Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday morning

Changing colors everywhere
This morning, only ten women showed up for one of our favorite walks around Lake Padden. It figures, since our leader Cindy is in Italy right now, and her energy is always missed when she's not here. Our substitute leader did a great job, though, taking us through two loops around the lake. We've done it so often that there's no chance of getting lost, but we still need a leader. The two loops give us 5.2 miles of moderate terrain, with a nice trail and lots of shade.

We didn't need the shade this morning, however, as the overcast skies and a light breeze kept us on the cool side. Perfect for a walk. Afterwards, Lily and I went to Whole Foods where I got a smoothie (Green Goodness with extra kale) while she had breakfast. Then we came home, where I met SG just as he was leaving. It's funny, often one of us is often coming as the other is going. Our neighbors must wonder if we TRY to avoid each other. But no, it's just that we have different internal clocks. I'm an early riser and he's late to bed. We start our days quite differently.

It's hard for me to believe, but October begins on Monday! What happened to September? It flew right by, and now we are truly in autumn. Trees are turning everywhere, and our wonderful Indian Summer is here, which I will enjoy as much as possible before I must adjust to the rain and dark days. Oh, well, I'm feeling grateful and happy to be out and about.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Ptarmigan Ridge Fall 2018

Colorful blueberry bushes
It was simply a glorious day on Ptarmigan Ridge today. Although we were supposed to head south to the Baker Lake area, some of us decided we wanted to head out to Ptarmigan Ridge, scheduled for last week but didn't go because of weather. Since today's forecast was for it to be sunny and gorgeous, we went. And that it was!
Our Baker's Dozen, taken by a passerby
Thirteen of us piled into cars and made the drive to Artist Point to begin this trip. Several other Trailblazers went to the other destination, which I hope to do next week, if the weather holds like this. Simply amazing warmth and sunshine for the end of September. That's Shuksan behind us.
Heading toward Mt. Baker
It looks dry, and it was, but there was still some snow left over from last year. I wondered if we would encounter any, because I don't think I've ever hiked Ptarmigan Ridge without some. Sure enough, there was still some snow around.
Heading toward the mountain, crossing snow
We had three snow crossings, all of them small and easy to navigate, and we headed to our usual spot for lunch, which is around the corner from this picture, where we would have a full view of Mt. Baker.
Coming into view
There she is, in all her glory, a beautiful mountain that we get very close to on this hike. If we went all the way to the end, we would see the camp used by people who climb the mountain. But we weren't intending to go that far.
Almost close enough to touch
Once we went around the bend and saw this closeup of Mt. Baker, we decided to take a lunch break. We piled onto a hillside and spent quite a bit of time just enjoying the view, the company, and being very grateful for such a great day.
Bob scoring his lunch spot
You can tell by the way Bob is dressed that it's certainly unseasonably warm, with not even a light jacket. We didn't hurry, just taking in the wonderful scenery and in no need to venture much father. However, after a break, most of the Trailblazers decided to go a short distance along the trail, while others (me included) took a nap.
Tarns and Mt. Glacier
Turning to the left of Mt. Baker on the skyline, we saw these two tarns almost completely clear of snow, with Mt. Glacier in full view behind. This mountain is only visible from trails; it's not possible to drive to it. Every other time I've seen these glacial lakes, they have been much smaller, because most of the snow was not melted. Today they look huge!
Farewell to Ptarmigan Ridge for another year
And then it was time to retrace our steps and head back out of the wilderness. It was just the most perfect day possible. I did get home not too late, but I had to eat something and watch the news before I wrote this post. Now I'm ready to relax, my day is done, and what a great one it was!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What is it about Tuesdays?

Playing with the app on Messenger
Well, here it is almost my bedtime, and I again forgot to write a Tuesday post. So, once I remembered, I put down my latest book and brought out the trusty laptop to write a quick and dirty post. Well, with that picture it's not so dirty, but still.

I think I'm ready to say that the Tuesday time slot is quickly beginning to drop off my radar. If I write one, fine, but if I don't, it's fine too. Given that the world of politics has lately also drawn me into reading the news more than I should, it's becoming obvious that there are other things taking my time away from thoughtful postings.

Maybe if I free myself from "shoulds" I can just go with the flow for a change.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A good omen

Me and Lily with lovely rainbow
Ten ladies set out from the Farmers' Market area to walk to Fairhaven and back. The forecast was for some light rain showers in the morning, changing to a steady rain in the afternoon. I grabbed my rainhat and a light jacket when we left to begin the walk. It wasn't raining at all, but before too long it did live up to the hype: just a little occasional rain.

When we were on the boulevard over Bellingham Bay, the sun came out. We looked around to see if there might be a rainbow anywhere, and lo and behold, passersby had cellphones out so we turned around to see this lovely rainbow.

We asked one of them to take our picture, since it sure seems to be a good omen to me. Lily, who is from Guatemala and knows English as a second language, had never heard of omens before. After explaining, she agreed that this was indeed a good sign, perhaps of many more splendid things to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Another local hike

Start of today's outing
Our Senior Trailblazers group was scheduled to drive over an hour to Artist Point to begin our annual hike to Ptarmigan Ridge, a very special one I've done once a year with this group. The other group was also scheduled to head up there, to do the Chain Lakes loop hike, which we accomplished a few weeks ago. Since the weather was iffy, we decided to go local, while the other group went ahead with their original plans. That meant several of our regulars went with them instead of us, but we were still thirteen.
Heading up to Raptor Ridge
The nice thing about the Pine & Cedar trail is that we can make it longer or shorter, depending on the weather. It was cloudy but not raining, and we knew we would get a good workout. We decided to include a side trip to Raptor Ridge before heading to the lakes.
The non-view from Raptor Ridge
Nope, no view, but we didn't expect one. After this stop, we headed back to the Pine & Cedar Lakes trail and made our way first to the Cedar Lake overlook (nope, no view there either) and then to Cedar Lake.
The usual Cedar Lake lunch spot
The weather was pretty perfect, with no rain and a light breeze, cool weather and happy hikers. Although we could have stopped here, it was still early, and Al suggested we push on to Pine Lake before stopping for lunch.
Cedar Lake
Although the only way I could tell the difference between these two lakes today is where they appeared in the lineup of pictures, they are both quite picturesque, and as you can see, the green leaves in the foreground are not yet beginning to turn.
Pretty mushrooms
Since the rains have returned for the season, everywhere we looked we could see mushrooms springing up. I don't have a clue what these are, but I like their pretty dotted swiss look. We discussed the efficacy of eating wild mushrooms. It would take someone with a lot more knowledge (and bravery) than I before I would even consider it.
Pine Lake
And then we arrived at Pine Lake, where we made ourselves comfy and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. There was still no rain, and the wind we felt on Raptor Ridge was not evident here at all. It was perfect, once we put on extra clothing because of our earlier exertions.
Woodpecker work?
Melanie took this picture of some big holes in an old tree, and we speculated what had made them. She thought they might be too big for woodpeckers, but that's what I think caused them. What do you think?
More mushrooms
We saw another species of mushroom, this one having been disturbed on the upper left by something, probably critters, but entirely different in shape and form from the earlier ones. It amazes me how quickly they appear once the ground is once again wet from the rains.
Return trip
And then it was time to return to our cars and head back home. Since we didn't have a long drive, it was still early, compared to when we would have come back from the High Country. The cars from the other group were still there when we returned, and I pictured them on the trail, hoping that their day was as good as ours turned out to be. We covered seven-and-a-half miles and 2,200 feet or so up and down. It didn't begin to rain until we were on our final leg, and even that was just a few drops. More rain is expected later today.

So we were more than happy with our day's excursion, and I look forward to better weather and some views when we finally make a Ptarmigan Ridge attempt this year!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


September 16, 2018 moon, with robin singing,
as captured from Dublin, Ireland, by Deirdre Horan.
I was captivated by this picture, which I found on yesterday's EarthSky News, and I decided I could use it in this post if I gave proper credit to the photographer. The juxtaposition of the robin singing its little heart out, with the quarter moon in the background, is very special.

Every year when September 17 rolls around, it gives me a little jolt of remembrance. That was the day, 53 years ago, that my son Stephen died suddenly of spinal meningitis. He got sick in the afternoon and died that very night. I suppose that's one reason why it took me so long to recover from that terrible event, but it's never easy to lose a child, at any age. Since he was an infant, just over a year old, he was more than part of my daily life: he and I were together from the time he awoke until he went to bed.

It took a long, long time for me to be in the presence of a baby again. For more than a decade I would look away to try to keep the pain at bay. Then one day, without my noticing when exactly, I found myself looking at the sweet little chubby legs of a baby, and... the pain didn't come up. They say that time heals all wounds, and maybe it's true, but sometimes the scars left behind are debilitating.

Somebody asked me yesterday if I had any kids, and I was forced to relay the sad news that yes, indeed I did, but neither one of them is still living. When someone asks, I can feel the hesitation about having to tell the tale, but my sons were both wonderful people and I will never forget (or forsake) them as long as I'm alive.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ten years ago today

The beginning of the financial crisis
It was on this day a decade ago that Lehman Brothers collapsed. I remember it well: we had moved in the spring of 2008 to Bellingham, and I'd been retired for several months, with my retirement assets already converted into a monthly annuity income. Thank heavens for that! Although we lost hundreds of dollars of monthly income when everything was refigured in 2009, we still had so much more than those whose savings were wiped out.

Sometimes I wonder about what it would have been like for us if we'd retired a year later, in the midst of the financial crisis. We didn't have any idea of what was to come, nobody did (at least those of us not in the business), so we just hunkered down and rode it out. For one thing, I know that our assets would not have stretched nearly as far, since a third of our assets were in stocks. Today, we are back to the same monthly income of a decade ago, so it took a long time to recover, but we did. And although we don't have lots of money, we are able to pay our bills and not count pennies. I am more than a little grateful for our situation.

After having walked this morning with the ladies, Lily and I got home just in time to miss the rain.
Ornamental gourds for sale
We also admired these pretty fall gourds that were on display outside the grocery store. I think the ones in back, the large ones, are edible. I love this time of year, when pumpkins and squash become available once again. Hope you have a great weekend! Thinking of those in the Carolinas today, hoping they stay safe.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Two Dollar trail and beyond

Start and end of today's hike (somebody lost a strap)
Because of the rather rainy forecast for the day, we (fourteen Senior Trailblazers) decided not to make the long drive south for our scheduled hike. Instead, we ventured into the Chuckanuts for what is fast becoming a favorite trip: up the Two Dollar trail, skirt around Fragrance Lake to hike up the South Lost Lake trail, up the Rock trail to Gates Overlook, then returning via Fragrance Lake (adding a loop around the lake), and then back down the Two Dollar trail. Many thanks to Melanie for suggesting this trip today.
Up the wide trail to the next turnoff
Although rain threatened and we got an occasional drop or two, it wasn't ever enough to make us stop to put on rain gear. We're hardy Pacific Northwesterners, after all. The overcast skies made it cool and delightful hiking weather.
South Lost Lake trail in the mist
The misty fog came and went during our time outdoors today, but the wet leaves by the side of the trail told us that it had rained here recently. However, the weather gods were on our side.
Today's group, with Melanie our photographer
Melanie took this picture of us on the Rock trail. As you can see from the way we are dressed, it wasn't cold and/or rainy, as we expected it would be.
Magnificent rock in the mist
The Rock trail is really beautiful at all times of the year. We talked about having been here after an ice storm, with great sheets of ice sliding down off these walls, or in heavy rain with everything dripping wet. But today it was just perfect, if you ask me. I had no trouble with the pace, keeping up easily with the others, thanks to the cool temperature.
Looking at Bellingham Bay
Then we reached Gates Overlook, at the top of the Rock trail, and wonder of wonders, we actually had a bit of a view! It came and went while we stopped for lunch, but there was little wind and we were quite comfy as we shared a leisurely lunch. It was then time to return to the cars, which we did by making a trip down the Fragrance Lake trail from the road, and then making a loop around the lake before rejoining the Two Dollar trail.
Fragrance Lake
We stopped for awhile and admired the lake and watched the little water bugs skipping across the water. Nobody was in a hurry to get anywhere today, and because we were right in town and not having traveled a long distance, we knew we would be back home early.
Golden maple leaves
There were signs of fall everywhere, and it made me realize once again how soon we will be back in the Chuckanuts without any more chance to visit the High Country. There are worse fates than having to spend our time on this trail, don't you think? We covered almost nine miles and just over 2,000 feet up and down. And the conversations I both participated in with others, as well as those I overheard, were very interesting. What a fine day!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September song

Garden bounty
We are at the end of the summer season, and we are gathering the harvest of tomatoes, corn, and some pears from a nearby neighbor. I should go out and gather the final beans out of my own garden and put them on this table for someone else to enjoy.

We have a wonderful gardener who just joined us this past year, Carter, and he is out there most often and brought in this table, as well as lots of straw to act as mulch, and is rebuilding our compost bins. He's a gem, and I look forward to seeing what he decides to plant next year. I won't post a picture of my sad garden spot, which was somewhat neglected towards the end of the season.
Leaves on fire
I saw this tree beginning to turn last week, when we still had blue skies, on my way to the gym for my morning workout. I suspect by now it's even more red, but our skies are mostly cloudy and we are having intermittent rain showers. Even the rain is welcome after a very dry spring and summer. Fall is my favorite season, and I never get tired of seeing the brilliant colors. And the cooler temperatures make me very happy indeed. Hope you're having a good week.

The significance of today's anniversary is also brought home by the commemorations around the country, and I think back to seventeen years ago and how many tears we as a nation cried. It will take many more years before we can look back without feeling our hearts break once again.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A change in the weather

Interurban trail and walkers
Last night, I woke to the sound of rain gently falling outside my window. It's been a long, long time since we've had any, and although you know I'll be complaining about it before the winter is over, for now it was more than welcome. I was even willing to walk in the rain with the ladies, if that was to be.

But no, the rain stopped early and is expected to start up again in the afternoon, but right now it's just overcast and very enjoyable, perfect for our hard walk up Taylor Street and down the stairs. We then walked on some new (to me) trails south of our usual return trip, with our leader Cindy trying to find some new places for us to enjoy. By the time I took the above picture, we were back in our normal walking areas.
Canadian house's new home
Cindy pointed out to us this rather unremarkable house, but it has a good backstory. It was relocated here in Bellingham after having been uprooted from its previous home in Vancouver, BC, in order to keep it from being destroyed in its old neighborhood. It was shipped by barge and painstakingly transferred here by Nickel Bros. Company. After everything is hooked up and made ready for occupancy, it cannot be a cheap alternative, but rather than having to tear down a home and then build anew, you too can have a recycled home.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Chain Lakes 2018

From the parking lot
Although it's a long drive up to Heather Meadows where we begin this hike, the weather made it feel like it was midsummer instead of the first week in September. It was warm, even early in the morning, and I knew we would be hiking in full sun today. Not my favorite thing lately.
Thanks to Melanie for the shot
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met for this hike, and after piling into three cars and making our way up the Mt. Baker highway, we walked around one side of Bagley Lake (which is in this picture), and we took a group shot before beginning the long slog up to Herman Saddle. It's around 1,200 feet up in 2.5 miles, so I wasn't kidding. I was also not surprised to find that I was having difficulty, and with my new fitness tracker, I could see that my heart rate was in a dangerous zone when I began to feel ill. Five of the group took off, and the others stayed back with me as we toiled up the steep trail. One person wanted to get back early, so we never saw them again during the entire hike.
Mike, Melanie, Sue, Al
We were almost at the top, at the saddle, when I took this picture. They are looking back at the view and waiting for me. It's become very hard for me for the past three years to hike uphill in the heat. I think it's obvious that I should be with the slower group, and I intend to join them more often in the future.
Mt. Baker and Iceberg Lake
You can see what a beautiful pristine day we had today. There were many other people on the trail with us, since I think everybody wanted to enjoy the late summer outdoors magnificence. We are so lucky to live here!
Iceberg Lake
We stopped for lunch at the lake, with only a few patches of snow to be seen. There are times when the lake lives up to its name, but not today. Richard, who often takes a skinny dip at appropriate places, said there may not be any icebergs, but the water was COLD. You can see someone out in an inflatable raft near the middle of the picture, enjoying a lazy paddle.
One of today's last views of Baker
And then it was time to climb back up the gentle slope to the trail that would take us to Artist Point. This is a loop hike and gives us great views of both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. As we rested at the top before heading to Artist Point, Melanie took this picture of me.
Me in front of Mt. Shuksan
It's a beautiful mountain, and from where I'm sitting, I had Shuksan at my back and could gaze right at the glory that is Mt. Baker. It was such a beautiful day that, as we reached this place, there were many, many other hikers and sightseers all around us.
Trail to Artist Point
If you look carefully, you can see lots of people on that trail. Most of them were taking a trip from the nearby parking lot, about a mile away. Once we got there ourselves, we still had to navigate the Wild Goose trail back to our starting point. Although this is not an especially long hike, it was definitely a challenge for me. In about 7+ miles, we climbed and descended around 2,500 feet.
White and pink flowers in abundance
Just before we got to Artist Point, I saw these beautiful white flowers, with pink fireweed along with them, to show how beautiful it is up there today. We are now all home and recovering, and now it's time for me to have that well-earned glass of wine!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

I love big old trees

Lily took this last year
A year ago to the day, I took Lily up to Artist Point for her first time in the Mt. Baker wilderness. and I wanted to introduce her to one of my favorite Old Growth trees, which we stopped to visit on our way back down the highway. Isn't it magnificent? You have to know exactly where to stop on the road, since there's no signs to this tree. I was shown its location a few years back, when one of the Trailblazers suggested we stop and look at this wondrous tree. And now I've passed the information on to a dear friend.

It's really impossible to take a picture that captures the feeling this tree imparts to visitors. It has to be hundreds and hundreds of years old, spared by the loggers the first time they passed through. And now you've also met this wonderful tree. Lily took this picture, looking up, that almost captures how spectacular it is.
This Thursday we'll pass by the place where we can see this tree, but we probably won't stop, since we've got a long hike scheduled for the day.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

First Saturday in September

Ten of the fourteen ladies on this morning's walk
It's already Labor Day weekend here in the United States, which signals the unofficial end of summer, although we have three more weeks before we reach the autumnal equinox (on September 22, to be exact, at 6:54pm PDT). We ladies were chilly when we started out, but before long jackets were coming off and we enjoyed sunlight peeking through the clouds.

The changes in season are evident everywhere, from the beginning of the falling leaves to the abundant harvest of apples, pears, and even some berries. In the High Country, the wild blueberries are all coming ripe and added a great deal of joy to our excursion last Thursday. I forgot to mention them.

This afternoon I'm heading to the theater to join my friend Judy to see Crazy Rich Asians. I've heard nothing but good things about it from friends who have already seen it. It's billed as a romantic comedy and should be entertaining. It's a great Saturday already, the beginning of a three-day-long weekend!