Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Pacific Northwest kind of day

Kirk, Chris, me, Rich humping along
Not many of us showed up this morning, only seven, with the forecast for a day of rain, yet again. After last week's aborted hike because of wind and sideways rain, I was not really looking forward to more of the same. But, as I've learned time and again, you can't always go by the weather report to figure out how your day will be here in the Pacific Northwest. The only way is to go, rain or shine. As we left the Clayton Beach parking lot towards the south Lost Lake trail, there was a light sprinkle. Nothing much, and we were ready.
The group with Samish Bay behind us
Once we got to the trail to Lost Lake, the rain came and went, but there wasn't much of it, and Steve figured if we took a short side trip, we would have an unexpected view of the bay. Up at the top, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and you can see the various weather events happening in the sky behind us. We then backtracked a short distance to regain our trail. Since the weather was better than expected, we continued on toward the Rock Trail cutoff and decided to head on up. We knew we could make a loop from the Overlook to Fragrance Lake and down to the cars at the parking lot.
The trail heading upwards to Gates Overlook
This is a beautiful new trail that is a pleasure to hike, even in the light rain we experienced. Although every once in awhile we could hear some light wind in the trees, it only really blew when we were at the top; on the trail, it was just enough to keep us cool as we hiked along.
Licorice ferns along the rock trail
My pictures this week are all taken with my iPhone, since I didn't want to subject my other camera to more rain. As it turned out, I could have used it and gotten a bit better pictures, but my phone sufficed to capture the flavor of the day. On the Rock Trail, the licorice ferns grow heavily out of the soil on the rocks to make a really pretty display.
Steve, Chris, Carol, Al, Kirk
Lunch time! As you can see from our pack covers and rain gear, it wasn't completely dry, but we expected it to be so much worse when we stopped for lunch at Gates Overlook. We couldn't believe that all we had to deal with was a gentle rain. No wind and relatively warm to boot.
A little light play with golden leaves
Every once in awhile the skies would brighten, and I was able to capture this tree showing what's left of the beautiful fall colors on the trail. We live in such a wonderful place, and it was so much better a day than what we anticipated that I think I can say it was a very nice Pacific Northwest kind of day. We walked almost nine miles in total and had about a 2,500 foot elevation gain and loss. Although I'm tired, it's a good tired, after spending the day with dear friends in a very beautiful place.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My October present

This morning from the fourth floor of the YMCA
Well, yesterday evening about 7:00pm, the UPS truck FINALLY rolled into the parking lot and the delivery man brought my much-anticipated package: my new iPad Air 2. I took it out and admired it for awhile before turning it on. The first thing I did was to activate the Touch ID feature, by taking an imprint of my thumb so I can turn it on without having to enter the four-digit passcode. This is such a cool feature and it seems to work well even with my aged thumbprint. It will take up to five different fingers, so I'll probably also enter my first finger, just in case I cut my thumb or do something that will make it hard to read.

On Tuesdays, I don't spend much time at the coffee shop first thing in the morning, since I have a class at 8:00am and another at 9:00am right afterwards. I did take the time to connect my new iPad to the free wifi before heading off. I went into my class and took the picture above with the iPad camera, using the "pinch out" method to focus on what I wanted to capture, a little like a zoom lens. It's taken through the window on the fourth floor of the Y. In comparing it with the picture from my last post, there's not much difference to be seen in quality, partly because I must always save these in lower resolution for the web. But I was pleased.

I took a picture of my MacBook Air (isn't it totally appropriate that all my favorite gadgets have the word "air" in them?) while I was sitting in the recliner, and it shows my wallpaper picture, which was taken with my regular camera, very well, don't you think?
The screen picture is of Whatcom Falls last month
There is so much to learn, and I need to figure out the best way to use all the fancy features that I now have available to me. The speed is much faster, and once I plugged my new iPad into my Mac and restored all apps and pictures that I had on my old one, it seems like the only thing that has changed is that I've not a lighter, faster, prettier iPad to play with! I feel like a kid at Christmas who got just what she wanted.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A new toy is in my future

Red ivy on a downtown building
I took the picture above with my iPhone4S, a now rather dated Apple product and not worth much any more, since the iPhone6 and 6+ have been released. I've been really happy with my phone, although I use it for almost everything BUT a phone. I have been continually amazed at the quality of the pictures I'm able to take, and I'll be eligible for an upgrade in another month. Will I do it? Probably not right away. Even though the camera in the iPhone6 is really outstanding, I made the mistake of watching the keynote from Apple about its latest additions.
Tim Cook explaining about the new iPad Mini and iPad Air 2
And instead of getting a new iPhone right away, I decided to pre-order the iPad Air 2. It is the sixth-generation iPad, and I've got a second-generation one. There have been a lot of changes in the last three years. I vacillated mightily about whether or not to go with the Mini or the Air, and finally decided to order the larger one, since it weighs less than a pound and all the reviews make it sound just perfect for me.

And it's got the same camera in it as is in the iPhone6. However, I've never been one to hold up a ten-inch tablet to take pictures, but that may be about to change. I was told the tablet was shipped by UPS Ground and would be here yesterday, but they lied. I watched out the front window obsessively yesterday, but when it didn't arrive, my enthusiasm deflated down to a normal level. It's arrived in Bellingham, but will sit in the UPS closed office until Monday (I checked this morning). I'm still excited, but instead of getting to know my new toy today, I'll go to the movies with Judy. Monday will be here soon enough.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Old enough to know better, we went anyway

Carol, Peggy, Rich, Diane, Al, Chris, Kirk
It never fails to amaze me when I get to the Senior Center to find that nine other crazy Seniors decided to give today a chance for a hike. Although we were scheduled to go into the High Country, because of the forecast I was sure we wouldn't be doing that, and I was right. Instead, we drove a short distance to  Stewart Mountain to hike the Olsen Creek area. The forecast was for it to be "breezy with showers."
It was dark in the trees, but it sheltered us from the wind and rain
When we started out, it was with a light rain, nothing we couldn't handle. But soon we stopped to add more layers, as you can see in that first picture. Raincoats and rain pants were not quite enough for some. Chris, in the above picture, added her yellow poncho, but I never quite got around to putting on my new red one. Since we were traveling uphill, I was pretty comfy.
Mikey struggling to keep his umbrella in check, Steve helping
And then we were out in the wind. I think it was a bit optimistic to call it a "breeze," since it was sending the rain sideways and gusting to at least 30-40mph. After going a mere two miles, we had a little conference to decide whether we wanted to continue on or turn around. We did the smart thing and turned around. On the way back, I saw just the littlest bit of a view.
Not much view, but it was as good as we got all day
You can see the trees bending in the wind and in the distance Lake Whatcom and farther out, Bellingham Bay. We trudged back through the rain and mud, and once we reached the shelter of the trees, the rain had stopped. By the time we made it back to the cars, having only traveled four miles total, we decided to have our lunch inside the Haggen store at Barkley.
Chris and Rich having a nice warm lunch
The nice thing was that we could get hot soup and coffee to enjoy with our packed lunches, and that's just what we did. It's not often that we get to sit around and talk with everybody at lunchtime; usually on a day like today we are huddled miserably under a tree and making the best of a tough situation, eating lunch as quickly as possible. Not today: we were all relaxed and warm. And it's still early as I finish writing this post, a long time before it's wine o'clock. For once on a Thursday I'm not tired, so I will have to think how I want to spend the rest of this day. The rain started up again, but now I'm actually seeing a little sunshine to go along with it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkins and rainy days

Big organic pumpkin
Outside the Community Food Coop, they've got another one of those giant pumpkins displayed for us to guess its weight. Here's a picture of the one from last year. I noticed how much it weighed once they told us, but I sure don't remember, or even have a clue how heavy last year's was. I'll probably guess around 500 pounds, what do you think? Maybe 555, some lucky number or something. Certainly not 600, though, it just doesn't look that big to me.

We are supposed to be getting a LOT of rain in the next few days, including (sigh) Thursday. We have had so many wonderful days that I guess I can't expect every Thursday to be sunny and dry. I'll get to try out my new rain gear, which is something I can look forward to... sort of. We had rain and gray skies two out of the three days that I spent last weekend on Vashon Island. Sunday, the day we had to leave, was the first time we got a glimpse of Mt. Rainier from the back porch.
The mountain was out!
I took this from inside, which is why you see those streaks from the window's glare, but I thought it was such a spectacular view that I didn't even care. It's just a memory for me now, a good one one that will keep me going back to the Lavender Hill Farmhouse for many more years, if it comes to pass. My blogging buddies who are now actually friends for life will need to join me for it to mean anything, but I'm hoping this time next year we'll be back together. I really had a great time with these unique characters. The blogosphere has definitely changed my life for the better.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vashonistas meet again

Linda, Jann, DJan, Deb, Sandi
Well, this year we are only five Vashonistas, as Sally had to cancel at the last minute because of illness. We are so sorry she's not with us for our third gathering at the Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island. We are all blogging women who got together two years ago here for the first time, and now I believe we are on a roll! This is such a fine way for us to meet each other as "skin friends," since we already knew so much about each other from our blogs. Links to our previous meetings are here and here.

And for the third time we had our Saturday breakfast at the Hardware Store (a restaurant on the main drag) and now it's a tradition. We also had the same waitperson, and we asked if she remembered us, which is doubtful, considering the number of visitors that come every year, but she didn't let on that she didn't remember us.
The view from the back porch of the farmhouse
It is such a peaceful and wonderful place, and we had a great time last night as we ate Jann's wonderful lasagna and enjoyed some great uproarious laughter together. I just returned from a short walk with Sandi and Deb so I could write this post, but there will be more tomorrow on my other blog. I'm really glad I came and I sure wish the rain would stop so we could perhaps capture a view of Mt. Rainier (which is actually available from one of our previous visits here). You can never have too many views of mountains, can you?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Goat Mountain Fall 2014

On the trail
Seventeen Senior Trailblazers started up the Goat Mountain trail for our third visit this year. We had some fitful stops and starts, but we eventually all got sorted into two groups: a few would try to get to the actual summit of Goat Mountain, rather than the overlook, where we usually stop. I was in the second group, just happy to be getting up into the High Country for yet another wonderful trip, without rain! This is the only day this entire week when we were not expecting rain, and sure enough we stayed dry.
Mushrooms were everywhere, all sorts of them
Since there has been so much rain lately, mushrooms had sprouted out of the ground everywhere. These (above) look almost like slimy loaves of bread. I was hoping that we would have a good view of the surrounding mountains after struggling for almost 3,000 feet of elevation to get to the overlook, but the skies might have been dry but they were certainly not cloud free.
Owen in front of Mt. Sefrit
We were joined today by a new (to me) guy who usually hikes with the other Senior Trailblazer group. Here is is standing in front of Mt. Sefrit, for his first time ever up to the Goat Mountain overlook. He has a wry sense of humor and had me laughing more than once today.
The Goat Mountain summit in snow
By the time we got into the open, we saw that the summit group would be dealing with fresh snow that must have fallen overnight. As you can see, however, the surrounding hills were alive with fall colors, even with gray skies that make it difficult to determine the summit from the background.
The group below me, with autumn in full swing
I wasn't able to capture very many pictures today, as I was struggling the entire way, feeling like my legs had lead in them. I wasn't alone, but those four who decided to try for the summit were only a short distance from the top before they turned around. We used the walkie-talkies to communicate with each other.
Those wonderful fall colors
As we began our descent, we knew that we should meet up by the time we got to the cars, and it all turned out well in the end. Although it was late before we got home (since the daylight hours are so much less than earlier in the summer), I think I can say we were all very glad to get home and enjoy our evening after a fine day in the wilderness. If this precipitation keeps up all next week, we might have just done our final trip for the season, but we are hoping for one or even two more. We'll see. Anyway, it was another great day, but I am sure tired and glad to be home!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What an aurora

From Astronomy Picture of the Day
Part of my morning routine is to read my blogging friends' latest posts, make a quick check of the news of the day, read a few of my favorite comics, and check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day. This is today's picture, and I was simply amazed when I looked at it. I've never before even seen a picture of an auroral corona. Taken last month in Norway by Harald Albrigtsen, the page gives more information about it:
Somewhat uncommon, an auroral corona appears as a center point for a surrounding display and may occur when an aurora develops directly overhead, or when auroral rays are pointed nearly toward the observer. This picturesque but brief green and purple aurora exhibition occurred last month high above Kvaløya, Tromsø, Norway. The Sessøyfjorden fjord runs through the foreground, while numerous stars are visible far in the distance.
Wow! It's such a beautiful picture I figured I'd share it with you, along with perhaps get you in the habit of looking at some fabulous part of our universe each morning. I am always bedazzled by spiral galaxies, mostly, but this... just wow!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Another long weekend, for some

"Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism since 1492"
Gene was wearing this t-shirt at the coffee shop yesterday, and I thought the message was quite appropriate for the upcoming holiday on Monday: Columbus Day. This is a federal holiday (meaning we won't get mail delivery and the banks will be closed) around the country. I just looked it up for this area, however, and found that the schools will be open and actually, most of the banks as well. There's quite a kerfuffle brewing over Columbus Day here in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle voted this year to change the title of the holiday to "Indigenous People's Day" to honor the contributions of Native Americans on this day, instead of Columbus' discovery of America in October 1492. This led Italian Americans to object, saying (according to this article) that "this is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected. America wouldn't be America without Christopher Columbus."

Sigh. And here in Bellingham, the City Council will vote on an ordinance that would have the date of October 13 designated as "Coast Salish Day." It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. Oh, and on another subject, I have already interviewed two of my friends to follow up with the idea of having a short biography here on the blog (Gene and Rita), but I've still got to write them and get an okay from each, making sure I get the facts right. I'm having fun already!
Sheltered from the rain
This morning, 14 of the walkers gathered in hopes of beating the rain that was on its way. Actually, we had just finished our walk when the heavy rain began. It kept up like this (see it coming off the roof?) for maybe a half hour and then the sun came out! It's one of those October days when sun, rain and clouds vie for dominance. It's that in-between time of year, and we all gathered afterwards for some coffee and conversation. A nice day, actually.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

High Pass Trail 2014

Twin Lakes, Winchester/High Pass trailhead
Today sixteen Senior Trailblazers gathered to hike up to Winchester Mountain, or maybe the High Pass Trail, depending on how many of us showed up. The Mt. Baker Wilderness Area requires that all groups be comprised of fewer than 12 hikers, so we decided that we would break into two groups, one going up to Winchester Mountain, and the rest of us (today it was four of us) continue up to the High Pass Trail. Since I had hiked up Winchester earlier this summer, I opted to go where I hadn't been before, the High Pass Trail.
Karen with a halo
Neither of these are long hikes: I think it's only four miles round trip to the top of Winchester, and just a little bit more than that to High Pass. But today was a simply perfect day, whichever route one took. Everyone who had never been to the top of Winchester Mountain went that direction, and we rejoined everyone at a predetermined time at Twin Lakes later. The blueberries were so profuse that we ate to our heart's content and still couldn't keep up! Where are the bears?
Peggy picking blueberries
It was impossible not to stop and pick blueberries to pop into your mouth. Each one had a slightly different taste, and I kept thinking I would find the perfect one and stop, but I never did. You can see in the picture below why I couldn't stop.
So many blueberries!
Mercy! By the time we had reached the top of High Pass, I noticed that I wasn't, for some reason, a bit hungry and anxious for lunch. And then we saw the view. Another fine portrait of Mt. Baker, one that you just don't see all that often. From this vantage point, it looks lopped off flat on the top, but from where I am sitting now (my living room), it looks completely round. Here's my view this afternoon:
Mt. Baker from High Pass
What a beautiful mountain! I will never tire of taking pictures of her, and I hope I'll have many more years of hikes in the wilderness to capture this mountain in all of her different characters. Today it was a perfect blend of temperature, clouds, fall colors, and serenity. And then it was time to start back down and join our other Winchester cohorts. It wasn't easy, because we kept having to stop and sample more, well, you know, blueberries.
Al in Blueberry Heaven
It was a really perfect day in so many ways. We only hiked somewhere around four or five miles, with a measly 1,600 feet of elevation gain and loss, which means I am sitting here at my laptop feeling like a million bucks, not tired, and filled with so much gratitude for another fine day in the wilderness. The only part I missed is not being with the larger group and spending time with my other Senior Trailblazers. They managed to have a great time without me, as I learned when we all met up at the end. We headed down to Graham's in Glacier to share some ice cream memories, and now we are in our own abodes, happy to have been on a great hike today.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday again already?

Front porch pansy
I went to the garden shop a few weeks back to get some flowers that would brighten up my front porch, since many of my pretty summer plants had finished blooming and/or gave up the ghost. These lovely pansies were a surprise, because they are my favorite color and frilly to boot. The plant didn't have any blooms, but lots of them were ready to emerge when I bought it. I hope they will last for awhile to brighten my comings and goings.

Although I'm retired, I have a fairly constant weekly schedule: Tuesdays are the one day each week when I take two classes back to back at the Y, starting at 8:00am and finishing at 10:00am. I don't exactly look forward to it, because I know I'll be tired afterwards, but after a shower and a nice cup of coffee, I feel simply great. It's also the only time during the week when I lift weights. (The class is actually held two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I am out in the wilderness on Thursdays.) It's a class I don't like to miss, since keeping my strength up helps in many other aspects of my daily life.

I am mulling the possibility of writing some biographies about the interesting people in my life. I realized the other day that many of you think of me as being a rarified animal in the scheme of things. Not true! Maybe I could begin to interview some of the people at the Y who interest me, and write an article about each one. Would you like to know more about those fascinating people I hit the trails with? I'm thinking of Rita particularly, who is 75 and hikes, tap dances, bikes all day long sometimes, and recently took up scuba diving. What do you think?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Great documentary and a good book

I just got back from seeing a new documentary, Pelican Dreams, with my friend Judy. It's so new that the link, which takes you to Rotten Tomatoes, doesn't give a rating. Yet. In my opinion, it will be a really good one, because it was not only inspiring, I simply loved getting to know about pelicans. The film follows a young female pelican that lands on the Golden Gate Bridge and is rescued, until her release back into the wild.

Plus you also get to know a whole lot more about pelicans than you would ever know otherwise. I am now a fan of these fine birds, although I knew very little about them other than having watched them dive for fish along the Florida beach when I was visiting my sister. I highly recommend it.

We are very fortunate here in Bellingham to have an independent theater in town that gives us what it calls "Doctober" showing lots of documentaries during the month, with only a single screening, or sometimes more than one (like this one, which sold out last night and was shown one more time today). I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more wonderful documentaries this month.

And the book? One of my blogging friends (I don't remember who it was) suggested a book, and I went immediately to the local library website and put a hold on it. Once it came, I delved into it and was completely floored by the historical information that is covered in the book. It's called The Burglary: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret F.B.I. written by Betty Medsger. It tells the story of eight regular people who broke into the FBI's office in Media, Pennsylvania in 1971 and stole all the files. They not only burgled the place, but they were never caught. At the beginning of this year, Medsger released the book that outed six of the eight, for the first time. There is a fascinating article on the New York Times, Burglars Who Took on the F.B.I. Abandon Shadows, which pretty much tells the whole story.

The book is long, and covers some other similar events that just amazed me, mostly because I never knew about all this. I must have been busy raising kids and dealing with my own personal drama not to have known much of this history. Whoever it was that pointed me toward that book, thank you! And now I'm returning the favor.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Excelsior Pass via Damfino

Damfino Lake, the biggest anyway
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers showed up today on a very fine, sunny day, as compared to our last two rather wet hikes. It looked for awhile like I wouldn't be able to join them, since I managed to lock my car keys into my trunk, with all my hiking gear safely inside. Fortunately, Rita volunteered to drive me home quickly to get my spare key, with the understanding we would join the rest of the group at the Glacier Ranger Station. Thanks to Rita, we were only around ten minutes behind the others! And she never went over the speed limit too. This is a day I wouldn't have wanted to miss.
Cold at the start, but more sun than clouds
We were bundled up at the start of the hike, even though the sun was warming things up pretty quickly. Here we stopped to make clothing adjustments before we would come out of the forest into full sun. The road to begin this hike has been closed for years, and when it opened up late last fall, we decided to try it. We didn't get far, as you can see from this trip report last November. Today, we made it to Excelsior Pass.
Lots of blueberry bushes along the way
After a fairly short trip through the forest, you follow this beautiful valley up to Excelsior Pass. Once we got out into the open, it turned out to be a simply beautiful day, with a few clouds but mostly sun as we ascended to the pass.
New snow on the peaks
Once we reached the pass, we had incredible views all around. It was almost noon, but since this part of the hike enters the wilderness area, we decided that some hikers would climb to the top of Excelsior Peak, while the rest of us would hike along the High Divide for awhile before stopping for lunch. The views of the surrounding peaks were incredible. Here's my best picture of Mt. Baker taken today.
Mt. Baker with new snow and a few clouds
I am always awestruck by the beauty of this mountain that I can often see from my front porch, which shows many of her faces to me on our hikes. After we had separated, and the eight of us stopped for a nice lunch in the sunshine, I looked over at Excelsior Peak and could see the others in our group had also stopped for lunch. They are the little dots at the top of the peak.
The Excelsior Peak Five
Yes, that's the peak. I can only see four dots, but I think the other person is just not quite in line with the others. We decided that we would regroup at the junction at 1:30pm. In the meantime, the rest of us had a nice lunch and then went for a short half-hour walk along the High Divide.
Carol, mountains, sun, clouds
As you can clearly see from this picture, it was a wonderful sunny day. We decided after lunch to take off and go as far as we could in a half hour. Looking ahead, I saw this really interesting looking spot, filled with red, with our trail crossing right in the middle of it (look close and you can see the trail).
That red is a big blueberry patch
The blueberry bushes have mostly turned red, as you can see here, and I was hoping that I might be able to get a picture, once we traveled to that red spot, of the backlit blueberry bushes with the mountains behind. Instead, this is what I got:
Blueberry bushes and mountains behind
Those bushes were so incredibly RED that I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the camera. I didn't manage to capture the mountains behind very well, but doesn't that look like a field of chili peppers rather than a field of blueberry bushes? I think we all ate so many blueberries and huckleberries today that we really didn't need to have lunch.
Colorful mountain ash in the foreground
On the way back, the sun was fairly low in the sky, and I kept trying to get some pictures that would show you how well the fall colors are coming along. I think this picture did a good job of it. By the time we reached our cars, we had traveled around seven miles (round trip) and 2,000 feet up and down. Not one of our hardest hikes, but one of our favorites. I had a GREAT day, thanks to my dear hiking friends, who did not let me down, and the magnificent wilderness area in our back yard.