Thursday, June 21, 2018

Excelsior Pass, almost

Excelsior Pass trail, close to the start
Today fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to attempt to make Excelsior Pass or, hopefully, Excelsior Peak. Since we were over the Forest Service limit of 12, we had four people who decided to try for the peak and broke into their own group, while the rest of us would attempt to reach Excelsior Pass. This is a hard hike, nine miles round trip and more than 3,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. We never saw the other group as we trudged up towards the pass.
Some of the group
I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful day we were given: the overcast skies at the beginning (which never showed any sign of turning into rain) kept us cool as we labored up the trail, and we began to see signs of sun breaks as we ascended.
Yep, plenty of snow up there still
And then, at about 4,100 feet of elevation, we ran into snow. Not just a little bit, but plenty of it obscuring the trail. Al's GPS kept us running into parts of it, showing we were on the right track.
Heading upwards on the snow
Up, up we went, but the snow made it very slow going. By this time, we didn't know how far the snow continued, whether we'd make our way out of it on our upward push.
Excelsior Pass and Peak
Finally we got high enough to get a glimpse of our intended destination. Behind those two trees in the middle of the picture is the peak, and to its left is the trail to the pass. Between us there is pretty much nothing but snow and more snow. So we gave up our desire to reach the summit and sat down to enjoy our lunch.
Today's lunch spot on the snow
There was a very light breeze, but most of us didn't even need to put on more than a light jacket as we savored the food we had hauled up to this spot. Before we started down, some of us pulled out our yaktrax and microspikes to strap onto the bottom of our boots. My 75th birthday gift from Melanie was finally used, my own microspikes. They certainly helped in my descent to the trail. They are their first use, but definitely not their last.
Most of the snow is done
We stopped to take off our gear once we reached mostly trail. You can see the last of the snow behind us as we rested once again before finishing our trip back to the cars.
Returning to the cars
And as we descended, we enjoyed plenty of lush greenery all around us. Since we gained more than 3,000 feet of elevation during the day, we passed through many microclimates: while in Bellingham the salmon berries are ripe; up here they are still blossoms. And the trillium, while gone from lower elevations, are still here for a while yet.
Trillium quartet
I love these flowers and am always happy when I get to see them once again for the season. I was so pleased to see these and am glad to share them with my readers.
Wild ginger blossom
I saw a patch of wild ginger and remembered that Peggy had told me to look under the leaves for a glimpse of their flower. And here is one, a beautiful alien blossom, which I am thrilled to have captured. I was very tired as we continued our return trip, which turned out to be eight miles and 3,100 feet up and down. No wonder I'm so tired now.
Al and me
But before I go, I'd like to share this picture of Al and me looking a bit like the old hippies we are. I had put the band around my head to catch the sweat that was blinding me, and when someone commented on its look, I decided to see for myself. Yep, we are old hippies, all right. What a great day, and I'm happy I went along.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It won't be long now

One of my three zucchini plants
I think there will be enough zucchini if they continue along at this pace for me to feed the entire community. I'm so pleased to see them doing so well, since last year they didn't flourish like this. Hence, my decision to have three plants this year. I remember the first time I grew zucchini, I saw an enormous yellow blossom and was thrilled. The next day when I went into the garden, it was beginning to shrivel up. Why, I wondered, is it not working? Well, that is when I discovered that the zucchini emerges from the flower itself. I am a much more experienced gardener this year, and our bounty will be shared so that nothing is wasted.
First raspberries beginning to turn color
And look! Our raspberries are continuing to ripen, and I'd guess that in another week I'll be harvesting some of them. I love this gardening business, I really do.
Too many books
I also put in a request on line at the library website when there is a book I'd like to read. Sometimes I know it will be a long wait because the book is new or popular, but most of the above books were recommended by someone, and suddenly they all showed up at once! If no one else has requested a book, I can renew it, but if anybody wants it, I cannot. So, between puttering in the garden and my regular exercise routine, I'll have at least one of these going for the next few weeks.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Fun Saturday morning

From the fun Messenger app
This morning when Lily and I went to the coffee shop to get our fuel (coffee) before our walk with the ladies, she introduced me to this fun app on Messenger. Now, I just checked and it doesn't work on my iPad, but on my iPhone, the camera button that displays at the bottom in Messenger gives me a choice of plenty of fun things to add to my selfies. I took this one with John, proving that we are indeed both a couple of aging hippies!
Me and Lily with makeup
And this one shows what Lily and I would look like wearing some makeup and funny little headbands. It's a lot of fun and I might be spending a bit of time playing with this app. Aren't we cute?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Drippy Church Mountain hike

Ready for our Thursday outing
Interestingly, as I was getting ready to write this post, I looked up our first wilderness hike from last year, and it was only eight of us heading up to the Church Mountain meadows. Today was similar, except that we had fourteen of us, and we expected that the weather would improve as the day progressed. That was what we hoped, anyway. Light rain and mist greeted us at the trailhead.
Columbines are in bloom
Not far from the trailhead, I saw that these native columbines are in abundant bloom. It was green and lush everywhere we looked, except for when we looked up.
Our environment on the trail today
There were only a few times today when we cast a shadow on the trail; most of the time it looked like this. Not really raining, but a heavy mist hung on us most of the day. I kept expecting that any minute it would begin to clear, and we would have at least a tiny view of the gorgeous mountains that surrounded us, but it was not to be.
At the meadows
We reached the meadows and saw that they are still covered in deep snow, and it became obvious once we left the shelter of the trees that it was not just drips from the trees that kept us wet, it was raining lightly.
Today's lunch spot
We decided to climb up to a place where the trees might shelter us while we made a quick but satisfying lunch stop, rather than head out onto the snow and slog a ways towards our usual place, when there would be no view at all. It was not really cold, but everything was damp and once we stopped, everyone began to get uncomfortable. We didn't linger there for long.
Melanie's picture from our lunch spot
The amount of snow in the meadow is similar to what we saw last year, as you can see from the above link. Other hikers had gone farther; you make out their faint tracks across the snow. Who knows how far they went? We were ready to take our return trip back to the cars once we finished our lunch.
On our way back
Although everyone isn't in this picture, I wanted to document our beautiful surroundings as we headed back. Most of us were warm enough, even if we weren't exactly dry. It was good to be moving.
We saw this relative of the Indian Pipe family, an interesting fungus. The plants of the Indian Pipe family are saprophytes, meaning that they have no chlorophyll and they feed on dead organic matter in the soil. You can read more about them here. I've seen them many times on these trails, and they are always a curiosity. Melanie took the above picture; those are her trekking poles in the background.
Almost back to the cars
As you can see from this picture, a light rain never really stopped, but we didn't mind too much since we were soon to be warm and dry. We only hiked around six miles round trip, but there was plenty of elevation to make up for it, with a steady uphill hike of somewhere around 2,500 feet (800 meters).

I was grumbling about the wetness of the day, but we no sooner got in our cars to drive home when the sun began to emerge from the clouds. And about halfway home, we realized that the rain and clouds did not extend to our home turf. We had driven more than an hour so that we could hike in rain, while it was DRY at lower elevations. But it was very beautiful nevertheless, our first High Country hike of the season. We will be back to Church Mountain again this season.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A lovely place to live

Roger, standing, me, John
A friend took this picture today of the three of us enjoying our coffee and playing on our devices. John looked at the picture and immediately complained about his shiny scalp. He's getting so brown from being outdoors in his garden and riding the lawn mower around his grounds, keeping things under control. Gene didn't show up this morning, but we managed to have fun without him.
My front porch potted flowers
And just now I took a quick shot of my pretty flowers on the front porch. Every year I get new ones, just whatever strikes my fancy, and they give me great pleasure whenever I sit outside with a glass of wine, or when I open the front door on my way somewhere else. Brings a smile to my face every time. You can see we are overcast today, but it's very mild and most pedestrians aren't even bothering with a jacket. It's just a wonderful place to live, if you don't mind a little rain now and then (understatement is on purpose).

Saturday, June 9, 2018

My first visit with Luena

Luena and SG in front of Whatcom Falls
Although I have had this sister-in-law for ages, I only met her briefly a quarter of a century ago. Now that her husband has passed away and she's downsized into a smaller home, she is getting reacquainted with relatives, like her brother. She arrived earlier this week and the two of them have spent long hours together, reminiscing about their childhood and shared memories.
Luena, me, Hedi, Lily (taken by Dan)
Yesterday evening, during Luena's last night here in Bellingham, we had a nice gathering at Hedi's and Dan's apartment to introduce her to some of my friends. Luena had brought a bottle of lovely wine, and we proceeded to make short work of it as we also enjoyed a few snacks. Both Luena and I have eaten out way more often than usual for us, and we weren't interested in yet another restaurant dinner.

She caught the shuttle this morning to fly back to her home in southern California today. It's been a truly wonderful time, and I look forward to getting to know her better in future visits.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Noisy Creek 2018

Maidenhair fern
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers gathered to make our annual trip to Noisy Creek on Baker Lake, a LONG 75-mile drive one way, but well worth it. This particular hike along the lake takes us from the trailhead to the Noisy Creek campground, with incredibly lovely views. I am a fan of maidenhair ferns, which grow in profusion along the side of the trail, always near water.
Melanie and Victoria in front of Hidden Creek
We cross many roaring creeks on the way to the noisy one, but they are ALL remarkedly beautiful to look at. We had several hikers who had never been here before: Victoria was one of them.
Peggy stopping for a quick picture
The sun came and went all day long, mostly cloudy but occasionally the sun would light up the trees, as in this picture. But whether we were in sun or clouds, the lush greenery filled our hearts with gladness. We made our way to the campground, where we would have lunch.
Our lunch spot
We found a nice sunny spot for our lunch break, while some of our number decided to make a short hike up to the magnificent Old Growth trees. I was tired and had already seen these trees a few times already, so I enjoyed a leisurely lunch instead.
Baker lake
There was a pretty good breeze whipping up the lake, and although we only got a glimpse or two of the mountain, we all enjoyed the company and the amazing views as we spent a fairly long break at the lake. Once we were all together again, it was difficult to make the decision to start back the way we had come. This is an out-and-back hike, at least five miles each way.
Trail to the Noisy Creek bridge
Since some of our hikers had never been all the way to the Noisy  Creek bridge, they followed the path down this trail to enjoy seeing it. The water really is that pretty turquoise color. And then it was finally time to make the return trip.
Peggy and I taking a quick break on the way back
As often happens, the return seemed longer than the trip out. We like to call this the result of the "trail stretcher" that sometimes appears to make us notice how tired we are on the final trip back to the cars.
Victoria and Louann
I did ask these two hikers if they would allow me to to take a picture of one of my very favorite trees on the way back. It's a magnificent cedar tree that is probably older than all three of our ages added together. And it was a fitting end to my chronicle of today's wonderful excursion into the beautiful wilderness we visited today. Now I am happy and just took the last swig of my wine as I finish this post. I hope you all will enjoy this as much as I did in experiencing it today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Garden coming along

Beans and tomatoes
I've got a beanstalk or three, as you can see here. And in the background is my tomato plant with flowers! Now that we are in the month of June, the garden is filled with bumblebees and gardeners, happily looking forward to lots of good things to eat before long.
Salad greens galore
Remember those spicy salad greens I planted? Well, here they are in their full glory, and some of them have begun to blossom. Time to go out there and snip a few. And they are spicy, I must say. Most of them have quite a kick.
Corn and zucchini plants
Here you can see some corn starts, a tomato plant, and zucchini in the upper left corner. What a haul we're going to have. And then there's the raspberry plants! Take a look at the blossoms:
Raspberries coming soon
I don't know how long it will be before they begin to ripen, but the stalks are loaded with them. Oh, yum!
Carter's lovely plot
One of our new gardeners, Carter, has been painstakingly caring for his plants, and they sure do look healthy and in well-ordered rows. My plot has never looked like his, since I don't plant in such nice rows. The vegetables don't seem to care, but I must say it sure looks nice, doesn't it? Yay for gardens!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Nice Saturday mix

Squalicum Bay
This morning on the walk with the ladies, I saw the bank covered with all those flowers and decided to try to capture it. I didn't do all that well, but still it was worth the effort. The skies threatened most of the morning, but not one raindrop fell, and now it's sunny. However, it's supposed to rain most of the day tomorrow.

I worked in the garden this afternoon and felt too hot in the sun, although it only reached 72°F (22°C). I'm afraid I've become something of a Pacific Northwest hothouse flower, uncomfortable when it gets over 65. And we've got all of July and August ahead of us, with the temperature reaching into the high 80s. I will manage, but I won't be happy with those temperatures.

I realized at this late hour that I hadn't written a post for today, so this attempt is just to make myself feel better about my memory going. Sigh.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Chuckanut Ridge trail

Most of the group today
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers set out to do a scheduled hike of the entire Chuckanut Ridge. We have done parts of it this past winter and spring, but today we did the whole enchilada: 10.5 miles and 2,700 feet up and down. It was cool and cloudy for most of the day, perfect conditions to keep us moving.
Melanie was today's hike leader
Since Melanie had volunteered to lead this hike, she started us out at the North Chuckanut trailhead and took us up the Hemlock trail to the North Lost Lake trail and then to the Chuckanut Ridge trail. There's a fair bit of uphill to this spot, but then when we reached the actual ridge, it was a lot of steep up and steep down.
The exposed roots mark the start of the hard part
At this point, we had been hiking for a couple of hours, on our way to Gates Overlook, where we would stop for lunch. Although you can't see it, the breeze kept us cool as we struggled upwards, and then downwards. Not far from this spot, although we had been climbing and descending, Al pointed out that our actual elevation gain was only 100 feet from where we started!
Can you see how far down it goes?
I tried to capture a picture that shows how steep the ridge trail is here, but it didn't work all that well. You simply do not want to step out to the left, because that would be the end of you. Magnificent but worth taking care, for sure.
Showing the steep drop-off to the right
Once while I stopped to take a quick bathroom break, I captured the others waiting and another attempt to show the ridge. You can see our trail and what a beautiful day it was. Everybody was in a very good mood, as well.
Gates Overlook
When we got to Gates Overlook around noon, we had a partial view of Bellingham Bay, and many empty stomachs. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, with several picnic tables to accommodate us, and then we started back down.
Melanie, Chris, Rich at the junction
At this point, we came to a junction that would take us back down to the cars, but it was a bit longer than the way we had come up, allowing us to avoid the worst of the steep ups and downs on the ridge. You can see the signs behind this threesome showing that we had choices to make. Our leader (along with some direction from Al) got us going in the right direction.
Some view on our return
On the way back, this spot was completely socked in earlier, but by mid-afternoon began to clear a little. We still couldn't see Mt. Baker, but several other hiking areas had begun to emerge from the clouds.
Our beautiful trail in the Chuckanuts
Our trail was well marked and well maintained, as you can see here. We covered, as I said earlier, more than ten miles and more than half a vertical mile up and down. And still, I feel so much better after today's hike that I thought I would, that I can chalk up this day as a WIN. What better way to give an old hiker a good day than to be able to cover this distance in the presence of so many friends, and still feel good at the end of the day? Yes, a very good day.