Thursday, August 17, 2017

A hike good for the soul

Victoria, Frank, Halina, MaryLou, Carol, Melanie (and me)
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers showed up for a hike to Scott Paul, a favorite every year, with the weather almost perfect. It's a long drive: 125 miles round trip, and with such a large group, we drove five cars to the trailhead and broke up into two groups. One would take the loop trail clockwise; the other counter-clockwise. We stayed with the car passengers we drove up with, so we were seven and the other group was nine.
Carol and MaryLou among the flowers
My group went around the loop clockwise, and that meant a fairly hefty uphill climb for two miles until we got to the turnoff. I struggled, since we didn't have Al to set the pace, and these two strong women did, and I thought at first I could keep up. But I couldn't. Victoria and Frank stayed back with me while the others went on ahead. The scenery was magnificent, even if we had cloud cover for most of the day (which kept the temperatures down).
MaryLou and Carol, with Mt. Baker peeking out behind
Mt. Baker wasn't showing much during the first part of our hike, but I was happy for the mild temperatures. Not long after this picture was taken, we ran into our first fields of lupines.
Carpets of lupines
Just look at that incredible show of pretty purple wildflowers! But they were not the only beautiful wildflowers we saw today. It reminded me, however, that last year we didn't see very many at all; this year they were as abundant as I ever remember seeing them.
Victoria among the purple lupines
Victoria decided to put purple streaks in her hair a while back, and I couldn't resist this picture of her sitting among the lupines and showing off her hair. This picture makes me smile just to see her there! We were having lots of fun, too, as you can see.
Flowers, mountains, and trees
This mountain had just emerged from the clouds when I captured it, and I do think this scene shows how beautiful our Scott Paul loop hike was today: filled with incredible scenery, flowers, and great company. Not long after I took this picture, we ran into the other group.
Fifteen Trailblazers plus me
They had just settled in for lunch, so we joined them, and here you can see the entire group. We spent some time enjoying our lunch before separating and heading off into opposite directions. Everyone was enjoying themselves as much as we were. A few people wished for clearer skies, but there were others of us happy to have some shade as we hiked.
Mt. Baker emerging from the clouds
And we did finally get to see the mountain, and as we got closer to the end of the hike, there were plenty of moments of full sun, reminding me how happy I was to have some overcast skies for most of the day. We continued on around the loop, emerging into a beautiful forest toward the end of the hike.
Identifying flowers
Before the end, we tried to identify all the flowers we had seen today. That's MaryLou, taking pictures (I think) of some so that we could try to identify them with Melanie's flower book, back at the car. By this time, we had much more sun than clouds, but we were not far from the shady forest, so I didn't mind too much.

Just as we were finishing our loop, we ran into the other group, which was just reaching the trailhead at the same time! It was wonderful to all be together at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. We had covered around eight miles (maybe a little more) and around 2,200 feet elevation gain and loss. A fine day, not too hard, but certainly not too easy, and everyone was happy to have been out on this fine, fine day. Really a good day indeed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Looking for distractions

Big red tomato, more to come soon
I am trying to distract myself from the news, which just continues to upset me whenever I turn it on, or get a notice on my iPhone. It's hard for me to disconnect, but for my own sanity I need to. So, let's turn instead to the wonderful things happening in my neck of the woods, shall we?

First of all, I'm beginning to get fabulous tomatoes out of my garden. As I've said before, my little cherry tomatoes don't get much of a chance to even get all the way ripe, because I munch on them while watering and weeding. But look at that pretty red tomato! I just picked it yesterday and put it in the window so it might get a little riper, but it's not going to last long. Like tonight for dinner, even. I can hardly wait to bite into it, knowing I have plenty more to come.

And our air is finally clear again, with perfect temperatures and a delightful hike in the future, although I don't know where we will go or who will lead it. Al is bowing out for at least another week, and I'm not willing to step up, hoping that someone else will. I'll be there on Thursday, though, since the temperatures should be around 70°F (20C) with partly cloudy skies. We are back to our normally scheduled weather, and it sure feels good to me!

It's easy to concentrate on bad news, but it's also not necessary. I've got plenty of good books to read (right now I'm reading three, all of which make me smile), lots to watch on Netflix or Amazon (which also don't have commercials or politics unless I choose to, which I don't). Here's where SG was yesterday, admiring the view from our front porch.

A cup of tea with a view

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A change in the weather

Lily took this picture of me yesterday when we went over to my friend Judy's house to pick blueberries. We were going to a U-Pick-Em place when Judy mentioned that she had so many ripe blueberries that she needed some help keeping up with them. So we both happily filled large containers full before we headed back home. I can see why it's a hard job: we were hot and tired within a short while, and although we took lots of them, there were many more left,  with green ones showing Judy will be swimming in blueberries for quite a while yet.

Last night a stiff breeze blew into our area and scoured out the sky. When I saw the sunrise this morning, with lots of puffy clouds, I could actually see my shadow when the sun emerged from behind a cloud.  For the last week and a half, we've been inundated with smoke and haze from the BC forest fires, as well as above average temperatures. Well, now we have returned to our regularly scheduled blue skies!

Lily and I went on our own walk this morning and didn't join the ladies. We were both not in the mood for hills and walked to Fairhaven and back, stopping there for a wonderful breakfast before returning to Bellingham. The cool weather and clear skies were such a treat. A fantastic start to the weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Totally unexpected great hike

A chilly start to our hike today
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to talk about our hike with me as the leader, no Al, wondering where to go since it's hot and the air quality is still bad from the forest fires in BC. Linda and Peggy decided to go up to Church Mountain on their own, because they only wanted to go part way and not to the top. The rest of us realized that we didn't have enough cars capable of navigating the bumpy forest road to the trailhead, so we considered options. Melanie said she saw that the air quality near the coast was better than anywhere else today, so we decided to go to Deception Pass and hike up to Goose Rock, one of our winter hikes.
Fog and mist without smoky skies
We started out in heavy fog, which is one reason it was so chilly, but before long we could see it begin to lift, and as we exerted ourselves it was downright perfect hiking weather and we were able to shed a layer of clothes.
Madrone tree
This area has lots of beautiful madrone trees, which I never fail to appreciate when we're there. Notice the green layer under the red on this magnificent tree. We had a pleasant trip to the top of Goose Rock, even though I took us on an unscheduled detour. I was forgiven once we got to the summit. Although it was early, we decided to have lunch, since it was sunny and rather glorious.
Melanie telling us about her parachute jump
Melanie, it turns out, had quite an experience during her first parachute jump (she had a malfunction) and is explaining here how she fixed the problem. Behind her you can see the remaining fog over the water, which is also obscuring the Naval Base in the middle distance. Maybe it was because of the fog that the usual touch-and-go activity of the jets was much less than normal.
Looking at Victoria, you can tell she was quite comfortable in just a shirt, standing in front of a madrone tree with fog and sky behind her. The awful smoke that we have been dealing with was completely gone today in this area, and we all appreciated the clean air, the mild temperatures, and the absence of any bugs!
Our lovely trail
We took a meandering way back so that we could cover a little extra distance, rather than head straight back to the cars. Nobody was in any hurry to have today's lovely hike end too soon. Once we got close to the area where we started, we decided to finish our day walking along the beach.
Ambling slowly along the beach
Here you can see the Deception Pass bridge in the background, with a shallow layer of fog still remaining over the water. It was still early in the day, and we knew that when we returned to Bellingham, we'd be leaving this lovely air and cool temperatures behind, so we decided not to hurry.
Boys will be boys
Of course, you can't find a beach where the young men in the group wouldn't want to skip rocks! Although there weren't too many good ones, that didn't deter our two guys from trying. The rest of us scrambled to find some decent ones for them to play with. Finally we decided to finish our hike (more  like a stroll at this point) and head back home.
Boat and fog
I saw this boat emerge from the fog and managed to get a pretty good picture, I thought. While we were walking along the beach, I had forgotten how much my feet don't really like tromping through loose sand and rocks, so I was glad to get back to the trail. We had covered somewhere around a short seven miles by the time we returned to our starting point, happy to have had a respite from the smoke and heat.

One funny story I forgot to mention: when we arrived at the trailhead, Ellen realized she had forgotten her boots. Fortunately the trail was fairly easy to navigate, so Frank decided to hike in his sneakers and gave his boots to Ellen for the day. Although they were a bit on the large side, they worked perfectly for this particular hike, so I think this was where we were meant to be today!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our weekly hike is up for grabs

Mountain gal
Melanie took this picture of me in front of Mt. Baker on our hike last week. I laughed when I saw it; I was using the scarf under my hat to keep the bugs away from my face, once we got to the ridge and I could take off my bug net. It was horribly hot and without much breeze, even on the ridge I was suffering from their constant assault. This helped a little.

Well, just yesterday Al sent around an email to the group to let us know he will not be hiking with us this Thursday. His wife is in the hospital with heart issues and is undergoing a series of tests. Hopefully she will be all right, but Al is understandably not willing to be out of reach for the day. He asked if anyone is willing to step in, and I foolishly said that I would be willing to go up to Church Mountain, rather than Lake Ann (which is long and mostly without any shade) if someone would share the leadership duties with me.

Now I'm wishing I hadn't volunteered, since now I'm on the spot. I've tried very hard not to get into a leadership position on the hikes, because I like to complain about how other people do it and how much better I'd be at it (not!). But so far, nobody has stepped up so maybe I can still back out. We'll see what happens. The smoke from the BC forest fires is still an issue, with a weather change in sight but not soon enough for Thursday. 

In the meantime, I've stocked up on repellent and bought a long-sleeved shirt. Sigh. Wish I'd kept my mouth shut.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lazy hazy Saturday

The beans are coming, the beans are coming!
Look at the scarlet runner beans: the beautiful scarlet flowers are turning into beans. I have to smile and pat myself on the back, since these beans are the product of beans planted by me in starter packets, and I didn't even know where the bean pods would show up, until I saw them. This neophyte gardener, even those with five years of planting under her belt, is still surprised every time she gets food from her efforts. And the scarlet runner beans are so pretty, too!

This morning we ladies walked around five miles in cool, breezy weather, with haze from the forest fires in British Columbia cutting the full effects of the sun. Our walk was lovely, and Lily stopped several times to pick blackberries, which are beginning to ripen and attract passersby. See?
Lily's blackberry haul
We ate so many of them; it was hard to stop because every once in awhile there would be one so delicious that you wanted another. Some are a little tart, but they are all simply delightful, not to mention FREE! And now I'm home thinking I should soon be getting hungry again. Life is good on this lazy, hazy Saturday.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Challenging Skyline Divide

Frank (left) and Al in his net (right)
We were supposed to head up to Lake Ann, but it's a hike mostly in the sun with lots of elevation gain and almost twice as long as what we did today on Skyline Divide. Only eight Senior Trailblazers showed for today's hike in unusually hot weather, but that was the easiest part of the challenge. The hard part was the constant biting flies and the occasional mosquito. Frank is wearing long sleeves to combat the bugs. Al was slathered with bug juice, as were we all, but there were so many it was impossible to keep them off. I swear the repellent attracted them! He's wearing his head net.
The flies don't care about the repellent
This was at the start of the hike, and I had sprayed all my clothes with 40% DEET bug juice. They don't seem to mind it, and I began to wonder if they have become attracted to it. They bit me through all the stuff but not through my clothes, thank goodness.
Gaining the ridge
On this hike we travel on a partially shady trail, two miles uphill to the ridge and a magnificent view of Mt. Baker, which is hazy through the smoke from the fires in British Columbia. We've been having some haze and smoke for days now. I didn't expect to see the mountain look this good.
The flowers were amazing
As we trudged upward, I could see these fields of flowers through the netting I was wearing over my hat, because I got tired of inhaling the flies and having them constantly buzzing in my ears as I swatted them away, a useless exercise. Even though the netting was hot, it kept them off my face.
Walking the ridge to our lunch spot
We walked a bit on the up-and-down ridge trail, looking for a lunch spot to catch the light breeze and maybe even find some shade. After a fairly short distance (we usually go much farther), we found a nice place for lunch. Three Trailblazers were not ready to quit, so they went farther along the ridge while we found some shade and enjoyed our lunch, even if some of the bugs had found us. At least once we reached the ridge, they were not as bad as at lower elevations.
A snowfield to cross, Baker behind
We didn't feel much like sitting around swatting the bugs after lunch, so we went off in the direction of the others, knowing they would be meeting us at 1:00pm before we all went back down. When we would catch a little of the slight breeze, it was pretty wonderful, since even though it was hot and buggy, it was also rather beautiful. The longer we stayed on the ridge, the more we could see Baker.
An exposed spot on the trail
I was glad we made it to this place, because I always enjoy the scary traverse. It's not long, but you sure don't want to fall right here. It goes down a long ways, a good way to increase my adrenaline. Plus it made for a good picture.
Ridge trail
We finally ran into the other three and then we all headed back the way we had come. You can see the winding trail along the ridge, where we retraced our steps before heading back into the trees and down to the trailhead. You can see the hazy hills behind the ridge.
Return trip
As we went back down the trail, once we traveled down this open area, we were in the trees, but since we were moving more quickly, going downhill, the bugs didn't bother us as badly as they did on the way up. We got down to the cars before 3:00pm and headed down the twelve-mile-long road back to the highway and the ice cream shop before it was all over.

I have done this hike many times, in sun and rain, but I never experienced bugs like these before. I'm not sure why they were so bad; probably because of the sun and heat, but I really don't know for sure. I will not be going on any more hikes this year without plenty of repellent and my skin completely covered. My face netting will stay with me as well!

Now, however, I'm home, showered and hydrated. I'm thinking a nice glass of wine should hit the spot!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Heat wave

From Climate Prediction Center
Yes, a heat wave for us, at least. It looks like those who live in the middle of the country will be having some relief from the heat for awhile. Notice that this is valid for August 7–11. I learned about the Climate Prediction Center during my working years, and I still use it to see what it says about temperatures and precipitation around the United States. I find it funny that all of Canada is blank, left out because of a political border. I do think some of it can be extrapolated from the broad outlines, but I apologize to my Canadian readers for the missing information.

We are right at the beginning of the heat wave, and I woke this morning to hazy skies, sent to us from British Columbia, which is having devastating wildfires. The wind direction changed from our usual onshore to offshore flow, and the natural sea breeze that keeps us cool even when it gets really hot won't return until Friday, when the temperatures will back off a little. I found this article online about the heat wave. We don't usually ever see triple digits, so none of us have air conditioning. Our trusty fans will be in full use for the month of August, it seems.

We are supposed to be heading to Lake Ann this Thursday, which is a nine-mile hike, most of it in full sun. I'm wondering if I might decide to take a day off! But I might miss something and I hate to think of my buddies suffering without me.