Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall colors at Watson Lakes

Trailblazers on the way to the lakes
Today thirteen Senior Trailblazers headed south for a LONG drive to Anderson Butte and Watson Lakes. This is the first time I've done this hike, and now I know why: it's incredibly beautiful but it took us more than two hours to get there. However, the weather could not have been better, and the area is loaded with fall colors everywhere we looked.
Anderson Butte
The first thing we did is take the the trail off to Anderson Butte, which gave us a fantastic view on a day like today. See the uphill trail on the left-hand side? Yep, it was steep. The whole hike was either steep up, or steep down.
Mt. Baker from Anderson Butte
It was a clear day with just about perfect temperatures, but you sure needed your sun protection when we were not in the trees. Once we took in the magnificent views, we headed back down to the main trail and made our way to Watson Lakes. Here's our first view of them.
Both Watson Lakes in view
Once we got to the first lake, we stopped for lunch, sitting in the shade and enjoying the company and fine views. We had a new hiker with us today, Diane, who has just recently moved to the area. I took a nice picture of her with a couple of other hikers, but it didn't turn out, so I asked for a solo. Meet Diane.
Diane, our latest recruit
She did just fine, although she doesn't look old enough to be a senior, does she? She's a strong hiker and a welcome addition. I enjoyed talking with her and hope she will return to be introduced to more of our wonderful wilderness.
The farthest Watson Lake
After lunch, we walked to the other Watson Lake and took pictures while enjoying the view. Well, most of us took pictures. Some of us were busy snacking on the incredible number of ripe wild blueberries beside the trail. They were so abundant that I saw that my fingers had turned purple, a sure sign of a blueberry addict.
Red blueberry bushes
At this time of year, the blueberry bushes turn bright red when backlighted by the sun. I kept spying little blue morsels as I walked, and it was almost impossible to resist them. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. I love this time of the year. What surprised me is how many berries there were, considering that this trail is well traveled. There were so many, we barely made a dent in them!
Mt Baker from the car on our return
Once we piled into our cars and started back down the long drive, we saw this scene of our beautiful mountain with late-day shadows showing us how magnificent it is, a fine backdrop to our activities. We covered a bit more than six miles but 2,300 feet of elevation up and down, on a fine, fine fall day. It may have been my first trip here, but it won't be my last.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My poor damaged car

This time, it wasn't my fault. I was on my way to yoga this morning, when I stopped to allow a woman and her daughter cross at a pedestrian crosswalk in a roundabout, right in front of a bus stop. Little did I know that I would be crashed into by a—wait for it—a tow truck! Here's how it happened. Take a look at the roundabout.
Roundabout on the way to Fairhaven
I was traveling on the road in the upper right-hand area and was past Wharf Street, when I saw a mother and her daughter waiting at the crosswalk as you enter Boulevard. I stopped to let her cross just at the same time a big tow truck came up Wharf Street and didn't see me. I have a very low profile in my little Honda Civic, and he was high up in the cab. When he hit me, we both pulled over into the bus pullout (just above the Boulevard lettering) and assessed the damage. He was very apologetic and we both exchanged insurance and contact information. I was able to drive the car, and all the taillights seem to be working.

Once I got home and talked to SG, we called the tow truck company, and they asked if I would be willing to deal with it privately and not involve the insurance companies. We agreed after they said they will pay for everything AND pay for me to rent a car for my trip to Vashon Island next week. The only fly in the ointment would be if they don't hold up their end of the bargain, but I think they will.

The next problem was trying to make sure the damaged fender doesn't fall off. I took it to my fisherman friend Gene, who for no reason other than he's a great guy, put screws in the front and back of the damaged fender to keep it in place until it can be fixed.

When I called to get an estimate on the damage, it will be October 11!! Work on the car won't happen until December, unless I decide to take it elsewhere. In any event, it's driveable until then, and I will get to drive a cool rental to Vashon Island for my five-day writing retreat. So all is working out just fine, I'd say.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Autumn begins

Pumpkins and mums
Sure signs of fall: pumpkins nice and fat, and chrysanthemums everywhere, the fall flower (along with beautiful dahlias) that bloom late in the year. There's a crispness to the air, which in our part of the world is clear and brisk with some white puffy high clouds beginning to form.
Chris, my walking partner this morning
We walked at Lake Padden today, and I liked this picture showing the long morning shadows and Chris having already removed her coat and wrapped it around her waist. We only had ten women show up this morning, but it was still a lot of fun to visit with everybody. Chris and her husband Richard have just returned from England, where they did the coast to coast 200-mile-long trek. They have done the entire Camino de Santiago in Spain (500 miles) and the arduous Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, but Chris said this one was by far the hardest. Partly because of mud and boggy trails that just wouldn't quit. Hardy hikers, those two.

And I just returned from seeing an interesting movie at our local theater: Menasch, about a Hasidic Jew who had recently lost his wife and was forced to give up his son to be raised by his brother. The entire film is in Yiddish and introduced me to some of the curious customs of this reclusive segment of Jewish society. It was hard to follow sometimes and not exactly uplifting, but I'm glad I saw it. The link takes you to a review by The Atlantic.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A truly relaxed hike

Mountain ash in foreground
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers, in the "relaxed" group, met at the Senior Center to hike the Chain Lakes loop. I intended at first to go with my usual "half fast" group, but when I learned that Al was not going, I decided to slide over to join the other group. Also, the first group was going to Heliotrope Ridge, which is not one of my favorites, and Chain Lakes truly is one I can never get enough of. Since we were over the limit of 12, five decided not to sign in at all and instead hike the counterclockwise direction, while we headed up the other way.
Far-off mountains and lots of clouds
We started our hike from Artist Point, and before we left we made a car shuttle, with two drivers taking off for Heather Meadows after dropping us off so we could avoid having to do a longer hike. It worked perfectly, and I have to say I am feeling really good after a six-ish mile hike instead of being worn out.
Charlene giving her opinion of our hike
Charlene, our leader, impressed me with her ability to keep an eye on everybody, reminding us often to take care of each other, drink whenever we stopped. Her skill at organizing a well-designed hike is rare. She doesn't like to have her picture on line, but she allowed me to take this one. Plus it's nice to have someone who can take a picture of the rest of us. Unfortunately, today that picture had too many of us looking like we were lining up for execution, so I left it out.
Jean, Carla, and Kathy at our lunch spot
It was Carla's first time with the group, and she did just fine and I enjoyed getting to know her and Kathy. Kathy had been on a couple of hikes with the other group, but we never had a chance to really connect. Today we did. We stopped for lunch a little bit past Iceberg Lake, and after we got up to leave we ran into the five others going the other direction. We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way.
Heading up to Herman Saddle
Now it was time for us to make our upward trek to Herman Saddle before starting down. Although there were plenty of clouds, by this time they had start to lift a little. And the temperature was perfect for hiking. I did wonder how the other group was faring on Heliotrope. I hope it was as good as this.
Iceberg Lake on the trail
Looking back at the lake on our way up to the saddle, you can see that Mt. Baker (hidden behind those clouds) although more visible than earlier, was still playing hard to get. In any event, it was such a beautiful scene, and I was very happy to be hanging out with this group.
Jean and me, with Ed hoisting his water
Here we are at the saddle, having climbed up from the valley to this spot. For whatever reason, it didn't seem nearly as hard as I expected to get here. Jean was on my previous hike with this group, and I suspect that it won't be long before we will be fast friends. And then it was time to start down.
Heading back down from Herman Saddle
We we traveled downwards, we could no longer see any sign of Mt. Baker, but Mt. Shuksan now began to emerge from the clouds. I simply love this mountain and never tire of seeing its magnificence. Today we saw it with its first dusting of snow from the recent precipitation, which only made it more gorgeous, in my opinion.
The five heading to the Visitor Center
When we got to the bridge, Charlene gave us the option of continuing down the rest of the Chain Lakes loop, or joining her and Bill (the other driver) in order to make the car shuttle. We would hike another half-mile or so while the rest went to Artist Point to retrieve her car. I opted, along with four others, to continue the hike and wait for them. We only ended up waiting a few minutes before our rides showed up.
Jean with her ice cream reward
And then it was a short drive down to Graham's for our ice cream. It turned out to be a most excellent day, with everyone filled with smiles, ice cream, and a wonderful adventure to add to our memories. I will definitely be going on more of these "relaxed" hiked with some super friends.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I enjoyed the Emmys

Nicole Kidman at the Emmys
I tend to watch most of the awards shows, although I've never gotten into Dancing With the Stars or that sort of thing. Mostly I like to look at the outfits the celebrities wear. Nicole Kidman's was my favorite of all that I saw this year. What do you think?

And I was so pleased that The Handmaid's Tale did so well! It won Best Drama, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress as well as awards for directing, guest actress, and writing. I had to sign up for Hulu just so I could watch it, and I'm glad I did, although I've not watched anything more on Hulu. The next season will continue where the book left off, so I'm hooked.

Plus I discovered another very interesting show while watching; Black Mirror, which I had seen advertised on Netflix but skipped because I thought it was a horror show. Well, in some ways it is: the "black mirror" in the title refers to our TVs, smartphones and tablets. The creator, Charlie Brooker, explained to The Guardian about the series:
If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.
Each episode stands alone, with its own actors and stories. It's similar to the old Twilight Zone, which I loved and watched many times. So far, I've watched two episodes and they are indeed very different from each other, both rather shocking. I'm hooked.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Last lovely summer's day

Unusual bandaid
This morning on my walk with the ladies I saw this car with a well-placed bandaid, but methinks it might need more than just this quick fix. It's not likely to heal up on its own. But it did make me smile. We had a really lovely walk in cool, brisk weather, but tomorrow our drought will end and the rain will return with a vengeance. In fact, I think today we had our last sunny day for awhile. We've got rain in the forecast for the next few days, and Friday will bring the first official day of fall. I found out from Time and Date, one of my favorite websites, that this year we will experience the advent of fall on September 22 at 1:01pm in the Pacific Northwest. It was a really lovely summer, and the first time I've gotten to harvest so many ripe tomatoes in my garden.
Me and Peggy, with Linda and Al in the background
My dear friend Mike (also known as Mikey Poppins since he uses a big umbrella on rainy days) gifted me this week with a CD compilation of pictures taken of me over the years. I'm not sure exactly when this one was taken, but it was a minimum of five years ago, or longer when I look at the pack I was using back then. It made me smile to realize how fortunate I've been to have this group of friends for so long. I know things change, but I will enjoy my memories forever. And I'm still happy to be able to hike, although who knows for how much longer? I need to cherish every single one. And I do.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A great day in the sunshine

Me, Kathy, Tani, Mike, Susie, Richard, Kirk, Joy, Dave, Mel (Al in front)
A passerby took this picture of the eleven of us Senior Trailblazers who decided to take the shorter trip today on Ptarmigan Ridge. There were seven others who made the decision to hike all the way to the Portals, while we would only go to our usual lunch spot, a little more than four miles from the trailhead. Once the other group took off, and we never saw them again all day. They would hike another couple of miles along the same trail.
Me in front of beautiful Mt. Baker
This spot is as far as we got last week when I hiked with the other group. Today this was a resting spot before heading on up the trail towards the portals but stopping far short of them. I hoped to show the difference from today's hike to last week's smoky and very different day. Today we had magnificent views of all the surrounding mountains.
Mt. Shuksan behind us
Since Al was with us once again, we followed his lead and decided to go on farther, but we did stop and rest much longer and much more often than usual. I figured it was partly because Al was not in a hurry to leave these wonderful spots after so much time away.
Our lunch spot
We finally reached our lunch spot and we couldn't have had a better day. With clear skies and a slight breeze, cool and delightful, we were not in a hurry to leave our magnificent view of Mt. Baker. We looked for signs of the others but found nothing. We knew they were all capable people and didn't worry about them.
Kirk with Mt. Baker behind him
I got this great shot of Kirk while we enjoyed our lunch. The portals are visible at about Kirk's collar, and they (the portals) are close to one of Mt. Baker's many glaciers. There is much more snow than we expected and observed last year.
Al and Kirk heading back down the trail
Then it was time for us to head back the way we had come, and the beautiful vistas just did not stop. Here is a tarn in the middle of the picture that is usually snow free by this time of the year, but today we saw that much of it is still covered with snow. On the horizon we could see Glacier Peak, which is only visible from hikes; you cannot drive anywhere to see it any better.
When we got back to the spot where we took the group photo, I captured this picture of Melanie, who I noticed also reflected back to me in her sunglasses what she was seeing. Although it is very dry right now, the intense sunlight on this late summer's day made it seem like it could have been any time of the year and belied the many snow fields we had to cross.
Final traverse to the parking lot at Artist Point
And then we were almost back to the trailhead, having traveled more than eight miles and almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Many of the beautiful flowers I captured last week are already gone, but the mountains that were missing last week had returned in all their magnificence. And now I am finished, it's 8:00pm and I still need a shower before calling it a day. What a wonderful one it was!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Birthday present like no other

Kitchen art
Don't you just love this picture? I got up and went to the kitchen to make my morning tea when I discovered that someone had been playing with the fruit and tomatoes! My dear partner loves to make these designs partly because he knows I will laugh and be delighted. I sure was.

But that's not what the post is about. I went to the eye doctor's this morning for my annual eye exam and discovered that my cataracts are finally "ripe" and have made the appointments necessary to receive new eyes. My first appointment is the same week as my birthday, and the second one is in mid-December. Wow! The late November appointments are because it's the earliest this very in-demand surgeon has available. With all the restrictions on my activity during the time I have this done, I'm wondering how someone who is as addicted as I am to exercise will manage. It will be worth it for new eyes, though.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What's that wet stuff?

Our lovely Saturday morning walk
Finally! Yesterday we got a little rain, the first in ages, and then this morning, we woke to cloudy skies, and before we even began our walk at Whatcom Falls Park, it began to sprinkle. It's kept up for hours now, and it sure looks like it will keep up for most of the day. None of us minded; it's been too long since we got any rain, and it has cleared the last of the smoke out of the air. I can hear the rain still hitting our rooftop as I write this.
Teddy Bear sunflowers
Afterwards, I walked over to the Farmers' Market to take a look around, and I saw these really beautiful sunflowers, nothing like I'd ever seen before. Regular ones are in the background, but these are called "teddy bear" sunflowers.

I feel sorry for our neighbors, who are having an outdoor wedding today. It should stop raining before their hired band plays at 8:00pm tonight, but I have to say the rain will make for some fun stories for them to tell their children many years from now.

My sister Norma Jean is hunkering down in her daughter's rented house in Tampa. And now, the forecasters are saying that the hurricane has moved from the middle of the Florida coast to the west, where she is. She had to leave her mobile home because of mandatory evacuations, but now I'm worried that she has not yet reached a safe place. At least this area is not under evacuation orders. At least not yet.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A wonderful new group

At the trailhead (taken by Charlene)
Today ten Senior Trailblazers from the second group (the "relaxed" Trailblazers, rather than the "half fast" group, my usual one) went to Artist Point to hike Ptarmigan Ridge. You know I've been thinking about it for awhile, and today I did it. And you know what? I'll be joining these wonderful people again, probably sooner rather than later. I already knew three of them, but I made the acquaintance of the others today.
Yellow skies and very little view today
Although the haze from the forest fires was supposed to be gone, or diminished at the very least, we hiked right into the smoky surroundings, and it never got better. Once in awhile we'd cast a shadow, but most of the time it looked like this.
Bill on the trail
Bill used to hike with the other group, so I knew him quite well. He's got two artificial knees but sure does fine with them, and I saw that the group had some faster and some slower hikers, just like ours. It was sure nice for me not to be at the tail end of this group. Owen, our leader, set a good pace and stopped often to let the others catch up. This allowed for everyone to hike at his or her best speed.
Desmond the newbie
Desmond had never been on one of these hikes before, but he did very well. He lives next door to Charlene, and she suggested he might want to try one of these hikes. At first he was a little slow, but by the time we finished, he was managing to keep up a good pace, just a teeny bit slower than the rest. I do hope he will return; not all the hikes are as challenging as this one.
Leslie, Jean, Cookie
By the time the hike was over, I felt as though I had known these people for ages. It turns out that Leslie is a friend of my friend John from the coffee shop, and we had heard about each other from him. Now that we have met, I can see why John likes her so much, she's great! They are all lots of fun and we laughed quite a lot as the day went on.
Lovely flowers
Although we had little view, we sure did see a lot of beautiful flowers along the way. It amazes me how they manage to flourish in high altitudes with a very short time to bloom. We also saw some mountain goats, but they were too far away for me to capture with my phone camera.
Leslie, me, Jean and Cookie
I asked for a picture of all the white-haired women in front of what we could see of the mountains, and this picture was what I got. Noriko would have been in the picture too, although she's in her late seventies and her hair is still dark!
The clearest view we had today
This picture shows that we had no views at all today, other than a view of the hazy skies and close-by mountains. But it was such a good day anyway: we covered around six miles and some elevation, while being at a high altitude to start with. And we stopped at Graham's for our regulation ice cream on the way back, just like the other group does! So I was happy and had a super day, in spite of the haze. Life is good, and I'm thrilled to have made so many new friends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Scary skies

Yellow sky and wan sunlight
This morning I couldn't believe how warm it had stayed overnight, but it was because of all the smoke that held in the heat. We are receiving smoke from eastern Washington fires, as well as Montana and a fire not far from Seattle (Cle Elum).

You can smell the smoke in the air, and the terrific heat we were supposed to have today didn't materialize, as the smoke cut much of the sun's heat. But it sure does seem like we are on another planet, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September market

Non-veggie options at the Farmers' Market
Several of my blogging friends have been showing off their local Farmers' Markets, so I thought I'd take a trip through my own after a nice walk with the ladies. I wasn't hungry, which is the best way for me to make my way through the market without filling up.
This one is easy for me to resist, because I've got so many tomatoes ripening in my own garden that I can't keep up. I just went out to harvest some and ate a ripe one right from the vine, juice running down my chin. So good! (I was told that those green things on the left are ripe tomatoes, just a different kind. I might have to try one.)
Flowers and garlic
It's the time of year when the dahlias are beginning to flower. This will continue through the month of September and into October. We are very fortunate to have our market open until the last Saturday before Christmas, with seasonal vegetables that change through the months. Soon it will be pumpkins and squash, but for now, I'm thrilled with all the myriad summer delights.
Rabbit Fields Farm
There's Roslyn (also known as Tattooed Lady) behind her magnificent bounty. My zucchini hasn't done all that well, but between gifted ones and those she sells, I've had no shortage of them. This is one of the best times of year, late summer. I hope you are able to visit a local market or two.