Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thinking about the long hot summer ahead

Lots of green tomatoes in my garden
The one good thing about all this heat and sunshine is that I will probably have a ton of tomatoes to enjoy before this summer is all over. This year I planted two varieties. This one is from Joe's Garden, called Red Pac, an early intermediate sized tomato. I've only planted cherry tomatoes in previous years because, after all, it's the Pacific Northwest and often tomatoes don't have a chance to ripen. Not this year. It's still June, and I've got an amazing number of green tomatoes and lots of flowers still coming out.
Rob's awesome raspberries
My gardening neighbor Rob has an incredible crop of raspberries and went out of town yesterday. He suggested that I help myself to some of these guys, since he won't be able to harvest them himself. They are literally falling off the vines onto the ground. I did pick a few yesterday and will go out there after awhile and gather some more. They don't last long once I bring them in the house. I saw in the paper today that the commercial pickers are out in full force, since all the fruit is ripening much earlier than normal.
Carol and her lovely front porch flowers
My apartment neighbor Carol has many more flowers to water on her front porch than I do, and she had just picked up one that had fallen and showed it to me. We marveled at its complexity and beauty. And that tree on the already-brown front lawn is one of those that had been butchered a little more than a year ago. I didn't believe they would come back the way that have. I guess they knew what they were doing.
A lovely pistil on this flower, eh?
I just went on line quickly to see if that yellow curly thing is indeed called a flower's pistil. That was what we were speculating as we admired it. (I'm not sure what the flower is called, either.) So that is the good part of all this sun and hot weather. But the other side is what is happening in parts of my state: the town of Wenatchee has an out-of-control wildfire that has already burned 25 or so homes in the last two days. It's called the Sleepy Hollow fire and is only 10% contained as of this moment. Many more homes are in jeopardy, but the firefighters are hard at work.

And with Independence Day right around the corner, with all those fireworks, I'm worried about what might happen. On our weather channel, it shows temperatures in the mid-80s to 90s and not a drop of rain as far out as they forecast. On the east side of the Cascades, temperatures are in the triple digits. I've got my fingers crossed that we will get through all this intact.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A momentous week

Terry showing what's left of Chuckanut Creek
My morning walk with the ladies started at the Ferry Terminal and traveled down to the Arroyo Park trailhead and over the bridge that spans Chuckanut Creek. I was really shocked to see how little water is in the creek, and we are just now starting our normal dry season. In the fall, the salmon spawn in this creek, but who knows what will happen this fall? Terry would normally be standing in water to mid-calf. Not this year. And hot? We Pacific Northwesterners are not used to this kind of heat, and it's just beginning. Our summer usually starts (read: dries out) after the 4th of July.

But! Most momentous of all this week are the two Supreme Court rulings that surprised me. The Obamacare challenge worried me the most, because if they had ruled against it, the cost of everybody's insurance would have skyrocketed. I was so relieved when I heard the news that I woke up Smart Guy (it was 7:00am here) and told him about it. And that the ruling was 6-3 surprised me even more.

And then yesterday, they affirmed that gays have the right to marry in every state in the nation. This one was a 5-4 decision, but still, it means that we have now joined twelve other nations in recognizing that we are all equal under the law. I didn't expect this one.

Oh, and we got our advance directives for our end-of-life care notarized and filed, and today I sold my skydiving gear to a wonderful young woman. What a week! It will take me awhile to integrate it all.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sauk Mountain, Sauk Lake, and oh the flowers

Trailblazers moving the tree
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center this morning to carpool down past the town of Concrete to the Sauk Lake trailhead. It's a long drive for a fairly short hike, but we expected it to be gorgeous, and it was. But first, as we started down the seven-mile-long access road to the trailhead, we discovered that this tree had fallen right in the middle of the road, blocking our access. Fortunately we had enough good strong fit men to get it moved out of the way, and then we continued our journey to the trailhead.
Trailhead signage and yes, we watched out for bears
We finally got started a little after ten in the morning, with the weather simply perfect. In the shade it was even a little cool, but those high clouds didn't help us with the temperature, which continued to grow warmer as the day wore on, even as we exclaimed at the fabulous flowers everywhere. We hit this trail at its peak of wildflowers.
Our first view of Mt. Baker
As we climbed higher, the views of the surrounding mountains grew more spectacular. Although I didn't get a picture of it, we could also see Mt. Rainier off in the distance. We stopped now and then to identify a flower we didn't recognize immediately, but there were dozens of varieties as we continued our upward journey up Sauk Mountain.
Carol and Bob at the viewpoint, Sauk River Valley behind
You can see that we were still in full sunshine, and the temperature was beginning to heat up. Usually, we don't get a chance to decide whether or not to go down to Sauk Lake because snow has stopped us in previous years. Today, we decided to try to make it down to the lake, as it was not an issue.
Heading down to the lake
The wildflowers were simply spectacular; there were times when I fell behind from taking so many pictures. Al cautioned us that in making the trip down to the lake would lose all of the elevation we had gained at this point, with the task of climbing back up out of the valley one we would be choosing to make. We all decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Sauk Lake
As we descended, the lake seemed to grow no closer, and I was thinking about the return trip, but we kept on going down. Finally we reached the lake, and four of our number set about stripping off their clothes and going for a swim. (Rich, who swims in every lake he sees, had s swimsuit.) I was envious but not willing to go myself; instead I sat down instead in some shade and ate my lunch while I took pictures.
There are three swimmers, do you see them?
They exited from the water completely refreshed, and then they also joined the group of us for lunch. We spent close to an hour in this idyllic setting, with the bugs being rather subdued, probably because of the lack of rain we've been having, and then we realized we needed to hike back up to the ridge and reluctantly began the journey.
On our way back to the Sauk Mountain trail
On our way back up, I realized I was having a very hard time, feeling exhausted and overheated and fell behind the others. At this point they stopped to wait for me, and when I reached them and told them of my distress, I received a salt tablet from Rich, and Roger took my pack and carried it along with his own until we reached the top. Before long I was feeling much, much better and made it the rest of the way without any other concern.
A day in Paradise
We had a wonderful day, with so many flowers to enjoy, plenty of sunshine, some thrills and chills, and finally reaching our cars after having covered about six-ish miles and around 2,400 feet of elevation. Because of the heat, it felt like much more than that, but the stats don't lie. I would do it again in a minute, with the same friends who helped me and shared this adventure with me.

Now I'm home, wine by my side, having had a shower to wash off the salt and sunscreen, and my post almost completed. I hope you enjoy this trip as much as I did.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sailing, sailing on Bellingham Bay

Robert, captain of his sailboat
Yesterday Robert, Leo's dad, asked if I'd like to join the two of them on their sailboat for a little jaunt around Belllingham Bay. It has been years since I've been on a sailboat, so of course I said yes. We spent the afternoon tootling around in this 25-footer, with only one sail up, since it was pretty windy. We also got sprayed by the waves fairly often, enough for me to be covered with salt by the time we came back in. We cut it short because it was pretty rough out there, and we went off to Elizabeth Station (another place that Robert and Leo hang out other than Avellino's). Instead of coffee, the Station has really good beer.
My beer
While Robert and I enjoyed a beer, Leo drew pictures, drank water and ate a few pieces of licorice. It was really a lot of fun to be with them, especially since we had an adventure. Leo is only six and a half and is already learning to sail! My biggest worry was the fact that I knew there would be no, um, facilities on the small sailboat (and I was right), so when we headed back early I was kind of glad I wouldn't have to ask.
Robert, Leo, me
After such a good day, I am hoping that we'll get a chance to do some more sailing. We would have gone across to Chuckanut Bay but it was too windy and Robert really would have liked to have another sailor with him. Next time!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My built-in health app

Peggy and Judith taken on our walk this morning
I'm not sure what Peggy is staring at in the picture above, but I know that several times today I was also staring at my health app on my iPhone 6, while we were on our 5- or 6-mile walk. I didn't even know it was there, but one day earlier this week I saw Smart Guy pacing back and forth and staring down at his phone. "What are you doing?" I asked, and he told me about this built-in step counter on the new IOS 8 operating system (it's only active on the 5S and 6 phones, though).
The health app has a heart on it
I had placed that app in that upper-left-hand folder called "Unused Apps" because I didn't know anything about it and didn't really care. But when I learned that it has been logging my steps and mileage, along with elevation, without me doing anything at all, I pulled it right out of that folder and started paying attention to how many steps I take every day.
My weekly steps and mileage
And lo and behold, there without my doing anything special except carrying my phone with me, I found my daily activity level. So now I keep checking and try to keep my phone on me whenever I'm exercising. The early ones in the week had my iPhone in my locker during class, and then I started to carry it during my workouts, and sure enough, I get enough exercise to be mostly classified as "highly active."

If you take fewer than 4,500 steps a day, you are considered sedentary. From 4,500 to 7,500, you are "low active." And by the time you get to 10,000 a day, you are "active." Actually, above 12,500 steps is where you are considered "highly active." I figure that those two first days of the week would push me into that category (I'll know more next week), but you can see the upward spike for Thursday's hike, and when I looked at the monthly log, there it was: Thursday is always showing a spike.

It's a little scary to realize that while I wasn't paying any attention, my smartphone was watching me and counting my steps! But now that I know about it, I'll be keeping my eye on IT!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ridley Creek to Mazama Park

Crossing the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River
Seventeen Senior Trailblazers met on a rather overcast day to hike the Ridley Creek trailhead. Since we were limited to a group of twelve, as we were heading into the wilderness, several of our group decided to hike all the way up to Park Butte, while the rest of us would stop at Mazama Park. We did expect more sun today than we received, but it didn't really matter, since it kept us from getting too hot.
One of the nicer parts of the trail
I had never hiked this particular trail before, and I knew only that it would have quite a lot of ups and downs, and that we would probably have some nice views once we got to Mazama Park. I had seen the park before, from above, when we hiked up to Park Butte from the other side. This trail has had some recent work done on it, but it's still really challenging in places. I'd do it again, but I sure wouldn't want to be on it in bad weather.
Lupine in bloom
Today there were plenty of flowers and greenery to enjoy, although it's easy to see that in another month, with the weather we've been having, it will dry out completely and not be nearly as lush. By the time we got to the Mazama Park meadow, I was plenty tired and ready to stop.
Junction of Mazama Park and Ridley Creek trails
Yes, we did finally make it, after three hours of trudging up one side and down the other of what seemed endless elevation gains and losses (actually a total of about 2,400 feet up and down in a mere four miles or so, one way). We reached our lunch spot around 12:30pm.
Manama Camp area
This was our destination, and we stopped here to enjoy a lovely lunch and rest. Notice the sign on the left to the toilet? It was an actual outhouse, a nice one-seater in the outdoors, surrounded by trees but otherwise quite exposed. In the above picture you can also see the mountain behind us, to the right, that our other hikers climbed up to gain access to the Park Butte ranger cabin. I know they had great views, but Mt. Baker was hiding from us most of the day.
Carol, clouds and mountains
This was about the most sun we got all day long, and on the way back to the cars we even had a few raindrops. We passed through several areas of wonderful old growth trees and snags, and Bob went over to this fabulous old tree to give us a bit of perspective.
Bob hugging the tree and giving it love
This was one of the largest that we saw, and the picture hardly does justice to its magnificence. We stopped every now and then to admire the old growth that somehow escaped the loggers. Sometimes the old trees and their surroundings would also show us some of their jewelry, such as the lichen in this picture.
Scalloped lichen and moss
All in all, it was a really lovely day, but I have to say I was just about as worn out at the end as I am when we've gone much longer distances. It's hard to say whether I'm just not quite in shape for the season, or whether all the ups and downs did me in. I'm always glad I went, but sometimes I wonder how many more years of these hikes I'll be able keep up.
Me crossing the stream on my way home, picture by Carol
Carol caught this picture of me on the return journey across the river. She wanted me to look up, but I was much too concentrated on getting across without losing my footing. I could NOT have done it without the rope to hold onto. No jaunty showing off for this old lady, not any more.

Now that I am home with my well-earned wine, and once I finish this and can take a shower, I'll be feeling MUCH better and glad to have been out there again today with my friends, in a beautiful wilderness area that just couldn't get much more beautiful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


From The Free Dictionary
I had to laugh when I ran across this cartoon while looking for an appropriate image for this blog post about internet etiquette, now also known as netiquette. (I wrote a post about this topic back in 2010, and after re-reading it, I've found that things have changed quite a bit in that time.) That Wikipedia link now mostly addresses cellphone etiquette, rather than blogging etiquette. So it's time for a new post, as we are all netizens, and most of us have blogs of our own.

At least that's what I think as I read the comments left on each of my posts. I have almost 200 followers according to the Google link, and probably others signed up to follow this blog through the email link, which I provided upon the request of a frequent blogger. I follow almost a hundred blogs on The Old Reader, and several others by email. So there are definitely more than a hundred blogs that interest me enough to have any new posts written by any of you to come to my attention.

Fortunately for me, not everybody writes every day, and I don't comment on every post of the blogs I read; if something doesn't occur to me while reading it, I let it go. But I always read the comments that others leave on my blog, and comments left on other blogs (not always, but if the subject is of sufficient interest). I notice the same people who read and comment on my blog often comment on others I'm reading. It's a bit like seeing a note from a friend, and I'm rarely surprised by what is said, but sometimes I learn something new.

It's a rather intimate world, the blogosphere, wide open and somewhat personal at the same time. What prompted me to write this post is to ask whether my regular commenters expect a response from me. I know that many of you whom I follow respond to every comment, either online or privately. Not everybody gives me the option to reply privately, because if I try, some have not put their email out there, so I must go to their most recent post and type in a comment that answers the question.

Some people respond to each comment on line, but I rarely return to an already-read post because of time constraints. I will miss that published reply, unless I really feel the need to find a possible answer to a question I might have asked. What do you do?

Comments are important to me, since I get feedback and know whether or not the subject was of interest to my own personal netizens. But if your post did not require a comment, I might skip it, although I often let you know how much I enjoy your pictures, or learning about a new place, or about the recent events in your life, both bad and good. I've grown to care about so many of you who I will never lay eyes on, people who are as dear to me as family. Gosh, how did that happen? Whatever the reason, I'm glad it did.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Another beautiful Saturday

I captured Mt. Shuksan last Thursday
This weather is getting downright boring! We've had week after week of sunshine. The clouds in the picture were pretty much the only ones I've seen all week long, and even they evaporated by the time we returned to the trailhead. It's a little weird to be seeing all the weather disasters around the country, while we just continue to have week after week of sun. I've been out watering my garden and realize that we're five to six weeks ahead of schedule. I might actually get some tomatoes this year.

For us, the anomalous weather is not too hard to take. But my sister Norma Jean in Florida is having a heat wave, and Texas and Oklahoma set all-time records for May rainfall. I guess that's where our rain got off to. In July and August, our lawns usually turn brown because of the lack of rain, but it's already happened. And it's a little bit scary to think of the fire danger here in the Pacific Northwest for the next few months.

What is it like where you are? I know I have followers from all over the world, which means that some of you are going into winter, while the rest of us are a couple days away from the summer solstice. That happens at 9:39am PDT on Sunday, June 21. That will also be Father's Day here in the US.

The time goes whizzing by at a rate I might have wished for when I was a kid waiting for school to set me free, but these days I can barely keep up. Wait! Another week just sped right on by.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ants in my pants

Jonelle, Karen, Joy, Bob, Dave, Kirk
I'll explain that title in a minute (true story). But first: fifteen Trailblazers met today to hike up one of our favorite places in the Mt. Baker wilderness, Goat Mountain. But since it's in a wilderness area and we are restricted to no more than twelve, five of our number decided to attempt the summit, while the rest of us would make it to the lookout, which meant we wouldn't go up (and down) the 1,400 extra feet of elevation and would keep in touch by walkie-talkies.
Al looking quite svelte
Al led the hike, and I thought he looked like he's lost a little weight during this past month, and he agreed. The picture doesn't lie. He set a very nice pace, one I enjoyed as it wasn't too fast, and we, the slower group, made our way up the trail on a lovely day, not too hot with a nice breeze. It is about a three-mile ascent before we reach the meadow and then a rather steep section to the overlook.
Beautiful flowers on our way to the overlook
The flowers were simply amazing once we got to the meadow, and I was reminded of all the snow we had to deal with when we went on this same hike at the end of March (here's the link). It was our first hike back in the High Country back then, and here we are just two months later and we didn't see a speck of snow on the trail.
Mt. Shuksan with blooming heather in the foreground
And then we were there: at the overlook, where we can see wonderful views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and Mt. Sefrit. A few clouds had begun to form, making for some really great pictures and giving us a chance to sit down to a nice leisurely lunch without it being too hot.
"Look this way", I said to Kirk, Joy, Al, Diane, and Dave
Once we were finished with lunch, and having had no sign of the others and being unable to contact them with the walkie-talkies, we started our downward trek. I asked Fred (yes, the elusive Fred joined us today!) to take a picture or two of me, and he captured this one of me and Jonelle, with magnificent Mt. Baker hiding a little behind the clouds.
Me, Mt. Baker, and Jonelle
And then it was time to head back down. It was still a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold, and there were a few sections where delightful butterflies surrounded us. Al pointed out one that had opened its beautiful wings to the sun, so I grabbed my camera and tried to capture it before it flew away. Unfortunately, I leaned a little too far forward and lost my balance, falling into a steep drop-off on the side and missing the shot. I managed to stop my slide down the slope by handing my camera to Bob and asking for some assistance back up. Not so easy when I realized that there was no place for my feet, so I finally turned over and Bob pulled me back on the trail, a bit like a beached whale, but we won't go there.

Other than being embarrassed, everything seemed okay until I began to realize I was COVERED with ants. They were all over my clothes and began to make their displeasure known to me. Before long I was almost down to my skivvies as Bob and Karen helped to get them off me, and I only yelled once or twice. But yes, they managed to make it under my shirt and my pants before we were able to declare me ant-free. And then the excitement was over and we resumed our descent.
Chris's picture of the goats at the summit
We got back down and piled into our cars, but not before I had received a cellphone call from Chris, who told me they had all made it to the summit, but that they were far enough behind us that we would just make sure to see them next week. Mostly we had no cellphone coverage, but because the ski area was sometimes in our line of sight, we could call each other. Once I got back home, I received the wonderful picture of the mountain goats on Goat Mountain, and I see that they had a little snow as well. (We never saw any at all.)

So, to summarize, as I sit here with my wine almost finished, my post almost done, and no ants left to remind me of my humiliation (instead of a GREAT picture), I am hoping that you will enjoy this post of our special day on Goat Mountain as much as we did!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seeing faces everywhere

Pansy faces
Yes, I see faces everywhere I look. In old barns, in flowers like these scrunched-up pansy faces, anywhere that there are possible eyes and a mouth. Noses are not always necessary. That pansy looks to me like an old man with a moustache, or maybe a lion. There is a word for this tendency: pareidolia. (The link takes you to Wikipedia which explains more about it.)

I've always done it, and now that emoji (or emoticons) have become ubiquitous, there is even an Emojipedia page. That way, anybody who wants to find out the true meaning of that weird emoticon he or she received from a so-called friend, well, there it is.

And just this morning I learned about Japanese emojis, such as the shrug, also known as a kaomoji, because it's based on some Japanese characters. Here it is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and I find it interesting that it's taken off the way it has partly because (taken from The Atlantic):
The meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four fold. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. 
The world is definitely changing, isn't it?  I am certainly having fun with these new communication tools, and learning stuff to boot!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June is... well, you know

My front porch flower garden
Busting out all over, of course! Everywhere I look I see flowers in bloom, and today's sunshine will bring even more of them out. The roses are blooming everywhere, although I don't have any I certainly enjoy seeing and smelling them.
The community garden from my back porch
You can see our fenced-in community garden in this picture, surrounded by plenty of buttercups, which have become the bane of my gardening existence. They turn up everywhere and need to be rooted out at the first sign, or they take over. The garden is worth it, though.
One of my five broccoli florets, almost ready
In a day or two, I'll need to harvest the broccoli and steam it up. If you didn't know already, we also steam the leaves which are very good all by themselves, too. In the lower left is a volunteer borage plant that I'm allowing to stay for awhile. I love its pretty blue flowers.
Sugar snap peas climbing up the bamboo trellis
I thought I had plenty of room in my garden, but as you can see, the tomato plants will be climbing the same trellis as the peas, but gosh, I didn't realize how quickly everything would explode in size, and it's early June! I've got to wrap the peas with some twine to keep them growing in the right place.
I just picked these and they were still warm from the sun when they went where all good strawberries belong. The slugs took at least this many, but soon there will be so many ripe ones I won't care. I took these pictures just minutes ago and was so pleased to see them appear like magic on my laptop, since I changed my settings so that the iCloud will have my iPhone photo stream appear on all my devices automatically. I just checked, and there they are on my iPad, too! Isn't technology wonderful?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Excelsior Pass from Damfino Lakes

Al in the meadow
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers met to hike up to Excelsior Pass from what we call the "easy" side. There are two ways to approach this pass, one directly from the Mt. Baker Highway at a lower elevation, and the other, a hike in from Damfino Lakes, which necessitates a long drive on a sketchy road, but starts at a higher elevation and is two miles shorter. Our destination is to the right in the picture above.
Running into snow on the upward journey
The weather forecast was for the clouds to clear off rather early in the day, and Al had read that this particular direction had "some snow" but was passable. In other years, we have not attempted this north-facing approach because of deep snow, but because of this year's snow deficit and good weather, we had hopes of some good views when we got to the pass. The low clouds kept hanging on, making the temperature very pleasant for hiking, but obscuring any possible views.
Our lunch spot
We made it to the pass, and started on the High Divide trail that would take us to the summit of Mt. Excelsior, if we wished. Since there was little to no payoff, most of us stopped here for lunch while four of the most ardent hikers headed on. The light breeze made us glad for our extra clothing.
Mr. Camino on his first day back in the USA (Rich)
Chris and Rich returned late last night from their trip to walk the Camino in Spain. Chris wisely slept in, but Rich couldn't stay away and joined us today, although he has walked the past 34 days averaging at least 15 miles every day. Not bad for an old man of 73, eh? (We only covered seven miles today but much of it was in sloppy snow conditions.) Welcome home, and thanks for joining us!

Al, Steve, and me
Diane took this picture with my cellphone, so I could show everyone that I was there, too. And although the clouds came and went, we never had the beautiful view we knew was out there somewhere. It didn't really matter; we were still having a good time. 
This was the only view we had, partial and brief
When we began our descent, we kept hoping that the clouds would clear and we'd have a fantastic view, but it was not to be. This piece of some mountain, I'm not even sure which one, is all I was able to capture. A couple of times I'd get my camera out and point and focus, and poof! the view would be gone. Time to head back down.
One of many snowfields we had to cross
Although it was just about the opposite of last week's hot hike up to the Church Mountain meadows, we really enjoyed our time in the fabulous wilderness we get to visit every week. You might notice that the clouds are STILL hanging low in this picture.
Newlyweds, fifty years later
And then on the return journey, I learned that Ward and Linda are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary today!!! I only happened to hear of it second-hand, and discovered that they considered not sharing this information with us, but finally it all came out. I told them I would be sharing it with the world,  because this is not your usual fiftieth wedding anniversary picture: it's much better! Two wonderful people enjoying each other, and enjoying the day with us as well. Congratulations and may you two have many more anniversaries like this one.

So that was my exciting day today. I'm home now, feeling pretty good, and realizing that my garden needs my ministrations, since it was full sun here all day long! Go figure.