Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Coming to terms with injury

Blanket of snow on the hedge
I walked out of my apartment this morning with a new blanket of snow over everything, as you can see here, right at sunrise. Although my hip has gotten a little bit better every day, it's still not completely healed. I spent Sunday doing very little and thought maybe it would be well by now, but it's not. Yesterday when I walked to the bus, I contemplated whether it might be my new shoes that caused this hip pain, so today I wore another pair. Nope. That's not it.
Dark sky with snowy tree
I walked carefully today, since it was slippery in places and managed to make the .7-mile trip to the bus stop without falling. School was canceled again today, which was probably a good idea for the kids, but now all that snow has been plopping on the ground, falling from the trees and buildings, although it's still not above freezing outside, and it's noon. They made the right call.

I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that a hike on Thursday is probably not the right decision. Tomorrow I get a massage and hopefully the therapist will be able to help me, at least a little. I am very impatient but I also realize that if I'm not careful, I'll be laid up even longer.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A wrinkle to my Saturday walk

Melanie took this of me on the Thursday hike
Our lovely Thursday walk in Sharpe Park included some views of the Puget Sound area that offered some wonderful opportunities to enjoy the outdoors as well as get some great pictures. I was surprised that my transitional lenses turned so dark, since we had little to no sunshine at this point. But later that day I could also feel a little blush in my cheeks as well; I forget how much UV gets through these low clouds.

Today I went walking with the ladies at one of our favorite places, Lake Padden, and the dozen or so of us started off at a brisk clip. I noticed that I had a little discomfort in my right hip, nothing too unusual (at my age aches and pains often go unremarked upon), but before I had gone even a half mile, I realized that it wasn't letting up. In fact, it was getting more noticeable. Once around the lake is 2.6 miles, and by the time I'd gone two of those miles, I was holding on to my friend Lily's arm on the downhill sections. And I was limping as well.

So we only went around once and then headed off to have a nice breakfast. I notice that I can walk up and down steps and pretty much get around without too much pain, but the area of the right piriformis muscle seems to be inflamed. I can walk just fine as long as I don't try to take too long a stride. I came home and did some stretches on the hip and wonder just what caused all this. Maybe it was something I did in yoga class yesterday? But strangely it only began to hurt once I tried to walk fast. Sitting here in my chair I feel no pain at all.

This is very annoying and is cutting into my daily step count, not to mention giving me a nagging feeling that it might not just clear up magically. I'll keep you posted, natch.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sharpe Park and Bowman Bay

Noriko, Al, Kirk, Melanie, Linda, Ward, Mikey, Peggy (and me)
A smallish number of the Senior Traiblazers were introduced to a new hike today, this one on Fidalgo Island near Deception Pass. This is one of our normal winter hiking areas, and we usually make it an excursion with several hikes in the Bowman Bay area, but today we started out with a new (to us) hike in Sharpe Park, just down the road. We almost did it last year, but we were tired after our usual hike, and this year we decided to include it first, not knowing what it would be like.
Al showing us the route we would take (picture by Melanie)
Sharpe Park isn't a long hike, but not being sure whether or not we would need our trekking poles, we took them with us, and I'm glad we did. There were some places that were quite challenging, with lots of ups and downs, and some places where we were quite close to cliffs.
A beautiful spot that needed careful footing
We marveled at the beauty all around us, on a day when any moment we expected the sun to pop through the low clouds, but the temperature was pretty perfect for hiking and nobody minded much that we didn't get a chance to shed our warm clothes. It's always nice to find a new wonderful place not far from home.
Looking out at Puget Sound
We took the trail from Sares Head, a short distance from the parking lot, to a more challenging part of the area, something called "Broom-Tomb Loop" and "Porpoise Point," which gave us quite a bit of up and down to deal with, along with some exposure. From the sign near the trailhead:
There are several other trails bisecting the park, some of which are along difficult terrain and require greater mobility. ... The trail is for skilled trail users and wanders close to the water's edge. Walk along the headlands' rim, setting your eyes beyond the kelp beds, where Harbor Porpoises are often dipping and weaving as they search for smelt.
We didn't see any porpoises (at least I don't think we did),  but we did see lots of other wonderful sights, such as many incredibly healthy madrone trees in the park. I took several pictures of them, and I have a couple of favorites. This is one of them.
Madrone trees with their peeling bark
These trees are native to the Pacific Northwest. Learn all about them here. I have seen them on many of my hikes over the years, but today the beautiful trees I saw just amazed me with their incredible beauty. The red bark peels away to reveal the soft, smooth tree trunk, inviting you to stroke it to enjoy the velvety feeling. For me, of all the joys of today's new find, the madrone trees were the highlight.
A magnificent tree, even the dead branches
I just had to share one more picture of another madrone, this one with a few branches that have turned white and are obviously dead, but others that reach for the sky with renewed energy. It was wonderful to see so many of these trees that are obviously far enough from human interference to continue to grow and flourish.
Bouquets of pretty moss
We also saw lots of this pretty light-green moss (on the left) that carpeted the sides of the hillsides on the trail. We don't know yet what it is, exactly, but we thought maybe it would be soft, but once we found that it's a bit on the springy side, we called it "loofa moss." It sure is abundant, and we enjoyed seeing it in its amazing beauty. And then it was time to head to Bowman Bay for lunch, a place we know and have appreciated for years.
Our lunch spot
As you can see from our attire we were not very warm as we enjoyed our lunch, looking out at Bowman Bay, just a short drive from Sharpe Park. Once we finished our lunch, we walked out to the area beyond the pier to what we call Lighthouse Point. There is no longer a lighthouse there, but it's a lovely area where we have often stopped for lunch, but today it was our after-lunch excursion.
Deception Pass Bridge in the distance
As you can see here, we were on the Fidalgo Island side of the bridge, and once we walked out to the point, we made our way back to the Bowman Bay area to end our day's adventure. We stopped when we saw what seemed to be something in the water: over and over we saw either sea otters or some other creature in abundance.
Use your imagination, what are those creatures?
We saw many heads popping up beside that white buoy, and at first we thought it was a lone sea otter, but before long we realized we saw as many as eight of them at once! On the way home we tried to figure out what we saw, but as you can see from this poor attempt at a capture, we just don't know what we saw. They seemed to be having fun, though, just as we were.

It was a truly delightful day, with a small contingent of my favorite Trailblazers, where we covered what for us is not much distance of just under six miles, but a new place to discover and enjoy, and a trip for us to cherish. It could not have been much more perfect.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More signs of spring

Walking back from the bus stop just a few minutes ago, I saw these little snowdrops (Galanthus) in my neighbor's garden. A sure sign of spring, and the first flowers I've seen coming out of the ground this year. I know that other friends who live in the area (such as Linda Letters in Seattle) have shown many flowers from their gardens, just a short distance of a mere 90-some miles south of us, but these are the first I've seen.
Pussy willows
Yesterday, I saw this other sure sign that spring is right around the corner, pussy willows! Well, it is almost the end of February, so I'm not surprised. It makes me smile to to think of putting on my gardening hat and heading out to my plot, not a minute too soon, after the winter we've had.

Do you ever wonder where dreams come from? I had a vivid one last night, reminding me how often I dream in color. The scenes are so lucid, even now, that it's almost like I had experienced it for real. But I'm pretty sure I didn't really swim in a desert which contained delightfully warm water in large sandy swimming-pool sized depressions. The water was so clear and sparkling that I can still see and feel it. I would go there again if I knew how.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

It won't be long now

My soggy garden plot
I went out yesterday between spells of rain to take a look at my garden spot. I hadn't been out there since last fall, and I took out some pesky persistent buttercups, which proliferate like crazy, along with some dead plants, and noticed that in the foreground my strawberry plants are beginning to put forth green leaves. I need to clean out the old dead leaves, but not for awhile yet. It's pretty damp out there.
Think we get a little rain?
This very soggy patch is the back part of our community garden, and I smiled when I saw that green pail, filled to the brim with rainwater. The ground behind it is too wet to walk in, and that entire section in the middle of the picture is unusable, since it gets soaked during our winter months and doesn't dry out until midsummer. Nobody attempts to plant there.

Of course, this is nothing compared to the devastation that is hitting southern California right now. This NBC News segment tells about the awful floods and sinkholes that have pummeled the area. At least 4 people have died, and many thousands are without power.
From that NBC article
Even in the Pacific Northwest, this bike rider would be considered to be a little extreme, don't you think? This is yesterday in southern California! Wow!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We Rocked the Two Dollar Trail

A new trail for me
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers braved a damp day to cover more than eight miles in the Chuckanuts. We took a new (to me) trail toward Fragrance Lake, but before we got there we took another trail that led us to the South Lost Lake trail, a frequent hike for us during the winter months.
Stopping to admire the waterfall
You can see by the way we are dressed that it was on the soggy side. But the interesting thing is that it never did really rain, but instead we had a heavy mist that never really made it into fat raindrops. The trees were drippy, but the warm weather (it was around 50°F (10°C) helped us to us feel pretty comfortable, although few of us removed any clothing as we hiked.
Lisa above Fragrance Lake
After we left the Two Dollar trail, we gained some altitude above the lake, as you can see here, before we joined up with the South Lost Lake trail. Then we headed up that trail to the lovely Rock Trail on our way to Gates Overlook for lunch.
Cute little guy greeted us on the Rock Trail
At one point on the hike, we spied this guy who is keeping an eye on us, either a gnome or a miniature Sasquatch. In any event, it made me happy to know that he's out there, making sure that we are safe from marauders, even in the rain. That's Kirk's poncho, glistening in the wet.
New tables with new signs
We noticed that there are new tables and benches at Gates Overlook, with signs warning us to protect our food. We didn't stay terribly long (no chance for the raccoons), but by this time the dampness began to let up a little, and in fact from that point on, it began to seem almost, well, dry.
Fragrance Lake
On our way back down to the Two Dollar trail, we passed right by the lake, so I captured this picture to show you how lovely it is, even on days when you don't see much sunshine. If you look closely you can see a few stray drops reflected in the water. As we trekked back to the cars, we even saw a stray ray of sunlight. All in all, it was a truly fine day to be outside, since last week the weather kept us from our usual time playing outdoors. We covered 8.6 miles and more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, so I'm feeling pleasantly tired and will sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love stories

Sunrise from my front porch this morning
I walked out of the apartment just as this gorgeous scene greeted my eyes, and of course I had to stop and capture it with my phone. The soft grey clouds being lit by the first rays of the sun, well it was just the perfect way to start my day off right.

When I climbed out of bed to make my usual cup of tea, my partner stirred a little but I didn't think I woke him up. We usually rise at different times, and sometimes he's gone back to sleep by the time I crawl out of bed to start my day. This morning, however, once I got my tea and came back to bed, a hand made its way from under the covers to find mine. We clasped our hands together for awhile, and he whispered, "happy Valentines day." I wished him the same, sharing a moment in time when we were both feeling gratitude for each other and our connection. Love story number one.

Love story number two: I went to the movies this weekend and saw Paterson. Judy couldn't go, so I went by myself. It was a movie totally unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was a movie about nothing much; Adam Driver plays a bus driver who is also a poet and has a wife about as different from him as it's possible to be, but they love each other in a way that is a delight to witness in the movie. If there were an Academy Award for the Most Zen Movie, it would win hands down. I loved it, and I left the theater feeling wonderful. But it's not for everybody, that's for sure. I say that so you know what to expect.
Erica at Avellino's
And finally, love story number three is beautiful Erica, who dressed up today and was there to greet me this morning, with this visage, and a little Hershey's kiss pinned to a grumpy cat cartoon. I am surrounded with love today, everywhere, and who could ask for more? I wish YOU a very happy Valentine's Day, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Enough about snow and ice

Our lovely walk with morning
Finally! We woke this morning to overcast but not rainy skies, with peeks of sunshine coming through to bring seventeen of us ladies for a nice five- to six-mile walk on the trails south of Fairhaven. It was great to get back to a normal Bellingham winter environment. Last Saturday we didn't walk because it was icy and rainy, and the entire week's weather caused many to be housebound or at least unwilling to venture very far from home.
The last of the snow
We did see remnants of the recent snows, but these white patches are likely still here because of a snowplow having piled up the snow as the streets were cleared. That's it! I'm not sorry at all to see the last of this white stuff. I learned that on Thursday, exactly three people showed up for the two Senior Trailblazer hikes, one for the 8:00am hike (probably Al, the leader), and two at 9:00am (probably the leader and one other intrepid hiker). So I was reassured that I'd made the right decision.

Yesterday I went to my Friday yoga class, and it was crammed with people making up for missing their classes earlier in the week. We were packed in like sardines, with one fellow's feet almost in my face as we did a couple of the poses. I didn't mind a bit (they didn't smell), since we were all treated to a wonderful class. I walked out feeling great, once again.

And now the clouds are clearing off, with plenty of sunshine and warmish temperatures for the next few days. Life is good.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No hike for me today

Stepping off the bus into slush
I didn't make it to my yoga class yesterday, even though I was dressed and ready to go. As I left the house, it was beginning to snow. Hard. On top of all the snow we've had, the forecast said it was going to change from snow to freezing rain, and since I didn't know what the roads would be like in two hours, I reluctantly stayed home. It snowed and snowed, no rain.

The weather was supposed to change to heavy rain overnight, but it didn't, and when I woke to subfreezing temperatures and the freezing rain had finally begun, it made no sense to me to try to make it to the Senior Center to go on a hike in the rain and snow. But it was hard to make that sensible decision. Instead, I headed out the door at my usual time to catch a bus to the coffee shop and a strength-and-tone class I don't usually attend. What surprised me the most was how quickly the cold snow had begun to melt. Several times before I boarded the bus, I stepped into icy water well above my ankles.

But it could have been worse, way worse. I found this picture on Facebook this morning, of a car in Sumas (about thirty miles north of here). They definitely got the freezing rain. If I had seen this sort of scenario here, I would have not even bothered to go to the Y, since nobody else would be there! The elementary schools in the county were closed for a fourth day today. There were several treacherous spots where the snow is still nothing but a skating rink. A very wet one at that.
Not a pretty picture
Soon. I think life will begin to return to normal after today. Life is definitely throwing us some curve balls, eh?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Enough snow already

Our museum looking rather snowy (taken by Brittany Wagoner)
I woke today to another morning with freezing temperatures and a cold north wind. Yesterday the snow and cold caused the Whatcom school district to cancel all classes, and today the university is open, but all the other schools are still closed. Friday I drove to my yoga class and couldn't make it up some of the hills because of inches of snow,  causing even the slightest hill to become treacherous. And here it is Tuesday, and only today have I seen the sun come out. Unusual weather for us.

By Thursday, my hiking day, we are supposed to be back to rain, lots and lots of it, and temperatures more than twenty degrees warmer than today. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we do get snow and cold sometimes, but this is enough already. In the recent past, we barely got a hard freeze during the winter months, much less days of snowfall. And it's only February. At least we are past Groundhog Day, February 2, when we pass the halfway point to spring and there is actually more light than dark. We are gaining more than three minutes of daylight every day now, in the Northern Hemisphere at least. (I sometimes forget that some of my blogging friends are experiencing the opposite.)

I heard they got it even worse in Seattle, though, with up to several FEET of snow in some places. I'll bet they are happy to see the sun come out today. Hope wherever you are, you are safe and comfy. I'm sitting in my favorite chair and just finished a great lunch.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Old-growth forests

Old growth trees
It's hard to believe that it was only Thursday when I took this picture of these magnificent old trees, since today it's overcast with freezing rain and dismally cold temperatures. Friday morning I woke to a couple of inches of snow on the ground, which turned to rain later, but the cold kept the snow from melting away. Right now it's right around freezing here in Bellingham, and it's late Saturday morning.

We ladies (some of us) met to walk together, but Cindy called it off because of ice and slippery spots, not to mention it was not exactly wonderful weather, with a steady rain and wind. So this morning only a few decided to brave it, and I was not one of them. Instead, I came home and thought about my Saturday post, finally deciding to tell you about these wonderful old trees.

Since my move to the Pacific Northwest, I've learned to identify the beautiful Old Growth trees that we have met on some of our forest walks. Those trees in the above picture were taken in the natural forest lands on Hoypus Hill. To be considered an old-growth forest, according to Wikipedia,
It has attained great age without significant disturbance and thereby exhibits unique ecological features and might be classified as a climax community. Old-growth features include diverse tree-related structures that provide diverse wildlife habitat that increases the biodiversity of the forested ecosystem. ... In British Columbia, Canada, old growth is defined as 120 to 140 years of age in the interior of the province where fire is a frequent and natural occurrence. In British Columbia’s coastal rainforests, old growth is defined as trees more than 250 years, with some trees reaching more than 1,000 years of age.
Wow! Now that's old. I've been told that some of the trees I've seen around here are well over 500 years old, considering their size, and there's one place we've visited that must have even older trees. They take my breath away, they are so majestic. My biggest problem with them is that as hard as I've tried, I cannot manage to capture their beauty with a camera.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hoypus Hill and Ala Spit 2017

A motley crew
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers drove the 40-some miles from Bellingham to Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island, over the Deception Pass Bridge, on a magnificently sunny (albeit cold) day to hike around Hoypus Hill. We do this every winter; it's one of my favorite hikes when the weather is fine, like it was today.
Hoypus Hill trails
It was around 28°F (-2°C) when we began our hike, so we were bundled up pretty warmly. Since there is not much elevation gain on this hike, we traveled briskly, keeping up a good pace without any stops until we had been going for more than an hour. Usually we stop for a clothing adjustment pretty soon, but not today.
Linda took this picture of me looking very pink
I'm still wearing my pink fluffy jacket, long after I would have already taken it off, but it felt so good to be warm, and you can see the pretty ferns around me as well. Linda said my hair looked like it was reflecting my jacket, but there's still some pink left from my hair coloring adventure.
Long shadows as we regrouped
With so many of us on this hike, we had to stop every now and then and get everybody back together. There ares many trails that it makes it easy to get separated, but Al was careful to count us every so often. After traipsing around on the different trails for awhile, we then walked a short distance on the road to make our way to Ala Spit. 
Mt. Baker in the distance, Ala Spit surrounded by the bay
It's a thin strip of land (see the map) and often we cannot get there when the tide is up. But today we were able to get there easily while the tide was going out, and since we arrived right at noon, this was our lunch stop.I got this picture of Melanie and Carol on the Spit. You can tell by the depth of their clothing that it still wasn't all that warm, even though the sun felt wonderful once you got out of the wind. Some of us hunkered down behind driftwood to cut the wind, but we didn't linger all that long, not quite a half hour before heading back.
Melanie and Carol
It's hard to be too unhappy when you've got such good friends to talk with, and when you're well prepared with plenty of warm clothes. I tried to take off my coat, and I did for awhile, but once we stopped it was right back on and stayed on most of the rest of the day. It's warm as toast.
Beautiful old growth for us to enjoy
We returned along the Hoypus natural forest area, which has many beautiful old growth trees to admire. It's almost impossible to take a picture that shows the magnificence of these trees, but every time we visit them, I am again in awe of their beauty and size.
Al in front of an Old Growth tree
I was pleased to capture this picture of Al in front of a beautiful three that just kept going up and up. I had to crane my neck to see the top of this tree, so I just gave up and tried to make a picture that would show my readers their beauty. We finished our hike having covered more than nine miles, and plenty of sunshine to kiss our faces on a fine day. Tonight our rain returns, but our Thursday weather was pretty darn perfect!