Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My city has its own flag

Bellingham's official flag
Last year on Flag Day, Bellingham unveiled an original flag, created by Bradley James Lockhart (see his page about the flag and his other endeavors here). Basically, it depicts several unique aspects of our fair city. First of all, the four green stripes represent the four original towns that combined into one to become today's city: Bellingham, Sehome, Fairhaven, and Whatcom. (Whatcom is also the name of our county, and it comes from Chief Whatcom, the name of which translates into "noisy waters," also depicted in the three wavy lines in the blue circle.)

The two stars represent our two local Native American tribes, the Nooksack and the Lummi. The blue circle also represents Bellingham Bay. Lockhart describes it all in more detail on the link I provided above. Anyway, I think it's a lovely design and it's the first time I've lived somewhere that had its own flag!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another snowy day

Whatcom Falls this morning
I woke this morning to a phone call from John, my coffee shop friend, asking if I wanted him to come pick me up on his way to Avellino's. "Why?" I asked. He said it was snowing like crazy and there was plenty of snow on the roads, too. I said that I wanted to go walking with the ladies if it was still happening, so I decided to drive myself. There was very little additional snow, and the roads were fine. But when John arrived, his car was covered with several inches of snow, although mine had none. What a difference a few miles made, depending on where in the county you live.

In any event, I went walking with the ladies and we decided to keep it flat so we wouldn't slip and fall on the snowy surfaces. Only eight of us showed up, but I was happy that we were able to go out at all.
Admiring the falls
Although it was cold to start, we warmed up quickly and caught some snowflakes as we walked, but by the time we finished our five-and-a-half-mile walk, the sun was trying to emerge. It just reminded me that you cannot exercise if you don't get outside and take a bit of a risk, but it turned out perfect.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hoypus Hill and Ala Spit 2018

Melanie, Frank, Kirk, Richard, Al, Chris, Diane (and me)
Only eight of us showed up on a brilliantly sunny day today for a drive down to Deception Pass State Park, our annual trip to enjoy this relatively easy hike from Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island just across the Deception Pass bridge. You can tell from this picture how cold it was when we got started, with everybody bundled up nice and warm. It was around -3°C (25°F) when we drove the 45 miles south to our starting point. It snowed a little bit last night, as you can see in the picture, and that made the roads icy and a little scary early.
Our trail was beautiful
By the time we arrived at Cornet Bay, most of the roads had cleared and only the areas in complete shadow were icy, so we drove carefully. We were not in a hurry anyway to leave our warm cars to get outside in the cold. But it was so breathtakingly beautiful with the fresh snow and early morning light showing through the trees that we were happy to get out and get moving.
Melanie took this one
We wandered around on the forest trails, making our way around several very boggy areas and decided, not long after this picture, to go ahead and make our way to Ala Spit, a peninsula not far from the trails, adding maybe another mile to the day, and have lunch there.
Sitting on the Spit, so to speak
We found some driftwood to block the breeze, and if you were able to find a place out of the wind, it was incredibly pleasant. In this picture you can see a few birds in the foreground, I hoped to get close enough to show them, but you will have to take my word that there are a couple of oystercatchers in this picture.
Kirk, Diane and Chris bundled up for lunch
Although we had shed quite a few clothes as we hiked, by the time we got to the exposed Spit, we put everything we had back on while we enjoyed a break from hiking. And then it was time to head back the way we had come. We do make a short loop around the East Hoypus Point so we can see the Old Growth trees. I always enjoy this part, and this year I captured this picture of one of the Ancient Ones.
Looking up, up, up
There is no way that I have found to take a picture that shows the incredible beauty of these old trees, but I continue to try. These trees are hundreds of years old, and sometimes I try to imagine what the world was like when it was a tiny seedling. I hope the magnificent tree lives for many hundreds of years to come.

We had a great day and made it back home with the skies still sunny and the temperature not that much warmer. It rose to just above freezing, and tonight the snow is supposed to return. In any event, we had nine miles of hiking on a gorgeous day today! I am so grateful for having had the experience.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The whole glasses thing

Maiden voyage with my new glasses
This whole business of getting cataract surgery and trying to decide what to do with the resulting eye situation has been harrowing. Not to mention that a week ago I seemed to burst a blood vessel in my right eye and looked a little hideous without glasses to hide behind. It's almost completely cleared up now, though. Whew!

I really wanted to just have glasses for driving and sitting in movie theaters where I needed to see every little detail. So I bought myself a lovely pair of distance lenses that have Transitions and anti-glare, but I found myself at a complete loss when wearing them and not being able to see anything close up. It was driven home to me when I was on a hike in the rain and couldn't see well enough to latch my chest strap. Since I needed both hands, and one of them was holding up the glasses, my level of frustration helped me decide to get progressive lenses.

Now I've worn progressives for decades and love them, but I didn't want to spend the extra money, and therefore I ended up spending twice as much. But the good part is that I have an extra pair of distance glasses and now I can see everything just great with my new glasses. They also have Transitions and anti-glare, plus I don't have to take them off to see up close. Other than needing another visit to the store for additional fitting (the nose pieces pinch), I couldn't be happier.

Now that I've written this post, I think I skip down to the optical shop and get that little task taken care of. I need to add a few more steps to my daily quota anyway.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Swimming pool dreams

What I miss most about Florida
It's true that I miss my sister when I'm not with her, but I never feel that far away from her, thanks to being able to talk with her virtually via FaceTime, but I sure do miss this swimming pool at her Y. For six days I was able to swim in my very own lane and enjoy the gentle water and feel my arms get sore from the unaccustomed exercise of swimming laps. It was wonderful.

This morning I joined a small group of women at Lake Padden in a howling wind and cold temperatures, and everyone asked how my vacation in Florida was. It's complicated, but I enjoyed myself very much until it began to get so hot and humid that my mind began to think about home, thinking about the more normal temperatures and humidity that we have here. There's always something better somewhere else, I guess.

I went to my first yoga class in two weeks yesterday, and that was a real treat. Wow, I must learn to be grateful for whatever comes my way and learn to appreciate each day for its own special flavor.

Yesterday morning I felt like something flew into my eye and when I checked in a mirror, I had a subconjunctival hemorrhage. I don't know what caused it, but everything online says that it will clear up on its own, so not to worry unless there's a change my vision. So far, so good. Another one of life's little surprises.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Raptor Ridge via Huckleberry

Richard, Frank, Richard, Sue, MaryLou, Kirk, Melanie, Peggy
Nine Senior Trailblazers met either at the Senior Center or drove to the trailhead to start one of our usual winter hikes: to Raptor Ridge. There are many ways to get there, and today we decided to take the Hemlock trail until it splits off to Huckleberry Point and beyond. The picture above was taken at the Point, since there was no view looking out the other direction.
Geezers in the mist
I am still not completely recovered from whatever I have been suffering from, so when I stopped to cough, Frank offered me some of his cough drops. I had never heard of them, but they do work great. He shared his Fisherman's Friend lozenges with me, and even gave me half of his supply. While we were stopped, I looked up to see the others waiting for us in the fog. At this point we were free of snow, but that was not to last.
First signs of snow
We encountered fresh snow on the way up to the turnoff to Huckleberry Point, but I thought it would be intermittent. But no, from this point on we had snow underfoot, and in some places overhead, as the fresh snow fell in clumps from the trees to fall on us and work its way down the back of our necks.
Raptor Ridge viewpoint
This is the place where we have spent many a day basking in the sun, but today we had to take turns to come over and look at it. Those footsteps in the snow were made by some more adventurous hikers than we are. Usually at this point there is a strong wind, but today it was calm. A nice change, but there was no place here for us to stop for lunch.
You can see the fresh snow on the trees behind Peggy. We had a discussion at this point about whether to find a spot out of the snow to have lunch, or just turn around and start back down the trail. We decided to make a loop out of it, but by the time we got to a point where we could make it longer, the majority of us decided to skip having lunch and just head back down to the cars.
Indian plum beginning to bloom
Peggy pointed out the first blossoms on the Indian plum bushes on our way back down, which seems early to me, but I guess not. We saw both lots of snow and the first signs of spring today. We climbed up and down around 1,800 feet of elevation (550 meters) and eight miles before we climbed into our cars and headed home. It was a good day, and I managed to get rid of much of my chest congestion through exertion, as well as a little help from my friend.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Going home today

Norma Jean and I with flamingos
Well, this trip has gone quite quickly, and today I'll head back to my home, which is fifty degrees colder than it is here. It sure would be nice to have something between freezing and sweltering, but I don't get to choose. Yesterday we spent the day at Busch Gardens (picture above taken by Peter) and it was quite humid and overcast, not too bad. Today we are close to setting a heat record for the day, but when I first arrived last week the temperature was close to perfect.
Part of the track for the Cheetah Hunt
It had been a long time since I rode a roller coaster; I think they have stepped up the fear factor by a factor of ten. Peter told me this ride is one of the more "tame" ones in the park, and there were people of all ages getting on, from tweens to seniors, so I figured I'd be okay. I screamed the entire time! Norma Jean is smart enough not to ride these things, and I could hardly walk when the more-than-three-minute ride was finished.
Riders dangling before the plunge on Shiekra
Apparently this ride is the scariest in the park, according to Peter, who has ridden them all many times. He told me that, considering my response to the Cheetah ride, I probably should skip this one. I didn't have to be convinced, after watching for awhile.
Falcon's Fury is the tube on the right
After a very enjoyable ice show, I decided I had to try one more ride. This one takes the riders (visible almost halfway up) up to the top and then changes your orientation from sitting to being face down, hanging there for a short while and then falling like a rocket toward the ground. Amazingly, this ride, while scary, didn't affect me like the other. It had some similarities to freefall, so maybe that's one reason why. I would ride this one again in a minute.
Heading up Falcon's Fury
The amazing part of this ride, for me, is how fast you get going when you are released at the top and how soft the stopping part is. The rider feels your feet flipping out in front of you at the end, and gosh it stopped so easily.

We also saw the show called "Opening Night Critters," with lots of birds, dogs, cats, pigs, a small pony, and all of them performing perfectly. These are mostly rescue animals who have learned their parts to amusing effect. Then it was time to go home, after a brief rain shower. I enjoyed it very much and am very glad I let them talk me into going.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Well, I got sick anyway

Norma Jean texting her daughter
I don't know why it always happens to me when I visit my sister. Perhaps it was the plane, or maybe it was a residual illness after the sore throat I had last week. I am congested and coughing up a bit of stuff. No sneezes but I sure don't feel all that well. Fortunately, the swimming we do in the morning makes me feel better, and tomorrow I'll stay home from walking with Norma Jean through the park. I need a break.
Norma Jean talking to her daughter and granddaughter
Once we got home from the coffee shop, Norma Jean suggested that I might want to talk to Allison (her daughter), Alicia and Lexie, her granddaughters. Here you can see the younger one, who was not talking last year when I visited but is now talking up a storm.

This is the same setup that we use when we talk on FaceTime every other week. It works great and makes it so nice to have virtual visits. I feel like I'm not missing out on my sister's life.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Clearwater and St. Petersberg

Sis and me wading in the Gulf of Mexico
This is definitely a different Thursday post for me. Yesterday my sister Norma Jean, her son Peter, and their two dogs took me down to St. Petersburg so I could stick my feet in the water. It was a beautiful day, hovering right around 80°F (26°C) and just right. You can see the Skyway Bridge behind us on the horizon. This was the Fort De Soto beach where we could take the dogs.

That's Norma Jean's Papillon Icarus, and Peter's Jack Russell Zen. I have really enjoyed my visit so far, and the joy of spending time with my sister and these wonderful dogs has been so far from my usual fare that I cannot quite reconcile it with what I would otherwise be doing at home. Zen is 111 in dog years and will turn 16 in people years at the end of February. Icarus is middle-aged, with plenty of time still ahead (almost 8 in people years).
My breakfast this morning
Every morning when we finish our swim at the Y, we come home to a fabulous omelet prepared by Peter, and in the evening we have another wonderful meal. Norma Jean knows how lucky she is to have him, but I keep being amazed by his talents. Cooking is only a small part of his myriad skills.
Peter and NJ with dogs
I thought I should put a picture of Peter up here so you can meet him, too. Icarus was so funny; most of the dogs ran loose on the beach, but he was afraid when one would approach and wouldn't leave Norma Jean's lap willingly.
Today's Senior Trailblazers
Meanwhile, back at home, I received this picture from Melanie of today's hikers, covered in rain gear (well, except for Richard, who only wears it when it's pouring). I learned that the regularly scheduled hike had to be changed because of flooding. And somehow that information had much less impact on me than it normally would. I'm sure enjoying the water here, in the gulf and in the pool. But I'll be back for next week's hike.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Where I am today

Perfect weather in sunny Florida
This is one of the three golf courses at my sister's retirement community in Florida. I tried to walk closer to see if the egret would allow me to take its picture, but I as I crept closer, it was obvious he wasn't going to stay. So I figured I could show you the lovely setting instead. Notice it's not raining.
Yesterday's view as we readied for takeoff
I had a relatively uneventful trip, which is what you want when you've got a whole day of travel to get through. What I did want to see the last of, for at least a week, is what's on the outside of this window. For the first day, it's looking pretty much perfect. We walked before sunrise, then went to the Y where I got a 10-day pass (because of belonging to another Y) and swam in the outdoor pool for twenty minutes until I couldn't go any farther. I left my sister in the adjacent lane and went inside to use the stationary bike. She swims a mile every morning during the week and then does longer walks on the weekends. Yes, we are definitely sisters.
Thecla, Norma Jean, Sylvia, Rose
My sister and her golfing buddies, having a day in the sunshine, enjoying each other's company. Norma Jean was not actually playing today, because she's got company (me!), but we went to watch, with introductions all around. Two of these ladies are in their mid-eighties, and two in their seventies. All three, except my sister, are snowbirds, who show up after Thanksgiving and leave in April. They golf together several times a week.

So that's what my first day in Paradise looks like. While we were out on the golf course, I got a video message from John at the coffee shop, so I proudly showed him how beautiful it is here today. The weather forecast looks good for the coming week, too. I'm wearing shorts just like them, and it feels great.

(P.S. I accidentally just posted this on Eye on the Edge and realized my mistake after I posted. <sigh> now it's right)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Another rainy Saturday

Some of the ladies taking in the roaring water
I woke this morning feeling great, pretty much recovered from my respiratory bug, so I decided it would be all right to join the ladies for a nice five-mile walk before the real rain hits us in the afternoon. We had some misty moments, but it was mostly dry. It was nice to get out again before heading to sunny Florida on Monday. Afterwards, we enjoyed some coffee and scones before we left to go our own ways.

Then my friend Judy and I headed over to the Pickford to see Phantom Thread, which has been nominated for several awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis. We left the theater a little confused by the story line, which is best understood by the rating difference between the critics and the audience on Rotten Tomatoes (92% for the critics and 70% for the audience). Apparently this is typical for the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, judging from the reviews I read. In any event, the movie is beautiful, and although the story line is a little... strange, it was the performances by Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps that made the movie for me. If you saw it, please let me know what you think.

Only a few more movies before I'll have seen all the Oscar-nominated movies. I downloaded Mudbound on my iPad so I can watch it while I'm traveling. The day after tomorrow I'll be out of the incessant rain and in Florida!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Oyster Dome 2018

Melanie took the picture and sent it to me
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers showed up to hike up to Oyster Dome in the rain! I wasn't among them, since I woke with a sore throat a couple of days ago and have been fighting to keep myself from getting more indisposed with pills and potions. I'll be traveling to Florida on Monday, and I knew that a hard hike in the rain was probably not the best idea. I asked Melanie to send me some pictures, and was I surprised to see the number of people who came out to enjoy the wet and cool weather.

I was sorry to miss the hike, but I knew it was the right thing. I walked to the bus stop and went to the coffee shop instead and then attended an hour-long class, my usual 9:00am class that I don't ever get to take except on Tuesdays (T-Th) since I'm hiking on Thursdays. My guys were at the coffee shop, so I asked someone to take our picture.
What I did instead
Meanwhile, Chris was leading the group up the Oyster Dome trail, which has been recently renovated so that the steep trail and gnarly tree roots are no longer a factor. It's now actually quite pleasant, although steep. And all of us were so relieved to learn that the entire Blanchard Mountain forest block has been saved from logging! The whole article is here, but the important part is this:
Great news! The state legislature finally passed a Capital Budget on January 18, 2018, including full funding to save the core of Blanchard State Forest from logging. The iconic trails, forests and habitat around Oyster Dome, Lily Lake and Samish Overlook will now be preserved for future generations!
I asked Melanie if she had any stories about the day, what it was like, and she was happy to tell me that it rained most of the time; there were no views from the Dome, but one view of Samish Bay was fairly good.
Samish Bay from the overlook on the way up
 Once they reached the Dome, it was obviously not conducive to having even a short lunch, so after a quick look, they headed back down the way they had come.
Chris in full rain regalia
I know all these views intimately, having gone up and down the trails, old and new, many times. Although it's fun to see the pictures, given my fragile state, I'm glad I got to live it vicariously and stayed warm and dry instead. The illness I picked up seems isolated to my respiratory tract, and even though I felt in danger of losing my voice for awhile, I'm much better today.

So that's the news from the very wet Pacific Northwest Trailblazers! Although my friends will benefit from the exercise, six miles and 1800 feet up and down, I'll be (hopefully) all well before enduring a seventeen-hour-long travel day!