Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stujack Pass

Yesterday, six of us headed up to Stujack Pass, a hike off the Mountain Loop Highway after another two-hour drive away from home. Diane and my friend Judy joined the usual four of us on our Monday adventure. None of us had been to the pass but had been given a little advice from a seasoned hiker: it is longer than the guidebooks say, and it's pretty hard. The picture above was taken on our way up from treeline to the pass, that low spot between the peaks far, far away.
The higher we climbed, however, the more spectacular the view. The first few miles of the journey were in dense forest, so we would have been in shade in any event, but when we started we were in fog. Here you can see the remnants of the fog in the valley below. That's where we started from. It continued to clear and was completely gone from this valley by early afternoon. The flowers, however, grew more and more profuse the higher we climbed.
It is impossible for me to recapture the feeling I had looking at the hillsides filled with flowers. I didn't get to look at them for too long, though, since the trail was rocky and very steep. At times it took all my attention to watch every step as I trudged upward to the pass. But we did finally make it to the top at almost 6,000 feet of elevation.
Looking back down the way we had come showed some amazing peaks, unfamiliar to me. On the left is (I think) Sloan Peak, looking like a Matterhorn from here. And then when I turned to look the other direction, I saw an old friend!
Behind the large White Chuck mountain in the foreground is Mt. Baker! And I could see that some fog was still hanging around in the valley on the left. By the time we headed back down, however, I think it had burned off everywhere.
The scenery was just amazing, but we had a long way to go before reaching our cars, and the trail was just as hard going down as it was going up, requiring me to brace myself with my trekking poles to keep from slipping on the loose dirt of the trail. The hike was advertised to be around seven or eight miles from start to finish, but we all agreed (and the GPS did too) that it was more like ten or eleven miles, and 3,800 feet elevation gain and loss. A hard hike, but a beautiful one.

I went home and showered, it was really late, but I fell into bed and now the sun is coming up on the day after, and I feel pretty good, except for some residual tiredness. The entire month of August has been beautiful and filled with some incredible journeys, many of them for the first time. Labor Day is next Monday and the equinox is right around the corner, so I'm happy to have been able to make such great memories, after a slow start to the hiking season due to the snow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A great place to live

Taken off of Al Heezen's Flickr site
As most of you know who follow my blog, we've been having fabulous weather lately. Al took this picture last Thursday of me snapping a summit shot of Diane. What a totally exceptional shot this is: the view, the perfect weather, me in my hiking gear doing what I love, and a victorious Diane. I couldn't resist sharing it.

This morning I went out with my usual Fairhaven walking group. We walked in Whatcom Falls Park,  which has some great views of the falls and lots of shaded trails. Although this morning was sunny, almost all of our six-mile hike was in the shade. And I got this great shot of the falls.
While we rested for a few minutes, someone pointed out the shaft of light coming through the trees, which was visible because of the mist from the falls. It turned out to be quite an amazing picture, kind of the other side of the first one, taken on top of the Church Mountain summit. It occurred to me that this place that I have chosen to call my home is a really wonderful place to live. If you can take the many cloudy and/or rainy days during the long winters, it is an ideal location. I'm pretty sure that many of you who have suffered through the past summer heat in the midwest might agree right about now.

I also received a letter from my new chiropractor, Russ Maxwell. Not only did he do a great job on my back, he welcomed me to his office and sent me a FAN LETTER! He said,
Thank you for the wonderful review on your blog. I was truly humbled. Also thanks for not bringing a camera; I would have frozen up.  :-)  Your blog is very interesting and it is amazing all you have been through. You have a strong constitution!! Thank you again!  --Russ
How many of us can say we have received fan mail from any of our doctors? He's pretty special, and although I am happy to wait to see him again until I actually need him, it's a comfort to know I have someone like him standing by, just in case. And a big thank you to Joy (from my exercise class) for referring me to Russ.

It just goes to show that if you find the right place for yourself, things will fall into place. Tomorrow I'll head down to Snohomish to jump out of perfectly good planes for the day, and if all goes as planned, there's yet another hike in the works for Monday. The weather looks fair and sunny as far as the eye can see. Where are my picturesque and fluffy white clouds? We are in danger of hitting 75 degrees F today!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Heavenly Church Mountain

I sure did get a lot of grief from my fellow Senior Trailblazers for last Monday's post. Everyone ribbed me because of all the commenters who pointed out that I am getting JADED. Well, today was spectacular in just about every way. When four of us went up to Church Meadow in July, it was covered with snow. In that post, I showed what it had looked like the year before on the same date. As you can see from the above picture, today we were in abundant lush growth and full sun. We made it to the summit.
Ten of us headed up today, last Thursday's group plus Linda and Ward. We kept seeing fields like the one above that have only recently come out from under the snow and are filled with vistas of beautiful flowers. The difference between the flowers from today's hike and that of last week's Welcome Pass have nothing to do with abundance but everything to do with variety. In the foreground you can see huge clumps of false hellebore, nowhere near blooming, but lots of other flowers on the crest of the hill are in full bloom. We did have to cross a few snow fields, not too many, but here you can see the incredible mountain vistas that opened up to us the higher we climbed.
That is our friend Mount Baker hiding its top behind that cloud. As we gained altitude, we saw more and more breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. It was quite hot but a light breeze helped us out now and then. Once we had left the dense forest and started hiking in the full sun, it was challenging to keep my heart rate in a safe zone.
As I looked down at the flowers, the snow, the views, I took plenty of time to take pictures and catch my breath. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but I was really happy whenever one of those clouds would give me a little respite. Once you reach the final push, there is a 100-foot scramble to the summit. I used my self timer to take this picture on the summit (Peggy and Mike skipped this part).
Al, Fred, Diane, me, Ward, Amy, Linda
You will have to forgive Diane for trying to make Fred look like he has horns. You have to watch some people all the time, and I was busy setting up the self timer so I missed it, but it's still a pretty good picture. We had a great lunch break, but the incessant sunshine was making me long for the shade of the trees at the beginning of this hike.
We headed back down to the cars, with a marvelous day behind us. We covered nine miles and climbed and descended 3,800 feet. I have to say the downhill this time was easier than the uphill climb, even though my knees still complained plenty. Now that I am home and self-medicated with a glass of wine, I'm feeling quite happy for having spent another wonderful day in the wilderness with my best buddies. And now I get to share it with YOU!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No I'm not tall

Al took this picture of me last week on the Welcome Pass hike. I like it because I think I look really tall, but you know, I'll never know what it feels like to be tall (I'm barely 5'3"). One of the things my partner likes to say to me when I land my parachute a little shy of the intended landing area is that I'll always land a little short.  Do you think some day I might land tall? (smile)

I realize how deeply ingrained my usual routine has become: ride the bus to the Y for my 9:00 class every weekday except Thursday (when I go hiking with the Senior Trailblazers). During the summer months if the weather is fine, I go down to Snohomish to jump out of airplanes one of the two weekend days, whichever one has my friend Linny to organize the jumps.  I prefer Sundays because on Saturday I can go out with the Fairhaven walking group and then have a nice long swim at the pool. Additionally, I can visit the Farmers' Market as it is only open that day. On Sunday, the Y doesn't even open until noon and the lanes are crowded.

Adding an additional hike on Mondays, as we are doing during the summer months, has disrupted my usual routine. When I showed up this morning for class, several people asked where I was on Monday. (One class is M-W-F and the other is T-Th, although I am usually elsewhere on Thursdays.) I carried my iPad to class today so I could brag about recent hikes and show pictures.

As I sit here at my iMac, I can see the nuthatches and chickadees stocking up on black oil sunflower seeds and the goldfinches at the finch feeders. Just now a Northern Flicker hopped up onto the porch and had a quick snack at the suet feeder. I love my birdies, but I am not overly fond of the house sparrows, who tend to arrive in rather dense flocks onto my porch. The flurry of wings when they leave has become an unmistakable summer background noise. They pick up and eat the finch food that falls onto the porch, since they cannot perch upside down. I've watched them try.
Nuthatch, siskins, goldfinch, chestnut-backed & black-capped chickadee
(click to enlarge)
Although the birds take a bit of time, effort and money to make sure they are never without food and clean water, they bring me an amazing amount of pleasure. All of these pictures were taken through my front porch window. It's what I see from my desk. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good but not great

All our hikes can't be filled with the "wow factor," I guess. Today, for our semi-weekly extracurricular Monday hike, ten Senior Trailblazers set out for Goat Lake, a LONG drive down the Mountain Loop Highway past Granite Falls. From Bellingham, I suspect the entire drive, one way, was somewhere around 130 miles. This means the hike would need to be absolutely spectacular to make the long drive worthwhile. While it was pretty wonderful, it didn't have the pizzazz of last Thursday's Welcome Pass hike, or the Thornton Lakes hike we took a few Mondays ago.
We set out on the trail by 10:00am and headed for the lake on the lower trail. There are two ways to get to the lake, one by Elliott Creek (very scenic) and the other on a higher trail that is a little longer. (We took that trail back.) We reached the lake a little after noon and found a very nice place to have our lunch.
As you can see, the lake is really quite beautiful and serene. Although the day was mostly overcast, the lake was really lovely and in a very nice setting.  The rain stayed away until we were almost at the end of the hike, and then it only cooled us down a bit; nobody needed to pull out rain gear. By the end of the hike, we had covered a little more than eleven miles and around 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.
The falls coming down from this lake into Elliott Creek were very spectacular, but I wasn't able to get a picture that gives any justice to the scene. However, I was able to capture this shot of Al, taking a picture of the falls that at least gives a little perspective to the scene. From where he was standing, the falls roared down past him into the creek.
Trust me, the scene he is photographing is amazing, but my pictures just showed some water careening down into the creek without anything to lend perspective to show what I saw. So, this picture will have to do. Maybe the picture that Al is taking will do a better job than mine.

Afterwards, we drove to Granite Falls and had dinner at the Omega Pizza Parlor, where I indulged in a pizza and beer, as I was not one of the drivers. I'm pretty tired, I realize now, and I'm thinking that a nice hot shower and my nice warm bed will feel awfully nice. The sun has set on our day, and I learned that it rained almost all day here in Bellingham, while our rain held off, for the most part, until we were safe and dry inside our cars.

I hope you had a wonderful day, a fulfilling one that had at least a little bit of a wow factor. Now that I'm home, looking back on the day I think it was really a good one.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Some people might recognize the detail of the beautiful heirloom tomato I purchased this morning at the Farmers' Market. I couldn't help myself, but this closeup of the almost two-pound tomato was so beautiful I couldn't resist sharing it with you. Here's the whole thing:
I have no idea whether it will taste as good as it looks, but it is truly a work of art, don't you think? This is one of those days when I can bask in the smiles and sunshine that greet my eye everywhere I look. After reading the news and checking the weather this morning, I headed to the ferry terminal to walk with the Fairhaven Walkers Group along the trails in south Bellingham (also known as Fairhaven). My legs needed a little bit of exercise to work out the kinks remaining from Thursday's hike. That was what I was hoping for, anyway. I'm still quite sore.

I forgot to tell you about a funny thing that happened on our Welcome Pass hike. Since the 67 switchbacks were challenging for five of us, Fred and Mike went on ahead (armed with walkie talkies to keep us connected) and charged up while the rest of us trudged more slowly. They ran into another hiker who was heading down, and he said, "Hey, it's the Senior Trailblazers. You're Fred." He was nowhere near old enough to be known to us by age; he told them that he reads this blog. Fred said that I was behind them with the others, and if he wanted to surprise me, he could call me by name when he saw us coming up the trail. And that's exactly what he did. After a few moments of confusion (do I know you?), we chatted briefly. I didn't think to ask him where he heard about the blog, but he found it somewhere and made my day. (Dave, say hello in the comments if you feel like it, and welcome!)

After the morning walk and a quick trip to the market, I headed over to the Y to swim a half mile. The pool is open again after having been emptied, painted, and filled with fresh clear water. The difference is astounding. Since I started using the pool in April, I didn't have any idea how nice the water could be. After a shower and noticing more smiling faces, I am now home and writing a post. This interlude of a wonderful day, filled with perfect weather (it's 76 degrees and still sunny), a blog post written in a very grateful frame of mind... it's hard to ask for much more.

However, in an hour or so I'm heading off to the movies with my friend Judy to see "The Help." Tomorrow I'll spend in Snohomish jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Not to mention the good friends I have made here in the blogosphere. The depth and breadth of my life these days fills me with several magnitudes of thankfulness.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why is it called Welcome Pass?

Mike, Diane, Amy, Peggy, Fred, me, Al
Today only seven Senior Trailblazers headed up Welcome Pass to this wonderful view, for several reasons. One, when we met this morning at the Senior Center, four people who talked with us about the difficulty of this hike decided to go instead on the easier hike to Heart Lake. I've done Welcome Pass twice before: the first time I could not walk for three days, my legs were so sore. And last year, we got to the pass on a cold foggy day, with no view. That was not what we met today!
Shuksan and flowers
This is by far the latest time in the season that we've tried this hike, and the weather could not have been more beautiful. By the time we had climbed the 67 switchbacks to the pass, the weather was not only cooperating, but the snow levels were far lower than last year's. (Of course, last year we hiked it in mid-June, not mid-August.)
The pass (below us in this picture) was still covered with snow, but bore little resemblance to what we had encountered in previous years. Today, when we hiked up this ridge to get a better view, the vista that opened itself up to us was nothing short of spectacular. The flowers were not only amazing, but the light breeze that greeted us while we sat and had our lunch was perfect: not too much, and with the sun shining I was in perfect comfort. Although it was not an easy day, by any means, we were all smiles and filled with gratitude for our beautiful day by the time we headed back down to our cars.
Here you see Al beginning our trek back down, with the view of Baker and Shuksan (and so many other peaks) so amazing that we lingered for quite awhile on this ridge. We knew we had 3,400 feet (more than 1,000 meters) of elevation to descend before we would be back to the trailhead and our cars. We started down with lots of excitement, but by the time we had only a short mile left to go, nobody was talking: we were all hoping our bodies would make it before we collapsed. I myself was wondering if my knees would continue to carry me, and I fear that if it had been just a bit longer we would have been reduced to several whimpering Trailblazers, vowing never to do this hike again.
But the views we had today carried us for quite a ways, and the flowers and vistas that I saw on the summit kept me moving forward when the going was tough on the way down. Although we only covered seven miles today, the elevation was so steep, both ways, that I think we should be allowed to add another three miles or so onto the trip! Now that I am home, looking at my pictures and sipping my wine, life feels almost back to normal. But tomorrow: will I feel like heading to the gym or not?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Babylon 5

When I first met Smart Guy, he was living in San Francisco and I was living in Boulder. We met through the skydiving internet (rec.skydiving), first making contact through email, then phone calls, and finally beginning to meet one another in person in 1992. It was amazing to me to meet another person my age who would let me talk about skydiving as much as I wanted (remember I had only begun to skydive late in 1990), someone who loved backpacking and the outdoors, and who was a science fiction aficionado just like me!

He moved to Boulder in 1993, and in 1994 we were married in freefall, but that's another story. During the same time frame, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) created the Babylon 5 universe as a television series and the new drama was first aired in January 1994. The most startling thing about the five-year-long series, to me, is that the entire story arc was conceived by Straczynski in a flash. According to that B-5 Wikipedia link above, JMS writes,
Once I had the locale, I began to populate it with characters, and sketch out directions that might be interesting. I dragged out my notes on religion, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, science (the ones that didn't make my head explode), and started stitching together a crazy quilt pattern that eventually formed a picture. Once I had that picture in my head, once I knew what the major theme was, the rest fell into place. All at once, I saw the full five-year story in a flash, and I frantically began scribbling down notes. (1995)
The locale that JMS is talking about here is a space station set in the 23rd century, Babylon 5, populated with many alien races and with characters that I have grown to know and love as though they were family. In our first years of being married, the two of us watched the original television series in our apartment, and we looked forward to each episode with incredible anticipation. I had never seen a show like this one, and although the Star Trek series has a similar appeal, this one is deeper and more complex than anything I had seen before.

The final show, "Sleeping in Light," was first shown in November 1998, and our marriage had finally settled into something that both of us believed would continue (after a very rocky start). I still remember both of us holding hands and crying our eyes out while we watched that final episode. We watched additional TV movies and reruns of the shows for years, but that first viewing of a very special episode ending five years of struggle that resonated so deeply with our own journey, well, it was unforgettable.

Smart Guy was so taken by the series that he bought the DVD special collection, and it traveled with us in 2008 from our home in Boulder to our new home here in Bellingham. The collection sits in a special place, but we didn't take it off the shelf for years, waiting for the right time to present itself. He paid $300 for the entire set, and I see it's now half price on Amazon but still available. There is an entire website dedicated to followers of the show, "The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5." Obviously I am not the only person who believes in its continued relevance.

Well, here it is, the middle of 2011, and today we watched "Sleeping in Light" again after revisiting all 110 episodes, once each day. I have arrived in this place where I am filled again with admiration for all the wonderful people who populate the B-5 universe, and JMS for his genius in creating this marvelous story. So many of the issues he raised are even more pertinent in today's political climate, and I feel grateful that I can look forward again, probably in a few more years, to experiencing this very special tale being told to me once again. It is bittersweet for me to realize that several of the actors have died since the show was produced in the 1990s, reminding me that time moves on, and that nothing stays the same. In fact, one of the actors, Jeff Conaway, died at the end of May, while we were watching the DVDs.

Although our life together has deepened and strengthened because of our commitment to one another, sharing something like this together as we have just done is beyond priceless. If we continue on this trajectory of love and light, I have no fear of where we will be in twenty more years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Winning bird picture

Since many of my blogging buddies also follow Joan at The Retirement Chronicles, you might know that I enter her photo contest every month -- unless the month gets away from me and I forget, or unless I simply have nothing worth submitting. A year ago last May I won for "Landscapes" and in July's contest this year, I won bragging rights for this picture, with the theme "Birds," along with a cute little widget to display on my sidebar. And you can check out this link to see all the other July entries.

It actually amazed me how happy I was when Joan told me that I'd won. The thing is, the possibility of winning isn't what motivates me to enter, but to see what other people submit and how my pictures stack up next to others. Usually I can predict the eventual winner and I thought I had a pretty good chance this month. Say hello to my little Rufous hummingbird who enjoys the penstemon in the little flower box on my front porch. I think he's the same one who visits often, but there's no way to know for sure. Only a few times have I had more than one hummer at a time visit the flowers.

I'm deep into Jodi Picoult's book House Rules and stayed up way too late last night reading. If you haven't discovered her yet, she takes a controversial issue and covers it from the point of view of all the characters in the story. This one is about Asperger's Syndrome. It keeps reminding me of a wonderful book I read long ago, written from the point of view of a child with autism, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. I just loved that book, too.

It's early in the morning here on the west coast and I woke up early, even though I went to sleep later than usual, so I am able to get this post done before I leave on the bus for my daily routine. I only have a few more minutes before I dash out the door, and the bus waits for no one. Talk to you soon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Browsers and blogging

Someone on my Google+ friends put up a picture of this guy who decided to be an advertisement for Chrome. The first picture is the favicon for the Chrome browser. I use it all the time for posting, commenting, and reading stuff on line. I find that it's much less buggy than some of the other browsers, and things load a whole lot faster, too. I wish there was a way to find out what makes my posts hang, and I suspect that if I spent the time to learn more about browsers, I could.

I also use Safari occasionally, and Firefox. When I got my iPad, which comes with Safari, I downloaded something called "Atomic" hoping that it would give me better results for the platform, but no such luck. I've found that posting anything, if using my iPad, must be done in HTML mode because it doesn't support anything else. Atomic is the same. And any little window that is supposed to scroll doesn't work, which must be a function of iPad not liking Flash. Again, I could probably find all this out, but it's a really big black hole that I'm not interested in getting caught up in.

Ever since that three-day crash of Blogspot, I notice that several of my regular commenters must use the "Anonymous" button in order to comment. Since Blogspot has a really good spam filter, it usually only catches real spam, but if you do need to use Anonymous, remember to sign your name; it must look for that, since spammers always put in a live link and don't sign their comments. Frankly, when I think of all the social networks coming on line, like Google+, I wonder where we are headed in this Brave New World.

I am on Facebook and now use Google+, but I haven't ventured into Twitter or other networking sites. My brother thinks Google+ is pretty neat, and every day another person invites me to become a "friend" on there. My Facebook friend list is now over 300, but it includes skydiving friends and acquaintances, people I once worked with, family, and now people I meet in Bellingham. Oh yes, I also have quite a few friends on Facebook from the blogosphere. I really like being able to see pictures of people I no longer see in person; it reminds me that we are all changing (and aging), not just me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hannegan Pass Wow factor

Fred (in the red hat) likes to talk about the "Wow factor" on our hikes. Today nine Senior Trailblazers headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to the Hannegan Pass trailhead, where we got to experience lots of "WOWs". The weather forecast was for morning clouds and sunny skies in the afternoon. (Notice there was no rain, which made us VERY happy.) The trail was pretty snow free until we got to the Hannegan campgrounds, but we wanted to make it to the pass, which meant traversing some snow.
Just above the turnoff to the campgrounds, we ran into some serious snow, which was pretty much constant until we got to the pass. It was fairly easy to follow the trail, however, with a good leader. The clouds had not lifted at all, and in this picture you can see that the filtered sunlight was causing mist to rise off the snow. It was pretty warm, and we were all very comfortable until we turned the final corner to Hannegan Pass. At this point we had a breeze coming from what seemed like both directions, and being sweaty from the 2,000-foot elevation gain, stopping for lunch meant getting a bit chilly.
Yes, this is Linda trying to get warm after having had lunch, at 5,000 feet elevation on August 11 in the Pacific Northwest. There have been days on previous hikes to this point when we didn't see any snow at the pass and went on to the summit of Hannegan Peak. Take a look here if you don't believe me. In 2009, I went all the way to the top, but this year three of our numbers decided to give it a try and got nowhere. The snow this year has made it totally impassable. At least for a bunch of old seniors.
Not all of us are all THAT old. Joanne, a new friend, joined us for the first time today. She was the youngster on today's hike, but since she's over sixty, I figured it was all right to let her join us. She's very fit, and she and her husband are active in several local hiking and climbing groups. I learned a great deal about her today, and I think she would have left me in the dust, had she not been so sweet and accommodating to her new hiking buddies.
We headed back down and made it to the cars with plenty of time to spare. Our daylight is beginning to wind down; I notice that we are losing more than three minutes of daylight each day, but it's so green and lush wherever we hike, I realize there are some benefits to having such a cool and snowy summer. Hopefully it means that our fall will extend into many golden days ahead. But nothing is for certain, except that we are blessed beyond description in this part of the world. I couldn't even begin to cover the gorgeous wildflowers I saw on this hike that contributed to the Wow factor, so if you really want to see more, click on the "Trailblazers Summer 2011" in the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thornton Lakes

Only four Senior Trailblazers showed up to drive the 84 miles south of Bellingham yesterday and take in the sights at Thornton Lakes. I am standing at our high point of 5,050 feet, the ridge, with Thornton Lake still frozen below me. In the cirque behind are two smaller lakes, both of which have the name "Thornton," which we could not see. The view was spectacular, wouldn't you say?

Once we drove past the town of Marblemount, we turned off the main road onto a well-maintained steep side road for five miles up to the trailhead, which not only goes to the lakes but also to Trapper Peak. We met some hikers at the junction who tried to make it to the peak but were turned back by snow and some treacherous spots.
Picture taken by Mike
Our goal was only to make it to the ridge above the largest lake. We did consider hiking along the ridge, but the snow was making the hiking more of a chore, so we called it a day once we got to the gorgeous view in the first picture. A few of the stream crossings were not exactly easily forded. In this one you see Al doing what I also did: shinnying across on our behinds. Although it was possible to walk carefully across, like Fred is doing, a slip would not have been fun and could have been disastrous. Just because I jump out of airplanes does NOT mean that I am fearless, believe me.
Most of the trail (the first four miles) are in lush shady forest, as you see above. Mike (in the white hat) had just asked Fred to dip his hat in the stream below so he could pour ice-cold water over his head and down his t-shirt. Although you can't see it in the picture, there IS a stream there, and Mike is actually gasping from the cold water that is now running down his torso. The day's temperature was delightful, but whenever we reached some full sun, I realized how very hot we would have been without all those trees.
Driving down to this part of the North Cascades for a hike meant that we were unsure of the names of the peaks we saw. This one I believe is called the Horsemen, and I love its jagged ridge and sharp peaks. It was simply an amazing day, filled with adventure because of the new terrain and sights (and stream crossings). I would return there again in a minute. Although the ten miles we covered were not really difficult, for some reason I was very tired and sore by the time we reached the car. Our total elevation gain and loss was 2,750 feet: moderate when compared to some of our other hikes, but plenty for us yesterday.

When we drove back to Marblemount to find a place to have dinner, we learned that a downed power line had caused the entire town to be without power since 11:30am, so we drove on to Rockport and went to the only place in the little town to eat, the Rockport Pub. It was quite satisfactory, and by the time we arrived back at the Senior Center just before 8:00pm, there was no chance I would write a post yesterday. Just getting home and relaxing was enough to tire me out! Today, however, I have gone to the Y and taken my Strength and Tone class and made it home in time to write this post. Mission accomplished!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crow Planet

SquirrelQueen just asked me to tell her what books I got at the bookstore yesterday. Since I just finished the first one, here goes! I was actually at the bookstore to get Lisa Genova's latest novel, which just came out in paperback, Left Neglected, about a woman who has a serious brain injury. I simply loved her first book, Still Alice, so much that I have read it twice already.

While minding my own business, I saw the cover of Crow Planet and picked it up. This is the book I just finished reading a few minutes ago. After I browsed for a short while through the book and realized that the author lives in Seattle, I couldn't help myself. It's a very interesting book about the proliferation of crows in our urban environment, exploring the reasons why they are increasing while other species are declining. She's written a very provocative book, and I recommend it if you want to know more about how to find our place in what she calls the zoƶpolis, where humans and animals live together.

I also couldn't resist a used book by Jodi Picoult, House Rules, about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. I recently finished my first book by Picoult and enjoyed it, so I figured I would enjoy this one as well. She's a good writer.

Oh, and just as I was leaving the bookstore, another book leapt out and grabbed me: How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People. How could I resist a book with a title like that, which they were practically GIVING AWAY for just a few dollars? It's a book wherein Publisher's Weekly says the author (Henry Alford) "recognizes that the elderly have been through more in their lives than the rest of us, and figures it might be a good idea to talk to some of them and see if they have any meaningful advice to impart."

So I'm good for at least a week or two, with books to challenge, entertain, and ponder. There ya go, SquirrelQueen!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Ahhh. My spirit is filled with the sense of abundance, which has been helped along by my full tummy after eating a delicious cantaloupe from the market. And this picture typifies the Bellingham Farmers' Market this morning: fruits and vegetables galore, with summertime flowers around every corner.
These big beautiful dahlias don't appear until midsummer around here, and I think they are some of the most magnificent flowers I've ever seen. There is nothing quite as elegant (to me) as a perfect rose, but the dahlia bursts out like fireworks, a joyous shout of amazing colors. The market was crowded today, although the low clouds and breeze made a light jacket necessary for most of us. You can tell the natives from recent transplants: light t-shirt or blouse with nary a sign of discomfort, while here and there you might see someone walking around with a parka and gloves! I was in the middle.
The buskers were in fine form at the market today. I hadn't seen this group before, playing simple but catchy tunes, probably their own. Their sign let me know I was listening to the "Rattletrap Ruckus," a very appropriate name. Although you can't see the accordion player very well, or the bass "broom," they all played together quite professionally. (In case you are not familiar with the term "busker," this Wikipedia link tells you its meaning.)

I took eight books back to the local bookstore to receive a credit on my account and walked out with four new ones. I cannot help myself: I only intended to get one, but they reach out and grab me. It's out of my hands. Another reason for feeling abundant: four new books to read!

I will be really happy when the pool at the YMCA opens up again on the 15th; I think it would have helped me recover more quickly from last weekend's lower back sprain. This morning I was able to walk with the Fairhaven walking group, but I'm thinking I'll probably skip the skydiving tomorrow. Although it would probably be okay, it was while I was packing up that I wrenched it, and I don't want to take the chance that I'll hurt it again. Next weekend will be soon enough, I tell myself.

I can always change my mind if I wake up tomorrow totally pain-free and rarin' to go...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our first 2011 summit

Here you see two of my favorite sights: Mt. Baker and new friend and hiker Diane on the summit of Excelsior Pass! We tried this hike in mid-June only to get part of the way up to this view, because of the SNOW. We have been turned back time and time again because of the snow becoming impassable, or because of weather. Today ten Senior Trailblazers forged our way to the pass, although we had to climb through around a mile or so on snow.
The first four miles of this hike from the Mt. Baker Highway is uphill but in the trees, shaded and very lush and green. We were climbing about a thousand feet of elevation for every mile, so we didn't go very fast. At somewhere around 4,800 feet we ran into snow most of the rest of the way to the pass. There were a few bare spots, but not too many. It's always a bit harder to walk in the snow, because it often seems you take one step forward and a half step backwards. And it was very sunny!
Once we reached the ridge, we had a spectacular view of Mt. Baker. It was simply stunning in its beauty, and although the temperature had reached the high 70s, the light breeze blowing across the snow helped to keep us cool. We even sat on the snow (with our cool little inflatable pillows) and chose the shade, since it was pretty intense in the sun. The summit is at 5,350 feet and we started at 1,800 feet, so this tells you that we climbed around 3,500 feet from the parking lot to this place.
The glacier lilies that you see in the foreground are only around for a few short weeks after the snow recedes. Although it is early August, we usually have a clear shot by this time of the year to our lunch spot. But not this year. As we chatted about the day, the view, and how glad we were to finally get above 5,000 feet elevation, we realized how fortunate we are to have each other, the place we live, and the chance to do it again and again for the rest of the season, before the snow flies once again. Now that the snow is beginning to recede, we are getting to have our own summer, just now beginning while the rest of the country has been suffering with the heat.
Once we finished our lunch (and yes, that is snow), we headed back down to the cars. It was a very long day, covering almost nine miles up and down during those 3,500 feet of climbing up and down. My back had no problem with the uphill hiking, although I did lean rather heavily on my trekking poles, but on the way back down, I realized that my sacroiliac joint was taking a pounding. Now that I am home, happy and content with a day well spent, I am realizing that a couple of ibuprofen will probably be necessary when I go to bed. Tomorrow I get a massage from my regular therapist, and I'll be incredibly happy to turn over this battered body to her ministrations tomorrow. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I took this picture of what I think is a Canadian goose mated pair, but I can't tell any difference in the markings between them. However, they hung out together for quite awhile and the one in front lowered his head, charged and heckled other nearby geese, as if to say that this is his girl, leave her alone! They mate for life, and I'd guess they are wearing wedding rings. (smile)

First of all, the heading of this post is regarding my chiropractor visit and the SUCCESS of the treatment. Smart Guy just made a remark that he is glad that the treatment has been so successful, not just for me, but also for his comfort. I suspect that I am really not much fun to be around when I'm in pain. I wouldn't know, though, since the only thing I'm aware of at that time is trying to avoid more discomfort. Other people's difficulties are secondary to my own. I hate to admit it, but there it is.

Although I had a great night's sleep last night and walking to the bus stop this morning was almost pain free, I worried about taking my aerobics class and whether it would make things better or worse. Everything I've read on the Internet, however, says that exercise is good for lower back pain. By the way, it is the sacroiliac joint that is causing the pain. Remember when we were kids and we would hear some old fart talking about her sacroiliac causing her trouble? Well, that's now ME! I remember hearing her talking about "throwing my back out," which is exactly what I have wished I could do for several days now.

But today I noticed that I have been able to walk around, get up and down from chairs, tie my shoes, and actually do these things and not feel constant pain. I am now a believer in chiropractic care, and next time I won't wait so long. Now that I've got a great guy who actually gave me a big teddy bear to hold while he adjusted me (really!), I am feeling like I've just gained a resource that was missing in my health care regimen.

And I also feel confident that I will indeed be able to go on tomorrow's hike with the Senior Trailblazers after all! I had almost convinced myself I needed to stay home, but now I'm thinking I should pack some extra ibuprofen, just in case. And the best part is that I notice I am actually smiling while thinking about taking on a hard hike with a less-than-perfect sacroiliac joint. It's not easy, but somebody's gotta do it!