Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ridley Creek 2016

Black Buttes on the left, Baker in the center
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met to hike up the Ridley Creek Trail. Although this was my third trip up the hike called Ridley Creek, it was the first time that I actually had mostly clear skies and a view. Here, we are crossing the creek bed of the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River. You can see it looking rather benign in the lower right of the picture. I'm sure that in late spring it is much larger, but it's not as benign as it looks.
Crossing the log at the Nooksack River
It doesn't look all that bad, does it? Well, even though I've crossed it before, I was completely taken aback by the vertigo I experienced halfway across. I felt a sense of panic that I might fall and just... stopped. I took a breath and refocused my gaze on the log instead of at the rushing water below. Three of us had difficulty, but we all made it across without incident. Four of the Trailblazers had decided to go ahead of the rest of us so that they could hike up to Park Butte, making it a ten-mile day instead of a bit more than seven for us. It also made the ten of us "legal" by wilderness standards.
Fall colors in the meadow
The trail climbs steeply until we reach a lovely meadow, which was filled with fall colors and... blueberries! (Some call these huckleberries, but they were good whatever they are called.) Sweet and abundant, they slowed our progress, but it was worth it. Every one was sweet and delightful.
Mazama Park
Finally we reached our destination, Mazama Park, a mere three-and-a-half miles up in just about perfect weather. The other four went up to the Fire Lookout at Park Butte, another mile and a half. If you look closely at this picture you can see the trail winding up the hillside above these hikers. We, however, called it enough right here, so we sat down to have lunch after admiring the view.
Baker in the background
It was warm with high clouds and no wind as we enjoyed our lunch. Unbeknownst to me at this time, I received a text message from Chris, who was sitting at the Fire Lookout having lunch and looking down at us. She had coverage because she was able to catch the signal from the ski area, but we were too low to get a signal. I listened to her message on the way back.
Me in front of the Sisters
I quite like this picture that Melanie took of me, in front of a gorgeous mountain range, fall colors, and clouds. It was a pretty wonderful day, and although we thought we might see the Fab Four who did the longer hike before it was all over, we didn't.
Heading back the way we came
And then it was time to head back, covering the same tracks we made on our way up. A little more than seven miles and around 2,600 feet up and down. Not an easy day by any means, but the weather and the company made it a day I'm glad I didn't miss. Next week I'll be on Vashon Island and will miss the Thursday hike. I'll be writing about our Lavender Hills Farm retreat instead.
Lesley crossing the creek on the way back
The return crossing of the Nooksack was better and easier for all of us, even if it wasn't exactly a "walk in the park," as they say. It was a fine day, and now it's time for me to quaff the last of my wine and say "thank you" to all my wonderful friends for such a great day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Coffee art

A half smile from my alien
My regular barista wasn't there when I got my coffee on Sunday morning. Nika tried to make a design for me, but she apologized when it didn't turn out right.

"Well," I said, "it looks a little bit like a smiling alien with a tail to me." It tasted just fine, and I am actully quite fond of the little tyke. It must be hard to concoct a drink with foam. Just for fun, I went to Google and typed in "foam coffee art" and came up with some simply amazing designs. This one caught my eye.
By Kazuki Yamamoto
Cute! A kitty and his very own koi pond. The only problem I see with this one is trying to drink it. Adorable, isn't it? My regular barista, Zack, makes some beautiful designs himself, but none are so fancy that I hesitate to drink my latte. Here's one of his.
Nice work, Zack
We do have fun in the coffee shop. Who would have ever expected that making a coffee drink could be so much fun?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

First Saturday of Autumn

Beautiful sky over Lake Padden
This morning twenty women met at 8:00am to walk twice around Lake Padden. Two of them, Ellen and Chris, also went on the Thursday hike, and I wondered if either of them are as sore as I still am. Friday morning when I tried to get out of bed, my poor overused thighs screamed at me, and today they are still almost as bad. I think it was all that downhill. Ellen is sore, but of course Chris isn't, because she just finished a 93-mile, 13-day backpacking trip around Mt. Rainier.

Just as we started out on our walk this morning, someone shouted at me to take a picture of this scene. I whipped out my cellphone and without stopping, just slowing down a bit, I captured the above picture. Not only a fabulous sky, but also a calm lake that reflected back the sky and the bit of fog. I'll probably also put this one on Facebook so it will get maximum exposure. A serendipitous picture, for sure.

By tomorrow I should be back to my usual self, but I have been feeling every last one of my years as I recover from that strenuous hike. It's the hardest one we do: almost nine miles (which isn't our longest), but it was the 4,000-foot (1,200 m) elevation gain and loss that caused my agony, I suspect. While I was walking this morning with the ladies, I didn't hurt at all, but now I am happy to be ensconced in my favorite chair.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First day of fall on Church Mountain

Lesley, Mel, Chris, Ellen, me, Victoria, Carol
What a day! Only eight Trailblazers showed up on a gorgeous day to hike up Church Mountain, with seven women and Rich, who took this wonderful picture. This was also Lesley's first hike with us, and hopefully not the last, as we got ready to start out in sunshine, with a light breeze and just about perfect hiking weather.
Church Mountain meadow with Mt. Baker in clouds
We made our way up the steep forested switchbacks, and by the time we reached the meadow clouds had begun to form over the mountains. This was our third time up Church Mountain this year, and the first where we didn't see any snow at all. No bugs, and lots of blueberries on those red bushes, which we snacked on as we trudged ever upward.
Can you see our trail?
We broke into two groups after awhile, since there were four people who wanted to hike faster, and others, me included, who were pretty much at their limit of uphill speed.
That's Mel at her lunch spot
And then we were almost at the top, when I saw Mel and heard her cheering us up the last of the trail. Where you see her standing is the spot where four hikers had their lunch, while the rest of us climbed the last fifty feet to the old lookout spot. It is very exposed and not a favorite place for people with vertigo issues.
View from the top
I took several pictures here at the top before settling down for my lunch. You can see that clouds were still building but the temperature was mild and a cool breeze kept us from being uncomfortable.
Summit crew: Ellen, Chris, Rich, and me behind the camera
We had our lunch up here and then it was time to return back down to the trailhead. It is a hard hike, covering just under nine miles and just under 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. By the time we made it back to the cars, my knees knew they had been used, and as I sit here at home, I can feel that I got a lot of sun.
Looking the marmots
Part way back down, we heard and saw two marmots on the rocks below. Carol was listening to their calls in this picture and gesturing for quiet. They are getting ready for the change in seasons, too, and look fat and furry. I wasn't able to get a picture.
At Graham's for our ice cream
Lesley was still inside getting her ice cream, while Victoria took this picture of the rest of us. She didn't get any ice cream herself. You can see her shadow, though. It was a wonderful way to end a picture perfect day in the company of great friends, old and new.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Last Tuesday of the summer

Fall flowers
I took this picture last Thursday at the very end of our beautiful sunny day on Ptarmigan Ridge. The white flowers are pearly everlasting, and the pink ones in front are the remnants of fireweed. In the upper right you can see the beautiful blue sky we were treated to all day long.

And after a very rainy Saturday, when we got more than three-quarters of an inch of rain (a lot for us), yesterday was also on and off rainy. Today, however, it's blue sky again, and it looks like our first fall hike on Thursday will be sunny. I'll be putting my pictures on here, of course.

I've been watching with interest the reviews of the new iPhone 7, because I'll be eligible for an upgrade in December and think I'll get one. However, the pictures taken with my iPhone 6 are wonderful and I can hardly imagine how the camera could be improved. I look forward to finding out the differences. It's still early.

Hope you are enjoying the last Tuesday of the season. Thursday at 7:21am PST is the equinox, when the days and nights are of equal length. Take a look at this website if you want to find out when it's happening in your neck of the woods. (Look under the "Sun and Moon" menu to find the seasons.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A very rainy Saturday

Turning leaves and rain
Although it's hard to tell from this picture (which I took because of the pretty red leaves), our walk this morning was probably one of the wettest I've been on. We were supposed to go up Galbraith Mountain, but we didn't because the rain would have made it very muddy and slippery. Instead, we walked in the park for around five miles, or maybe even a little less. Only eight of us showed up.

Right now I can hear the rain pounding on the roof, and in the time we were out walking, we all got completely soaked, even with our rain gear. I sure wished I had thought to put my iPhone in a plastic bag, because every place I put it on my body eventually got wet. Luckily it wasn't cold, so as long as we were walking, we were fine, but once we got back to the cars we all headed home for dry clothes. It made no sense to go out for coffee in our present state.

My friend Judy also canceled our movie date, so now I'll have to rethink what to do with my day. Oh, one more thing: my neighbor next door has a grape arbor and has always been more than willing to let me have some. I noticed this year that they seem rather deformed.
Only a few grapes ripened
Just a few of the grapes on each bunch ripened, and if you look at the leaves in the upper left corner, they have some sort of bumps on them. The grapes that matured are tasty, but few and far between. I wonder if this is something that happens to grapes now and then. I enjoyed them anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ptarmigan Ridge on a perfect day

Some of the group admiring the view
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to begin our journey to Ptarmigan Ridge, one of my favorite hikes in the wilderness when the weather is sunny. And just look at it! Not a cloud in the sky. We had three new hikers with us today, Ken, Mike, and the one I called "Tripod Guy" until I learned his name is Roger. He carried a huge tripod with him the entire way and every time we stopped for more than a microsecond, he was busy snapping pictures. We decided to chance it in the wilderness, with our group one over the regulation size. We figured we could call ourselves a "Baker's Dozen," and Mt. Baker approved.
One of the wonderful views from the ridge
Fall colors are beginning to show themselves everywhere on this September day, our last summer hike of 2016. Next Thursday is the autumnal equinox, so it will begin our new season. This could not have been a more wonderful day.
Backlit red leaves
As we walked along the ridge, we saw plenty of other hikers. Not surprising, really, considering the weather and the time of year. I'm so glad we were all together, although three of the strongest hikers, Steve, Doug, and new guy Mike all left to hike all the way to the portals, while the rest of us would make it to Kiser Camp, about 4.5 miles and at an elevation of over 6,000 feet (more than 1,800 meters).
Ellen and Carol at Kiser Camp
We were all ready to stop and have our lunch, while the three guys went a bit farther to the portals. I was certainly ready to stop, with the altitude taking its toll on me, but once we had rested, I felt completely rejuvenated. You can see how close we were to Mt. Baker in this picture. While we had our lunch, we saw the other three come down the trail to join us.
Mountain goats at lower middle
We saw a herd of mountain goats on our return trip, six adults and a juvenile. They aren't easy to see unless to enlarge the picture, but hey, this was taken with my iPhone, after all. No telephoto. It's been rare that I haven't seen any goats on this hike when the weather has been so fine.
Beautiful tarns and Glacier Peak on the skyline
This is my favorite picture of the day. Glacier Peak can only be seen on hikes; it isn't visible from any highway but you see it here, and those blue-green tarns took my breath away. If you look closely, you can see two people walking on a trail towards those tarns, and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't take a dip.
Snow crossing
Even at this time of the year, we had to cross snow three or four times. Not terrible or scary, but still, it is September just before the equinox! Everyone did fine, and our three newbies enjoyed themselves enough hopefully to return.
Saying goodbye to Mt. Baker at the end of the hike
Just before we finished the hike, I turned to see Mt. Baker backlit by the sun, with a few clouds forming in the sky. Although it turned out to be a very long day (it's almost 7:30pm as I finish this post), it was a simply wonderful one, filled with lots of adventures and ice cream at Graham's at the end!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Favorite evening hangout

Lynn's front porch, taken from my own porch
One of the nicest perks of these apartments are the spacious front (and back) covered porches. The one in the front of the apartments (seen above) faces east and gives us some great views, along with being shaded after the morning sun moves overhead. The back porch faces west and gets very warm late in the day.
Lynn's from the other side, looking towards mine
When the weather is fine, we have been gathering for a nice glass of wine or a beer in the evening. We've got a new single woman who just moved in a few doors down, and a family of four right next to her. I've met them both because of Lynn. She is cultivating quite a following, and I am happy to come out with a box of wine and get to know my neighbors. Nobody has to be a designated driver, and somehow we have been managing to pass many an evening together. Since I'm an early-to-bed person, all I have to do is just say goodnight and there's my front door! I can still hear their laughter as I slip into bed: really one of the most enjoyable ways for me to end a lovely summer's day.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Magnificent Saturday

Lily at Zuanich Park
I love this picture of my neighbor Lily, who this morning joined Lynn and me for her second Saturday walk with the ladies. She had just exclaimed at the beauty and wonder of the place where we were walking, and I captured the feeling with this picture. A beautiful day, with clearing skies, and a whole bunch of cool women to share the moment.
A berry nice quilt
Then we finished our morning with a visit to the Farmers' Market, with abundance everywhere we looked. Lynn pointed out these raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries making a luscious quilt pattern. I'm now heading off to the movies with my friend Judy. It's hard to stop smiling at my good fortune. Wishing you the best of days, too!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Park Butte 2016

Looked like the clouds were on their way out
Only seven Senior Trailblazers showed up this morning to drive south to Schreiber's Meadow and begin our hike to Park Butte. This was partly because the weather wasn't exactly perfect (although it was supposed to get better as the day wore on), and because of a local protest against the logging of Blanchard Mountain, one of our favorite winter destinations. I think many of our usual hikers chose to go there. We drove in drizzle and low clouds to the trailhead.
Dave, Melanie, Al, Ellen, Carol
By the time we reached the junction that goes one way to Railroad Grade and the other to Park Butte, we had not seen much of that elusive sunshine. It wasn't raining, but a cold wind would come through now and then, along with sun breaks, tantalizing us. It was very pleasant hiking weather as we ascended toward Park Butte.
Pea-soup fog continues
Although most of us had been there before, both Ellen and Melanie have not seen the spectacular views on this hike. They will need to come back another day to see what they missed.
Dave, Melanie, me, Carol, Ellen
And then we made it to the historic fire lookout cabin, which is open to anyone who wishes to stay overnight, as long as you follow the rules. There was one young man who had spent three nights up there and said he would pack up and leave himself, once we finished with our lunch. He said the fog moved in yesterday and had not yet shown any signs of lifting.
Our return trip, still no views
Although the fog continued, we did have moments when the sun would break through and the wind died down, and then suddenly we would be too warm in all our clothes. I could feel that it was a little lighter, that there was a sense that soon we'd be in sunshine.
Mt. Baker peeking through
When we had descended for around an hour, we passed by the spot where you usually have a magnificent view of Mt. Baker, and this was what we saw. The sun was shining in spots, but the summit is obscured on the left. We stood around for awhile hoping it would clear, but it didn't.
Ellen at the junction to Mazama Park
Ellen is showing where the trail splits off to Mazama Park and down to the Ridley Creek trailhead we'll do in a few weeks. The sign shows which way to go to get to the Park Butte Lookout. We meandered down our return trail until we reached the meadows with lots of ripe blueberries.
Trailblazers picking berries
It was really almost impossible to keep from stopping now and then and tasting them. They were so ripe and the red leaves would fall away, exposing lots of berries. One person said he had just uncovered a horde and had to pick them, making me wonder about the word usage (hordes? passels? bunches?) for the abundance we discovered.
Crossing over the bridge almost to the parking area
When I finally got back on the trail, I heard the roaring of Sulphur Creek, the main stream draining from Easton Glacier on Mt. Baker. We crossed over the final bridge and were back at our cars, having covered around eight miles and 2,000 feet of elevation up and down. Not one of our hardest hikes, and the cool fog and breeze kept me comfortable for the entire time, delightful even without the views.

Of course, by the time we were halfway home, the skies had cleared and it was sunny. It didn't matter, though; we had just enjoyed a fine hike and an adventure with good friends. Sometimes I can't help but give thanks for the group and the beautiful places we have to hike in. Now it's time for a shower!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kernels of truth

Corn on the cob
Many of us enjoy corn on the cob during the summer, especially now when it is fresh out of the garden. A couple of days ago my friend John gave me a bonanza of it from his garden, and I shared it with my neighbors and then came home with the rest. 

I am not a huge fan of corn at any time, but this way is probably my favorite way to eat it. As SG and I sat down to dinner to enjoy our lovely feast, we noticed immediately that we don't eat it the same way at all! I like to start from the middle, eat a nice little section around, and then start eating the rest from right to left, on one side only, then the other.

He, on the other hand, eats it like it is a typewriter, starting on the right end and eating the entire row, does a carriage return and goes to the top and eats the next row, right to left.

Well, this morning it was the topic of conversation at the coffee shop. It turns out that all my buddies are typewriter eaters, sometimes left to right, other times right to left. I have never eaten an ear of corn that way. I think the best corn is in the middle of the ear, and so I get that and then eat the rest in an orderly fashion. I don't always finish an entire ear.

I got online and found this interesting article from the LA Times, titled "Kernels of Truth Come Out When You Eat Corn." So I decided to find out what my readers do. Nowhere have I found anybody who eats it like I do. What about you?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Labor Day weekend starting out great

Lynn and Lily at Boulevard Park
It was supposed to rain this morning, but it didn't. Although it's pretty cloudy and cool, that was perfect weather for our walk with the ladies this morning. Lily, who lives in our apartment complex, joined Lynn and me for the first time. I'm pretty sure she'll be back again. We had twenty of us walk what Cindy calls the campus loop: from Boulevard Park to the Farmers' Market, then up the hill to the campus, around and down Mill Street and finally returning to the start. Five miles at a fast clip, just the way to start out the long weekend.
Is there anyone who doesn't have a smartphone?
Since it was Lily's first time with us, everyone pulled out their cellphones to get her current information. I laughed when I saw this picture, which was taken with (what else?) my own cellphone! Then the three of us went to the Farmers' Market so that I could buy some bread, and we enjoyed looking at pottery and jewelry before we left. Not to mention some amazing veggies.
Rosy Bianca eggplant
I had never before seen eggplant that looks like this. Usually they are more like the ones in the background, green-black and shiny. The vendor said these are creamy and delicious. I didn't buy any, but I sure was enchanted with them. Anybody ever cook with them?
These are some of the most beautiful Romanesco I've seen in years. I tried to grow them last year, but they bolted almost immediately. I have since learned they need to be planted late in the season and kept in shady areas for best results. In the background you can see some yellow and purple cauliflower, too.
Heirloom tomatoes
And finally, these lovely heirloom tomatoes that were all vying for attention, from dark to light, yellow to red. This is the time of year when I most enjoy going to the market and taking pictures. Next week maybe I'll concentrate on the magnificent flowers; it's dahlia and zinnia time, after all.