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.