Thursday, May 31, 2012

Soggy hike with no view

To my surprise, eight Senior Trailblazers showed up this morning as a light rain fell. We had all followed the forecast and expected sun breaks by afternoon... but it was not to be. Here we are getting ready to begin today's hike, with Mikey's umbrella telling the tale, along with us all gussied up with our rain gear and pack covers. We drove up an old logging road that took us up to around 2,000 feet of elevation before parking the cars, to hike up four miles and get a view of Mt. Baker and The Sisters. I had hopes for the rain to stop, even if we didn't get any views.
The hike started at right around 2,000 feet and by the time we reached 3,700 feet, we ran into snow. The misty skies and light rain came and went, and every once in awhile I thought the mist itself would stop, but it didn't really let up for good all day. Instead of getting to our destination another half mile away from this spot, we decided to turn around to the place where the snow started and have a quick lunch. This would give us a chance to drive to the Elbow Lake trailhead, not far away, and check out the condition of the bridge across the Middle Fork.
Mike took this picture of me at our lunch spot. The weather was nice enough to give us a respite from the rain while we ate our lunch, but just as we got up to head back, it began again. By the time we reached the cars, we had traveled somewhere more than seven miles and 1,800 feet up and down. It was still early in the day, so off we headed to a place where I have never been.
"Dangerous Stream Crossing: Not Recommended"
We walked down to the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River to inspect the condition of the bridge. Well, there wasn't one, really. It has been washed away, and this dicey-looking log situation is the only way to get across some pretty strong rushing water.
We looked it over and decided that Elbow Lake will not be a Senior Trailblazers hike any time in the near future. Although it was worse today, since the logs were wet, I don't think I could even crawl across that "bridge" with any assurance that I would make it safely across and back. Nope. However, I did ask Al to stop the car on the way back down the mountain so I could take a picture of the only view we had all day.
The clouds began to lift and the rain had stopped by the time we were heading home. After all the years I lived in arid Colorado, I still get a little ecstatic when I see the trees in the mist like this. Although our hike was indeed soggy, we had the good fortune of being outdoors with proper rain protection, commiserating with good friends, and with the hope that next week will be better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to my regular schedule

Flag at Ski to Sea finish line
There's something a little annoying about holidays when you're retired. That's the way it's been for me, at least. I follow a weekly schedule that I enjoy, but when a holiday for the still-working crowd comes up, like Memorial Day, I am a little bit at a loss. No buses, no gym, no library; everything is closed down so others can take a much-deserved break.

Saturday I worked in the burgeoning garden, and Sunday I went to check out the Ski to Sea finish line festivities. The 90-some-mile relay race went almost as planned, with no rain but plenty of wind. The race officials shortened the final section, kayaking, by a few miles and kept all the participants hugging the shore instead of going around buoys in the open water. The waves were less of a problem that way. I missed the first finishers but saw a few of the kayakers coming into Marine Park on their way to ring the bell at the end.
Here comes the 11th place finisher (out of 500!) up the final chute. He's supposed to ring one of those bells signaling the official finish time for his team. Last year I entered the Beer Garden and enjoyed a beer after watching the finishers for awhile, but Sunday was cool and breezy, making a beer sound much less enticing. The entire downtown Fairhaven area was wall-to-wall people, with a street fair, vendors, teams and spectators celebrating the event. I paid $3 to ride a shuttle from downtown Bellingham so I wouldn't need to drive, although I did find the city buses were indeed running and I could have used my bus pass to get to Fairhaven. This is a big event in Bellingham, and other than a glitch in one of the relays (the timer's battery was dead), everything went as planned.

For me, it was interesting to be a spectator, and it gave me something to do with the day. I have been a bit at odds without being able to follow my old routine. There is no doubt about it: I am a bit set in my ways. I enjoy my normal schedule, since it is MY schedule designed for ME. When I was working, that wasn't the case. How well I remember those days I looked forward to a holiday when I could do something interesting outside the confines of my office. Yesterday, Memorial Day, was spent quietly at home remembering my own departed ones and finishing up a good book.
This swallow was busy coming and going from feeding what must be her babies inside the nesting box. One of the pastimes I enjoy very much is taking pictures, although I go back and forth between wanting an expensive camera with cool photographic capabilities and the point-and-shoot I have now. The picture above was taken with the 12x optical zoom on my PowerShot all the way out. The following picture, taken by Joe Meche and distributed on the Whatcom Birders list, always makes me consider getting into photography a little more deeply.
Bewick's Wren, 15 May 12 by Joe Meche
Definitely a difference in quality. And expense, not to mention time spent out in the park with a tripod and binoculars. Becoming a real birdwatcher and photographer would take up quite a bit of time and energy... and might be just the thing to do with myself on holidays. I'll give that some more thought!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Learning to garden

I live in a rented apartment complex with 26 separate units. You are looking at the back of the complex here. Some of the renters approached the owners with a proposition for a community garden, and they agreed to fence in a spot for us to use. Ten plots are available here, since the guy behind the idea, Clint, went around to each apartment to assess the level of interest. That's me standing out there in the yellow shirt with my new shovel.

Once the fence went up, two piles of horse manure were brought in by another tenant, Roger, who works for a landscaping company. He and Clint shoveled it all into two piles. Then for a little more than a week, two goats were brought in to help get rid of the grass. They did a pretty darn good job, as you can see in the two pictures. The difference in the level of grass inside and outside the fence is quite noticeable. A closeup:
Although I was dubious about this fence being able to keep out determined deer, there is a single strand of wire at the top of each post, which supposedly deters critters from jumping over the fence. (I'll believe THAT when I see it.) Next, it was necessary to finish the job of getting rid of the last of the grass, so Roger went over it all with a special weed cutter. He told me that he uses it every day at work, and it runs on propane so has a smaller carbon footprint. His company has won a few awards for being environmentally friendly, which I found out when I visited their website.
Here's Roger getting rid of the last of the grass. It was really hot yesterday, but once he finished with this job, I went out and the two of us got busy shoveling the piles onto the ground. (More people came after I got tired.) I removed some of those plugs that had been pulled out of the ground to help it dry out. We had so much rain in April that our plans were delayed for awhile, but we are on track again. I was plenty tired yesterday but put in at least two hours with my new shovel. I found out from Roger that it is bigger and heavier than I needed, but I really had no idea what kind of shovel to purchase and decided to get the medium priced one.
Here's the garden today, with the manure spread out rather uniformly so that Roger can now rototill the area. The weather today, Sunday, is nowhere near as nice as we had for the previous two days, as you can see. The wind is blowing and the sunshine is gone for awhile. It would have been much nicer to shovel in today's weather, as it was HOT yesterday. I was surprised to learn that inside those piles of horse manure the temperature had risen enough to cause steam to come out. Roger cautioned me to be careful not to touch it as it could grow quite hot. (There was little danger of that.)
Once the manure has been tilled under, we will mark off the areas and get busy planting. I will buy my plants from a greenhouse, with the plants already in progress, and I look forward to the day when I will be having my first delicata squash from this garden, not to mention carrots and kale. We will have a compost heap, and I've learned what is okay to put in there if you want to have an organic one. Who knew I could recycle my tea bags? And lots of other things as well. Roger sent around a four-page list of compostable items. We plan to have a central area of plants that we will all share, such as herbs and other items to be decided upon as time goes by.

If anybody has any tips for this neophyte gardener, please let me know! I am quite excited about this opportunity; it's the first time I've ever had more than indoor plants or my outdoor flowers. To be able to eat things I grow myself is quite a novel idea!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Ward's spread at the picnic
One of the things the Senior Trailblazers like to do is party, as well as enjoy agreeable hikes together. Norm and his wife Gina have a lovely summer home on Cain Lake, not too far away and allows us to bring the two hiking groups together for a nice gathering to begin the summer season. Both groups also like to get a short hike in beforehand, so this morning we met Norm and Gina at the parking lot at Lake Padden. They took our contributions to the potluck and headed home. They fire up the grill and provide hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as a cake to celebrate the seniors who have May birthdays (five!), while the rest of us get a little exercise.
Although it was a little cool with a 30% chance of rain, we lucked out with the weather. Our nice trail, as  seen above, had shade and sun throughout the morning. We didn't walk around the lake but instead took the horse trails around the southern part of the park. Not all of the trails were as pretty as this, but there wasn't a whole lot of mud, so we were delighted; there have been times when those trails were not much fun to navigate.
I snapped this picture of Linda and Karen as they joined the regular trail around the lake after we had traveled somewhere around six miles on the horse trails. You can see the sign that indicates it's a horse trail; we didn't see any, or even any signs there had been any around recently. We finished our hike just before noon, piled into our cars and headed to Cain Lake. The other group went to Alger Alp and arrived a bit later. All in all, there must have been close to forty of us gathered at this lovely spot. I walked out onto the dock and got this picture.
We had much better weather this year. As you can see from last year's post, it was cold enough to be wrapped in blankets on the back porch. This year it wasn't warm at all when the clouds blocked the sun, but it was still pleasant enough for us to enjoy being outdoors, and Gina lit the candles on the cake that was cleverly decorated with a dinosaur. That's our other host, Norm, on the right wearing the apron.
In visiting my post from last year, I realize that the picture I captured a year ago of a barn swallow is much better than the one I took this year (their next-door neighbor has nesting boxes for them and they were everywhere), so I'll skip it. However, I am always asked if we ever see any wildlife. I was fortunate to see this scary creature at Lake Padden this morning.
With the summer officially launched, next week we will visit another old haunt before heading up to the Mt. Baker wilderness area the following Thursday. We will be hiking on snow for quite awhile, and whether or not we are able to make it all the way to our destinations doesn't really matter all that much, since I know we will be having fun and getting exercise in the company of good friends!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thinking about thinking

But first, just a short aside about the rain, which returned with a vengeance after more than two dry weeks. I was actually looking forward to a bit of a sprinkle since it had been so long, but this very wet system we've been experiencing is a bit over the top. We've had more than an inch in the last three days, and it's still raining. I'm ready for a change.

However, the wet weather kept me inside all day Sunday, and I've just finished a very interesting book I checked out from the library. Last month I got interested in some books by Steven Pinker on how the mind works, and I wrote a post about his book back in April, entitled, "How the mind works." I found Pinker's book to be a bit on the dense side, but I read it all the way through and gained quite a bit of insight. My sister Norma Jean got me started down that path, and then a couple of weeks ago I visited the Village Bookstore, one of my favorite places to spend time (and money). I saw that a guy named Jonah Lehrer had a book marked #1 on the bestseller list. And it had such an interesting title: "Imagine." I perused the book with interest, but when I saw the price I put it back on the shelf, not before noticing that the author looks like a teenager! His website is very interesting and provocative, which has all kinds of links. Check it out if you're interested in this guy, who was indeed born in 1981! He IS a kid, almost. But he's also been a Rhodes Scholar and writes his own blog fittingly entitled The Frontal Cortex for Wired Magazine.

Now to the one I just finished. Lehrer wrote another book in 2009 called "How We Decide," which I checked out of the library to tide me over until his new book comes out in paperback. Lehrer is no Pinker: it was hard for me to put down. It depicts scenarios that had me reading stuff out loud to Smart Guy, and I was able to peer into the decision-making processes he illustrates so very well. One that really got me is the story of Al Haynes, the pilot of the United flight in 1989 that lost all three hydraulic lines and basically gave him no control over the DC-10. He tells the harrowing story of how Haynes had to find a way to pilot the plane. He did so, coming up with ideas that had never before been conceived, and although he had no way to slow the plane down as it came in for a landing at the Sioux City airport, most of the passengers and crew survived. The training center commissioned numerous pilots to see if they could land a plane without any hydraulics. Here's an excerpt from p. 132:
The training center used a flight simulator that was programmed with the precise conditions faced by the United crew on that July day.... The pilots training to land the DC-10 in the simulator failed to make the runway on their first fifty-seven attempts.
And they were already familiar with the accident and what the pilot did! Just realizing how Haynes made his decisions not only fascinated me, but made me realize that we can do a whole lot with our minds that we never take advantage of. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I read the book and hope that some of you will read it, too. At the end of the book, Lehrer says (p. 250),
Of course, even the most attentive and self-aware minds will still make mistakes.... But the best decision-makers don't despair. Instead, they become students of error, determined to learn from what went wrong. They think about what they could have done differently so that the next time their neurons will know what to do.This is the most astonishing thing about the human brain: it can always improve itself. Tomorrow, we can make better decisions.
I find all that to be extremely uplifting. And I did find Lehrer's new book at Costco for half price, so I bought it. Onward and upward!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Our changing world

I spent today, a beautiful sunny Saturday, at Harvey Field in Snohomish jumping with my friends. This is the view of Puget Sound after takeoff in the Cessna Caravan, after we've boarded the plane and strapped in. This is a fairly low altitude, we get much higher, climbing to 13,000 feet before we jump out over the airport and after a minute of playing together, open our parachutes and land in the same place where we took off. I had a wonderful day and made four skydives before heading home.

When I arrived at the Drop Zone early this morning, I saw a young Russian man sitting inside the lounge talking to his mother on his iPad, using Skype or FaceTime, I'm not sure which. But he chatted away in Russian for quite awhile before beginning his day in the sky. Video chatting has given us the ability to talk with our family members in the most unlikely places! I talk with Norma Jean three times a week, for a couple of hours at a time, and I hardly remember what it was like when we were relegated to simple voice conversations.

Everybody has a cellphone these days. I remember when I learned that if I got one, and Smart Guy had one, we could talk to each other in our cars! It was such a revelation. I recall asking a friend whether if we were both in our cars, we could actually dial our numbers and TALK? Now it's just a normal part of my day.

My friend Holly's husband went to REI last week looking for a fanny pack and tried out quite a few. He would put his wallet and cellphone in to see how they fit, and he inadvertently left his cellphone in one. After he got home and realized that he didn't have his cellphone, he went back to REI and searched through all the fanny packs looking for it. No luck. So then he went home and got on his iPad and used the "Find My iPhone" app. (He downloaded it after my unfortunate theft on Christmas Eve.) Well, lo and behold, it showed that it was in a home in Bellingham; they had his iPhone! Address and even the location in the home. He went there and knocked on the door.

"Hi! Did you just buy a fanny pack at REI?" The woman looked at him dubiously and replied, "why yes I did."

"Well, I think my iPhone is in there. I left it by mistake." She went inside and pulled out the pack and looked inside. You know what was there: the missing iPhone. Is that a fantastic outcome or what? I was so pleased to know that I can now see where all my Mac items are at any time (iPad, iMac, and MacBook Air) by just looking at the application from any one of them. That's why I called this post "Our changing world" -- I cannot believe how much my life has changed in just the past decade.

But the one constant is that I am STILL jumping out of airplanes for fun. It's been 22 years now and I'm still enjoying myself, every time.
Even so, it wasn't all that long ago that it would have seemed strange for an almost 70-year-old white-haired granny type to be doing that, either. Our world has definitely changed, and I like it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Noisy Creek 2012

In the more than three years I have been hiking with the Senior Trailblazers, we have tried three times to reach Noisy Creek at the far end of Baker Lake. For one reason or another, we have had to settle with something other than actually getting to our destination. But today it happened. Nine Trailblazers left the Senior Center at 8:00am and drove for almost two full hours to get there, but it was definitely worth it. The hike starts at Baker Lake Trail #610 and extends all the way around the enormous lake. We just went from here, with the shadow of the suspension bridge we crossed in the lower left, to Noisy Creek and returned.
The first major creek we traversed, however, is Hidden Creek, and you can see us here trying to capture its grandeur. When you get close to the bridge, you can feel all the moisture in the air and the temperature drops by several degrees. Even though this was NOT Noisy Creek, the sound was pretty incredible.
Three times we had to navigate some stream crossings, hopping from one rock to the next in order to keep from getting our boots submerged in the stream. As you can see, even though we had no bridge to assist us, the streams at this time of year were flowing very fast. The water was cold and clear and we managed pretty well, actually.
We stopped for lunch before we finally crossed Noisy Creek, but it was close by. Steve (in the red at the right) told us the story of how the Noisy Creek old growth avoided being logged many years ago. The old ancient trees have been here since before Columbus discovered America, and because of some important shenanigans by council members, the trees are intact and we were able to visit some of these wonderful old trees. There is no way a picture can give you any more than just a taste of what these trees are like, but here's my best shot.
This old tree is simply enormous and has such a presence. We all went up and said hello and wondered what it has observed over its long life span. It goes up and up and is simply huge. Noisy Creek was nearby and we listened to it and appreciated it, too.
It looks like a regular stream, but there is very little to give you an idea of its sound. It deserves the name "noisy." The weather today was perfect, a light breeze and just the right temperature. The walk through the forest was sublime. We covered more than ten miles, maybe even more than eleven by some GPS coordinates, and climbed around 1,700 feet. No wonder I'm tired. I caught this picture of an unfurling fern, known to us (thanks to Peggy) as a deer fern.
After the magnificence of the day, and the beauty that I hope lingers in my mind for a long time, I am happy to write this post and settle down for a nice relaxing evening before heading to bed. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had such a day with my wonderful friends.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Servicing my blog

Judy and I are enjoying a beer yesterday afternoon, since we showed up to see our movie an hour too early. I looked at the schedule on Sunday and neglected to look to see what the time would be on Monday! So, we were forced to find something to do for an hour before seeing Monsieur Lazhar, a French movie that garnered great reviews. That's the Pickford Theater across the street in the picture, where we go to see many independent and foreign movies. My favorite theater in Bellingham.

I read an interesting post by a friend about the need to service one's blog. I almost always write at least three posts a week here, and because I went skydiving on Saturday, Mother's Day was on Sunday, and life got in the way; I missed one over the weekend. It weighed on me, but there was nothing I could think of to write about that would be of interest both to me and to my readers, so I let it go.

Today I will come home from the gym and take my next-door neighbor to the grocery store. She doesn't drive and once a month after she gets her Social Security check, I sit at the store with a book and wait while she shops. She has tons of coupons and it usually ends up being a couple of hours before I get back home. Thinking about when I might write a post here, I decided to get a quick one up before I head out the door at 7:00am. Everything is done except for brushing my teeth. The birds are fed, the sun is continuing to shine for the sixth day in a row, making it feel like midsummer here, not spring. I'm not complaining, everyone is in immoderately good moods everywhere I go. It's a beautiful time of year!

Now, it's time to dash off and begin (or continue) my sunny day! I hope wherever you are, it's a beautiful day, too!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mud and Cedar Lakes

Ferns unfurling
Eight Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to discuss what we might want to do with our hike today, which was scheduled to be Pine and Cedar Lakes, an old favorite during the winter and spring. Al had checked out Mud Lake earlier in the week, in the same general area, and thought we might want to try out something a bit different. None of us (except for Al) had been to the lake, but he wrote about it on his blog here, and it sounded plausible. It would add some extra distance and elevation gain and loss to our regularly scheduled trek to Pine and Cedar, and we would probably want to leave one of them out to keep the hike from being too awfully long.
Reflected clouds in Mud Lake
It's kind of a cool place, obviously visited by many fishermen on a regular basis. We heard bullfrogs croaking but no other sounds, other than birdsong. A most excellent destination, but to reach it we had to travel up and down a fair amount and didn't want to stop for lunch and then have to hike uphill. We decided to wait until we reached the Cedar Lake trail to have lunch. I saw that the salmon berries are beginning to form already.
It won't be long before these begin to ripen, but it was only a few weeks ago that the flowers emerged. In the springtime everything happens so fast! If you blink, you might miss something. Going out once a week gives me a chance to see how quickly everything changes. Once we reached Cedar Lake, we walked around to a wonderful sunshiny place by the lake and ate our lunch. We had already hiked seven miles by the time we got here and were ready for a break.
That sunshine was welcome; it was sunny but not exactly warm. With a light breeze and the temperature in the fifties, it was perfect as long as we didn't allow ourselves to linger too long. I got this picture of the lake showing some of the greenery we enjoyed today.
By the time we reached the cars, we had covered more than ten miles and somewhere around 3,000 feet up and down. I was really hurting by the time we started down the steep trail; going up it's possible to take it slow, but going down steep inclines, there's nothing to be done for my knees except lean hard on my trekking poles. I have said it before, but I simply could not descend such steep trails without those poles. But now it's over, I'm home and feeling happy to have spent another day outdoors in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my best friends.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Some blog potpourri

I've gotten into the habit of writing a post on this blog three times a week: one on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday), another on Monday or Tuesday, and of course the weekly hike with the Trailblazers on Thursdays. When Tuesday rolls around and I'm sitting with a book, the subject of a post begins to intrude into my consciousness and I realize that it won't let me go until I sit down at my computer and try to compose something that interests me, at least.

Yesterday morning was glorious, the morning sun shining brilliantly through the windows, and I decided to leave for the bus early and take a few flower pictures. Nothing quite as nice as that light. I was a little stiff and sore from having made three excellent skydives on Sunday. The freefall portions were good, everything going as planned, my parachute openings soft and on heading, and my landings all good, just a nice tiptoe down onto the ground. I could have made more jumps but I was getting tired and, after driving for an hour and a half to arrive back home, I realized how tired I actually was when I got out of the car.

Is a dandelion in the state above really still a flower? Or is it a weed? I saw a lawn on the way home today that had dozens of blank dandelion stalks sticking up, not pretty at all. But the nice yellow flower is, and I think that the seed state of the dandelion is beautiful, too. Not everyone agrees.
Nobody disputes the beauty of this butter-yellow rhodie, though, with the morning light streaming through it. Although I left the apartment a full ten minutes earlier I usually do, I noticed that if I didn't step on it I would miss the bus. I took several pictures of this beautiful flower before I left.

I mentioned on my other blog that I bought a new MacBook Air, which arrived last Friday, and I cannot be happier with it. I chose to buy the 13-inch version to replace my seven-year-old MacBook. It's so amazingly light and small that I was not sure I would like the keyboard, but it's full sized and really perfect. I'm writing this post on my iMac in the living room, but I can see how I could get so enamored with my new gadget that I could forget my old friend. I downloaded pictures from my camera through the Air's SD slot and it was lightning fast. I don't have one of those on my iMac but instead use a USB connection to load my pictures. Gotta stop soon or I'll wax eloquent about the Air for way too long. Check it out.

Finally, when I read my email this morning, I found a wonderful forwarded email from Norma Jean. I don't know who sent it to her, but the person said this about it:
How much fun is this!  What a crazy, delightful ever-changing world!  Who could have thought that in 2012 young people in Moscow would put on a "flash mob" happening, dancing to a 1983 year old "American song" written by a Russian-born American Jew (Irving Berlin) whose last name is the capital of Germany... Check out that red Chrysler 300 limo!
 I don't put a lot of links to videos on my blog, but this one is so wonderful I have teared up from joy each time I've watched it. I hope you enjoy it, too.

It gives me hope that the world will indeed change for the better, once the young people take over.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Birdwatching in the springtime

White-Crowned Sparrow, by Joe Meche
"If this photo doesn't say spring, I don't know what does."
Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, I never even knew about the pastime of birdwatching and had never thought of feeding the birds. The only thing I knew about those winged creatures was that they sang some pretty cool songs, and I could even identify the meadowlark's beautiful trilling song. And the harsh caw of crows, I knew what they sounded like. I also remember when we had a heavy outbreak of the West Nile virus in Colorado, and suddenly the ubiquitous sound of all birdsong disappeared for many months.

It was maybe three years ago in the wintertime that I noticed some other apartment tenants had sprinkled birdseed on the ground, and I saw all the little bird tracks in the snow. I realized that they probably needed a bit of help during the cold winter months, and I took my first step into the world of birdwatching. After buying some birdseed and putting it out on my porch, within an hour I had little birdies I couldn't identify snacking away. I was thrilled and thus began my love affair with them. 
Bushtit making a nest, by Joe Meche
American Dipper having lunch, by Joe Meche
When a friend at the gym (who is a long-time birder) told me about the online Whatcom Birding Group at Western Washington University, I eagerly joined the listserv and have had my emailbox filled with pictures of birds for years now, giving me a way to identify the ones I've been seeing. I know which ones migrate, show up for awhile and move on, and how to be a good friend to the birds. Joe Meche, who took all the pictures I am putting up here today except for one, sent them to my emailbox this spring. Joe is the current president of the North Cascades Audubon Society and maintains a wonderful newsletter with information about birds and birding (just a click away on the NCAS website).
This beautiful bird is a Great Blue Heron, and Joe said this about it when he sent the email last week: "An adult GBHE flew into the area of the lower creek that's been patrolled by a juvenile heron for more than six months. I didn't see the juvenile anywhere this afternoon." (GBHE is the birders' shorthand for the species when they make a bird count, I've learned.) It makes me wonder what happened to the youngster, but isn't this guy magnificent?
This is the one picture not taken by Joe, but instead by Doug Brown. In the email he sent two pictures, one of an adult Song Sparrow with some hapless bug in its mouth, with this comment: "At a Scudder Pond Song Sparrow nest, one of the parents prepares to make a delivery. The four (or more) targets of the delivery can't be missed." Sometimes I wonder how these little birds manage to feed so many babies! It's a busy time here in the bird world.

And best of all, for me anyway, is that I know what the sound of the song that White-Crowned Sparrow is singing. I've been hearing it for a month now, and some of their relatives have even been availing themselves of the sunflower seeds on my porch and visiting me. I am enjoying birdwatching more than ever!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Olsen Creek, another wet one

Wet trillium were everywhere
When I walked into the cafe this morning to get my regular latte and some lunch for today's hike, my usual server commented on the fact that it is too bad that we didn't do our hike the day before, because it was sunny and beautiful. Not so much today: it started to rain last night and continued right on through the day. Even so, six of the hardiest Trailblazers showed up for our trip to Olsen Creek. Not everyone was happy to be going out on another drippy day, but we went anyway.
This is Olsen Creek, which we had to cross, but not here. We hiked on an old logging road for a bit before taking a very muddy and rather miserable trail to get to the creek where we could cross. The brush had grown up quite a lot, giving us what didn't look like much of a trail at all in places. If you had been there, you would have heard a lot of grumbling and misgivings that we were indeed on any trail at all. But Al didn't lead us astray. Here's a shot that gives an idea of how sketchy the trail was.
There really IS a trail under them, and Al is reconnoitering at this moment while we waited. We were all dressed in our rain gear, except for Mike, of course, who had folded up his umbrella for a while so he wouldn't have to wrestle with it as we climbed over and under lots of fallen trees. We finally crossed the creek and started uphill to get back to the logging road before heading home. Many spots of the road are in dire straits, making us realize that in time, the whole place will revert back to nature.
When we stopped for a quick lunch, we realized that the rain was not falling as heavy as it did last week, but we were hampered by even more muddy and treacherous spots underfoot. If not overhead, the rain gets you one way or the other. Sometimes we get lucky, but today, it was just one of those times when you are glad to be outdoors and not stuck inside. We knew that we had good rain gear and that we would be nice and warm and dry and glad we did it. Afterwards.
Just to give you an idea of wet and cold it was, Linda had put on her down coat underneath her raincoat when we had lunch, and both she and Ward are dressed for the downpour. Mike, as I've said before, doesn't seem to belong on the same hike, but there he is, if not dry at least he's happy. We covered more than eight miles with 1800 feet up and down before we made it back to the cars. Now it's time for me to enjoy my well-deserved glass of wine and settle in for the evening. Although I'm tired, no longer being wet and being out in the rain makes me feel very happy about life. Another hike under my belt!