Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween in the Chuckanuts

Spooky Senior Trailblazers
Today, a beautiful fall day in our part of the world, offered our group two hikes as possible destinations: one, into the High Country once again to tackle Goat Mountain. Eight people chose to go, and considering the wonderful day that those of us who stayed in town enjoyed, I'll bet they will have a fabulous day, too. Two, the rest of us, nine Senior Trailblazers went from the North Chuckanut trailhead up to Raptor Ridge and returned.
Start of the Huckleberry trail
We headed up the Hemlock trail until we got to this junction, where we made our way uphill to the Huckleberry viewpoint. The temperature was just about perfect: no wind, and cool but rather mild temperatures. Not long after starting, we had to have a clothing adjustment almost immediately.
Carin, me, and Dianne (taken by Melanie)
You can tell by the way we are dressed that it wasn't very cold. I would have shown you the view, but there really wasn't one. We ladies were much more interesting to photograph.
Me, Carin, and Melanie (taken by Dianne)
Dianne saw this shot and shared it with me. Look at all those maple leaves that have fallen in the trail. It was so lovely, and I kept feeling such delight to be out here in the wilderness, even if it's close to home it's really beautiful.
Our lunch spot
Then we made it to our destination, Raptor Ridge. Although it was early, we decided to just go ahead and make it a lunch break. Everyone speculated that we could be back home in the early afternoon to take care of other matters, after having had a good hike.
Another view from Raptor Ridge
Looking the other direction from the ridge, we saw some high clouds that dissipated before long, with lots of evergreen gracing the view as well. And then we went back down to the cars, taking a different way so that we could have a little variety as we descended.
Bridge on the return trip
I like this little bridge we need to cross to make it back to the Hemlock trail from the ridge. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have such a fine place to hike, close to town, on Chuckanut Mountain. It is also well maintained.
Some pretty golden leaves
By the time I make it up there again, we might see snow on the trail, but for sure all the leaves will be gone from the deciduous trees. We do have so many evergreens, though, that it will still be a pleasure to see. We ended up covering around seven-and-a-half miles and 1,700 feet up and down. Not a particularly strenuous day, but a good one! Everybody was happy, and now we can get ready for the Halloween kiddie onslaught.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Learning to love getting old

Mel took this of me last week
When we were driving back home from our attempt to reach Excelsior Pass last Thursday, I saw in Melanie's phone that she had taken this picture of me. When I first looked at it, I thought I looked great, and asked her for it, which she willingly provided. But then when I got home and looked more closely at it, I realized that what I liked best about it was that I thought I looked younger than my years.

Yes, when I looked more carefully at it,  I knew that nobody is going to be able to take a picture of me as an elderly woman that will make me look twenty years younger. It's a conceit I think many seniors have: that if we just get the right angle in a picture, we'll be able to disguise our true ages. Instead of looking at the photo and conceding that it shows a very fit septuagenarian, all I saw was the wrinkles, white hair, and the veins sticking out on my arm. Vanity!

Fortunately for me, I have this blog to help keep me honest. Yes, I carry around some vanity, but I am always looking for ways to let it go and cultivate humility instead. As I get older, it gets a little easier with every passing day. A delightful quote for today:
An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it's beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth... Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them. —Pope Francis

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Now that's red

Cordata Parkway
I found this beautiful picture on the LoveBellingham page on Facebook, with no attribution to the photographer. It was taken last week, and by now many of those leaves must have fallen, since we had a breezy day yesterday and leaves were coming off the trees like confetti. The colors this year have been spectacular.

This morning we ladies walked a five-mile loop around the college campus and enjoyed the colors, as well as swishing through the fallen leaves. We've just been through a rather wet period, but for the next few days it should be sunny, cool, and just plain lovely. Every part of the globe experiences moments when you wish you could stop the clock and simply gaze, enjoying the beauty. This is ours, right here right now.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Excelsior Pass attempt

Today's group hike towards Excelsior Pass
This picture was taken by a new hiker, Steve, who joined us on the Relaxed Group's attempt to make it to Excelsior Pass. First, we tried to gain access to Church Mountain, where we expected to make it to the meadows, but the road was in bad shape where it crosses the creek.
This is where we turned around
A couple of guys were in the process of assessing the viability of making it across this spot on the Church Mountain access road. After studying it ourselves, with three cars needing to make it across, we decided instead to turn around and hike up the Excelsior Pass trailhead, just a few miles down the road.
Trail shot
This hike is 4.5 miles long to the pass, with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Although we didn't know if we could make it the entire way, it was a nice way to spend the day. We had no snow for the first part as we ascended towards the pass.
Recently cut log
The Forest Service has been out trying to clear the trail, and I saw this log with sap coming out of the recently cut bark. These trees fell, probably in a recent windstorm, and now the trail is in very good condition.
Snow made its appearance on the trail
We ran into snow at about 4,200 feet elevation and realized it would be much slower going from this point to the pass. Just before 1:00pm, we decided to stop for lunch and, afterwareds, to turn around and head back down. Because of the short days, we didn't want to be caught out in darkness.
Pretty mushroom in the snow
Dianne caught this lovely picture of an unidentified mushroom in the snow. Our new friend, Steve, knows mushrooms and probably identified this one, but I have already forgotten its name.
Some of our group heading back down
I asked those hikers ahead of me to stop for a minute so I could get their picture. Steve, our newest member, is third from the left. This group was led very capably by Donna, the woman at the front. Although I have hiked with the Relaxed Group before, most of the people were new to me.
Hikers surrounded by green and gold
It was only 3:00pm when we returned to the trailhead. (It was much faster going down.) We probably only hiked around just under or just over seven miles, but we did ascend and descend around 2,900 feet on the way to the pass. It just keeps going up. It didn't rain but was overcast the entire day, but until you reach the high meadows just below the pass, there isn't much of a view. No matter, everyone was happy to have had such a good day in the High Country, probably our final one for the season.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Meet Dirty Dan

"Dirty Dan" Harris sculpture
I promised I'd let you know a little bit about this character and his life when I wrote about the other two sculptures in the vicinity. I didn't know much about him before I looked up his biography today, other than that he was the founder of the town of Fairhaven.

The link I found has some interesting facts about this guy. He arrived here from the East Coast between 1826 and 1833, after having sailed the seas as a whaler. He finished a log cabin begun by an earlier settler who died, and obtained legal title to 146 acres, which became the main part of Fairhaven's downtown. Fairhaven, Sehome, Whatcom, and Bellingham combined to become one town in 1903. But Fairhaven was the place where Dirty Dan began to make his fortune. He was, according to the article, "a shabby looking guy, hence the nickname Dirty Dan." From
He typically wore a well-worn hat, greasy coat, unbuttoned red flannel undershirt, and pants that were ripped and occasionally held up with rope. Shoes and socks were something of a novelty for him in his younger years, though he did wear them when he was on the road. He loved his liquor and could hold it as well as any man.
But as he gained his first wealth, mostly from the sale of bootleg liquor, he cleaned up and then began to sell property in the new town of Fairhaven.  By 1883, he had amassed close to a half million dollars (in 2014 dollars). And he began to clean up his appearance:
He bought a new wardrobe — a silk hat, fine black cutaway coat, and matching pants, real pants, sans ropes, and a white vest. Yet he didn't pull it off entirely. He still wore his red flannel undershirt, no tie, cowhide shoes (still an improvement from no shoes at all), and his coat and pants were often dotted with spots and stains. 
There is much more information about this interesting man on that link. He died in 1890, I guess somewhere in his seventies. I enjoyed learning about him and now will walk down Harris Avenue in Fairhaven with renewed respect.

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Lake Padden this morning
We ladies met this morning to walk twice around the lake. It rained and rained last night, and was expected to continue all day today. The forecast made it look like we might be able to get an early morning walk in without too much rain, and instead, we had none at all!

The clouds cleared a little, and the lake was as still as glass, as you can see in this picture, giving a wonderful reflection of the golden leaves on the far shore. Because of all our recent rain, the grass is green and lush, too. This is the time of year when the golden leaves look translucent, as if the light might be emanating from within. The dark trunks, saturated with moisture, add to the illusion.

I had a rather strenuous yoga class yesterday, which is when I began to realize that my right hip was in a bit of distress from Thursday's hike. Last night I wondered if it would be prudent to stay home and rest, but by the time I'd made one lap of the lake this morning, all the pain was gone. I'm convinced that working through pain can be beneficial, at least sometimes. The trick is deciding when. Today I made the right decision and am feeling happy and rather pleased with myself.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Half Fast group gets Relaxed

Starting point for today's hike
The title of this post is because our two Senior Trailblazer hiking groups combined into one: the Half-Fast (my usual cohorts) and the Relaxed group went out together today. The weather forecast could hardly have been worse: rain all day and wind to boot. Although both groups were scheduled to head into the High Country, it obviously wasn't a good idea. Only three people showed up for the Relaxed hikers, so the combination of our groups put our heads together and decided to start at the Two Dollar trail and head up the Rock trail to Gates Overlook and back. If the weather got bad, we could turn around at any point.
Lots of golden leaves
Our day started out dry, but we were ready for the expected weather. Starting out at 8:47am, it didn't begin to rain until after 10:00am, and it wasn't more than a few sprinkles at first. The wind was gusty, but I think yesterday's wind was worse than what we faced today. At times, it was calm, and then we'd hear the roar of the wind and rain as it came toward us.
Rain and wind
By the time we reached the South Lost Lake trail on our way to the Rock trail, the rain had found us. It wasn't all that cold, but the wind gusts made it feel that way, once we got rained on.
A carpet of leaves
The trees are losing their leaves quickly, as you can see here. We walked along a carpet of color, and one could easily see where the wind blew and swirled the leaves into deep eddies. It was quite lovely, actually. And then we got to Gates Overlook and decided to hunker down in the trees just before it, so that we would be protected from the fierce wind.
Joy and Dave settling in for lunch
You can see the mist behind Joy and Dave, and since there was no view at the Overlook, it was much nicer just to find a nice place under a tree and enjoy a nice break together. When I took this picture of them, Joy snapped one of me.
Snug and warm, surrounded by friends
We were able to share pictures with each other using AirDrop on our iPhones. Melanie and I do this all the the time, so it was fun to show Joy how it works. Once we packed up and headed back, we ventured out to see if there was any view for us from the Overlook. Nope.
Time to head back
Instead of returning the way we had come, we walked down Cleator Road until we got to the turnoff to Fragrance Lake, which would take us back to the Two Dollar trail. By the time we started back, the rain had pretty much stopped, and the wind had died down to practically nothing.
Fragrance Lake
As we passed by Fragrance Lake, I was able to capture this pretty picture, showing a few little raindrops on the lake, but nothing much to speak of. It's only 1.7 miles from the lake to the trailhead, so off we went, happy to have been able to enjoy such a lovely day.
View of the bay
Although when we were on Gates Overlook, we should have been able to see this view, at least it did appear before we got all the way back down. You can see the weather is beginning to improve. We were so fortunate today, lucking out with the weather, in spite of the forecast, and enjoying a simply lovely hike of almost  nine miles and around 2,100 feet of elevation gain and loss.

For me, it was especially delightful, because I feel all the way back to being fit for hiking after many months of injuries. Yes, I have age-related changes, but for now I am hopeful that I've got some good hiking days ahead of me. I am beyond grateful.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Rainy Tuesday

Brilliant colors
Yesterday I captured this shot on my way home from the gym. I was amazed at the brilliance of that red bush.  Now I am in the bookstore, trying not to spend money in the time between my yoga class and the acupuncture treatment. I started this post early this morning and figured I could finish it now.

We are getting ready for a really rainy several days, with several inches forecast. What will happen on Thursday? Perhaps I’ll get a chance to give my rain gear a good workout. In any event, I’ll be out there. I’m tired of missing so many this year. Not willing to stay home just because of a little rain!

I also hope all my Canadian friends had a great Thanksgiving yesterday. It was a beautiful day here. Today, not so much. But we’ve got more delightful weather ahead, no doubt!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sunless Saturday

Whatcom Falls this morning
I know I have taken this picture numerous times, at different times of the year, with major changes in water volume, as well as leaf colors. This morning it was a perfect condition to get a nice photograph, with cloudy skies but no direct sun.

The ladies this morning headed out from the parking lot to go up Galbraith Mountain. I at first joined them, but for whatever reason I could not keep up. Even a slow jog didn't keep me from falling behind. Perhaps part of the reason is the soreness still in my upper legs from Thursday's hike. But after having struggled for a short distance, it was obvious that today I wouldn't be able to keep the fast pace.

So instead, I turned around and went for a short walk at my own pace in Whatcom Falls Park. I had plenty of time to find the best place to take the picture above, and then I walked back to my car and off to find breakfast. Lily wasn't with me today (she isn't a fan of Galbraith Mountain) because she is working 13 days in a row and will miss a couple of Saturdays. She and I went out for pizza and beer yesterday, and this morning the scales confirmed what I been suspecting for awhile now: I've got to stop eating like this! I've gained several pounds this month and have decided it's time to put on the brakes.

This afternoon John and I are going to a wedding of the coffee shop owner and her soon-to-be husband. It's an outdoor wedding, and they lucked out with the weather. We just finished a very cold snap and then rain, but today it's cloudy and mild. I look forward to shedding a few tears; weddings always make me cry.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ridley Creek 2019

Trailhead sign
Ten Senior Trailblazers made the decision to head up to the Ridley Creek trailhead today, hoping that we would be able to make it to Mazama Park. We didn't make it, but we had a great day anyway.
The bridge across the Nooksack River
Our first task was to get across the river, in order to start our hike. This was not all that easy, because of a recent snowstorm and then clearing skies, causing very cold temperatures and icy conditions. It was terrifying for me, actually. My friends helped me by carrying my backpack and poles across the bridge, while I made my way very carefully across. Nobody fell, and all was well as we began the trek.
Our trail today at the beginning
It is a lovely trail, but it is very steep for most of the distance, until you get to the meadow. We trudged along, with the first part of the trail being in good shape, but many areas were challenging. I struggled with the steepness, but my knee held out just fine.
Icicles showing how cold it was
I had forgotten how precipitous this trail is, but the part I didn't look forward to are the several deep ravines that must be navigated on the way to Mazama Park. We ran into more and more snow and ice as we got higher and higher. We had to move slowly with so much difficult terrain, and by the time we got to the last one, we decided it wasn't a good idea.
The trail as it get more difficult
Although it isn't easy to see in the picture, it was covered with deepening snow and icy patches and wasn't a safe situation. Plus we were beginning to get worried about the amount of daylight: we didn't want to be getting back to the cars near sunset, so we agreed that it was time to take a nice lunch break.
Obscured mountains
We backtracked a bit until we got to a nice place in the sun where we could have lunch. A long log was brushed free of snow, and everyone made themselves comfortable. Although it was cold, the warm sun and lack of breeze meant we were happy to stay for awhile.
Our "lunch log"
It was so nice and warm that I didn't even need to put my coat back on while we spent close to an hour enjoying ourselves before heading back the way we had come. It was sad that we didn't get to see the view that can be seen from Mazama Park, but it was a wise decision.
Getting back down a ravine
This ravine required us to be extremely careful, as it was icy and steep. Some of us went down it on our rear ends, rather than try to keep from slipping. That way, if someone fell, they wouldn't have far to go. Although it wasn't very elegant, it worked, and nobody fell. Then it was a simple task to go back down the rest of the trail, leaving the ice and snow behind.
Return trip
Here we are making our way back down to the cars, with most of the really tough terrain behind us. It was now just a slog, being careful of our knees and not hurrying. Because of not going the entire way, we had plenty of sunlight and didn't have to worry.
Our return trip on the bridge
We did have to make our way back across the bridge, but after a day of wrestling with the icy conditions, it seemed easier on the return. Most of the bridge was no longer icy, but everyone was still quite careful, not wanting to end up our day with a "situation." We ended up hiking around 6.5 miles in total, with an elevation gain around 2,100 feet, depending on whose device you were willing to believe.

In any event, I am now home, it's getting late, and I'm tired, but all in one piece, as are all my fellow hikers, and the day could only have been better by us having another hour of daylight. And less ice and snow. Everyone is happy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Statues in Fairhaven

J.J. Donovan sculpture
On my way to the yoga class this morning, I thought I'd take a picture of two statues I've found to be quite interesting in Fairhaven, where my class is held. I have seen this one for awhile now, and I wondered who he was. I found this information online:
John Joseph (J.J.) Donovan arrived in Fairhaven in 1888 at the invitation of Nelson Bennett for the purpose of building a railroad which would transport coal from his mine on the Skagit River to be shipped from the newly-settled town of Fairhaven. (from Fairhaven History)
 Then I wondered, when I studied the statue, what he is writing. And sure enough, that information was also available from that link:
The statue includes a replica of an actual letter from J.J. Donovan to his wife Clara.  In the letter, J.J. is describing the four towns on Bellingham Bay:  Fairhaven, Bellingham, Sehome and Whatcom. The town of Bellingham would soon become part of Fairhaven later that year.  In 1904 a City of Bellingham would be formed when Fairhaven and Whatcom were consolidated.
Just down the street from this statue is the Village Bookstore, one of my favorite places to peruse books while waiting for time to leave for my class. Just last year I noticed a new addition to the Fairhaven sculptures, unmistakably Mark Twain. Take a look:
Mark Twain sculpture
 I knew without seeing the information that it had to be him. And sure enough, that same link confirmed it and gave me more information.
In August 1895, Samuel Clemens – better known as Mark Twain – visited Fairhaven. Artist Gary Lee Price’s life-sized bronze sculpture of Twain seated on a bench, reading a book, joins similar nearby sculptures of Fairhaven founder Dirty Dan Harris and community leader J.J. Donovan. Donated by community member Michael Botwin to the City of Bellingham and Village Books, the bench has space so visitors can sit awhile with the legendary writer and humorist.
I didn't get a picture of the Dirty Dan sculpture, so I'll save that for another day. The bench underneath Twain's arm is a favorite place for people to take photos. Hope you enjoy these guys as much as I do.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Fall colors

From Triple Wren Farms
Someone on Facebook posted this picture from Triple Wren Farms in Ferndale, a town a little north of Bellingham. Besides being a perfectly delightful picture of dahlias displaying their beauty, the color resonates with the fall colors emerging all around me.

Last Thursday, since it was projected to be rainy (it was), we didn't venture into the High Country, but the other group did. And it was rainy up there, too, but not enough to spoil any of their fun. The light rain kept them company for most of the day, but they had spectacular views. Owen Bamford, their leader, posted some of his pictures on Flickr. I snagged this one, which shows the incredible beauty of the Hannegan Pass area, where they headed up the valley.
Owen's shot
It is a beautiful area, and although the day wasn't perfect weatherwise, it sure seemed to be magnificent in its views. So both groups had a fine adventure. You just cannot stay home when the weather forecast is less than perfect. Some wag once said, "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Since I've moved to the Pacific Northwest, I've invested in plenty of gear, that's for sure.

Today we ladies (and one man) went for a lovely walk along the waterfront. At first I thought I would be using my sunglasses, but it was not to be. We had some sprinkles but no rain, and the sunlight was filtered through lots of clouds. Now, however, it's partly cloudy, with more sun than clouds. Just right!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New Chanterelle trail

Chris studying today's hike
Only seven Senior Trailblazers decided to stay on a local hike and not head up to the High Country, since the chance of rain had expanded to 80% in the area of our original destination. And with a long drive in order to walk in rain, we chose to explore an old favorite, the Chanterelle trail, which has recently been doubled in length. The extended trail only opened a week or so ago.
Map that shows the old and new trails
Chris and Rich both volunteered to work on this trail during the summer months, and I must say the trail is wonderfully engineered and cleared of all brush, with three new bridges installed as well. We hiked up the black line (from the P showing where we parked). The picture below shows the viewpoint today, with rain looking imminent.
This viewpoint has been the final destination for hikers and bikers on the Chanterelle trail (2.4 miles), unless you wanted to walk up the service road. We've done that many times, but today, we took the red line to the new terminus of the trail, 2.6 miles, making the entire trip 5 miles one way.
The new trail
When we started our hike, it wasn't raining, but threatening to at any moment. After a short while, a few sprinkles gave us the impetus to stop and get our rain gear on, as well as our pack covers.
Al walking in the light rain
The temperature was cool, comfortable except when we would get a gust of wind, as we hiked up the pretty trail for the first time. As long as we were moving uphill, we stayed warm, even in the rain.
Our lunch spot
This is where the trail ends. It runs into the service road and is much more pleasant to navigate than the road. But it wasn't all that warm, once we stopped, and Chris is struggling to make her fingers work as she donned another layer before starting her lunch. We didn't stay too long, but it was much nicer once we got our extra clothing on, for all of us.
A section of the new trail
Then it was time to head back the way we had come. I saw this picture showing part of the brand new trail as we started back. I was just amazed at how much better this trail is than the road, and how well it has been constructed. Thank you, Chris and Rich, and all the others who made this happen.
Banana slug
We saw this bit of wildlife on our way back, a huge banana slug, which was moving quite quickly across the ground (for a slug, that is). I think it's rather pretty. They are native to the area, while the black ones are not. Our friend Peggy always moves them off the trail and out of harm's way.
Mushroom bouquet
We also saw this green mossy area with a fancy mushroom border. It was a nice thing to see on a trail named after a mushroom, although this is not a chanterelle. I've never seen one on this trail. Yet.
And then, not long before we reached the cars, we saw the sun come out. It got brighter and more delightful as we made our way back the way we had come. I'm not sure how the other group fared, as they decided to go up to the High Country, even with the forecast. I do hope they had a day that was as pleasing as ours was. We covered ten miles and 2,300 feet up and down. I'm feeling tired but happy, with my knee even feeling pretty good. Yay!