Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sunny and glorious

Early bloomers
Today there were 22 of us ladies who met on a cold and clear Saturday to walk to Fairhaven and up Taylor Avenue and then down the stairs. Some women decided to go up the avenue and down the stairs, while others (me included) walked up Mill Street, so we could go up the stairs and down the steep street instead. It's easier on my knees, and the day was simply beautiful whichever direction you took. Blue cloudless skies and no wind made us warm up quickly. Starting out was cold, but it didn't last long as we hustled along. We all met up again and started back.
New building going up in Fairhaven
I smiled at the whale going through the side of this building. It's being called the Orca Building, so I guess the whale makes sense. It certainly is an eye catcher. No wonder they are listed as endangered if they act like this (smile).
Almost back to level ground
Taylor Avenue has an elevation of somewhere around 400-500 feet in a short distance, which is why it's such a great workout. Here you can see some of my women friends walking ahead; we were on our way back to our starting point. It was just simply a perfect way to begin the weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lizard Lake and North Butte

Car windshield this morning
I knew it got cold last night, since after enduring an inch of rain in the past two days, it cleared off last night and got quite COLD. But when I went out to the car before sunrise and saw these ice crystals on the windshield, I was mesmerized by their beauty. The apartment lights shine through, illuminating them. This kind of ice is also pretty tough to scrape off, but I managed. Sixteen Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to drive south to Blanchard Mountain.
Map of our trail
We drove to the Upper Trailhead and hiked on the Lily-Lizard trail all the way to Lizard Lake campground. The lake is still frozen, but the vast majority of the trail is clear.
Sunlight dappling the frozen lake
We stopped here for a brief snack, before continuing on the British Army trail at the top of that map. We noticed that there is plenty of beaver activity (see the tree in the middle of the picture?) At the bottom of the tree, you can see lots of beaver tracks. That tree is not going to be standing long, I think.
Another well chewed tree
This one is bathed in sunlight and caught my eye. All the wood chips underneath are fresh, so this tree is also scheduled for the beaver lodge. We couldn't see it, so it is probably under the ice. They've been busy as, well, you know.
Some of our large group today (taken by Melanie)
We then continued on the British Army trail until just before it ended, turned around and retraced our steps until we got to the red line in the picture and took the Lily-Lake connector trail to North Butte. Since it was such a nice day, we knew we would have a wonderful view of Samish Bay as we ate our lunch.
Looking out towards the Olympics, the bay in view
I would have taken a few more pictures, but there were so many of us scattered around the rocks (with a rather daunting drop-off) that I contented myself with this one. A few high clouds obscured the sun where we were, but you can see many places where it was full sun.
Pretty waterfall
We saw lots of evidence of the recent rain, but it had also cleared most of the trail so only now and then did we have icy patches to cross over. I know that a couple of weeks ago, it was snowy everywhere in this area. After lunch at the Butte, we went back down to Lizard Lake and picked up the Alternate Incline trail.
Frank's sweatshirt
I also have to share with you Frank's sweatshirt, which he wore today, although yesterday was Pi Day. He said it was a birthday gift from a few years ago. It made me smile every time I looked at it.

By the time we had reached the BL-ML road, we had to walk the final mile on it, before reaching the cars. We had covered a little more than nine miles and 2,300 feet elevation gain and loss. And now I'm home, finished with my post, and am looking forward to the wine I earned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Our weather is back to normal

Sunrise from my front porch
Last weekend we had some of the most beautiful weather I've seen around here in ages. Just yesterday, we reached a new record high for the date in Bellingham, and we beat that record by 6°F! I didn't need even a light jacket to walk around in the amazing sunshine.

But today I woke to clouds and, while it's still warm, it's normal temperatures again. Somehow it feels much more normal to have some rain in the forecast, and temperatures in the more average range. Anyway, it was sure fun while it lasted. I do hope it isn't a harbinger for the summer being much warmer than normal. Usually I love the summers here because it doesn't get too hot.

Whatever, there's nothing I can do about it but enjoy it, or grumble about it. So I'll just say thanks and plant some flowers. They are busy popping up all over the place!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Not a cloud in the sky

Lily, Cindy, Maria
There was only one day this past week with lots of rain: Thursday. But today, Saturday, there isn't a cloud to be seen anywhere, and we ladies had a wonderful walk in the sunshine along the Interurban trail to Arroyo Park. Some of us (these three and me) didn't go the entire way, for various reasons, but we sure did have fine weather for our outing. Cold and clear, no wind, just perfect for walking.

Lily is back from her month-long excursion to Guatemala to visit her family, and it sure is nice to see her again. She's not quite up to the brisk pace the other ladies kept up this morning, and Cindy has hurt her knee. I really prefer the slower pace myself, but I do manage to struggle to keep up if nobody else is willing to walk more slowly with me. I love this group and it takes quite a bit to keep me from going out with them. What a beautiful day!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

We found Lost Lake

Fragrance Lake trail in the mist
Nine of us Senior Trailblazers showed up for a walk in the rain. The forecast didn't leave much doubt, so everyone was prepared for it, and we discussed our options before starting out. Our scheduled hike was again not a good one for the weather, so we decided to hike to Lost Lake instead, via the Fragrance Lake trailhead.
Turkey tail fungus
Usually we hike up the road to the Lost Lake turnoff, but it's closed at the moment, so we did an out-and-back hike, going both up and down the Fragrance Lake trail. It's very pretty, a bit on the steep side, but it gave us a chance to see this fungus on the side of a log. We didn't see the sun all day, but it was very pleasant nevertheless.
Taking off some of our rain gear
It was raining lightly when we started out, but heading up the steep trail, we realized we were too warm and decided to shed some of our gear, since the rain was nothing we couldn't handle, and the mild weather allowed us to be quite comfy during the first part of our hike. Although we had to stop and put stuff on and off, we were delighted that the rain was minimal.
Kirk, Chris, Richard, Peggy, Al, Jim, Frank (Mel in front)
We made it to our favorite rock in time for lunch, at Lost Lake (behind us). While we enjoyed our lunch, the wind came up and made patterns in the lake and whistled through the trees.
Our lunch spot
The rain picked up at the same time as the wind, so we finished our lunch and began our return trip. It wasn't a long lunch break, but it was fun to sit in relative comfort before heading back the way we had come. However, by the time we started back, the rain and wind were in full force.
The boggy swamp didn't allow for slipping
This particular section of the Lost Lake trail is always challenging, and today was no exception. Nobody fell in, but Al did stick a trekking pole into a spot where it went into the bog alarmingly far. He didn't take that way across after all and found another way. We all made it without incident.
Four ladies' rain gear
I asked Jim to take a picture of the four women who were on the hike, from behind, to get a sense of our degree of wetness, and our preparedness. Rain hats, raincoats, and pack covers made all the difference in our ability to stay relatively dry today.

By the time we reached the cars, we had traveled around ten miles and 2,000 feet up and down. No wonder I'm feeling a bit tired right now; there is nothing more I need to do today, now that my post is written. What's that sound? Oh, that's just my wine calling...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Signs of spring

Yellow crocus popping up
On the way to the gym from the coffee shop this morning, I saw these pretty yellow crocuses have opened and reassure me that indeed, nothing is going to stop the flowering from taking over and blessing me with a gorgeous Pacific Northwest springtime.
Purple crocus too
And then, by the back door of the parking lot as I left the gym, I saw that these lovely purple crocuses are also busy announcing the advent of spring and enjoying the full sunshine we are having today. Sadly, the sunshine will be gone in time for our hike on Thursday, but nothing will dampen my enjoyment today!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sublime Saturday

Early morning at Lake Padden
This morning, we ladies were gathering at Lake Padden for our two loops around the lake when I looked up to see a two-person kayak in the water, and in just the few seconds between taking out my phone and getting the picture, the kayak had slipped between the trees. It was so close to being a perfect shot, but alas, here's what I got instead.

Nevertheless, it shows the excellent weather and lack of wind as we set out for a chilly walk. By the time I had reached the far shore of the lake, however, I was pulling off clothing and marveling at how warm it suddenly seemed. It's that effort that makes me warm. When you exercise in temperatures below 64 degrees, you increase the amount of calories you burn, according to a study at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. It was 35 when we started out and warmed to around 40°F by the time we finished.

 I found this interesting website online while looking for information about why it feels so good to exercise when it's cold outside. This one lists six reasons why it's even more important to exercise in winter. It says that
The rise in your body temperature, during a workout, has a soothing, calming effect on your body, not unlike a long soak in a warm bath or lying in front of the heater.
I can attest to the truth of that statement. Anyway, I'm not done for the day, but I certainly do feel soothed and calm right now!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A change in plans

Our group today (plus me)
When we met at the Senior Center to talk about the schedule, which had us heading up Blanchard Mountain and the British Army trail, Al showed us a picture sent to him by a fellow hiker showing lots and lots of snow at Lily Lake, which would have been our destination on that hike. Nope, let's not go there, we decided. Instead, we went to Chuckanut Ridge. Eleven of us spent the day in sun and clouds, cool but without any rain or snow, except a tiny bit of the white stuff on the trail.
Discussing our options
It was a nice day, and once we reached the ridge, we expected a better view than the one we received, since clouds covered the mountains, but the sun felt so good we decided to go ahead and walk farther along the ridge.
MaryLou amidst the signs
Once we got to this junction, it was still too early for lunch, and we didn't really want to go too much farther along the ridge, because from this point on it becomes much more difficult, with lots of ups and downs and would make our hike longer than we'd like. So, we only went a short distance past this point before we turned around and looked for a place to have lunch.
It's a long way down
This was the view from my lunch spot. We found as much sun as we could as we spent a short time enjoying our lunch before heading back down. We decided we'd also stop at Chuckanut Falls on our way back.
Oyster shells
Someone had decorated this tree with some oyster shells, for some reason we didn't know, but they were pretty and reminded me that soon we'll be having lots of flowers decorating our walks. Not today, though; we smiled at the shells and left them alone.
Jim, Frank, Sue, Chris, LouAnn, me, MaryLou, Owen
Melanie took this picture at Chuckanut Falls, while Al stayed up at the trail and skipped the side trip. This nice little overlook of the falls is downhill and added somewhere around an additional mile to the hike.
Chuckanut Falls
Then we had to walk back up to join Al and, eventually, the Hemlock trail. We meandered down the trail, making somewhere around 8 miles total, with some elevation gain, around 2,000 feet, I think.
Our trail back to the cars
It was a lovely day, and everyone enjoyed themselves, I believe. We were not hampered by the weather and it was nice to see a couple of faces I'd missed having around, like Jim (he's back from travels and cruises) and Owen (usually hikes with the other group). Now I'm home and feeling glad to have had another wonderful day with the Trailblazers.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My city has its own flag

Bellingham's official flag
Last year on Flag Day, Bellingham unveiled an original flag, created by Bradley James Lockhart (see his page about the flag and his other endeavors here). Basically, it depicts several unique aspects of our fair city. First of all, the four green stripes represent the four original towns that combined into one to become today's city: Bellingham, Sehome, Fairhaven, and Whatcom. (Whatcom is also the name of our county, and it comes from Chief Whatcom, the name of which translates into "noisy waters," also depicted in the three wavy lines in the blue circle.)

The two stars represent our two local Native American tribes, the Nooksack and the Lummi. The blue circle also represents Bellingham Bay. Lockhart describes it all in more detail on the link I provided above. Anyway, I think it's a lovely design and it's the first time I've lived somewhere that had its own flag!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another snowy day

Whatcom Falls this morning
I woke this morning to a phone call from John, my coffee shop friend, asking if I wanted him to come pick me up on his way to Avellino's. "Why?" I asked. He said it was snowing like crazy and there was plenty of snow on the roads, too. I said that I wanted to go walking with the ladies if it was still happening, so I decided to drive myself. There was very little additional snow, and the roads were fine. But when John arrived, his car was covered with several inches of snow, although mine had none. What a difference a few miles made, depending on where in the county you live.

In any event, I went walking with the ladies and we decided to keep it flat so we wouldn't slip and fall on the snowy surfaces. Only eight of us showed up, but I was happy that we were able to go out at all.
Admiring the falls
Although it was cold to start, we warmed up quickly and caught some snowflakes as we walked, but by the time we finished our five-and-a-half-mile walk, the sun was trying to emerge. It just reminded me that you cannot exercise if you don't get outside and take a bit of a risk, but it turned out perfect.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hoypus Hill and Ala Spit 2018

Melanie, Frank, Kirk, Richard, Al, Chris, Diane (and me)
Only eight of us showed up on a brilliantly sunny day today for a drive down to Deception Pass State Park, our annual trip to enjoy this relatively easy hike from Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island just across the Deception Pass bridge. You can tell from this picture how cold it was when we got started, with everybody bundled up nice and warm. It was around -3°C (25°F) when we drove the 45 miles south to our starting point. It snowed a little bit last night, as you can see in the picture, and that made the roads icy and a little scary early.
Our trail was beautiful
By the time we arrived at Cornet Bay, most of the roads had cleared and only the areas in complete shadow were icy, so we drove carefully. We were not in a hurry anyway to leave our warm cars to get outside in the cold. But it was so breathtakingly beautiful with the fresh snow and early morning light showing through the trees that we were happy to get out and get moving.
Melanie took this one
We wandered around on the forest trails, making our way around several very boggy areas and decided, not long after this picture, to go ahead and make our way to Ala Spit, a peninsula not far from the trails, adding maybe another mile to the day, and have lunch there.
Sitting on the Spit, so to speak
We found some driftwood to block the breeze, and if you were able to find a place out of the wind, it was incredibly pleasant. In this picture you can see a few birds in the foreground, I hoped to get close enough to show them, but you will have to take my word that there are a couple of oystercatchers in this picture.
Kirk, Diane and Chris bundled up for lunch
Although we had shed quite a few clothes as we hiked, by the time we got to the exposed Spit, we put everything we had back on while we enjoyed a break from hiking. And then it was time to head back the way we had come. We do make a short loop around the East Hoypus Point so we can see the Old Growth trees. I always enjoy this part, and this year I captured this picture of one of the Ancient Ones.
Looking up, up, up
There is no way that I have found to take a picture that shows the incredible beauty of these old trees, but I continue to try. These trees are hundreds of years old, and sometimes I try to imagine what the world was like when it was a tiny seedling. I hope the magnificent tree lives for many hundreds of years to come.

We had a great day and made it back home with the skies still sunny and the temperature not that much warmer. It rose to just above freezing, and tonight the snow is supposed to return. In any event, we had nine miles of hiking on a gorgeous day today! I am so grateful for having had the experience.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The whole glasses thing

Maiden voyage with my new glasses
This whole business of getting cataract surgery and trying to decide what to do with the resulting eye situation has been harrowing. Not to mention that a week ago I seemed to burst a blood vessel in my right eye and looked a little hideous without glasses to hide behind. It's almost completely cleared up now, though. Whew!

I really wanted to just have glasses for driving and sitting in movie theaters where I needed to see every little detail. So I bought myself a lovely pair of distance lenses that have Transitions and anti-glare, but I found myself at a complete loss when wearing them and not being able to see anything close up. It was driven home to me when I was on a hike in the rain and couldn't see well enough to latch my chest strap. Since I needed both hands, and one of them was holding up the glasses, my level of frustration helped me decide to get progressive lenses.

Now I've worn progressives for decades and love them, but I didn't want to spend the extra money, and therefore I ended up spending twice as much. But the good part is that I have an extra pair of distance glasses and now I can see everything just great with my new glasses. They also have Transitions and anti-glare, plus I don't have to take them off to see up close. Other than needing another visit to the store for additional fitting (the nose pieces pinch), I couldn't be happier.

Now that I've written this post, I think I skip down to the optical shop and get that little task taken care of. I need to add a few more steps to my daily quota anyway.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Swimming pool dreams

What I miss most about Florida
It's true that I miss my sister when I'm not with her, but I never feel that far away from her, thanks to being able to talk with her virtually via FaceTime, but I sure do miss this swimming pool at her Y. For six days I was able to swim in my very own lane and enjoy the gentle water and feel my arms get sore from the unaccustomed exercise of swimming laps. It was wonderful.

This morning I joined a small group of women at Lake Padden in a howling wind and cold temperatures, and everyone asked how my vacation in Florida was. It's complicated, but I enjoyed myself very much until it began to get so hot and humid that my mind began to think about home, thinking about the more normal temperatures and humidity that we have here. There's always something better somewhere else, I guess.

I went to my first yoga class in two weeks yesterday, and that was a real treat. Wow, I must learn to be grateful for whatever comes my way and learn to appreciate each day for its own special flavor.

Yesterday morning I felt like something flew into my eye and when I checked in a mirror, I had a subconjunctival hemorrhage. I don't know what caused it, but everything online says that it will clear up on its own, so not to worry unless there's a change my vision. So far, so good. Another one of life's little surprises.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Raptor Ridge via Huckleberry

Richard, Frank, Richard, Sue, MaryLou, Kirk, Melanie, Peggy
Nine Senior Trailblazers met either at the Senior Center or drove to the trailhead to start one of our usual winter hikes: to Raptor Ridge. There are many ways to get there, and today we decided to take the Hemlock trail until it splits off to Huckleberry Point and beyond. The picture above was taken at the Point, since there was no view looking out the other direction.
Geezers in the mist
I am still not completely recovered from whatever I have been suffering from, so when I stopped to cough, Frank offered me some of his cough drops. I had never heard of them, but they do work great. He shared his Fisherman's Friend lozenges with me, and even gave me half of his supply. While we were stopped, I looked up to see the others waiting for us in the fog. At this point we were free of snow, but that was not to last.
First signs of snow
We encountered fresh snow on the way up to the turnoff to Huckleberry Point, but I thought it would be intermittent. But no, from this point on we had snow underfoot, and in some places overhead, as the fresh snow fell in clumps from the trees to fall on us and work its way down the back of our necks.
Raptor Ridge viewpoint
This is the place where we have spent many a day basking in the sun, but today we had to take turns to come over and look at it. Those footsteps in the snow were made by some more adventurous hikers than we are. Usually at this point there is a strong wind, but today it was calm. A nice change, but there was no place here for us to stop for lunch.
You can see the fresh snow on the trees behind Peggy. We had a discussion at this point about whether to find a spot out of the snow to have lunch, or just turn around and start back down the trail. We decided to make a loop out of it, but by the time we got to a point where we could make it longer, the majority of us decided to skip having lunch and just head back down to the cars.
Indian plum beginning to bloom
Peggy pointed out the first blossoms on the Indian plum bushes on our way back down, which seems early to me, but I guess not. We saw both lots of snow and the first signs of spring today. We climbed up and down around 1,800 feet of elevation (550 meters) and eight miles before we climbed into our cars and headed home. It was a good day, and I managed to get rid of much of my chest congestion through exertion, as well as a little help from my friend.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Going home today

Norma Jean and I with flamingos
Well, this trip has gone quite quickly, and today I'll head back to my home, which is fifty degrees colder than it is here. It sure would be nice to have something between freezing and sweltering, but I don't get to choose. Yesterday we spent the day at Busch Gardens (picture above taken by Peter) and it was quite humid and overcast, not too bad. Today we are close to setting a heat record for the day, but when I first arrived last week the temperature was close to perfect.
Part of the track for the Cheetah Hunt
It had been a long time since I rode a roller coaster; I think they have stepped up the fear factor by a factor of ten. Peter told me this ride is one of the more "tame" ones in the park, and there were people of all ages getting on, from tweens to seniors, so I figured I'd be okay. I screamed the entire time! Norma Jean is smart enough not to ride these things, and I could hardly walk when the more-than-three-minute ride was finished.
Riders dangling before the plunge on Shiekra
Apparently this ride is the scariest in the park, according to Peter, who has ridden them all many times. He told me that, considering my response to the Cheetah ride, I probably should skip this one. I didn't have to be convinced, after watching for awhile.
Falcon's Fury is the tube on the right
After a very enjoyable ice show, I decided I had to try one more ride. This one takes the riders (visible almost halfway up) up to the top and then changes your orientation from sitting to being face down, hanging there for a short while and then falling like a rocket toward the ground. Amazingly, this ride, while scary, didn't affect me like the other. It had some similarities to freefall, so maybe that's one reason why. I would ride this one again in a minute.
Heading up Falcon's Fury
The amazing part of this ride, for me, is how fast you get going when you are released at the top and how soft the stopping part is. The rider feels your feet flipping out in front of you at the end, and gosh it stopped so easily.

We also saw the show called "Opening Night Critters," with lots of birds, dogs, cats, pigs, a small pony, and all of them performing perfectly. These are mostly rescue animals who have learned their parts to amusing effect. Then it was time to go home, after a brief rain shower. I enjoyed it very much and am very glad I let them talk me into going.