Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Abundant bleeding hearts

Dicentra formosa (Pacific bleeding heart)
One thing I love about hiking around the Pacific Northwest is the abundance of lush greenery, but also the incredible number of wildflowers I've seen. This pretty thing is called a Pacific bleeding heart, and I've seen it in several different colors, from pale pink to deep reddish purple. They are related to Lamprocapnos spectabilis, another popular plant called "bleeding heart", which was formerly placed in the same genus, according to Wikipedia.
Darker bleeding hearts
In another few weeks, we'll be able to start hiking in the High Country, and all the flowers that have already bloomed down at sea level will be available for us to enjoy once again, at altitude. I never tire of the beauty that surrounds me in this part of the world. Every year they come up again, I don't think it's just simply for my enjoyment, but you never know. Maybe...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lummi Island Memorial Day weekend walk

On the early morning ferry to Lummi Island
This morning thirteen ladies and one gentleman (married to Joan) took the Lummi Island ferry to begin our seven-mile walk around the northern part of the island. After a short ferry ride, it's a lovely walk. We have done it a few times before, but today marks the nicest day, weather wise, that we've had for a Memorial Day weekend. In fact, I learned on the news that we haven't had such a nice three-day weekend at this time of the year since 1995!
Blue skies, sea, and green
We walked briskly on the roads that take us in a loop along much of the ocean, with great views with the sound of lapping waves below us at times. About halfway around, we meet the Willows Hotel and Restaurant and take advantage of their facilities.
At the Willows waiting for everyone to rejoin us
We didn't eat here, since I don't think we could afford it. I heard that a single luncheon is around $100 per person! It sure is a nice place, but way out of our price range. We continued on our trek back to the other side of the island. I was able to walk pretty fast, not as fast as the leaders, but I was encouraged to realize that I can walk as well as I could before my hip issues intervened.
Finishing up a sumptuous breakfast
After the walk, we stopped in at the Beach Store Cafe and enjoyed a very good and not-too-pricey breakfast. Full and replete, we headed back to catch the 12:30pm ferry to the mainland. By that time, the number of cars waiting to load on the ferry was enormous, and they would not all be able to get on the one tiny ferry but would have to wait for the next one. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry.
Cindy, Sally, Carol, me, Lily
Since you buy a ticket for both directions when you board, we didn't all return at the same time, but a few walkers were happy to have most of the day before us as we climbed on. All in all, it was a truly wonderful adventure, and we commented on how just getting on a ferry and going somewhere like this makes it feel like a vacation. And we have the entire Memorial Day weekend to enjoy.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Smith or Cub Creek 2017

On the logging road, our first viewpoint
We really don't know what to call this hike, since (as I have said before), there is no "Cub Creek" but there is a Smith Creek, but we always referred to it as the former, until recently. We last went up this hike in November, just before Thanksgiving. Here's a link, if you're interested. Seventeen of us met today, I think because the weather is so fine, not because we love this hike. Okay, some of us might, but I'm not one of them.
Making our way through the branches
We travel up Stewart Mountain on trails until we get to the logging road and the power lines. That's a lot of uphill, but then we must make our way through some heavy underbrush. It was slow going because Al in front stopped to snip branches out of the way and make the trail more usable. It was cloudy at this time, but we could see the clouds would probably not be lasting much longer.
Salmonberry in the dense forest
I took this picture of the pretty salmonberry while I was waiting in the long line to move forward. I was towards the end of the group, which meant I had some time to enjoy my surroundings. The weather was perfect for hiking, and after all the uphill we had done, I was glad to rest a bit.
Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters
And then we reached our destination for lunch, with a magnificent view of the mountains in one direction. I knew from previous trips that we had climbed more than 2,500 feet of elevation, which is one reason why I felt rather tired. The clouds cleared out, as you can see here, and with a light breeze and full sun, we enjoyed a nice relaxed lunch.
Spreading out and taking a nice break for lunch
We were all busy snapping pictures after our lunch break, and I got Bob to take this picture of Carol and me. There were a few other people in the picture, but I was desperate to crop the picture so that my muffin top wouldn't show. I know, I'm not fooling anybody.
Me, Carol, and our beloved mountains behind
After lunch, we descended from our mountain views and headed back down to the logging road. We didn't have to navigate the tough parts again, as we made a loop back down. We were also treated to a lovely view of Lake Whatcom and the clearcut that was made for the power lines.
Looking down at Lake Whatcom
That's Lake Whatcom below us, and the white strip on the middle right is the clearing for power lines, obviously still quite a visible part of our environment. I suppose they must need to keep that strip cleared in order to give our city its required electricity.
Descending through the lush forest
Our descent reminded me how steeply upwards we had come. My knees felt better than usual, but the tops of my toes began to get sore from the downhill, and I was again extremely grateful for my trekking poles, which make it possible for me to do more than nine miles and 2,600 feet up and down.
It only walks at night, when nobody's around
I have taken pictures of these tree roots before, but I am always impressed by them when I see them. There was a "nurse log" in there once upon a time, which gave the tree the chance to establish itself, and then it decayed away. But I swear I always think that living tree looks like it could walk away.
Carol's two bumper stickers
And then we were back at the cars and ready to change our boots and head back home. I saw these wonderful bumper stickers on the back of Carol's car and felt I must share them. The one is obvious in its appropriateness, and the other is the Bellingham flag: two stars to represent our two Native American tribes, the Nooksack and the Lummi. The waves represent Whatcom Falls, and the four stripes represent the four cities that combined to make our home: Sehome, Whatcom, Fairhaven, and Bellingham. It was a magnificent day in our wonderful home town!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Garden is getting serious

Sugar snap peas climbing their way upwards
Well, we have a period of incredibly sunny and warm days ahead of us. In fact, I cannot see any signs of rain in the long-range forecast, which is a little strange for us. We usually have weather like this in August for a few weeks, but we are more than happy to take it now, after so much rain for so long. However, John at the coffee shop lamented the possibility of us having a higher-than-normal fire season, with so much lush green and now the opposite is on the way. The picture above shows my sugar snap peas today, and I suspect that they will grow twice as high in the next couple of weeks, if we continue to run ten to fifteen degrees warmer than normal, with full sun.
Yellow strawberries
I also saw that the strawberry patch is beginning to get berries, even if they are just yellow things right now, it won't be long! You will see them as soon as I gather my first of the season. And remember the covers I put on my zucchini plants? I had to take them off as they began to push against the sides and needed to breathe. I did decide to sprinkle Sluggo around them, even though I really don't like to kill things, I make an exception for slugs.
Zucchini plants struggling to survive the slug onslaught
Once they get a little larger, I won't mind the slugs taking a bite or two. But for now, they can kill them by chewing the plants to little nubs. They've done it before. We're going to be planting and watering away for the next few weeks, so I'm actually thrilled to realize that our garden will be bearing fruit quite soon. Yay!
Seed starter packets 
John gave me some of his scarlet runner beans to plant from seeds, so I knew I'd need some help to get them past the baby stage and found this little starter sixteen-square setup. I'll put two or three seeds in each one and then when they are well rooted, I'll put them out to climb the garden fence. Can you tell I'm a happy gardener?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's definitely springtime weather

Goslings with Mom and Dad
Twenty-one ladies met at the Farmers' Market location this morning to start our walk to the Fairhaven ferry terminal. The weather, sunny and delightful, is one reason why there were so many of us today. Plus, it's an easy three miles along Boulevard Park before getting to Fairhaven. We saw this family of Canadian geese as we walked and had to stop to get a picture. Aren't they precious? Many a time I've seen a family like this and mourned the loss of the little ones as they disappear, usually one at a time. There's a reason that so many are hatched at a time: they must look like little snacks to predators.

Once we got to the ferry terminal, Cindy (our leader) suggested that maybe we should take the trails behind the water treatment plant to add a little more distance, but a few of us decided to turn around and head back to the Market a bit early. I was feeling my hip a little, and I asked for a picture with each person with an "ow-ee" to point at it.
Cindy (foot), Lily (arm), Terry (bursitis), Judith (toe), Linda (knee)
But in any event, we were well exercised by the time we got to the Farmers' Market Depot, and everybody was happy to be out and about on such a day. Will it last? Apparently the next week will be warm and mostly sunny, so yes, we are pleased. Give Pacific Northwesterners a patch of good spring weather and we'll be smiling big!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Our start-of-summer party

The twelve hikers from our group
Today the Senior Trailblazers carpooled to Lake Padden to walk around the horse trails behind Lake Padden. We do this, with the other Trailblazer group either starting an hour earlier and not going as far, or doing another shorter hike and meeting us at the pavilion for our annual beginning-of-summer potluck. Here's a map of the trails around the lake.
All the trails around Lake Padden
My Saturday walking group often walks twice around the 2.6-mile loop around the lake (in fact, we did it just this last Saturday), but today we Trailblazers started from the south end, near the dog park, to hike the horse trails for around five miles. This is a dog-off-leash area, and we met several well-behaved dogs with their humans on the trails. We emerged from the trails to join the regular loop near the westernmost dock, then added another mile to get back to the pavilion, where we'd meet the other group.
Such a beautiful green forest
Although we were without any rain at all, our recent showers made much of the trail muddy, as you can see in the picture above. But our forest is so beautiful and lush, it makes up for all the rain. And especially since it was nice and dry overhead with just about perfect hiking weather, nobody minded a bit.
A trillium gathering
We saw this group of beautiful trillium, almost spent, since the white flowers turn pink as they decay, but it was still so very lovely to see them. I know I've said it before, but I am often struck by the close proximity we have of myriad places to walk and hike in Bellingham, and today was no exception.
Settling in for lunch at the pavilion
By the time we saw the pavilion, we also saw that the other group had already arrived and had brought their food to the table. We joined them and although it was early, there was so much food and so many choices that we didn't let a little thing like the fact that it wasn't quite 11:30 stop us. And I got to see and visit with so many people I don't see often, such as those in the other group and others who came after the hike to socialize.
Three ladies from the other group enjoying lunch
As you can see from the way we are dressed, it wasn't warm, as the sun kept hiding from us, and a cool breeze kept us from being totally comfortable. After walking and being so warm from exercise, I was chilled but enjoyed myself once I wrapped up in the extra clothes I brought along.
Jonelle and Carol
I hadn't seen Jonelle in ages, and it was so nice to see her today. She's dealing with bursitis in her knee, and that's after getting over some back trouble she'd been dealing with earlier. That's one of the problems that we Seniors must accept: one thing gets fixed and another one begins to hurt. It helps so much to have friends who understand. Jonelle is hopeful that she'll be on the trail with us this summer.
Me in front of a great flower display
Carol took this picture of me that I quite like. Although I took pictures of other people with the flowers in the background, they didn't show up nearly as well as they do here, so I had to finish the post with this happy smiling person you might recognize in front of the flowers. It was a good day, and we covered around six miles total, with close to 1,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (not much for our group, but enough for today) and once I stop feeling quite so full, I'll be much happier and tell myself that next year I won't eat so much at the potluck (yeah, right)!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gardening news

Lily in the garden on Mother's Day
The afternoon of Sunday, Mother's Day, finally gave us a respite from the constant rain, but it didn't last long. Rob gave all of us mothers a lovely carnation and some champagne. We were sitting out in the garden enjoying the company and the warm rays of the sun. Behind Lily, in Lynn's new spot, you can see three raised beds, which are her Mother's Day present from her son Soren. Yesterday it rained all day long.
Plastic bottles to protect the zucchini from slugs
I planted four zucchini plants, and the slugs had been feasting on them so much that one died, and the others were on their way to the same death. Nate, Rob's son, showed me how to cut plastic bottles in half and place them over the plants in order to keep them from getting chewed down to nothing by the slugs. At some point I'll take the bottles off, but first I want to see if there's anything else I might do to protect my tender plants. I might be forced to use Sluggo, which is ostensibly "natural" and kills the slugs. So far, our beer cups are filled with drowned slugs, and even so there seems to be no shortage of them.

We have some nice weather coming up this week and next, so I'll be out there seeing how our garden grows. I'll keep you posted as spring and summer proceed to, hopefully, some actual veggies!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Our walk was almost dry

Lilacs bouquets at the Farmers' Market
I almost didn't put this picture on the post because I was afraid the scent would be so overpowering that you'd be able to smell it strongly enough that it might create an unstoppable virus and infect everybody's computers. But then somebody beat me to it. I heard yesterday that 45,000 computers were infected with a ransomware virus worldwide! My virus would have been much more benign, just the lovely smell of lilacs.

This morning the ladies met at Lake Padden, one of our regular venues, with light rain falling when we began, with overcast skies but happy smiling faces, since we knew that we could stop pretty much at any time if it got worse. But instead it got much better, with just a little rain, and even some sun puddles interspersed with the mud puddles. That's the nice part about this time of year: yes, it might be raining, or overcast, but just wait awhile and it'll change.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day here in the US, and everywhere there were bouquets to be purchased, and the Farmers' Market had plenty of items to choose for Mom. I didn't buy one of these, but I did spend some time admiring them.
Pretty heart cookies
One really good part of getting old is that I've probably eaten, at least once, every kind of cookie there is in the world, and if I concentrate really hard, I can taste these without buying them. I call it being able to eat with my eyes. A seriously useful skill that helps to keep my calories down.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A wet but pretty great hike today

Foggy at times
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers met to decide what to do on a day when the weather was forecast to be overcast and wet at times. Instead of driving 70 miles south for our scheduled hike, we decided to stay close to home where, as Al opined, we had perfectly good rain here in Bellingham to walk in without a long drive. It was raining lightly when we left at 8:00am for the North Chuckanut trailhead, but by the time we started, the rain had stopped. As you can see, it was plenty misty but not actively raining at the moment.
Someone pointed out this plant that had no fewer than six slugs having breakfast. I captured two of them in the picture, but Barb was the one who called it a "slugfest," so I simply had to put a picture up so I could use the phrase. Just too good not to use it.
View from Raptor Ridge
Our plan was to make it up to Raptor Ridge, about a four-mile hike, and we fully expected to be walking in the rain by this time, and although it was still threatening, we were still dry. We even had an unexpected view, as you can see here. It was windy, and since most of us were sweaty from our exertions, we discussed turning around and taking a leisurely (and slightly longer) way back to the cars.
Carol on Raptor Ridge
I got this nice picture of Carol while we were on the ridge, and somewhere right about this time we felt our first raindrops. Maybe they will stop, we hoped, but they became more numerous not long after. It was warm, so nobody hurried to get on their rain gear, as we knew we'd be too warm before long.
Fungi condominium
Several of us took pictures of this pretty fungi on an old log. We live in a beautiful part of the country, and I felt very happy and fortunate as we hiked, even while wearing my rain gear. For a change, I tried my red poncho because it allows for some air movement, and it wasn't too bad at all.
Licorice ferns growing out of trees
By the time we came to a junction, we decided not to take the longer way back, but instead return to the cars and head to the local grocery store, Haggen's, that has a lunchroom and eat our lunch there. So that's just what we did. And just as we reached the cars and climbed in, the heavens opened with a deluge! We were amazed at our incredible timing and happy to be inside and not having been caught in that downpour.
Our lunch spot for the day
Not everybody stayed for lunch, but those of us who did enjoyed it in a nice warm dry location. Barb took this picture and sent it to me, which is why I'm in it. That's Al's head behind me. All in all, it was a truly lovely day, not too long (under eight miles and just under 2,000 elevation gain and loss), and we mostly stayed dry in our rain gear. That wouldn't have been the case if we had remained out there much longer, so once again the weather gods seem to be looking out for us!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gardening fun

Plot is almost finished
I just came in from the garden, washed off my hands and sat down here to write my post for the day. I realized I was so busy out there that I completely forgot that I hadn't done it yet. So it's obvious that the garden should be the focus. I have planted peas, kale, tomatoes, plus the strawberries and raspberries from last year. I also want to plant some of my friend John's scarlet runner beans.
Lynn, Nate, Rob, Hedi
Those of us who were working in the garden discussed the problem. Those scarlet runner beans are really tasty and the plants are beautiful, but they grow tall and thick. We think we'll plant them along the fence to be shared by all. Or, we might find some kind of trellis that I could put in a strategic place. I'll keep you posted on how I proceed.

Our community is strengthened by our garden, that's for sure. These people are now my dear friends, as we begin our fifth season. Those of you who have followed me for awhile might remember what a neophyte I was when our apartment owners built the fence to keep out deer, and we started clearing the area. Here's what it looked like and how we first got some of that grass under control.
Our professional grass cutters
One of the guys behind the project was able to borrow these two goats who came to our area for an entire week before we then rototilled the remainder under and then spread horse manure (piled in the corners of the garden) before deciding how to apportion the plots. My gloves and shovel are brand new and had never been used. Boy, have I learned a lot in five years!!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Crazy beautiful weather

Light coming through the honey
This morning eighteen of us ladies gathered for our Saturday morning walk, and it was simply sublime. We covered five miles or so in brilliant sunshine. Today's weather is the reason why we all stick around through all the dreary days of winter; it was crisp and cool, sunny and magnificent. We'll probably get almost to 60°F (13°C) today, same as yesterday, when it rained most of the day. The temperature, if you can believe it, on Thursday, the day of our hike, made it all the way to 80° here in Bellingham before thunderstorms moved in. All day long yesterday the temperature fell. It was weirdly humid and hot on Thursday, but today it's just perfect! Lily and I went to the Farmers' Market afterwards for some items and I saw this great picture (above).
Front porch flowers
My front porch is showing off some of the flowers I've gathered for the season. Only one plant made it through the winter in that middle box, but I've filled it with new flowers, even a begonia (my first). If I keep the pansies well watered, they should stay all summer long.
Pansies and coral bells (?)
I also have some giant pansies on the left, and I bought and repotted the plant on the right, but I'm not sure exactly what it's called. I figure one of my readers will know, but Lynn thought maybe they are coral bells, which makes sense, looking at the flowers. Anyhow, my front porch gives me great pleasure every time I walk out the door these days. And the community garden is finally getting planted, too. I'll show you how it's coming along soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Two Dollar Trail redux

Heading up the Two Dollar trail
Eighteen Senior Trailblazers planned to drive to Gates Overlook and hike down the Rock Trail and up to Raptor Ridge. Unfortunately, the gate was closed on Cleator Road, blocking us from the Overlook. Instead, we decided to take the Two Dollar trail off the same road and hike instead to Burnout Point and Gates Overlook for lunch, then return. Since we were parked right at the Two Dollar trailhead, it made sense.
Victoria and waterfall
It was overcast when we started out, with dense fog having moved in during the night. It was cool in Bellingham yesterday, while the Seattle area basked in the mid-70s. Today it was our turn, with warm temperatures and, when the skies cleared, lots and lots of sunshine.
What a view from Burnout Point
We made it up to Burnout Point by mid-morning and admired the view. Al suggested that we have a quick snack and then head to Gates Overlook for lunch We all agreed, as nobody was in a hurry to leave this wonderful view. You are looking at the Salish Sea and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. The remnants of the clouds quickly burned off.
Let's take some pictures
As we settled in for a snack, the cameras came out everywhere. When we visited this place a few months ago, it was not exactly raining but we didn't have much of a view. Today, however, it was not only sunny and warm, you could see for miles and miles.
On the Rock Trail
The we headed down the Lost Lake trail and up the Rock Trail to Gates Overlook. This favorite part of the hike, the Rock Trail, was the first time for a few of today's Trailblazers. It climbs rather steeply up to the Overlook, but almost 200 steps have been constructed into the trail to make it easier to navigate. I myself would rather travel up those stairs than down.
The new view from Gates Overlook
And then we reached Gates Overlook for our lunch spot, right at noon. You can see Chuckanut Bay below in the distance, and we noticed that someone, probably the Forest Service, has chopped down several trees to give us a much better view.
One of the three picnic tables we shared
We could tell that the gate was still not open, because no cars made it up there to join us. We speculated that they are grading the road and getting it ready for more activity. The view enhancement project might have been part of the reason for the closure, too.
Heading back to the cars
No matter the reason, our substitute hike was perfect. As you can see from this picture, we had plenty of sunshine streaming through the trees as we headed back down the Two Dollar trail. It felt like our first summer day, with the temperature in the low 70's and no need for our rain gear at all, or even gloves! A simply lovely day.
Our trailhead today
I don't have any idea where this trail got its name, but we traveled up it for the first time (for me) this February. You can read about it here, if you're interested. Today was a MUCH nicer day, and although I'm really tired, I'm very glad I went today and have plenty of time to relax and recover. We traveled over nine miles and gained and lost 2,300 feet of elevation. It wasn't the hike we planned today. It was better!