Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sugarloaf and Mt. Erie 2017

On the trail
Today a grand total of sixteen Senior Trailblazers went out to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain and Mt. Erie in the Anacortes area, one of our usual wintertime hikes. Last year I had to be hauled off the mountain because I tore the meniscus in my right knee. It just went out on me, and I thought I'd be out for weeks or months, but it healed up pretty quickly, with proper care and treating it with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Today I was able to do the entire trip, although my hip is now my nemesis, but even it is coming along well.
Arriving at the Sugarloaf summit
We start this hike at Heart Lake trailhead in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL), with lots and lots of options to choose from that take us to many different possible destinations. We always visit Sugarloaf first and then head down the trail and over to Mt. Erie.
The ACFL trail sign
As you can see from the sign, the only users of this part of the trail are hikers (that's us); the other users are blocked. We didn't see anybody other than us until we got to the top of Mt. Erie, which is accessible by car as well as by trail.
On our way to the Mt. Erie summit
Our weather was overcast for the entire day, but nobody minded too much since it wasn't raining. We knew it was supposed to get better as the day wore on, but by the time we reached the Mt. Erie summit, it was still cloudy. But the view was wonderful!
As always, a wonderful view
That's Campbell Lake in the foreground and Cornet Bay behind. That little "stick" in the middle of the bay is Ala Spit, which we also visit regularly in the winter. On really fine days we can see Mt. Rainier in this view, but today it was not to be. I didn't mind too much, though, it was really nice.
Ellen admiring the view
And then we settled down for a nice lunch at the top, donning a bit more clothing to stay warm as we ate our lunches. I am in the habit of bringing brownies from the Great Harvest Bread Company to share with everybody, and Melanie captured me handing out brownies to everybody, but I'll share that at another time, since this picture of everybody having lunch was just too good not to use it.
Another fine place to have lunch
And then it was time to head back to the cars and to our respective homes. The return trip was a little more hilly, with a lot of ups and downs that I didn't expect (it was a different route back), but we managed. We almost always do.
Nice and dry, but a little early for flowers
The season is almost on time, maybe a little late, but last year we experienced a tad earlier than normal spring. We didn't see any flowers in bloom. Peggy saw one trillium but it hadn't opened yet. We did manage to cover 7-and-a-half miles and up and down around 2,300 feet of elevation in that distance. My hip managed just fine, although there were moments when I thought it might seize up on me, but it never did. And guess what? Just as we reached the cars, the skies cleared!!
Accidental selfie
On the way back, I tried to capture some of the trees in full bloom, and accidentally captured this picture of myself taking the picture! I laughed when I saw it and knew I would need to share it with my friends, so you can see how nice the day turned out and how determined I am to show you what we experienced today. I hope you enjoyed our day as much as we did.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

That didn't take long

Daffodils waving hello
The difference in the scenery around here is astounding: we already have flowers coming up, and although we've had way more rain and cooler temperatures than normal, walking back from the bus this morning I saw flowers everywhere! It seems like just a few days ago there were only a few little teeny green shoots. And now look.
Camillas, not rhododendrons
The rhododendrons are already beginning to bloom! This must be a very early blooming plant, though, as most of the others I've seen have no blooms yet. This flower is the official Washington state flower, and I've seen it in gardens, lawns, and in its wild form in the forest. It just occurred to me that maybe this isn't a rhodie at all, but an azalea instead. I couldn't decide after reading about them both. Anybody have any ideas? (Correction: Linda Reeder told me this is a camilla plant, which is why it is blooming already.)
Some pretty hyacinths
Our neighbor's garden is also already showing some flowers. There will be tulips coming up here in a few days, it seems. And the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley begins this Friday! I went to the bloom map to see if anything is up yet and learned that several of the fields of early daffodils are up, but no tulips quite yet. I'll be visiting them within a week or two, once they are at their peak. Plus I'll wait until the rain has let up a little, remembering the fields of mud I've had to navigate in previous visits. But I'm beginning to think about the garden now and planting flowers in my pots on the front porch.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lake Padden, a month later

Lily at Lake Padden this morning

It was just a month ago that Lily and I had joined the Saturday walking group and my hip seized up on me. I've been dealing with it ever since, and today was the first time I felt I might actually be able to keep up with the Saturday walk's fast pace. At least I could make some decision about it and turn around at any point if necessary. Lily and I joined the dozen or so ladies and started our walk with excitement, enjoying the lack of rain, since it rained on the way over to the lake. I can also hear rain on the roof now, but I'm warm and cozy inside. We've continued to have lots of rain; you can see the grass is pretty soggy looking behind Lily.

I made it around the lake once without having to stop, although I was slower, at the end of the walkers. I decided not to make the second loop, though, since of all the exercises I do, fast walking causes it to hurt the most. On the way home, I asked Lily if she would stop with me at the local marijuana store, so I could pick up some topical ointment for the hip. When we walked in, I was surprised that it wasn't busy. The guy behind the counter was very helpful. He told me that he just yesterday received a new shipment of "Flow," which he says is his best  seller.

I have used some other topical cannabis ointments, so I knew they can be very effective, but this one is twice as expensive, so I was hesitant. But after reading the directions, I decided to give it a try. The part that convinced me was this: "Flow CBD gel can be applied to sore muscles, arthritic joints, minor burns and abrasions. Effects can be felt within seconds of application." Here's more information if you're interested. Unfortunately, you can't get it outside of Washington State and unless you're over 21.

I came home and dropped my drawers and massaged the oil into my hip area. Yep, I could feel the warmth, so I pulled everything back up and sat down to write this post. As I sit here, I can feel the continued warmth, and lo and behold, the pain in my hip is very much less!  Apparently it reaches its maximum strength after about an hour and maintains its effects for several hours longer. I'm sold! And in the time it has taken for me to write this post, the pain is completely gone. Yay!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mud and Pine (Lakes, that is)

On the Pine and Cedar trail
Today, which was expected to be without rain, prompted eighteen (!) Senior Trailblazers to head to Mud Lake, which was on the schedule for the day. This is a strenuous hike, although not terribly long (around nine miles total), but because of all the ups and downs. Not much of it is flat. We start at the Pine and Cedar Lakes trailhead, and the first mile or so is incredibly steep, which means it's hard going up it and hard coming back down. An unmarked trail off the regular trail leads you to Mud Lake.
Mud Lake
The name is a bit of a misnomer, because it's not all that muddy, but today there was logging going on at the lake, on the far side from us, and because of the noise and smell of diesel fuel, we decided not to have lunch there, but went back up to the road. By this time the sun had come out, although a stiff breeze kept us in our coats, we were quite satisfied to bask in the warm rays of the sun while we enjoyed our lunch.
Judith, Peggy, Diane
Peggy had brought along some friends who are interested in the hiking group; before they left for the day they gave Al their information so they can decide when they might want to join us again. With the group so large, I never had a chance to talk with them, but I'm sure I will on subsequent hikes. They both did very well with the distance and elevation change.
Ferns along the trail
One of the things that makes this so challenging is that once you climb up the Pine and Cedar trail elevation, heading to Mud Lake means you lose around 800 feet getting to the lake. Which of course means that you descend and then must climb back up to the regular trail. You can see that there is still quite a bit of brown along with the ferns, but upon closer inspection we could see lots of signs of spring. Last year, however, we saw trillium in bloom by the end of March. Not so this year.
Teeny little buds of some kind
Peggy pointed these little guys out to me. They are so small that I had to bend all the way to the ground to take this picture; they are not as long as my little fingernail. I wish I had something to show you their relative size, but I don't. Anyway, as we headed back and regained the usual Pine and Cedar trail, we decided to head down to Pine Lake so we could enjoy an environment without the disturbance we encountered at Mud Lake.
The walkway around Pine Lake
And here we had plenty of signs of spring: for one thing, swamp lanterns (skunk cabbage) were beginning to emerge from the moist ground and standing water along the sides. They are in their first stages, but they are definitely there!
Poking its yellow "lantern" skyward
These plants will grow to an enormous size, and although they are reputed to have a bad smell, I guess it's in the nose of the beholder, because some of us sort of like the smell. At Pine Lake, we stopped to admire the view before continuing on our return journey.
Pine Lake in the sunshine in early spring
Pine and Cedar Lakes trail is a frequent wintertime destination for the Trailblazers, and this view looks so much better to me when it's not raining, like today. We enjoyed it for a bit, while our intrepid Trailblazer Richard took off his clothes and jumped in! Last year he jumped into Mud Lake, but this year he waited for this much better venue.
Heading back down to the cars
And then we headed back down the trail, taking the steepest parts more slowly (thank you, Al) and finally reaching the trailhead after six hours in the wilderness. We covered around nine miles total, and overall traveling up and down around 3,000 feet of elevation. No wonder I'm tired. However, I am very pleased to say that my hip feels no different at the end of the day than it did at the beginning. That's not to say I am not tired and sore, but that I did it! Tomorrow I am scheduled for a massage, and I will make sure to do my exercises before I climb into bed. All in all, a very good day!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring is finally here

Bellingham Bay
Since I didn't get a chance to go outside on Saturday, I decided to take a nice walk in the filtered sunshine on Sunday. It was partly cloudy for most of the day, but it wasn't raining, so I was so happy to head out to Boulevard Park after quaffing some coffee. I saw these paddlers out there, along with someone who looked like he/she was walking on the water. I checked it out online, of course, and found that it's called standup paddleboarding. See the person right behind the boat in the middle?
From Astronomy Picture of the Day
Yesterday, for the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, Astronomy Picture of the Day put up this fine capture taken by Alyn Wallace in Iceland earlier this month. It's fabulous, isn't it? Just wanted to share it with some friends.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Very soggy Saturday

Lily, me, and John (taken by Gene)
I listened to the rain hitting the roof again this morning as I checked the news online. Looking at the weather forecast for our walk this morning, I texted Lily to make sure she had her rain pants on. She said she was just pulling them up when she heard the text message arrive. Armed with all our rain gear and setting out for the coffee shop, it was raining as hard as it ever has as we entered. You can see my black hat in the foreground, already covered with drops just from the short distance from the car.

When we walked out after coffee, I looked over at Lily and said, "Lily, how would you feel about skipping the walk with the ladies and head over to the Bellis Fair Mall Walk? They open the doors at 7:00am." She agreed, and with that we drove the short distance to the mall and made four laps, cutting no corners. The link says each one is close to a mile, but my step counter gave us .6 miles for each lap. Not bad.

Afterwards, we went back to the starting point of the intended walk, near the Farmers' Market (which is holding its last winter market today) and there were several of the women. They had changed their route enough that I could probably have done it today (no hills). My hip isn't 100% yet and I sort of overdid it on Thursday but it's WAY better. Anyway, we made a great choice for us today; it's dry inside the mall!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oyster Dome and Lily Lake 2017

Heading up to Oyster Dome
Eleven Senior Trailblazers tackled Oyster Dome and Lily Lake on the first day we've had without rain for simply ages. In fact, we even saw some of that strange yellow globe in the sky that scattered sun puddles for a change. This hike starts out with a long upward slog, gaining almost 2,000 feet of elevation before arriving at the Dome. I was happy to discover that my hip didn't bother me much on the uphill sections.
Ellen checking out the logging notice
After hiking just over a mile and a half, we crossed the junction where you can decide to go directly to the Samish Bay Overlook or head up to Oyster Dome. That is what we did, and we did stop to read all about the logging activity that will soon take place in this wonderful area, unless we can find the funds to put a stop to it. That's what the flyer told us, but most of us were already well aware that the beauty of this area is under threat.
Two young women wrapped in blankets
Once we got to the top, the wind was blowing so hard that there was little reason to spend much time up here. But these two young ladies wrapped themselves in blankets and decided to stay for awhile. Looking out over the bay, you see lots of the San Juan islands on days when it's not raining. Like today.
Lily Lake
We took the trail to Lily Lake, where we decided to have lunch, although the wind was still blowing and nobody was all that warm. It was after 11:30am, and everybody was willing to hunker down and eat some lunch, but every time I thought I was protected from the wind, it found me from another direction.
Richard and Jim under the trees
It was pretty cold and so we packed up early and headed over to Max's Shortcut on our way to the Samish Bay Overlook. We ran into the other group of Senior Trailblazers just about then, who were on their way to have lunch at Lily Lake. I hope they were more successful than we were in finding some place out of the wind. Once we started down Max's Shortcut, I realized that my hip was hurting much more in going downhill, so I kept slowing the group down somewhat. I decided that when we reached Samish Overlook, I'd do some taping on my leg to see if it would help with the discomfort.
Looking out at Samish Flats from Samish Overlook
As you can see, by the time we reached the Overlook, our sun breaks had begun to recede and the clouds had built. But still, no rain, and from here we only had two miles back to the cars. We spent a few minutes here, since there are real bathrooms and coming back down so much elevation had caused the temperature to rise considerably. We didn't feel any hurry to leave.
Peggy looking out at Samish Bay
While we were in the car on our way back home, Melanie showed me this picture she took of Peggy looking out over the bay. I asked her to send it to me, and she did, right there, and here it is for your enjoyment. What a fine connected world we live in!
Today's route
From Highway 11, we went up the red trail (all those switchbacks tell you how steep it is) until we got to the top of the second red peak, then went up to Oyster Dome. From there, we went back to the trail leading us to Lily Lake, then back to Max's Shortcut to Samish Overlook. From there we took all of those red lines back to Highway 11 and our cars. The distance doesn't seem to change much from year to year: we covered more than nine miles and climbed more than 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss by the time the day was over.

Not knowing how my hip would hold out, I am encouraged. I managed to do the entire trip, albeit more slowly in spots that I would have liked, but I did it nevertheless. I may not be all the way back,  but I'm making steady progress.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Shoulder stands and Crazy Dogs

Shoulderstand with props (not me!)
Today I did what I consider to be two rather difficult yoga poses, the first being the shoulder stand. When I started this yoga journey a little more than a year ago, I was convinced that I would never again be able to do this pose, one that was easy for me when I was a young woman practicing yoga. At another yoga studio, when I first began to look for the right one for me, I attempted this in class with the yoga teacher. There were no props, however, and I figured I wouldn't ever be able to do it. But Iyengar Yoga teaches you how to modify poses using different tools, such as blankets and straps.

The blankets change the angle between my neck and shoulders, making it possible to get up there without too much difficulty, and the strap is to keep my elbows from turning out as I support my back to lift my legs. And you can see that in this version, she used a chair to help out as well. Today I did a fine supported shoulder stand, and was quite pleased with myself, since I was able to hold the pose for a few breaths.

Then we did the Crazy Dog, which I first tried several months ago, and I didn't think I would ever be able to do it. However, after many attempts with several different teachers, today I was able to get into the pose and even raise one leg at a time once I got there. This is not me, but from the Internet. I might not have looked quite as spiffy, but the teacher was happy with my alignment.
Not so hard once you learn the tricks
Every yoga student knows about Downward Facing Dog, it's a standard of all hatha yoga practices. But learning how to do on a wall like this takes some doing: you need to learn where to look and have decent arm strength as well. Today I did it! Pardon me for bragging, I know I have so much to learn yet, and balancing postures are really hard for me. But I'm in the process. I just signed up today for my fifth semester of yoga at Yoga Northwest! Maybe by the time summer gets here I'll be able to do the Warrior III pose (a balancing one) without falling.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Getting better all the t-i-m-e

Three old farts reading the news
Our barista took this picture of us this morning, at my behest. I stayed away from the Saturday morning walk for two reasons: first, my hip is better but not great, and second, I caught a cold that has kept me home for two days. This morning I'm resisting taking any cold medicines so I can be sure that I'm actually on the mend. Who can tell with drugs running through your system?

I have been doing the exercises suggested by the physical therapist on Thursday. I know some of my readers think I should have gone to the doctor for a "real" diagnosis of my hip problem, but last year when my knee went out on me and I followed that route, I learned only one thing: medical doctors are the LAST ones you want to see with an overuse injury. They took x-rays and looked at them and said, "huh." Nothing showed up, and I knew it would be the same with this hip problem. And all by itself it started to get better, even before the physical therapist, but I know what I can do and what I can't. Walking fast is the most difficult movement (that's what the ladies do), and with it being so sore, I didn't want to stress it with a hike all day long on Thursdays. But this coming Thursday, I'm going to join the Senior Trailblazers, if all continues to improve as it is right now.

After the coffee shop, I decided to try a short walk by myself and see how it went. One thing that Dr. Ed said was to listen to what's going on in my body and pay attention, back off if it hurts and push it a little bit otherwise. So I walked along Boulevard Park for a couple miles and then took the bus back to my car. It was a very successful outing, and I then came home and used the foam roller I ordered from Amazon to work out my hip. He told me to be sure to do the same thing on both sides, and when they are equal in sensation, my hip should be the way it was before the incident two weeks ago. (It feels like it was longer ago than that, but it wasn't. Just two weeks.)

On Thursday morning I went to have my blood drawn in anticipation of my annual doctor's appointment coming up this Wednesday. Because of being able to see the results online through the hospital's  medical records, I see that my results are rather exciting: my total cholesterol is now below 200 (198), and my "good" cholesterol is 84. Another amazing thing is that my triglycerides are 39! That's down from 75 last year. Anything under 100 is good. I was really surprised at the drop. So the family problem of high cholesterol seems to be under control, with exercise and statins. It gave me quite a boost and I resisted sending the results right away to my sister. We are a little bit competitive in this regard, but I know she'll read it here. Yay for good numbers and healing hips!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Little Mountain

Linda pointing out the route
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers went off to Little Mountain in Mt. Vernon, a short distance south of Bellingham, to Skagit County's largest park. I wasn't with them, but they sent me these pictures so I can post about their adventure. I had an appointment with a physical therapist to deal with my hip issue.
A little soggy
All of these pictures were taken by Melanie and I can see some people I recognize under all that rain gear: Carol, Linda, Ward, Peggy. Melanie said that Carol has a picture of everybody, but I'm feeling a little tired myself after such an intense session with Ed Deboo, so I'll just use her pictures for now. Here's the story of Ed's approach to physical therapy. I was more than a little impressed, and he warned me I would be sore. Yep, he was right.
Wonder what this was?
Some of these pictures need some description, but I'm afraid I'll have to wait awhile to find out what the heck this rusty old heap was. Or maybe nobody figured it out. Any ideas?
Descriptive signs
I figure that the top sign means it's steep, and the other one means it's not a smooth trail. I like the trekking poles at the bottom for emphasis. Next time I'll be there and know it'll be fun, especially if the weather is better than today's. It looks to me like most of the hike was very wet.
A little color
Aren't these pretty? I'm not sure, but I think they are red berries on an invasive ivy plant! Or maybe it's a native, but even looking at the picture up close gives me very little to go on. Peggy is always pointing out invasive species to us, and there is a prolific ivy that I see her pulling out when she gets a chance.

Anyway, I am also coming down with a cold, so I'm sitting here feeling a little droopy, but I am very encouraged about the possibility of my hip getting completely better. It might take some time, and I have "homework" to do every day with a foam roller, which I ordered from Amazon already.  I'm gong to treat myself to a nice glass of wine and hit the sack early tonight, hoping that tomorrow I'll be feeling better. Wish I could have been there with my pals, but you know I will join them again as soon as I'm able.


Carol has just sent me a batch of pictures that I simply must share with you. The first one is, of course, the whole group. This one really makes me wish I could have been there!
My pals on Little Mountain
This picture that Carol sent me is really beautiful and shows that even old wrecks can look good long after they're gone to their reward.
Western red cedar stumps
And then, to top it all off, they all went to Mikey's afterwards for soup and grilled cheese sandwiches! Feeling a little like maybe I should have a SECOND glass of wine tonight! I hope you enjoyed the news flash, I sure did.
Hot soup and grilled cheese, anyone?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nostalgic dreams

Taken in Florida in 2007
Last night I dreamed that I needed to find a way to get some skydiving gear so that I could join my friends to play in freefall once again. I remember trying to figure out how I could get some nice cheap but functional gear, since I wouldn't be using it all that long. This picture shows the gear I used for some record attempts at Lake Wales, Florida, in a days-long SOS camp (Skydivers Over Sixty). Yes, I was well over sixty, and that was ten years ago.

You can see it was windy (see my hair?), and I wasn't all that happy about going up to try for the record in that wind. We were just fine, though; nobody landed in the gator swamp, and I was careful to land well away from other skydivers (there were more than forty of us on each jump). I sold that black jumpsuit long ago, but I kept the rest of my skydiving gear. And I had two more jumpsuits that I loved very much, both purple.
Linny, Christy, me, Tyson, Dave
Here is a more recent picture, from August 2014, and the people I liked to play in the sky with at Skydive Snohomish. I sold my gear to a sweet young thing the following June, and I haven't made a jump since. But with the memories of more than 4,000 of them, I guess it's not unusual for me to dream about some of those wonderful times.
Me in front, SG behind
This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us under canopy together, after having made a skydive together and getting ready to land at the Skydive Snohomish airport. This is the last place I skydived during my long career as a skydiver. It will always be part of me.

I was determined today not to write about the weather or my injuries, and last night's dream carried me toward the nostalgia of years past. They are good recollections. And it's true that bringing back these memories has raised my spirits and put a smile on my face.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Truncated walk with the ladies

Post-walk coffee at Adagio's
I decided to try to walk with the ladies this morning, since we were to meet at Adagio's Coffee Shop and walk to Zuanich Park at the bay and back, a short five-mile walk. I felt pretty good as we started out, but after less than a mile, I could feel that now familiar pain returning to my right hip. Since I don't yet have an I-T strap to see if it helps, I decided to turn around and wait for them to return. Why mess up what I hope is a slow recovery?

The morning started out sunny (yay!) but by the time they had returned to the coffee shop, it was snowing! We had a little bit of everything. I also noticed that Cindy's pretty red hat gave a very nice display of our snowflakes.
Red jewels
No, not real jewels, but melted snowflakes on her delightful Icelandic hat! I had just told her about a Netflix movie I watched, "Rams," about a couple of Icelandic brothers. The movie is beautifully filmed and written but I'm not sure I could recommend it, since it doesn't have exactly a happy ending. I learned a lot about sheep diseases, though.