Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hoypus Hill 2019

Early morning shadows on today's hikers
Ten Senior Trailblazers drove 45 minutes from Bellingham to Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island to hike one of our usual wintertime excursions. While it's probably not anybody's favorite, it's a nice way to get some exercise outdoors, with some of our friends. Plus we escaped the icy trails at home. No snow, just mud.
Bare branches but decent trails
One can sure tell that it's winter from this picture: no buds on the branches, no burgeoning greenery like we've seen in past years. It has been a very cold February, so things might be a little behind schedule, but the sun was shining gloriously.
Getting comfy and ready for lunch
We walked out to Ala Spit, where we often have lunch, unless it's too cold and windy or unavailable at high tide. While it wasn't warm enough to sit around without some additional clothes, it was surprisingly warm in the sunshine, even with a light breeze, so we stayed there instead of retreating back into the forest.
Blue sky, water, driftwood
It was truly a lovely place to sit and enjoy our lunch, without having to rush before freezing solid. In fact, we lingered here for awhile just enjoying the view and the company, before heading back.
Delightful forest
It's a beautiful forest, with lots of Old Growth trees and ferns. We walked back along the East Hoypus trail, which is a very lovely section (as you can see from the above picture), as we made our way back to Cornet Bay and the cars.
Deception Pass Bridge in the distance
By the time we got back to the old logging road, we had a view of Deception Pass Bridge, which we would be driving back across to return home. We covered about nine miles and 1,100 feet of elevation, and everybody was in a very good mood as we piled into our cars and returned home. Another good day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Farewell dear friend

Rob decapitating the cake
Sunday we had a goodbye party for Rob, who is moving out of the complex by the end of the month. Our friends Hedi and Dan hosted a really nice gathering for him at their place. Hedi bought this lovely cake, and here is Rob getting ready to cut it into pieces for everyone to enjoy.

Frankly, as much as I enjoyed the cake, I'm finding that I can no longer eat that sort of food without paying a very high price for it. I had an upset stomach all the rest of the night and into the morning. Now that I'm back to eating healthy food, I'm feeling much better. And I had a great yoga class this afternoon and that was all I needed to put myself back into the plus column. The older I get, the more I find that indiscretions like rich cake or too much wine leave me wishing I'd been more circumspect.

I just saw the long-term weather and discovered that winter is not over yet, not by a long shot. By the end of the month, almost everybody in the US (except my sister in Florida) will be in the deep freeze. I read about an Amtrak train from Seattle to Los Angeles that was stopped by deep snow and a fallen tree on the tracks. Here's the whole story, if you're interested. It started out on Sunday morning and was stuck for 37 hours, with 183 passengers and crew on board. Since the nearest town was without power, they were forced to stay on board the whole time. It sounds like it wasn't too bad, since they had power and food.
Some passengers took to social media, posting pictures and video of their fellow passengers passing the time by playing cards, talking or sleeping wherever they could find space. “We have accepted our new life on the train,” a Twitter user identified as Tracy27 posted on Monday night. “Tribes are forming.”
I wonder if there will be any babies born in nine months. It could happen!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Yep, I'm getting older

Hannegan Pass in August 2018
I am very grateful to be able to hike into the mountains every summer with the Senior Trailblazers. I've been doing it for a decade now, and I'm slower than I was, but for as long as I'm able, I'll be out there. I ran across a book of poems which I am enjoying tremendously, Older, Wiser, Shorter by Jane Seskin, and she's got me thinking about getting older in a bit different way than I usually do.

It has troubled me when I can no longer keep up with the others on some of the hikes we do every year. But then again, I'm still continuing to age and instead of thinking of how fortunate I am, I have been lamenting the inevitable changes that come with age. Well, I'm done with that! Here's a particularly relevant poem from Jane:

This is About the Right Now

It's not
the beginning
nor the end
but all those 
damn wonderful
exquisite moments,

the ones in between,
at odd times
unexpected, the ones that fall in
your lap, off your lips,
out of your hands,

can't be duplicated,
the moments where
you inhale in surprise,
in delight and feel full
with gratitude, so
extraordinarily lucky

to be here
in this place,
doing this thing,
at this exact
in time.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

An ice sunny day

Today's group (me behind the camera)
You can see that there were plenty of Senior Trailblazers up for an adventure on a beautiful sunny day... with no idea where to go, since all the trails are icy and snow covered. Al had to leave early, so Kirk agreed to take us on a hike through the Hundred Acre Wood in Fairhaven, and continue onto the Interurban trail and maybe get to Chuckanut Falls. 
Tree stump art (taken by Melanie)
Now the Hundred Acre Wood is not one of our usual places, and many of us had never been there before. Although the day was splendidly sunny, we also knew we would most likely be dealing with leftover ice and snow from last week's snowstorm. And we were so right. The Wood was fairly easy to navigate, but when we got to the Interurban trail, we all donned our spikes. Here's why:
Hard packed snow and ice
It made all the difference when we stopped to put on our spikes. It was cold enough last night to have hardened this surface into a treacherous situation. But we were undeterred, once we had the proper gear. So then we were able to continue on, feeling much more secure. 
Essential gear today
There were many different brands of spikes used, from Yak Trax (that don't actually have spikes but help to add some metal for grip) to several different versions of MicroSpikes that drill little points right into the ice. I had both with me today, but I used the spikes and lent my other set to one person who hadn't brought anything. It made a huge difference for all of us. We continued on our merry way to the bridge over Chuckanut Creek.
Arroyo Park bridge
We stopped here, considering whether or not to continue up the trail to the falls, or turn around. You can still see the remnants of our big snowstorm, and there have been so many people out on the trails that they are impassable without the above gear. 
Icy bridge and trail
This picture, taken from the bridge, shows the condition we dealt with today. The more we went upward, the more packed and icy the trail became. In fact, we realized that it would be treacherous coming back down, even with our gear, so we decided instead to return via the North Chuckanut trailhead and make our way back to our cars through the Hundred Acre Wood. But first we did make it all the way to Chuckanut Falls.
Today's destination
It was lovely to make it this far, and we would have had almost ten miles if we had returned the way we had come, but our trip back cut a little distance off today's hike. Nevertheless, we still covered more than nine miles, some said ten, and around 1,200 feet up and down.
Having lunch
Before we returned to the cars, however, we stopped at Fairhaven Park to have lunch. You can see how sunny and delightful it was. Frank took the picture, and both Al and Sue had already stopped hiking earlier. Since we didn't have anybody with a GPS, we could simply decide for ourselves how much distance we covered. It was a great day, and I expect we will return at some time to visit the Hundred Acre Wood again. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fire destroys old building

7:30am yesterday
Yesterday was a weird day. It started when I got a call at 6:15am from my coffee shop friend John that maybe I would be better off driving instead of taking the bus downtown, since there was a big fire right across the street from Avellino's. The old Hohl Feed & Seed building was aflame, with the street blocked off and lots of water running down the entire street. Apparently it also flooded the Bellingham bus terminal, because it was dark and the buses seemed delayed as well. I later learned that the power had been turned off because of the flooding.

After having found a place to get coffee, around 8:00am I walked by the scene and headed to the YMCA where I was getting ready to work out. Other than the lack of traffic lights, everything seemed fine there. But while I was riding the stationary bike at the Y, I began to see dark smoke coming up from the building, where I thought the fire was out. And then I saw this:
The fire had flared up again, and soon there were lots of us looking out the window and wondering if it had jumped to another building. But it turns out that the fire was not completely out of the old building, built in 1901. And even after this was put out, it happened once again.
After my workout, when I walked back to where I parked my car, I saw that the original fire trucks had been joined by more, and if you look carefully here, you can see a stream of water directed right into the building from firemen on the ladder.

No one knows at this time how it started, but there were more than 75 animals saved and transported to the local Whatcom Humane Society. Laura Clark, the executive director, reported to the Bellingham Herald this good news:
"WHS animal control officers arrived on scene and loaded several cages and aquariums filled with animals and immediately transported them back to the Whatcom Humane Society, where our animal care staff was waiting to provide care,” she said.
A few birds succumbed to the smoke, and a large python is missing. Otherwise, all the animals were saved. This morning, other than the demolished building and a few barriers, everything seems to be back to normal. No more flames, thank heavens.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Love story for the ages

Lucy and John
It is one of my favorite things: to find an unforgettable memoir that just grabs me and gives me a lot to think about. And yesterday, I finished one that I can recommend without reservation: The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. I not only enjoy all memoirs, but especially those that are written in extremis. Nina was a gifted writer and had the easiest way of talking about everything, with humor, as well as dying of breast cancer at 39. So, of course, I went online to find out more about Nina. I learned about her husband and children, and how much love was present in them all and for each other.

A couple of years ago, I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, which is along the same lines: Paul was only 37 when he died of lung cancer, never smoked, and was a renowned neurosurgical resident at Stanford. I have read his book twice now and will, I'm sure, read it again. He and his wife decided to visit a sperm bank in order to help his wife get pregnant before he died. He was very ill when his daughter, Cady, was born, but he lived long enough to be there. It's a tremendously inspiring book, too. I also recommend it highly.

But the love story: Nina was so worried about how John would be able to deal with her death that she asked him to get ahold of Lucy Kalanithi, who had been through the same experience that he was facing, and could possibly help him. Nina and Lucy were already friends because of an essay Nina had published in The Washington Post. Lucy had written her a fan letter and wrote a glowing blurb for the unpublished book, and sent Nina a private email two days before Nina died in a hospice. John read the email to her, and Nina begged him to get ahold of her afterward.

John did, and over the period of several months of intense emails, they decided to meet. Lucy was scheduled to come to a conference less than an hour away from John's home. That was the beginning of this part of the love story. The Washington Post wrote a wonderful article about it, which you can read in its entirety here. (Note: I subscribe to the Post, so I don't have a limit on what I can see. Please let me know if you have a problem reading it, and I'll try to find another way.)

For me, it was a Valentine's Day reward, a wonderful book and a real-life love story all at once. (P.S. I found, after some more digging, that the couple broke it off last summer, so the love story might not be still happening. Too soon?)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Melanie and me

Today's Senior Trailblazers
Both Senior Trailblazer hikes were canceled today, and Melanie and I decided, after offering everybody the chance to join us, to take a nice stroll down the Boulevard Park 2.5-mile walk from downtown Bellingham to Fairhaven. It was not difficult terrain, since there's no hills to speak of, but we did finally strap on our Microspikes so we wouldn't keep slipping. Neither of us had any problem at all, but we didn't have any additional snow or rain while we were out.
Big and little snowman and me
The clouds were threatening during the hours we were walking, but nothing came out of them. It is expected that later today the rain should start, and the temperature rose from around freezing all the way up to 40°F (4.5°C) while we were out.
Buffleheads again
I captured that same group of buffleheads (I assume) that were there last time I was here. The snow in the foreground has definitely begun to melt, but we have so much more snow than we are accustomed to. Piles line the major streets after snowplows have come through.
Distant mountains
In the distance, we could see mountains in Canada just below the gray skies. It was beautiful, to me at least, to gaze out at the darkness, the gray-green water, and the snow. We covered around five miles total, and there were plenty of other people out enjoying the fresh air. I'm hoping that by next week we can return to more normal activities. But in any event, it was a lovely way to spend a few hours with a super friend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Snow, yoga, and closed stores

Nice hat
This statue is on a bench near the Village Bookstore in Fairhaven, a local bookstore I frequent often. This morning I woke to yet more snow overnight, making our total somewhere around five to six inches. Since I've not made my usual 10,000 steps for three long days, today I decided to walk to the bus and make my way to town. Yesterday my friend John picked me up and took me to the coffee shop, but today I really wanted to walk.

It has been colder and snowier than I remember in years. Every night when I snuggle into my warm down comforter in our unheated bedroom, it's usually frigid and I need to shiver a little bit to get it all warmed up, but eventually I'm happily ensconced underneath and fall asleep easily. Last night was the first time in days that I didn't wear my socks to bed.

Yesterday, I remembered that stashed in the back of my closet are a pair of Sorel snow boots that I haven't needed or worn in years. Since I was taken by surprise by the amount of snow we've been dealing with, I pulled them out and have been wearing them to help with the deep snow. They work great! Here's a picture:
Same Sorel style that I have
This morning before dawn, after bundling up against the snow and wind, I walked the three-quarters of a mile to the bus stop. I was very comfortable waiting, and once the bus came, I almost made it to the coffee shop before John got there. On line, I learned that the Y would not be opening until 8:30am, so I sauntered over to be one of the first ones there. Lo and behold, I was not only early, but all the classes had been cancelled as well! So I decided to take off on a bus to Fairhaven (where my yoga classes are held, as well as the bookstore with the statue).

My class was to begin at 11:00am, but the door was locked and no signs on the door. I headed over to the bookstore, but it was also closed, with no sign as to when they might open. Fortunately there is a grocery store nearby, and I got online on their wifi and found that the yoga studio would be opening late, but that my class was on! I walked back and found the teacher and a couple other students had arrived. It was a wonderful class, if on the small side. I took this picture from inside:
Snow-covered trees through the studio window
And then afterwards I caught the bus back downtown, and a final bus before my short walk home. Walking in deep snow is similar to walking barefoot in sand, I think. And then I was home, where I probably won't stir from my easy chair much more today. My step count accomplished, nicely worked out from the class, and I'm feeling ever so much better than the past few days.

But the snow can stop any time now. I've had my fill of wintertime.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Family members to Florida

Fia, Bob, Markee, Norma Jean
Most of you know that I visit my sister Norma Jean in Florida once every winter to get some sunshine and reconnect in person. Well, it turns out that my sister Markee and her husband Bob have just bought a home in Apollo Beach, Florida, about an hour's drive south of my sister's home in Zephyrhills.

Markee and Bob bought the home very recently, and Norma Jean drove down a day before they arrived in order to open the house to accommodate the arrival of their new furniture. I took this picture using FaceTime when they had all arrived last Wednesday. Fia and Markee are close, sort of like Norma Jean and I are. Fia lives in Texas and flew to Tampa to join them for the grand unveiling.

Since I didn't know about all this in time for my trip to Florida last month, I'll need to wait until next February to join them for a family reunion. Bob and Markee live in Canada and will enjoy having a place to warm up after a cold spell in Alberta, where they live. They will be "snowbirds." Fia says she wants to hurry up and retire so she can move to Florida, too. It's cold right now in Texas, where she lives, but nothing like what Bob and Markee were experiencing in Canada: it was –44°C when they boarded the plane. What a difference it must be for them now!

Anyway, at the moment I'm listening to the windstorm roaring outside. We were supposed to get snow last night, and we did get a little, but nothing like south of us, where more than a foot was dumped! Instead we got this awful windstorm, which has given us gusts up to 60 mph (96 kmh). Since it was okay to drive, I went to meet the ladies for a windy walk, but once I got there, we decided to forget the walk and enjoy some coffee together instead. We've had 15–20 women most Saturdays, and even today 7 of us braved the weather. I was glad we skipped it though: our temperature right now is cold enough, with the windchill, to take it down to single digits. Next week will be soon enough!

Speaking of cold, I found this online and had to share it:

Minus 4 degrees

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Enjoyable snow and ice day

Eleven adventurers (me behind the camera)
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers decided to check out the Chuckanut trails to Fragrance Lake and beyond. We were supposed to do a longer hike than we ended up doing, but conditions made us cautious about possibly hiking too far up the trails. It was icy and slippery going uphill to Fragrance Lake, partly because the trail gets plenty of use. It was cold but without even a breath of wind for the first part of the hike.
Snow-laden branches
The higher we climbed, the more snow we encountered. Filtered sunshine helped to make the hike delightful as we headed up to Burnout Point. (This was instead of trying to make it up the Rock Trail, since it was icy even where foot traffic was negligible.)
Samish Bay
Our progress was slow, because we needed to be very careful with every step, since the recent cold weather and strong winds had created possible pitfalls, with fresh snow hiding icy spots and disguising treacherous terrain. So we proceeded slowly, still enjoying the day and the company. Nobody was in a hurry.
Thank you, Melanie, for this picture
I like to make sure that I get a shot of myself for the blog when I'm not in the group photo, and Mel took this one, showing me in one of my favorite places: on a hike with some great friends.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters
We walked another half-mile to this view of Mt. Baker. We weren't sure if there would be a view, but the high clouds didn't mar the magnificence of the mountain. It was a little early, so we discussed whether to go further or just stop for lunch. For some of us, there was no question: let's stop.
Melanie choosing her lunch spot
As you can see, there was plenty of snow at our lookout point. Frank said that his GPS showed us at 1,800 feet (550 meters), and after we put on more clothes, we settled in for a rather leisurely lunch. By that I mean we spent maybe a half-hour here, and Melanie brought another one of her wonderful cakes. She even had napkins and forks this time, making it hard to pass up one or two servings.
We decided to come back the way we had gone up, but once we got to the Fragrance Lake road, we took the road instead of going back on the trail, figuring it would be easier to navigate the slippery spots. For the most part, we were right, but there were several very icy places that made me extremely happy to use my poles to keep me upright. Most of the time, anyway; I did take one fall.
Waterfall and ice
When we got to the waterfall, which is usually rather unremarkable, we saw plenty of icicles and snow from the recent cold. In the middle of the picture you can see a hole made by the ice, surrounded by an abundance of beauty as we snapped lots of pictures.

At this point on the road, it became even more icy and slippery, so we took our time making it back to the cars. We covered right around eight miles, give or take a bit, depending on whose device you preferred, and 2,000 feet up and down. Another good day of exercise, with friends who make any outing more enjoyable.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter, finally

Boulevard Park on Superbowl Sunday
Sunday brought us the first snow of the season here in Bellingham, and then the winds started, coming down from the Fraser Valley in Canada, and the temperature dropped precipitously. I stayed inside on Sunday (after my usual trip to the coffee shop, that is, and my hour-long private session with my yoga teacher). I tried to watch the Superbowl, but it didn't hold my interest, and then the team I wanted to win lost. I watched a little TV and then went to bed, listening to the roar of the wind outside.

Monday morning it was still blowing, and the snow had pretty much stopped. Not knowing how bad the roads would be, I walked to the bus stop a half mile away, bundled up with plenty of down, long underwear, and mittens to keep me warm. I made it just fine, but the wind was brutal. Bellingham didn't get nearly as much snow as Seattle did, and what there was on Monday was made worse by the unrelenting wind.

The schools were all closed yesterday and today, and I pondered calling Monday afternoon to cancel my appointments to help people write their Advance Directives. But happily for me, the office closed for the day, and I didn't venture out again until this morning. Still cold, but the sun came out and it's actually rather nice when you're properly clothed. The wind died down to practically nothing. Now it seems almost normal outside. I'm glad I lived in Colorado before moving here: it toughened me up.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Beavers and groundhogs

Recent beaver work
Today is Groundhog Day, and I learned that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who supposedly predicts whether or not we'll have an early spring didn't see his shadow today, which is supposed to mean that, yes, it WILL be early. Well, we haven't had much of a winter here in the Pacific Northwest, and the trees have been seduced into putting out buds already. We'll see what the cold weather we are predicted to have beginning tomorrow will do to those nascent buds. At least the day is the halfway mark to the first day of spring!

I took the picture last Thursday of the tree felled by beavers at Lizard Lake. Those guys are busy as, well, beavers. Did you know that they must gnaw on trees or their teeth just keep growing and then they cannot even eat properly? All rodents, apparently, have teeth that continue to grow during their lifetimes. But beavers are special: beaver teeth have really extreme growth, up to 4 feet a year! Because they're not worried about wearing their teeth down, beavers are free to chew on as many hard objects as they can. Learn more about them here.

I watched the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards, and I decided to check out a couple of shows that interested me: The Kominsky Method on Netflix (I really loved it) and Killing Eve on BBC America. Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin star in the comedy series about getting old, and it's just been renewed for a second season. Sandra Oh stars in Killing Eve, and I guess I should have realized it would be bloody and suspenseful, but I got hooked anyway and watched all eight episodes. It's also been renewed for a second season.

And I've seen all the performances and movies nominated for the Oscars, except for Glenn Close in The Wife. I'll try to see that one beforehand, since she has garnered accolades from those two events as well. It's an amazing eclectic mix of shows this year; we are really lucky to have such talent working today.