Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hannegan Pass on a fabulous day

Trailblazers on the path
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to figure out how to manage our scheduled hike up Hannegan Pass and Peak. Three people decided to take a separate car and go on up to the peak and set out right away, since we are limited to 12 per group, a wilderness designation restriction. (I found out from Al that it is the US Forest Service that has this written into law.) The rest of us would hike to the pass and skip the peak.
Our trail, with plenty of wildflowers
Once we were legal, the rest of us made it to the trailhead after a long drive up the Mt. Baker Highway and a very rutted dirt road. It was 10:00 before we started our hike.
One of several stream crossings
It was sunny and very hot, although nothing compared to last year's excessive heat. There have been years when we've hiked this much later in the season and had to cross snow bridges where now it's just dry trail on these stream crossings.
Bob and Nailla at the pass
We made it to the pass around 12:30 and replenished ourselves and enjoyed the sunshine and scenery. We knew, however, that if we started up towards the peak it wouldn't be long before we'd have even more incredible views. So, after a nice lunch break, we started up the trail to the peak, knowing that although our intrepid three would be the only ones to reach it, we would still be treated to some incredible views.
Me in front of some fabulous mountains
Sylvia took a picture of me (at my behest) in front of the great views. We did have to cross a little snow, in the lower left of the picture, to get up here, but it was really not much at all. I took a picture of Sylvia showing the mountains in the opposite direction.
Sylvia and more incredible mountains
You just couldn't go wrong by looking in any direction up here in the beautiful mountains in this part of the wilderness. I decided to stop a bit earlier than the rest of the group, so I could take some pictures and rest in the shade. It was one of those days where I was cold in the shade and too hot in the sun. Fortunately we had lots of clouds to help us out.
Abundant wildflowers
Not to mention just incredible amounts of wildflowers. Here you see purple penstemon and red Indian paintbrush. We also saw lots of glacier lilies where the snow has recently receded. They don't last long once the sun comes out.
Heading back down the valley
And then it was time to make our return journey back down the valley. It was after 5:00pm before we got to our cars, and the rest of the return trip is the reason that it's now after 8:00pm and I'm just now finishing this post. It was a memorable day, and I believe that all of us are probably doing much the same thing I did: a shower (ahh!), a libation (ahh!) and dinner. We went over nine miles and up and down 2,700 feet of elevation. I'll sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Having a blast

Sarah, Carrie, Chase and me with our ginger blasts
 A ginger blast, that is. At Avellino's, my favorite coffee shop, they also offer homemade food, drinks of all sorts, and this wonderful little shot glass filled with a concoction of grated ginger (lots of it), honey, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. When you order one, the staff all take one as well, and here we are getting ready to quaff our ginger blasts. It burns all the way down but feels really good, too. Some people order it in a cup with hot water and sip it, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thanks to keeping a blog for so long, I was able to look back to find out when I started doing the Five Tibetan Rites on a regular basis, and where I learned about them. I wrote about it on my other blog here, almost two years ago now. Since there's only one of me, I can't actually tell if they have made much difference in my health or youthful appearance (which is debatable), but I have noticed one curious thing that might be a side effect: I've had to stop taking my blood pressure medication because my BP kept going down. I've always had a BP monitor at home to keep track of it, because it's been very high since 2000.
When I'd check in at the doctor's office, it was running around 90/60, so gradually I began to take less and less, first taking a pill every other day instead of daily, and then every third day. I've been off it completely for a couple of months now and monitor my BP at home. Yesterday it was 101/68, so I guess I won't take it any more unless it spikes for some reason. My doctor suggested the gradual decrease, but I'm skeptical about why it's gone down. I have weighed within the same five-pound range for several years now, so that's not the reason. Whatever, I'll take it. Less medication is always better.
My front porch view
When I laid down on my front porch yesterday to do the second rite, I happened to look up and see my beautiful geraniums highlighted by the sun with little puffy clouds behind, so I took this picture to remind myself, during the dark days of winter, that this is the flip side. Bliss!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Abundance on a Saturday

Someone's front yard flower garden
On the morning walk with the ladies, I saw this abundant garden and had to stop for a quick picture. And I do mean quick, because the pace of these Saturday morning walks is on the fast side (like around 4 miles an hour) and I'm always struggling to keep up. Every once in awhile Cindy (our leader) will stop long enough to let the stragglers catch up; I really try not to be one of them, so it gave me the chance to snap these flowers. Although I'll never be able to keep up with the fastest walkers, I am determined to be in the middle of the pack, at least.

It was cloudy to start, but it has now become mostly sunny out there, and I'm filled with satisfaction at having my walk done and a whole day of enjoyment ahead. Yesterday I finished the book I was reading, A Tale for the Time Being, and I was actually bereft because it was done. Although I struggled to get into the book, by the time I finished Part I, the characters and story had come alive for me. That link is to a New York Times book review that will tell you about it.

Many people I've talked to weren't able to get into the book, and I understand why. But if you do read it all the way through, I don't see how you could fail to fall in love with it. But that's just me. I guess you either love it or hate it.
Laifong, my new yoga teacher
A couple of people have asked me what the difference is between gentle yoga and Level I, so I looked up the class descriptions at Yoga Northwest. Here's the description of their gentle yoga:
GENTLE YOGA/BACKCARE is for people with back, neck, knee or shoulder problems, are plus-sized, elderly, or weak and need a slow paced class.
GENTLE YOGA II is for students who have “graduated” from the gentle yoga/backcare class, but still need gentle exercises due to old injuries or physical restrictions.
And Level I might not give me the chance to put my leg behind my head (Laifong teaches more advanced classes, too, obviously) but this level is designed to provide a balanced program of flexibility, core strength, postural alignment, breathing, relaxation and awareness. This coming semester I will take one Gentle II class and Laifong's Level I. Maybe I'll regain the flexibility I had when I was younger. It's amazing what the body can do, even when it's got some mileage on it!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Thursday off from hiking

My neighbor's flowers next to the stairs
I was contemplating my post as I came home just now and saw these lovely flowers grown by my neighbor Keith, who lives on the left-hand side of the stairs. Since I'm upstairs, I see this pretty bouquet every day. Usually I describe my Thursday hike with the Senior Trailblazers.

The reason I'm not hiking today is that the hard hike (Ridley Creek) would have been too hard on my knee, and I wanted to protect it and use it to hike another day. And then it turns out they might not have gone there after all, since the weather projected an inch of rain in the area for today. But I had other plans anyway; I decided to try a new yoga class, one a little harder than my gentle yoga.

It was quite successful, and I decided to go ahead and try it this coming semester. That means I'll still take one gentle class and one Level I class. The only day this new teacher holds the class, other than Thursdays, is on Sunday at 9:00am, which means as soon as I get my Sunday post done, I'll be getting up and heading off to my class. I really kind of like early exercise, as you might have noticed. I'm a little sore right now from the class, which is something that never happens in gentle yoga (obviously).
Blackberries already ripening
In order to get my regulation number of steps in, I took the bus to the yoga class and then walked the three miles back to downtown. Although it was sprinkling, it never really rained on me, and I spied these Himalayan blackberries on the side of the trail that are already beginning to ripen! They are really early, like maybe a month early. It's a strange summer already and we just got started.

Maybe it's a good idea to mix things up now and then, because now I'm excited about this new yoga class. I didn't have anything scheduled for Sundays, so now every day of my week has got some exercise on the agenda. Makes me smile that I now can look forward to Sundays!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Budding artist, bounty and Netflix

Leo with his creation and me
In Avellino's coffee shop this past weekend, Leo came over to share his masterpiece. He's got quite an eye, if you ask me. I asked Robert, Leo's dad, to take a picture of me with the budding artist. It's amazing that Leo has grown so much; I keep forgetting that he's seven and a half!
Another bounty from the garden
I just came in from the garden with some broccoli and kale (and a few strawberries) for my guy to prepare. It's my job to grow the veggies, but he will steam them to perfection for our enjoyment for several days. That means I need to stay out of the way, which I am happy to do in order to have the task done by a professional. I asked him if it seems as though we have more bounty earlier than in past years, and he thinks it's mostly because I've learned what to plant and what not to plant. Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled with the garden this year. I still need to go out there today to water and weed and harvest some raspberries.

And then I'll come in and settle down with my laptop to watch the last four episodes of Orange is the New Black. I had to search for awhile to find a spoiler-free Season 4 link, but there it is. I already know the big reveal in the next-to-last episode because I peeked at some of the other reviews. Trust me, it won't spoil it for me, but that doesn't mean that we are all the same. So far, it's the best season, in my opinion, but it's filled with really unsettling scenes. I dream about it at night and wake up thinking about it. I think a couple of actors have outdone themselves and should at least get Emmy nominations, if not wins.

So that's my Tuesday update. I will be skipping the Senior Trailblazer hike on Thursday, but I'll be putting something up here, creature of habit that I am. I'm not sure at this point how I'll be spending the day,  but you know there will be exercise in it somehow. I've got my weekly step count to think of, if nothing else.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A soaker of a Saturday

Staying out of the rain, waiting for the others to arrive
When I woke this morning to the sound of rain drumming on the roof, I took a quick look at the weather app and discovered that there was nothing but green covering the entire area. A wet one, for sure. I put on my rain clothes and lamented the loss of my Seattle Sombrero (I lost two hats last week!) but took a visor to help keep the rain off my glasses under the rain hood. It worked fine, except that it wasn't very cold and I ended up taking it off and just getting wet. Most of us did the same. Even with the rain, fifteen women showed up!
Sprawling tomato plant
It was still raining hours later when I got home after seeing a movie (more on that in a minute), so I headed out to the garden to see how it's faring in all the rain. Yesterday I put in some new plants, but what really surprised me this week is the way my tomato plant has taken off. When I first put that little guy into the ground, it was only a few leaves, and now I'm thinking I need to stake it.
Tender starts surrounded by copper tape
We have been enjoying the Russian kale so much that I decided to plant a variant of it, along with some more black kale, so that's what you're seeing in the picture. I decided to surround the tender little starts with that copper tape I bought recently. So far (it's been three days now), no nibbles. Here's the link, for those of you who might also be fighting slugs.
Strawberries and raspberries
I always stop to pick a few strawberries and raspberries while I'm out in the garden, and boy were these tasty! It was still raining lightly while I was out, so I didn't stay long but managed to get this picture before consuming these.

About the movie: I just saw The Lobster, a dark dystopian comedy. The protagonist, David, played by Colin Farrell, lives in a society where single people have 45 days to find true love, or else they are turned into the animal of their choice and released into the woods. One reviewer said it was what would happen if Wes Anderson decided to do Franz Kafka. It was truly bizarre and unsettling. I can't say I enjoyed it exactly, but I didn't hate it, either. I'll have to think about it some more.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I forgot how much I love Goat Mountain

Al in a field of glacier lilies
Twelve Senior Trailblazers headed up the Mount Baker Highway today to tackle Goat Mountain, one of our several-times-a-season hikes. I was worried about my knee's ability to take yet another uphill hike, after having twinges and some pain after last week's hike up Church Mountain. I decided to go ahead and give it a try, and I'm sure glad I did: I had forgotten how much I enjoy all the aspects of this particular hike.
Al at the overlook, with snow
Although the weather was overcast with a spit of rain every now and then, we hiked the three-and-a-half miles to the overlook, and found a little bit of new snow at the top. That's Sefrit Mountain in front of Al, with its summit hidden from view by the  clouds.
Owen, Rich, Chris, Joy, Dave, Greg, Dave, Roger, MIke, Al
Cindy (kneeling)
Here's the group before we sat down to have a quick lunch. There are two Daves in the picture, but I don't remember their last names. It was a rather large group, with many of the guys chatting the entire way up and down the mountain, so I kept towards the front of the line and stayed out of the conversations.
Finding a nice lunch spot
As you can see once we reached the top, the weather wasn't wonderful, but we put on extra clothes and hunkered down out of the wind. Now and then the sun came out and made us very warm indeed. Even though it was a bit on the weathery side, it was still delightful.
Roger admiring the view
We stayed for a fair amount of time on the top before beginning our return trip, because you don't want to rush away after having spent so much energy getting there, and plus with proper clothes, it was even comfortable. Although we never saw much of the mountains, it didn't matter.
Our trail in the forest
Once we had descended far enough to have returned to the woods, the sun began to peep out even more than before. I saw the trail and greenery lit up by the sun and had to take this picture. From here on down, we had more sun than clouds, and the temperature was simply perfect for hiking.
Maidenhair ferns in front
At one of the stream crossings, I saw my favorite ferns, maidenhair ferns or Adiantum. It's curious to wonder how they got their common name, but they sure are pretty to my eye. I always have to snap a picture when I see one.
Map of Goat Mountain trail
As we were leaving, I took a picture of the Forest Service map of the area. We followed the red dotted line up those switchbacks. Take a look at the elevation profile in the lower right to see why I was worried about my knee. But it did very well and I'm so pleased to be sitting here, happy to have climbed the mountain once again, with good friends and just a wee bit of rain!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The raspberry thief

Rob's sign in the garden
A couple of days ago, when our raspberries first began to ripen, my garden neighbor Rob (who gave me a bunch of raspberry branches earlier this year) found that someone had gone around and snatched his raspberries and managed to break off several main branches. Since I have my own berries, thanks to Rob, it wasn't me.
My raspberry patch
That said, I may have been partly responsible for some of his by the gate being gone. However, a man was spied with a glass that he was busy filling up with raspberries outside the fence, where the breakage occurred. Rob, upset, put up signs but when I spoke to him just now, he said he's going to take them down. It bothered him last night that he was making such a big deal over it, and it's just raspberries, after all. But he's not even had a chance to taste them yet, and many of them are already gone.

My garden is beginning to be harvested for kale and soon, broccoli. I know I would be very upset if someone were to come in and take MY garden stuff! Take a look at my broccoli, which won't be harvested for at least another week or so.
Pretty broccoli florets
I remember last year being surprised that once I harvested the florets, I kept getting new ones. This year I am planting something called "late broccoli" so that maybe we will be able to have it all year round! Well, that's the garden news from my little corner of the world.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cloudy and cool Saturday

John and Gene at Avellino's
I stopped by Avellino's for my regulation latte before heading out to join the ladies for our Saturday morning walk. These two crusty old guys were already there, enjoying their own coffee and using the free wifi. Gene will be leaving for Alaska to begin his fishing season next Tuesday. John and I will both miss him while he's gone, but when he comes back we will all get plenty of fresh Alaskan salmon.

Our walk this morning was lovely. We were all ready with raincoats, but it was cool, breezy and dry as we navigated the hilly walk in Northridge Park for somewhere around five miles or more. I wasn't feeling all that energetic so I mostly brought up the rear of the eleven of us. I could barely see Cindy (our leader), who was far ahead of me most of the time. Judith kept me company, though.

Now I'm home and resting up in my favorite chair and will soon return to my book that kept me up so late last night. My friend Judy bought it awhile back and lent it to me. If you'd like a good read, try Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. It's so well written that I couldn't put it down. Maybe that's part of why I was so tired this morning on the walk. I'll finish the book today.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Church Mountain revisited

Church Mountain trailhead
It was exactly four weeks ago that I went on my first excursion with the Senior Trailblazers after my knee problems, to Church Mountain. It was a sunny day and we had 18 of us head up the trail. Today it was a much more manageable eight, partly because the weather was dubious, with the forecast for rain to start around noon and continue for the rest of the day.
Sylvia and Dick
We had two Trailblazers who have never hiked up Church Mountain before. Dick has gone with us on previous hikes, but this was Sylvia's first adventure with the Trailblazers. They are both strong hikers and I do hope they continue to grace us with their presence in the fiture.
Our trail to the meadow
As we trudged to the meadow, the weather stayed perfect for hiking, cool and mostly cloudy, with the occasional sunbreak as you can see above. Our first view is usually from this vantage point, but when I got there, clouds and fog obscured it all.
The meadow today
And then we emerged from the forest into the meadow. Four weeks ago, this entire meadow was under snow. We thought that it might be possible for us to reach the summit today, looking at the lack of snow as well as the lack of rain.
Stream crossing
But when we reached the stream, although most of the snow was gone, it was difficult to cross. We walked up and down it and some were successful in getting to the other side, but others didn't want to even try (I was one of them). The place where we had our lunch four weeks ago is the ridge at the tree line in the above picture.
Marsh marigolds and the stream behind
I captured this while I was busy trying to find a way across the stream. Finally, I gave up and those who had crossed over decided to come back and join us at our "summit" for the day, a small nearby hill. We found a fairly dry place for lunch, as we had an on-again off-again light rain by this time.
Our lunch spot
We didn't spend a great deal of time at this lunch spot, but enough for us to have a quick repast and then start back down the way we had come. We saw some deer tracks as well as what looked a lot like raccoon tracks in the snow. You can see there is still quite a bit of snow on our way up to the summit. This gives us an opportunity to try once more this summer to make it all the way up to the top.
Map, taken at the trailhead
In this map, you can see the paved road we followed to the trailhead, and then we meandered up the red dotted line to the stream. We hiked somewhere under seven miles and up around 2,700 feet before we stopped for lunch. Next time I hope we can make it all the way, but for today it was simply perfect.
Carol and valerian flowers
I asked Carol to stop for a minute so I could get a picture of her and the abundant valerian that has started to bloom on the side of the trail. Still no real rain, just a light mist, as we headed back down to the cars. The rain picked up a little just before then, but for us it was nothing, really. We piled into our two cars and went down to Graham's for our regulation ice cream, even though it wasn't hot.

Now I am home, happy to have had such a wonderful day, when I was unsure of the wisdom of a hike in the High Country as the weather was dubious. I was again reminded that you can never ever predict the outcome of a day in the wilderness by anything other than being there anyway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Odds and ends

John and Bernie at Avellino's
At the Farmers' Market on Saturday, I bought this Bernie Sanders cookie so that I could present it to John on Monday. John is an avid Bernie supporter and I knew that he would appreciate it. Sure enough: he won't even eat Bernie until after he's conceded to Hillary. It might be stale by then. John doesn't look like the usual millennial youngster that Bernie attracts, does he? Just goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover.
First zucchine blossom
And look! I spied a first blossom on my zucchini plant yesterday when I went out in the morning to water. I smiled when I saw it and was reminded that a few years ago, when I saw that flower and the next day it was gone, I was dismayed, thinking that something had eaten it. And then slowly it dawned on me that the flower is the first stage of the zucchini itself! Boy, was I surprised. And now I'm an old hand and mentally translated this blossom into a zucchini by this time next week.

A few of my blogging friends have asked me about the name of the county in which I live, Whatcom. I remember wondering that myself, long ago, so this morning at the coffee shop I asked John and Gene if they knew the origin of the name. They didn't, so I looked it up (the link above). And I learned that its name ultimately derives from the Lummi word Xwotʼqom, meaning "noisy water."

A nearby table was occupied by a man who was busy grading papers. I learned that he is a professor of river ecology at Western Washington University and asked him if he knew the origin of the word. He smiled and told me yes; in fact, it's the bonus question on the papers he was grading at that moment! What are the odds of that happening?

Odds and ends: it seemed like an appropriate title for today's post. While writing this, I thought about the oddity above and the ending of this phase of the political scene. Even more appropriate.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Heat wave and minus tides

Kayaker at low tide
This morning Lynn and I headed out to meet the walkers at the ferry terminal in Fairhaven. As usual, we were early (a failing of mine) so we went down to the nearby beach and watched this young woman put her kayak into the water and paddle away. There was more beach than usual, because both today and tomorrow we will have minus tides. It means the tide is below mean sea level. They always come with the new moon, which happens tonight at 8:00pm. Right about now the minus tide is happening in Bellingham Bay, with tomorrow bringing an even more minus tide. I found this information on line here.
Padden Creek this morning
We ladies (and one man) walked from the ferry terminal to Arroyo Park and back, around six miles. It is a warm and sunny day, with the entire west coast getting temperatures way above normal for a few days. I found this Public Alert on line for Portland:
Excessive Heat Warning remains in effect from 10 AM today through 10 PM Sunday for much of interior Southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. An Excessive Heat Warning remains in effect from 10 AM this morning to 10 PM Sunday.
Fortunately for me, we are located near the Canadian border but still, we will be having much warmer than normal weather, with the temperature right now (around noon) hovering near 80F (26C). And this is after having been freezing cold in snow just two days ago! Of course, we were way up there in altitude, and now I'm at sea level.
Hula hoops sparkling in the sun
I got the idea for this shot from the Furry Gnome. He recently visited a Farmers' Market and took some colorful pictures. Lynn, Judith and I wandered around the market for awhile, ate a few tasty bits, and then went home. I'm now fulfilling my final Saturday duty, a blog post. Then I'll have some lunch and find a way to keep myself cool and comfy for the rest of the day.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Excelsior Pass, almost

A damp forest and hikers
Today ten Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to discuss our options on this rather rainy Thursday. Of course the only day during the week when rain was forecast was today, so we decided instead of trudging up Goat Mountain and then not having a view, we'd venture up Excelsior Pass from the Mt. Baker highway. This is a strenuous hike, going up around 3,500 feet (1,000 meters) over four-and-a-half miles. The group attempted this hike three weeks ago, when my knee could not possibly have taken the strain, so I missed it. That made me rather happy to be going today, to see how my knee would fare.
Our route today
This map shows where we went today. First an hour drive up Highway 542 to the trailhead, and then up the Excelsior Pass trail, just about in the middle of the above map. Starting at 1,825 feet, we slogged up the red wiggly line on the map to right around 5,000 feet of elevation.
Our beautiful forest
Starting out, it was raining gently, not hard, nothing to give us anything we were not prepared for. Now and then, as you can see from the above picture, the clouds thinned and occasionally gave us brief moments when the fog in the trees lighted our way upwards. It was really rather beautiful.
Rich in his rain skirt in the snow
But as we climbed, we finally hit patches of snow that eventually ended up being a deal breaker for reaching the pass, as you can see here. Rich is getting ready to have his lunch, with the only view we had today behind him. The view came and went, but the rain lessened until it was almost nonexistent. Not completely, but almost. We stopped here, at 5,000 feet and less than a mile from the summit, to have our lunch.
Our lunch spot
The snow made the summit possible but not likely to give us anything we had not already experienced. We refreshed ourselves with food and piled on every bit of warm clothing we had with us and then started back down the way we had come. It took a bit of hiking before we were all warm and toasty again.
Out of the snow
Finally we descended enough to be out of the snow. It makes it quite difficult to walk safely and took all my energy just to make sure I didn't fall. As you can see from this picture, it never did get sunny. But not long after this picture was taken, we began to see patches of sunshine and the misty rain came and went, sometimes completely.
The trail 
This final picture was taken at our last stop before we returned to the trailhead. The light green foliage, combined with the misty trees, were lovely to see. We were truly bathing in the forest. We talked about how wonderful forest bathing is for the soul, and today ten of us were scrubbed clean by Shinrin-yoku (森林浴).

And now I am home, filled with joy and happy to be off my feet, drinking my well deserved wine, and rejoicing that my knee did not complain much today! Between yoga and proper rehabilitation, I am well again!