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.