Thursday, September 29, 2011

Park Butte

Remember two weeks ago when we went up Railroad Grade? I wrote about it here. It was foggy and Jonelle, who had never been there before, had absolutely no view of beautiful Mt. Baker that you see here, although I told her what she was missing. Now she knows. I'm not sure why they call it "Railroad Grade," because it has nothing to do with a railroad but looks like it could be one from Park Butte, where we went today.

Today's hike starts out from Shreiber's Meadow, the same as two weeks ago, but today we all went up to the Park Butte overlook. This old lookout cabin is open to overnighters on a first come, first serve basis. Because of the spectacular 360-degree views, many people head up there (like we twelve Senior Trailblazers today) for a nice place to have lunch.
See the lookout? We headed up there on a trail which I suspect is clear of any snow for just a few more weeks. Although it's a steep climb, once you get there and take a look around, it's simply stunning. Here you see Diane pointing out a peak while Peggy and Jonelle dangle their feet over the edge.
I was up here once before, but it was cloudy and the view was obscured. Today I got to see why people drive more than 60 miles from Bellingham to spend the day in this part of the Cascades. We could see Mt. Baker and myriad other peaks from here that just took my breath away. Here's the view from inside the cabin, where some of us had lunch.
What a place this would be to spend the night! Several of the Trailblazers have already done that, but there are a few little problems with this idyllic picture: one, how to take a quick pee in the middle of the night? I guess if you are a guy, it's not so much of a problem. However, it made me think of getting up in a wind- or snowstorm and making my way down the steps of this lovely cabin to find a place. Nope, I'm finally too old for that. However, in daytime, knowing that I'm going to hike back down before the sun goes down, it was just wonderful.
This view of the Black Buttes, with fresh snow against the brilliant blue sky, it is just too good not to share. But there were so many wonderful views that I just can't post them all here. If you want to see more, go to the sidebar and click on my link to "Trailblazers Fall 2011." We covered seven miles and 2,400 feet of elevation today. Once we got back to the cars, our de facto social secretary Amy had made a cake (in the guise of cupcakes) to celebrate Diane's birthday, which is today. A candle in the middle of her fudge cupcakes was blown out, the requisite song was sung, we imbibed, and we headed home. It was simply a wonderful day!
Amy on left, Diane blowing out the candle
And I do want to give a heartfelt thank you to all who commented on my post asking for feedback about my blog and its direction. I have tried to keep my posts short enough to keep your interest, which seems to be working, but I will try to add a little more of my internal process. I'm so happy to see that most of you who commented are happy to let me follow my heart and won't leave me unawares. Life is good!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tune wedgy

A little dab'll do ya
I've got an earworm! I'm not sure where I first heard this term, maybe when I read Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. I even thought I had written a post about it, but apparently not. The search engine didn't find it, anyway.

If you look at the Wikipedia link in the previous paragraph, you'll find that there are several terms for a song that gets stuck in your head, and the one that made me laugh the most is "tune wedgy." But the "official" term is an earworm. It is derived from a German word, Ohrwurm, a portion of a song that continues to repeat compulsively within one's mind.

The hideous song that has been going through my own head since last night (did I dream it?) is the catchy tune that I must have heard a hundred or more times long, long ago. I haven't actually heard it again for such a long time, and it amazes me that I STILL know all the words:
Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya
Brylcreem, you'll look so debonair.
Brylcreem, the gals will all pursue ya,
Simply rub a little in your hair!
The link also gives some tips as to how one might get rid of an earworm, which I find to be a bit dubious. I thought maybe writing about my dilemma would help; but they suggest the following:
The best way to eliminate an unwanted earworm is to simply play a different song. Supposedly, some songs are better for this purpose than others, such as the theme song to 'Gilligan's Island' or 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'.
Yeah, right. Now look what I've done: I've probably caused dozens of tune wedgies in the minds of my followers. But... it's working! Now I'm hearing something else... which is being crowded out by the Brylcreem ad. A heavy conflict is going on in my brain, and I'm not sure which will win out. Why couldn't I find something else to replace it with? Ah, I've got it: I've found the ultimate tune wedgy:
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small small world
That did it! Everything else is gone now, just the repetition of that phrase, over and over and over...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flu shots and a question

Yesterday I got my annual flu shot at Rite-Aid, using my Medicare Advantage card. Didn't cost me anything, except for one thing: I've had many flu shots and rarely remember any discomfort at the injection site, maybe a little soreness for a day or two in the general vicinity. But yesterday, it stung and itched for several minutes after the shot, as well as swelling up like I had a grape sitting under the skin. The pharmacist who injected me was obviously not happy, either. He wouldn't let me leave for fifteen minutes and got on the phone and called somebody, I don't know who. He was explaining my reaction to someone on the phone. I suspect he was wondering if I would suddenly fall on the floor with anaphylactic shock or something. But within those few minutes, the injection site returned to something resembling normal, and today all I have is a pretty spectacular bruise but normal discomfort.

Today in the swim class, we spent the entire time doing drills that we learned last week, and before the hour was over, my legs felt weak and truly spent, so I quit and have noticed how tired they seem now. Could it have been the flu shot? Or the fact that I usually swim and don't do an hour's worth of drills, or a combination of the two? Do you get a flu shot?

But that's not my question. I realized with a bit of a start the other day that my blog has become an EXERCISE and HIKING blog without me noticing. I remember asking my brother awhile back if he had read a certain post, and he gently told me he just "skims" the hiking posts. This got me to thinking about the stuff I used to write about, and what has become more prevalent.

Blogger gives me the opportunity to see what posts are the most visited in and where the visitor arrived from. This is a very interesting exercise, and I discovered that my all-time most viewed post was a movie review about Toy Story 3. This surprised me, but I learned that NONE of my hiking posts are visited much after the hike itself. They probably show up in the reader's sidebar or Google Reader if they use it, they look at the pictures and move on.

But you know, that is just what I do with most posts that are about an event in the blogger's life: I look at the pictures, read the story, and move on. I don't go back to visit that particular post again. Why would I, unless I was maybe thinking about hiking (or visiting) there myself and wanting to learn what to expect. I might think about getting some tips on Kay's 13-day-long Alaska cruise if I were going to take it myself.

This leave me with a question (the one I've been leading up to). What posts are most interesting to my readers? I find I have several posts about hiking (duh!), some about my new home town, a few contemplative ones (but I usually do that on my Eye on the Edge post on Sunday mornings), and a few movie or book reviews. Anybody willing to give me some direction? Or are you happy with the way things are?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I was wrong about Skyline

Uh-oh. I awoke this morning to the sound of rain drumming on the roof again. And it's Thursday, our Senior Trailblazers hiking day! I think many of our members heard the same thing and turned over and went back to sleep, because when I arrived, rain gear already on, only Al and Mike showed up. At the last minute, Marjan and Frank came to see if we might decide to go somewhere local and skip the drive before spending the day hiking in the rain. But I really wanted to go anyway, whereas Mike and Al were dubious. I said that the weather forecast said the rain would change to occasional showers and then it would be MUCH more fun than a local hike. I was wrong, as you can see from the summit shot of Al this morning. Marjan and Frank went home instead of joining us on Skyline Divide in the rain.
The flowers were as abundant as we have seen on our previous hikes this year, but we didn't get a chance to enjoy them all that much. The rain that I was SO SURE would let up was still going strong on the summit when we had the added enjoyment of high winds. Great: wind AND rain.
After conferring with my two other cohorts, we decided to get down out of the wind and have a quick lunch and then go exploring. Al had downloaded a couple of GPS coordinates to find an old abandoned mine in the neighborhood, so we headed down to the car and set out to find the old road that would take us to the Great Excelsior Mine. And guess what! We found it!
By this time the rain had pretty much stopped, and the day was much more exciting when we found this old abandoned gold mine after some bushwhacking for a mile off the road. We inspected it as much as we felt comfortable doing. As you can see, it's boarded up right inside those old uprights, and it's got warning signs to stay away and all that. We did go look through the holes to see if we could see anything, but instead we found that there is a strong breeze coming through those holes, and the air is at least 10 to 15 degrees colder than the outside air.
See the holes with the chains? Those are the ones that had the air coming through so strongly. Mike is looking inside his pack to see if he has a flashlight to see what we might see, but no luck. It was an exciting find, and it made the day well worth the drive up to Skyline Divide and a little bit of discovery to add to the day's enjoyment. On the way back down the road to the highway, we stopped to take a picture of Dead Horse Creek running into the Nooksack. It's the first major rain in a while, and I was amazed at how the white water of the creek ran into the coffee-colored Nooksack.
Our hike was a wet one, but I'm used to it by now. And I am so glad we went exploring and played in the liquid sunshine again today. That said, I am now ready for a little blue sky mixed with fluffy white clouds. The sun didn't shine anywhere near us today, but I am hopeful that tomorrow will bring a bit different weather. I had a great day, and I hope you did, too!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wonderful Mt. Dickerman

Today on our next-to-last extra Monday hike of the season, the Core Four (Al, Fred, Mike and me) set out to climb up Mt. Dickerman, one of the most popular hikes in the North Cascades, and because of its long distance from Bellingham, a new one for all of us. The event was open to every Trailblazer, but we were the only ones who made it. Two others had intended to come but weren't able to at the last minute. The hike started out in fog and mist, as it had rained very hard yesterday in the entire area. We knew that the clouds would begin to lift by noon, or that was the forecast, at least. We walked through several miles of old growth forest, seen above.
The hike ascended upwards via seventy switchbacks, which actually sounds hard but gave us a fairly moderate uphill climb through dense forest. This was our first view of the summit of Mt. Dickerman, seen here through the mist. We were about 1,000 feet below it. As we continued our climb to the summit, we passed through amazing fields of wildflowers and incredibly dense blueberry bushes, although none of them are anywhere near ripe. We also saw the incredible mountains we hoped would reveal themselves to us when we arrived at the summit, but they came and went, hiding behind the clouds, all day.
You can see the massive structure on the right known as Big Four, with hints of other mountains behind the clouds. There's nothing to be done about it, we are just going to have to return next year to get the full view of these wonderful mountains. I can't say we were at all unhappy with these dramatic scenes, though.
When we reached the summit (in the middle of the picture with lots of people standing on it), we decided to walk a short distance away to the next hill, hoping for a view of Glacier Peak, and others that were hidden behind the clouds. Instead, we were treated to another amazing view: seven mountain goats, all sunning themselves on the next hill! I used my telephoto to bring them closer, but if you enlarge the picture you will notice that at least two of them are smaller and probably babies.
This is the first wildlife we have seen this season, and it was such really exciting for us. If we had stayed with the rest of the hikers on the summit, we would have missed them. I was just pulling out my lunch when Fred jumped up and pointed at them. Suddenly we were all snapping pictures right and left, and trying to stay quiet and calm so they wouldn't go running off. Aren't they beautiful?
I asked Fred to take my picture, and you can see behind me that the clouds never cleared away completely, but they made for some wonderful and dramatic photographs. We stayed for almost an hour on the top before heading back down, hoping for more clearing. It didn't happen, so we descended on those seventy switchbacks in mostly full sunlight, tempered by the dense forest.
The fog and mist of the morning had gone away, and we were glad for the cool temperatures and filtered sunlight as we made our way back to the car. We had covered almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in just shy of nine miles. It's a beautiful place, and I can see why it's such a popular hike. I'll be back, not just to see the rest of the mountains, but because it was a magical and delightful place to be. What a day!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First swimming lesson

This picture was taken by Amber last week. I didn't get to do THIS at all today, but instead we did drills, in my very first swimming lesson ever! It was fun, and I learned a lot, which I'll share with you. In the picture, I'm pleased to see that my right shoulder is out of the water, because it's supposed to be. It's one of the only things that I taught myself properly. The first thing Amber did is have us put on flippers. Wow! What a kick (heh) you get with those babies! And then she had us swim to the other side of the pool and back five times, using a paddle board with our heads out of the water. I felt so powerful with flippers, I felt invincible!

But then she had us swim to the other side of the pool with our heads in the water, coming up to breathe on either side, with our arms pinned to our sides!! I learned two things right off: I'm MUCH more comfortable breathing on the right side, and I stop kicking when I am breathing.  Needless to say, I took on more water than I was supposed to. This took several lengths to get fairly good at. Then she had us put one arm out straight, breathing on that side, other arm pinned to my side.

What I am learning is that the crawl (or Australian crawl), which I have been doing, is the fastest way to swim, if you do it right. But I have to disconnect my head turn from my body's actions. Since I forget to kick when I breathe, it's important to return to the basics. Once I learn to kick continuously, I'll be a lot stronger. If you look at that link, there are three animations of someone doing the crawl, and I learned a lot from them, too. In short, my first lesson was very exciting, and I'll practice these techniques next time I'm in the pool.
After the swim, I went to the Farmers' Market to get some greens, and I had lunch at this new place: 22Greens. I had the Bitchen Salad, which was simply wonderful! Now I'm home and writing this post before settling down to finish my latest novel, which isn't great but I have to know what happens.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Foggy Railroad Grade

Fourteen Senior Trailblazers drove the 65 miles from Bellingham to Schreiber's Meadow trailhead in a light, gentle mist to hike the Railroad Grade trail. No sign of the sun. We hoped that we would be hiking in something other than a downpour, and in that sense we were very lucky. It was only a light sprinkle when we started out, and as you can see from our clothing, it was not warm, either.
Once we reached Morovitz Meadow (seen here), we had donned our rain gear. You can see Mikey Poppins in the back with his bumbershoot, a sure sign of precipitation. We were also aware that unless something miraculous happened to clear the skies, we would not see the wonderful views that awaited us. However, I saw that if the sun had been out, the wildflowers that have only recently escaped from the snow that covered them would have been glorious. As it was, they were only moderately magnificent.
This is the trail leading to Railroad Grade, which is an interesting formation and has nothing to do with railroads. This trail leads the hiker up to a view that reveals a sheer drop-off on the other side from the retreat of the Easton Glacier many years ago. Since on this side of the meadow it is also somewhat steep, the trail goes upwards along a very narrow path. Last year we had incredible views, which you can see here. The second picture on last year's post is taken from almost the same place as this view I took today.
Even though you cannot see what is on the left side, it's very impressive. The first clue you have that something is different is the sound of Rocky Creek roaring a thousand feet below. We turned left and started to follow the trail. This is what it looked like below us today.
The fog closed in not long after I took this picture, but I started up the Grade heading up towards what is left of the once-massive glacier. However, realizing that since I had done this last year and the payoff of more incredible views had kept me going then, no such enticement was available to make me go today. Four of our intrepid group did keep going upwards, however, while the rest of us retreated to find a nice warm place out of the rain to have lunch. I got this shot of those four heading back down to join us. I don't think they went very far, either.
That's Al in front, with Mary (our newest Trailblazer on her first hike today), Frank, and Fred behind him. By the time I had finished my lunch, I realized that being damp and cold made me glad I had brought my (a) gloves, (b) fleece, and (c) raincoat. I got them all on and managed to warm up quite a lot. It took several of us by surprise, since last week it was really hot and sunny with lots of bugs, and this week it was rainy, cold, and almost bug-free.
I was almost the last person back to the cars because of these! The blueberries are beginning to ripen, and some of us stopped to pick and eat them on the way back down the trail. In a week or so, there will be so many ripe ones that some people might find it hard to continue to their destination. They were definitely the tastiest I've had this year. Some people call these huckleberries; I don't really know the difference. (Too bad it's so far to this trailhead.) We managed to hike six miles and ascend 1,700 feet of elevation. Given the hard hikes I've done the last few weeks, I realize that I don't even feel a teeny bit sore right now. Monday's hike is supposed to be one of the hardest this year, so I guess I'm as ready as I will ever be. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking the next step

I just finished reading and commenting on a few of my favorite blog sites that are talking about dealing with pain, illness, stress, operations, and just recovering from grief. Yesterday my Life Partner sent me this picture, which I think he pulled off reddit or some similar place. It has continued to make me smile, every time I look at it, so I am offering it to all of you as a possible next step to take. I know I can find a waterfall somewhere, but I'll have a little difficulty blowing water out my snout, so I might skip that step.

Sometimes I think it's just fun to slip my consciousness into the skin of another creature and imagine what it would be like to be filled with joy and smiles like this beautiful elephant. If it is true that our state of mind is up to us, well then, can I choose this?

Yesterday I went to see the new movie Contagion. It was good, but it wasn't great. I didn't spend any time thinking about it after I left the theater, other than noticing all the times I touch public places that have been touched by others (like doorknobs) and thinking about how many times I bring my hands to my face without thinking. With the stellar cast of this movie, I expected more, so perhaps it was my preconceived notion that kept me from enjoying it more.

The weather has turned from unremitting sunshine to cloudy skies for the past two days. Tomorrow's hike is going to be cloudy and maybe even have some rain. But I'll be having a good time and looking forward to bringing it here to share. Until then, see if you can find some rainbows!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mount Higgins

Yesterday we went up on the sixth Monday hike of the season, with two more left. Five of us went, those I have begun to think of as the Core Four (Al, Mike, Fred, me) plus Steve, a friend pictured above at the top point of the Mt. Higgins lookout. The hike was pretty strenuous, which I kind of expected when everything I read about it said it was "not for beginning hikers." They were right: there was plenty of exposure, both at the beginning and at the end, as you can see here, with Steve looking over a sheer cliff straight down into the Stillaquamish River Valley below.
Fred took this picture of me, and as you can see, the views were obscured by haze, mostly caused by the forest fires raging in the mountains to the west. If you enlarge the picture you can just barely make out the peaks. When I went skydiving on Sunday and went up in the airplane, at about 7,000 feet we smelled the smoke and couldn't see the mountains until we were above the haze. There are definitely picturesque mountains behind me, but they are pretty much obscured.
The hike starts at a pretty low elevation and climbs very steeply for the first mile before we entered this beautiful old growth forest. It was shady and the temperature was just about right, and the bugs were present but not terrible as I had feared. For a couple miles we walked in dappled sunlight until we began the push up the last mile, also very steep and unrelenting. We saw this lovely little cairn marking the trail at one point.
It almost looked to me like a zen garden. We still had another 2,000 feet elevation to climb from this point, but once we got to the lookout, it was really worth it. I think I'd like to come back and make this climb again when the air is clear, but until then, I'll just be happy that we had such a nice day together.
We hiked almost nine miles and climbed and descended more than 3,700 feet of elevation. This place at the top is at 4,850 feet. After our descent, which for me was harder than the ascent (my knees were really complaining by the end), we headed to a Mexican restaurant in Arlington and I enjoyed an ice-cold beer and chili relleno. All in all, a good day, and this morning after a good night's rest, I feel great! I took my last antibiotic pill this morning and believe that by Thursday's hike I should be completely well!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Swimming lessons

Today I had a little synchronous event happen. When I went for my usual half-mile swim at the Y, I took my camera into the pool area to see if I could get the lifeguard to take a picture or two of me swimming laps, for the blog of course. He told me he couldn't, but his boss, Tish (who was standing at the end of the pool talking) might be willing to help. I went over to her and found that she was talking with Amber (who took both of these swimming pictures; thanks Amber!) after she (Amber) had just finished the first session of an adult swimming class. After speaking with them about whether I could join the class, I was told that of course I could! So starting next Saturday at 9:30am, I will be finding out how to improve my technique, as well as two things I really want to learn: how to do that cool kick turn and the backstroke.
I left the Y smiling and headed over to the Farmers' Market. Although I didn't have anything I needed to buy, I thought I might find a picture or two. I was intrigued by these white eggplant; I had to ask just to be sure that's what they are. The vendor said they are a bit sweeter than the dark ones, but apparently they are fairly common. I don't know why I've never seen them before.
The produce at the market is always spectacular, and I suspect that in a few more weeks I'll be seeing the first of the fall lineup. Our market stays open until the week before Christmas, with pumpkins and winter squash becoming more and more abundant as we move toward winter. It's hard for me to comprehend that the autumnal equinox (first day of fall) is less than two weeks away! There are still abundant flowers, especially dahlias, at the market, and this one I simply could not resist.
Its beautiful pink color and those perfect petals just took my breath away, and I wanted to share it with you. Actually, speaking of my breath, it is still a little wheezy as I still am coughing quite a lot. After a day of no improvement from the inhaler and herbs, I started the antibiotics, and now I think I'll be okay pretty soon. I can still walk, swim, skydive (tomorrow!) and write blogs, so I'm not complaining.
I almost forgot that I was nearly out of bird food, so I headed over to the Wild Bird Chalet for thirty pounds of bird seed. Meet Valerie, the owner of the Chalet, who is a great resource for any bird-related issues I might have. I am always pleased to send any business her way, since she's got the best stuff for birds I've found in Bellingham.

For someone who is supposed to be sick, I'm sure glad I haven't missed many of my regular activities. Yes, I am addicted to exercise, which is a good thing to be addicted to, right? Tomorrow I'm heading to Snohomish to join my friends for some fun, and Monday is a hike to a new place, Mt. Higgins, if all goes according to plan! I hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What a difference a day makes

From Al's Flickr site
Al took this picture last Tuesday of Mike and me amongst the flowers and brilliant blue skies of Yellow Aster Butte. I like it because it typifies to me the day we had and the reason I love to go hiking with the Senior Trailblazers. But alas, I didn't go with them today after all.

For the last month or so, I've had a persistent cough that hasn't gotten better but seems to have gotten worse as the weeks have gone by. Finally, when talking with my sister on iChat yesterday, I had to stop and cough, hack and wheeze for quite awhile. She looked at me and asked why I hadn't gone to a doctor about it, and I hemmed and hawed and said I was sure it would get better by itself. But it hasn't, and she reminded me how long I've had it. I got on the phone and made an appointment to see the doctor, but the earliest possible appointment was next Monday, and that was to see a nurse practitioner, not the doctor. Good enough.

Then it occurred to me that Monday is the hike up Mount Higgins, a new adventure for all of us, so I got on the phone, called the clinic back and said I would take ANY opening they had. (I had turned down one for today, thinking I wouldn't be available.) So guess where I went today? To see the doctor, and it is what I thought: I have bronchitis. The doctor told me that it MIGHT eventually resolve by itself, but to try this inhaler (I've never used one) and take an antibiotic. The inhaler delivers albuterol (known internationally as salbutamol), which I discovered has been misused as a performance enhancing drug. I have to say, I LOVE the Magic Box (the Internet) to learn what I am actually putting into my body. Nowhere on the insert did I learn this information. I know what side effects to watch for, but it is essentially a bronchodilator that allows the bronchial passages to relax and take in more air. Wow! Does this mean I'll be able to hike up hills with less effort? Given the expense of the drug, I don't think I'll be trying it for that. I just want to stop coughing.

Before I take the antibiotic, however, the doctor has given me the go-ahead to try the inhaler and this herbal drug called Lung Defend I got at the health food store. I think the two of them should help me beat this thing before I have to put antibiotics into my system that may or may not help. She told me that most bronchitis is caused by viral agents, not bacteria, which means I could take the antibiotic for no good reason. This mixture of herbs was recommended by the practitioner as having had good responses from several of her clients. Dr. Andert told me I can give it a couple of days but, in her words, if it doesn't begin to turn around by then, start the antibiotics. That sounds good to me!

I haven't felt sick at all, but the cough has become problematic, and I sure didn't want to end up getting REALLY sick just because of my stubbornness. Now I feel quite secure in letting the albuterol and Lung Defend do their work. Till next time!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yellow Aster is a beaut

Since yesterday was a holiday, Al figured today would be a perfect day to scope out Yellow Aster Butte for the Senior Trailblazers hike on Thursday. Although it would mean I'd miss my Tuesday strength-and-tone workout, there was no doubt that I'd have a good day. It was only Al, Mike (also know as Mikey Poppins to my followers) and me, so we met at 7:30 and were on the trail by 9:00am. The air was cool and crisp, with fabulous views of Mt. Baker and Shuksan.
And flowers. The wildflowers this year just do not quit. Here you see what I think are called yellow asters and lupine, but as we climbed higher and higher, the flowers grew more profuse and varied. We started this hike in a dense forest that climbs steeply to a meadow and then traverses around to the butte. We did have to cross some snow fields, but none of them were scary (but I sure liked having my trekking poles), which was the reason we wanted to see if the whole group might be able to make this hike.
Mike is crossing the most extensive of the snow fields, and as you can see, it's pretty straightforward. He did take out his poles after crossing this one, though. This is so much more snow than I had imagined we would cross, since it is, after all, September! A month ago we would not have been able to gain the butte. One thing about all the snow, however, is the incredible profusion of wildflowers everywhere we went in August and now in September.
If you enlarge this picture, you will see several different varieties of wildflowers. Every time I looked up from the trail under my feet, the flowers and views of the peaks simply took my breath away, time and again. But once we got to the serious uphill to the top of the butte, I looked up behind Al and wondered: do I really want to do this?
Look at that trail! It doesn't even bother with switchbacks, it just continues to climb up to the top of the butte with no apologies! And yes, I climbed it, we all did. You can see that at this altitude (somewhere around 6,000 feet elevation), there are spots of foliage already beginning to turn to fall colors. We arrived at the summit at noon, for an even more incredible view. Here you can see British Columbia's mountains in the distance behind Mike and Al.
The brilliant blue sky, somewhat of a rarity for us to experience for such a long time, will still be here on Thursday. I thought that if I went on today's excursion, I might skip Thursday's trip to the same place. But one thing I have learned: there is never a reason not to head up to the High Country with such weather, such friends, and such views!
We climbed around 2,700 feet of elevation in a little more than seven miles to the top and back. We crossed some snow fields but never felt scared, had a great geology lesson about the area's fault lines from Al, and had simply a wonderful day. I guess I will probably go on Thursday, now that I've been to the top I don't need to do THAT just for fun, I can stay below that last big push and chat with those who will choose to stay and enjoy the sunshine. The light breeze kept the flies away until we began our final descent, so believe me I will NOT forget my bug spray on Thursday! Until then, have a GREAT day.