Saturday, April 29, 2017

Another dry walk

Shirley and Kathy on the trail
Another lovely morning for a walk with the ladies. Nine of us met at the trailhead for Lake Whatcom's North Shore. This three-mile-long trail was once an old railroad bed, which means it's pretty flat, and since it's right on the lake, it's got great views and plenty of shade from the trees and other shrubbery. Not that we usually need shade, just on those two days a year when it's hot. (smile)
Green carpet of... something
I admired all the green around us, and then we came across this carpet of some plant that was so dense and thick that it mystified me as to what it might be. If I return in another month, I'm sure that whatever it is will be totally changed from today. We saw plenty of my nemesis, buttercups, along with stinging nettles, which are just right for picking and steaming, if one is a mind to. My friend Peggy has already enjoyed them several times this year. They sell them at the Farmers' Market, although they are abundant everywhere around here. However, they must be picked and that can be a rather painful endeavor.

Before the rain comes, I'm heading out to my garden to plant a few veggies. For some reason I'm in a very good mood today, and I'll transfer some of that happiness to my plants.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lily and Lizard Lakes, plus North Butte

Lots of green today
Boy, it's definitely springtime here in the Pacific Northwest: everything is in bloom. Fifteen Senior Trailblazers enjoyed a favorite hike on Blanchard Mountain today, starting at the Upper Trailhead and going first to Lizard Lake, then a foray up to the North Butte, and finally Lily Lake before returning to the cars.
The sun breaking through the trees
It was overcast when we started out and on the chilly side, but there was none of the possible rain that was predicted. We had a 50-50 chance of having our old friend join us on our hike today. However, we made it to Lizard Lake without a raindrop, where we saw lots of beaver activity.
Lisa admiring the recent beaver enterprise
Almost every time we've visited this lake (which is almost identical to Lily Lake, except that it's a little less accessible), we've seen that the beaver are busy as, well, beavers. This tree has recently been felled, judging by the fresh wood chips.
A closeup of the chomp
They chose carefully where to start and ended up with the tree falling just where they wanted it to go. Although I haven't actually seen any of them around, they're here and are definitely making progress toward their dam. Or beaver house, I'm not sure which. Since it was still early, we headed up to the North Butte from Lizard Lake, but it began to rain lightly as we ascended the steep grade.
Carol and Victoria
By the time we got to the top, we had experienced not only rain, but some hail as well. Since I didn't have a good view from the top, I put these two lovely additions in for interest and color. That was the last of the rain we would have for the day, but we didn't know that, and we were cold in the wet and wind, so we decided to head down to Lily Lake for our lunch spot, which is a bit more protected.
Lily Lake lunch spot
By the time we reached the lake, we had more and more sunshine, although the clouds came and went. We were not warm, by any means, but the company was pleasant and every time the sun streamed down on us, you could hear a palpable sigh of contentment.
I'm so pretty
I wandered around after lunch while everyone else was finishing up, and I saw this pretty skunk cabbage, or swamp lantern, apparently singing with joy at the beautiful spring all around it. Does it look like two arms and a head to you, too?
Heading back
And then it was time to head back to the cars. By early afternoon, the skies had cleared so that we had sun streaming through the trees, and we were able to shed more clothes as we descended. All in all, we went up and down about 1,800 feet, covering somewhere short of nine miles (8.6), which is to me just about the perfect distance for a day like today.
Happy trillium
Every time I've seen the trillium prior to today's hike, their petals and leaves have been covered with rain and not perky like this one. You can see why it's called a trillium: three leaves, three petals, and six yellow stamen in the middle of it all. I love these early spring flowers. It was a fine day, and I'm happy to be able to say that my hip seems just fine after the exercise.

It always helps to have sunshine and a beautiful place to immerse oneself for the day. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty darn good right now. And wonder of wonders, it's time for some wine!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The century mark

My brother-in-law Pete took this picture of my father many years ago. It's been a favorite, though, for all the reasons you might imagine: it captures the essence of the workaday dissatisfaction that comes with getting up every day and going to work. Who knows what he was thinking? Plus, it's a classic.

Well, today Daddy would have turned 100 years old, but he didn't live that long. In fact, he was only 62 when he died of a heart attack. He is still missed today by all of us who love him. I would have forgotten completely except for Facebook, where several of my family members put up pictures of him and wished him a Happy Birthday.

In my memory, I can still hear him laugh, something he did often. And the love story of my parents will live forever in my heart. If they have birthday cakes in heaven, I sure hope Mama made him one. Maybe they will visit me tonight in my dreams. I can hope, can't I? Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Me and Judy at the Science March
This morning Lily and I decided to take ourselves on a different walk than the ladies' scheduled walk at Galbraith Mountain. We walked from the coffee shop to Fairhaven and back, about five miles, at a moderate pace, and then she went home while I joined my friend Judy for the planned March for Science happening today all over the world.

We borrowed the signs from the Democrats booth, where they had made plenty to share, and they only asked that we return them after the march. That was easy, since what do you do with one of these signs afterwards? It was perfect! The turnout was pretty good here, too, even though it began to rain as we listened to the speeches that preceded the march. I think we were sort of in the middle of the pack, and then as we reached our starting point, looking back I could see that there were plenty of people still marching behind us.
Marchers in the rain
I took this picture after we finished, and if you look through the crowd you can see marchers in the distance. Although it was hard to estimate the size of the crowd, considering the weather it was a fantastic turnout. And I did my part for Earth Day 2017!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

South Lookout Mountain 2017

Old spiral snag in the forest
Eleven Senior Trailblazers made our fourth trip up the South Lookout Mountain trail today from Cain Lake parking area. It was raining when we started out, and we bundled up in our rain gear and began our hike, with no expectations of any views and lots of muddy steep trail.  But, as usual, my preconceived notions were not what we ended up with today.
Instead, not long after we began our hike the rain began to let up, and then stopped. As you can see from this trillium picture, there was even some sunshine beginning to appear. However, as we climbed in elevation, we ended up inside a cloud, with plenty of mist and soft views through the forest. It's incredibly green with lots of new spring growth all over the place.
Spooky old tree stump
I saw this moss-covered old stump in the mist and thought it looked like it could be one of those forest monsters I've heard about but never encountered. So much of the forest is covered with moss. There would be no way to use it to tell which direction is north, because it's everywhere.
Lake Samish just beginning to appear behind Ellen
We made it to our usual lunch stop, and although we'd been in fog the whole way, just as we sat down to have lunch, it began to clear. It came and went while we enjoyed a fairly quick break; there was some breeze and even with all our extra clothes it wasn't exactly warm.
Lake Samish
Just before we left, we saw plenty of the view as the clouds lifted temporarily. We saw them bearing down on us again, so we packed up and headed back down the way we had come.
Tree root
This beautiful tree root in the trail has been burnished by years of bikers and hikers running over it, as well as the changing seasons, weather, and time. I was amazed at the whorls and design that had been hidden from view until it was scoured clean.
On our way back
And then it was time to turn around and return to the cars the same way we had come. By the time we finished, we had hiked somewhere around eight miles and struggled up and down almost 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Only a few spots are really steep, but they were as challenging going back down as they were coming up, just in a different way. All in all, a very good day, much better than I expected when we began!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

We made it to the Tulip Festival

Me and Judy
Yesterday morning Judy and I headed to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, on as late a date as I've ever been, and lo and behold, we were at the beginning of the bloom, if you can believe it. The past two years we had an early spring, and in 2015 the flowers were about where they are now by the end of March! By the end of April they were all gone. Not so this year.
Daffodils amongst the tulips
Judy was especially anxious to see all the different varieties of daffodils, and she hoped to find just the right ones to plant in her garden for next spring. You can see how beautiful the tulip and daffodil fields are right at this moment. We wandered in happy enjoyment, appreciating the incredible variety that the RoozenGaarde gardens provided us (for a fee).
More tulips, hyacinths, and trees in bloom
Although there is another outfit, Tulip Town, along with lots of fields of tulips planted, I have always gone to RoozenGaarde and gotten all the eye candy I could handle. After wandering for awhile in the gardens, we walked into the back fields to enjoy the seemingly endless fields of tulips.
Pretty red tulips with mountains in the background
We had partly cloudy skies, which actually made it easier to photograph the beauty all around us, and it also added interesting cloud formations. Every once in awhile we'd have both sun and clouds making for some enjoyable pictures.
Not quite open
It seemed like the darker colored tulips were late bloomers, but one thing the designers like to do is mix them up, early, mid- and late-bloomers all together in the gardens, and my only regret about going yesterday is missing the moment when the vast majority of the fields would be at their peak. It was a very small regret, though.
An assortment of colors
I'm not sure why I like this picture so much, but I notice that my eyes were drawn to this assortment of colors and varieties all mixed together. Plus there was that huge field of daffodils behind them that added even more delight to the old eyeballs. By the time we left around noon (after three hours of wandering), I was astounded at the sheer numbers of people who had arrived on a Monday to see the flowers. I would never have been able to get pictures without hordes of people if we had waited.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing the tulips as much as we did. Spring has rolled around once again and my heart is filled with joy at all the beauty surrounding us. I love this place!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A mostly sunny Saturday

Bursting to bloom lilac buds
On the way home after our walk around Lake Padden this morning with the ladies, I spied this lilac bloom in the driveway, showing how quickly our spring changes from nothing much to full-on blooms. In another few days, I'll see the first of the flowers, and within a week after that, they'll start to wither. You gotta be fast to capture the lilacs around here. It seems just a few days ago that there wasn't even much sign of them, and now look.

I managed to walk twice around the lake for a total of 5.2 miles, so I guess I can say that I am back to normal with the hip business. I'm not as fast as I was, but who cares? I can do it, once again. I made the mistake of not wearing my waterproof light boots, and it was a muddy mess on the trail around the lake, which I should have realized. No matter, they will clean up just fine.

Then Lily and I went over to the Farmers' Market, where every person I saw was wearing a smile and basking in the sun's rays. Those of you who don't have days and weeks of rain have no idea how happy we become when that yellow sun begins to shine here. It's the beginning of a wonderful season to come! Yay!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A fun Chuckanut ramble

Looking out at Bellingham Bay from Gates Overlook
Twelve intrepid Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to discuss where we might like to go today, since our scheduled hike has a washed-out bridge (two more joined us at the trailhead). We decided to take Al up on his "ramble" through the Chuckanuts, covering several of our usual hangouts all at once.
Our route today
We drove up Cleator Road from Highway 11 almost to Gates Overlook and parked our cars near the Fragrance Lake trail. We took a shortcut from the road up to Chuckanut Ridge, where we walked until we reached the Rock Trail. It's a lovely hike and the weather was cooperating; we expected a deluge at any minute, but we didn't have ONE raindrop all day long!
Stairs at the start of the Rock Trail
We headed down the stairs to enjoy the 1.2-mile-long Rock Trail that leads us to the Lost Lake Trail. One person, Kathy, had not been on this trail before, so it was fun to see her enjoy this place for the first time.
One of the massive rocks
This is a fairly new trail created in the past few years, and it's a favorite for many of us. It connects Gates Overlook with the Lost Lake trail, whereas before there was no access from the Overlook to that trail. Along the way, we saw the trillium are just beginning to bloom.
Almost open trillium
These are some of my favorite early spring flowers. We did see a few that had opened, but because of all the rain we had last night (you can see the raindrops on them still), there were none open and smiling at the sun, with a few new blooms drooping forlornly.
Carol and Melanie in the sunshine
But we began to get some sun breaks and blue skies above. This was not expected at all, but it sure brought smiles to our faces, and before too long, we even had to start taking off some clothes instead of piling on rain gear. What a concept!
Lost Lake
We got down to Lost Lake at around 11:00am, too early for lunch, so we had a quick snack. The wind was blowing pretty hard most of the day, but there were many places that were protected from the worst of it. Still, the temperature wasn't warm, by any means, once you stopped for any length of time.
Peggy, Carol, Kathy and me in front (Melanie's pic)
As you can see, we didn't take off much of our warm clothes for our short stop. Kathy thought this was our lunch spot and she had already broken out her sandwich. Her expression was comical when she discovered we weren't staying.
See the lake in the distance? That's Lost Lake
From there, we hiked up to Burnout Point, and as you can see from this picture, it was a little bit on the steep side. I was very glad when it reached the summit so we could have lunch, as well as knowing we had climbed the majority of our elevation for the day.
Hunkered down out of the wind for lunch
Here's where we finally settled in for lunch. Still no rain, but you can see that the clouds were threatening, in between the sun breaks and we were pretty sure we would be getting wet before the day was over.
Magnificent Salish Sea
However, before we headed down for the return trip, we looked out at the beautiful view to the west from the top, gazing at all the islands and a beautiful sky, with no rain clouds to be seen. It was windy, though, and nobody was warm, so we didn't stay long after we finished our lunch.
Returning on the South Lost Lake Trail
And then we headed back to the cars, even though Al gave us the choice of extending the hike by returning to the Rock Trail and adding a little distance. Nobody took him up on it, though; we had hiked almost nine miles and covered around 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss by the time we finished. It turned out to be pretty much just right: nobody was worn out and we had a wonderful day without any rain. Perfect!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It's that time of year again

Baby veggies
I bought my first pair of gardening gloves for the season, and some pansies and heather to plant in my front porch garden. In a week or so, I'll put the first of the vegetable starts into the plot in the back, but this year I'm limiting what I grow to just a few favorites, and I think I'll put lots of bee-friendly flowers in there as well. Oh, and tomatoes when the time comes (it's not time yet).

I took a look at the Bloom Map at the Tulip Festival in Skagit County just south of us, and it's still early to view the fields of tulips. The daffodil fields are all at their peak, but it's really the tulips that I go to see. By the end of this week they will be out. As a retired person, I don't have to attend on the weekends when everybody else goes, and this Sunday is Easter as well. Next week will be soon enough. Take a look at this picture from this date two years ago:
April 8, 2015
Yes, that's what I expect to see when I visit next week. I hope I will have a sunny day for the trip south. We had glorious sunshine today, but the rain returns tonight, and we'll have at least two or three days of more drippy weather before it turns nice again.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The weeks are rushing by

Spring green popping out on the trees
I keep thinking that I'll go out and take pictures of the beautiful blossoming trees around here, but since I've been waiting for a sunny day, I'm still waiting. Today on the walk with the ladies, it was forecast to be raining. Again. Although I was not happy about it, I decided to go ahead and walk anyway, and I talked Lily into going with me. It sprinkled a little but we didn't get a downpour.

It was a small group, and I was a little dismayed to notice that none of the slower walkers were there, meaning I'd be in the back and struggling to keep up. That's exactly what happened, but I was pleased that I was able to go the full six miles, even if I couldn't keep up the blistering pace of the ladies in front.

I cannot believe how fast the spring is busting out everywhere around here. Everything is either in bloom or greening up. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and Easter is next week!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Burnout Point and Fragrance Lake

Group at Samish Bay viewpoint
Well, for a day that I thought — no, was SURE — was going to be a complete washout, it turned out to be just fine! Fifteen Senior Trailblazers showed up on a day when we were supposed to have a half an inch of rain by noon. It wasn't raining when we started out, and as you can see here, after an hour's hike we are still not in the rain. It was a little windy, however, so we didn't hang out here too awfully long.
Hiking ever upward
The first half of the hike is on old logging roads, like the one you see here. We gain plenty of elevation, just going up and up, all of us trudging upwards at different speeds. I was back in the pack but making steady upward progress. Once we reach the top, we have another wonderful view.
Melanie at the view at our highest point
By this time we had done most of the elevation we must climb on this hike, and then we headed back down another trail, which leads us to the South Lost Lake trail. Once we started down the path, we were soon hiking in forest instead of on old logging roads.
A little muddy
You can see the condition of the trail, plenty of mud and less-than-optimal circumstances, but by this time we had only experienced short bouts of rain. Notice the pack cover, added since the last picture. From here, the trail goes downhill until we get to the Fragrance Lake junction. We headed there, one of our favorite spots to have lunch, and settled in for a nice break.
Nice and dry in the light rain
I enjoyed my lunch and the conversation, remarking on how much better the day turned out than we had expected. Yes, there was a little rain, but nothing like we thought we'd have. We were actually having fun!
Kirk, Joy, Jay, Dave
If you look at the people sitting on the log in the picture above, you can see who those people are in this front view. Kirk's poncho shows that it's raining lightly, but nobody is having a problem with it. Although you cannot see him, Mikey is at the end of that log, too.
Twisty tree by Fragrance Lake
I saw the bend in this tree and thought it was very interesting. Cindi, who was next to me in the car on the way home, saw this picture and said it looks like a dinosaur, stretching its neck to see above the trees. Once she said that, it's all I can see when I look at it!
Fragrance Lake today
And finally, a picture of the lake before we started the two miles or so downhill back to the cars. By the time we were all done, we had climbed and descended 2,200 feet and 8.7 miles. Some of us wanted to round that last number up to 9, but the truth is that it was a bit less. Now, if we'd gone another tenth of a mile, 8.8, I would have rounded it up in a flash. I wonder why that is. Anyway, I'm tired, I'm glad I went, and now I can enjoy stretching out my tired muscles. My hip is 95% back to normal, but I must continue my exercises to get it all the way back!