Thursday, June 29, 2017

Noisy Creek 2017

Our beautiful trail today
What a day! We had plenty of snafus and hangups, but it still turned out to be a great day. It's a little before 7:00pm and here I am just sitting down to write my post. But I'm showered and sipping wine, so life is good. Let me explain what I and my sixteen fellow Trailblazers went through today.

We met at the Senior Center as usual, although we had a little problem when we went off to get into our cars: unbeknownst to the rest of us, Bob, who could carry five people in his car, couldn't find his keys when they went to leave. After a fruitless search, Ellen decided to drive the four of remaining hikers (we don't know what happened with Bob). We had prearranged to meet at the turnoff from Highway 20 to the Baker Lake area. We were waiting for quite awhile before I realized that I had Melanie's cellphone number, and she was one of the missing. I called her and heard about the car snafu, but soon they all showed up. We ended up getting to the trailhead and beginning our long hike at 10:30am.
Incredible maidenhair ferns
One of the things I love about this hike is the abundance of my favorite fern, the maidenhair fern. I see this around the rest of the Pacific Northwest, but nothing like the abundance I see at Baker Lake. Our hike begins at the southernmost trailhead and crosses a suspension bridge to get us to the east side of the lake. A wonderful description of the hike is here, written by Washington Trails Association. It's just under five miles to the Noisy Creek campground, and along the way we saw so many lovely sights.
Giant cedar with burls
Early in our walk, we saw this huge cedar tree, if not old growth then still magnificent. I wish I had thought to put somebody next to it so you could see how huge it is. We did stop long enough to enjoy its size and beauty. Then we continued on the trail to the Noisy Creek campground, with plenty to see and enjoy.
Waterfalls in dappled sunlight
Once we got there, we had the most incredible view of Mt. Baker and the lake, with perfect conditions, a cool breeze keeping the heat down and a cloudless sky. I don't think I've ever gotten such a perfect picture of Mt. Baker on this hike before, but here is today's view.
Mt. Baker and Baker Lake
A couple of our Trailblazers shed their clothes and jumped in the lake, but most of us just relaxed and enjoyed the view. Several who had not gone up to see "Old Doug," the biggest and most magnificent Douglas fir, hiked up the steep trail to see the tree. I've been twice before, so I stayed behind to rest for the return trip.
Return trip was a little sunnier
Going back the way we had come showed the difference between when it's early in the sunny day and when the sunshine has been beating down all day: some of us were dragging and wishing we could make it back to the cars, just putting one foot in front of the other. We covered almost ten miles and 1,100 feet of elevation gain and loss. Those who hiked up to see the big tree made an easy ten. The way I feel right now, I don't think it would have been a good idea for me to have done even one step further. I'm spent.

But now my post is written, it's a quarter past 7:00pm, my wine is gone, and I don't think anything could peel me from my easy chair for awhile. It's been a good, long, and very full day!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Enticing Tuesday

My neighbor's porch
Okay, I know it's late for this post. I was sitting next door at Lynn's enjoying a glass of wine with these lovely ladies (who had just returned from a walk) when I realized that I had forgotten my Tuesday post!

It was partly because today was the first session of a new yoga semester, and once I returned home I decided to run some errands. And then before I knew it, the entire afternoon had passed me by. These ladies were drinking their wine and I decided to join them to tell the story of my friend Ronni, who posted her first aprè-operation post yesterday: a mere four days after a 14-hour surgery, she wrote this post for her devoted followers, of which I am one.

And now it's after 5:00pm here in Washington state, and I'm enjoying the last of my own wine before settling down to write a quick-and-dirty post for you. Today has been incredibly perfect, weather-wise: it's not even 70°F outside, with a light breeze, making me think that heaven could not be more perfect than this. I wish I could send this to you via blog post, but you'll have to use your imagination,  I suspect. What's your weather like?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sultry Saturday

Neighbor's poppies
Boy, it sure feels like summer! We are experiencing some of the warmest temperatures of the year so far, and Seattle should reach into the 90s this weekend. We'll top out somewhere in the mid-eighties, which for Bellinghamsters is plenty warm enough.
Raspberries are getting closer

See that one raspberry that is almost red? I couldn't resist and I picked it and ate it. Wonderful! When they are all ripe, I'll have so many I won't be able to eat them all and will be forced to share.
King Dan
One of our gardening neighbors, Nathan, built himself a garden throne, and  here you see King Dan making use of it. Every garden needs a king, don't you think? He's holding a magic orb, as you can see. I didn't realize when I took the picture that his crown would have a stake coming out of it from the fencepost. Oh, well, I like the picture anyway!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Goat Mountain Overlook 2017

The Goat Mountain trailhead
Fifteen of us Senior Trailblazers gathered this morning to head up Goat Mountain today. We were told in no uncertain terms at the Glacier Ranger Station that we would need to limit our group to no more than twelve, with at least a mile between groups. We solved that by asking for volunteers to travel up the trail first. Seven agreed to do it, and once they headed out, we waited a good fifteen minutes before the other eight of us began our walk. I was in the second group.
A beautiful trillium in full bloom
The trail winds steeply upwards with switchbacks and beautiful dense forest to block the sunlight for the first part. The higher we got, the more trillium we saw, although here at sea level they are all gone, now that we are in the High Country once again, we are blessed with wildflowers that are gone from lower elevations. This hike starts at 2,500 feet elevation and goes up almost 3,000 feet to a lookout point, our destination for the day.
Mutant or another species?
While traveling up the steep switchbacks, we saw this amazing flower. Is it a trillium with four petals and four leaves? Or is it another species altogether? If any of my followers can enlighten me, I would be so happy to find out what we saw, immortalized in this picture.
Our snow field in the lower meadow
When we reached the lower meadow, we saw that we would be walking on snow for the remainder of the hike to the overlook. Most of us strapped on our various traction gear onto our boots. Some had spikes, but most of us were like me, making do with YakTrax. They helped a great deal going upwards on slushy snow, but I have to say it wasn't easy at all: two steps up and one step back.
The view was wonderful as we hiked upwards
Once we hit the snow, I was so grateful for my transition lenses which turned completely black to protect my eyes. If I had glacier goggles, they are the only thing that would have been better than these. I stopped frequently and drank a lot of water as I trudged up the slopes. We never saw the previous group, but two of them, Melanie and Ellen, had stopped and we ran into them, so we were now ten (still within the wilderness limit).
Cindy in front of Sefrit (left) and Shuksan (right)
And then we were at the overlook, with incredible views of these mountains, as well as Mt. Baker. We were all more than ready for lunch, so we spread ourselves out in the few outcroppings clear of snow and had a very nice repast. I put on my jacket, but frankly I didn't need it. Habit, I guess. It was so beautiful, and we had a few Trailblazers who were on Goat Mountain for the first time. We'll head up again once all that snow is mostly gone, but I was so happy to be part of today's group.
Mt. Baker on the right, with some Trailblazers below
After this picture was taken, we started our downward trek, returning the way we had come. It was WAY harder to go down that snow, and my knees right now are not feeling great, having to hold myself back on the steep slopes, and many of us took a spill or two. (I stayed upright, but I'm not sure exactly why.)
Calypso orchid
On the way down, I captured this picture of a magnificent Calypso Orchid. We saw some other orchids s that were very tiny, but I discovered when I kneeled down to get this shot, I could not get back up without help. My knees complained mightily. No more pictures for me, just concentrate on getting back down to the cars.

Which is just what we did. We all arrived at the cars, to find that it had been more than an hour since the previous group had return to the parking lot. They were not only faster, but they also obviously had not stopped to take pictures of the flowers. All in all, we covered more than seven miles and almost 3,000 feet of up and down, a good part of it on steep slushy snow. There is a reason I am sitting here in my chair feeling very tired. But what a day! I had a great one.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leo is growing fast

Leo's mom took this on Sunday
It's quite amazing to me that Leo is growing up so fast. I took this picture exactly a year ago, and it looks to me like Leo has grown several inches. His two front teeth are also completely grown in. It's hard for me to believe that I've known him since he was six months old and not yet walking, but now he's outgrown his playtime with me. He's always got his nose buried in a book, or he's drawing something.
Surrounded by lots of green goodies
Leo is not the only thing growing around here right now: here I am in my garden, surrounded by lots of tasty treats. We harvested that kale in the foreground and it's now steamed and in the fridge. Next to me is my incredible sugar snap peas that have grown past the top of the barrier! And behind me on the right are heavily laden raspberry bushes. In my lap is one of the last two starts of the scarlet runner beans I got from John, who grew them in his garden last year. You can also see them over my right shoulder, ready to climb the fence.

Yes, June is busting out all over, isn't she? Sorry, I couldn't resist. Hope you're having a good day, staying cool if appropriate, since I see there's a heat wave happening in the southwest, while we will be lucky to reach 70°F today. I'll take it, even if I have to deal with a little liquid sunshine (read: rain).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A wonderful day

Whatcom creek this morning
What a beautiful day! I woke in the best mood and here it is, noon, and I'm still feeling great. We ladies met for a nice walk in Whatcom Falls park this morning, with filtered sunlight and cool temperatures. Just perfect, if you ask me. I also noticed on my blog that I have reached 200 followers on the sidebar app. First time! You may not see it because it does vary, but it's never before had that magic number on it.
Young buck
On the walk through the park, this young fellow joined us for a short time. He displayed no fear of us, since so many people walk through the park I guess he knew we were harmless. If you look closely you can see his fuzzy antlers, which is why I figured it must be a buck.
Raven Breads
Then Lily and I headed over to the Farmers' Market and I bought some of Sophie's wonderful bread. That's her leaning behind, setting up for the day. She hauls all that stuff to the market on her bike with her cargo trailer. She is an amazingly accomplished person, and I love her Volkornbrot (I call it my Vulcan bread) which is made with only rye flower, sunflower seeds, and salt. Yum!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

First wilderness hike of the year

Heading up to the Church Mountain meadows
Only eight Senior Trailblazers gathered today to head up for our first hike into the High Country, up the Mt. Baker Highway to the Church Mountain trailhead. It's a long drive, and we figured the entire time outside would be spent in our rain gear, since the projection was, once again, for heavy rain for the entire day. It had been so long since we'd visited some of our favorite hikes that we went anyway. We first did this hike last year in mid-May, and there was much less snow than what we encountered today. It varies from year to year. We went last year a second time in early June, and it was more like today, but the weather was better. Check out last year's hike to see what I mean.

We hiked for most of the early part of the day, before we reached the meadows, in either no rain or light mist. Nobody, you might notice in that picture, was wearing rain gear. Yet. That would change, but we sure felt blessed by the lack of it to start.
We met our first snow not far from the meadows
It was still not raining, and we had hiked up most of the switchbacks that lead us to the meadows, and only a very light sprinkle caused most of us to keep going upward without rain gear. As soon as we came out into the meadows, however, the light rain began to pick up and we got ready for the snow and rain.
Reaching the meadows
Rich's cool umbrella setup has been modified again, based on last week's test case, and it seemed to work really well. He didn't have to put on any more rain gear (except a pack cover) until we ventured out into the snow. Several people put on their "spikes" or traction gear on their boots, but unfortunately mine was left behind; I just forgot.
Church Mountain Meadow today
By the time we got to this spot, it was raining and blowing quite hard, with nobody really wanting to go much farther. We weren't going to have a chance to do anything but trudge upward and go nowhere. So we stopped for lunch, since it was already noon anyway.
Today's lunch spot
We found a place mostly out of the wind in the trees and settled down for a quick lunch. I found that my poncho was much warmer in the wind than my rain jacket, and as I hunkered down in the trees, I was able to capture this shot that shows our attempt at staying warm while we replenished ourselves with a little food.
Mountain Man Jim
Before we left, I got this picture of Jim, looking happy and content in somewhat difficult circumstances. Although Jim hasn't been with us long, he's made himself someone I look forward to seeing every week. Plus he was my helper today, holding my gear while I rearranged things accordingly.
Thanks to Jim for the picture
His picture turned out so well I asked him to take one of me, in my red poncho and rain hat. If you can believe it, I was warm and toasty when he took it, but just a bit anxious to get going before anything changed. Standing around was not a good idea, since it was anything but warm.
Returning to the trailhead
We hustled pretty quickly down through the snow and onto the safe and secure path to return to our cars. It was raining a little harder by this time, but we were on our way back to the cars. We knew that all eight of us had managed to deal with the challenging conditions, and nobody was hurt or hypothermic. Yes, a good day. We covered just over six miles of distance, but elevation gain and loss of 2,700 feet (823 m). Not shabby at all. A good hike with great company, and I'm excited about more visits to the High Country in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Gardening news

My scarlet runner beans 
A couple of weeks ago I planted two of John's scarlet runner beans in each of 12 squares in one of those things you use to start plants. Usually I get mine already started from a local garden store, but these beans from John required me to do it myself. I've never done it before, and once I got them all planted and covered, I was impatient to see if the magic would work for me. (You can check out the early garden pictures here, from May 23.) One of the great things about blogging is I can go back and find out the exact date I did something, and these were planted three weeks ago. You know what they say about a watched pot never boiling? Well, I became convinced they were never going to sprout. How wrong I was!
My sugar snap peas in full bloom
Also on that same post, you can see how much these peas have grown in three weeks. These are undoubtedly the sweetest sugar snap peas I've ever enjoyed, and it won't be long now before we're harvesting them. In June!
Soon they will be zucchinis
See those two pretty buds in this picture of the zucchini plants? In a short while they will also be harvested as springtime treats. I am so looking forward to showing you a picture of the garden once I've got the scarlet runner beans planted. I understand they grow up to ten feet tall, so I've got to get some sort of trellis for them. Everyone tells me that the hummingbirds love them, too. If anybody has ideas about how best to plant them, I'm all ears!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Clouds cleared and it turned gorgeous

From our beautiful green walk this morning
It was on the chilly side with a chance of rain when Lily and I set out for our walk with the ladies today. Since it was the grueling walk up Taylor Street and down the 104 stairs, we didn't have much of a turnout, just ten of us. I was glad it was cool and overcast while toiling up that street. Then down the stairs and a quick walk over to the Interurban trail, somewhere around 4-ish miles.
A private garden
I was so delighted to see this wonderful front-yard garden on the way back, showing that (dare I say it) June is busting out all over, everything in full bloom, including that pretty ground cover on the left, little star-shaped lavender flowers.
First strawberries from my garden
Once I got home, I went out to check the condition of my own garden, and figured I'd better pick the ripe strawberries before they catch the eye of our local slug population. Sweet and bite free, they were a wonderful treat before I headed to the movie theater to see Wonder Woman with my friend Judy. It has gotten great reviews, and it takes a lot to get me to see a superhero movie, but I was curious about this one. I enjoyed it very much, although it was a tad long and, as one of the reviewers from the Atlantic said, (Christopher Orr),
The final big action sequence, as now seems always to be the case, is a messy and overwrought CGI extravaganza. But at least the movie that precedes it involves actual characters—likeable ones, even!—exhibiting recognizable human emotions.
And I have to say that it deserves its 93% freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes (the link above). It made me feel very good when I walked out of the theater to have seen a good strong woman kicking some serious butt!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Back to the Chuckanuts

Our choices from the North Chuckanut trailhead
Ten Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to discuss whether or not to head into the High Country today as scheduled, when nothing was expected for the entire day but rain, and lots of it. Reluctantly, we decided to stay close to home and do the Madrone Crest trail in he Chuckanuts. It was already raining when I left home, and although it was quite warm, I figured I'd better take all my rain gear, just in case.
Frank and Rich, a study in contrasts
We had a new hiker join us today, Frank. He is dressed completely in cotton, with no rain protection. We talked about what we expected to happen today, and he was comfortable without wearing anything more. On the other hand, Richard took the opportunity to try something different to stay dry: a clear umbrella hooked to his left shoulder with a long stick, so his hands would be free to hold his trekking poles. Along with his rain skirt, I think he might have been one of the drier hikers today.
Jim, Peggy, Melanie, Rich, Chris, Carol, Jay, Frank, Al (and me)
Although the rain was light, it mostly continued steadily during our hike, but the warm temperatures kept any of us from being too uncomfortable, even though I did get pretty damp under my raincoat. Whether it was from sweat or rain, it made little difference.
Can you see Al?
As we made our way to our destination, I thought this natural arch would make a good picture, but when I looked at it later, Al is almost not even visible in his rain poncho of the same color as his surroundings. Can you see him? Someone suggested the title of "Where's Waldo?"
Misty forest
The rain also gave me another chance for a magical forest shot. I love the way the mist softens the edges of the world. It's almost better than when I take off my glasses, since being nearsighted the world gets much less defined when I do that.
Madrone Crest trail
By the time we had reached our destination, the "viewpoint" at Madrone Crest (obviously the view was lacking today), we decided not to sit down and have lunch but start back, going by way of Huckleberry Point and maybe have a quick snack there. That's just what we did, because other than maybe an hour when the rain lessened, we enjoyed rain the entire time.

We covered somewhere around eight miles and 1,700 feet up and down. Not bad for a rainy day in the Chuckanuts. Maybe next week we'll be able to get into the mountains. I'm more than ready, but today wasn't the right time. We had a really good day in spite of the weather, and nobody melted.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

First goodies from the garden

Just one so far
The strawberries and raspberries will be abundant this year. I'll be fighting the slugs for the strawberries, although not so much with the raspberries, since they are on bushes above the ground. The fine weather we've been having has helped quite a bit.
Sugar snap peas are beginning to flower
Look how much my sugar snap peas have grown. They will be forming the first peas for me to snack on in in a week or two, and I harvested my first Russian kale (in the foreground) yesterday. My most excellent cook steamed them up and they are incredibly tasty. It will only get better from here. How did I ever get along without gardening? I love it.

Unfortunately for me, the fine weather will deteriorate on (you guessed it) Thursday, just in time for our hike. The temperature is forecast to reach 80°F today, and only 62 on Thursday, with a half inch of rain. Good thing I will be able to imagine how happy it will make my garden while I trudge along in my rain gear.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It's always something

Walking by the marina under low clouds
This morning eighteen ladies met to walk around Zuanich Point Park and the marina. It was cool and even with a light raindrop or two during our five-mile walk. I was not at all sure it was a good idea for me to go on the walk, because I am nursing a pinched nerve in my lower back. My hip and knees are behaving, and then what happens? A problem with my back.

I hurt it on Wednesday afternoon while showing my sister the lovely garden I have on my front porch, using FaceTime on my iPad. Unfortunately, I held the iPad in one hand and reached far forward with my other, and I felt a twinge. Uh-oh, I thought to myself, I've done it again. This is not the first time I've had to deal with this particular pinched sciatic nerve. Having a blog gave me the opportunity to read when it happened to me last: in 2011, almost six years ago. The pain that radiated from my lower back instantly reminded me of the last time, and I knew that it would take a few days to get better.

But it was Wednesday afternoon when it happened, and I wasn't at all sure it was a good idea to go hiking on Thursday. I had my ibuprofen and my trekking poles and decided to chance it. Incredibly, once I put on my backpack with a waist strap, it helped rather than hurt. It was only when I needed to take my pack off that I felt the usual back strain. The comforting waist strap sits right on my hip bones and held the pain in. This morning I walked at an almost normal pace with the ladies, and even without the backpack on, I knew I would be all right. I'm of the school that exercise is better than sitting around waiting for it to get better, and research online affirms that approach.

It's been three days, and each day it's a little better, but I still will turn a certain way and get a zinger radiating pain that causes me to groan and clutch my lower back. Sheesh! Sometimes I think that I must really look like the old woman I refuse to see myself becoming. But after three quarters of a century of use and abuse, my body reminds me to savor every last bit of movement I can squeeze out of each day!

Like I said, it's always something. At least I'm managing to stay vertical awhile longer.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lily, Lizard, and a lost latte

Sign in parking lot
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers made our way from the Senior Center to the Lower Trailhead on Blanchard Mountain. I wasn't expecting so many of us to show up on a dreary overcast day, with rain expected, but we are a hardy group, ready for pretty much anything. Al had come up with a fairly new way to hike on the mountain, going up the Alternate Incline Trail to Lizard Lake. Usually we go up the other trail to Lily and Lizard Lakes, but we wanted to do something a little easier with a possible escape route if the weather really deteriorated.
A well pecked tree
It was foggy when we started out, with fairly warm temperatures and a rather steep trail (the Alternate Incline Trail) once we navigated about a mile on the access road. And with moderate temperatures and only a heavy mist instead of rain, we began our upward trek to Lizard Lake.
Map to show where we went today
We had originally planned to only go to Lizard, but when we got there it was still too early and nobody really wanted to stop quite yet. The mist had grown so heavy that I could actually call it rain, and several of us donned our rain gear.
Lizard Lake in the mist
When I took this picture, I thought it looked like an alien planet, instead of several stumps sticking up out of the lake. You cannot see the far shore, but I know it is there; I've seen it on other trips. Anyway, off we went to Lily Lake. If you look carefully at the above map, you can see both lakes and the short trail that joins them. We decided that we would have lunch there.
Lily Lake
As you can see, it wasn't quite as foggy at Lily Lake, but there was also no sign of the sun. Every now and then, it began to rain lightly, but since we were all geared up for it, and it wasn't cold, we had a nice place to stop and enjoy our lunch.
Some in rain gear, some without, having lunch
Some of us stayed in our rain gear, but others weren't comfortable encased in plastic with the on-again, off-again moisture. When it got a little heavier, Victoria pulled out her umbrella. (Mikey was already under his.)
Melanie, Ellen and Victoria dealing with the rain
We didn't stay very long after this, and it was time to get moving again before anybody got too cold. Our surroundings were wonderful, with lush greenery everywhere, and abundant flowers wherever we looked.
Lush and green
The trip back was pretty much downhill, and we remarked often that even though we never saw the sun and it was foggy, the rain wasn't really much of a problem. We're used to it. But does it ever make it green in our part of the country.
Fog makes everything look soft
I took lots of pictures of the trees in the fog; this is probably the best of them, with a mysterious feeling and ferns in the foreground. On the way back down, we also saw some beautiful columbines growing in a few spots. It seems early for them (to me), and I couldn't keep myself from capturing this batch for posterity.
Nature's garden
We also saw some wildflowers I couldn't identify, along with many of the usual variety. I miss Peggy, our plant identifier, when she's not here, and today I mentioned that she would have known their names. In any event, we had a wonderful day and walked more than eight miles and covered around 1,700 feet up and down. Not bad, not bad at all.

And about that lost latte? In the morning, when I went to pick up my latte at the store, along with a few other things, somehow I managed to walk out of the store without it. I didn't miss it right away, it took until I was at the Senior Center to realize I hadn't brought it with me. Since I kept lamenting its loss, Al offered to have a short service in remembrance of my lost latte, but I declined. I hope I don't do that again soon!