Saturday, October 31, 2015

We are a hardy bunch, all right

The walking group this soggy Saturday morning
I suppose I should stop being surprised at the hardiness of my fellow walkers. This morning we had fifteen women show up in the rain for our annual walk through the cemetery on Halloween. Last year we did this the day before Halloween, but today our Saturday walk fell right on the day. It was foggy last year and made for some great pictures. Today it was just... wet.
The Bayview Cemetery on Halloween
By the time we reached the cemetery itself, the rain had lessened a great deal and even stopped for a short time. We had some nice conversations, but by the time the rain began to pick up again, we were ready to stop and make our way to the coffee shop to dry out.
Whatcom Falls on 31 October 2015
When we walked by Whatcom Falls, I was pleased to see that we have some water cascading over the falls again. This had dried up to practically nothing during the drought we had this summer, so now it looks much more normal to me. I was pleased with the picture, too. So, all in all it was a good time to head out for a nice 4.4-mile walk in the rain. I think now I'll head downtown to see if there are any people walking around in cool costumes, now that the rain has let up.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Waterfalls and Waterloos

Halloween hunchbacks and goblins on the trail today
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center this morning, after having experienced heavy rain all night long. We were hoping for a break in the weather in between storm systems, and as we studied the weather forecasts, it seemed quite possible that we might have just such a chance.
Is that a view emerging through those trees?
We decided to head up to the High Country once again, and see if we could enjoy another trip up Heliotrope Ridge. We went at the end of July this summer, in the heat and dry conditions and had some wonderful views of the glacier on Mt. Baker. Al wasn't with us then. It's a favorite summer hike, but today when we reached the trailhead, it was raining. Not sprinkling: raining.
Doug, Rich, Al
I didn't have much to take pictures of, other than a bunch of wet hikers making our way up the trail. It was fairly warm, and as long as we didn't stop for long, nobody minded a bit. Then we came to a really beautiful waterfall!
Beautiful waterfall
This told us several things: one, it has been raining here for awhile, rather hard. (We learned it rained all night long in this area and the rain was intense at times.) When we saw this spot in summer, it was dry, with not so much as a trickle coming down. This did not bode well for the upcoming streams, which have no bridges and one just has to cross the wet rocks very carefully.
Al and Doug studying the situation; here comes Rich
This stream isn't even the most treacherous one to cross, and every other year when I've been here we managed to get across this one. These three Trailblazers went up and down looking for a place we might cross safely, and after awhile they decided it was too risky. We had met our Waterloo. If we took the chance and crossed, we would have been able to make our way up the climbers' route even if we couldn't get across the final stream. But there really was no view, it was still raining off and on, and it didn't seem worth it.
Ward and Carol looking at the roaring stream
The only place with a bridge is near the beginning of the hike. Here we are after having given up on our hope for a nice break in the weather and an enjoyable hike. Once we got back to the parking lot, with no more than three miles covered in total, it was nearly noon so we stopped for lunch and then decided to head home early. It was raining again anyway, so nobody minded all that much.

We sort of knew our chances of getting another High Country hike were marginal, but I'm glad we tried anyway. The company was wonderful, as usual, and my rain gear worked perfectly!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good thing I don't mind rain

Yep, rain's in our forecast
I feel sorry for the kids who will be out on Saturday in their Halloween outfits, unless they are planning to wear some cute rainproof ones. There is a small chance that most of the rain will come in the morning on Saturday and they'll only have to deal with showers for trick-or-treat. But it's gonna be wet. This also means my Thursday hike will be damp, as well as my Saturday morning walk with the ladies. We had such a wonderful day last Thursday I guess I'll pay my weather dues this week instead.
Burning bush
Several of my blogging friends have been putting pictures of amazing fall colors on their blogs, so when I saw this flaming red bush this morning, I snapped it with my iPhone. You can see the angle of the sun over there on the right, and it wasn't much before noon when I snapped it. I rummaged around on this totally cool website, plugged in Bellingham's October 2015 sunrise and sunset data, and found that at solar noon up here in the Northwest the sun is at 28 degrees above the horizon! And that's not all: in December when we have our shortest days and longest nights, the sun only climbs to 18 degrees! No wonder it always seems like the sun is in my eyes at this time of the year.

And one more thing of note: today I learned that my favorite outdoor store, REI, will close for Black Friday, giving their employees a four-day holiday and forgoing the hoopla surrounding the day after Thanksgiving. I was so pleased to see that the almighty dollar is not the only value some stores cherish! Yay!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's getting spooky out there

Keith's front porch
My neighbor Keith decorates every Halloween and Christmas with lots of stuff to mark the seasons. Many of my other neighbors might put up a wreath, or one carved pumpkin, but he goes all out. All those pumpkins were grown in his garden plot, and it made me wonder what he ended up doing with all the pulp and seeds. Anyway, I see his front yard every time I walk up the stairs to my apartment, and it makes me smile to see his handiwork.
Lake Padden reflections
It was foggy as I drove to Lake Padden for our Saturday morning walk, but before we had finished going around twice, it was still overcast but the fog had lifted. I took this picture as soon as I arrived, right before 8:00am. I like the way it looks a little spooky and feels just right for the season, don't you think?

Although it was quite chilly this morning, we still haven't had a frost, so there are some trees that are still hanging onto their green leaves. I have a feeling that by the time we reach next Saturday, which will be Halloween, that may have changed. We have rain and colder weather on the way.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hannegan Pass on a beautiful October day

In the parking lot at the start of the day
I know this post is late today. Because the days are growing shorter, and we are losing a half-hour of daylight every week now, I just returned home from our wonderful hike a short time ago. I needed to download my pictures and pour my wine, which I am enjoying as I write this chronicle of our wonderful day. Ten Senior Trailblazers met at 8:00 and, when the above picture was taken, we had traveled many miles and almost two hours to get there. We started before 10:00, with two groups: a faster group who would try to make it to the peak, and the rest of us who would make it to Hannegan Pass and maybe, after lunch, a little bit more. I was in the slower group.
The canyon walls and blue sky
On a fine day, this is a beautiful hike, with views right from the beginning, as we traveled up the valley, with gorgeous expanses emerging as the early morning fog lifted, giving us some clouds. But it was cool and crisp and clear the entire day, with occasional clouds across the sun. There was no breeze at the beginning of the day, but as we ascended higher, there was a little bit. It was nowhere near as warm as last week, but nobody was complaining.
Our lunch spot at Hannegan Pass
We reached the pass just a little after noon, knowing that the faster group would be pushing on until the reached the summit, but we enjoyed a very nice break after four uphill miles to this nice spot. We kept having to move in order to stay in the sun, because the shadows were very long and growing longer. We decided, after a short break, to join our summiteers on the trail to the peak, and we began climbing upwards.
Ruth Mountain on the left, the Nooksack Cirque on the right
The views were stupendous, and although it was a rather tough climb, every time we turned another corner there was more to see. And then we saw the others on their way back down, so we stopped. I was worn out and glad not to take another upward step.
Bill in red, Peggy in front with Chris and Al behind
In this picture, you can see the summit, the high point in the middle. Three Trailblazers made it up to the top: Doug, Roger, and Rich. Steve went almost all the way up but turned around to join the rest of us before summiting. So seven of us didn't make it all the way to the top, but we sure did go a long ways, more than nine miles and up more than 2,700 feet. To reach that summit from the beginning, it's 10.4 miles and 3,100 feet, and although we had some distance to go, we were up there!
Carol and Steve on the trail
And then it was time go to back down the way we had come. All ten of us set out together on the return trip to the cars. All I can say is that today was one of the best times I've spent on Hannegan Pass, with the weather, the company, and the views unparalleled. It's almost 7:00 after starting my day twelve hours ago or thereabouts, and it was almost perfect. Our driver, Peggy, got us back to the Senior Center in record time, and we went our separate ways, with me wanting to get this post written before my wine runs out (it's close, but I'm almost there).
Returning to the cars
On our way back down, I captured this picture of the continuing beautiful day and a few of the hikers in front of me. The return trip seemed long (but it often does), and now I am signing off, with two inches of wine still in my glass. It was a day I won't forget any time soon. It was truly a great day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Our weather is back to normal

Taken this morning from the front porch
Although this last year we had a terribly hot and dry summer, our weather now has returned to its normal temperatures, and I hope it will be a long time before we have another summer like this past one. Take a look at this picture taken in July and compare it to the one above; you'll see what I mean. We don't usually have day after day of sizzling temperatures and no rain. Although it's normal for our lawns to turn brown in the summer, it usually doesn't start until mid-August. This year our lawns were crispy brown by the end of June! But they have once again returned to their normal lush green. Those trees are only now beginning to turn color: I do hope they'll have lots of nice red and yellows for me to enjoy.

I saw another wonderful movie this past Sunday, Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks playing the part of James Donovan, who negotiated the exchange of prisoners during the U-2 spy plane scandal in 1960. After I saw the movie, I read about the incident and found that everything, or almost everything, in the movie was based on fact. Tom Hanks is obviously going to be nominated for another Oscar, so that means that he and Matt Damon (from The Martian) will take of two of the coveted five spots for Best Actor. They are both outstanding and I highly recommend both movies.

This week I also ordered the book on which The Martian is based, read it already, and enjoyed it thoroughly as well. I learned where the movie and book deviated, but I can understand the changes they made in the movie; it did stay true to the spirit of the book in any event. They don't always, you know. Now I'm off to the library to pick up a book I put on hold. Life is pretty full right now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Another nice Saturday

Sittin' on the dock of the bay
While I was on Vashon Island, we took a trip to Point Robinson, where there is a cool lighthouse and two cabins called Pt. Robinson Keepers' Quarters, which are available for weekend (or longer) rentals. During the off season, like right now, you can rent this beautiful cabin for $230/night (it sleeps up to six). We toured the place, but it doesn't hold a candle to Lavender Hill Farm. It was nice, however, to see some other options on the island. Plus I simply loved this rocking chair and didn't want to leave, as it gave me such a nice place to listen to the ocean and sit in the sun.

This morning when I went to walk with the ladies, we had been warned that Cindy, our leader, would be out of town, so we were on our own. Ten of us still met at 8:00am to head from the coffee shop down to the Village Green in Fairhaven. Since we didn't have anybody to tell us otherwise, three of the group decided to walk to Zuanich Park instead of on the scheduled walk. The rest of us took off with ME in the lead (that never happens). I used my new MapMyWalk app to find out how long and how fast we went.

A screen shot from my iPhone
Since I got to set the pace, I was quite pleased that we averaged almost 4 miles per hour, as you can see from the splits. I am a little annoyed that I paid $3 for this app and I still have to deal with advertisements at the bottom of the screen. Humph. Maybe it's time to find out what I must do to get rid of them. I thought it was only the free version that has ads. Time for a little research. But the walk was a very nice way to start the weekend, at any rate. (Update: to get rid of the apps, I need to pay a monthly fee. Grrr!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Goat Mountain, second time in 2015

Goat Mountain trail
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to head up the Mt. Baker Highway to what might be our last High Country hike of the season, to the Goat Mountain overlook. We went on this trail back in June, at the beginning of the season, and it had already been so abnormally warm that we saw no snow. In June! As you can see from this picture, it was quite dry today, with much of the usual fall colors muted by the drought.
Framed perfectly by the trees
As we gained altitude (more than 2,500 feet in all) we got some great views of my favorite mountain, which I have begun to call Komo Kulshan, the Native American name for Mt. Baker. It was cold when we started out on the hike, but as we gained altitude we also gained quite a bit of warmth. The full sun and lack of a breeze made it seem like a midsummer's day.
Our lunch spot
Usually, when we get to our lunch spot, we have to put on more clothes, but today we actually had to take some of them off, since it was so warm. I wished I had worn a short-sleeved shirt, like Lisa has on in this picture, because I was too hot in my long sleeves. Who would have guessed it would be like this at 5,100 feet (more than 1,500 meters high)? In October??
Bob and Richard watching a soaring eagle
We saw an eagle making some gentle swoops using a thermal uplift right over the valley, and we were mesmerized, as you can see here from Bob and Richard watching in awe. The eagle didn't have to make even one wingbeat, with the warm air keeping him aloft. His eagle eye was probably making note of the two-legged beasts who were not the lunch he was looking for.
Peggy and Dave admiring Mts. Sefrit on the left, Shuksan on the right
It was hard to leave this idyllic spot, sun and warmth and beautiful views galore, so we ended up staying over an hour before we reluctantly headed back down to our cars. I took this picture with my cellphone (actually, all of these are iPhone 6 shots), but this time (below) I used the digital zoom to capture the trees in front of Mt. Shuksan.
Trees and Mt. Shuksan
I am really impressed with the digital zoom capabilities on my phone, but this one I will probably take to Costco and get it printed out, and we'll see how much (if any) quality I lost. This is a favorite shot already.
Heading back down
And then we started down, covering the same ground but this time we're going back to our cars. I took this picture to compare to last year's mid-October visit to Goat Mountain. If you follow that link, you'll see that last year at the same time, we had lots of fall color. Not so this year, but what can you expect of a summer like we had? I hope we don't have another one like it for many a year.
Another fine day together
What can I say to finish this wonderful day? Only that I hope that whether it's in sun or rain or anything in between, I'll have more time in the High Country with my best friends next year. I know I have been blessed with good health and knees that are hanging in there for another season, so I'm going to be greedy and ask for more! It's too much fun to stop now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A great movie and an OK play

Matt Damon in The Martian
Judy and I have been busy the past few days. We saw the play Forever Plaid at the Mt. Baker Repertory Theater this past weekend and enjoyed it very much. The only real problem we had with it, actually, is that one of the four young men in the singing quartet didn't have much of a voice. The entire play revolves around four young men who were just about ready to perform in front of an audience when tragedy strikes. They come back from the dead to perform their show, with lots of hits from the 1950s and 1960s, which I loved, and it did have quite a few real laughs.

But then we went to see The Martian, with Matt Damon as the main character. Wow! It's not often that I see a movie that makes me want to go see it again almost immediately. Even though it's a long movie (2:20 hours), I never once felt I wanted it to be over. It's incredibly well done, and even though it's available in 3-D, we saw it in standard view, and it was still very exciting. The premise of the movie is that sometime in the future the US sends a manned ship to Mars, which leaves early because of a huge storm. It also causes them to leave one astronaut behind, believing he is dead. The movie hangs on what happens after that. Obviously he didn't die, but he's got to find a way to stay alive with limited food, oxygen, and water, the sole occupant on the planet.

I won't say any more than that, but I have thought about scenes from the movie many times since I saw it, and I guess I'll be forced to buy the book it's based on so I can get more details. And I will see the movie again, at least once more! If you go, let me know what you think of it. Did you love it too?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Blustery Saturday

Chris, Jonelle, me, Carol, Susan (taken by Al)
You know I like to start my posts with a picture, and I especially love this scene. Al sent me this one he took last Thursday on Skyline Divide, when we lucked out with the weather, just having high clouds but only a few fat raindrops. He captured the five women in the group of eight, walking together. I'm even in the picture, although I wouldn't have recognized myself if I didn't know I was there. One rarely sees oneself from behind.
Weather Underground as of noon Saturday
As you can see from this picture, we are right in between plenty of rain showers right now, and we expect "occasional rain beginning at 2:00pm" here in Bellingham. I'll be leaving about that time to head to the Mt. Baker Theater to see Forever Plaid with my friend Judy. It was here a few years ago and we missed it, so off we go today to see what is billed as "screamingly funny, entirely enchanting, and utterly entertaining." Well! With that to look forward to, I don't think I'll mind walking around in the rain.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Vashonista Celebration

Afternoon light
My fellow Vashonistas have decided that we would like to share our final writing prompt with each other, and with all of you as well. We were given the last two lines of a famous Mary Oliver poem, "The Summer Day" and then in the next few minutes we each poured out our own take on these words.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
*   *   *

What, indeed? As I think back on what I have already done with my one wild and precious life, I am impressed with what my seven decades (and then some) have brought forth. What, indeed? A life of light and love, accomplishments too numerous to list, and a myriad mixture of friends and family that sustain me today. I look back and see that it is good.

But what will these next years be filled with? I am hoping to make sure that it will be a life of service that will create good and inclusion, rather than of closing up and diminishment. Ah, but what of Death, the leaving behind of all the love and joy I feel today?

What of that? I am determined to make a friend of Death, because I know that since I cannot stop for him, he will kindly stop for me. My wild and precious life is almost full and finished. And that's just right.
DJan Stewart, 5 October 2015
 And here are the others:

Deb Shucka
Jann Rayner Tresham
Sally French Wessely
Linda Granholm Myers
Sandi Pemberton Babbitt

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Skyline Divide on a beautiful fall day

Trailhead at Skyline Divide
Today only eight Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center for our hike to Skyline Divide. It rained all night long and although the weather forecast was for mostly dry weather today, it also seemed doubtful that we would have much view on this overcast day.
Susan and Komo Kulshan (AKA Mt Baker) behind her
But we did! The clouds were very high, and we had views all the way around. There was only one other car in the usually very full parking lot when we pulled up to begin our day's adventure, and everyone was ready for cold and rain, neither of which materialized. It was warm, although we were at 6,000 feet elevation on the ridge, and we had maybe a dozen raindrops, no more.
Dave, Jonelle, Carol (with Rich behind), Susan, Chris, Al
As you can see by the way we are dressed, we weren't cold by any means, which was a little surprising. When we traveled to Skyline Divide three months ago, it seemed much colder than today. Of course, it had been a very hot summer, but who expected us to be in shirtsleeves in October at an elevation more than a mile high? Certainly not this group. It was a really beautiful day, and we traveled along the ridge until we stopped for lunch around 12:30pm.
On our way back down, enjoying the final views
After having a nice lunch and heading back the way we had come, it was hard to leave this beautiful place, knowing that it might be the last really fantastic day we'd have this year in the High Country. The weather was perfect, and we might need to wait for another year before we are able to return.
Mt. Shuksan
In one direction we saw Mt. Shuksan and its surrounding peaks. We see this beautiful mountain from many different places during the season, but I never get tired of seeing it. Right now it has little snow, but that will change soon, if everything happens as it should.
One last look
And then one last look at Komo Kulshan before starting down the valley and returning home. By the time we returned, we had covered seven miles round trip and ascended and descended 2,600 feet. Not a hard hike by any means, but the views we had and the company we kept meant we had been infused with joy, happiness, and peace on this fine day.

Now I am at home, drinking my well-earned glass of wine and writing this post. After I hit "publish" I will be able to spend a little time with my guy and reconnect with him. I hope your day has been even a little bit as fulfilling as mine was. Life is good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Home from the Island

Four rowers caught at sunrise
I'm home after five nights at our Vashonista Lavender Hill Farm retreat, with mixed feelings. First, it's good to be home, but it's different here than it is on Vashon Island. I decided that if I ever were able to live on an island separated from the mainland by a ferry ride, it would be this place. It's a wonderful, magical island, and everything I think I might need is right there. Plus it's an easy ferry ride to Seattle, which of course has everything else.

I learned a ton about writing during this retreat, and I also learned an incredible amount about the six women who gathered together for the fourth time. That includes me, since I went without expectations and came back with an increased understanding of my own need to write, with a new sense of possibilities for now, and for the future.

Right now I'm pretty tired, since it's late in the afternoon and I took that picture right at sunrise today on our morning walk. Not everybody is an early riser, but Sandi, Deb and I took off this morning at 6:45 for a three-mile walk, which has become our standard way to get exercise over the past few days. It goes around Burton Acres Park, with a dock where we saw several rowers at the Jensen Point boathouse putting their boats into the water and heading out. I caught these Master rowers from the Vashon Island Rowers Club getting in some practice. We learned they were Masters rowers from the wife of one who was at the water's edge, who watched them and chatted with us for awhile.

We could not have had more wonderful weather during our stay, and as I placed my suitcase in the truck of Linda's car, fat raindrops fell from the sky, the first we had seen since we arrived. Perfect timing! And now I am looking forward to next October, when we will meet for the fifth time.

It was so much more than I anticipated, and I'll write more about it, I promise. For now, it's Wine O'Clock and I'm going to get lost in the Stephen King book On Writing. Deb gave us all a copy on the first day, and I dipped into it but had little time to read. And now I have all the time I need to process everything. Retirement is great.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Our Vashonista retreat so far

Deb at work
When we Vashonistas decided to get together for an entire six days this year, Deb agreed to organize a writing retreat for us while we are here. We already knew this setting well, having been here three times before, but now we not only have plenty of time, but we also are learning some great techniques to free up our inner writers. It's Saturday morning, and by this time in earlier visits, we would have only this one full day left to enjoy not only each other, but this wonderful Lavender Hill Farm setting. This year, we don't need to pack up and leave until Tuesday!

Deb gave us all copies of Stephen King's book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which is almost impossible to put down (like most of his books), but we've been very busy. We started on Thursday night after dinner (hence my short post), and yesterday we worked very hard together. I have been to writing workshops before, but it's been a long time, and I have not only already learned some new tools to move myself from stuck writing places, but also how to find buried treasures within myself.
Listening to our esteemed guest
And last night, Linda Reeder joined us for dinner. She lives in Seattle and was one of the original bloggers we hoped would become part of this group in the beginning. She's a very busy person but made the time to take the ferry ride to Vashon Island and meet us in person. We all know each other so very well from our blogs, so she slipped into the gathering as if she had always been here. She writes on Linda Letters and posts about her travels, family, home, and gardens galore.

The picture above shows how we have been working together: Deb would give us a prompt, such as "Beneath the surface" or "Find yourself in a car" and give us either a short time (five minutes) or a longer one (fifteen) and we write, longhand, in our notebooks. I've already discovered that writing that way, rather than on a laptop, frees up something inside, as if writing it down longhand allows another aspect of creativity to be loosened.

Linda joined us for that second prompt (finding oneself in a car) and we all shared what that brought up for us. It was so much fun! The very full day yesterday made me struggling to keep my eyes opened by 8:30pm. (Who am I kidding? That's when I always fall asleep.)

And now it's the next day, Saturday morning. I hear the creaking floorboard above me, letting me know that my fellow early riser (Deb) has begun her day, too. I think I'll go join her to start today's adventure!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Vashonistas are together again

Our beautiful living room
We are together again for our fourth gathering. I am trying to get this done really quickly, so we can get started with our writing project, our first for our six days together. It's so nice to be back in this place that seems like home. It's a wonderful place, and the weather is fantastic for our entire trip.

Gotta go, Deb is pulling on my arm to get started the writing for tonight!