Saturday, September 28, 2019

Windy and chilly Saturday

Sunrise from my front porch
This sunrise was captured last week as I headed out to the bus. I know I'll have more glorious sunrise pictures like this in the weeks to come. There are lots of days now when the sun will rise at just about the same time as I leave, and our days are quickly growing shorter on the way to the solstice in December, marking the longest night and the shortest day of the year.

This morning was overcast and the wind blew lightly as I headed out to Lake Padden for our walk with the ladies (and one man). The temperature was moderate, but then the wind started, and we quickly bundled up before starting our walk. Occasionally the sun came out, but the skies changed back and forth from overcast to almost full sun, as the clouds scudded across the sky. We got in two times around the lake, just over five miles.

We have a gale warning in place; the north-northeast wind is bringing cold air from the Fraser Valley right into our homes. Windows that were open and inviting the outdoors inside yesterday are all closed, and I've placed my many heavy rocks on the rugs to hold the front porch together until this latest weather event has passed.

Fortunately for me, there's nowhere I need to go for the rest of the day, so I'll stay inside with a good book and enjoy a day to putter around the house aimlessly.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Oyster Dome

Heading up from the highway to Oyster Dome
We were scheduled to head up the Mt. Baker Highway today and make our way up Hannegan Pass. After an all-night rainstorm and rain early on, eleven Senior Trailblazers decided instead to change our hike to a local one. Oyster Dome is a favorite, although it didn't look as though there would be much view. But it's a real workout, gaining more than 2,000 feet and with lots of other ways to lengthen the hike if one wanted to.
First chance for a view
After hiking uphill for about a mile, we reach a nice little overlook, where you can look out on Samish Bay. It wasn't until we reached this spot that we were pretty sure it wasn't going to rain on us. Lots of drippy trees did get us a little wet, but we didn't let that deter us.
Our first view
Although this is somewhat of a loop hike (or as Al calls it, a lollipop), we would come back to this spot on our way back to the cars. Even though it's very lovely, on our way back, it would be even better, since unbeknownst to us at the time, the skies would brighten.
Lots of maidenhair ferns
We crossed several streams, which were flowing merrily along, after all the rain we've been having. I took this picture because I love these ferns, and I thought it made for a nice scene, with Melanie's purple rain jacket adding a bit of color.
Lily Lake
We decided to skip the final push to Oyster Dome, figuring there would be little to no view, and took the trail to Lily Lake instead. It was smooth and quiet, and although it was a little bit on the early side, we decided to go ahead and stop for lunch. A first lunch, anyway. Some would save their lunch for Samish Overlook.
Today's motley crew
We gathered in our usual spot, sitting on the wet benches and having a nice snack (or lunch, if you were like me and already hungry). From here, we hiked to Samish Overlook, which is an alternate starting point for the trip to Oyster Dome. We always do the harder trek up from the highway, partly because we want more distance, and also several people would feel we cheated a little.
Samish Overlook
By the time we reached the Overlook, the skies had begun to clear, and we sat in this lovely area, munched down our remaining lunch, and basked in the sunlight. Nobody was in a big hurry to head back down the steep trail, so we took our time.
Blue skies!
This is what we had on our return journey: beautiful blue skies, sunshine galore, and an early end to our hiking day. When we take the long trip up into the mountains, it adds around three hours of travel to the day. Today, we were back to the Senior Center early, with lots of daylight still to come.

And now, as I finish my post and relax in my easy chair, I'm glad I went. There were a few moments towards the end of the steep downhill that my knees were complaining, but I was careful to watch my step so I wouldn't fall and re-injure anything. We covered almost nine miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss. Another wonderful day!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Trying something new

Somewhere in the wilderness
I am trying to compose this from my iPad. I cannot seem to make any pictures come up other than this one and one other. Since I have a hour to kill before my acupuncture treatment, I thought would give it a shot. Otherwise, I’d have to wait until much later today to get my Tuesday post done.

The program added the snowflakes. Can you see them, too? I have no idea how to get rid of them. My yoga class was wonderful and I know that my Acupuncture should be good, too. Hey, I just realized that I can speak rather than use the awful Keyboard. Sorry about the weird capitalizations. :-)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Our changing world

Taken on Ptarmigan Ridge last week
I am still enjoying looking at the astounding pictures I got on the hike last Thursday: clouds, fog, mountains, all in perfect hiking weather. It was so good to be out again, and to have my knee hold up just fine, along with all the other parts of my body that have been giving me trouble lately. And I didn't fall! Not once.

There are so many ways that our social environment is changing right before our eyes. Just this morning I read that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added "their" as an acceptable alternative to using "his" or "her." There is a wonderful article by AndrĂ© Wheeler on The Guardian that gives a long description of how it's come about. Here's an  excerpt:
The recognition of “they” as a singular, non-gender-specific pronoun comes as its usage grows in popularity, especially among people who identify as neither male nor female. However, these adoptees frequently face critics who claim the usage is not “grammatically correct.”
I consider myself to be a bit of a stickler for correct language usage. It's been obvious from the many cultural changes in the past few decades that gender-neutral pronouns are becoming more necessary. So, I bow to the new world we are now facing. Oh, and I ran across this absolutely hilarious video of a father having "the talk" with his son, and realizing he should have done his homework a bit better. I apologize for the lead-in ad, but you can skip it after a few seconds.

Yes, the world is changing. I hope I'll be around for a few more years to see how it all turns out politically. But whatever, I am already happy for the time I've had to enjoy watching the evolution.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ptarmigan Ridge 2019

First view of Mt Baker today
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers made the long trek to Artist Point to start our Ptarmigan Ridge hike. We broke into two groups at the Senior Center: one, the fast group, would hike to the portals (I'll show you a picture of their location in a minute). The rest of us decided to hike at a slower pace to our usual lunch spot. We hoped that the others might join us at some point, or that we would see them as they began their descent, but it was not to be.
Our view all day came and went
That first picture was taken from the parking lot, and before we had gone very far, we realized that the clouds might be a real problem for our views today. See how much, in just a few minutes, Mt Baker has changed from the original picture? We looked down into the valley where we should have been able to see Baker Lake and much more, but the low-lying fog obscured our view.
Mt. Shuksan and clouds
By the time we got a couple of miles in, we saw this gorgeous view of Mt. Shuksan, above the clouds, with dramatic skies as well. I did wonder whether those clouds would be gone when we returned, but we continued on around the corner and to our next views, hoping for more vistas on the return.
Our group today on the rocky trail
You can see from this picture that the trail is rocky and quite a challenge for someone who is recovering from a knee injury. But my knee and the rest of me did just fine! I was so pleased.
Me with Mt Shuksan behind
I asked Kirk to take a picture of me in front of Shuksan, and he obliged with this one. Those are gloves in my pockets making me look fat, but I still like the picture anyway. It was such a beautiful spot, with some sun lighting my face, even.
Our lunch spot
We made it to our lunch spot around 12:30pm, and gazed out at what we could see of Mt Baker and the portals. See the two dark rocks sticking up from between the first two people? Those are the portals. We looked and looked but didn't see our friends, meaning they had already hiked far beyond where we might see them.
Lunch spot and the trail to the portals
I climbed up above our lunch spot in order to find a private spot to water a tree, and I looked down and saw this view, lighted up by the sun (which didn't stay much longer, unfortunately). If you look closely, you can see a trail on the side of the slope that our companions took. After a leisurely lunch, we packed up and started back the way we had come. And guess what happened about that time? No more sunshine. Instead of clearing, the fog descended on our return route, and we had little to no view.
On our return in the fog
We did have a few flowers, but they were mostly these pearly everlasting that are dried and no longer fresh. The fog didn't lift and a cold wind blew on us while we made our way back to the cars. But we had a wonderful day nevertheless, and we covered around eight-and-a-half miles and almost 2,000 feet of elevation. Not bad at all. We had a great day, and I look forward to hearing from Melanie how their trip to the portals went.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Well, that was no fun

Snagged from the internet
I went to bed Saturday night feeling pretty good, except for a little scratchy throat. In the morning, however, I woke up with a full-blown sneeze session. Once I spent some time in the coffee shop, I realized what I could not deny: I was sick with a cold. So, I went home and snuggled up under a warm blankie and ingested some cold medicine. If it had not been for these drugs and hot tea, there would have been no way for me to get through the next two nights with any sleep at all.

At first, I thought it was just a simple cold, but I felt so awful that I began to wonder if maybe I had the flu. But this morning, after two bad days, I woke feeling so much better! At the coffee shop, John commented that I looked like I must be feeling better, and then I went off to my yoga class, the first of the new semester. I knew it would be an easy one (the semester starts off easy and gets harder as the weeks go by) and sure enough, I did just fine.

Now I'm home, and after having had a nice lunch and settling in to write my Tuesday post, I think I can safely say I'm on the mend. If it's not one thing, it's another, it seems. My knee feels good, and if all goes as planned, I should be able to tackle the Thursday hike. Fingers and toes crossed.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cloudy with a few showers

Photo by Lindsey Coutts
It rained most of the night, I could hear it outside my window. When I awoke, it was pretty much gone, but I waffled about whether or not to go walking with the ladies (and one man). I decided that heck, how bad could it be, with the forecast to be "cloudy with a few showers."

However, on the way to the meetup place, I needed to use my windshield wipers, and I wasn't sure I'd made the right decision. I went anyway, and enjoyed myself thoroughly, even though the heavy mist could actually have been called "a light rain" at the beginning. But not long after we started, it just remained cloudy, and the showers stayed away.

It's definitely not summer anymore, no matter what the calendar says. I can only hope that we will have an extended Indian Summer in our future somewhere, before winter comes to stay. All in all, a lovely cloudy day. And I got my walk in, and my knee behaved for the entire five-mile distance!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Church Mountain memories

Church Mountain trail June 2014
Sitting at home with my laptop as the Senior Trailblazers make their second trip up Church Mountain this year. I'm pretty sure I could have made it to the meadow, if not to the top, except for the condition of my right knee on the downhill. Therefore, I went back in my files and looked at some of my favorite pictures from previous trips to Church Mountain and its meadows.
The meadows July 2018
Last year, we had a cool and mostly cloudy day for our trip up to Church Mountain, and many of us made it all the way to the top, 9 miles and almost 4,000 feet elevation gain. It was probably the last time I will have gone all the way there, and if I had gone today, this spot in meadows would have been my destination. It's very beautiful and I'm hoping that the hikers today are having a good day.
The meadow July 2012
The snowpack varies wildly up at elevation, with these two July pictures showing the difference between years. Sometimes the meadow never clears out until late, but this year it was just the opposite: as you can see from the following picture, this year we had less snow in May than we had previous years in July.
May 2019
If you persevere and make it all the way to the top of Church, on a clear day the view is pretty incredible. This was the summit group back in 2011.
Summit of Church Mountain August 2011
I suspect that any of the group going to the top today won't have much of a view, but it's still well worth making the effort to get there, no matter what the weather. There are so many parts of this trip that really help make one feel happy that we get to live in this part of the country.
June 2014
The incredible green with pretty pink monkey flowers never fails to make me feel grateful for the opportunity to explore these areas years after year, through the seasons when we can make the journey before the snow flies.
October 2018
And long after the flowers are gone, the foliage brightens the landscape. The heat of summer is long gone, and the chill in the air is delightful. Since I am sitting here in my easy chair listening to the rain on the roof, I am still hoping that my friends are getting a good workout, if not a good view! There's always next time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I made it

Me in front of Coleman Glacier and Mt Baker
Last Thursday, I was able to get to this spot, thanks to my fellow Trailblazers having brought along a rope that gave me the confidence to traipse through knee-deep glacier water to get here. Not knowing if I will ever be back to this spot, I asked my friend Kirk to take a picture of me to mark the event.

I had gone to the acupuncturist last week asking if he thought my knee would be okay for the trip, since it's been giving me trouble for a few weeks now. He gave me his blessing (after lots of testing), and I went ahead and made the not-too-long hike and was fine. Except I have to admit that the downhill was painful, and it reminded me that my knee is not a hundred percent yet. Maybe it never will be again, and I'll have to deal with it, but it doesn't seem like it will be a problem on moderate hikes. Lots of steep downhill isn't in the cards right now.

So, because of that, I'll be skipping this coming Thursday's hike to Church Mountain. Instead, I'll find some nice flat terrain and get my steps in by myself. In a couple of hours, it will be time to visit the acupuncturist again, and hopefully he can help make this persistent pain a little better. In any event, I'm slowly but surely getting better. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Lovely day for a walk

On the Whatcom Falls bridge
Today several of us ladies (and one man) walked from Barkley Village to Whatcom Falls park and back, enjoying the cool mostly overcast skies, and perfect temperature. I was pleased that my knee cooperated, although it didn't let me forget to pay attention to it. Although I am a little sore from last Thursday's exploits, altogether I'm feeling pretty darn good today.
Typical late summer waterfall
Whatcom Falls roars mightily along in spring and summer, but today it's much reduced in volume since my last visit. It's still very beautiful to see, however. Everywhere around me I can see the first signs of fall emerging. This morning I removed a rather large spider from the rug, another sign of the changing season. It was probably a hobo spider, which are common in this part of the country. Plus I've removed several in previous years at this time of the year. This one was easy to catch under a glass, slipping a piece of paper under it and carrying it to the front porch. It scurried quickly away, hopefully not to make an immediate return inside.

A friend told me about a sale on weighted blankets at a local store, so I bought one and am happily ensconced under it as I write this. They are supposed to reduce stress and feel like a hug. I like it and will let you know if it lives up to the hype.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Heliotrope Ridge 2019

View from the trail toward some Canadian peaks
Twelve Senior Trailblazers headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to Heliotrope Ridge, a trail I've done plenty of times before. Only occasionally have I ventured across the final crossing of Heliotrope Creek. Usually I and a few others will not be willing to cross, and you will see the reason why that's true in upcoming pictures.
First glimpse of the glacier
Even if you cannot cross that last creek, it's also possible to take the climbers' route to some good views of Mt. Baker and the glacier. I've done that in previous years, but I knew I would not try it this year because of its steepness and the precarious condition of my knee.
Crossing Heliotrope Creek
Fortunately for many of us, Frank brought a rope, and then he and a couple others went across the creek in their boots (having brought several changes of socks). The rest of us put on water shoes or sandals, and Terry even went barefoot; that's her in front. Using the rope for reassurance, I was successful at getting across. (Terry did not return barefoot, since it was slippery and the water was rushing by a fierce clip.) And let me tell you, that glacier melt water was COLD!
First view of Coleman Glacier
This was the first closeup view I took of the glacier. It's receded an alarming amount since the last time I saw it, but it is still a magnificent sight. Behind it is Roosevelt Glacier, and on the right behind that tree is Mt. Baker, seemingly close enough to touch.
Me in front of the glacier and Mt. Baker
Since I don't know when, if ever, I will be able to return to this spot, I asked Kirk to take a picture of me. I was very pleased to see this and will cherish it. Then, we found a large-ish flat area and sat down to have our lunch.
Almost close enough to touch
You can see that this is probably the closest we will ever get to Mt. Baker itself, without climbing gear and a lot more time than we had available to us. We did see plenty of climbers on their way up, but they all turned off at the climbers' route. You knew who they were because of all the gear they carry.
Chris on the return crossing
Then it was time to return, retracing our steps. But, as you can see, the water was even deeper and rushing by with enough force to pull you off your feet. That rope made all the difference, for me at least. If you read that link I've provided from the Washington Trails Association, you'll find out more information about this amazing hike.

All in all, we only covered around six miles and gained and lost around 2,000 feet of elevation, but it was a day filled with adventure and plenty of drama. Nobody got hurt, and my knee is not much worse that it was at the beginning of the day. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunity we all had to enjoy a glacier up close on a beautiful day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hoping I'll be ready

Mt. Shuksan from Ptarmigan Ridge
One of the people who was on the Trailblazers' hike on Ptarmigan Ridge last Thursday posted this incredible picture, and I gazed at it with longing, wishing I could have been one of the hikers. It was a gorgeous day, not too hot, with lots of views. I've been at this spot many times over the years, and it's only about a five-mile round trip from Artist Point to this place. I'm hoping that in a few weeks, when the other Trailblazer group does this, I'll be able to join them. It is scheduled on September 19, and I can only hope the weather is this fine.

I've missed so many hikes so far this summer, because of my fall on the Damfino Lakes hike in early July and the subsequent tailbone injury. I've only made one attempt since that one, and it was really difficult. I keep thinking I'm better and then push myself too soon, and then I'm injured again.

In an hour, I'll leave for my appointment with the acupuncturist, and hopefully he'll tell me that it might be okay for me to hike with the Trailblazers this coming Thursday. It's not a really hard hike, and I've done it plenty of times before and know exactly what to expect. But I'll let him tell me whether I can probably do it without further injury. And be willing to stand down if he thinks I should. Not happily, though.