Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rainbows and fogbows

Taken by Melvin Nicholson on a Scottish Moor
I found this amazing picture of a "fog bow" while looking for something in particular to tell a story of a skydive I made many years ago. I got it from this article in the Daily Mail. It also describes how a fog bow is formed.
A fog bow is a colourless rainbow made up of tiny water droplets that cause fog. Due to the small size of the water droplets it has very weak colours, with a red outer edge and bluish inner edge.
I was looking to see if anybody had ever captured a picture of a phenomenon that I saw on a skydive long ago. Skydivers are not supposed to intentionally jump through clouds, but sometimes it happens and there's not much you can do about it, once you're out of the airplane and in freefall. The sun was directly behind me, with a solid-looking cloud underneath me. As I got closer, I saw my shadow, and around the shadow of my body was a rainbow. I was close enough to see each separate finger before I closed my eyes tight, since it looked like I was approaching something solid! But poof, all I felt was the coolness of the cloud.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the cloud dissipating and the ground coming into focus. I quickly looked at my altimeter to make sure I still had time before I needed to deploy my parachute. Yes, I was fine, but I had seen something I will never forget: my shadow on a cloud, with a perfect halo all around it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A fine way to start the weekend

Sunrise at Lake Padden

A dozen or so of us ladies met at Lake Padden for our Saturday loop twice around the lake. I had heard that recently the lake had completely frozen over, and that people were out walking and skating on it. If you look closely at that picture, you can see there is still some ice in the foreground of the lake, but the ducks and geese were in some open areas. Recently we had such a cold snap that many of our small lakes froze right up. I found some pictures on Facebook to prove it.
Taken ten days ago at Lake Padden
I even heard this morning about someone out there with a baby stroller, pushing his little one around on the ice. Frankly, I don't think it was such a good idea, but apparently the ice was solid enough that nobody fell through. In fact, the picture below made me laugh.
Ice hockey
Yes, some of these guys must have grown up around Minnesota and hauled out their gear in nostalgia for those other places in our country where they might have lived. Or maybe there really are ice hockey teams around here somewhere? In any event, Lake Padden no longer frozen all the way across. Although it was cold this morning, right around freezing, in comparison to these pictures, it was balmy.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chuckanut Ridge 2017

Linda pointing out where we are on the mountain
I knew it would be a tough hike today, since I've been on it before, and I was reminded that when it is labeled "hard" and 11 miles that I would be hurting before the day was done. I didn't expect twelve Senior Trailblazers to head out today, but the mild and dry weather was part of the reason, I suspect, that we had such a good turnout.
Moss in sunlight
We started out before the sun was over the mountain, and this picture was one of the first I saw where the green moss was lit by the sun. We started from the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead and walked up the Hemlock trail until we met the trail that takes us up to Chuckanut Ridge. If you want to know more detail about the hike, it is available here.
Mt. Baker from our first viewpoint
When we first started out, the skies were overcast, but they cleared up quickly, giving us one of the best first views I've seen of Mt. Baker. We continued our hike along the ridge, which is quite exciting in places, with sheer drop-offs as you traverse it. Some were experiencing it for the first time, but I've done it in rain and fog; today was perfect weather.
Victoria bathed in sunlight
I caught this picture of Victoria and thought, when I took it, that the sunlight would spoil the picture, but it turned out wonderfully. We were on our way to Gates Overlook for lunch after hiking more than five miles with plenty of ups and downs to deal with.
Enjoying lunch at Gates Overlook
We reached Gates Overlook right about noon and were quite ready to stop. That's my blue inflatable seat on the right. It wasn't warm exactly, but it was so pleasant to stop and have a bite to eat before heading back down on our return trip.
Jim, Ward, Al, Ellen, Mike, Victoria, Linda, Peggy, Jay, Kirk, Rich
You can see from the group that it wasn't so awfully cold that we were huddled in all our warm clothes, but as usual when we have stopped for lunch and eaten, it took awhile to get back up to true warmth, when you need to start to shed clothing. On the way back down, we saw this interesting tree setup:
Split tree
We wondered how it happened that this tree was split right down the middle by another one. How did it start? Probably the wind initiated the scenario, but there was no junction in the split tree that indicated how it all started. It made for some good conversation, though.
Samish Bay on our return trip
We stopped for a quick look at Samish Bay on the way back to the cars. The sun was long gone, with the sky overcast again, but still it was a lovely view of the bay. After admiring the view, we continued our long trek back. Before it was all over, we had covered 10.5 miles and climbed and descended 2,900 feet (900 meters) of elevation. Needless to say, there was little that wasn't either climbing up or descending downward on this hike.

What amazes me is that my knees seem to be in rather good condition, and the only thing that is really tired is the rest of me. We are almost all of us septuagenarians, and we did fine! That is the very best part of spending time with other like-minded old people: we all want to keep doing this for as long as we can. Another great day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Quick post

Yesterday's sunrise
Well, it happened again. I got almost through the whole day without even thinking of putting up a Tuesday post. I woke this morning at the usual time and almost immediately began my day with a flood of tears, as I learned that one of my long-time favorite bloggers had to put her beloved pet to sleep over the weekend.

That's the real problem of loving them: they just don't live as long as we do and we must be prepared to say goodbye to them all too soon. I wish there was something we could say or do to ease the pain of loss, but there really isn't, other than to acknowledge that we all go through it if we give our love to each other without holding back. They give us so much, but saying goodbye is never easy.

Emily Dickinson expressed it in this poem:
My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
I send my blessings out to all who grieve, including myself.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Bellingham

A small portion of the crowd
This morning, after the walk with the ladies, we all joined the crowd of women and other people gathered a few blocks away to protest the likely loss of many of the liberties we have taken for granted for quite awhile, such as reproductive rights and Social Security. From the website:
We march in solidarity, raising our collective voice, and lifting up the most marginalized among us recognizing that this new administration will affect us all in different ways. This march is the first step toward unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up.
This march was one of hundreds held across the country (and some in other nations), with the largest in Washington, D.C., as a counterpoint to the inauguration of President Trump yesterday. I cannot speak for the mood and the feeling of community at any of the other gatherings, but we had a celebration of diversity, with plenty of men and children joining the group, along with lots of women in pink "pussy hats." Before we started off on a mile-long march, there were poets and speakers and music. Since the crowd was so much larger than expected, many of us couldn't get close enough to hear any of it. I just enjoyed chatting with people around me.
My friend Barb, her daughter and son-in-law
Barb, one of the walkers, was there with her daughter and son-in-law and some really great signs, I thought. I lost all of the other people I knew who were in the throngs of people, but it didn't really matter. We walked and smiled and truly enjoyed the beautiful morning. And just by chance someone looked up at a beautiful rainbow overhead, and I was able to capture it just before it left.
So pretty
I had a little trouble with all the standing around, for more than an hour, before we got started walking (you couldn't really call it a march, there were so many of us), so just before the last turn back to City Hall where we started, I snuck out and made my way to the Farmers' Market, which was open today. I grabbed some good bread and came home, where I am sitting now, writing this post.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Alger Alp 2017

Squires Lake, partly frozen, in the rain
Eleven Senior Trailblazers showed up on an overcast, dreary morning to do a short hike around Squires Lake and the ridge trail that takes us up to a view. We didn't expect one, really, with the weather wet and windy, albeit warm, compared to our last two hikes in subfreezing weather. It is 48°F (9°C) right now, much warmer than last week's hike.
Looking at the water leaving the lake
But today it's wet, as you can tell from the above picture. We know how to behave in rain, but to tell you the truth, nobody actually hoped for it. Instead, we kept hoping for it to stop. After a few hours, it did, more or less, and we actually got a view when we were at the overlook.
Olympic rain shadow in the distance
Al pointed out the rain shadow effect, that makes the area around Sequim, Washington, so much drier than Seattle and points north (like Bellingham). You can read about the Olympic Rain Shadow here, if you're interested. Anyway, we weren't in it, although we could see its effect clearly. The I-5 interstate also runs through that valley, so we could hear the traffic very well, except for those times on the hike when we were sheltered by the south ridge.
Ward, Linda, Barb, Kirk, Jay, Victoria, Melanie, Ellen
I got this picture of the group at the overlook, except for Al and Mikey, who were still making their way to join us. Jay has joined the group for the first time, but I suspect it won't be the last. He said he had walked with the other Trailblazers group, but they stopped too often for his taste. He didn't get that from us, which is why most of us use hydration packs for water: if I didn't have mine I wouldn't be drinking nearly often enough. Here's a closeup of Jay.
Jay at the overlook
I saw the fog beginning to come up the valley, and I said, "Jay! Over here, quick!" I wanted to get him in the picture before it disappeared. He was happy to comply. In any event, he dashed right over. After a short break, we decided to head back down to Squires Lake for lunch, since it was still too early to stop quite yet. We arrived at the lake for lunch at about 11:30, so once we ate and covered the short distance to the cars, we headed back to the Center. I got this arty shot while at the lake.
Trees, ice, reflection
By the time we got back from our short hike, we had covered almost six miles and somewhere around a bit more than a thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. Not one of our harder hikes, for sure, but with the rain pattering on my hat, I knew that it wasn't going to be one of those days when we lingered over our lunch. All in all, it was way better than sitting around the house and wishing I was outdoors, and as usual the company was superb.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fly me to the moon

Astronomy Picture of the Day 17 Jan 17
This picture on today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, something I look at as part of my daily routine, is especially lovely, don't you think? You can go to the link under the picture for more information about who took it and why it's that color. Although there are most often pictures of galaxies and stellar nurseries on APOD, sometimes the pictures are closer to home. Like this one.

I don't really want to fly to the moon. Today's weather here in Bellingham is pretty much back to normal: rain last night, overcast today, and a warm wind from the south. In fact, the temperature has gone all the way up to 58°F (14.5°C) from the frigid cold and wind we've had around for what seems way too long. Yes, it was sunny, but it was COLD, too. Now it's about ten degrees above normal and feels balmy outside. I rather like it.

I've decided not to stress too much about my blog posts any longer. This one on Tuesdays has been difficult for me to maintain, but what if I just put up a pretty picture, or a poem, or something like that? Easy peasy, and nobody (me!) gets stressed out. I might just miss another one or two, like I unintentionally did last week. Nobody was more surprised that I was when I went looking for what I'd written about and found nothing at all.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Getting tired of all this sunshine

Whatcom Falls this morning
We are soon to get a break from all this unaccustomed sunshine that we've had for weeks and weeks. We did have a short respite when we got some rain (for a day) and it warmed up a little, but not for long. Then the deep freeze started up again. Last Thursday when I got up for our hike it was 12°F, but this morning it was 20°, so gradually it is getting back to our normal winter temperatures.

I wouldn't mind the sun so much if it wasn't accompanied by a cold north wind and ice everywhere. If you look carefully at the above picture, you can see lots of icicles, along with the beautiful rushing waterfall. I took this today while we were on our walk with the ladies (and our sometimes guy, Ray). For the first part of our walk, we saw no sun at all, but gradually it came up high enough for us to see it.

Now I don't want you to think that I'm going to start taking a lot of selfies, but here is one more, comparing this morning's look to the one I took last Thursday. I got some purple highlights in my hair yesterday, and I just had to show you the comparison. I am also wearing the same glasses, which are Transitions, obviously.
I tried out a new stylist, Dyan, and she asked if she could also shape my eyebrows. I was very hesitant, but she didn't charge me and did it anyway. I like the look, and she knew I would, of course, and I will let her do it again. It's been so long since I've had any color in my hair at all that I was a little bit surprised at how much I like it!

Now, about that Tuesday post I didn't write. I'm beginning to get rather forgetful, it seems, and I think I'll just leave it off without any guilt whenever I don't post. Last week, I didn't even remember that it wasn't there until I went looking for it before I put up my Thursday hiking post. Oh, well, I'm probably the only one who lost any sleep over it. I'm willing to let it go. Or not.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Frosty Lost Lake

First rays of the sun
Nine Senior Trailblazers went out on a VERY cold and clear day. When I woke this morning, the temperature was 14°F and clear as a bell. After scraping my car windows and heading off to the Senior Center, I wondered if we would have very many people on a day like this, on a rather long hike as well. In the above picture, you might notice a dog on the trail with us, this was Toby who came with his owner, Kathy, who didn't know that we don't allow pets on the hikes. (She'll be back, but Toby won't be.) She met us in the parking lot, along with two regulars, Mikey and Kirk, so off the nine of us went up the old logging road to Lost Lake.
Mostly frozen waterfall
By the time we got to this waterfall on the old road, we were all very warm from the uphill walking and shed some clothes, if you can believe it. It amazes me how exercise makes my internal temperature rise enough to make even subfreezing temperatures feel comfortable. For the first part of the hike, we didn't see any snow or ice, but that changed as we gained elevation. That first picture shows you the first ice and snow we had to deal with.
More ice
At another place with running water, this time along the trail to Lost Lake, we saw evidence of how cold it has been around here lately. The ice sculptures are unusual to me, so my camera had to come out for these. I didn't take as many pictures as usual, because I had to take off my gloves and haul out my phone to do so. Which is, by the way, a new iPhone 7, which I got yesterday. I love it so far, but I kept it close to my body so it wouldn't get disturbed by the extreme cold.
Melanie's cool hardware
Before too long, those of us who had anything to strap to our boots to give us some traction on the snow and ice (which I neglected to get a picture of), made use of them. When we got to our lunch spot, I managed to capture Melanie's brand-new ice cleats, which worked like a charm. I had my less fancy (and less effective) Yak-Trax, but they kept me upright through the worst of it.
Our lunch spot
We had lunch at our usual spot overlooking Lost Lake. This is the first time I've seen the lake completely frozen over, and just before noon we had only a little bit of sunshine, but because the wind wasn't blowing, we managed to stay quite warm. Here you see Chris, Melanie, and Ellen enjoying themselves.
Lost Lake this around noon today
We yearned for that sunshine on us, but because the angle of the sun is so low at this time of year, we mostly enjoyed our lunch in shade. Some previous hikers had been throwing rocks into the lake, obviously, showing that it's not frozen over all that much but still, it's frozen. Just ignore that dark mitten in the top of the picture (grrr!).
First selfie with the iPhone 7
Since I have learned that both the front and back cameras of the new iPhone have been improved, I tried this selfie with my new phone. It is better quality, although there's nothing to do about the subject, it seems. Anyway, by the time we got back to the cars, we had traveled more than nine miles (some instruments said even farther), but we were happy to be back after at least five hours of hiking in the wilds of Bellingham.

It was a good day, for sure, and now that I am home safe and sound (and warm!), I'm glad I went, even if I did take a spill on the ice and tweaked my left knee a little. We Senior Trailblazers are nothing if not resilient.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Eagle Huntress

Aisholpan Nurgaiv and her eagle
I just got home from my morning adventures. No, not with an eagle, but a nice walk with the ladies and then a documentary playing at our local independent theater: The Eagle Huntress. It's about this 13-year-old Kazakh who was raised in a family of eagle hunters. It's not something that girls are usually allowed to do, but her father and grandfather were one hundred percent behind her and helped her capture and train her own eagle. The documentary is wonderful, for many reasons, but the photography (with the use of drones and GoPro cameras) shows the amazing Mongolian countryside, as well as the trials and tribulations she faced to become a true eagle huntress. Here's the video:

I enjoyed it for many reasons, but the best part is watching this young girl who decided that nothing was going to make her happy except this pursuit, and her family's support of her efforts. Not to mention having to do it in -40°F conditions! If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chilly sunshine at Deception Pass

Deception Pass Bridge
Today twelve Senior Trailblazers drove the thirty-some miles from Bellingham to Whidbey Island to take one of our regular winter hikes up Goose Rock. It's been really cold and clear this week, and since I seemed to have recovered from my cold enough to bundle up and join my friends, I decided to go along. Al, our leader, didn't go (because of a cold), so Ward was our hike leader. He decided we would take our regular loop route to Goose Rock, but counterclockwise instead of our usual direction.
Melanie on top of Goose Rock
After the ribbing about how difficult it would be to walk backwards, I found that it really did make the hike seem fresh and new, with views we don't usually see. It was incredibly clear and, as you see here, we could see the Olympic Mountains clearly, and even Mt. Rainier, although my picture of it didn't turn out very well because of the sun's glare.
Taking in the view at the top
We wandered around for awhile at the top and had a quick snack, but it was too early for lunch, so after basking in the brilliant sunshine, we decided to head back to the beach for our lunch break. This is not a long hike in any event, but it wasn't exactly warm and the winter sun could only keep us up there for so long; we wanted to get going again.
Me in my new pink fluffy (and warm) jacket
I had bought myself a new down jacket for the cold weather, and it's been wonderful for the wintry blasts we've been having. Melanie took this picture of me in it. It won't do for rain, but I have been very happy with its ability to keep me warm. It compresses down into its own pocket, so once I don't need it for the cold, I'll end up carrying it with me on most hikes anyway.
Mt. Baker framed by madrone trees
One view I hadn't noticed on other trips here is Mt. Baker in all its wintry glory. Walking in the other direction I guess I missed it. I'm not used to seeing the mountain from this angle, either. Pretty!
Bark on madrone trees
These trees are very special and native to the Pacific Northwest. I found this link if you wish to know more about this tree (Arbutus menziesii) and why it is disappearing. The Native Americans used the bark and berries for medicinal purposes, but the tree needs naturally occurring fires to keep the conifers in check. It's an interesting tree, and unusual to look at.
We walked along the beach, looking for someplace for lunch
We finally made it down to the beach, but it was very cold without the sunshine to warm us, so we went looking for a bit of sun, which we could see way down the beach, almost out of sight. We did finally make it to some sunlight, but the rays were low in the sky and didn't warm us as much as we hoped.
Our lunch spot
As you can see, we weren't exactly going to hang out for long, but it was well after noon and we were all hungry. Once we refueled, it was time to make our way back to the cars and head back to Bellingham. All in all, it was a lovely day, with some challenges but nothing we couldn't handle.
 A fairy house?
We did find this sweet little place that someone had constructed and admired it in both directions, since we did find it again on our return journey. Unfortunately, someone had taken the pretty rock (or whatever it is) from its depths and put the shell below it in its place. I wasn't sure whether it really was the same one, but I took pictures of both and compared them. Yes, someone decided to purloin the pretty bauble. Maybe karma will show them the error of their ways.

In any event, we traveled somewhere between five and six miles on our journey and never suffered too much from the cold, all the while enjoying the brilliant sunshine and incredible views. It was probably one of my favorite trips to Goose Rock. I think we all might agree.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Down with a cold

A touch of snow around here
I didn't go to my workout class this morning, since yesterday I couldn't continue to escape the fact that the constant sneezing, sore throat, and general feeling of malaise wasn't just my imagination. I've been busy medicating myself with day- and nighttime OTC stuff (generic Dayquil and Niquil). It's made it possible to stay upright and not park myself in bed.

Today I'm feeling a little bit better, but it wasn't more than a few weeks ago that I got sick with the norovirus, and believe me, everybody around me knows how much I don't like being sick. I'm a terrible patient, but my dear partner has been making me tea and crumpets (Crumpets? What the heck are those anyway?) and I've got a huge 600-page book to read. Unfortunately, it will be gone before the day is over.

My sister introduced me to David Baldacci, who writes the kind of book that, once you get hooked, you cannot put down. Just what I needed for today. I am reading Absolute Power, a 1996 thriller that was made into a Clint Eastwood movie the next year. Maybe that's what I should do once I finish with it: watch the movie. Anyway, I'm on the upside of being down and out. I hate colds, especially when it's cold out.