Thursday, December 13, 2018

Holiday party and hike

Intrepid hikers today
Believe it or not, this large group of Senior Trailblazers showed up to hike six miles along the Lake Whatcom shore (Hertz Trail) before our annual holiday party. It was wild and windy, blustery with buckets of rain falling earlier, but by the time we started out around the lake, the rain had lessened considerably. In fact, for a while it almost stopped. We were in the lee side of the wind, so although it was still blowing, we were not much inconvenienced by it.
Melanie's pretty blue braids
We had plenty of time to enjoy the trip out to the turnaround point, and as you can see from this picture of Melanie, it was quiet and relatively dry at this point. This is one of our favorite easy hikes, flat with a nice trail (which had plenty of puddles today), because we knew that at noon we would be meeting at Dianne's house for our annual holiday party.
Looking out at the lake
Before we turned around to walk the three miles back to the cars, we did notice that the wind was no longer making whitecaps on the lake, so the wind shouldn't continue to be much of a problem. We discussed the weather forecast and that everything was going right along with the forecasts.
Big crowd at Dianne's
Some went home to change clothes or freshen up, and I went back to the Senior Center to renew my membership for next year and also remove some of my rain gear and make myself more presentable. By the time I got there, it was hopping, with all three of our hiking groups bringing lots of food to Dianne's home (that's her, the one on the left of the three red ladies). Her beautiful home managed to accommodate around sixty of us! That's more than we've ever had.
Downstairs room
The entire place was overflowing with people and plenty of us found some room downstairs, where she had set up a spare table. Her home is incredibly comfortable and we were thrilled with her generosity to open it to all of us.
Desserts galore
And oh the food! We had tables groaning with every kind of dishes. This is the dessert table, but there were also lots of salads and quiche dishes, and it seemed impossible we could finish it all. We made a valiant effort. That pretty heart-decorated cake was made by Kirk, a flourless gluten-free chocolate cake, and I brought a piece home for later, since I couldn't find any more room in my stomach, but I still wanted it.
Hikers filling their plates
We partied on for several hours, and then finally made our goodbyes and went off to enjoy the rest of our day. It turned out to be a magnificent and bountiful party, with the best company in the whole world! Thank you, Dianne, for being a delightful hostess in the most splendid spirit of the season. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Season's greetings

The punster strikes again
I received this picture in a text message from my nephew Peter right around Christmas last year (or maybe it was a year or two before), and after a big groan, I then smiled and shook my head at his cleverness. I did have to ask him why THOSE seasonings and not others? I have to surmise it's because they all three have "seasoned" or "seasoning" in their names. I don't think Cajun and Italian seasonings usually go together all that well.

I'll be heading to Florida to visit him and my sister Norma Jean next month. It takes me awhile to gather myself together to travel these days. I spend a bit of time each day giving myself a pep talk and looking forward to those early-morning swims next to Norma Jean in the outdoor pool at her local Y.

It's not that I don't love to be there, but I'm no longer much of a traveler and marvel, when I think back, at how easy it was, once upon a time, to go halfway around the world, several times a year, in pursuit of my old job. My boss, Mickey, is still doing it but I ran out of steam for travel, even across the country, long ago. Thinking about it, though, gives me a little frisson of excitement. My reluctance is beginning to fall away.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Lovely outside today

Christmas decorations along the boulevard
This morning I woke to moderate temperatures and didn't even need to scrape ice off the windshield before setting out to join the ladies for our Saturday walk. It's at least 10-15 degrees warmer than it was this time yesterday.

We walked from Woods Coffee at Boulevard Park up the Taylor Street hill, and I struggled up the steepness of it, huffing and puffing and watching the backs of most of my companions get farther and farther away. But then we were at the top, down the hundred-some stairs, and had an easy, nice walk back to our starting point. At this time of year, locals like to decorate the trees and bushes along the boulevard like this. That's part of our group on the left.

There's only a little more than two weeks before Christmas, and even the old grinches like me are beginning to get in the spirit. It was delightful to spend time with each other in the coffee shop afterwards, with lots of laughter and camaraderie. Life is good.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Chuckanut Ridge/Rock Trail Loop

Bob and Victoria
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met for a wonderful day in the freezing sunshine. Both Bob and Victoria have been traveling a bit, but are now back, looking happy and fit. You can see by the way they are dressed, it wasn't warm, even with full sun. In fact, this morning when I got up to check the weather, it was -5°C (22°F). Brrr! With proper gear, we were able to enjoy being out in the Chuckanuts. Today we went from the Lower Ridge trail over to Gates Overlook, then down the South Lost Lake trail until we met the road where we would hike back to the cars.
Picnic table at Gates Overlook
By the time we reached Gates Overlook, we took the time to use the bathroom and have a quick snack, although it was too early for lunch. We then headed down the Rock trail steps, with lots of sunshine to help keep us (mostly) warm. After just the short stop at Gates, we were again quite cold and walking downhill did little to warm us back up.
Shadows and hikers on the Rock trail
The low angle of the sun and the shape of the rocks made for an interesting shot on our way down to the South Lost Lake trail, where we walked up to the turnoff for Burnout Point. We hiked to the viewpoint where we could see Mt. Baker and the Sisters, about a half-mile longer than the view from Burnout.
The group in front of the majesty
On the left, you can see Melanie making sure I wouldn't miss the mountains as well as the hikers. This was where we all stopped to rest, have lunch, and enjoy the sunshine as much as we could while trying to remain as warm as possible.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters
Then we headed back the way we had come, until we met the South Lost Lake trail again, and continued back to the road. From there, we could decide to visit Fragrance Lake and return that way, or just take the direct route back to the cars.
Frost alongside the trail
In the places where the sun didn't reach, you can see how the frosty plants were decorated for the season. There were moments when I wondered if I would ever warm back up, but I always did, since we kept moving. I had my down jacket that kept me warm when I needed it, but in no time I'd be too warm and had to take it off. After a short hike, we reached the decision point about whether to visit the lake or not.

Everyone seemed just fine going back and skipping the lake, so we ended up going up and down around 2,100 feet (640 meters) during our five-hour hike, covering just under nine miles. We had fitness devices that ranged from 8.75 miles to 10.0, so I'm thinking, based on the way I feel, 9.0 is a good number.
Me at Gates Overlook
Melanie took this picture of me, and I wanted to include it so that all the Trailblazers have been captured for posterity on today's hike. It was a really glorious day; I was pleased by how well all my warm weather gear actually worked! You don't have many December days around here as wonderful as this one.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Grey winter skies gone for awhile

Frosty lawn
Well, we finally had a hard freeze. My friend Melanie took this picture yesterday morning: it was 24°F and about that cold again this morning. For the entire coming week, our temperatures are going to be frigid, because of a high pressure dome over the region. It means no rain and sunny skies (not even clouds), making it very cold. Not only overnight, but the temperatures during the day will continue to be below normal.

Considering how mild it's been up until now, our first real wintry blast has been a bit of a shock. I've stopped watering my front porch flowers, and they all look a little worse for wear. But hey, last I checked, it's December and it's supposed to happen!

In some ways, it makes it a little easier to hear the constant Christmas music everywhere I go. Now the holiday seems imminent. It was crazy to hear that same music before Thanksgiving had even occurred, but now... I'm going to be fine with three more weeks of it. Our Trailblazers holiday festivities are a week from Thursday, which is the only party I never miss. It's a good thing, too: my waistline can't take too many, since my ability to resist delicious goodies goes way down at this time of year.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Another trip around the sun

76? Already?
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Didn't I just celebrate that three-quarters-of-a-century birthday? How can it be that I've already left behind that milestone? It seems literally like it was just yesterday. The portrait is another selfie taken with that app on Messenger. I like the stars above my head, which is very appropriate for someone who rarely feels like she belongs with her feet on the ground. If I were still an active skydiver, I'd be jumping today, just for the thrill of it.

Last year, I had blocked my birthday on Facebook, so I didn't get tons of birthday wishes. Somehow this year that setting has changed, and I've received plenty of them today. I don't know how to change it back, but upon researching the settings, Facebook has now buried them so deep it will take me some time to figure it out. Once you reach a certain age, these reminders may be nice that people are thinking about you, but it's also a nuisance when you'd like to forget how quickly the years pass by.

Whatever, I sure do feel loved and appreciated by my friends and family today. I even received a beautiful homemade card by snail mail from my friend Rita! So I am not going to let my inner grinch take over. I'll simply enjoy the day (again with no rain) and soak in all the good vibes.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pass Lake and Tursi Trail

Our group today, minus me and one in the loo
I was a little bit shocked at the size of our Trailblazer group today: eighteen of us showed up for a Fidalgo Island hike from Bowman Bay, just down the road from the Deception Pass bridge. I asked someone why we had such a large group today, and he said, "because it isn't raining." Yep, that's why. Although earlier in the week it was supposed to be a bit rainy today, by the time we got to Thursday, the weather had changed to partly sunny with no chance of rain.
Pass Lake through the trees
We hiked the Pass Lake trail until it diverged onto the Tursi trail. Then we followed that trail all the way to its end. On the way, we passed an old mine, which Al says was a gold mine that didn't go anywhere.
Bob after taking a quick look
The hole is only fifteen feet or so deep, and then stops. Others were more brave than I, who stayed quite a ways back from the opening just in case something might have taken up residence in there. We continued on.
Exploring an old foundation
Someone had a nice house here once upon a time, with a lovely view towards the west and a partial view of Pass Lake down below. We hiked on down the trail to the end.
The beginning of the Tursi trail
The trail comes out onto Donnell Road and some farm houses. We then turned around and retraced our steps until we returned once again to the old foundation, where we had lunch.
Tom, Chris and Bob
By this time it was almost noon, so we had a very nice lunch in both filtered and direct sunshine. It was very mild, but since we had been hiking and were a little sweaty, we had to put on more clothes to keep warm in spite of having some sun. It is the end of November, after all.
Moss on hillside
I am not sure what this white moss is, but I thought it was lovely and reminded me of flowers. Winter landscapes can be quite attractive in a different way than in summer.
Pretty mushrooms
Mushrooms were abundant, since it has been quite wet lately. We saw plenty of them, along with some mud, but not as bad as in previous years. There has been some trail work since then, with a few bridges and a new trail.
Bowman Bay
We returned to Bowman Bay, where we had begun our hike, and we figure we covered somewhere around seven miles (depending on whose device to believe), and around 1,800 feet of elevation gain and loss. There were more clouds than sun by the end of our excursion, but nobody minded the weather. We piled into our cars and headed back home after a fine day outdoors. Did I say there was no rain?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fall is coming along nicely

Front porch and leaves a-droppin'
I've seen what is going on around the US in terms of weather these days. A huge blizzard moved through the middle of the country, and cold air and record-setting snows hit the northeast. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had lots and lots of rain during the past week, more than usual, but incredibly mild temperatures. Go figure.

When I woke this morning, it was almost 60°F (15°C) with strong winds and rain. We have several windstorms during the fall and winter months, so this was no surprise, but it's the first for this season. Almost all the leaves have fallen from the trees, as you can see, but without a cold snap, I still have flowers on my front porch. They'll wilt and dry up once we have a hard freeze. So far, they are still doing well.

The days are very short now, moving towards the winter solstice, after which the days will begin to lengthen. By the end of January, I usually notice the slow return of the light. For now, I'm still enjoying our wonderful mild weather.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

I love Bellingham

Picture by Edmund Lowe
This morning the ladies and I walked twice around Lake Padden, and I neglected to take any pictures. I went on Facebook to the "I Love Bellingham" page to find something that would show the beautiful place I live. This picture of the ferry between the mainland and Lummi Island, with Mt. Baker in the background, shows what a beautiful place Bellingham is.

Granted, it rains a lot, and the days are very short in the winter months, but the beauty is unparalleled. I am grateful that I live here, and that I can go outdoors in all weather, with the appropriate gear, and enjoy myself. Right now I am happily looking out the front window while sitting with my trusty laptop and writing this post. I am feeling lots of gratitude right now, perfect for this long Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Pumpkin pie, anyone?
This morning, I met my friend John at a local grocery store that's open 24/7 and was not closed for the holiday, as our usual coffee shop always is. We were able to get some good coffee and spend time visiting before heading off in different directions. He's going off to have Thanksgiving dinner with a lady friend at one of the local casinos.

Then I headed off to the yoga studio, which is closed except for a benefit class taught by Ingela, who owns Yoga Northwest. For a donation of $20, she held an hour-and-a-half class, which was pretty hard in some ways but very beneficial. The benefit is for Homes Now, Not Later, a local group of volunteers working together to provide homes and shelter for the homeless in Bellingham and Whatcom County. On the way to the class, I saw three different homeless people. One was asleep on the floor at the post office, and two were bundled up, carrying their belongings with them in shopping carts.

Hubby and I are not having any meat in our Thanksgiving feast this year. Instead, I made ratatouille in the Crock Pot last night, and we'll nosh on it all day, with some crusty artisanal bread and a salad. We were going to have a sit-down meal, but instead we agreed that it would be more fun just to eat a little, all day long. Here's a picture of some ratatouille that looks a lot like what I made.
Snagged off the internet
I won't make my usual number of steps today, since there's no hike, no buses, no gym, and other than the great yoga class, no exercise. I'll be lucky to burn more calories than I eat. But hey, that's the way you're supposed to do Thanksgiving, isn't it? I have so many wonderful elements in my life that give me plenty to be thankful for. I wish you the best Thanksgiving ever!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Brave new world

So many to choose from
Last year at this time, I was just getting ready for my first cataract surgery. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I've worn glasses for many years and had become quite comfortable with progressive lenses that allow me to see in the distance as well as up close with just a tilt of my head. I'll bet many of you use them, too.

Gradually, the cataracts had gotten bad enough that they couldn't be corrected completely, especially in my left eye. So, my eye doctor told me I would need to have cataract surgery to see well once again. At about this time last year, I had the first eye done, and a few weeks later, in mid-December, the second eye was operated on.

Other than the seemingly endless eye drops, several times a day, the procedures both went extremely well. Even with advanced AMD (age-related macular degeneration), my eyesight increased to be almost 20/20, with corrective lenses. I opted to have near-vision lenses implanted and need to wear glasses for distance. The missing vision I suffer from in both eyes is able to be compensated for by the other eye, and I have still not lost any central focal vision.

I purchased some progressive lenses once again, since I found that it's easier to see both near and far with glasses. But for everyday, like now while I'm writing this post on my laptop, I don't need any glasses. I can also look up and see the TV across the room with pretty good clarity. (I would need to put on my glasses to see perfectly.)

A year ago, I couldn't have read anything on this page, or even seen much of anything on the TV without glasses, before the cataract surgery. Once in a while I'll forget how much better I can see today. It's truly a brave new world out there.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Another sunny Saturday

Me with beautiful Bliss
This morning we had a huge group of ladies, 24 in all, to walk from the Farmers' Market to Zuanich Park at Bellingham Bay. It's a fairly straightforward, easy walk, with no big hills like Cindy (our leader) will sometimes challenge us with. Afterwards, several of us went to The Bagelry for coffee and, you guessed it, bagels.

Lily had to work today, so she didn't join us, or we would have been 25! She will work every day between now and Thanksgiving, when she will have four days off in a row, so she will join us next week. I miss my surrogate daughter when she's not with us.

We are moving into the time of year when the holidays get in the way of my regular routine. This year, I'm determined to enjoy every single moment of each day, rain or shine. Today was one of the easiest ones to appreciate, with abundant sunshine and great company.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Oyster Dome, Lily and Lizard Lakes

Leslie amongst bigleaf maple leaves
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at Chuckanut Drive to begin our usual Thursday hike. Well, actually eleven of us were at the Senior Center to carpool, and the other three joined us at the trailhead. The destination would be determined by the weather and our leader, Melanie. If the rain didn't get too bad, we'd go up to Oyster Dome and then head over to Lily and Lizard Lakes. At the beginning, we were rain free (just a spit or two, nothing much) and set out on the steep trail, which starts right off the highway.
Stopping for a brief photo op
As we made our way upwards, we enjoyed the mild temperature and the lack of rain, thinking that maybe we'd make it the whole way without any. But nope, by the time we reached the junction that would take us either up to Oyster Dome or off to the lakes, it had begun.
Huddle to talk about options
At this point, we decided to skip going up the rest of the way to Oyster Dome, because there would be no view and we had all seen it before anyway. Al also told us about a medical procedure he will undergo at the end of the month, so we were all listening intently.
The way to Lily Lake
And then off we went to Lily Lake. The rain was light, but it gave me a chance to try out my new raincoat, which performed admirably in the light rain. I'm sure I'll get a chance to wear it in heavier rain, but not today.
Lily Lake
There was still some rain when we got to Lily Lake, and the fog was dense, so we decided to trek on over the Lizard Lake, not a long distance but over a small hill. Everyone was in a good mood and happy to be out in the Chuckanuts with our good friends.
Lizard Lake
By the time we got to Lizard Lake, the rain had lessened considerably, although it wasn't gone by any means. You can see some recent beaver work in the foreground. After a lunch break, we decided to head back to Lily Lake and take Max's Shortcut to Samish Overlook, rather than take the shorter route back the way we had come.
Tuning fork?
On the way, Bob pointed out this interesting tree with a distinct fork in it. We discussed what might have caused it. We will never know, but it created a lovely picture in the fog.
Samish Flats
By the time we reached Samish Overlook, the clouds had lessened and the rain had stopped. We were able to take the short distance back to the cars (well, maybe a couple of miles isn't quite short) rain free. We covered almost ten miles and 2,600 feet up and down, quite a good workout. Starting out at sunrise and finishing as the sun was setting, we were reminded once again about how short the days are growing as the nights are growing longer, on our way to the winter solstice.

But it could not have been a better way to spend a late autumn day, in a beautiful place with fine company. Next week is Thanksgiving, so there will be no hike, and we will be stuffing ourselves along with the rest of the country. But today, we were virtuous.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Who doesn't love rainbows?

Rainbow on Bellingham Bay
I hadn't seen this picture of me capturing this rainbow, and yesterday Lily showed it to me while we were quaffing some wine together. It was on one of our Saturday walks with the ladies, I'm not sure exactly when, but I wanted to share it with my pals. I'm late again getting a Tuesday post up (and I completely neglected to do one last Tuesday, election day).

It's been a good day. I'm sitting here after having "enjoyed" a visit with the acupuncturist and a lovely yoga class before that. So now I will have accomplished all my Tuesday tasks and can just sit back in the few short hours before climbing into bed, tired and happy.

You can never have too many rainbows.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday walk by myself

A carpet of leaves
This morning, Lily had to work, and I wasn't all that excited about the long drive out to the north shore of Lake Whatcom to walk with the ladies, so instead I walked to Fairhaven along Boulevard Park. It was foggy and quite lovely, and as you can see from the carpet of leaves, our deciduous trees are well advanced in their shedding activities.
Kayaks emerging from the fog
As I walked along Bayview Drive to Taylor Dock, which takes me from downtown Bellingham into Fairhaven, the fog began to lift, and I saw these kayakers and could hear them talking to one another. Just a few minutes earlier, they would not have been visible. The fog is long gone and the sun is shining merrily at the moment.

We had a lovely day on Thursday, after a full day of rain on Wednesday, and then another day of rain yesterday with sunshine today. It's that time of year in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm loving it. I'm sure the ladies had a nice walk without me, but my own walk was serene, quiet, and restorative. It's all good.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Lost Lake and glorious views

Group shot from Burnout Point
You only get days like this one on certain days in the fall, and they are usually sprinkled between rainy and cloudy days. Today, sixteen Senior Trailblazers were treated to one of the most beautiful, glorious days I've experienced in over a decade with this group. We woke to our first hard freeze of the year, but with clear skies and not a breath of wind. Heading up the trail from the Larrabee State Park's parking lot (used to be called Clayton Beach), we walked on the old logging road until we got to the South Lost Lake trail.
Waterfall is there
Last time we walked by this spot, it was dry. No water at all, and now it's back. It rained hard last week and this perfect day between storms gave us another look at this now-running waterfall. You can see all the leaves in the foreground that have fallen already. It's definitely fall.
The view of Samish Bay 
We took a side trip to see the view from Burnout Point, which would add a bit of distance to today's long-ish hike, but as you can see, it was worth it. Beautiful! This is where the group shot (above) was taken. But then several of the hikers decided it would be worthwhile to walk a bit farther to see Mt. Baker and the Sisters, and I began to whine that it would make the hike too long for me. I was outvoted, and this is what we saw.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters
I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this view on a glorious day. The mountains are showing off a new coat of fresh snow, the sky is brilliant, and there wasn't even a hint of a breeze as we basked in the glory. It was hard to get going again, since nobody wanted to leave the view.
Hanging out
We took the time to have a little snack and just feel the perfection of the day. I felt as if it was soothing my spirit and causing joy to well up unbidden. Since we were already here, we took a short cut down to Lost Lake, where we would have our lunch. We reached our usual lunch spot just a bit after noon.
Lunch at Lost Lake
Aahhhh.... we spread out and enjoyed a wonderful lunch break in the perfect weather. I have been here when it was cold, windy, and rainy. Today, it was none of those things, but instead it was just magical. Of course Richard snuck off by himself and went swimming in the lake while we ate, but he joined us soon after.
Lost Lake
I have seen this lake when it was frozen over, and I might again this coming winter. But today, other than frost-covered leaves where the sun doesn't reach, there was little evidence of the coming winter.
Still some remaining leaves on the trees
As we made our way back to our starting point, we were treated to several scenes like this: sunlight coming through yellow leaves that will not be hanging on much longer. But today, they still light up the forest. We ended up covering about 10.5 miles and 2,500 feet up and down. A serious hike with many of my very best friends, with a leader (Melanie) who kept everybody in sight and added so much to our simply wonderful day. I'm so glad I was there.