Thursday, January 30, 2020

Back to the Chuckanuts

Pretty waterfall on the Two Dollar trail
Eleven Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to start our usual Thursday hike, with the chance of a break in the constant rain we've had all week long. And sure enough, we didn't have any, for a change. It's expected to start again this afternoon, but we were fortunate to stay dry. But we were ready, just in case.
Fragrance Lake reflections
We had planned to start from Gates Overlook and hike down the Rock trail to Raptor Ridge and back again, but the gate on Cleator Road that would have taken us to the overlook was closed, right at the beginning of the Two Dollar trail, which is becoming very familiar to us this winter. So, instead of Raptor Ridge, we hiked up the almost two-mile-long trail to Fragrance Lake, then over to the closed road. The weather was mild and there was no wind, as you can see from this picture.

From there, we had several choices: some wanted to take the shortest route to Gates Overlook, but that meant hiking up the steep Chinscraper trail. Others wanted to extend the hike a bit and follow the road downward to a trail that would take them to the Upper Ridge trail, which leads to the overlook but is more scenic (and longer) than the road. Then there was the option of just trekking up the closed road to the overlook. We ended up breaking up into three groups: five up Chinscraper, four to the Upper Ridge trail, and two trudging almost a mile to the overlook. I was one of the two.
Mt. Baker and the Sisters
From the road, you get a lovely view of the mountains, so I thought maybe I could get a view through the trees, and here it is. You can see that the clouds were clearing a bit, which surprised me, in a good way. Maybe we'd even see the sun.
The view from Gates Overlook
Once we all gathered together again at the overlook, most of us decided to have an early lunch and decide what to do next. We could just retrace our steps or hike down the Rock trail to the Lost Lake trail and then back to Fragrance Lake and the Two Dollar trail. So that's what we decided to do, even if it would make the hike a little longer.
Lost Lake trail with a little sun
And lo and behold, on our way back, we saw bits of sunshine peeking through the trees. It was a lovely treat to see that yellow light instead of unremitting rain. It was fleeting, but very welcome indeed. By the time we got back down, we had covered around nine miles; some almost ten, those who did the Upper Ridge trail. Our elevation gain and loss was around 2,000 feet.

I am tired now, but not overly so. It was much prettier and easier on our bodies than last week's ten-mile hike on the hard trails in town. I heard stories about unaccustomed blisters, and I know my bunion pained me for days afterwards. Hiking in our lovely forests was much more to my liking, especially with none of the "R" word!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Getting one's feathers ruffled

Are you even listening to me?
I saw this funny picture online, and I just went searching to see if I could find out who took it so I could acknowledge the artist. But no, I couldn't find it at all. It makes me laugh just to look at it and consider just what the birds might be saying to each other. I'll bet some of my readers can come up with some doozies.

When visiting a favorite blog, I saw on the sidebar a website that looked interesting, so I went to visit it. AnvilCloud's blog, called The AC is On, is pretty funny. He recently put up some hospital reports, some of which had me laughing out loud. Here's a short excerpt:
She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.
Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.  
The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor. 
Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities. 
When she fainted, her eyes rolled around the room. 
The patient was in his usual state of good health until his airplane ran out of fuel and crashed. 
I have seen these sorts of hospital reports before, but these were all new to me. In any event, this website is filled with humorous posts, so I'll be visiting there often. Hope you will also find something to laugh about in this post, too. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Indomitable Seniors

Today's Trailblazers (plus me)
With a day scheduled to be wet, wet, wet, I sure didn't expect to see nine others show up this morning. We discussed just what to do, since our scheduled hike would be very muddy and rather uncomfortable in the rain. So we decided to do an in-town hike. We started at the beginning of the Railroad trail and headed out in a pretty steady rain to visit Big Rock Garden and Whatcom Falls.
On the trail
We are very fortunate to have so many options available to us here in Bellingham. The trails are wide and well kept. All the snow we had on these trails last week is long gone, with the warm temperatures and the rain helping to turn everything into passably easy walking. I didn't even wear my hiking boots, since walking on harder surfaces in them is not fun. As it was, I wore a pair of low boots that I figured would be best in these conditions.
Pond with reflections
We followed Al's lead on the trails, as he was using a digital map that helped guide us through the myriad twists and turns. We took the Klipsun trail to Big Rock Garden and had a brief stroll through the park, looking at some of the sculptures. By the time we reached the sculpture garden, the rain had stopped for the moment.
Sculpture and pond
I couldn't tell what this sculpture is supposed to represent, but there is a snake encircling the figure. One hiker said it reminds him of his ex-wife, but softer. Anyway, we left shortly thereafter to head over to the falls.
Roaring Whatcom Falls
Every time I have seen the falls this winter, there is more rushing water, needing us to shout to one another over the din. It is the most amazing sight right now. Compare this picture to one taken last September. You can orient yourself by looking at the round hole in the rock on the left in each picture.
Same falls, different season
We had lunch at the shelter near the falls, and it had begun to rain again. We watched a toddler being pushed in a swing by the mother, impervious to the rain and obviously having a wonderful time, judging by the shouts of joy from the little one. (That would have made for a good shot but I forgot.)

We covered almost ten miles and almost 1,000 feet up and down by the time we returned to our starting point. I must remember next time to wear my bunion guard when hiking on harder surfaces, as it's a bit sore. It was a different kind of hike for us, but thoroughly enjoyable, even in the rain. I was able to have a good conversation with everyone by the time we were done for the day.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Rain will be around awhile

In the mood for a little rain?
I checked out the weather app on my phone to see what to expect for the next few days. Our cold snap is over, and the temperatures are even expected to be a little warmer than normal. We are accustomed to rain here in the Pacific Northwest, but this is a little extreme even for us. Wish there was some way to transfer portions of this wet bounty to places in the world that could use it. Fortunately, Australia is finally getting a little bit of rain, but I suspect it could use even more, and we've got plenty to spare.

It looks as though we'll have some showers to start with, and by Thursday, our hiking day, it will be raining in earnest. Thank goodness I've got all the proper gear. Around here, you can't wait for the rain to stop in order to get some exercise. I just hope we won't have any flooding. At least the warm weather and rain have melted all that snow. There's hardly any left, making walking and driving around much easier. The familiar sound of rain drumming gently on the roof is actually rather soothing.

I have a couple of books to read, one to finish and another one ready to start. Life is feeling pretty good right now, with my aches and pains having taken a break, it seems, and not bothering me.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

No hike for me today

My front steps yesterday morning
It's kind of pretty, with the lights from various sources making elegant patterns on the snow surface covering the steps down into the parking lot. I was not going to try to drive in all that snow, but I was waiting for my friend John to come pick me up on the way to the coffee shop, in his 4-wheel-drive truck. We had somewhere between six and ten inches in our part of town. Some places got close to a foot, I heard. And it was still very cold, around –10°C (13°F). The cold snap that moved in a couple of days ago has only today broken and given us temperatures close to freezing.

Since it hadn't snowed any more and the roads were reportedly to be in good shape, I finally started my car and drove to the Senior Center, only to find that it is closed for the second day in a row. A small group of diehard hikers began to filter into the parking lot. We stood around trying to decide what we might do. Al and I both had a gym workout in our possible scenarios. I noticed that those who were left might come up with something they might want to do today, if the reluctant ones (that would be Al and me) decided to blow off hiking for the day.

As I drove away from the lot, I could see the half-dozen of them huddled together, probably coming up with something that I am glad I didn't attempt. I just called Chris, whose husband was one of the diehards, and she said they went to Lake Padden and walked the upper trails behind the lake. He was back before noon, and ate his lunch at home. So they didn't do anything terribly challenging, and I could probably have gone with them, but frankly, I was happy with my own little foray out into the snowy environment, and now I'm safe at home. It's starting to snow again. The forecast says to expect a "wintry mix" for awhile.

One of my favorite websites, Astronomy Picture of the Day, had this wonderful picture of something called nacreous clouds a few days ago. Here's what they look like:
Mother-of-pearl clouds
An excerpt from the website:
These polar stratospheric clouds, also known as nacreous and mother-of-pearl clouds, are formed of small water droplets of nearly uniform size. When the Sun is in the right position and, typically, hidden from direct view, these thin clouds can be seen significantly diffracting sunlight in a nearly coherent manner, with different colors being deflected by different amounts. 
Now that is beautiful, and much nicer to look at than old crusty snow that isn't any fun for old fogeys like me to drive around in. Tomorrow I'll head to my yoga class and hopefully make up for having missed my usual Thursday hike.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Changeable winter weather

Saturday morning at sunrise
This past Saturday, I joined the walking group, the ladies plus one, in front of Adagio's coffee shop. I went in to use the facilities before we took off on our short walk in the rain and snapped this picture. It had been raining for days and days, and frankly it seemed to be normal to have rain, along with moderately mild temperatures.

Then we got a real change in the weather yesterday: the temperatures dropped precipitously and all the rain changed to heavy snow. We are much farther north than Seattle, and the cold air from Canada came to us first, and the cold north wind picked up. This morning when I woke, not knowing what to expect when I looked outside, I was surprised to see that not much snow had fallen, but the temperature had dropped more than 20 degrees F. I put on all my winter weather gear, my headlamp so I could see any patches of ice, and set out for the bus, a half mile away. It wasn't bad at all, except for that awful windchill. I was happy for every bit of warm clothing I had on.

When I got to the Y, however, all the classes had been canceled. Apparently we were in much better shape here, being in the north where the cold dry air kept us from getting too icy, than people who live only a few short miles south of us. I saw plenty of cars with lots of snow on them, and reports from people who made it to the Y that any icy patches on hills made for treacherous driving and even walking.

So, I had a bit of fun with the exercise bike and some weights, took a shower and caught the bus back home. It seemed like a perfect time to do laundry (finished) and turn on the TV (just starting) and staying home where it's warm! I hope tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Two Dollar/Rock Trail loop

The first snow we saw today
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers went on the hike today, with some rain and snow mix coming down as we got to the Two Dollar trailhead. The weather forecast said that we would have some early showers, with possible sunbreaks later in the afternoon. I took this picture (above) because I thought it might be the only snow we'd see on our hike today.
Our trail with snow-covered ferns
Nope. It was just the first snow we saw. Although the temperature was above freezing (not by much, but still), it is obvious that it had snowed here recently, more than we experienced at sea level. We were not cold as we hiked along, mostly moving upward, and the still air allowed me to shed my coat and gloves quite soon.
Soon the trail had fresh snow, too
By the time we had traversed both the Two Dollar trail and the Lost Lake trail (which takes us to the Rock trail), the snow had increased, as  you can see here, making for a beautiful walk in the forest. As many times as I've seen this spot, this was one of the prettiest. The lack of wind meant that the snow-laden trees looked decorated for the season.
Al ascending the Rock trail steps
I'm not sure exactly how many steps there are on the Rock trail, but it is more than a hundred like these. (I've tried to count them but never get the same number twice.) I like to walk behind Al on these upward trajectories, since he goes slow and steady. Probably half of the group was ahead of us already, but Al knows how to pace himself, so I take advantage of staying close by.
Kirk and hikers
I stopped to take a picture of the others who were following us, hoping to capture the beautiful environment. We had put our gloves and hats back on, since the temperature fell as we gained elevation and the snow got thicker. There was probably no more than an inch or two, but it made for lovely scenery as we climbed to our lunch spot at Gates Overlook.
Bellingham from Gates Overlook
When we got to the top of today's hike at Gates Overlook, we saw low clouds over Bellingham, with a bright spot through the fog, where the sun was shining, but not where we were. Not long after we sat down for a rather brief lunch break, it began to snow lightly. We had reached the highest point, and then the task was to finish the loop by hiking down the road to the trail leading us to Fragrance Lake, which would then allow us to access the Two Dollar trail for our return.
Fragrance Lake reflections
As we made our way back to the cars, we saw some peeks of sun, and the exertion of moving meant that we warmed up considerably. Plus, we were losing altitude and the snow was disappearing. Before long, we had to stop and remove clothing again.
The bay from the Two Dollar trail
Soon we could see more blue sky and the islands in the bay, which were obscured on our way up the trail. We were almost back down to the cars at this point, the snow gone and a fine 8.5–9.5 miles of hiking under our belts for the day, and around 2,100 feet of elevation up and down. (The discrepancy in the length is due to inconsistent readings on various devices.)

It was a wonderful day, and I'm so glad I went, even though the forecast wasn't all that promising. You just never know and have to take a chance. Now I can enjoy a wee bit of wine without any guilt.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Trying something new

Whatcom Falls last Saturday
Last week, I wrote my usual Thursday Senior Trailblazer post, but skipped my Saturday and Tuesday posts for the second or third week in a row. I almost posted again this past Saturday, but the day got away from me before I got around to it.

And I'm beginning to think that maybe it makes more sense to write a post on Mondays, since I have stopped doing volunteer work that day. My schedule is still plenty full, with yoga classes on Tuesdays and Fridays, my rarely missed Thursday hikes, and the Saturday walk with the ladies (and one man). Not to mention the four days a week at the YMCA, which I am considering shaking up, too. It's just time for me to reassess what I am doing out of habit, and what I am doing because I really want to.

For the first time in eight years, I will not fly to Florida to visit my sister this winter. Looking into the near future without having to consider how to schedule that trip, I realize that it gives me a sense of freedom that opens up new possibilities. Maybe I'll start making an occasional trip to Texas to see the rest of my family, I don't quite know yet. But at this point in my life, barreling quickly towards my eightieth birthday (well, not quite but almost), I am wanting to get out of old habits and spend my days fully engaged in doing what gives me the most pleasure, while I still can.
Some of the Saturday walking group
I am so happy that I have such a great group of friends to exercise with on Saturday mornings. Every New Years Day, Cindy (our leader, front row in lavender) brings carafes of coffee, hot chocolate, and her famous fig bars to share with us. We bring our leftover holiday goodies. Before we bring this out, however, we make one 2.6-mile loop around the lake. Afterwards, some will make a second loop, but others (like me this year) will just head home, too full of food to even consider it. This is one group that is high on my list of activities to keep. I'm afraid they would have too much fun without me!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Alger Alp 2020

Squires Lake
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers gathered at the trailhead to make our way up to Alger Alp, one of our usual wintertime hikes. It's not one of my favorite ones, because much of it is on logging roads, and once we leave Squires Lake, we just continue up until we get to a fairly nice viewpoint overlooking the interstate. It's not very long (which is a good thing when you're hiking in the rain), and the forecast was for it to get wetter as the day progressed.
Dressed for the weather
It was a little on the soggy side, but compared to what we might have faced, it was definitely good to be out and about anyway. We had some light sprinkles most of the time, but it has been raining around here for days, as you can see by the saturated ground. As we ascended to the viewpoint, the rain pretty much stopped, so we decided to have our lunch there.
The viewpoint without much view
While I was trying to figure out what to write about, I went back and revisited all of our previous trips to this spot. Most were wet (which I kind of remember) and a few times we even went back to the Senior Center for lunch. Today it was mild and the rain held off while we ate.
Packing up before heading back down
I was surprised to see how many of my posts about this hike were almost interchangeable with today's experience. One of the best parts about having a blog that continues for many years is providing the ability to revisit and compare from one year to the next. The temperature in previous years was cold enough to freeze Squires Lake, but today it was mild, giving us a chance to stay warm and comfy when we were walking. Nobody complained about the weather.

We were home early, and as I look outside at the constant drip, drip, drip coming off the trees, I'm glad we shortened our return to the cars. We only hiked around five miles or so, up and down maybe 1,000 feet, but it was enough. It was much better than staying indoors all day, and it makes me so happy to have a nice warm and dry place to enjoy the rest of this early January day.