't handle. You might notice a Trailblazer in that picture we haven't seen much of lately: Mikey, who is hoping his health has returned enough for him to join us now and then. He hasn't been a regular for well over a year, so it was wonderful to see him. Al didn't join us again today, this time because of an arthritic hip that is acting up. I was willing to lead in order to set the pace.
Well worn sign
We start this hike from the Larrabee State Park parking lot and head up some steep logging roads to Burnout Point. On the way, Steve pointed out this sign to us, which shows frequent wear from cougars using it to sharpen their claws. Either that or marking territory to warn off others. It was quite impressive to see the deep gouges in the wood.
Looking out at Samish Bay
This is our first viewpoint and, as it turned out, the only one we had today. I've taken this silhouette picture before, but I never tire of it. As you can see from the clouds, we played tag with rain all day. We never had a downpour so we consider ourselves lucky. But it had rained plenty during the previous night, making our trail muddy in many spots. Once we reached the top, Burnout Point, there was no view and the wind was blowing, not to mention it was raining at that point. We hustled back into the trees.
Our trail
As you can see from this picture, it was rather damp, but our trusty rain pants and gaiters kept us (mostly) dry. By the time we were on the return trail, we weren't anxious to make the hike too much longer, so we skipped Fragrance Lake where we usually stop for lunch and found a nice place to hunker down for a quick snack to keep us going. Our "lunch stop" was brief and truncated in order to get back to the cars before any more rain.
Licorice ferns
I am always delighted to see these licorice ferns growing from rock crevices. In the foreground are sword ferns with the small pretty licorice ferns behind. One thing we have plenty of here in the Pacific Northwest are ferns of all kinds!
Trees that found a way
These tree roots that have found their way to the ground in order to grow, and even flourish, amaze me every time I see them. They were slightly wet and shiny when I took this picture, which still doesn't do them justice. This Fragrance Lake trail is well used, and I suspect these roots are often photographed.

About our small group: I got an email yesterday from Chris, telling me that she and Richard would not be joining us today because she fell from her bike yesterday, breaking her wrist. On the way back with five us of piled in a car together, I called her to find out how bad it is. Bad: she will have surgery tomorrow, Friday, as her wrist is shattered and will require a plate inserted to hold the bones together. It's her right hand, so Richard is having to do everything for her. She says she's going to have to teach him to cook!

So with Al absent and Chris injured, our numbers fell to a few hardy souls today. However, we had a really good time anyway, covering more than eight miles and more than 2,000 feet up and down before it was all said and done. It's still early enough that I've got to wait for wine o'clock a bit longer. Until then, I'll settle into my chair and relax!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Garden is coming along

My garden plot about two-thirds done
If you compare this picture with the one I took last Tuesday (the last picture), you'll see that I've made quite a bit of progress in my garden this week. But I've still got plenty of work to do. The plot on the left of me hasn't been touched yet, but that will change as soon as we get a good patch of dry weather. Unfortunately, today looks to be the last dry day for awhile. Including Thursday, it seems. Oh, well; we've been incredibly fortunate on our hikes lately, and last Thursday was stunningly beautiful. I'll take whatever we get.
Henbit dead nettle
But if I think I've got work to do, look at these two plots: the one covered with henbit dead nettle (those pinkish flowers) has even more clearing ahead, and the one to the left of it with suspicious looking yellow flowers (dandelions). I've learned quite a bit about henbit dead nettle, since it seems to grow in this particular garden more than any others. That area was fertilized heavily a couple of summers ago with steer manure and grew huge plants, and it seems this henbit likes the area, too.
Close-up of the henbit
I was distressed about this apparent weed until I went online to learn more about it. For one thing, it's edible. This page calls it a plant at "the top of the pecking order." Hens like it, too, which is why it got that common name. Its botanical name is Lamium amplexicaule. It's also called "henbit dead nettle" because the leaves are non-stinging, although it's related to the stinging nettle around here that I've grown quite wary of when hiking. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I once made the mistake of not paying attention to what was growing under the spot I found to relieve myself once upon a time. Once was enough.

Another good thing about the henbit is that the flowers attract bees and give them something to eat early in the season before the other flowers bloom. That link also says that it's good to eat either steamed or raw, with a slight peppery taste. I'm not sure I'll venture out into Krysta's garden before she clears it all out to give it a try. Would you? At least I know it's been grown organically.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

First day of spring

Some of the walkers heading down Taylor Street
We Pacific Northwesterners are usually happy when we've got dry pavement to walk on, even when the glorious sunshine we had last week seems to be gone for awhile. But who cares when it's not raining? We've had enough rain lately to make even the hardiest of us wish for a break. Which we got, but tomorrow? More rain.

This morning we ladies did around seven miles, with a decent uphill. Usually we travel the opposite direction than in the picture above: we usually head up the extremely steep Taylor Street to descend the more-than-100 stairs, but this time we walked up Mill Street and up the stairs and down Taylor Street. If you're interested in learning more about this walk, here's a link to the Fairhaven Runners and Walkers website about it. It refers to this as a "lung-busting workout." I can attest to that.

Then when I got home I knew that tomorrow is bringing rain, so I went out and spent a couple of hours in my garden. One thing about all this rain is that the ground is nice and soft and pulling dandelions and buttercups is rather satisfying. But now I'm ready to take it easy for awhile.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters from Stewart Mountain
And I have all the pictures I took of that sunshine we had on our fabulous Thursday hike to remind me that better weather is coming. I learned that the little tree in the picture is a western hemlock, which can be identified by the bend at the top. Now if only I could remember that for next time. I hope you all have a great day; tomorrow is the official first full day of spring!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sunshine and snow

On the logging road
Today nine Senior Trailblazers went on a familiar hike up what we call both Cub Creek and Smith Creek. Nobody really knows where the former name came from, but it didn't matter. When we got to the Senior Center, it was great to see Al show up, since he missed last week because of a cold. (I didn't go either.) But, alas, he was only there to give us maps of the area so we wouldn't get lost. Last week's hapless foursome did just that, and Al wanted to make sure we knew where we would be going today. Although we've done it many times, there are several decision spots that he knew we would puzzle over.
Where we first met snow
So nine of us gamely began our hike with Ward setting the pace and leading, but still we had to stop several times to make sure we were going the right way. After a couple of hours of uphill-ness, we ran into snow that stayed with us the rest of the way to our summit. I have to say I really miss Al's pace; as much as he tried, Ward is naturally a bit faster and I found myself struggling to keep up at times. He would slow down and then slowly speed up again. 
Steve, Carol, Sue, Linda, Ward, Peggy, Rich, Chris 
Finally! We reached our summit, one of the many Stewart Mountain summits, with views of Mt. Baker and the Sisters behind us. And simply glorious weather: there was a light breeze, and it wasn't exactly warm once we stopped, but nobody was complaining.
Today's lunch spot
We spent about a half hour here, and we knew that we had our return journey ahead but nobody was in any hurry; once you're here, there's nothing to do but descend the 2,700 feet we had gained to this spot. We knew that somewhere down below us we would leave the snow behind and return to springtime. We decided to make a loop, which adds about another mile on logging roads but allows us to skip some of the slow going through the snow.
There was a nurse log there once upon a time
On the way down, I saw this wonderful tree that looks a little like an alien, but the story is that long ago there was an old stump that served as nutrition for this tree until it was absorbed. The tree is still growing, and it's probably going to be a little less sturdy in a windstorm, but it seems quite happy today.

By the time the Nine returned to our cars, tired but happy, we had covered more than ten miles and more than a half mile up and down. I have a right to be a little exhausted as I sit here with my laptop and my wine, glad to have had such a great day, with the spring sunshine and the company just the best.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Looking ahead to better weather soon

Trees in blossom at the bus stop
It was another dreary morning as I walked to the bus. When I first passed these trees before dawn (because of the time change), it was raining. Again. I have to admit that I'm really ready for a change in the weather. Several of my blogging friends who live in the northeast are getting amazingly warm temperatures and emerging from their snowbanks.

But on the way home from my yoga class, the sun had come out, and if you look carefully at these lovely blossoms, you'll see that some of them are illuminated with rays of that big yellow thing in the sky. I couldn't resist taking a few pictures as I walked home.
The pretty yellow forsythia in this front yard caught my eye, and the sun came out just in time to light up the golden petals. They don't last long and are one of our early springtime enjoyments. By this time I was smiling and couldn't help thinking that maybe the weather forecasters are right and we are on our way to a really nice patch without rain for a few days.
Lilac buds
It won't be long now before I'll see the lilacs in bloom. They also come and go quickly, and sometimes I realize they are already past their prime before I get a chance to take any pictures. And last I checked, it's still only mid-March!
A lot of work to get this far
This weekend in between rain storms, I was able to start clearing my garden plot for planting. This small little area that I started clearing made me very glad I don't have more area to plant! I'm about a quarter of the way through, and if I didn't sit on that little green table, I couldn't do this work at all. My back and knees remind me that I'm not a kid anymore. Or that kid's mother, for that matter. But grannies and gardens were made for each other, methinks!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A wet and windy walk

Perennial clematis in bloom
Oh boy, when I woke this morning to more rain and a pretty strong wind, I almost didn't go on the morning walk with the ladies. Who would show up in this weather anyway? But since I had my downstairs neighbor going with me, I decided to brave the elements. When we walked out the door, it was sideways rain and a very brisk wind. Sigh.

We drove to the meeting spot, thinking that maybe nobody would come and we could go have coffee. I was amazed to see that twenty women showed up. As we walked, the wind would let up now and then, and the rain as well, but every now and then we got hit with both. Definitely springtime in the Pacific Northwest. By the time we finished our five-mile walk, though, it had pretty much stopped raining.

Afterwards, our leader Cindy had arranged for us to see her new office space and invited us all over for homemade scones and coffee. Although we weren't exactly dry and well coiffed, we headed over to see the place anyway and enjoyed a wonderful gathering in her beautiful office space. Outside, I saw this incredible bush of white fragrant flowers and asked what it is. I didn't realize that there are several varieties of clematis that don't lose their leaves over the winter and come into bloom in the early spring. Very early this year indeed!

And as I sit here I notice that it's getting brighter outside, and I can see some blue sky! Maybe we will enjoy a short respite from all this inclement weather. I'm ready.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Magnolia tulip tree in the wind
I didn't go hiking today. It feels VERY weird for it to be a Thursday and I'm sitting at home in the middle of the day. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that I just didn't feel like it. Now that's quite an admission from someone who never misses a hike.

There are a few extenuating circumstances, though: Al sent around a notice that he is sick with a cold and we already did a hike last month without him, up to Oyster Dome. Only five of us showed up and we had a good time, but still, it's not the same when Al's not there. Plus today we were scheduled to hike the British Army Trail on Blanchard Mountain, which tends to get us all strung out and isn't one of my favorites. It was named after a bunch of British Army recruits who helped to construct this part of the Pacific Northwest Trail in the 1980s. A bit of history is here, if you're interested.

And then all last night the wind blew. I mean REALLY blew: we had gusts up to 80mph (129kmh), which is almost hurricane level! I figured I had a perfect excuse not to go out into the forest with winds like that. They were forecasted to diminish somewhat by noon; it's still windy but much less so. Many parts of Bellingham lost power.
Lilac buds coming along nicely
I see that the Bellingham Herald has an article today about the windstorm. (You may not be able to access that link since the Herald may want to charge you to read it.) Anyway, more than 12,000 people are still without power and several schools are closed. I went outside and took a couple of pictures of the signs of spring around here, which should make some of you very jealous. It was all I could think of to decorate today's post with.

An update on my new glasses saga: I did find a pair of nice frames and got all fitted up and then had my examination. The results were available for me to review on line, and it was rather disconcerting to read about myself described as being an "elderly female" but that's what I am. I just keep forgetting. The final cost? Almost $700 for the works and new frames. I was expecting it, but it still was a bit of a shock. My eyes are worth it, though.
My downstairs neighbor's pretty pink flowers
I did go to the Y today and took a step class so that I'll be able to keep my weekly steps up to snuff, and I might walk around Lake Padden this afternoon if I feel like it. Hope you are enjoying your day wherever you are.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Off to spend a fortune

Why do glasses and frames cost so much?
I'm going to make this post short, since I've got an appointment to get my eyes checked by an opthalmologist today. I skipped it last year; the time just got away from me. I didn't skip my retina specialist appointments, but my eyesight has gotten worse in recent months, so it was time. Plus I can go back to my regular doctor because of another change in insurance. For the past two years this guy didn't take what I had, but I've since changed back.

Although I only need to make a co-payment to the doctor, I need new frames, and we all know they are very expensive, especially when you want all the bells and whistles (transition and progressive lenses and non-glare coating). It's possible he'll tell me that I might finally qualify for cataract surgery in the eye that has deteriorated the most. I know it's easy these days, but I still am scared of it. It's great when it works, but sometimes things go wrong. I'll put it off as long as I can.
Winter kale in my garden, plus some weeds
I harvested the last of the Russian kale you see here, and we are both enjoying steamed goodies from the garden. The black kale in the middle of the picture has begun to flower, so it was time to get out there in the rain and gather it up. Now I'll turn over the soil in my little plot and begin to dream of my springtime garden.

Maybe I'll be surprised at the eye doctor's office and I won't end up spending as much as I think I will. New glasses are always fun in any event. I'm going to pick out the frames before my appointment, since my eyes will be dilated afterwards and there's no telling what I might end up with.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A walk in the park

Whatcom Falls this morning
When I woke at 3:00am to the sound of serious wind and rain, I was not optimistic about our chances of a nice walk in Whatcom Falls Park with the ladies this morning. By the time I left the apartment, the rain and wind had lessened and nothing much showed up on the radar. But after last week when I wasn't prepared for the rain, I grabbed all my gear and headed out to our meeting place. The skies were dark and forbidding as I drove east.

But it was simply beautiful! As you can see from the above picture, there was plenty of sunshine on all of our shoulders, as well as a fine spray from the roaring falls. It was a lovely walk, and we even had a (gasp!) man in our midst.
On our return trip
This walk takes us up more than a hundred stairs, the hardest part of the five-mile jaunt through the park, but the weather just kept getting nicer and nicer as we walked. Our man Ray has now joined us three or four times with his wife Amy, and I do hope he continues so I can label us "the walkers" rather than "the ladies." Now I'm going to have lunch and then spend some of this sunshine out in my garden, which is woefully behind many of the other plots in terms of getting ready for spring!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Gates Overlook to Raptor Ridge

Ward, Sue, Peggy, Steve, Chris, Lisa, Linda, Al, Rich
Ten Senior Trailblazers met on a rainy morning to begin another hike in the Chuckanuts, this time starting from Gates Overlook and hiking down the Rock Trail, to the Lost Lake trail, to Raptor Ridge and back the way we had come. I think I can finally use a saying I heard awhile back: "it was a DRY rain" because we didn't get any, again! Although it rained all night and we had lots of muddy sloppy trail to navigate, none of it came out of the sky on us.
Leaving the Lost Lake Trail for Raptor Ridge
There weren't a whole lot of possibilities for pictures today, since it was dark and overcast most of the day, and I ended up taking fewer than usual. It was also quite windy in spots, and when we reached the ridge, it was blowing and dark and very unappealing as a spot to stop for lunch.
Raptor Ridge today in 20-mph winds
Nope, that's just not going to do. We got down out of the wind a little and decided that maybe we could head to Lost Lake for lunch, but since that would have added a good distance to the hike, we decided to make the best of it and simply find a place out of the wind.
Our not-so-scenic lunch spot
As we were hiking down from Raptor Ridge, we ran into a young man, Daniel Probst, who stopped to chat with us for a bit. He's excited about his work on a trail that goes from Bellingham all the way to the top of Mt. Baker. I found an article about him and the trail on the Mt. Baker Experience Magazine. It turns out last year this young man and two others ran the entire distance from Bellingham to the Mt. Baker summit in 48 hours and 17 minutes! I thought he looked very fit, but that is an understatement. He also took a picture of us, which he shared with me on Facebook:
Look at those bent trees: am I hallucinating?
And then we returned to Gates Overlook, and by this time we had some sun breaks. It looked like Bellingham was also enjoying some sunshine. The temperature was mild and the day was fine. We covered just under nine miles and really enjoyed the dry rain.
Gates Overlook in the afternoon
As you can see, the sky had changed to more benign clouds than we had at Raptor Ridge, and as we made our way back to the Senior Center, we saw plenty of sunshine. A fine day with just the right blend of adventure and companionship. I am including the following picture of the sign at the Overlook for my friend Stew, who likes maps. This one at least tells you what is out there in Bellingham Bay.
A little information about our park
And this concludes another Thursday hiking around in the beautiful mountains where the Trailblazers spend our winter months. Today felt like spring, with everything budding out, reminding me that it won't be long before we head back up to the High Country!