Tuesday, March 31, 2015

And so it begins

My plot is the one behind the green watering can
My fourth season as a gardener, that is. My plot is almost cleared of weeds, and I'm really amazed at how much work it is to have gotten this far. I've gone out twice for a total of maybe four hours to clear the measly 7x23-foot plot and realized I have muscles I'd forgotten completely about since this time last year. Living in a rented apartment, we've lost some of our old timers who were here four years ago and have added new people to the mix. Out of ten plots, only Carol and I have been here since the beginning.
Looking at the plots on the south side
The left-most plot, Alex's, is partly cleared and he's got a bunch of fresh dirt under the blue tarp. You can see that Carol's plot already has some starts in it, and next comes Hedi's plot, with last year's strawberries and blueberries. The next one, Beth's, hasn't been touched yet. She's got two kids in elementary school and holds down a full-time job, so I'm not surprised she's not been out yet. In the foreground are weeds in the community garden that still need to be pulled out.
Lilacs almost ready to bloom
I thought as fast as the lilacs have been growing that they would have begun to bloom by now. I'm glad we still have some time, as they come out fast and don't last long. With apologies to those of you on the East Coast who hardly have seen your first signs of spring, we are ahead of schedule here, for sure. Now I'm off to the garden store to get some supplies for the garden.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Bellingham murals

Mural at the corner of Holly and Bay Streets
Today, after our usual morning walk, I went exploring around Old Town in Bellingham looking for some murals I'd noticed before. There are plenty of them all around town, but this one has captured my interest for quite awhile. I went looking for some information about the artist (or artists) but I was unable to find out anything on line.
Whatcom County Railway & Light Co.
This closeup of the left-hand side of the mural made me wonder about the name on the building and what it was all about in the history of the town. Here's what I found:
By 1902, Stone & Webster had acquired the Fairhaven and New Whatcom. Over the next several months Northern Railway and Improvement sold the rest of its holdings which included Fairhaven Electric Light, Power and Motor Company and the Whatcom-Fairhaven Gas Company. Stone & Webster organized these under the umbrella name of the Whatcom County Railway and Light Company. (from this link)
Apparently, at the turn of the last century several businessmen from California wanted to make Bellingham into an urban area to rival Seattle and Tacoma.  But for whatever reason it didn't happen. I'm glad, since the town today is just the right size for me.

The mural below is just a short distance away on Prospect Street; I took a picture of it, since I pass by it every day in the bus. It's got so much detail but all I've learned about it is that it's a story of Salmon Woman and the Native Americans who were here first (I think).
Down the street from the museum
Bellingham was a major center for salmon fishing. At one time, the largest salmon processing plant in the world was located in the Fairhaven district. By 1925, eight salmon canneries were doing business in Bellingham Bay. This took quite a toll on the salmon, obviously, and pretty much decimated the salmon runs until the traps they used were banned. Slowly they returned to a new normal, but most fishermen moved north to Alaska where the salmon were more abundant.

I'll spend some time taking pictures of the murals in Fairhaven one of these days and will share those with you, too. I love Bellingham, can you tell?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Return to the High Country

At the Goat Mountain trailhead
What a beautiful day! Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center with hopes that we could forget our regularly scheduled hike and instead head up to the High Country. And that's just what we did. After some discussion, we decided to attempt the Goat Mountain overlook. We piled into four cars and headed to our starting point. Although it rained all day long in Bellingham yesterday, today was forecast to be much warmer and partly cloudy. We hoped that whatever snow fell in up high would be minimal, so that we could make it all the way to the overlook.
Our first signs of snow
We walked quite awhile before we ran into any snow at all, and much of it was like this, just a dusting as we made our way upwards. In total, we climbed 2,700 feet (823 meters) of elevation today, and much of the last part was in real snow. Here's what the meadow looked like when we reached it.
Yes, lots of snow, and plenty of sunshine too
It's less than a mile to the overlook from this point, but it is steep and slow going through the snow. Some of us (like me) forgot to add our snow baskets to our trekking poles, which made the going quite a bit harder, with nothing to push against as our poles slipped through the fresh snow. But we gamely headed on up.
Sharon and Carol with Mt. Baker in the background
The higher we climbed, the better the views. If you look at the left-hand side of the picture, you can see the depth of the snow, much of it fresh from the previous day, and it just continued to get deeper. But we made it to the overlook around 1:00pm and sat down to have our well deserved lunch.
Gazing out at the view
It's quite a spectacular view from here, with all our favorite mountains visible, and here you also see three Tilley hats (Doug, Bob, and Al) on three of my favorite hikers. Mine was still hanging on the wall at home, since I really did think that all the weather would make it seriously cloudy today. I had only a baseball cap and my sunglasses to shelter me from the intense sun. It was enough, but I sure missed my Tilley hat!
Bob and Mt. Sefrit behind him
I am adding this picture to point out a curious observation: all the other pictures I'm showing you today were taken with my Canon camera. This one is taken with my iPhone 6. Am I wrong in thinking that the sky and the colors are superior? I have "doctored" all the camera pictures by enhancing and boosting the colors, but this one is just the way I took it.
Starting our return trip
This part of the day's exertions was by far the hardest for me: I was heading downhill in fresh snow, with the sun having degraded much of the sunniest parts, and I kept falling and trying to haul myself back up with no baskets on my poles. It was terrible. Fortunately, Kirk offered to lend me his (with baskets) until we got to more reasonable terrain. I was very grateful.
The lower trail is free of snow
Finally we returned to the more easily traveled trail, free of snow and giving us a chance to pick up the pace to the cars. I don't know how tired everyone else was, but that entire section with the snow was enough to make the mere seven+ miles we covered today feel much longer. However, now that I'm sitting in my favorite chair with my wine next to me, I'm feeling very grateful to have been given the chance to visit the High Country this year, in March! What a day!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Today the sun is shining

Lilac buds
When I stepped off the bus today on my way back from town, I saw that the lilac buds have increased in size overnight. At this rate, it won't be more than a week before I see the first blossoms. Yes, spring is definitely busting out all over around here. I'm hoping it won't be long now before the snow is gone from the East Coast, too. It's crazy to see the difference in weather patterns between the coasts for the foreseeable future. Take a look at this:
Climate Prediction Center's temperature outlook for USA
Yikes! It looks like it will be warm and dry here for the next week or so, although we have rain predicted for tomorrow, it will remain warmer than normal. Sorry to see those below-normal temperatures just where they don't need it.
A little snip
Although I was assured by the claims adjuster that my car is safe to drive, it worried me to have that piece sticking out from the right side like that, so I was hesitant to drive it anywhere. My fisherman friend Gene was kind enough to cut off that offending snag hazard, and now I feel much better driving it. It just seems weird to me that it will be an entire MONTH before it could be fixed by Olsen Auto Body here in Bellingham. They received the payment from my insurance company on March 10th.

If my car had been unusable, they would have fixed it sooner. At least now I'm more comfortable driving it around. People still look at me funny as I drive by, though.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Listening to the rain

When I walked to the bus last Friday, I saw that some of my favorite blossoms have begun to come out. These don't last long, so I usually try to get them when they are covered with dew or rain with early morning light. It wasn't raining then, so I'll try again Monday. But for now, I'm sitting inside listening to the rain drum on the rooftop. Our Saturday morning walk was a wet one, too, but for awhile it seemed like it would clear up. Nope, not yet.

I still have more than two weeks to drive around my crippled car before it gets fixed. I think I could put the whole thing behind me much more quickly if I didn't have to be reminded every time I drive it. Plus, even though the adjuster said it's fine to drive it on the freeway, there is no way I'll do that until it's fixed. It goes into the shop on April 6, a full month after the accident. It reminds me that there must be a whole lot of car accidents in Bellingham every day.
Gene's hand, Leo, and his dad's torso
I also got this picture of Leo on Friday, showing how quickly he is growing up. He doesn't come into the coffee shop nearly often enough for me these days, but he's in school much of the time, and next year it will be even worse. He kept making faces, so Gene distracted him so that I was able to capture this picture of my favorite six-year-old friend.

Hey, the rain just stopped, and it got significantly brighter outside. I may have some sunshine today after all! Hope you do, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

British Army Trail and more

Stream crossing
I sure didn't expect to see sixteen Senior Trailblazers show up on a day when it was forecast to rain all or most of the day, and on a hike that is definitely not one of our favorites, the British Army Trail on Blanchard Mountain. It's rather long and spends a good deal of the day on old logging roads. It's part of the PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail) and was constructed by PNT volunteers and visiting British Army soldiers during the late 1990s. We started from the Upper Trailhead parking lot, after having dropped a car off at our ending point. This would allow us to make a one-way hike, which we did last year. I wrote about it here. It was sunny then, but today we expected any minute to be in rain. We were ready.
Time to strip off some layers
But since the rain didn't seem to be coming, other than a little drop or two (nothing for us seasoned Pacific Northwesterners), we stopped to take off most of our rain gear. It was very mild and I soon realized I too was wearing way too many clothes. After this stop I was much more comfy.
Must be a woodpecker heaven
I saw this tree that looked like a sieve, with all those holes. We speculated that it must have lots of beetles and other tasty treats for the woodpeckers to find under the bark. Our hike took us to Lily and Lizard Lakes, but we didn't see any lilies or lizards today. It was too early to stop for lunch by the time we got to Lily Lake, so we headed on over to Lizard Lake for our lunch stop.
Stopping at Lizard Lake for lunch
By the time we got to Lizard Lake and pulled out our lunch and made ourselves comfortable, it still wasn't raining. Just a few little drops on the lake, but nothing really. I walked around the area and found this recent tree cut down by a beaver or two:
Stump with lots of cuttings and the tree next to it
I looked at this endeavor and wondered whether the tree simply sheared off once they got it close to finished. The top of the stump doesn't have any teeth marks, and the position of the tree makes me think the tree just gave up. I guess beavers must know about the way a tree is going to fall, since I haven't seen any dead bodies lying around, but plenty of felled trees.
Trillium bud
And look! A trillium just getting ready to open. Now I know that spring is really here. I'll be seeing more and more of these as the time goes by. When they are gone in the lowlands, we will be hiking in the High Country and seeing them there. It was so nice to say hello to my first one of the season.
This sign shows the section dedicated to the British Royal Army
By the time we got to this point, we were all ready for the hike to be done. But we still had miles to go before we got to the car, most of it on logging roads. Before it was all over, we had covered more than nine miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. You would think I'd get used to it, but I was very tired by the end. The five drivers piled into the one car and drove to our starting point to get the other cars. Since it wasn't raining, the rest of us didn't mind the wait too much.
It started to rain once we got in the cars
On the way back to the Senior Center, we got rain! Once we were inside the cars, the heavens opened up. Do you think somebody was watching out for the Senior Trailblazers? I do! It was a nice way to end a day where we all got lots of exercise and stayed (mostly) dry!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The tulips are coming out already

Check out the Tulip Bloom Map
I found this awesome picture on Facebook under a page created by a local real estate agent, Rick Moore, who has lived in Bellingham his entire life. His page is entitled "LoveBellingham," if you are a Facebook user and want to like his personal page. He puts up some really beautiful pictures of our area, and I snagged this one just to show how the tulips have already started to pop out in the Skagit Valley just down the road. The link under the picture will take you to the Bloom Map, and I noticed it was updated as of today, St. Patrick's Day. None of the tulip fields are "turned on" yet, but all the daffodil fields are at their peak color.

I would be heading down there soon, but my car is really not something I want to take out onto the freeway in its present condition, and it's not scheduled for repair until the week of April 6-10. I will be getting a rental car, however, while mine is in the shop, so that's when I'll be heading down to take my own look at the tulips. I'm thinking they should just about be in perfect condition in another three weeks. That's what I'm hoping, anyway. There are early, middle, and late tulips in the big gardens, but this year I'll bet they will all be gone by the end of April! I'll be showing you my pictures when I get down there.

Oh, and since it's St. Patrick's Day today, please remember that if you are going to drink green beer to celebrate, find a designated driver or stay home to imbibe. Better to be safe than sorry. I also found this great picture taken of the seniors from the YMCA during the St. Patrick's Day parade last Saturday.
A little rain didn't keep the seniors away
I found this great Irish quote to leave you with: "May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you're going, and the insight to know when you've gone too far."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Safety Day 2015

Me and Christy this morning at Safety Day
I got up this morning with Smart Guy, and the two of us set out for the 75-mile-long journey down to Skydive Snohomish in the rain, so we could attend Safety Day. While we were there, before the seminars began, I asked Christy for a picture. I do think this will be my last Safety Day and my last season of skydiving. No, I mean it this time. She and I made a skydive a couple of weekends ago, and it was simply lovely. I'm looking forward to at least a few more weekends this summer where we get to play in the air.
The large crowd, along with the potluck breakfast treats
Skydive Snohomish hosts this well-attended event, which gets us all ready for the upcoming season after the winter layoff. The weather has been so fine that many people have already made some skydives this season (including me), but the five seminars cover aircraft safety, the skydive, equipment, canopy flight, and emergencies. The Drop Zone provides pizza for lunch and hosts a large dinner afterwards as well. I've never attended the dinner, since we have such a long drive home.
Fiddling with aperture settings
This morning I was reading on one of my favorite blogs, The Furry Gnome, about aperture settings and how to use them. I tried a dozen different ones as I gazed out the front window of the car at the windshield wipers as they swept back and forth in the rain. Of course, I wasn't driving, Smart Guy was, so I had plenty of time to ponder what happens when I changed the aperture setting. I noticed depth of field and the amount of light all change considerably. This is going to be fun! And finally, I'll leave you with one of the humorous cartoons that was shared today by Dieter, one of our pilots.
I laughed at this one

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A really nice day on Hoypus Hill

Beautiful old growth tree surrounded by youngsters
Exactly half the number of Senior Trailblazers who showed up last week (that would be eight) met today to start our trip to Whidbey Island for our hike around Hoypus Hill. This is one of our usual winter hikes, and it's not all that hard to walk around the trails, but Al manages to make it long enough for a good workout. We walked almost ten miles and gained and lost around 1,200 feet of elevation, so I'm feeling pretty tired as I sit here writing this post.
Steve, Jacqueline, Carol, Kirk, Al, Roger, Diane
It was nice to see a couple of people I haven't seen lately, Jacqueline and Diane. We got started at the trailhead at Cornet Bay around 9:00 and the possible rain we might have expected never materialized. In fact, the weather just got nicer and nicer as the day went on. This maze of trails winds through lots of beautiful country, with signs keeping us well aware of just where we were.
Map of Goose Rock and Hoypus Hill
One of the nicest parts of this excursion is our journey through Old Growth forest. But it's only part of the enjoyment: when the weather is fine like it was today, with signs of spring everywhere, it's impossible not to be smiling and grateful for Bellingham's proximity to Whidbey Island. Last time we drove across the Deception Pass Bridge (when we went to Goose Rock) we couldn't see anything through the fog, but today it was clear. We usually have our lunch at Ala Spit, which is a short walk along roads, but today we got there and it was windy and cold.
You can't tell how windy it was, and cold besides
Usually, we hunker down under some driftwood and have lunch, but today Al realized that he had left his iPhone on a log when we stopped earlier, so instead of stopping here, we backtracked to the place where he left it before stopping for lunch.
Our lunch spot
And there it was! It had fallen off that log where they are sitting and was just waiting for him to return. It was actually a much nicer place for lunch, since it was sunny and the wind didn't reach us through the trees. After a leisurely and enjoyable stop, we started our return trip. This is my favorite part, because we walk through acres of Old Growth forests, with some of these old trees probably more than 700 years old. Think of it: back when the Crusades were happening, and the Byzantine empire was collapsing, some of these trees were just saplings.
Admiring the Old Growth trees
My biggest problem was keeping up with the others through this part of the forest, because the trees kept calling for me to pay attention to their magnificence. Many of them have fallen, and some, like the one in this picture, are leaning enough to make me wonder if one day we'll visit and find that they have blown down. But then again, they will probably outlast all of us!
The trail through the trees
It was truly a wonderful day, filled with lots of sunshine and good conversation. Although I was getting rather tired towards the end of the day, wishing I was already back in the comfy car with my boots off, it was not a day I would have wanted to miss. On the way back, I asked Al if he would allow me to take a picture of some of the daffodils that are in bloom in the Skagit Valley (which we must traverse on our way home). He agreed, and here's what we saw.
Rows and rows of daffodils in bloom
Although the month of April is when the Tulip Festival is held in these parts, everything is early because of the warmer than normal weather. And as you can see, the daffodils are just beautiful! In a few weeks I'll be heading back here to see the tulips, but for now I was thrilled to see these acres of golden flowers. Just simply gorgeous, don't you think? It was a great day, and now I'm ready to put my feet up and relax for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The problem with sequels

Scene from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
As anyone who saw the first movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, can see, most of the characters who are in the sequel returned three years later to make this second movie. Judy and I anxiously awaited its arrival in the theater so we could see it. Last weekend we were two of the mostly white-haired ladies who comprised the audience.

The link under the picture takes you to the Rotten Tomatoes site that confirms what we both felt when we saw it: it's nowhere near as good as the first one. But still... it was lovely to see some of my favorite actors again. Maggie Smith, who is also in Downton Abbey, had some great zingers in this as well. Maybe it's a problem with all sequels. But wait...

Last year I read a book that I truly enjoyed, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is a lighthearted romantic comedy written from the point of view of a man who obviously falls somewhere on the Asperger's Syndrome curve. Don Tillman (the protagonist) was someone who delighted me, and not only me, but Bill Gates as well. He says he gave the book to at least fifty people in this article on his blog. He also refers in the post to another book, which I just finished yesterday.

The book is entitled The Rosie Effect and is the sequel to the first book, and I really loved it. I was wary that it wouldn't be as good. I was wrong; I enjoyed this book every bit as much as the first one, maybe even more. In the first book, Don is looking for a wife and designs a 16-page questionnaire to filter out undesirable candidates for the position. Somehow he runs into Rosie, who doesn't even pass the first question. But in hilarious fashion, they end up falling in love and getting married. In this sequel, Rosie becomes pregnant, and Don must take up the Baby Project. So just because a book or a movie is a sequel to an enjoyed first edition does not mean it's not good. But it's not necessarily what you might have expected. If you read the Rosie Project and enjoyed it, I think you will enjoy this one, too.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Saturday and Sunday sunshine

Tree growing out of a log on Lake Whatcom
I took this picture on the walk with the ladies (and one man) this morning on the North Shore of Lake Whatcom. It was cold when we started out, but the sunshine and the briskness of the walk warmed me up quickly. I really needed this walk, because yesterday afternoon I was involved in a car accident.

Coming out of the parking lot of a rather large shopping center, I tried to turn left into pretty heavy traffic and thought I was clear when BAM! I collided with another car. We both stopped to take an assessment of the damage and fortunately a policeman was going by and stopped to write up an incident report. We both have coverage and I've already reported it to my insurance company. My car has bumper damage but is still drivable, but the young woman could not open her driver's side door so she had it towed. I've since learned that auto body shops are not open on the weekend, but first thing Monday I'll get my car appraised and schedule it to be fixed.

I've been driving for many decades, and this is my first accident. Unfortunately for me, I pulled out into traffic and will probably be issued a ticket (also my first!). Everyone is all right, although the young lady (exactly fifty years younger than me) was as shaken up as I was. I drove my car home carefully, but after a look under the hood I realize that I can drive it around safely as long as I don't get going too fast.
My poor car
It also was a lesson in how quickly everything can change. My insurance company will be taking care of the details, but I'll be paying for this in more ways than one for a long time to come. It's good that nobody was going any faster than we were. It's also a good lesson in how dangerous these vehicles can be. I hope this makes me a safer driver.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rock Trail/Raptor Ridge loop

Cordura Centipede
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center for what was scheduled to be an out-and-back hike from Gates Overlook down the Rock Trail and over to Raptor Ridge. Al suggested we try making it a loop, hiking down the Rock Trail and up to Raptor Ridge and coming back via the Hemlock Trail and Chuckanut Ridge, making it a little longer but still do-able. We agreed.
Heading down the Rock Trail steps
It was sunny and cold this morning, but we knew it would probably warm up during the day. The group headed down the Rock Trail stairs, which are steep but extremely well constructed. I decided to be the "sweep" today, meaning that I would stay at the very end of the group and make sure that we would all stay together. I'd be the last person, which I figured would make for some good pictures.
Dappled sun and ferns on the Rock Trail
Once we were down the Rock Trail, we headed over to Raptor Ridge, a journey of about five miles, but it has been awhile since the last rain, so the trail was in very good condition. Here's another view of our large group navigating a switchback, so you see people going in three different directions.
We were a BIG group today
Some people might not be familiar with the term "switchback," but it's in common use when hiking. Instead of a trail going straight up, it bends back and forth up a mountainside, making it less steep both when hiking up or down.
Stopping for lunch at Raptor Ridge
It was almost  noon when we reached Raptor Ridge, and although there were a few clouds, the sun was still very strong on the rocks, with little to no wind. It was warm and we were ready for a rest. We enjoyed a very nice lunch together before heading back down the trail. The trail back was unremarkable, other than having to climb back up to Chuckanut Ridge before the trail leveled out again. Now that I'm aware of that part, I'll be more ready next time we do this loop.
A view from Chuckanut Ridge before heading to the cars
The last time we were on this ridge (last week), all we saw was white mist and fog from this vantage point. What are these people looking at?
Mt. Baker
Beautiful Mt. Baker on the skyline, and a lovely vista. We live in such a wonderful place with great hikes and views just a few miles away from town. Although I look forward to hiking in the High Country during the summer months, I also really appreciate all the beauty we have right here. We figured that the hike was somewhere more than nine miles total, but less than ten. Maybe a lot less, but we had GPS instruments that didn't agree with each other. It felt like ten, but maybe next time I'll just pop to the top and wonder why it seemed so long before.