Thursday, May 28, 2020

Madrone Crest

Another trip up the Chuckanuts with my friend Melanie. As you can see here, there is plenty of cottonwood white stuff along the trail. Not snow, but just looking at it makes me want to sneeze.
Trail with sunlight
This is such a lovely area that I never get tired of coming here. Last week and the week before we had different endpoints in this area, but some of the trail is the same. By this time in the season, we are usually heading up to the High Country, so it's a real treat to see all the lovely green that I usually don't see. By midsummer much of this will be dry and turning brown, but today it was perfect.
Mt Baker through the trees
Melanie took this picture with her phone from the viewpoint at Madrone Crest. Her phone does a much better job than mine when zoomed all the way out. The weather was perfect, and we spent a short while here before heading back down.
I asked Melanie for a picture of her t-shirt and mask, showing what a conscientious hiker looks like in the Pacific Northwest today. I love the message on her shirt. It was warm enough today we didn't need any extra clothes. We don't wear our masks unless we see people coming, but she accommodated me for the picture.
Dappled sunlight
This is what the Madrone Crest trail looked like today. So many little white flowers, massive greenery, and two happy hikers. We covered 6.5 miles and 1,200 feet up and down.

And now I must admit that my lower back was in terrible pain on the downhill sections going back to the cars. As the week wore on, I believed my back was almost back to normal, but I'm afraid it isn't. Melanie acted as my coach and kept me going, but I think it's time for me to visit the acupuncturist at the earliest time I can see him, pandemic or not. By the time I began to experience spasms in the right sacrum, we were almost back to the cars. And once we were close enough that I could will it to relax, I was even able to smile! I think right now I'm limited in distance and elevation, but at least I know better: next week, no more than five miles.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Front porch flowers 2020

Rainy morning
I woke to the sound of rain on the roof, and once I got out of bed and went to the front porch to do my morning exercises (these are the Five Tibetan Rites I've done for years now), I delighted in the look of my flowers. In past years, I've had many more pots filled with flowers, but for some reason during this lockdown, I've struggled to get enthusiastic about anything at all. I have a couple of walks every week, and usually a longer one on Thursdays, but I miss the gym, my friends, and my routine. Oh, and I have two Zoom yoga classes a week.
Diamonds on the pansies
For the past few days, I've also been struggling with sciatic pain in my lower back. Yesterday I couldn't even do one of my usual exercises, but today the pain is much, much better. In normal times, I would visit the chiropractor. Or the acupuncturist. I'm hoping that soon we will be able to support our favorite practitioners. But for now, I'm happy that my back is getting better all on its own. It's not like this is my first rodeo: it happens occasionally because I move in some way to irritate that nerve.

I found this on the New Yorker, and I just have to share it with my friends. It makes me laugh, and believe it or not, I really do keep dreaming about doing things I wouldn't ever do these days if I were awake.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

An easier Chuckanut hike

Our own Yellow Brick Road
Okay, it might not actually be yellow or made of brick, but this boardwalk leads into the beautiful forest on Chuckanut Mountain. Last week Melanie took me on a difficult hike up to Raptor Ridge, and I managed to recover within one week. Yesterday she asked me if I wanted to hike somewhere less challenging with her today. Of course I said yes.
Vanilla leaf plant
It was supposed to rain, but it never did. We hiked through carpets of wonderful green things. I've seen this lovely plant before (Achlys triphylla). Why is it called vanilla leaf? Well, that Wikipedia link above explains:
When dried properly, the plants are strongly aromatic and smell of vanilla. Besides serving as an excellent tent air freshener, Achlys was used by native tribes of southern British Columbia as an insect repellent. The dried leaves were hung in bunches in doorways to ward off flies and mosquitoes, and it's not unheard of for naturalists to rub the dried or even fresh leaves on exposed skin when hiking the Olympics or Cascades during the summer mosquito season.
 I didn't know that about it being a good insect repellent. I might just have to try this trick, instead of using icky chemicals. Plus it's a very nice fragrance.
Maidenhair ferns
We saw a profusion of my favorite fern, the maidenhair fern, in abundance. Usually I see it growing near water, but today I saw plenty of it without water being nearby. I think it's really pretty. There are many variations of this fern, but I think this one, the Western maidenhair fern, is beautiful.
Last gasp of the springtime trillium flowers
We saw lots of the three-leafed trillium plants, but most of them no longer have a flower, which comes out in early spring and then changes from a brilliant creamy white to lavender and then purple. It was sure nice to see that there are still a few flowers left. Not many, so I had to show you this one, still intact.
Such a lovely place
We followed the Lower Salal to the Hemlock trail, then back to the cars, making a loop. Since it was supposed to rain, that must be the reason we saw so few people out and about on such a lovely day. We covered around five-and-a-half miles and around 1,000 feet of elevation, much shorter than last week's hike. And today I returned home in good shape, no knee or back pain, and very glad indeed to have had such a wonderful outing. Thank you, Mel, for taking me out on such a nice hike. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have gone.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Forty years ago today

Mt St Helens blowing its top
I didn't live in Washington State when Mt St Helens erupted, forty years ago today. I was at work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, with no thought that I might move to the Pacific Northwest in my future. That was a long time ago, and even thinking about retirement wasn't in my mind. I hadn't even started skydiving (that happened in 1990, ten years later.) But I sure remember the event.

We didn't have instantaneous news at that time, before cell phones became smart. We did have little wireless phones back then, but we used them for (gasp!) telephone calls. Somehow, though, the word got around the office about the eruption, and at home that evening we all learned that it was not only a major eruption, but due to the largest landslide in recorded history, the mountain lost 1,300 feet of its elevation.
Within three minutes of the volcanic eruption, the lateral blast, which traveled at more than 300 miles per hour, scorched 230 square miles of forest. More than 900,000 tons of ash was cleaned up from areas around Washington. (CNN)
Today in a Zoom class sponsored by the Y, the instructors asked everyone where they were that day. Of course, if you were younger than forty, you could not answer the question, but since this was a senior class, it was fascinating to hear what people who lived around here remember from that time. I was one of the few non-natives, it turns out.

Yesterday I stayed up longer than usual to finish the latest book on my Kindle, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. I learned a ton from the book and went to the author's website (David Quammen) and found that he has written fifteen books so far and is still going strong. He discusses various diseases throughout time that have jumped from animal hosts into humans (called zoonosis). Although this one is scary, I was truly frightened to learn about some other viruses that didn't become pandemics, thank heavens, because they were way more lethal than this one. Quammen offers a few nuggets to help us understand how today's coronavirus pandemic came about (Orion Magazine).

  1. Prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.
  2. Zoonotic spillovers will keep coming, as long as we drag wild animals to us and split them open.
  3. A tropical forest, with its vast diversity of visible creatures and microbes, is like a beautiful old barn: knock it over with a bulldozer and viruses will rise in the air like dust.
  4. Leave bats, in particular, the hell alone. 
On that cheery note, I have to say I was truly fascinated by the book and what I learned from it. I will continue to wash my hands and follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask for the foreseeable future. I hope you will, too.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Raptor Ridge

Hemlock trail
Today my friend Melanie and I went from the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead up to Raptor Ridge and back. Thanks to some gentle nudging from Mel, I was actually able to make it the entire distance without needing to turn around and make my way back to the safety of the car. This is probably the hardest hike I've done in awhile, and it was almost enough to bring out a whimper or two. Okay, I will admit I did really whimper a little.
Two-toned trillium
We saw lots and lots of trillium, most of them past their prime but still very beautiful. As they age, they turn from pure white to purple. We had to stop and admire them every time we saw these gorgeous flowers, since by the time we hike together, next week probably, they will be gone. If we have a chance to make it to the High Country this year, we will see them at higher elevations. But there is still no assurance that we'll be able to go into federal lands this summer.
Purple beauty
This is the prettiest one I saw today, and I had to share it, so you can see how really dark they get before the petals shrivel and fall. We had a little sprinkle of rain every now and then, but mostly it was just overcast with a few sunbreaks.
Me on Raptor Ridge
Mel took this picture of  me on Raptor Ridge. I had to laugh when I saw the picture, because it's not obvious to me that it isn't an alien come to conquer the world. Frankly, just making it there and back, more than seven miles and 1,600 feet up and down, made me feel tired enough that the rest of the world will have to wait.
More of our trail today
Mel also took this one while I wasn't looking (obviously). By this time, I was getting tired and wishing for it to be over. But once you get out there, the only option is to keep going. Mel is in much better shape than me and really did keep encouraging me.
Banana slug crossing the trail
We saw three large banana slugs today, which are native to the area. If Peggy had been with us, I know she would have moved this critter to the side of the trail, but I did try that once and learned how slimy they are. I just wished him well and kept going.

All in all, it was a truly wonderful outing, and I know I'll sleep well tonight. It's a little disheartening to think that it wasn't that long ago an outing like today's wouldn't have fazed me. But I am still very happy to have been able to make it home in one piece and will very much enjoy a glass of wine while I relax in my favorite chair tonight.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The state of our garden

The umbrella at our table in the garden
I intended to go for a nice walk yesterday, but first I went out to see how our community garden is doing. It was midday, and way too hot for me. I pulled a few weeds and then wilted in the heat and decided against a walk.
Everything is doing very well out here, and one day before too long there will be too many raspberries all at once (but we'll manage). Carter, our gardening maven, drastically cut back the bushes in early spring, but still there are plenty left. I love these berries and look forward to enjoying them one day.
My little patch
I'm afraid I neglected my little plot and the carrots didn't make it, so Carter replanted them, and I promised to water them at least once a day. You can see the lovely salad greens to the right of my area, which I will take advantage of one of these days. I still need to get a tomato plant under the white cage that my friend John  made for me a few years ago. Things are thriving. I watched Carter plant a bunch of beans as I languished in the shade of the umbrella.

It's a little cooler today, so I feel like I might actually make it out for a nice walk, which always makes me feel much better about the state of the world. I had a very nice Mother's Day, even if I didn't get my walk. Hope you did, too.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A lovely five miles

Samish Bay from the overlook
When I saw that the weather forecast for today was to be beautiful, in the low sixties (16°C) and sunny, I texted my friend Melanie to see if she would be interested in going to the newly reopened Larrabee State Park trailhead to walk up to Fragrance Lake, one of my favorite places. She readily agreed, and asked another mutual friend, Dianne, if she wanted to join us. Initially hesitant, Dianne agreed to join us if we all drove separately, wore masks, and stayed physically distant (at least six feet apart). We met at the trailhead at 8:20am.
Very interesting tree roots
The trail has many delights, not the least of which are these tree roots. Last week I put a picture of some roots that made a tree look like it was walking away, since instead of a rock, a log had been underneath in earlier times, and it had disappeared. This rock isn't going anywhere, but it sure makes for an eye-opening scene.
Just a beautiful forest
Since we started early, we didn't begin to see many people until we had been out for awhile. Most people were wearing masks, and almost everyone was willing to keep their distance by leaving the trail while we passed, or we did the same. We were all following covid etiquette (or, as I heard on the radio, "cov-etiquette"). Everyone seemed really happy to be back on our state trails.
Dianne, Melanie, and me
Mel took this picture while we were at the overlook, three happy people, masked and socially distant, in full sunshine and on our way to the lake. Along the way, we saw lots of trillium, still in bloom, but definitely on the older side.
I am loving these flowers and didn't realize we would still see so many, this late in the springtime at this elevation. We climbed about a thousand feet on our way to the lake, and on the way we saw another face in a tree.
Well, hello there!
As I wrote in that earlier post, seeing faces in inanimate objects is called pariedolia, but in this case, it was created by an artist for the enjoyment of those of us who passed by. I guess it was the left arm that was the inspiration for this. In any event, we all smiled and delighted in the creativity.
Fragrance Lake
And then we were at the lake, where we enjoyed spending a few moments looking at the view. No, that is not a creature under the water, just a log. We decided against heading around the lake, which would have added another mile to our hike and headed back down the service road, instead of going back the way we had come. It was beginning to get busy, and we figured the road, which isn't as pretty but much wider, would be a better return trip. We covered more than five miles today, and had a simply wonderful time outdoors, staying safe and taking care of our spiritual health, as well as our physical selves. It was lovely.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Peeking inside their homes

Nice kitchen
It's been so interesting to see the homes of the people I usually see in studio settings, and they all tell a different story of who they are. Claire McCaskill is always in her kitchen, and I noticed right away that all her plates seem to be homemade, not stacking up perfectly, and that there's no way to keep these dishes from getting dusty. Makes for plenty of work for somebody; I wonder if she has a housekeeper. Probably. If you look online, you can see the rest of her lovely kitchen, but this is where she always stands for the camera.

I noticed my guy standing close to the TV one day, with his head cocked to one side. He was reading, or trying to read, the titles of the books on shelves behind some anchor or another. Then I started looking myself. This guy, a Princeton scholar, rearranges his books periodically, so I realize he knows there are lots of people like me who are interested in what people are reading.
Eddie Glaude at home
The other thing that interests me are the number of people I admire who have pets. I got hooked on looking for the cat in William Brangham's home. The black cat is almost always in the same place on the couch, so when I noticed he was gone one day, I realized how much I missed seeing him. And often meteorologists working from home have dogs that ham it up in front of the camera, which always gives me a chance to smile.

Peeking into the homes of media celebrities has become a "thing." It's more fun than listening to the news, for sure!