Saturday, February 27, 2016

More rain and gardening news

Lake Padden this morning
Saturday again so soon? I texted my neighbor Lynn to see if she would be joining me for our walk with the ladies, and she said yes. We headed out on a fine misty morning to Lake Padden. When we left, it wasn't raining and the forecast said it would be nice. But on the way there, I saw raindrops gathering on the windshield, getting heavier as we got closer to the lake. Of course I had not brought my raincoat because I fully expected it to be nice.

Twenty of us showed up, and everyone was surprised by the rain, but I was the only one who had left her rain gear at home! I grumbled about my lack of foresight as we set out to do our twice-around the lake jaunt (5.2 miles). Before too long, the rain had stopped and I never did get wet, so I was happy, but I won't make that mistake again! Rain gear, just in case.

Have I told you about Lynn? She moved here with her son from Everett a few months ago, and I've learned she was a master gardener in years past. She's got a spot in our community garden and has started to improve it. You will see some of her efforts in a later post, but for now this is her front porch garden:
Lynn's pretty spot, which will be fun to watch as it grows and changes
You've seen her crocuses in past posts, but I notice she's trimmed them back and that the hyacinth is beginning to bloom. She feeds the birds and we've been really enjoying seeing and hearing them. It's fun to dig around in the dirt and I am beginning to feel the pull towards my own garden spot.
Picture taken by Kelly McClurg
Oh, and we met a photographer who wanted to take a picture of us at the end of our hike. Kelly McClurg sent me this just moments ago! Isn't it wonderful?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Is it really still February?

Today's trail on Fidalgo Island
We saw from the weather forecast that we were likely to have a wonderful sunny hike on Fidalgo Island near Deception Pass State Park, where we spend a fair amount of our winter hikes that are not in the Chuckanuts. Ten Senior Trailblazers drove south from Bellingham for about an hour to start our hike.
Fidalgo Island is north of Deception Pass
I've been adding maps lately, since I have a few bloggers who seem to really appreciate them, and it also helps me when I'm trying to orient myself. I guess it's time that I started to pay attention. This map (which I snapped while at the trailhead) shows that Fidalgo Island has both Bowman Bay (our starting point) and Ginette Hill. W've often hiked up to an old orchard and then headed back down to Bowman Bay and taken some short treks from there. Today, however, we went up to Ginnette Hill and tried out some new trails that are being created in the area. We went to some places we hadn't visited before.
An old log cabin
We found an old log cabin that has been abandoned for a long time, but we didn't really know who lived there, until we continued farther along the trail. We found a tunnel to an old mine. We looked into it, using our iPhone cameras to see farther in. A spooky place with a foot of water in the bottom.
The mine opening
Although it isn't easy to see from the picture, there really is plenty of water on the floor of the opening, and we couldn't see much except that it was definitely a mine entrance. What they were looking for when it was operative is not obvious, but probably the miners had created that log cabin and used it while the mine was in use. We followed the new trail for awhile, but it began to get very sketchy and so we decided to backtrack and find the orchard that we have visited  before.
Bob taking a turn on the swing
There is an old ancient apple tree in this orchard with a swing. We've loved to play on it on previous trips, but this was a first time for Bob and Chris (and me!). It was such a lovely day that when we stopped for lunch, nobody would have thought it would be the LONGEST time we have ever spent in a lunch spot. It was warm and beautiful and sunny, so we stayed for way more than an hour.
Elder teenagers having a blast
In this orchard area, where we know an old farmhouse must have stood sometime in the past, we spied several non-native plants in bloom, starting with violets and snowdrops.
violets and snowdrops in the middle
As we enjoyed our leisurely lunch, every once in awhile we would get a waft of the smell of violets, which were all around us. I found this lovely spot that also included some snowdrops in the middle, all in bloom. Isn't it still February? This seems awfully early, but nobody was complaining.
Daffodils in bloom, with more to come
Around the corner we found some daffodils already reaching for the sun, with plenty more to come in the near future. Look at all those green sprouts! It was just lovely, but finally we had to gather ourselves together for our return journey. By the time we had reached the cars, nobody was all that interested in our usual trips to increase our distance. We had covered just under seven miles and around 1,600 feet up and down, less than usual, but nobody was complaining.
As I sit here writing this post, with my face aflame from all the sunshine it absorbed today, I will leave you with this picture that Chris took of me on the swing. In all these prior years I have not taken the plunge, but this year I did! It was fun!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

These doctors just keep getting younger

Dr Patrick Blair
Meet Dr Patrick Blair, my new Primary Care Physician (PCP). It was five years ago now that I wrote about my new doctor at the time, Dr Brent Whitehead and how young he looked. Brent has gone onto to a different clinic, and I was given a new PCP without any input from me. I saw him for the first time yesterday, and I was amazed that he's even YOUNGER than my previous doctor, who looked so young to me. I'll bet he isn't even thirty yet.

But lucky me, Patrick is a gem! We chatted for awhile about various things and I learned that he is just out of residency and this is his first job. He is from South Dakota but his wife grew up in Seattle, so they ended up here. He loves it as much as I do. I realized when I read that earlier post that I had decided to lose ten pounds I had gained and that I've kept it off since then. I patted myself on the back, but so did Patrick! He said that whatever I'm doing, I should keep on doing it. All my lab numbers are good, and he ordered a bone density test since it's been awhile. He cautioned me, however, that the drugs available for osteoporosis are not as effective as weight-bearing exercise.

I told him of my activities and he was suitably impressed and said that hiking and walking are the best things I could be doing for my bones. He told me that it's important to keep flexible and when I told him about my yoga classes, he suggested that I continue with them, so I will consider that my "prescription" when it comes time to sign up for the next semester.

Today when I took the bus to my yoga class, I got off a little early so I could walk in the brilliant sunshine and enjoy the sights of our early spring. I saw daffodils in bloom, and the trees everywhere are sprouting blossoms and tiny new green leaves. We have three days of sunshine and blue skies ahead, with above-normal temperatures, so I suspect that you'll be seeing lots of springtime pictures on my Thursday post.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

More signs of an early spring

Flowering plum trees in Fairhaven
Last year we had a very early spring, so much so that by the end of April all the tulips at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (held the entire month of April) were all gone. We may have the same situation this year, but it's only the middle of February and anything can happen between now and then.

This morning when I woke thinking about the ladies' walking group, it was raining heavily. I don't mean just a light mist, but rain pounding on the roof. Oh well, I thought, get ready with all my rain gear and head out anyway. By the time I got going, it had pretty much stopped raining, but it was cold and windy. And then... an hour and a half later when we returned to the starting point, it was getting sunny! It doesn't take much to make me happy when the sun comes out like that.
Lynn's crocus coming right along
You know you will be seeing a picture of these pretty crocuses (croci?) in full bloom once the sun finally hits them. We've got some great weather coming in a few days, with nary a raindrop to be seen by midweek. Until then, I'm going to have a chance to use my raincoat after all.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oyster Dome 2016

Me, Rich, Chris, Noriko, Peggy
This was our group today. No leader, as you can see here, so nobody did any paperwork and we set off to be a rogue group of Senior Trailblazers!
Keys on a stump at the beginning of the trailhead
Another one of those days when it rained all night and the weather forecast for Thursday was iffy. The five of us showed up this morning, and today, as you will see, we had a bit of everything. Except rain. These keys had been left on a soggy stump right at the beginning of the hike, probably lost the day before (since it was so early). Nice of someone to leave them; there seem to be a LOT of car keys.
Crew still working on the trail
It was November when we last went up this trail, and the trail crew had improved it immensely back then, as you can see from this post. Today I was pleased to see that all the worst parts have been completely replaced with a much better version, adding switchbacks and smoothing out the most treacherous spots. This worker is almost finished removing the rock from this section of the new trail. The temperature was perfect for hiking but a bit windy, as we made our way up to Oyster Dome.
Samish Bay from Oyster Dome
 When we reached the Dome, it was suddenly very windy and cold. As you can see from the overcast sky, we also didn't have any indication that the day would improve. It was early, so we scurried down from Oyster Dome and set off for Lily Lake where we would be in the trees and protected from the wind.
Lunchtime at Lily Lake
Most of the time as we ate our lunch, we didn't have much wind, but every once in awhile a gust would find us, so we didn't exactly linger long. We've been here when it's been sunny and warm, but this wasn't one of those days. But still, no rain made us feel like we were incredibly lucky. Plus the small group made it easy to enjoy each other's company.
Map showing where we went today
After lunch at Lily Lake, rather than turning around and heading back the way we had come, we decided to do our usual loop/lollipop hike. (Al calls it a "lollipop" when we make a loop but return on the same trail we started on.) See the red steep lines on the left? That's where we started up to Oyster Dome, and then we took the light green line up, then backtracked a little to the blue line that took us to Lily Lake. See the "You Are Here" indicator? From there we headed south to Max's Shortcut and the Larry Reed trail to Samish Overlook.
The view of Samish Flats and Samish Bay from the Overlook
This is probably the wettest I've ever seen Samish Flats, because of all the rain we've been having lately. But there is another thing we noticed immediately: blue sky beginning to appear. It was windy here, too, so we didn't stay long but headed back to the cars via the red line on the map.
Chris and Noriko basking in the sunshine
And on the way back down to the cars, on that final stretch, we saw plenty of sunshine! What a treat that nobody expected. All we hoped for was a hike with the rain not being too bad. Peggy said it was all her fault: she wore her rain pants, rain hat, and rain boots. How could it possibly rain on us?
Red currants in bloom
When we reached the cars, I took this picture of a sure sign of spring: a sprig of pretty pink blossoms! We had covered somewhere around nine miles and 2,500 feet up and down, so we were all tired but so pleased that we'd had such a great day. I know that some of my hiking buddies will read this and be sorry they didn't come because of the forecast. Another day when we beat the odds! Yessirree!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More downtown art

Entrance to parking garage
Scattered around Bellingham one can find some very interesting art. Although I don't park in this "Parkade" very often, it's open and free on the weekends, and I couldn't find any other place on Sunday than a spot in here. Everything was taken on the street and I suspected I'd find something if I entered the garage. Most people don't realize they don't charge for Saturdays or Sundays. (shhh! don't tell!)

This series of windows caught my eye, and then I realized that they aren't really there. My first indication that something was amiss is the picture of the sea in the lower left corner. And there is, unfortunately, no candy shop either. I'm not even sure if there are any bricks or whether it's all painted concrete. The sky provided a needed clue, though, since there isn't any!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Rainy Saturday

Lynn's crocus beginning to emerge
I woke last night to the sound of immense rainstorms pounding on our roof. I learned we had more than a half-inch total rainfall yesterday, but most of the day was sunny, meaning it really did pour last night. It was pretty amazing to hear it. We usually get light but persistent rain, nothing like last night's deluge.

Two things of importance have happened so far today: I just got home from seeing Michael Moore's new movie, called Where To Invade Next?. I've seen most of his movies, and I have to say that this one is probably one of the most hopeful and moving that I've seen. He's older now and has learned from his past mistakes. I would recommend anybody to see it, no matter what your political stripe.

And just a few minutes ago, I see that Antonin Scalia has died. This is a huge event in our country's history. He was a staunch conservative, but a good friend of someone I really admire: Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He had a wicked sense of humor, according to his admirers. The pundits are now arguing whether or not Obama will have a chance to appoint a successor. A day I won't forget any time soon.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chuckanut Ridge 2016

Starting up the Chuckanut Ridge trail
Before I tell you about today's not-very-wet hike, I want to start with the meaning of the word "Chuckanut" since it never fails to be mentioned in the comments. It is a Native American word that means "beach on a bay with a small entrance." We have a wonderful labyrinth of trails in Chuckanut Mountain Park, and one of the most challenging hikes we do every year is the Chuckanut Ridge trail. Before we finished, we had covered more than 11 miles and hiked up and down around 2,700 feet (823 meters) of elevation. No wonder I'm tired!
Ten Senior Trailblazers did the ridge today
Ten of us met to hike the ridge this morning, even though the forecast was for rain, which is expected to get heavy by this evening (when we would be safe and warm in our homes, hopefully). This ridge trail goes steeply up and down, meaning we climbed the same elevation over and over again. The rain, however, held off for most of the day, although it threatened with a sprinkle or two. We never saw the sun but had better views that we expected.
Looking southeast from the ridge
By this time of the day (around 11:00am), I expected to be ensconced in rain gear, but no, a few clouds in the valley and overcast skies were all we experienced. It was lovely hiking weather, so we headed over to Gates Overlook for lunch. Still no rain.
Bellingham Bay from Gates Overlook
Last time we were here (a few weeks ago), it was soggy from previous rain, but today we were almost dry. A Pacific Northwestern kind of day, for sure. It wasn't wet exactly, but not dry, either. One Trailblazer said it's just the right kind of day for ironing. It made me think of my mother's long-ago coke bottle with a sprinkler head on it for dampening the clothes for the iron.
Enjoying our almost dry lunch break at Gates Overlook
That's my pack in the foreground with the rain cover added, just in case. But as you can see from the way everyone is dressed, it wasn't exactly pouring down rain. We were almost warm and almost dry, not a bad way to have lunch on what was supposed to be a washout kind of day.
Mountains and clouds to the east
As we began our return journey, it was an unexpected treat to get a glimpse of Mt Baker and the Sisters on the skyline to the east. More fluffy clouds in the valley now, but nobody was complaining about the weather at this point, just the long trek back to the cars. I began to tire but there was nobody to carry me out, so I just put one foot in front of the other.
Trees with tutus
When we were almost back to the trailhead, I saw these trees with the ferns coming out of them, making me think of flounces or tutus. Peggy said these are licorice ferns, and they certainly make the trees more interesting, don't you think? A very Pacific Northwestern-y sort of look. All in all, we had a great day, and the rain (which you notice I haven't mentioned yet), stayed away until pretty much the end of the hike. By the time we reached the cars, it was noticeable, but not very heavy at all. In fact, nobody had even put on their rain gear, just rain hats and smiles.

And now I'm resting in my chair, happy about the day's activity, with my wine still at hand and nowhere to go but horizontal for the rest of the day. It was a wonderful day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another fabulous sunny day

Robert and Leo at the coffee shop this morning
Leo seems to have fallen in love with this orange hat, since he's had it on every time I've seen him for a month now. He and his dad Robert were busy playing cards and having breakfast before he headed off for school. He has grown so much and now can read just about anything!

It got really cold last night (well, down to freezing levels) because yesterday was clear and sunny. Today is another beautiful warm day, but it looks like our luck will finally have run out on Thursday: it's supposed to rain all day after all these days of sunshine. I can't believe that we would be lucky enough to have a beautiful dry day three Thursdays in a row! I'm not making any bets on it, in any event.

I keep thinking about topics for posts but then forget to write them down, and when the time comes to compose one, I'm often at a loss. It is the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey. It will last until January 27th, 2017. Yesterday was New Year's Day in that part of the world. That link gives some blessings that are traditional for the new year. Here's mine to us all:

恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái)
'Happiness and prosperity!'

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Almost gardening time

Rob's in on the right, my neglected spot on the left
A few of the Pinewood Heights gardeners have been busy lately. Not me, though. Rob's section, which is all nicely prepared for planting, is behind that blue bin that is filled with rainwater. Think we've had a little rain lately? Yes! The only things in my section are some white bins, a green watering can, and lots of weeds. Rob makes me look bad.
More rainwater and lots of stuff from last year, plus weeds
Looking across the way from Rob's and my garden areas, however, you can see lots of sticks from Carol's last harvest and a wheelbarrow filled with rainwater. We've got a lot of work to do, but when the sun comes out I get the itch. This will be the fifth year I've planted a garden, with some crops that never fail, and others that never work out. This year I'll stick with cherry tomatoes in case we don't have lots of sunshine, along with strawberries, raspberries (already planted), broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, and some squash.
The center section under Lynn's tutelage
We are very fortunate to have a new gardener, Lynn, who has won awards in the past for her gardens. And earlier this winter this section looked a whole lot more like the above pictures: nothing but weeds before she tackled it. Now, however, it's beginning to look like we will have a wonderful place this summer. I'm actually beginning to feel the urge to get my hands in that soil!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Another day without rain

Steve, Carol, Roger, Chris, Rich
The weather was supposed to be rainy at least in the early afternoon, but eight Senior Trailblazers set out from the Senior Center to hike up the South Lookout Mountain trail anyway. We've done it a couple times before, always in May, so this is the earliest we have done this hike. It's not one of my favorites, because the seldom-used trails are very steep in places and rather challenging.
First signs of snow
We knew we would be climbing steeply throughout the hike, which starts near Cain Lake and then goes pretty much straight up (a total of 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss) to the top of the mountain. And yes, there it was: the snow that probably fell last night while it was raining in Bellingham.
The light fog came and went
We climbed through dense forest until we reached the road that heads to the top of Lookout Mountain. As you can see, the snow was much deeper as we got ready to leave the safety of the trees.
Just before we came out of the trees
With the iffy forecast, we didn't think we would have a view at all, but instead, we had magnificent views of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters. Down below us you can see Cain Lake where we began our climb.
The mountains, lakes, fog and trees galore
Wow! That is just one of the most beautiful sights, on a day when none of us expected any view at all. Not only was this unexpected (where was the rain?), but we were fairly confident that any rainfall was not imminent. After all, look at that sky!
A short hike to see what view we might have in the other direction
After a short climb along the road, this picture was taken looking 180 degrees from the last picture, when we were looking at the mountains. This view was overlooking Lake Samish and the interstate that travels between Bellingham and Seattle (I-5).
Lake Samish
We could hear the traffic, even at this altitude, and since it was now after noon, we decided to have lunch here, just out of the breeze. As we made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed our lunch, the fog moved in all around us. Suddenly we had no view at all. As we gathered up our stuff after lunch and began our downward descent, none of these vistas were visible at all. Just dense fog.

But no rain. Covering just under eight miles and all that elevation gain and loss made me feel pretty darn tired as we reached the cars. Another wonderful day, and you will not be surprised to learn that, as we started back to Bellingham, the rain clouds opened up and simply poured! We were inside our warm and cozy cars, smiling to ourselves and congratulating one another at yet another day without rain!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Opening doors

Robert and Gene replacing the doorknob at Avellino's
When I got to the coffeeshop this morning, Gene was puzzling over the new doorknob he had just purchased to replace the one that broke at Avellino's this morning. The real problem was getting the old one off first. After trying various unsuccessful methods, another customer walked up and told Gene where the likely spot to press might be, and before long it was off. Then the only problem was putting in the new one, which was pretty straightforward.

Except that he managed to replace the outside knob and the latch first, and when he pushed the inside knob onto the correct place, the outside knob fell right off onto the pavement. Ooops! We were locked in. It took quite a bit of help from other customers before it was all finished. Fortunately he got help from an arriving customer who pushed the outside knob back on so she could come inside and get some coffee. The phrase "it takes a village" went through my mind as I watched. I was the holder of the flashlight as they worked away.
William at Yoga Northwest
Then I was off to open another kind of door at my Tuesday yoga class. I am now taking a class on Tuesdays as well as Wednesdays, and I am enjoying them both very much. William's class is easier and less challenging then the one Denise teaches, but both are helping to strengthen my back and to regain some lost flexibility. I always prided myself on how flexible I was, but as I've aged that has changed. Both of these yoga classes are designed to be gentle for people with knee and back issues. No shoulder- or headstands. And it's another place where I feel right at home.