Thursday, May 31, 2018

Chuckanut Ridge trail

Most of the group today
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers set out to do a scheduled hike of the entire Chuckanut Ridge. We have done parts of it this past winter and spring, but today we did the whole enchilada: 10.5 miles and 2,700 feet up and down. It was cool and cloudy for most of the day, perfect conditions to keep us moving.
Melanie was today's hike leader
Since Melanie had volunteered to lead this hike, she started us out at the North Chuckanut trailhead and took us up the Hemlock trail to the North Lost Lake trail and then to the Chuckanut Ridge trail. There's a fair bit of uphill to this spot, but then when we reached the actual ridge, it was a lot of steep up and steep down.
The exposed roots mark the start of the hard part
At this point, we had been hiking for a couple of hours, on our way to Gates Overlook, where we would stop for lunch. Although you can't see it, the breeze kept us cool as we struggled upwards, and then downwards. Not far from this spot, although we had been climbing and descending, Al pointed out that our actual elevation gain was only 100 feet from where we started!
Can you see how far down it goes?
I tried to capture a picture that shows how steep the ridge trail is here, but it didn't work all that well. You simply do not want to step out to the left, because that would be the end of you. Magnificent but worth taking care, for sure.
Showing the steep drop-off to the right
Once while I stopped to take a quick bathroom break, I captured the others waiting and another attempt to show the ridge. You can see our trail and what a beautiful day it was. Everybody was in a very good mood, as well.
Gates Overlook
When we got to Gates Overlook around noon, we had a partial view of Bellingham Bay, and many empty stomachs. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, with several picnic tables to accommodate us, and then we started back down.
Melanie, Chris, Rich at the junction
At this point, we came to a junction that would take us back down to the cars, but it was a bit longer than the way we had come up, allowing us to avoid the worst of the steep ups and downs on the ridge. You can see the signs behind this threesome showing that we had choices to make. Our leader (along with some direction from Al) got us going in the right direction.
Some view on our return
On the way back, this spot was completely socked in earlier, but by mid-afternoon began to clear a little. We still couldn't see Mt. Baker, but several other hiking areas had begun to emerge from the clouds.
Our beautiful trail in the Chuckanuts
Our trail was well marked and well maintained, as you can see here. We covered, as I said earlier, more than ten miles and more than half a vertical mile up and down. And still, I feel so much better after today's hike that I thought I would, that I can chalk up this day as a WIN. What better way to give an old hiker a good day than to be able to cover this distance in the presence of so many friends, and still feel good at the end of the day? Yes, a very good day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My yoga teacher and more

Erica getting ready to launch that leg forward
I asked my yoga teacher, Erica, if she would demonstrate for me how one is supposed to get one's leg in a forward lunge while doing the sun salutation. I simply cannot get it back far enough to manage to get it forward between my hands. But of course she does it without any problem. One day I'll do it, but it's gonna be awhile. For now, I can get it to land somewhere in the vicinity, and then I sneak it forward with my toes. One day.

In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out how to get around an annoying aspect of Blogger. Since last Friday, I have stopped receiving email notifications when somebody comments on one of my blogs. Nothing. Nada. So if I want to read or react to a comment, I must visit the latest post and see who's commented. I got on the blogger help forum and discovered this seems to be universal. But nothing from Blogger to suggest when (or if) it might be fixed. One person suggested the following:
I've learned a short-term (hopefully) fix for this. When writing a blog post, leave yourself a comment at the end and check the box that says "email follow-up notifications". You'll then receive notification of any comments that come after. If you like to respond to comments, you might notice that commenters come across as "no-reply" even when they aren't. You can click on the name of the commenter to come up with an email if one is available. Then, copy and paste into your response.
So, once I finish this post, I'll leave myself a comment and see if this works. It sure would make it easier, but it won't do anything for earlier posts. Grrr!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lummi Island walk

On the Lummi Island ferry
Twelve of us ladies caught the 8:10am ferry from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island this morning, so we could make the seven-mile loop walk that we do at least once a year. It was breezy and chilly as we made the short crossing, but we warmed up as we walked, quickly breaking into faster and slower groups.
Orcas Island (and the fast ladies) in the distance
This walk is entirely on pavement, which makes it a little hard on the feet and knees when compared to walks of this distance that incorporate a bit of softer terrain, but we all did just fine.
Iris in full bloom
There were plenty of flowers out today, and these iris caught my eye as the sun came out briefly and lit them up. The picture doesn't do justice to their beauty. And then once we were finished with the walk, we stopped at the Beach Store Cafe for breakfast before catching the noon ferry back to the mainland. A few of us decided to stay awhile longer, but I was glad to get back in time to get home before the worst of the Memorial weekend traffic hits. With the annual Ski to Sea race tomorrow, lots of people from out of town are on the streets. It's pretty nice weather, too, so everyone should be all smiles.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The 2018 season begins

The Half-Fast hiking group today
It's time to celebrate! I know that my Thursday hiking group goes out all year long, but it won't be long now before we are able to head up to the High Country and leave the nearby haunts alone for the time being. Every Memorial Day weekend, we have a gathering of the two groups (the Half-Fast and the Relaxed hikers) and two hikes, a longer one and a shorter one, on the horse trails behind Lake Padden, before a potluck lunch.
Lake Padden, showing all the trails
The horse trails are the red ones in the lower right. When I go to Lake Padden with the walkers on Saturday, we go twice around the lake for 5.2 miles. Today we covered around seven-ish miles on the horse trails. We also added a short trip up what is called the Padden Gorge, a short and very beautiful section that added maybe a mile total to today's hike.
Beautiful green feast for the eyes
I never tire of looking at the gorgeous place where I live, and when it's mostly overcast and cool (along with dry), the hikes cannot be beat. We maybe climbed up and down under 1,000 feet today, but mostly it was nice and flat, like this. At a place along the Padden Gorge, someone has been cultivating a lovely place of remembrance.
I wonder who did this, and for whom
There are pretty heart-shaped rocks, little painted rocks, some animal statues, and even some flowering plants. It looks well tended, and I'm grateful that vandals don't seem inclined to bother this spot. And then we headed back to our cars to get our goodies and move to the covered pavilion where we would join the other group.
An incredible number of salads
More people came who didn't actually hike with either group, and also brought more food, so we had an enormous amount to share. I was pleasantly surprised to see that if there was any meat, it was minuscule, and the salads were varied and delicious. And the desserts!! Oh my!
More came after this picture was taken
In the foreground is Doug's homemade rhubarb pie, still warm from the oven. Two blueberry pies also showed up, and several more chocolate treats. I must admit that I ate too much, once again. But it was divine, and I'd filled up with salads beforehand.
The covered pavilion
By the time we all sat down to eat, every single bench was filled, and we enjoyed spending time with our dear friends as we ate. Everyone was to bring their own plate and silverware, and those who forgot were able to find someone who brought more than they needed. It was truly a wonderful way to begin the season. I feel incredibly blessed by my hiking community.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Long ago and far away

In the Indian Peaks wilderness
I'm not sure exactly when this picture of me was taken, but I recognize the setting: I volunteered for the US Forest Service in the 1980s to take people into the wilderness and teach them how to take care of it. This is the Indian Peaks wilderness area near Boulder, Colorado, where I lived.

It's sure not a recent picture, given the fact that my hair isn't white. But one thing that makes me happy is to be reminded that I have been involved in hiking and exercising much longer than I thought. And the years have passed, with me still (or I should say again) visiting wilderness areas on a regular basis.

There was a hiatus from this activity during the time I became a skydiver. The activity took over everything, including every last minute I spent outside of work. But it "only" lasted twenty-five years; now I am no longer skydiving but remember those years with fondness. I'm left with irreplaceable memories and a few lasting scars, but nothing that keeps me from hiking!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fisherman friend Gene

No, that's not him in the picture
Most of you who have followed my blog for awhile recognize Gene, my fisherman friend who brings me wonderful Alaskan salmon, which he just gives away to friends. I saw this picture in our local coffee shop (Avellino's, where we meet most mornings) and asked Gene if I could take a picture of him standing in front of it. The portrait is gone now, so I'm glad I got this shot.
Lily in Gene's ancient truck
Last weekend Gene came to the coffee shop in his old truck. He asked Lily if she wanted to sit in it; she did. This is not the sort of truck (made in 1952) that most people could even drive. You need to double-clutch it to change gears, and the steering wheel is HUGE. He said vehicles like these don't even allow you to drink a cup of coffee while driving. You need all your wits about you, and all hands on deck! Makes for a fun picture, though.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rock/Ridge trail and more

Part of our large group today
What a day! I'm a little late getting this post up, because I had to call AppleCare to find out why my pictures didn't download from my iPhone to my Mac. Half of them came through, but not the others. After doing everything I could think of, I ended up with an hour sharing my Mac screen with a technician trying to find out what was wrong. I think now that my life can return to some semblance of normal.
The start of our hike
All eighteen of us Senior Trailblazers drove up Cleator Road to this signpost. It was overcast but very nice weather for hiking, cool and damp, but not cold at all. Our plan was to hike up this road to Chuckanut Ridge, which has lots of ups and downs but none of us minded it much. I couldn't have done it without  trekking poles, but there were some who didn't use them. I was impressed.
So green and lush
I didn't get any pictures to show you the steep Chuckanut trail, but this one shows how incredibly lush and green everything is right now. Once we got up to Gates Overlook (where there was no view at all; everything was socked in), we walked down the beautiful Rock trail.
Maidenhair ferns on Rock trail
Never before have I noticed these beautiful maidenhair ferns along this particular trail. It was partly because the fast hikers were ahead of me, and the slower ones behind, and I was all alone for awhile on this perfectly beautiful trail.
Magnificent rock face
At this point on the trail, I was completely alone, and the damp overcast took away all sounds, making it feel like I was in a different world, a magical place indeed. Once we reached the end of this trail, we headed to Fragrance Lake for a lunch spot. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of lunch, which I usually do. Once finished, however, we backtracked to the trail that would take us to Cleator Road.
Walking back down Cleator to our cars
This was the only part of the hike that I didn't really enjoy. All the rest was in beautiful forest, but it was worth it to have done this hike. We covered more than eight miles, almost nine by some devices, and 2,100 feet up and down. Not shabby at all. My wine is half finished and I'm already feeling the effects of it, and now that it's over I can say I am thrilled that I had yet another wonderful day with the Trailblazers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's still early in the garden

The corn field
We are gradually making progress in our community garden. Here's the latest addition, the soon-to-be corn field. That's Pat in the background, where he's just planted corn in his private plot. This is the first year that most of the plots have been tilled like this, thanks to Pat. I had already planted most of mine before he rented a rototiller for all these different places. Last year I planted a few zucchini starts in this area, but they didn't do well at all. I'm hoping that we will all be enjoying some corn this year, since we put lots of good compost into the soil.
Salad mix
My spicy salad green are growing like, well, weeds! I was out there yesterday and munched a few leaves and was very pleased indeed. I also took the time to root out some of the buttercup weeds that have always threatened to take over the garden. It won't be long now before I'll be able to show you a salad bowl filled with these greens.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Front porch flower garden

Some of my front porch flowers
I've gotten a pretty good start on my front porch flowers, although I've got quite a bit of work to do. My pretty tulips in the foreground are just about done, and I enjoyed them tremendously for a couple of weeks, but now the pot will go to other flowers.

I also purchased some new outdoor carpets for the front porch, which are supposed to be easily cleaned (very cheap at Costco), so I threw out the old ones that were stained from years of damp conditions during the winter months. These should do better, at least I hope so. They are made of recycled plastic bottles, which makes me very happy.

These days I'm making some efforts to reduce my plastic usage, and I bought some really cool Bee's Wrap alternative packaging instead of sandwich bags. Recently I learned that we in the US use over 2 million plastic sandwich bags each day, mostly for a single use. Here's some information on this product:
SUSTAINABLE, NATURAL ALTERNATIVE to plastic wrap. Wrap up cheese, fruit, vegetables, and bread. Cover a bowl, or pack a snack for your next adventure. Use as a place mat, or bundle up hiking and backpacking tools, utensils, and toiletries for zero waste camping. Also makes a great earth friendly kitchen gift!
I've used the smaller of these wraps to carry my nut snacks on a couple of hikes, and it's easy to use: the warmth of my hands makes it stick to itself, and when I put it back into my pocket, it stays nice and snug. I clean it off and hang it to dry after use. If you have some tricks to reduce your plastic usage, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

South Lookout Mountain from Cain Lake

At the beginning of our hike today
It never fails to amaze me how many people will show up on a rainy day, like this one. It rained most of the night and was supposed to clear up by the afternoon, but seventeen Senior Trailblazers decided to do this one anyway. Maybe some of them felt like I did: not really looking forward to it, but wanting some good exercise, and this one, rated hard, would at least fill the bill.
Dense forest with sketchy trail (in spots)
Although the rain was light, it was present for most of the first part of the day, as we struggled up steeper and steeper spots making our way through the forest until we intersected with the road that goes to the top of the mountain.
Having a quick snack when we reached the road
Melanie took this picture of the group, which is good of everyone except one person, who looks like she ate a sour lemon. That would be me, in case you were wondering. I laughed when I saw it and decided to use it anyway.
The view from our lunch spot
We walked along the road for another half mile or so, and parked ourselves at our usual place for lunch. When we first arrived, there was no view at all, but the clouds lifted as we enjoyed lunch with only a light mist instead of raindrops.
Tom on his first hike with us
We have a new member, Tom, who just moved to Bellingham from Seattle a few months back and is looking for companions to enjoy the outdoors with. I figure we'll be seeing plenty of him, since he had no trouble with the trail and is a very friendly sort.
Settling in for lunch
You can see by the way everyone is dressed that it wasn't exactly warm, once we stopped hiking and felt the light breeze cool us off a bit. It wasn't really cold, maybe 10°C (50°F), but stopping for any amount of time without sunshine and a light breeze made it feel a bit nippy.
Plenty of raindrops still hanging around
I saw these pretty raindrops on a nearby tree as we lunched, which shows that we did have quite a bit of rain to deal with. By this time, however, we were ready to head back the way we had come, and we moved quickly going downhill. In no time at all, I was warm again and was able to take off my raincoat.
Hikers heading back down
By this time, we had brief showers, this time of the sunshine variety. Every now and then we'd get bathed by the sun, but there were more clouds than sun as we headed back to the cars. We covered around eight miles and 2,400 feet up and down on today's excursion into the wilderness. The company and lush forest made up for the less-than-perfect weather. We were all smiles by the time we reached the cars.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

First plants are in the ground

My garden spot
I've managed to get my first plants into the ground, with bark to keep the weeds down on the left-hand side of my plot. In the foreground is my flower bed and strawberry patch. Then the three kinds of beans I planted, some cucumbers, fennel, and tomato plants. Here's a closeup of the flowers as of now:
The heather is from last year's garden
The only flower that made it from last year is the pink heather. There's also snapdragons, zinnias, and petunias. I'll keep you posted on their progress.
Joe's Best spicy salad mix
They don't look like much right now, but in just a few weeks, there should be enough for me to make a salad! At least they're not all droopy like they were when I first planted them. They only needed a day to decide to look pretty darn good! As you can see, I'm not much for nice neat rows. My mother always told me that plants do well with benign neglect, as long as you water them. We'll see!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Squalicum Bay today

Lots of boats and blooming flowers 
A smallish group of us ladies met today to walk down to Zuanich Park and Squalicum Bay, just thirteen of us on a gloriously sunny and cool morning. I know how many there were, because as usual I was too slow for the fastest walkers, and too fast for the slower ones, so mostly I was by myself between the groups for all five miles. I counted six behind me and six ahead; it was a challenge for me to try to catch up with the fast walkers, and it helps me if I'm not distracted by conversation.

Yesterday I was too busy to get my garden plants into the ground and situated nicely with each other, but that is my task for today. As soon as I'm finished with this post, it will be on with the sunglasses and hat and some hours outside. This is just about perfect weather, partly sunny and temperature in the low sixties (16°C). I will put on a light jacket but as soon as I get busy out there, I will end up shedding it.

And after I get everything planted, I will document it with pictures. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Lizard, Lily, and North Butte

Mel and a couple of our destinations
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers showed up on a very sunny and delightful day to head up the Upper Trailhead on Blanchard Mountain to Lizard and Lily lake via the North Butte trail. Once we get to this sign, if we head to Lizard lake, we can then take the North Butte trail and afterwards make our way over to Lily. So we bagged them all in a loop hike.
Our sun-dappled trail
Nobody seemed to mind the lack of rain (ha!). We had a few high clouds at times, but mostly it was a day with a perfect temperature around 17°C (65°F) with a light breeze or completely calm.
Calm Lizard lake
First we went to Lizard lake, which has a beaver dam and plenty of signs of beaver activity. I tried to get a picture of their dam, but it didn't turn out very well, so you'll just have to see what we saw today: no breeze, with a bald eagle that was on the other side of the lake. I couldn't capture him at all. He was there, though, I promise.
Mt. Baker just barely visible
There are two viewing spots when one makes the journey up the North Butte trail. This one gives you a lovely view of Mt. Baker, but when I took this I was very close to the edge of a steep drop-off, leaning out to get this much of a view, so the trees in the foreground couldn't be avoided. You can see the dark cloud overhead, which dissipated by the time we climbed up to the actual rocky butte.
What a butte!
Here we are at our lunch destination, with a magnificent view looking out over Samish Bay, enjoying a relaxed half hour in the sunshine. There were others who aren't in the picture, but most of the Trailblazers are visible here. Steve was with us for the first time in awhile; it was so nice to see an old friend on the trail again.
Lily pads in Lily lake
Then we went down the trail to Lily lake, where I tried to capture a few new lily pads and a reflection in the lake, showing how sunny and calm our day was. I've been here when it was windy and cold, but that wasn't today; it was just about perfect, as I've said already.
Two trillium
And today we saw so many trillium, all in bloom and smiling at the sun, it was simply delightful. I suspect we saw a millium trillium. Then it was time to return to the cars via Max's Shortcut (which never seems all that short) and a total distance of just under nine miles and around 1,900 feet elevation up and down.

Now that my glass of wine is half consumed, and I've got my feet in my comfy slippers, I reflect that this was one of the finest Blanchard Mountain excursions I've experienced in a long time. A little bit of all the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest.