Saturday, August 18, 2018

Early signs of fall

Whatcom Falls Park
Today, I just read, is a favorite date for couples to marry (being 8/18/18) and especially fortuitous. I think it's mainly because it would be a difficult date to forget, year after year. Anyway, for whatever reason, lots of people are tying the knot today.

There are early signs of autumn everywhere these days. My garden is pretty much drying out and someone keeps forgetting to water it. Perhaps the trees in the picture are turning color, not so much because of the date, but because they are stressed from lack of water. We walked this morning in Whatcom Falls Park, and the temperature was just about perfect, cool with a slight fog. I did check when I got home: it's just plain old fog, not smog. That's still to come.

Our beautiful couple of days of cool weather are going to leave, starting tomorrow, with a shift in the wind projected to bring us smoke from the forest fires once again. It looks like it will be bad, with offshore flow, no respite from the heat, either. But we are losing more than three minutes of daylight every day, as we make our way slowly toward September. Labor Day is just over two weeks away, can you believe it? It signals the unofficial end of summer in the US. The beginning of fall is just around the corner! (September 22)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Goose Rock in the summer

Frank, Sue, Al, Ranger Rick, Cathy, Heather, Peggy, me, Mel
Our Senior Trailblazers group split into two today: the earlier group went into the Mt. Baker wilderness to tackle Lake Ann (which was on the schedule), and several of the rest of us didn't want to make the rather difficult hike with less-than-optimal air quality. Although it had improved somewhat, it was still not good in the mountains. So eight of us set off south to the Deception Pass area, on the water where the marine air helped with the air quality, to one of our usual winter hikes, Goose Rock. Fog greeted us, along with Ranger Rick, who (it turns out) is a good friend of Heather's. He joined us for a picture and then set off for his duties.
West Beach as the day's hike began
Even before we set off to hike up Goose Rock from West Beach, the fog had begun to lift a little. It was cool and delightful, after all the heat and bad air we've suffered through lately, it seemed like a different world.
The view from Goose Rock
By the time we hiked up to the top of Goose Rock, it was time for an early lunch, and some of the fog still lingered, but it was still really lovely. Lots of other people joined us on the top, but none of them stayed for long, because I think they weren't prepared for how cool it was. Not many even had a jacket.
Getting ready for lunch
You can see that there are still a few clouds in the sky, but we had a pretty good view looking toward Whidbey Island Naval Base, and of course we could hear the jets as they flew overhead. We needed our sun hats at the top.
Madrona tree
We saw lots of these beautiful trees, the madrona (Arbutus menziesii), with bright red bark that peels away to show a pistachio color underneath. Goose Rock and the area around it has more of these beautiful trees than I have seen anywhere else.
Map of the area
After lunch, we decided to do a little exploring and walked across the Deception Pass bridge. If you enlarge this picture, you can see a "You Are Here" sign between the two islands. We walked down the steps and got acquainted (along with lots of other people) with the many footpaths on the little island.
The bridge from underneath
I got an unusual angle to snap the Deception Pass bridge as we walked down to explore the area. The water is always turbulent like that because of the tides constantly coming and going.
West Beach at the end of the day
Finally, we returned to our cars and saw people photographing a rock covered with seagulls. You can see that the fog has pretty much lifted, and we congratulated ourselves on having had a good day, covering around seven miles and more than 1,500 feet up and down. Not too shabby, but I'm sure the others were still going strong when we climbed in our cars, with a much shorter drive home than they had. It was a good day in just about every way!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Remembering my Tuesday post

Front porch flowers this morning
Hey, I remembered to write a blog post today! I know it's not a big thing to anybody else, but it was to me. Last week I remembered late on Wednesday, way too late to be of any use. These are my front porch flowers just now, showing the still-brown front lawn (we got little to no rain when it poured in Seattle).

I woke this morning to haze so thick that I could not see the sunrise. Our air quality has deteriorated from fires north of us in British Columbia, as well as fires burning on the eastern side of the Cascade and spilling over here. It's not possible to exercise outside today, with air quality ranging from unhealthy to dangerous. Tonight, however, we might get a little bit of relief from a weak marine push. We can only hope.
Today's lunch
I also wanted to show off my wonderful salad, with almost everything coming from the garden, other than some brown rice mixed with hummus. I shredded zucchini, chopped kale, and added cucumbers and tomatoes. All from the garden! This is not exactly a low calorie salad; I added it all up and it's just under 400 calories (371), but boy is it good!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Change in the weather

Cloudy skies over the marina
Today we ladies walked along Squalicum Harbor under threatening, cloudy skies. With a cool delightful breeze, it lowered our average daily temperature by at least ten degrees. Some brought along a raincoat, which was not needed, and by the time we finished our walk, the chance of rain had fallen from 20% to 5%. Not a drop has made it to the ground yet, and I suspect if we get any rain at all, it will be minimal.

What a wonderful change from the oppressive temperatures of the past week. A trip to the Farmers' Market was filled with happy people, out and about, enjoying a return to our usual Pacific Northwest climate. Although it's not expected to last very long, a day or two, most of us can manage to hang on and figure we've had the worst of the summer heat by now.

I completely forgot to write a post on Tuesday, if you're wondering. I know that I am the one who has made this schedule and I can change it if I want, but it's nice to have a structure to follow. I like Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday for my posts on this blog, but maybe it's time to skip a couple now and then. It's happening even if I don't mean to, anyway.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Watson Lakes and Anderson Butte

Chris and Victoria
Today fourteen Senior Trailblazers made the long, long trek south to the trailhead for Watson Lakes and Anderson Butte. I believe this is one of the longest drives in our repertoire, more than 70 miles one way, crossing over the Baker Dam and then traveling several difficult miles on a rutted gravel road. Finally we got to the trailhead after what seemed like forever, and we piled out of our cars and donned our hiking shoes and backpacks. We hiked a mile or so when we got to the turnoff to Anderson Butte. That's where you see the ladies above, with hazy mountains behind them, caused by forest fires.
Trail to Anderson Butte
This trail is steep, climbing for more than a mile what seemed straight up to me, but we finally made it to the overlook, with a great view of Mt. Baker.
Melanie and Mt. Baker
The bugs weren't too bad, but this spot is where they were the worst: mosquitoes were just hanging out in those trees waiting for us, it seemed. We took our pictures and headed back down to the trail that would take us to Watson Lakes.
Heading back down the side trail to the Butte
The good part about this side trip is that much of it was in shade, which made a big difference, since it was a hot day and when out in the direct sun, it was hard for me and a few of the others. I don't do well in the heat. But we did see a lovely stream at one point.
Monkey flowers
Then we descended down into the valley with both Watson Lakes. The scenery certainly helped make me feel a bit cooler, although I suspect the temperature was in the high 80s (30°C) and I suffered until...
Watson Lakes
...we rounded a corner and saw both of the lakes and felt a distinct welcoming breeze coming off them. The trail was well maintained, but you had to keep your eye on it the whole time, since it was rocky in places, with lots of steep ups and downs.
Our lunch spot
The place where we had lunch was one of the most perfect places where I've ever enjoyed a meal, with great friends and a delightful breeze that kept the bugs at bay. Several of my friends went skinny dipping in the lake and looked incredibly refreshed when they came back to join us.
The larger Watson Lake
After lunch, we walked over a slight ridge to enjoy a closeup of the larger of the two lakes, before heading back up that long uphill that would take us back to the main trail. It was hot and difficult for me, but our leader, Jim, was very solicitous and made sure I was all right. I finally asked them to just go ahead, while Frank, Melanie and I stayed behind, going at our own pace.
Our return trip to the cars
It was a long day, once again, with me walking into my home after 6:00pm, but we had hiked seven hard miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. The views were wonderful, the company great, and now I am looking forward very much to a shower to get the bug spray and sunscreen off. Glad to be home, but very glad I went as well.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Summertime smiles

Garden sunflower
Boy, is that ever a happy sunflower, sitting there glowing in the sunshine and making me smile, for sure. Rob used some guidewires to keep her upright and she's a-growing like there's no tomorrow. And will you look at the beautiful blue sky. It's not quite 70°F outside, on the way up to maybe 75. Perfect as it can be. We ladies had a nice five-mile walk in Fairhaven, a campus loop that is one of my favorites.
My new backpack
Cathy sent me a bunch of pictures that she took on our hike last Thursday, and I love this one of me looking up the valley on our way to the pass. My new backpack is a Gregory Jade 28, the first I've purchased by that company. I was impressed with the lumbar support in the waist belt, and the way it fits like a glove. I added a hydration pack, and the only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have a separate zipper compartment for it. I pretty much have to empty out the main container and maneuver the filled hydration pack down inside before adding back all the other stuff I want to carry. Otherwise, I love it and am glad it comes in my favorite color!

I found this lovely quote online and wanted to share it with you:
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. ― Natalie Babbitt from Tuck Everlasting
And with that, I do hope the first week of August is a good one for you, as well as for me and my loved ones.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hannegan Pass 2018

Heading up the Hannegan Pass trail
Today a total of thirteen Senior Trailblazers met to hike up the Hannegan Pass trail in the Mt. Baker wilderness. Al had given us the option of either going early, at 7:30am, or leaving at 8:00am. Nine showed up for the early hike, and only four of us for the later one. However, it turned out to be a great day, with a small intimate group, and we ran into the other group as they headed back down. The staggered leaving time helps to keep the hikes within the 12-person limit.
My guys waiting for me
Our group consisted of Melanie, the leader, Jim, Cathy, and me. It is a steep climb to the pass, and as usual (these days), I lagged behind somewhat on the first part of the hike. Mel and Jim are much stronger hikers than Cathy and me, but since the group was so small, there were no issues as we hiked along. We saw plenty of other groups, some going for the day, others with full backpacks for a longer stay.
Cathy, Melanie, me, and Jim
Our picture was taken by a nice person from another group at Hannegan Pass, where we rested for a bit and had our lunch. We had still not seen the earlier group, when meant they had headed up the trail to the peak. The day was cool and partly cloudy, and since I have done this hike in hot and sunny conditions, I was thrilled to have the wonderful coolness.
Trail towards the peak
After lunch, we decided to walk along the trail that leads to the peak until each person was satisfied and ready to stop or turn around. The clouds came and went, and I stopped fairly early on the trail that leads a steep mile to the summit and enjoyed just taking in the views. The other three headed on, but Melanie stopped soon after and decided to head back to the pass. This is about when I began to see the earlier group heading down. Half of their group had made it to the summit, while the others had stopped in a meadow and done what I did: enjoy the magnificent view.
My mountain view
As I made myself comfortable along the trail, I was able to greet all of the earlier Trailblazers on their way back down. We chatted about the wonderful day and I discovered from them that Cathy and Jim had decided to try for the peak. This meant I didn't have to hurry back down to the pass, as it would be taking them awhile to summit. So I sat and enjoyed looking at the clouds, the mountains, and the flowers.
Heading back down the valley
It took awhile all right, we waited more than an hour and I got to listen to some of Melanie's favorite songs she has on her iPhone. But finally we began our descent and reached the car around 6:00pm. A very long day, but one filled with many wonders. Cathy and Jim, half of our group, summited, and half of the other group did as well. The rest of us were just happy to have covered ten miles and around 2,600 feet elevation.

Now I am home, it's late, but I feel it was a most remarkable day. Tired and just  little sore, I could not have asked for a better way to have spent my Thursday. I love my fellow hikers and am thrilled to keep learning more about them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bellingham Bay

Lily in the bay at low tide
This past Sunday, I went with Lily down to Bellingham Bay so she could get a nice walk and some fresh air on her one and only day off work this week. She wasn't along on Saturday's walk with the ladies because even though she asked for the day off, everyone else also wanted to have the day off, too. She doesn't have any kind of seniority and they work her very hard. She works in a fish packing plant and does physical work all day long, twelve hours a day and sometimes ten days in a row without a day off. All of us who care about her hope she can find something less demanding one of these days.
Lots of stuff sticking to that rock
We were out there during low tide, as you can see from all the barnacles and shells attached to that rock. When I moved here ten years ago, I was clueless about tides and didn't know that they come and go at such speeds; we get two low tides and two high tides every single day. You can see the tide chart here, if you're interested. Anyway, it was a really nice way to spend part of the weekend, and people were out in force, enjoying the beach along with us. I love it here.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Herons, gardens, and humor

Heron posing for a picture?
This morning on the walk with the ladies, I was pleased to find that my legs had returned to their usual springiness after more than a week of recovery from my Church Mountain efforts. And halfway around Lake Padden, I saw this heron who does seem to be posing prettily for me. Or maybe he was fishing, but still I was happy to say hello to him (her?).
Our cornfield today
Then I went out to the garden to pull some weeds before it gets too hot, and I see that our corn has tasseled and has some ears beginning to form. Our garden is a veritable cornucopia of goodies right now: I am harvesting beans, zucchini, Sun Gold tomatoes (the little cherry type ones), and cucumbers. My friend John will bring me a bunch of kale from his garden tomorrow, so we are in vegetable abundance here at the end of July.
Aww, so cute!
After I left some zucchini on my neighbor's porch, she sent me this image in  text, and it's so adorable I have to share it with you. None of the squash I left her were crookneck, but after seeing this, I just might have to grow some next year!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Skyline Divide 2018

Our eight and Mt. Baker
Today we had two separate groups tackling Skyline Divide: a group of nine that left the Senior Center at 7:30am, and the other, a group of eight, that left at 8:00am. We figured this would qualify for us to stay under the wilderness limit of 12, and it worked quite well. When our group got to the trailhead after navigating an awful 12-mile access road, we saw that the other group's cars were there, but they were nowhere to be seen. Our group was led by Jim, that's him on the left in red. A passerby took the picture of all of us.
Pretty lupines and bistort
It was hot and the biting flies were out, not terrible like last year, but still annoying and requiring bug juice liberally applied. On the way to the ridge (where the first picture was taken), we made our way slowly up the switchbacks, unable to stop for too long before the bugs moved us along. A light breeze made it feel better, but on the way up to the ridge, climbing around 2,000 feet, I found it hard and I again lagged behind.
Our leader Jim and Heather in front of Mt. Shuksan
Once we reached the ridge, we decided to meander along it until we felt like stopping. We figured the earlier group would make it the entire 4.5 miles (and another 1,000 feet of elevation) to our usual stopping place. There was a bit of haze as we looked at the mountains, but as we walked along the ridge, with lots of ups and downs along the way, mostly the skies were wonderfully clear, especially when looking toward Mt. Baker.
Mt. Baker with glacier lilies
The glacier lilies only appear shortly after the snow melts, and this picture has plenty of them dotting the landscape in front of Mt. Baker. We had some very high clouds on and off, but none of them were right over us.
Me in front of Mt. Shuksan 
As we wandered along the ridge with no specific destination, I decided to slow down and take it easy. Melanie stayed with me and took this picture of me in front of Mt. Shuksan. It was quite comfortable along here, even with full sun, because of the delightful breeze coming up from the valley below.
An exposed place on the ridge
Sometimes we had to cross over some dicey spots, but they were brief and perfectly do-able, as long as you didn't look down. We had two neophytes who had never hiked Skyline Divide before, and they did fine, but afterwards Marsha said it was only because the rest of us managed it easily that she went across.

We ran into the other group on their way back down, and we stopped to admire the views and share some brownies and chocolate with them. Our group hiked somewhere between seven and eight miles, while the others went the entire distance. Everyone had a great time, and believe me, we'll sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cloudless skies ahead for days

Me on the Chanterelle trail
Last Saturday Lily took this picture, unbeknownst to me, and I have to say I really love it. The trail looks just like this in many spots; in others it's more hilly, but it's truly a beautiful place to walk, as you can see. I was still recovering on Saturday from having overdone it on Thursday. Today, however, I'm completely recovered other than a bit of an achy left knee. I'll head to the pot shop later on to get some CBD for pain. I know it will be useful, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to take advantage of its effects. It doesn't make you high but it sure does erase all my aches and pains. You can read all about it here.
Tiny little thing
I captured this lovely little butterfly (or moth, I'm not sure which) on Thursday. And no, I don't know what the plant is that is landed on, but the picture turned out well because I didn't have any direct sunlight. That won't be the case for the next week or so around here, since we are in a heat advisory (along with most of the country) and there won't be any clouds to help keep us cool. I heard today that Seattle is the largest city in the US without ubiquitous A/C. It's no different a bit north where we are. It's comfortable now; it's only later, around 4:00 or so, that it begins to really heat up. I'll be staying in the shade. Don't forget to drink water (reminder to myself).

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Our morning walk

The viewpoint on this morning's walk
This morning fourteen of us ladies met at the Lake Whatcom parking lot (that's the body of water behind us) and went on a new (for this group anyway) destination, the viewpoint on the Chanterelle trail. The Trailblazers use this particular trail as a beginning for a longer hike, but today all these wonderful ladies went on it together for the first time.

I learned that it's taking me longer to recover from hard hikes like I did last Thursday, because I went to turn on the juice and walk at our regular fast pace, and the legs just wouldn't go. I lagged far behind today, and Lily stayed with me while I struggled to deal with my painful quads and calves. It's not a long hike, just five miles round trip, so once we reached this view I suggested that the two of us would mosey back slowly, since going downhill is more difficult than going up  on these legs right now.

A nice person who was also at the top took this lovely picture of us, so I am in it as well! And now it's afternoon and my legs are doing just fine. Tomorrow I'll be back in the swing of things, I'm hoping. It's my rest day anyway.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Church Mountain summit

Cathy on top of the summit
Today, fifteen Senior Trailblazers met to complete the second half of our two-week destination. Last week ten of us went to Heliotrope Ridge, while the other six went off to the summit of Church Mountain. Today, those who went to one, went off to the other this week. This way, we can stay within the wilderness limits of 12. We had eight going off to challenge the summit of Church Mountain. Cathy had never been to the top before, so she is celebrating here.
Jim in front, Dave, Bob and Cathy behind
I took this picture just before we emerged into the meadow on our way to the top. After weeks of hot and dry weather, we had low clouds and cool temperatures, which thrilled me, but with the hope that before we got to the summit, the clouds might clear off for a great view. Results were mixed.
Al and Peggy entering the meadow
But oh! the meadow, which had been covered with snow when we were here a month ago, is now filled with greenery and flowers everywhere. Although we couldn't really see the view, we were able to hike in perfect temperatures, with a clear path to the summit.
Heather in bloom
We saw magnificent patches of heather in full bloom, both pink and white, and the clouds, as you can see here, continued to obstruct our view for most of the day. We met people coming back from the summit who said they hoped we'd have better luck with the view than they did.
Stream crossing
By the time we crossed the stream in the meadow, some decided to stay here and enjoy a leisurely lunch, while most of the rest of us decided to try for the summit. Now, I realize when I speak of the "summit," it's not the true summit of Church Mountain, but the place where the lookout was once, long ago, placed. I've never truly been the rest of the way, because it's way beyond my comfort level. That said, the rest of us began our slow ascent to the lookout.
Trail to the top
We had a few, very few, snow patches to cross, and they were negligible, so with mostly cool weather, we climbed at a steady pace. Those who were faster when on ahead, but Cathy, Jim, and I all got there pretty much at the same time.
Bob coming down from the summit
Bob and Dave were just coming down from their trip to today's final destination, while the rest of us were just beginning to climb it. Behind Bob you can see that there is some tricky climbing to get there, but we were determined. Dave decided to come back up with us, which made us feel a little bit safer. We ate our lunch up there.
Largest snow field we crossed today
And then it was time to head back to the meadow to rejoin the rest of the group. You can see Bob and Dave crossing the snow field ahead of us. Once we got across this, it was pretty much an easy trip to the meadow.
Sparse view of our mountains
And we never really got the view we hoped for. While on the top, it was completely socked in, but as we descended we got a few glimpses of our beautiful mountains. In 2013, several of us made it to the top, and our views were spectacular. You can see them here. It has been five years since I last was there, and it was lovely to realize that I can still climb that far.
Tiger lily
So after a long climb and descent of nine miles and 3,800 feet of elevation, I can truly say I earned my wine, and that I am still, even though I'm getting up in years, able to climb to the top! It was a great day with great friends, and we stopped for ice cream afterwards, making it a perfect day in every respect.