Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Next week's trip

Me with Norma Jean last November
I can hardly contain my excitement about getting to see Norma Jean and the rest of my Florida relatives soon. At this time next week, I'll be in the air somewhere over the country on my way from the northwest corner of the nation to the southern tip in central Florida.

It turns out that the day I fly south, we here in the Pacific Northwest will be experiencing a cold snap. Not me, though: I'll be able to wear shorts and t-shirts for the first time in ages, it seems. Plus I'll be swimming with my sister in the mornings, and it's been a year since I've even been in the water. I know my muscles will be sore, but a good sore, you know?

When I last saw my grand-niece Alicia, she was crawling, nearly walking. Now she's a toddler, and little Lexie is not so little any more. How time flies! A visit once a year is barely often enough to keep up. And between now and then I'll have a birthday, a massage, and three yoga classes! Life is good.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A wild day at Lake Padden

The hardiest of the hardy
When I woke this Saturday morning and checked the weather, I wondered who, if any, would be joining Lily and me as we drove off to Lake Padden, where we were scheduled to meet for our 8:00am walk. I knew Cindy would be there, she's the leader, but despite the wind and rain, thirteen of us showed up to brave the elements. And spend time together while making two loops around the lake. If it was simply awful, we could always skip the second loop.

So we set out in wind gusting well above 25mph, while the rain was only spitting at us occasionally. We knew that would change. By the time we were halfway around and in the shelter of the trees, it was like a different world, with the sound of the wind high above us and little rain. But when we came out of the trees, the wind and rain hit us, causing those of us who had taken off our rain gear a chance to pull it all snug around us again.

Some of us called it a day after the first loop, but the majority went on around a second time, with the rain a little stronger and the wind a little less. I was not soaked when we finished, but going out for coffee somewhere didn't tempt me much, as I was not totally dry. Lily and I went off to the Farmers' Market before heading home. At least I got my steps in for the day, and now I can lounge around and enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers once again without any guilt.
The sheltered part of the trail
This picture shows the far side of the 2.6-mile loop, where we cruised along in relative comfort. By the second time around, however, we were glad to finish our Saturday morning adventure without any trees having blown down on us, and without the heavy rain that we knew was coming. And it's here now, as I finish up my post. We've had almost an inch of rain already today! Nice to be inside again.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Gene, Leo, and Robert at Starbucks
When I woke this morning and went out to start my Thanksgiving Day, I knew I needed coffee first thing. (I admit to my addictions.) Since Avellino's is closed for the day, I headed over to the local Starbucks, because I knew they would be open. And who showed up but three of my regular Avellino visitors, Gene, Leo, and Robert. I couldn't stay to visit for long, however, because I had signed up to attend a special Gratitude yoga class.
Ingela at Yoga Northwest
Ingela, the founder of Yoga Northwest, an Iyengar style yoga studio, hosted a special yoga class today to benefit the Lighthouse Mission, where a meal costs $2.05 per person, and we donated at least $20 each for the class, all of which goes to the Mission. The studio was packed, and we then had Ingela's instruction for an hour and a half before heading back to our own homes, families, and dinner preparations. As I told Ingela, I had avoided taking her class, because I heard she is very hard. But I really enjoyed her instruction and won't shy away any longer.
My plate for our own special meal
For our own Thanksgiving meal, we were gifted with some of the best sockeye salmon I have ever tasted, from my fisherman friend Gene, along with new potatoes which, to my surprise, are purple, along with a complete roasted romanesco cauliflower, a delicata squash casserole, kale salad and bruschetta garlic bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company.
Me getting ready to toast our incredible feast
As I got ready to toast our scrumptious meal, SG captured this picture of me. He's got one of those iPhone6s phones, which actually (in regular picture mode) captured several frames of me lifting my glass of wine and smiling. This is the only one that came forward, though. I wish all of you, all my dear friends, the very best of days, and please accept my thanks for being such good, good friends. Blessings all around as I hoist my glass to toast a great year ahead.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Glad we're not hiking this Thursday

Rain, rain and more rain
This Thursday I am thankful for many things, one of them being that we won't be outside trying to maintain a positive outlook in what looks to be three-quarters of an inch of rain. Right now it's raining, but when I walked back from the bus it was mostly dry. Now that I'm inside and watching the rain come down, I'm glad I'm inside. I had a good workout at the gym, warm and cozy indoors.

As you can see from that graph, even though it's wet, it's not all that cold, so getting out and playing in the rain means I can maintain my body heat and then if I don't have to stop while outside and wet, I can easily have as much of a workout as I choose and then dry off. You have to find the upsides wherever you can.

And the other day our barista made a really cool design in Gene's latte, which I captured here. It was fun to watch as he drank it and the design morphed into an elongated headless skeleton.
Chase's delightful dancing skeleton
Well, that's about all I can think of to write in my post today. I am feeling pretty good right now, sleeping well without any assistance (other than melatonin), and my yoga classes are helping me to keep my equilibrium. I hope it's the same for you, and that your Thanksgiving will be filled with lots and lots of love and comfort food. But no tryptophan coma, okay? Read about why turkey makes you sleepy here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The rain stayed away for our walk

Walking along Boulevard Park at high tide
As you can see from the sky above us, it was possible that we would be "enjoying" our walk in our usual style: with some wet stuff to keep us hydrated. But it didn't do more than spit at us now and then, as more than twenty women (and one new guy!) walked from the Farmers' Market building down to Boulevard Park and the Bellingham Ferry Terminal. We stopped there quickly to view the artwork on the front of the window, painted by our very own Ellen!
Ellen pointing to her creation
In that oval window is the picture she was commissioned to paint for the season. I thought maybe it would be easier to see from inside, but this is where it looked the best, even if it's a little dim. From here we walked down to the Wastewater Treatment Plant a short distance away, and we were reminded that today is World Toilet Day as we circled the plant before heading back to our starting point.

After we had covered almost seven miles, some of us decided to stop at the local Bagelry and quaff some coffee and bagels. I asked a stranger to take a picture of us. I don't particularly like the way I look in this picture, but since everybody else looks just fine, I'm going to go ahead and publish it.
Having our usual socializing while eating and drinking
It was a lovely way to start our Saturday, and we didn't even get wet, other than from our own sweat (or "glow" since women don't sweat). And now that I'm home and writing this post, I see that it's actually started to rain outside. Another amazing morning.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Not my favorite hike, but still a great day

Getting ready to start our hike at the trailhead
I was astounded that nineteen Senior Trailblazers showed up at the Senior Center for a hike we call both "Cub Creek" (there isn't one) and "Smith Creek" (because there is one). I've done this hike several times, in rain and sun, as well as just this past March. We had a view then; you can check it out here. The weather forecast was all over the place for today, but we expected that it would continue to improve during the day, and that by lunchtime we might actually have sun and some views.
First view of Lake Whatcom
We start at the level of Lake Whatcom and climb upwards for more than 2,000 feet of elevation, on trails and old logging roads. This was the first time we could see the lake below us, and you can see that the skies were anything but clear. At this point, it wasn't very cold, but we were glad when the light rain finally stopped as we worked our way ever upwards.
This was much easier going
There are sections of this particular hike where we must navigate a nearly nonexistent trail, covered with lots of bushes blocking our way and catching us with their thorns, while watching our step through fallen leaves that are busy hiding obstacles underneath. Once we made our way through that part, it was more like what the above picture shows. No views up here, so there was no reason to climb the mountain as we did in March.
Do we look cold? We certainly were!
When we stopped for lunch, everyone bundled up in whatever they had brought for warmth. I was just fine, except my hands got pretty cold. Nobody wanted to spend much time at lunch, for some reason. And then it was time to leave.
Walking into the fog
As we began our descent, making a loop for part of it (so that we didn't need to go back through the swampy thorny part), we began to warm up again. Nobody was quite ready to take off any warm clothes though, until we saw Lake Whatcom again, from a much higher vantage point.
Lake Whatcom from higher up
You might also notice that the clouds have cleared a little, and we began to get a sun break or two. I've mentioned before that I never knew that phrase until I moved here (sun breaks is entirely accurate), and between the fog and the mist, we got some nice views.
A drop of golden sun
See? A sun break! We were also under the power lines at this point, which were buzzing loudly. Ellen said she once lived under power lines like these, and if she took a fluorescent light bulb and stood under them, it would light up! That made me want to hustle right on by.
Kirk crossing a bridge
As we retraced our steps and finally made it back to the cars, we had a little discussion about how much distance we covered. Of course everyone's devices had a different number, with Al's (as usual) being the lowest number and Melanie's being the highest. I would guess we covered somewhere between nine and ten miles, probably closer to the lower number, but we also climbed 2,300 feet of elevation.

All in all, it was a fine day with little actual rain, not the best views, but frankly some of the finest company in the world. We are all happy to have gone out today and gotten some great exercise. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, so we won't meet again for two weeks. I think everyone is glad they went today. I know I am.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding my way forward

Romanesco broccoli
Isn't this a beautiful plant? It's a fairly new (at least to me) cross between cauliflower and broccoli, called Romanesco broccoli and looks like a fractal to me. That link from Wikipedia tells me this:
The pattern is only an approximate fractal since the pattern eventually terminates when the feature size becomes sufficiently small. The number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number.
I find that to be incredibly interesting, and since I've actually eaten this plant, I can also tell you that it tastes a little more like cauliflower to me than broccoli. I took this picture last Saturday at the Farmers' Market. Since I tried to grow this plant during our springtime warmth, I was sure impressed with these guys. Mine almost immediately bolted, and I've since learned that it doesn't like a lot of heat and direct sunlight, so farmers around here grow it in the fall.

A week has passed since the election, and I'm feeling less fragile, but still can find myself weeping at unexpected times. It's part of the grieving process, and I'm pretty good at learning how to cope on a daily basis. I have decided not to allow myself to be bitter. Maya Angelou said this:
You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
So I'm talking to you right now. I've decided to start giving a monthly allowance to two deserving organizations that I hope will help to mitigate the denial of climate change, which is a real threat to our world stability. Although I'm old enough that I won't see the worst of it, I fear for the young ones.

And I'm wearing a safety pin on my clothes. I read in another blogger's post about the first effect she experienced of wearing her safety pin. She is an elementary school teacher, and one of her students asked her about it. She said that it is to let people know that they can talk to her about anything and feel safe. The child said to her, shyly, "I didn't want anybody to know, but I haven't eaten anything since yesterday, and I have no money." The teacher suddenly realized why this student had been struggling in class, and she immediately took him into the cafeteria and bought him lunch. She also arranged to get him into the program for disadvantaged kids. Maybe he's homeless, I don't know, but that safety pin gave him a chance to talk about his hunger.

But it's just a tiny little symbol that means little in the scheme of things. Actually giving money to those organizations made me feel a whole lot better!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pinning ourselves together

Lynn, me, and Lily
Once again this morning, lots and lots of women gathered together to walk in the rain, this time because we needed the fellowship of one another in our grief about the election. More than twenty of us went out on a windy and rainy walk, right around five miles. Last night I finally got a decent night's sleep, and that has made a huge difference in my state of mind.
From Heidi's b00n00k Instagram page
Then we three went to the Farmer's Market and I asked someone to take a picture of us so that I could send it to Carol in North Carolina. It turned out to be Barbara, a talented potter, who was wearing a safety pin on her collar. Lynn (who always seems to know everything before I do), praised her for the sentiment. In fact, Barbara was passing out safety pins to those who asked about it and felt they wanted to let people know that we, too, are friendly to the cause. The movement started with the "Brexit" vote and has now come to us in America so that we can let immigrants, refugees, and Muslims know they are "safe" with us.
One of Barbara's beautiful plates
On this, the fourth day after the election results, I am now finally beginning to come out of my despair and feel that there will be many good things to come that it's just not possible to know at the moment. I was surprised to learn that only 54% of the electorate even bothered to vote. The citizens in so many countries around the world would give anything to have that privilege.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Happy to be together

Joy, Barb, Rich, Jim, Dave, Sue, Kirk, Peggy, Carol, Victoria, Lisa, Bob 
Today, eighteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to share comfort with one another after the terrible election we, along with the whole world, have just endured. Heavy hearts needed to get into the High Country one more time this year to enjoy the rare sunshine. It's a funny thing about exercise: I started out feeling pretty blue, but by the time this picture was taken, at the end of our hike, I was feeling downright happy. I took the picture while we were waiting for some laggards, when I begged for a photo op on this lovely bridge.
Climbing toward Herman Saddle
We hoped that we might be able to complete the Chain Lakes loop, even at this late date, if the snow cooperated. Down low, we saw none, but it was there up high, as we discovered. We started at the Heather Meadows parking lot and went around Bagley Lakes on our way up to the saddle. If we could complete the loop, we would have seven miles or so of hiking, but if it got too bad we would just return the way we had started. We had magnificent views the whole way.
Mt. Shuksan and Bagley Lakes below
The higher we climbed toward Herman Saddle, the sunnier it got, and the more we hoped we might be able to complete the loop. But as we approached the saddle, you can see that the snow had increased. It doesn't look too bad from here, and we were hopeful. Note the "mark of Zorro" on the trail below.
See the Mark of Zorro above us?
At this point we thought that it might be possible to go over the top and down towards Iceberg Lake and make the loop. We should have realized that the snow on the trail was increasing as we went ever higher, but it looks pretty benign from here, doesn't it?
Mt Baker peeking over the horizon
As we finally saw our first views of Mt. Baker over the horizon, we began to deal with more and more snow. New snow early in the season is not well compacted, so we kept falling through and fighting our way upwards. The saddle is in view at the middle of the picture.
Carol, Chris (in background) Victoria, Jim
Nope. By the time we struggled in the increasing wind and snow, we decided to have a fairly early lunch at Herman Saddle and go no farther down the other side through unknown snow depths. Plus it was almost noon by the time we got here. Time for lunch!
Carol took this picture of me in front of Mt. Baker
There were moments of complete absorption into the moment, since the wind up here was so strong that at times it almost blew me over. I was so pleased that my Tilley hat refused to leave my head in what had to be gale-force winds. There were moments when I felt like I had to stop just to keep myself upright as I leaned into it. And then it would subside for a bit.
Kirk and Joy at lunch, enjoying the view
I realize now, looking back, that I never got a picture that shows how treacherous it was on that snow as we descended. It was downright scary at moments when one misstep would mean a tumble down a very long slide. But after awhile we had passed the scary stuff on our way back, and we began to relax  a little as we made our way back the way we had come.

By the time we reached the cars, we had covered around 1,300 feet up and down, and almost five miles total. But it felt like more, with the snow we had to deal with. And then it was time to head back down to our usual ice cream stop In Glacier, one last time for this season, and bid a fond farewell to the area, at least until the snow begins to pile up for snowshoe excursions.
Bagley Lake in the foreground, Table Mountain behind
It was a day that I won't soon forget, since I felt restored and renewed by the time I walked in the door to my apartment. Life is good, and I hope that everyone who reads this will remember how much better you feel when you get out into the wilderness. Love and light to all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Just another Tuesday

Japanese maple outside my apartment
...Not! It's Election Day, and the end of this awful season is now coming to an end. I woke this morning and walked to the bus under blue skies and exceptionally warm weather. It feels almost wrong for the temperature to be in the mid-sixties on its way up to 67 for the day. And sunshine! It was so warm when I walked out of the gym at 10:00am, I had to take off my jacket.

As I walked home, I saw the sunlight coming through the Japanese maple tree right before I walk up the steps to my apartment, with blue sky and clouds and a bit of green to complement the picture. It's such a nice day today, with a little rain expected tonight but another nice day possible for Thursday, that maybe another "last" trip to the High Country will be the cards. We'll just have to wait and see, but everywhere I look people are smiling and walking around in shirtsleeves! Magnificent!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another rainy Saturday

Mt. Baker and the Nooksack River
This magnificent picture was taken from inside the car on our way back from the lovely day we had last Thursday in the mountains. I needed to look at it, since this morning was the exact opposite: I listened to the rain and wind all night long and got up to torrential weather to begin my day. And the morning walk with the ladies (and one man) was pretty much all in the rain. I got my first real test of my new rain jacket, which worked just fine. There were nineteen of us, even with the not-so-wonderful weather.

I'm home now, though, nice and dry and getting ready to watch a special on Netflix my sister recommended by Dana Carvey. And I've got a couple books to see if I can lose myself in, so I can somehow get through the next three days without a meltdown.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A really wonderful day

Trailblazers heading up the Goat Mountain trail
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers met to explore where we might go today, our first sunny and non-rainy Thursday in more than a month. We decided to head to one of our favorite places, Goat Mountain, up the Mt. Baker Highway. This picture was taken on the trail right after our first shedding of coats. Although it's November, and we were already up in elevation by a couple thousand feet, it was amazingly warm.
Up the trail we went
I saw these leaves on the trail under a deciduous tree, but most of the trees on this trail are evergreens. As we hiked upwards, we were reminded of the incredible amount of rain this area received during October. I've never seen so much moisture on this trail, and the streams we crossed were swollen and roaring. I like to think of this 3-and-a-half mile trail as having three parts: first through a lovely wooded forest, then through a wet and marshy section, and the final one in the meadow that takes us to the overlook, our destination.
Logs of mud
As we climbed in altitude, we got more and more muddy places to cross, but onward we climbed, until we reached the final third, the ascent through the meadow. Very steep.
Climbing through the meadow to the overlook
Although when we started the hike the skies were clear, because of all the moisture in the atmosphere as we climbed, we saw plenty of clouds among the periods of full sunshine we enjoyed. When you're climbing uphill, you don't mind clouds because they keep the temperature down. It was actually quite perfect hiking conditions.
Doug and Ellen in front of Mt. Sefrit
And then we reached the overlook, our lunch destination. You can see there's a little snow underfoot, but I suspect most of it is gone because of the warm rain that has been falling up here for some time now. Time for lunch!
Our lunch spot, and Mt. Baker is hiding behind those clouds
There was a little breeze, but nothing we couldn't handle as we settled in for a nice lunch break. The clouds came and went and I tried to capture Mt. Baker when she would allow a little peek of her summit behind the clouds, but it wasn't easy. You can see, however, we had a nice place for our rest spot.
Doug enjoying the view
Here's Doug enjoying the wonderful view while we stopped for lunch. I think those clouds were nothing short of amazing. In the picture below, looking out at Mt. Sefrit, Peggy and Richard are also enjoying the view.
Peggy and Richard with Mt. Sefrit behind
And reluctantly, we realized it was time to start back down the trail and retrace our steps back to the cars. It had been a wonderful trip to one of our most favorite spots, with some of our favorite people. Before we started back down, I captured this picture of Carol.
Dear Carol looking glamorous
Although she might not like it, I simply love this picture of her and after I finish with this post, it's going on Facebook, whether she likes it or not. That is Mt. Sefrit on the left and Mt. Shuksan on the right. We covered seven-plus miles and almost 3,000 feet elevation gain and loss before we got back to the cars. It was a wonderful late-season trip to the High Country, one I will not soon forget!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Our Halloween fun

Chase as Maleficent barista
I sure had a good time going about my usual daily routine on Halloween. My first stop was at the coffee shop, where Chase had a good Maleficent costume going. He said that one youngster thought he was dressed as a yak. Somebody who didn't see the movie, obviously.
Les sporting some spider earrings
Then off to my exercise class, where Les was wearing some cool earrings for the occasion. Unfortunately, nobody else was dressed up. I looked to see if he had pierced earlobes from an earlier incarnation as a hippie, but no, these are the clip-on kind. I remember how painful they were (are).

Another one of my friends asked if I liked her costume, which was, she said, the attire of an old woman. I liked that idea so much that I used it myself. And then last night I was all ready for the few trick-or-treaters we usually get, but not one showed up. I was forced to sample the wares myself and will use the rest for treats on my upcoming hikes. Hope you had a great Halloween!