Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rainy Middle Fork road hike

Today twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center with only a vague idea of where we would be going. Our scheduled hike, Hannegan Pass, is still not passable because of snow. In fact, the Bellingham Herald printed an article today that confirmed our fears: Artist Point, which we use to access many of our favorite hikes in the Mt. Baker area, will not be cleared of snow this year. So, today we chose to drive from our mostly blue skies in Bellingham up to the Middle Fork logging road, hoping for a view and determined to get some exercise, no matter what. We actually had a wonderful day last November when we previously visited this area. I wrote about it here (and you can see the views we missed today).
As we drove our three cars almost thirty miles up to our starting point, it began to rain. And rain. Hoping the sky was just getting the moisture out of its system and then it would be nice, we donned our rain gear and started up the road. It didn't let up, and by the time we had hiked over two miles, some were talking about going back. But we wanted to get a least the exercise we have grown accustomed to having, so we kept going until we got to the junction you see below. Some wanted to hike until 11:00 am on the lower road, which didn't climb so steeply, and others wanted to go up. Since we had our walkie-talkies with us, we split into two groups, with one group going up and the other going down. We agreed to turn around at 11 and head back down to the cars, which is what we did, meeting up again at this junction without any problem.
Sometimes the rain would let up and we would get hopeful for some views and the possibility that we might even dry out a little. At least it wasn't cold, with temperatures somewhere in the low 50s. But it didn't happen. Not knowing WHAT I would write about for this blog, and what pictures I might have to share, I took some pictures of the flowers, and this is the best I got.
I thought the green leaves (if you enlarge the picture you can see they are weighed down with rain), the rock and the flowers all made a nice little scene on an otherwise wet and rainy day. All in all, we covered more than seven miles and those of us who took the high road got somewhere around 2,000 feet elevation gain and loss, making it an acceptable hike. We are pretty hardy to spend five hours walking in the rain, making it back to the cars before even considering stopping for lunch. Some decided to take off and head back to the center, others (like us) got back to the highway and stopped by the side of the road for lunch.
Peggy has missed the last three hikes, since she went off on an adventure to Scotland and just returned late last week. She bought this plastic raincoat for that trip and never used it, but she certainly got a chance to see how it worked today. It's great to have her back! Better luck to all of us, weather wise, next week.

Monday, June 27, 2011


We Bellingham residents have been wanting a weekend like the one we just had for quite awhile. This picture was actually taken on Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of summer, but then the cool wet weather returned to dampen more than just our spirits. The official first day of summer, though, came last Tuesday and then... we had an absolutely lovely weekend. Although it was cool and a bit cloudy to begin with, Saturday got nicer and nicer. And any day we see the sun and the rain doesn't fall is a good one.

I went walking early Saturday morning with the Fairhaven walking group, after having skipped it the week before because it was raining when I woke. Yesterday we walked about five brisk miles down by the bay and ended up at the Adagio Cafe for coffee afterwards. I then moseyed down to the Farmers' Market with a new friend, Karen, who I've seen before with the walkers, but we both headed down to the market together and I got to know her a bit better. I introduced her to the Rabbit Field Farms booth, where the vendor was expecting my usual purchase of baby kale. It looked good to Karen, so she bought some too. It's especially tasty early in the season.

Then I walked over to the Y and swam a half mile, feeling like a million bucks after swimming, showering, and heading back home. After the exercise and being ready for a good lunch, I felt the weekend had an auspicious beginning. The squirrels were on the porch when I got home, and after I shoo'd them off and swept up after the birds, I realized that they aren't intimidated any more by my Super Soaker antics (which I wrote about here), because the water isn't anything that hurts them and now they know that as crazy as I look, I'm not likely to harm them either. Sigh. They have had babies, and now I have two families, a black set, smaller and native to the area, and a family of gray squirrels. I went out one day after having chased one particularly persistent guy off the porch three or four times and hurled an apple I was eating after him as he ran away. Immediately he turned and inspected it, and of course hauled it back to his den. Or maybe her den. Now I occasionally throw an apple core onto the lawn and it is gone within minutes. As long as they aren't on my porch I don't mind them. My brother-in-law used to remark that squirrels are rodents, after all, just rats with a better wardrobe.
However, I just read an article about sitting still too long in one place, that it's bad for your health. Even if you get lots of exercise otherwise, it's important to take breaks often from sitting, stand up and stretch, even for a minute. I guess these guys are doing me a favor as I snatch up my Super Soaker and run out the front door, pumping the trigger with mad abandon. They run, too, but just as soon as my back is turned, well, you know the rest.

And then yesterday, Sunday, was a brilliant day, filled with sunshine and reaching 72 degrees F. I drove down to Snohomish and ended up making four skydives before heading back home. They were all good ones, too, playing in the air with my friends and having just the best time. All my landings were good, and I'm still learning how to pack this parachute to open consistently nice and soft. I am convinced, however, that once I figure it out, I will be happy with it for the rest of my skydiving career.
Many of my apartment neighbors on the ground level (I'm on the second level) have flower gardens that are simply amazing. That's one thing I do have to say about the rain around here: everything is lush and green, and the flowers are extremely happy to show their stuff. This weekend was the beginning of what I hope will be a truly wonderful summer. And my dear virtual friends, as I read about your lives, I get to experience what your little corner of the universe is like. It means a lot to me to have such a community.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back to the Chuckanuts

Because our scheduled hike into the High Country is still impassable, eight Senior Trailblazers who met at the Senior Center discussed our options for today's outing. The weather was gloomy with a 50% chance of rain, so driving for any distance at all didn't make a lot of sense. We decided to stay close to town and chose a pretty hard hike: Chuckanut Ridge. Several of you have asked about the origin of the word "Chuckanut," so I looked it up. It's a Native American word meaning "beach on a bay with a small entrance." To me, it sounds like something a squirrel would do (smile).
When we gained the ridge from the Arroyo parking lot, you can see we had little view of Bellingham, but lots of clouds towards the mountains made it obvious we had made a good choice for today. This trail is not an easy one, with lots of ups and downs, and the scenery for most of the hike was just what was in front of and around us.
The fog began to close in by the time we stopped at Gates Overlook for lunch. I haven't bothered to show you the view from the overlook, because there wasn't one. Marjan, today's leader, gave us options many times during the day to make it longer or shorter, but by the time we packed up from having lunch, nobody seemed to be inclined to make it any longer than the eleven miles (round trip) we would cover on our return. It might have been a smidgen longer, but both of our GPS people were elsewhere (Al is in Las Vegas in over 100-degree heat, and Fred had taken Monday off work for our snowshoe trip and decided to put in some work hours today).
By the time we started heading back down the trail to our cars, the sun began to break through the clouds a little, so we had mixed rain (enough to cause us to put on our rain gear) and sunshine. Cindy pointed out these little flowers to me, which she thinks are called foam flowers (or at least that's what I heard). They remind me of baby's breath, which florists use in bouquets. On the way back down, I couldn't resist asking Dan to let me take a picture of him with this sign:
I don't know who the original Dan was, but our very own Dan will be 78 years old soon, so I figured he deserves a traverse if he wants it. Happy birthday! Not to mention that he had no problem with our long hike and almost 3,000 feet elevation gain and loss. I learned today that he started hiking with the Trailblazers in 2000, when he was about the age I am now. Made me hopeful that I'll still be playing in the Chuckanuts with my friends when I'm 78!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Geezers in the mist

Fred and Mike on the way to Huntoon Point
The Senior Trailblazers have decided to add a twice-monthly Monday or Tuesday hike to the High Country for the 2011 season, and today four of us set out to see how the conditions actually are up there. The Bellingham Herald featured an article this weekend stating "Plenty of Snow in Cascades Means Shorter Hiking Season." This definitely was NOT what we have been hoping to hear. If you read the article, you'll find that the cool and wet spring, along with lots of late-season snow, means that Artist Point, a very popular place to begin our hikes, will possibly not open for the season -- at all.
This is the road to Artist Point, which stops at the ski area parking lot. We made jokes along the lines of "just gun it, Al, let's see how far we can plow through." Um-hmm. Not very far. We slapped on our snowshoes at the ski area parking lot and set out for Huntoon Point, two miles away from here and a little higher in elevation than Artist Point. The snow was slushy, a little like sno-cone consistency, but it was in the fifties, even without any sign of the sun.
As you can see from our clothing and the sunglasses, it was actually quite toasty and the reflected light off the snow caused me to come home with a sunburned face, and summer's sunlight at 5,000 feet warmed us through the heavy clouds. There is usually an astounding vista here, but we didn't see it at all. This was the best I saw, and I had to capture quickly before it disappeared again.
It almost looks like a black-and-white picture, the colors were so washed out with the sky being almost the same color as the snow. The day was calm and relatively warm, so once we reached Huntoon Point we had lunch and then headed back down to the car. The feeling of the day was a little surreal, with such a monochrome landscape. It was only broken by the colors we added ourselves.
Although it's hard to believe, you are looking at both sky and snow as Mike and Fred make their way across the snowy terrain. Snowshoes make a four-mile hike feel like we went twice as far, but it was still a lovely day, with the four of us deciding to check out Hannegan Road on our way back down to Bellingham. Once we left the High Country and got down below 3,000 feet, the greenery exploded and I just had to take this picture of a trillium almost past its peak. The three petals and three leaves show why this flower and its beautiful leaves celebrate THREE in its name.
So all in all, it was a good day, and I'm looking for something to put on my pink cheeks to help them recover from all that indirect sunshine!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Singin' in the rain

No, not me. I was grumbling about the rain this morning, not singing. I woke to the sound of it drumming on the roof, which is never a good sign on a Saturday when I'm thinking about going out with the Fairhaven Walkers. Nope, I've been soaked on too many of those walks to be happy about walking in the wetness. But if you ask me, this beautiful flower, taken this morning at the Farmers' Market, was definitely happy. The delicate purple edges (its name is something that begins with a C, but I just can't remember, although I asked the vendor) were so light as to almost be invisible.

After giving up on the walk, the first bus to town goes by at 9:50 am, so I ambled to the bus stop since the rain had dwindled to what was called "light rain mist" on my weather blog. For those of you interested, the temperature outside right now is 54 degrees F, and yesterday's maximum was 66. Our all-time record for the date was 87 in 1958, and I don't think we need to worry about setting records any time soon. We are continuing with our cooler-than-normal temperatures accompanied by rain. At least these days are broken now and then by sunnier and warmer temperatures than we are having today.
There were no crowds at the Market today, either, as you can see from the grey, wet and rather empty sidewalks. But by the time I left the market, the rain had stopped. Although there is no sunshine yet, it's amazing how much my mood lifted once the rain let up. Then it was time for the lap swimming to begin over at the Y's pool, so I went in and swam more than a half mile, in a lane all by myself. By the time I went to catch the bus home, I was smiling and would have been singin' in the rain... if there was any left.

I stopped by the bookstore and picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Everyone who has read it tells me I'll love it, so now I'll have some lunch and snuggle into my recliner and read, while the birds sing outside.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Excelsior Pass attempt

I was so happy that finally, mid-June, the Senior Trailblazers would leave the Chuckanuts behind and drive up the Mt. Baker Highway to check out Excelsior Pass. Ken Wilcox, in "Hiking Whatcom County," gave this description of the hike:
There are two approaches to this extensive alpine ridge. ... Both lead to exceptional meadows and good views of Mt. Baker, the North Cascades, and peaks of the B.C. coastal range. ... Note that the snow on north-facing slopes takes longer to melt, which means the longer south route may be mostly snow free several weeks earlier than the north.
Well, ten of us headed up the highway to try out the longer south-facing route. This is what it looked like for a couple of miles, lots of green and really lovely, other than the fact that the sun didn't shine on us all day. No matter, it wasn't raining, which is always a plus. The hike begins at an altitude of 1,850 feet, and we didn't run into snow until we had trekked to right around 3,700 feet.
You can see the trail is becoming obscured by snow, but we figured we could get quite a bit higher, using Al's GPS tracking device to stay on or near the trail. However, by the time we reached 4,200 feet, the trail began to be less and less visible. We tried to break through some of the more dangerous looking snow, in order to make it safer for others, as well as for us on our return journey.
Here is Al breaking through the snow to the trail, but it wasn't long before the trail was only visible by pink streamers that had been placed by some intrepid hikers who went out some time before us and made it all the way to the ridge, I'll bet. By the time noon rolled around, we were still 900 feet from the top, because hiking through snow is slow going, and we made a decision to have lunch and decide what to do afterwards.
If you enlarge this picture, you can see the pink marker that was our only indication of a way to the ridge. As you might have guessed, once we had our lunch break, we decided to head back down through the snow to the trailhead and our cars. Fortunately we were able to follow our own tracks and were never in any danger of getting lost. I saw this really beautiful moss-covered rock on our way back down, with ferns strategically placed as if positioned by a guiding hand.
What amazes me is how everything grows so profusely in this part of the world. The rain helps, of course, and the low altitude, but I am constantly astonished at the beauty I am able to appreciate every single time we hike into the wilderness. Not to mention being in the company of good friends who are always filled with the same pleasure and joy that I feel when being together in the wilderness.

We covered only 5.5 miles and 2,600 feet in elevation gain and loss. We did agree that the snow for the second half of the hike made it seem twice as long. We didn't really have an incentive to make it all the way to the top, since the clouds would obscure any possible view. It really didn't make or break our hike; it has been a good day. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day rolls around again

From Wikipedia
When I looked at the calendar this morning, I was reminded that it's Flag Day again here in the United States. It also reminded me that I wrote a post about it last year, with a little historical background and pictures of the flowers I took with my camera that morning. The same flowers are only now beginning to show any blooms, whereas last year they had been around for awhile. It's been a cool and cloudy springtime in the Pacific Northwest. Oh well, I'd rather have days in the sixties like we are having now than what the entire Eastern Seaboard is experiencing.

The downstairs neighbor who flew his flag last year has moved out, and the apartment is currently being rented to a short-timer. Many changes have taken place in my neck of the woods since then, too. I was writing twice as many posts on my blog, and I decided to take the internally generated pressure off by posting less often. But still, I notice that if I've written one over the weekend I begin to get a little restless by Tuesday. After all, I always write one on Thursday after the Trailblazers hike.

Some people don't like to be bound by schedules, but I find that having a scheduled morning routine is comforting to me. Wake up early and get some tea, read the news and my blogs, get dressed, have breakfast, catch the bus by 7:40 am, head to the coffee shop for my latte. Mosey out the door, say goodbye to my friends, and walk to the YMCA for my 9:00 am class. By 11:10 when the next bus goes back by my house, I've exercised, showered, shopped for any needed groceries, and am happy to have a few hours of spousal interaction, read, whatever comes up. It's a routine that makes me feel pretty darned lucky.

Sometimes I see scenes around town that make me glad to have my camera out and ready for action. When I saw this orange caterpillar, I realized my camera had to be dug out and turned on before it had gone by.
The idea of having a "leash" with little handles for the kids to hold onto never occurred to me before I began to see these scenes all around town. Usually there is an adult at either end, and the kids are usually not wearing little orange t-shirts saying "Field Trip" on them, either. I was glad there is an "auto" feature on the camera or I would never have gotten this picture at all!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The photographic triangle

From Hoot Photography
Boy, this whole exposure business is a LOT more complicated than I expected it to be. No wonder people wimp out and use the point-and-shoot feature on the camera most of the time. At first I thought I wanted to learn how to use all the settings on my camera, but it turns out I have a pretty cool camera that gives me a "creative zone" allowing me to change the shutter speed or aperture value and the camera will figure out the rest of the settings.
Shutter speed 1/30, ISO on auto
In this picture taken last week of my friend Judy, I used the flash in order to light up her face, and the camera changed the f-stop to 2.8. Then I asked Judy to take a picture of me, using the same shutter speed but with light behind me.
With the light behind me and using the flash, the f-stop was changed to 4.5. Both of these pictures are perfectly acceptable to me (except for that goggle eyed guy over my shoulder). However, I will now try to figure out how to blur the background when taking these kind of portrait pictures. That is called "bokeh" (a very strange word, methinks) and it would have looked totally cool to have just a blur behind each of us instead of all the detail in the restaurant. But if I had just used the automatic setting, the flash would have washed out our faces, so I haven't used it much. The camera has a portrait setting, but I haven't gotten great results from it, either.

I have messed with the ISO, which is explained by remembering how film cameras used to require you to buy film with different ISOs -- I would always buy 100 ISO because I wasn't ever sure where I'd be taking the pictures. That would work for pictures in full sun (which Colorado has plenty of, when I was using film), but it wasn't great for pictures taken indoors. I would buy a film at 400 for low light pictures, but you couldn't change out the film once it was in the camera. Today's cameras allow me to make changes whenever I feel like it. However, it's not easy to understand the relationships between the elements in the Photographic Triangle. But I am just beginning to get a teensy little bit of a hold on it.

When I am wanting to be sure I get a good picture, I revert back to the auto setting and then usually need to clean up the picture in iPhoto, usually having to lighten it, and sometimes fix the contrast. Although it's a lot of work to understand all this, I'm actually enjoying myself... at least sometimes. When something works and everything clicks, when it comes together to make a good shot, I am pretty pleased with myself. But I've got a LONG way to go. Good thing I'm retired!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

South summit of Stewart

Today eleven Senior Trailblazers headed up to the south summit of Stewart Mountain from the Lake Whatcom trailhead. As you can tell from our attire, it was quite warm. Al had checked out the hike for us on Monday, the third day in a row of beautiful sunny weather. Today's "June gloom" kept the sun from shining most of the day, although now at 4:00pm as I sit as my computer, the skies are mostly sunny. It figures.
This is hopefully the season's last hike in the Chuckanuts, because next week we will try going up the Mt. Baker Highway and taking on Excelsior Ridge. I didn't expect to have as good a time as I did today. (I love the high country hikes the best.) As we headed higher and higher up Stewart Mountain, we ascended into a cloud. This meant our view of Mt. Baker would be limited, if visible at all. This particular hike has logging roads that take you to all the different summits, but Al has figured out a way for us to make this nine-mile hike with less than a mile spent on the logging roads, and the rest of the time on trails. It is definitely a workout, but it is much more enjoyable on trails where I can see the ferns and blooming flowers. We also saw something else:
We kept seeing BIG piles of bear scat, which means the bears are out of hibernation and looking for munchies. Since we did an out-and-back trip, we passed by the same piles on the way back, and Mike counted them on the way down: 13 separate piles, which I suspect were not all left by one bear. But other than the scat, we saw no other signs of these guys.
Click any picture to enlarge
By noon, when we stopped for lunch at our high spot on the mountain (3,000 feet), the clouds began to clear off a little. In the above picture, you are looking at Acme Valley down below, but this is about the best view I was able to get all day. Behind those low clouds are Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters, but you wouldn't know it. Al pulled out his camera and showed us the stupendous pictures he took on Monday. It only made me want to stick around to see if they would peek through, so we stayed for almost an hour, but this is the best picture I got.
As we headed back down to the cars, this picture of the logging road section shows it was a beautiful day, even if the sun wasn't shining. No threat of rain, and I thought this tree in the middle of the picture looked just magical. All in all, we covered nine miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Pretty typical for us. Al pointed out to me this "nurse" stump, which apparently happens in this part of the country quite often: the two trees growing out of the top started their lives and are being nourished by the stump in the middle, which will eventually disintegrate, leaving a very interesting root system behind.
It reminds me to remember the tenacity of living things to keep on finding a way to survive. Those long tap roots are now firmly anchored in the ground below, and the trees will be there long after the stump that nourishes them now will be gone. Today was a day filled with the kindness of friends, lots of sweating, and now a blog post to share. It was a day that made me happy to be alive, to be here in this part of the country, and to have the wherewithal to write this, tired and content.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blogging buddies bodies meet

Linda and DJan at the Dropzone
Try saying THAT title three times fast! I looked in the dictionary for another "b" word that means the same thing as "meet" but I was unsuccessful. This picture was taken last Sunday, at Skydive Snohomish with the sun shining on a beautiful day with a perfect breeze. I got on the plane with my jumping buddies to make a skydive and when I returned to the Dropzone, there she was! I knew Linda immediately from her pictures on her blog, Thoughts of a Bag Lady in Waiting (and she knew me). We introduced ourselves and then she came inside to watch while I packed up my parachute. She asked a whole lot of questions, not only from me but also the other people around the Dropzone that I introduced her to. One person thought she was with the press. :-)

She is a very dynamic person and was hoping to make an observer ride when I told her about the possibility, but Skydive Snohomish no longer offers them. It's quite possible she will come back again and make a tandem jump. In any event, after we had spent the day together (while I packed my parachute and boarded the airplane and jumped out three separate times), I felt like I had expanded my universe in a direction that makes me very happy. It's amazing to me how the blogosphere brings us together because of mutual interests and gives us the option to actually meet in person!!

Linda mentioned the possibility of perhaps having a blogging buddy vacation weekend, where we could gather some of our mutual blogging friends living close by who might like to spend some time together, and I think this is a great idea! Although this is the first time we met in person, Linda and I are way more than simple acquaintances, as I know her hopes and dreams and she knows mine. That is one thing that blogging provides us that creates a brand new universe for many of us. Back in 2009, I wrote a blog post about Teilhard de Chardin who suggested that we are creating a new paradigm for human interaction through our connectivity.

I'm not sure what will come of all of it, but I know that my blogging buddies, two of whom I have now met in person, are adding more and more to my daily sense of satisfaction.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Six decades

What a difference six decades can make in one's face, huh? Hair, complexion, the whole enchilada. However, the one thing I notice is that my smile is the same! Our bodies do tend to hang in there for a long time if we take care of them. Eyes crinkle up more than they used to, now they need glasses; those teeth have eaten quite a few meals in more than sixty years, but since I see a dentist regularly they are hanging in there, even if they require crowns and root canals and other unpleasantnesses, not to mention money.

Today I'd like to talk a bit about getting older. I've heard it said that aging is not for sissies, and whoever said it wasn't kidding. There are so many things that just keep on deteriorating, including the aging of our friends and family, with the loss of another one now and then. It's part of the process, and it's one part I hadn't considered when thinking of getting older. The four Seniors who carpooled together on our hike last week each had a new ailment to share, and I thought of the conversations I overheard when I was a kid, never guessing that I would be there some day, commiserating with my cronies over this and that part beginning to break down or wear out.

One of the resources that I use to make myself feel better about getting older are the blogs of some of my dear friends: people whose faces I have never seen in person, probably won't ever meet, but you just never know. My blogging friends are almost all retired or close to it. Tomorrow, I'll be meeting a Bag Lady in Waiting: Linda Myers, who lives a few miles away from my favorite place to skydive: Skydive Snohomish. She says she's not going to try it, but you never know. I made my first jump never realizing that I would end up with so many of them under my belt.

But it's sad knowing that this is a sport that, although I still love it, is no longer something I intend to keep doing much longer. This is my last season, or next to last. I've thought it would be cool to keep on skydiving until I am 70, which is only another year and a half. However, it doesn't make much sense to me to keep going until I have an injury that I have to deal with. I want to stop skydiving on my terms, so every jump I make is potentially my last one. I figure I'll know when it's time, and I feel that time coming.

Another favorite blog was introduced to me by Linda at A Slower Pace. She has decided to stop blogging, which saddens me, but then again, why keep on doing something that isn't giving you what you want out of it? She wrote about a blog that I now read every day, with something good that I learn from it, or a link that I follow to another exciting place. It's a professional blog written by Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By. She has a regular staff of elders who research and write about everything that interests me as an elder myself. Ronni says she was forcibly retired in 2005 because of age discrimination. She is an inspiration to me, every day, and she's already passed her seventieth year and tells it like it is.

Today I was out walking with more than a dozen women of all ages. We meet at 8:00 am on Saturday, rain or shine, and walk with Cindy, a retired race walker who has taught me how to quicken my pace and walk brisk enough to really feel it. Then I went over to the YMCA and swam a half mile. Strolling around in the sunshine afterwards, I just had to give thanks for the life that I have, the health still moving me forward, and scouting out what's ahead.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

All's well that ends well

Fourteen Senior Trailblazers left the parking lot at Clayton Beach trailhead on our way up to Fragrance Lake and beyond. Here's Al at the lake when all is still going according to Plan A. In three years that I have been hiking with the Trailblazers, nothing like what happened today has occurred before. And this picture shows when our adventure really began.
Here we all are at the beginning of the hike, getting our equipment adjusted and starting out with our rain gear, as it's forecast to be gray skies and possible showers all day. It always amazes me that so many of us show up to get our exercise on Thursday when the weather is dubious, but I've found that I'm not the only one who heads out anyway.
Raindrops in the lake
We had been staying quite close together, all 14 of us, until just before the turnoff to Fragrance Lake. Since Mike always brings up the rear, we assumed that he would be just behind us when we turned from a quick break at the lake to start back up the trail. But there was no Mike, and two other hikers who were with him were also missing. We went back to the junction and found no sign of them. A hiker told us he had seen the three of them heading up our intended trail from the lake, so we took off in hopes to catch them. They, on the other hand, thought they had gotten far behind us when one hiker went to answer a call of nature. They hurried on hoping to catch us.

No sign of them, and several trail junctions gave us time to speculate where they might be. It was as if they had been snatched up by aliens, it had happened so fast. We headed to the clearcut area that was our destination, hoping for a view of Bellingham Bay and our friends. We had discussed that the bulldozers and harvested timber would make it possible to see a view that had been hidden previously. Here you see the icky part in the foreground as we looked out at the bay.
I do have trouble with the logging practices around here, but I am told it has been going on like this forever. Hopefully I'll get used to it. As you can see from this picture, the skies were indeed cloudy and the bay looks very mysterious in the distance. Weighing on all of us, however, was the location of our missing friends. We decided to have four people head back to their car and hopefully see them on the way down to the parking lot. We had cellphone connectivity and while the rest of us had lunch, the others headed back down the few miles in search of them. Now we were seven, since three were missing and four headed back to the cars. We went up to a viewpoint and saw a much nicer view of the bay, without all that clearcut.
Kimberly took this very nice picture of me as we headed back down to the junction. When we got there, we learned from the four that our missing friends had not arrived at the parking lot, so there was nothing to do but head back towards Fragrance Lake. This is what we did, and then we ran into them! Once we were all together and told the others at the parking lot that the missing hikers had been found, we all ended up happy to have learned some important lessons without anyone getting hurt.

I'm sure we will change some procedures before our next hike, but like I said at the beginning of this tale, all's well that ends well! (For Kimberly's take on the day, click here.)