Thursday, August 31, 2017

Chain Lakes and three bears

Taken from the parking lot
Seventeen Senior Trailblazers went out on one of our favorite hikes of the year, Chain Lakes, a loop hike that starts at Heather Meadows parking lot, where I took this picture. Little did I know that flowers would be in incredible abundance all day long! We had sun and clouds and a cool breeze, perfect hiking weather. We split up into two groups, 8 and 9, and went separate directions so that we would satisfy the need to stay under twelve for wilderness regulations.
Bob, Noriko, Melanie, Peggy, Brent, Dave, Rick (Linda's poles) and me
We went in the counter-clockwise direction while the other group went clockwise. Kirk led the other group. Al did not join us again today, so Bob was in the lead for us today. We start out this hike by following the Bagley Lakes trail that leads up to Herman Saddle, while the other group goes up to Artist Point via the Wild Goose trail, which meets the Chain Lakes trail.
Bagley Lakes trail
At this point I was bringing up the rear, and I'd stop every now and then to take pictures of the incredible variety of flowers we were treated to. You can see the lake below us on the left, and Table Mountain looming above. The clouds came and went.
The steep trail to Herman Saddle
And then we began the long slog up to Herman Saddle, around 1,500 feet in a short distance, and I began to lag behind, as you can see. Every time I would stop to take a picture, I'd look ahead and see that the others were far ahead of me. I was moving as fast as I could, but I couldn't catch up, which put me into some distress. They recognized I was having a hard time and slowed down for me, and I stopped taking pictures so I could concentrate on the job at hand.
Bob and Linda at the top of the saddle, with Mt. Baker between them
Finally we reached the summit, and I knew that most of the uphill was behind us. I appreciated my fellow hikers not making me feel bad about slowing them down; I was doing that just fine by myself. And then we hiked downhill to Iceberg Lake, where we would have lunch.
Iceberg Lake
It's such a beautiful spot, and once I had lunch I felt much better. The other group had reached the lake and were just finishing up when we arrived. I've done this hike often enough to know pretty much what's ahead, so I was able to pace myself and stay with the others without any problem from then on.
Mt. Baker showing through the clouds
We had a really nice view as we started the second part of our hike, going in the opposite direction from the other group. It was nice to see everybody, even if just for a short time. Not more than ten minutes after I took this picture, Mt. Baker was again obscured by clouds.
Trail on the left that goes to Artist Point
If you look carefully at the picture, you can see the trail that traverses the left side of the valley below, which still has snow in it, as you can see here. That's Mt. Shuksan partially hidden behind the clouds. The mountain did show itself in full view now and then.
Mt. Shuksan almost in view
We only had to get to Artist Point and then make our way down the steep Wild Goose trail to be back at the cars. This is not a terribly long hike, less than eight miles total, with an elevation gain and loss around 2,800 feet.
Finishing the last part of the trail to Artist Point
I know my fellow hikers will be putting lots of pictures on Facebook, but this is the place where I usually like to chronicle my day. We finally got back to the cars and started down the long road home. We hadn't gone very far when we got a real treat:
Mama Bear
A large black bear crossing the road! As you can see, the car traveling in the opposite direction had stopped, as did we. The bear was not moving quickly, even with the cars in full view. And then we saw why!
Two cubs following Mama
Two cubs made their way across the road following Mama, and when we saw they were no longer in view, we started across the road ourselves. We saw a steep incline and one of the babies had just finished making its way up to join the others. I was inside the car when I took these pictures, but I was pleased that I got something to show you. We felt incredibly blessed to have seen these beautiful creatures and hope they will have full and interesting lives ahead. With that last wonderful sight, we headed down to Graham's for our ice cream cones before heading home.

Although I'm tired, I'm not as worn out as I was last week; we only went eight instead of ten miles, which makes a huge difference in how I feel. And then at the last, we saw some REAL wildlife! Doesn't get much better than today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Time for a garden update

My spot on the right, Lily's on the left
We are getting down to the final days of the season in our beautiful community garden. Above you can see that my spot has flowers (in the foreground) and tomato plants behind, lots of Siberian kale, and spent raspberry bushes. Lily's corn is finally begun to tassel. We were beginning to wonder when that might happen, and suddenly it showed up, so now we can begin to look forward to some ears to nibble on.
Garden mural and Lynn's garden spot
You can also see here that our pretty mural is still looking very good in our next-door neighbor's yard. Lynn decided to plant in raised beds this year, and she's got a nice little chair in which to enjoy our community endeavor. I think the community garden is one of the best things I've ever been involved with. I am now a seasoned gardener, with my fifth season wrapping up. This year, I'm learning all about tomatoes!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another lovely Saturday

Sunrise from my front porch
When I get up to do my exercises on the front porch right around 6:30am, I notice that the sun isn't actually over the horizon any more. Yesterday the sunrise was outstanding, as you can see here, but it didn't last long. Before another few seconds had passed, it was entirely grey, with the sun hidden behind the clouds. However, by the time I had finished my morning trip to the coffee shop and the gym, the skies were clearing and the temperature rising.
Lape Padden in the early morning
And now we have completely clear skies, as you can see in the above picture. We ladies met this morning at lake Padden for our walk, quickly shedding our jackets and enjoying a quick-paced walk twice around the 2.6-mile loop. It is that time of the year: cool, crisp mornings and warm days. We are headed into a mini-heat wave (reaching into the low 80s, 27°C) for the coming week. Yes, that's a heat wave for us, with the temperatures a bit warmer south into Seattle.

It will be good for my quickly ripening tomatoes, so I'm happy about it. I managed to recover from Thursday's long hike and feel pretty darn good today. Also, I feel very blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country. My heart goes out to those who are dealing with Hurricane Harvey, which is inundating southeast Texas.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hannegan Pass 2017

Senior Trailblazers on Hannegan Pass
Twelve of us went up to Hannegan Pass today, and we started toward the summit, Hannegan Peak. It was the right kind of day for a hike that makes you spend much of it in full sun: cloudy and cool, with promises of more sun to come. I have suffered on this hike more than once because of heat and lots of uphill, but today it seemed perfect at the start. We were full of vim and vigor.
Trail in a shaded section, heading upward
There are many rocky segments on this hike, which we just romped over on the way up, and grumbled about on the way back down, much later. This pretty section was just delightful, however.
Maple leaves beginning to turn already
As we climbed higher, we saw the clouds beginning to leave the mountain tops, with some signs of fall's ascent with the turning leaves and many of the flowers already spent. But there were still many flowers to enjoy.
Still wonderful flowers, and some blue skies, too
As we climbed higher, some of us had not even stopped for lunch, but the rest of us followed after a quick snack, and the views just kept getting better and better. Although we were spread out, Bob, our erstwhile leader, kept track of everybody, and we simply enjoyed the day to the max.
Ruth Mountain almost out from behind the clouds
The clouds came and went, but basically we had some of the best views of the surrounding mountains, partly because the clouds gave them lots of interest, not to mention keeping us cool and still enjoying one of the finest places on earth.
Bob snacking on some blueberries
The wild blueberries were incredible today, and we did spend some time stopping to eat them. I am amazed at how different they taste from cultivated ones: a little like a tiny shot of delight, each one more flavorful than the last (which makes it hard to stop).
Turning around and starting back
Isn't it beautiful? Although we didn't make it to the summit today, three of our group did go farther than the rest of us because they skipped lunch. While we were heading a little farther up, they finally sat down and enjoyed a quick lunch.
Frank, Halina, and Rick having a little lunch
Here they are, with the summit in full view behind them. It's the little hump in the middle of that cloud bank. They made it up much higher than the rest of us, but they finally had to turn around because of the time limits we had set. In any event, all of us got home much later than usual because of the long hike and the fine day.
Heading back down the valley
As you can see, the clouds never really cleared off completely, but I didn't mind a bit. I was tired and sore as we made our way back to the trailhead. We covered ten miles, maybe a bit more, and 2,800 feet of elevation gain and loss. That's a very complete day, wouldn't you say? I am now finishing my glass of wine and enjoying immensely the feeling of being so well exercised, having spent time with some of the best people in the whole world!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The eclipse from Bellingham

Mary showing the eclipse
I left my exercise class a little early so I could walk around and see what was happening around town during the eclipse. I knew we would get 88% coverage, but what really amazed me the most is how bright is still was with so much of the sun covered. The picture above is about ten minutes away from our maximum, but you can see that it never got all that dark. Mary is using a pair of binoculars with one lens covered and transmitting the image onto a light-colored sheet.
Lovely crescent shadows
As I walked towards the coffee shop, I saw these pretty crescent shapes which show that the sun is very close to what we would see at maximum coverage for us. To me it was the best part of the show. That, and all the people outside enjoying looking at the sun through their special glasses.
From Time Magazine sometime in the 1960s
It sure beats the way schoolchildren used boxes in the old days to view the eclipse. I notice that the teacher or administrator is doing just what President Trump did yesterday: looking at the eclipse without using anything at all. My retinas are damaged enough, I was happy just to look at the shadows.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Delightful Saturday morning

Roslyn of Rabbit Fields Farm
This lovely Saturday morning, Lily and I met the ladies for our usual walk, this time around five-ish miles at our usual brisk pace. Afterwards, Lily and I went to the Farmers' Market and I saw Roslyn of Rabbit Fields Farm wearing a dress, for a change. I saw her tattoo and asked if I could take a picture of it. She told me it goes all the way down to her waist, but I was fascinating by the part of it I could see. What an interesting design to choose to wear for the rest of your life, especially if you are a dedicated certified organic farmer. I've been buying produce from her for ages.
Atelier Soo creations
And for something completely different, take a look at this beautiful buttercream decorated cake! Who could possibly bring themselves to eat a piece of it? And the artist has created several others, which are available for you to admire here. There are a total of ten for you to enjoy at the link.

The sun is out, the clouds are gone, and the tomatoes in my garden are basking in the glorious warmth. I'm inside now, after a fine morning with some of my favorite pastimes and people. I'm hosting a wine party this afternoon on my front porch, so I'd better get out there and sweep it clean of flower petals. I hope your day is as delightful as mine is shaping up to be!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A hike good for the soul

Victoria, Frank, Halina, MaryLou, Carol, Melanie (and me)
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers showed up for a hike to Scott Paul, a favorite every year, with the weather almost perfect. It's a long drive: 125 miles round trip, and with such a large group, we drove five cars to the trailhead and broke up into two groups. One would take the loop trail clockwise; the other counter-clockwise. We stayed with the car passengers we drove up with, so we were seven and the other group was nine.
Carol and MaryLou among the flowers
My group went around the loop clockwise, and that meant a fairly hefty uphill climb for two miles until we got to the turnoff. I struggled, since we didn't have Al to set the pace, and these two strong women did, and I thought at first I could keep up. But I couldn't. Victoria and Frank stayed back with me while the others went on ahead. The scenery was magnificent, even if we had cloud cover for most of the day (which kept the temperatures down).
MaryLou and Carol, with Mt. Baker peeking out behind
Mt. Baker wasn't showing much during the first part of our hike, but I was happy for the mild temperatures. Not long after this picture was taken, we ran into our first fields of lupines.
Carpets of lupines
Just look at that incredible show of pretty purple wildflowers! But they were not the only beautiful wildflowers we saw today. It reminded me, however, that last year we didn't see very many at all; this year they were as abundant as I ever remember seeing them.
Victoria among the purple lupines
Victoria decided to put purple streaks in her hair a while back, and I couldn't resist this picture of her sitting among the lupines and showing off her hair. This picture makes me smile just to see her there! We were having lots of fun, too, as you can see.
Flowers, mountains, and trees
This mountain had just emerged from the clouds when I captured it, and I do think this scene shows how beautiful our Scott Paul loop hike was today: filled with incredible scenery, flowers, and great company. Not long after I took this picture, we ran into the other group.
Fifteen Trailblazers plus me
They had just settled in for lunch, so we joined them, and here you can see the entire group. We spent some time enjoying our lunch before separating and heading off into opposite directions. Everyone was enjoying themselves as much as we were. A few people wished for clearer skies, but there were others of us happy to have some shade as we hiked.
Mt. Baker emerging from the clouds
And we did finally get to see the mountain, and as we got closer to the end of the hike, there were plenty of moments of full sun, reminding me how happy I was to have some overcast skies for most of the day. We continued on around the loop, emerging into a beautiful forest toward the end of the hike.
Identifying flowers
Before the end, we tried to identify all the flowers we had seen today. That's MaryLou, taking pictures (I think) of some so that we could try to identify them with Melanie's flower book, back at the car. By this time, we had much more sun than clouds, but we were not far from the shady forest, so I didn't mind too much.

Just as we were finishing our loop, we ran into the other group, which was just reaching the trailhead at the same time! It was wonderful to all be together at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. We had covered around eight miles (maybe a little more) and around 2,200 feet elevation gain and loss. A fine day, not too hard, but certainly not too easy, and everyone was happy to have been out on this fine, fine day. Really a good day indeed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Looking for distractions

Big red tomato, more to come soon
I am trying to distract myself from the news, which just continues to upset me whenever I turn it on, or get a notice on my iPhone. It's hard for me to disconnect, but for my own sanity I need to. So, let's turn instead to the wonderful things happening in my neck of the woods, shall we?

First of all, I'm beginning to get fabulous tomatoes out of my garden. As I've said before, my little cherry tomatoes don't get much of a chance to even get all the way ripe, because I munch on them while watering and weeding. But look at that pretty red tomato! I just picked it yesterday and put it in the window so it might get a little riper, but it's not going to last long. Like tonight for dinner, even. I can hardly wait to bite into it, knowing I have plenty more to come.

And our air is finally clear again, with perfect temperatures and a delightful hike in the future, although I don't know where we will go or who will lead it. Al is bowing out for at least another week, and I'm not willing to step up, hoping that someone else will. I'll be there on Thursday, though, since the temperatures should be around 70°F (20C) with partly cloudy skies. We are back to our normally scheduled weather, and it sure feels good to me!

It's easy to concentrate on bad news, but it's also not necessary. I've got plenty of good books to read (right now I'm reading three, all of which make me smile), lots to watch on Netflix or Amazon (which also don't have commercials or politics unless I choose to, which I don't). Here's where SG was yesterday, admiring the view from our front porch.

A cup of tea with a view

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A change in the weather

Lily took this picture of me yesterday when we went over to my friend Judy's house to pick blueberries. We were going to a U-Pick-Em place when Judy mentioned that she had so many ripe blueberries that she needed some help keeping up with them. So we both happily filled large containers full before we headed back home. I can see why it's a hard job: we were hot and tired within a short while, and although we took lots of them, there were many more left,  with green ones showing Judy will be swimming in blueberries for quite a while yet.

Last night a stiff breeze blew into our area and scoured out the sky. When I saw the sunrise this morning, with lots of puffy clouds, I could actually see my shadow when the sun emerged from behind a cloud.  For the last week and a half, we've been inundated with smoke and haze from the BC forest fires, as well as above average temperatures. Well, now we have returned to our regularly scheduled blue skies!

Lily and I went on our own walk this morning and didn't join the ladies. We were both not in the mood for hills and walked to Fairhaven and back, stopping there for a wonderful breakfast before returning to Bellingham. The cool weather and clear skies were such a treat. A fantastic start to the weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Totally unexpected great hike

A chilly start to our hike today
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to talk about our hike with me as the leader, no Al, wondering where to go since it's hot and the air quality is still bad from the forest fires in BC. Linda and Peggy decided to go up to Church Mountain on their own, because they only wanted to go part way and not to the top. The rest of us realized that we didn't have enough cars capable of navigating the bumpy forest road to the trailhead, so we considered options. Melanie said she saw that the air quality near the coast was better than anywhere else today, so we decided to go to Deception Pass and hike up to Goose Rock, one of our winter hikes.
Fog and mist without smoky skies
We started out in heavy fog, which is one reason it was so chilly, but before long we could see it begin to lift, and as we exerted ourselves it was downright perfect hiking weather and we were able to shed a layer of clothes.
Madrone tree
This area has lots of beautiful madrone trees, which I never fail to appreciate when we're there. Notice the green layer under the red on this magnificent tree. We had a pleasant trip to the top of Goose Rock, even though I took us on an unscheduled detour. I was forgiven once we got to the summit. Although it was early, we decided to have lunch, since it was sunny and rather glorious.
Melanie telling us about her parachute jump
Melanie, it turns out, had quite an experience during her first parachute jump (she had a malfunction) and is explaining here how she fixed the problem. Behind her you can see the remaining fog over the water, which is also obscuring the Naval Base in the middle distance. Maybe it was because of the fog that the usual touch-and-go activity of the jets was much less than normal.
Looking at Victoria, you can tell she was quite comfortable in just a shirt, standing in front of a madrone tree with fog and sky behind her. The awful smoke that we have been dealing with was completely gone today in this area, and we all appreciated the clean air, the mild temperatures, and the absence of any bugs!
Our lovely trail
We took a meandering way back so that we could cover a little extra distance, rather than head straight back to the cars. Nobody was in any hurry to have today's lovely hike end too soon. Once we got close to the area where we started, we decided to finish our day walking along the beach.
Ambling slowly along the beach
Here you can see the Deception Pass bridge in the background, with a shallow layer of fog still remaining over the water. It was still early in the day, and we knew that when we returned to Bellingham, we'd be leaving this lovely air and cool temperatures behind, so we decided not to hurry.
Boys will be boys
Of course, you can't find a beach where the young men in the group wouldn't want to skip rocks! Although there weren't too many good ones, that didn't deter our two guys from trying. The rest of us scrambled to find some decent ones for them to play with. Finally we decided to finish our hike (more  like a stroll at this point) and head back home.
Boat and fog
I saw this boat emerge from the fog and managed to get a pretty good picture, I thought. While we were walking along the beach, I had forgotten how much my feet don't really like tromping through loose sand and rocks, so I was glad to get back to the trail. We had covered somewhere around a short seven miles by the time we returned to our starting point, happy to have had a respite from the smoke and heat.

One funny story I forgot to mention: when we arrived at the trailhead, Ellen realized she had forgotten her boots. Fortunately the trail was fairly easy to navigate, so Frank decided to hike in his sneakers and gave his boots to Ellen for the day. Although they were a bit on the large side, they worked perfectly for this particular hike, so I think this was where we were meant to be today!