Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday fun in the sun

Whatcom Falls and sunbeams
Another amazingly beautiful sunny Saturday, with a couple dozen of us walkers heading to Whatcom Falls park to enjoy an almost-five-mile loop, before returning to the parking lot and then heading out for coffee and snacks. I have taken this particular picture for years, because it's always new to my eyes, and today it has just the right amount of water flowing over the rocks. Not too much and not too little, so I took several. This one has rays of the sun in the upper right, making it a favorite.
Catkins and pussy willows
At one point I looked up to see the blossoms and catkins in front of the blue blue sky. Catkins are notorious for giving me a case of the sniffles, but I'm armed with my daily dose of FloNase, which is helping me get through the allergy season in good shape. Everything here is coming alive and gracing our walks with daffodils in abundance and blossoms on the trees. Makes me so happy.
Front porch flowers
I have planted almost all of my pots on the front porch this year, with just a few still awaiting new flowers. The trees are still not showing any buds, but that will change within the next week or so, I suspect. It's greening up everywhere. We are quite a bit below normal in expected rainfall for the year, which is unusual for us. I think we have only had about a quarter of our annual precipitation normal by this time of the year.
Closeup of the flowers
Now the next place for my outdoor energy will go into the garden. I've bought the compost bags to add to my plot before beginning my planting. I have noticed that most of the other gardeners have already started, so I don't want to get too far behind. The afternoon, and the sunshine, is beckoning.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf 2019

Our group today (plus me behind the camera)
What a beautiful day we had! Fourteen Senior Trailblazers started today's hike at Heart Lake, going on the Anacortes Community Forest Land (ACFL) dense warren of trails to make our way to both Sugarloaf and Mt. Erie.
The ACFL trails
We began at Heart Lake in the upper left corner (pardon the glare on the map, it was intensely sunny most of the day) and followed Al as he led us through the maze. Without his help, it would have been impossible for most of us to figure out the trails. As it was, we still had to do a bit of backtracking now and then.
Lightened trees in the forest
Sometimes we had wide trails like the one above, and other times they were normal single-file trails through dense forest. The picture of the group is taken at what is called the Little Round Top, which Al called our first summit of the day. And then we got to Sugarloaf, our second summit.
Sugarloaf summit
This beautiful area gives us our first view of the water and mountains in the distance. You can see we had a few clouds, which cleared as the day went on, and we took a few moments here to have a snack before descending on our way to Mt. Erie.
Olympics across the water
We had few hikers who had never been here before. I'm so glad they were treated to such great views, along with us old-timers who have been here when there was no view at all.
Almost to the summit of Mt. Erie
And then we had to descend before starting up the trail to the summit of Mt. Erie. This summit can be reached by car, and every once in awhile we could see the road, but we took the trails and were glad to have the wonderful forest as an alternate way to reach the summit.
View from summit of Mt. Erie
Wow! It was a gorgeous day, with magnificent views to enjoy while we had our lunch. Mt. Erie is almost 1,300 feet high, and from Heart Lake we ascended around 1,000 feet, but there is much up and down throughout the day's hike and all in all, we climbed and descended around 2,000 feet in total.
Artsy shot from the top
We enjoyed the day, filled with sunshine and adventure, as well as what I found to be the first buds I've seen yet this year. The bushes will soon be in full bloom, and we did see some Indian plum beginning to bloom, but for now it is still very early for much spring greenery.
Tiny green buds in the sunlight
We hiked around eight miles in total, and although there was a bit of confusion when two hikers fell behind for a few minutes, once we found each other, we all made it back to the cars with a wonderful day to remember for a long time. I again feel incredibly grateful not only for the place I live, but for the company I get to keep! May I continue to enjoy these hikes for a long time to come. Happy spring!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nice people in the world

Fox on left, two cheeky chickens on right
Yesterday I received a lovely gift in the mail from one of my virtual friends, Rian. She is a lover of all things feline, and also makes little clay animals. I admired them and she asked if I'd like to have one or two for myself. I said yes, of course, and here they are! The sleeping fox is apparently friends with the chickens, since he didn't bother waking up when I placed them next to him.

Rian's website is here, if you want to visit her and meet her cats as well. Since I've been following her for a long time, I know all the stories about the cats, and how much she's been enjoying her pottery m├ętier. I'm happy to be able to offer a home to these critters.

I have another virtual friend who has sent me numerous gifts over the years, and it always amazes me that there are people in the world who give freely from their heart like they do. I am very blessed indeed. Puts a smile on my face just to think of them.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Signs of spring

Walking to my yoga class on Friday, I saw that the cherry (?) trees are already in bloom in Fairhaven. I was happy to see this unmistakable sign of spring greeting my eyes. And I have to say that the yoga class is just what my sore and tired body needed after Thursday's hard hike. Getting out of bed was the worst part of my day; before too long I only had to hang onto the rails when descending stairs. By the end of class, I was feeling much better.
Display at the local grocery store
This morning I walked 5.2 miles around Lake Padden twice with the ladies (and Gordon), and some of us went to the local grocery store for coffee together afterwards.  Now that I am home and all worked out for the day, I decided to do some household chores and then sit down in my easy chair and take it, well, easy!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mud Lake 2019

Today's group; Melanie took the picture
Twelve Senior Trailblazers went on a rather hard hike today, to one of my least favorite places, Mud Lake. Why is that, you ask? Let me tell you about our day. It starts out at the Pine and Cedar trailhead and starts going straight up: in 1.6 miles, you gain 1,300 feet of elevation (almost 400 meters) before you get to the junction with the Hemlock trail. And that's just the start.
Woodpeckers did this? 
We passed this amazing dead tree, where it appears that woodpeckers have been mining it for bugs and making it into a work of art. The trail is very nice at the beginning, even if steep, as you can see here.
Mud Lake
Instead of going to Pine and Cedar Lakes, at least at first, we kept going on the trail until we ran into an old logging road. This road takes us down around 800 feet to the lake, where we considered having lunch, but some of us really don't like to hike back uphill after lunch, so we decided to head to Pine Lake first. So we turned around and hiked back up.
Boardwalks to Pine Lake
By the time we got to Pine Lake, we ran into our first snow of the day. It was pretty slippery on the boardwalks that take you over to our usual lunch spot. And when we looked at the lake, this is what we saw.
Pine Lake
The lake is still mostly covered with ice! On the far shore you can see a bit of open water, and in the foreground some slushy ice, but all the rest of the lake is still frozen. And this is after a week of very warm weather.
Our lunch spot
Once we made it safely to our usual place for lunch, we settled in for a lovely break from all that strenuous work. By this time we had covered well over six miles and lots of elevation, so it was nice to rest for awhile.
Cedar Lake
After lunch, we headed over to Cedar Lake, because a few of us wanted to get to the Cedar Lake viewpoint. This did add some distance to our hike, which made me a bit grumpy, as I was already feeling well worked out. I mislaid my sense of humor but was able to find it again once we made it to the viewpoint.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters
What a spectacular view! As you can see, the weather was perfect, and the high clouds only made it more beautiful. Now it was time to head back to the cars. We still had a fair amount of distance to cover, most of it downhill, which always makes my knees complain. I couldn't have done it without my trekking poles to lean on.
Melanie looking for the other hikers
In this picture, we were almost down, and Melanie, our leader for the day, was conscientiously looking to see the last person before we went on any farther. I was glad to stop for a minute. But finally, we were back down, having covered well over nine miles and 2,900 feet of elevation (almost 900 meters)! No wonder I feel so tired.

But it was a really good day, and once my knees and bunion stop hurting, I'll be very glad I did it. The company was once again delightful, and the fact that I can still do this makes me very happy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

An interesting woman indeed

Diana Athill
I'm not sure who it was that suggested I might be interested in reading Diana Athill's memoirs, but, curious, I went online and learned all about her. She died earlier this year at the age of 101. She was a skilled editor during her early years and began to write short stories and several other books in her 40s, and won several prestigious awards.

I just finished Instead of a Letter, written in 1962. I loved it, and I've got her most famous book on order: Somewhere Towards the End, written in her 90s. The New York Times published a revealing and fascinating obituary about her. There was one section in her book that resonated with me, which I share with you here.
  Marcel ... did not find objective reality a comfort. Once he leant out of a window in the Savoy Hotel, looked down on trees in which starlings were bickering their way to bed, and pavements over which people were hurrying, then slammed the window shut and exclaimed, "I can't bear it!"
  "What can't you bear?"
  "The thought that I might die in the night, and next morning everything would still be going on. All those bastards trotting up and down the street, and those silly birds chirping. It's horrible! Sometimes, when I'm at home, I wake in the middle of the night and start thinking about it, And then I have to telephone my sister."
  "What does she do?"
  "She comes over and makes tea for me, and talks. Sometimes I keep her up all night."
  He walked up and down the room, splashing whiskey out of his glass in his agitation, his mouth twitching, his eyes bilious: a sad little figure for whom the world would not come to an end.
  To me, on the other hand, the knowledge that everything will still be going on is the answer. If I die with my wits about me, not shuffled out under drugs or reduced to incoherence by pain, I want my last thoughts to be of plants growing, children being born, people who never knew me digging their gardens or telephoning their friends. It is the existence of other things and other people that I can feel the pulse of my own: the pulse. Something which hums and throbs in everything, and thus in me. (Instead of a Letter, pp. 236-7)
I look forward to reading more of her works, and I hope I've tempted you to check her out, if you didn't know about her before.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Springtime gardening

Pretty crocus in bloom
It's finally happening in our little corner of the country: spring is coming on fast! After plenty of below-normal temperatures, it's finally beginning to warm up, and everywhere I look I see green shoots coming up out of the ground, and crocus and snowdrops are in bloom already. That was sure fast.
Carter, our garden's overseer for 2019
Carter planting his own starts
We have one gardener who has done more than anybody else in last year's garden to make the entire place better for everybody. We're calling Carter the Overseer, and he's willing to help anybody with anything at all. He helped put straw into my area last fall, and this year I have NO weeds to pull up. I just went out to see how things are looking. Carter likes to get his hands dirty, but I always wear gardening gloves so that I can keep my hands and fingernails moderately clean.

I'm going out to buy my first flowers for the front porch and, of course, some new gardening gloves.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Oyster Dome 2019

Samish Bay
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met this morning to hike up to Oyster Dome, one of our annual favorites. It's a very steep trail up to the top, almost 2,000 feet (around 600 meters) in 3-and-a-half miles. I've done this many times, but it's not often we get such nice views of Samish Bay as we make our way upwards.
Lots of snow
Although it was steep, the trail was clear of snow when we started, but it didn't stay that way as we gained altitude. At first, I thought it was just a local phenomenon, but no, the higher we climbed, the more snow, and the slippier it got.
Time for the spikes
Finally, we stopped to get our boots outfitted with traction for the trail ahead. It just got more and more treacherous, but once we got our yaxtrax and spikes on, it was much better, but still difficult, since the climb just doesn't let up for the whole distance to the top.
Worth the effort and time for lunch
We had a glorious view of the bay once we got to the top, and although it was just a tad early, we decided to have lunch before deciding how to make our return journey. We had a couple of options: one, go back the way we came, or two, head over to Lily Lake and take Max's Shortcut down. The second is longer, and the amount of snow unknown, but it had been hard enough to make it up the packed ice and snow that some of us didn't want to go back that way.
Heading towards Lily Lake
We finally decided to take the longer but possibly less difficult way back. I was really surprised by the amount of snow we had to go through as we hiked. It was more than I've ever seen in this area, at any time of the year.
At least a foot of snow
I took this picture just before we got to the cutoff to Max's Shortcut. We decided to skip actually going all the way to the lake and began our descent along the Shortcut, which is actually not so short. It takes us to Samish Overlook and then it's another two miles back to our cars.
The sign at Samish Overlook
This will show you our hike today. The blue arrow is showing where we were when I took it (Samish Overlook), after coming down Max's Shortcut. We still must navigate the red line to get back to our starting point. The entire trip covered around nine miles and 2,400 feet up and down. Not an easy day, especially since plowing through the snow was like walking on sand: my knees took the brunt of it, but they'll be fine once I rest them.
The last section of that red line
We turned the final corner to see our cars parked along Chuckanut Drive, knowing that we had completed another successful outing, and everyone did fine, including me! I'm going to sleep well tonight, that's for sure.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Now that's weird

Astronomy Picture of the Day
I read the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) each morning when I get up to start my day, part of my morning routine. This one caught my eye, because it looks like I'm seeing the moon rising through a mountain. But it's actually the shadow of a mountain, with the sun setting behind the camera, with an almost-new moon. You can read all about it here, on APOD. A beautiful optical illusion.

We are just getting ready to experience some warmer weather for a change, and everybody is excited, since we've been much colder than normal for the entire month of February and the first part of March. It's about time. This means that all those patches of ice that have bothered our hikes will soon be history.

My baby brother turns 60 tomorrow, which astounds me. I remember the day he was born, in Texas, when I was sixteen. I remember dropping an ink cartridge that day in school. In my mind's eye, I can still see the dark spread of black ink on the tile, thinking that it figures: it was Friday the 13th. Now it seems like it was a lucky day after all. Happy birthday, dear brother!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Alternate walk destination

Whatcom Falls
This morning I got a text from our Saturday leader, Cindy, just as I was getting ready to leave, changing our destination from the Chanterelle trail to the Barkley gazebo. She had received my tale of our exploits last Thursday, and she finally decided to take us on a flat walk of about the same distance, but into the Whatcom Falls park instead. I'm glad she did, since I'm convinced there are probably lots of icy patches still to be navigated on the other trail. The difference was that the Thursday group is expecting to be hiking on possibly challenging terrain, but the Saturday morning walkers are not. It was beautiful this morning, sunny and cold.

We walked about five miles total, with a few icy patches to be crossed, but it was flat and there was no new snow hiding the slippery stretches. It's amazing that we are still dealing with difficult terrain, more than two weeks afterwards. Not our usual situation, not at all. Everyone was happy after we finished our walk and had coffee together. Lily and I left early to find breakfast at Whole Foods. But before we left, look what we saw:
Plants galore
Fresh flowers to plant in your garden! This means that it won't be long at all now before I can replace the dead flowers on my front porch with live ones. And also, even though we still have snow and ice underfoot here and there, spring is really not that far away. Tonight we lose an hour as we move our clocks forward, another sign that winter is really ready to be put to bed for another season.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Chanterelle trail in the snow

Baker's dozen Trailblazers
Melanie took this picture while Sue was still getting ready, so you don't see an actual baker's dozen of 13. But we were all there to hike up the Chanterelle trail, after a night when the snow fell in Bellingham, creating a beautiful winter scene. The opposite of our last two weeks of sunshine. We were all ready with microspikes, but only a few put them on to begin. It turned out that this heavy snow wasn't a good fit with them, clumping up and hanging onto the boot rather than helping.
Kirk and Frank playing "ball"
Making do with what we had on hand, Kirk managed to strike Frank's snowball right in the middle with his trekking pole, causing it to disintegrate. See the snowball in the middle of the picture? Perfect snowball snow.
The view from the overlook
The trail from the parking lot to the overlook is only 2.4 miles, with about a thousand feet elevation gain. We considered going up the trails from there, which are also snow-covered with some steep spots. Instead, we decided to go back down and then head over to the flat Hertz trail around the southeast side of Lake Whatcom.
Snow on every branch
A closeup of the previous shot shows that there was snow on every single little branch, meaning that there was no wind at all as the snow fell last night and early this morning. As we were hiking up the trail, we did hit some spots where ice was camouflaged by the fresh snow, making it very treacherous. We did have one person fall, but no injury. We were very careful.
Lake Whatcom today
Once we got down and made our way over to the Hertz trail, we saw very little snow and no ice left there at all. We walked in for a mile to the covered bridge, where we thought we might have lunch, but a breeze had picked up, and so instead we went down into a nice little protected spot for lunch.
No snow at all, but it wasn't warm
And so we ended up having hiked today around seven miles in total, with lots of snow to begin the day, and very little as we ended our adventure. Here's the most snow we saw on the Hertz trail.
It's probably all gone by now
Most of this trail was completely clear, and while we walked back to the cars, the sun began to shine and the skies cleared. It was a lovely way to spend a snowy Thursday, nobody was in a hurry to finish, but our options today were limited to a short but delightful hike. Next week, hopefully, the weather will be better.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Not sure I believe in it

Snagged from the internet
One of my favorite bloggers is an author as well as an astrologer. I just learned from her that the planet Mercury began a retrograde period yesterday, one of three for the year. Never heard of it? You can learn more here, if you're interested. That link takes you to the Farmers' Almanac website with everything you need to know.

Although I'm not sure I believe in it, I am still wary about any purchases I might make during Mercury Retrograde. It's worth paying attention and seeing if it seems noticeable in your own life. In any event, I am always looking for something to blame when things go wrong, and this certainly qualifies. From that link:
The planet Mercury rules communication, travel, contracts, automobiles, and such. So, when Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow extra time for travel, and avoid signing contracts.
What do you think? I've been aware of this astrological phenomenon for a long time and still am unsure whether I notice a difference or whether it's just because I'm paying attention.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Beautiful Bellingham

Taken by Mark Swenson
One of my favorite things to do on Facebook is peruse the lovely pictures of different Bellingham scenes. I found this one taken recently of the Canadian mountains visible from Taylor Dock, one of my most loved walks. Those are the Golden Ears Provincial Park mountains shining above Belllingham Bay.

It was the Saturday walking group that first introduced me to many of the places I like to visit around town. This morning we met at the ferry terminal in Fairhaven and walked towards Arroyo Park. It's still pretty icy in spots, and for that reason we didn't go as far as we normally would. It was still a very lovely way to begin the weekend, with full sunshine warming us up quickly. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found this perfect place to spend my retirement years.

My wanderlust has certainly waned over the years, and I find myself content to venture out into the areas around here during the winter, taking longer trips up to the Mt. Baker wilderness in the short summer season. As the days begin to lengthen and it's light when I wake in the morning, I've begun to think of the mountains, as well as our community garden that has turned me into someone who can tell the difference between a weed and a burgeoning vegetable plant! Who would have guessed?