Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Nice weather ahead

Carter at the picnic table
The garden looks a lot different this year, mostly because of the efforts of Carter, our "overseer" for our community garden. He stepped up, and his father, a carpenter, made this picnic table for us, and bought that great umbrella, just to be nice, I guess. Anyway, it's really going to get a lot of use out here, I'm sure.

Our sunny weather will be continuing for a while, and although it's been chilly, the sunshine will make our plants grow fast now. The strawberry plants are flowering, the lilac bushes around us are beginning to bloom, and the weather now is telling me it's time to put even more of my efforts into the garden.

Of course, it's also the last day of April. Tomorrow is the first day of May. Already! I'm grateful to have such a full, wonderful life right now. Summer, here we come!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tulip Festival 2019

Lily behind, me, Maria, and Cindy in front
Every year I go down to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This year, there were four of us. Last year it was just Lily and me, but she wanted to bring two other mutual friends, making for a great foursome.
Display garden
We got to Roozengaarde about twenty minutes before opening time at 9:00am. It was the longest line I've ever seen so early, and by the time we got inside, it was impossible to get pictures without people in them. But we did try. Above, you can see the "sea" of grape hyacinths running through the tulips. They have always done this since I've been attending, but this time there were many more "rivers."
Yellow star in the tulips
There was so much to see, and the people kept pouring in. It's almost over; next weekend will be the last for this year. The weather was mostly cloudy with a brisk wind, but it didn't deter us at all.
Amazing design
I especially loved seeing the way the spiky tulips wend their way through pink, purple and white tulips. The planting must take quite a bit of planning to get such great results.
Tree surrounded by tulips
The field behind is fallow this year, but last year it was filled with tulips. They must rotate them for maximum benefit to the environment.
Some favorites of mine
I love the pretty two-color tulips in the middle, surrounded by the ruby colored ones. Just amazing!
Fields and fields of tulips
And then we walked through the fields of tulips behind the display gardens, and we enjoyed them, too. By the time we had been there a couple of hours, we decided to go to La Conner and have lunch. Since we got there a little early, we didn't have to wait long. By the time we were served, it was packed! Then we headed home, filled to the brim with good food, great eye candy, and a huge number of pictures! If you want to see more, go to Linda Letters' website, where she posted 77 fabulous pictures.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Maple Grove 2019

Today's group, plus me behind the camera
Eleven Senior Trailblazers made the long drive to Baker Lake for a favorite beautiful hike to Maple Grove. It's worth the 90-minute drive when the weather is as fine as it was today. We start at the Baker Lake South trailhead to get to Maple Grove. The green beauty was all around us, with the magnificence not able to be captured by the camera. It was just gorgeous!
Beautiful trail
Everything is in bloom, and the heavy moss hanging from some of the trees added to the atmosphere, with sun and shade trading places often. We had perfect hiking weather: a little cool to start, no need to bundle up, just shedding a bit of clothing as we hiked along. We had to cross Anderson Creek, and the bridge, new last year, seems to have fared well during the past winter.
Melanie's picture
The water was roaring underneath, but the sturdy log and handrails made it easy to cross. That's me in front. You notice my grip on the railing? I never let go for a second, with that rushing water giving me a teeny bit of vertigo. But we had no mishaps in either direction.
Chris looking up at the giant
Some of the magnificent trees in this place made it impossible not to exclaim and appreciate them. I believe this is a cedar, but I could be wrong. Whatever it is, it is ancient and impressive.
Mt Baker and reflection
We took a side trip on our way to Maple Grove, reaching Anderson Point and this incredible view of one of our favorite mountains. The lake was still at this point, with high clouds adding a bit of interest.
We saw plenty of trillium along the trail, and I captured many, but this is my favorite because it's got a hint of purple in it, meaning it's past its prime. It is obvious why these flowers have that name: three petals and three leaves. It takes seven years after planting before the first flower appears.
First bleeding heart
A much more abundant flower is the bleeding heart, which is just beginning to flower this season. They are a little different from the cultivated variety, and these wild bleeding hearts always make me smile. I like their leaves, too.
Our lunch spot
We got to Maple Grove just a little after noon, and settled down for a very leisurely lunch. In fact, we stayed for about an hour. You can see that the reflection we saw earlier is gone, as the wind came up, but it graced our view as we rested and enjoyed our food.
Swamp lanterns
On the way back, I saw these pretty yellow swamp lanterns, also known as skunk cabbage, along the trail. You can see how abundant all the new growth is around them, too.
And then it was time to retrace our steps and return to the cars. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the camaraderie with my fellow Trailblazers once again made for a wonderful day. We covered a bit more than eight miles and 1,300 feet up and down. Not a huge amount for this hardy group, but more than enough to tire me out and help me have good night's sleep tonight!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What makes you smile?

My front porch flowers
Yes, these pretty flowers do make me smile. I'm learning that it's worthwhile to try to find ways to laugh and smile more often. When I wrote that last post about Yogi Berra, several people pointed me to some other quotes of his. I have been laughing out loud about this one:
"I don't know if they were men or women fans running naked across the field. They had bags over their heads."
This was in the days when people would streak naked across fields to make statements. I really wonder whether he really didn't know, or whether he just wanted to make people laugh. It's a well-known fact that laughing is good for the soul. So, I wanted to ask my readers what makes YOU laugh?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

It ain't over till it's over

Yogi Berra 1953
Last Thursday on our hike, somehow we got to talking about Yogi Berra. Although I'd heard his name often enough and knew he was a famous baseball player, the thing I knew most about him was his "Yogi-isms." From Wikipedia:
Berra was also well known for his impromptu pithy comments, malapropisms, and seemingly unintentional witticisms, known as "Yogi-isms." His "Yogi-isms" very often took the form of either an apparent tautology or a contradiction, but often with an underlying and powerful message that offered not just humor, but wisdom.
We managed to come up with several of them, and they had us laughing as we regaled each other with our favorites. My own favorite is told that when giving directions to Joe Garagiola Sr. to his New Jersey home, which was accessible by two routes: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Another favorite is "You can observe a lot by watching."

I didn't know much about him before looking him up at that link, but I learned that he was an amazing catcher and hitter for the New York Yankees for many seasons. He was only 5'7" tall, but apparently he was able "both to swing the bat like a golf club to hit low pitches for deep home runs and to chop at high pitches for line drives."
His combination of bat control and plate coverage made Berra a feared "clutch hitter," proclaimed by rival manager Paul Richards "the toughest man in the league in the last three innings." 
And he was a legendary catcher as well. All of this information was news to me, until looking him up on Google. Many books have been written about him, and in 2005, The Economist named him "The Wisest Fool of the Past Fifty Years," based on his manner of speaking. He lived a good long life and died in his sleep at the age of 90, in 2015. If you're interested, that Wikipedia link will give you much more information about this unique and delightful person.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fifty shades of green

Muddy trails, mild temperatures
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers hiked from the Lost Lake parking lot to Burnout Point on a day when rain was forecast for the entire day. When I started out from home, it was in a steady rain that I figured would last for the entire day. Fortunately, we had plenty of moments when the rain was light, even nonexistent now and then. And it was so green! I was amazed that within the month since we were last on this trail, green has sprouted from every corner.
Richard and his umbrella setup
Richard is constantly trying to find a way to hike and stay dry using an umbrella, along with trekking poles. Here he is showing us his latest contraption. I was impressed with how well it seemed to work.
Wide trail, with mud and mist
This particular hike takes us from wide trails like the one above, to regular one-person width. They were all squishy, whatever their width. It was evident from all the puddles that it's been raining up here quite a bit lately. The temperature, however, was mild enough that I didn't even need to wear gloves or a second layer. At least until we reached Burnout Point.
Most of the group at Burnout Point
At the top, the wind was blowing and the rain had not stopped. I apparently managed to cut Steve out of the picture on the right, and of course I'm behind the camera, but here are all the rest. It was cold enough for us all to put on more clothing and, even though it was just a little after 11:00am (we've stopped for lunch on other hikes not much later than that), we decided to head down to Fragrance Lake for a noontime repast.
Red currant at Burnout Point
We even had a view, more than I thought we'd have anyway, of Samish Bay from the top. And the red currants are in full bloom. Spring was showing its abundance everywhere we looked.
Trillium and wet leaves
I even got a decent picture of a trillium beside the trail; this meant I had to kneel in the wet brush to capture this, but it was worth it when I saw the detail. My iPhone 7 does a great job!
Fragrance Lake
The lake was a little dreary looking today, with the rain and lack of sunshine keeping it from showing how pretty it can be. Richard took a dip while the rest of us enjoyed a leisurely lunch. But then the rain picked up, and we decided to head on back to the cars.
Our three hunchbacks
I asked these three, Frank, Mike and Kirk, to let me take a picture of them from the back looking like some deformed Sasquatches as we started our return trip. They have ponchos over their backpacks, which is what was causing their unusual shapes.

Everyone was in a very good mood, and as we chatted about movies and books to share with each other, the miles melted away. We covered eight miles today, with almost 2,000 feet up and down. It was an excellent day, filled with laughter and mud as we made new memories.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

In the fullness of time

Blossoms galore
Yes, I know I've written about this tree full of blooms before, but I can't help myself. They change every day, and on this day the beauty of these blossoms cannot be denied. In another day or two, they will make a white carpet of petals underneath the tree, and green leaves will have taken their place. Since I took this yesterday, it's possible the changeover has already begun.

When I got home from the gym yesterday, I learned about the ongoing massive fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Although I have been to Paris, I didn't visit the Cathedral and instead spent my day off at the Eiffel Tower. Now, I wish I had made the effort to get to the Cathedral, because it will never be the same, even if they completely restore it. Thankfully, it's not gone entirely; the two bell towers still exist, and a third of the roof was spared, because of the heroic efforts of 400 firefighters.

I cried as I watched this historic place go up in flames. And this morning on TV I watched huge throngs of people singing hymns outside of what is left, and I cried again. This is the beginning Holy Week for many Christians, and I know I am not alone in grieving for the loss of this more than 800-year-old treasure.
Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. --Rumi
I learned today that Paris has made a commitment to rebuild Notre Dame within the next five years. Contributions are pouring in from around the world. I hope I live long enough to see it happen.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Wet and chilly Saturday

Sugar snap peas, April 8 and 13
When I awoke this morning, I could hear the rain pounding on the roof, and I knew it would be a challenging day to join the walkers. But I did it anyway, knowing it was around Lake Padden, which we usually do twice. I thought maybe nobody else would show up and I could go home, but no, there were a dozen of us to walk in the rain. Not showers, but rain. Everyone else made a second loop, but I decided to go home instead.

My sugar snap peas, which I put in the ground four days ago, have grown an amazing amount, even though it's been on the chilly side with little sun. I was afraid I might have planted them too early, but they are doing just fine. I'll be showing you more when I can stay outside and take better pictures. The wind and rain drove me inside as soon as I snapped the picture on the right.
Blooms against a grey sky
I also took a picture last week of the first of these pretty blooms, which are now almost gone. They come and go in a flash, with green leaves sprouting almost instantly once the flowers show up. In my part of the world, spring is definitely everywhere around me. I hope my friends who are digging out from lots of snow (yes, snow!) will be showing me pretty flower pictures soon, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Damp but delightful

My first trillium capture of the season
Fifteen Senior Trailblazers were led by Melanie on our lovely Thursday hike on Blanchard Mountain. This is one of our go-to areas for our wintertime excursions. It wasn't raining when we started driving to the Upper Trailhead on Blanchard, but it began to sprinkle as we geared up. I was pleased to see so many trillium today, but they all were a tad waterlogged.
Which way?
We went up to Lily Lake first, although we just skirted it on our way up to North Butte overlook. It didn't make a lot of sense to me to attempt the Butte, since there would definitely not be a view, but we went to the base of it anyway. Melanie was determined to get in as many miles today as possible.
Lily Lake
You can see the raindrops in the lake, and the lack of any sunshine. However, there were a couple of times during the day when the light rain lessened and we even cast a bit of a shadow now and then.
The "view" from the Butte
Melanie took this picture of the trees in the mist at North Butte, and this showed that there was no reason for me to climb up onto the wet rocks. However, a few of our number did, and they said they could see a bit of a view of the islands in the bay. I took their word for it.
Swamp lanterns (skunk cabbage)
These yellow flowers are everywhere in the swampy areas around the lakes. Peggy calls them "swamp lanterns," a name I like better than the more well-known one, "skunk cabbage." They do have a definite odor, but I don't think it's as pungent or skunky enough to earn that name. They are pretty at this stage.
Lizard Lake
Then we got to Lizard Lake, where we stopped for lunch. Although it's not all that recent, you can see beaver signs with that fallen tree. The stumps sticking out in the middle of the lake looked to me a little like aliens peeking out.
Fog and mist
I saw the fog coming in quickly as we walked back from our lunch spot. Since I was bundled up with everything I had to try to stay warm after stopping, it took awhile for me to take this on the fly, but I think it turned out fine anyway. I love the way trees look enshrouded in mist.
And finally, a pretty waterfall at a bridge just before we reached the cars on our return journey. It was still sprinkling a little, but it never opened up and really began to rain until we were driving home. We were happy to have been out, and the Trailblazers know how to deal with a little rain. We have been so dry that it was almost pleasant to have some wet weather for a change. We traveled nine miles and nearly 2,000 feet up and down. A fine day indeed!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

First plants are in the ground

Sugar snap peas and a trellis to climb on
Carter made this nice little metal trellis for my sugar snap peas to climb up on. See those little green things in the dirt right in in front of the lower stick? That's my starts that I finally got into the ground. I know it's early for some things, like tomatoes and peppers, but these should do well this early. You'll be seeing them as they grow.
Kale, cauliflower, and collards
These guys are also looking good. In fact, the slugs seems to have already decided I planted them for their salad fixings. So, I had to resort to sprinkling some Sluggo around to discourage them from chomping the little plants down to nothing. I'm willing to share once they get established.
Pretty blossoms just coming out
On the way to the bus in the early morning yesterday, I saw that these blooms are just now starting to come out. By the time I get there tomorrow, they will be everywhere! What a wonderful time of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Blooms and blossoms abound

Taken by Scotty Border 2 years ago
I was looking for some pictures of the wonderful cherry blossoms that are coming out everywhere, and I found this one I couldn't resist stealing from a website called "Cherry Blossom Festival" on Facebook -- although this one was taken in Washington, DC two years ago. At least I was able to credit the photographer. It's a stunning picture, and I had to share it.
Curly pansies on my front porch
I bought this basket of pansies when I went to Joe's Garden last week. I couldn't resist the looks of them. All the other pansies I have bought are the usual variety, not curly like these. Taken with my cellphone camera.
More flowers
This arrangement was from another local store, and I intended to take them out from their crowded environment and replant them, but I got otherwise distracted and now I think I'll just leave them as is. It's time for me to get started on plants that I can actually eat! (Someone told me you can eat pansies, though.)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Rock Trail/Ridge loop 2019

Most of the group waiting for us to catch up
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Lost Lake parking lot to start a really nice loop hike, going from there up the Fragrance Lake trail, then up to the South Lost Lake trail, taking that trail until we got to the Rock trail turnoff. From there, we went up to Gates Overlook for lunch, before heading back down to the logging road that would take us back to the parking lot.
Lost Lake trail
Richard was our leader today, and he diligently kept us mostly in sight, although there were hikers who were much faster than the majority of us and could have done today's hike more quickly. But it was not a race, and we had a wonderful day with mostly sunny skies, which we didn't expect.
Sunlight lighting up the moss
We must be doing something right to keep getting such fine weather on Thursdays. It's supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I know we will have days ahead when we won't be so fortunate, but I'm enjoying this lovely sunshine very much.
A nice break on the Rock trail
Once we made it to the Rock trail, which takes us up to Gates Overlook, we saw a group of school kids who were probably on a field trip. They were obviously having a good time, and the holes in the rock made an interesting place for them to explore.
Kids climbing out of a cave
They told us that they were able to get eleven kids and two adults all into that small area where you can see someone climbing out. We had looked into the holes but had no idea any of them were that large!
The view from Gates Overlook
We finally made it up to Gates Overlook, in time for a nice early lunch in the sunshine. I've been here when I couldn't see any view at all, so I took the time to enjoy today's simply lovely view. We took our time and then headed down to the Ridge trail, which we followed until we found the trail to Fragrance Lake.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters from the Ridge trail
Instead of going back to the Fragrance Lake trail, however, we decided to take the shorter, more direct logging road back to the cars. It would also give us a chance to see the waterfall after the recent rain.
Waterfall on the way back down
The waterfall did not disappoint. It was so nice to see it flowing and dappled with sun. The last time we saw it, there was plenty of ice and cold weather; I much prefer today's lovely mild temperatures.
Road back down to the cars
You can see it was easy going on the wide road back, and we had plenty of time to chat and enjoy the final miles of the day. We hiked around nine miles, and up and down around 2,200 feet of elevation. Not an easy day, but nowhere as difficult as I was expecting. Another fine day in the Chuckanuts with my BFFs.