Thursday, July 30, 2020

Heliotrope Ridge

Me and waterfall
Today marks the first day this season when we made it up to the High Country. Melanie, Dianne and I headed up to Heliotrope Ridge off the Mt. Baker Highway near Glacier. When we started out, we noticed how warm it was, but still rather pleasant, since we were at a higher altitude than in Bellingham. This is the first stream crossing out of three (other than the one that has a bridge over it at the beginning of the trail). It was easy, and the water coming off the waterfall was simply delightful. But it turned out to be the only  crossing we were able to make.
Second stream crossing
Now this might not seem to be all that hard to cross, but after spending considerable time trying to find a way to cross without getting our feet wet, we watched several other hikers trying to cross, too, and nobody made it across without putting on water shoes or going barefoot. I had brought water shoes, too, but Dianne had not. We decided to turn around, retrace our steps, and instead go up a side road and look at wildflowers.
Mt. Baker
We also had a wonderful view of Baker, since we couldn't get near the glaciers on foot, we had to admire them from afar. That's goat's beard in the foreground, a lovely and very prolific plant in bloom right now.
We saw plenty of lupine, one of my favorite summertime flowers, on the side road. That's a lone Indian paintbrush looking very red, too. By the time we were snapping these pictures, it had grown very hot indeed.
Tiger lilies
We also saw lots of these pretty tiger lilies, which were everywhere along the side of the road. Although there were plenty more flowers, I was getting very hot and wished we could get back into the car where there was air conditioning. By the time we made it down to the town of Glacier, the temperature had reached 95°F (35°C), way too hot in my opinion. We also hadn't hiked very far, having been turned back from the trail, only having gone maybe four or five miles, before calling it a day.

But still. It was the first trip into the Mt. Baker wilderness this year, so I am happy that we managed to make it before the end of July. Next week we will try again, and hopefully it won't be so hot.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Hot time in the old town tonight

Rose beauty
Well, all that cool and cloudy weather we had last week is long gone. I just returned from an early walk, since it's getting way too hot in the middle of the day for me. Right now it's 74°F, which is about as hot as I ever want it to get. I know that there are lots of people who think that's on the cool side, but I'm not one of them. It is expected to get over 80° this afternoon, but Seattle is expecting it to reach the mid-nineties. Summer has definitely come to the Pacific Northwest. Somehow, I'll make it through.
Lady ferns and maidenhair ferns
We have so many beautiful ferns growing in the forests around here, and I just happened last week to see this juxtaposition of two of my favorite ones: lady ferns and maidenhair ferns. I learned some interesting information about them from those links. The maidenhair are those in the middle, looking roundish, and the outside ones are the lady ferns. Lady ferns are edible, enjoyed by grizzly bears, elk, and deer. From that link:
The leaves of the lady fern were used by native tribes to cover or place food onto, especially for berry drying. The fiddleheads were eaten in early spring. Lady ferns are a very popular landscaping fern due to their graceful and lacy frond.
I have always loved the maidenhair fern, because of its different look. I imagined its name came from perhaps young maidens placing them on their heads to look like a crown, but the name comes from quite a different source:
Maidenhair fern history is quite interesting. Its genus name translates to “non wetting” and refers to the fronds’ ability to shed rainwater without becoming wet. In addition, the plant is the source of an aromatic, volatile oil commonly used as a shampoo, which is where its common name of maidenhair derived.
So I've learned something interesting about these lovelies, and I've passed it along to you as well. I guess I've done enough today to give myself permission to continue my binge watching activity. I can never seem to find a way to stop, unless I get completely bleary eyed or fall asleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Fun, although without sun

Gate at beginning of Fragrance Lake trail
Today my friend Melanie and I went to Fragrance Lake instead of the long drive south we intended, because somehow the weather turned out to be less than stellar. At first we expected rain, but that changed quickly, although there were low clouds and no sun, meaning that it made more sense to stay close to home. Maybe we can get that hike in next week, but for today, we chose an old favorite, Fragrance Lake.
Bellingham Bay from the viewpoint
We took a short side trip to the viewpoint of the bay, since we knew this would not be a long hike and wanted to add some distance. The clouds reminded me of the wings of doves, soft grey and really quite lovely.
Pretty Indian Pipe
We didn't see many flowers, but Melanie had seen this plant on her last trip up into the area. I told her I had heard it called "ghost pipe," and it's actually quite an amazing plant. I found this information on the internet:
Monotropa uniflora, also known as ghost plant (or ghost pipe), Indian pipe or corpse plant, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas. The plant is sometimes completely waxy white, but often has black flecks or pale pink coloration.
The thing that makes it so interesting is that it contains no chlorophyll, instead getting its energy from photosynthetic trees. I also learned from that link (above) that it has medicinal properties, having been used as a medicine that inhibits anxiety. Here's a closeup of the flower:
Monotropa uniflora
Also while on our way to the lake, we saw numerous beautiful ancient cedar trees. I asked Mel to take a picture of this one with me in it, so you can see the size of this beautiful old tree.
Two ancient artifacts
And then we headed to Fragrance Lake. As you can see here, there was little breeze, and the cool air made it seem very unlike midsummer. Not that I was complaining.
Fragrance Lake
We watched a young man walk out on that limb, all the way to the end. Although he was careful not to slip, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and placed it out of harm's way, just in case he might be taking a quick dip in the water.

We went back along the service road instead of the trail, giving us a nice six-mile loop. By the time we reached the trailhead, we were both happy to have been out and about, and pleasantly tired. but not tired out. It was a lovely time outdoors, and I realize how important it is to my mental health to enjoy the forest and turn my attention to the natural world. Although lately my Thursday hikes are mostly nearby and easy, it doesn't make them any less important to maintaining my equilibrium during these trying times.

Monday, July 20, 2020

My day as we start a new week

The coffee shop threesome this morning
I know I put a picture up last week of John and I in our new hangout place in front of the coffee shop, but when Gene joined us this morning, we got the attention of the barista, who took this picture of us as we drank our coffee and chatted. It doesn't look like the coffee shop will open to indoor customers any time soon, but we don't let that stop us from getting together. It's nice to have friends who are willing to get up early and venture out.

I just finished Mary Trump's book, the tell-all about her family and her Uncle Donald and how he became the person he is. It's not a long book, and it simply tells the story of a dysfunctional family unit that has lots of money, most of it from Fred Trump's dirty dealings long ago. After having read the book, I now understand why Trump doesn't want his tax returns to become public: they probably show that he owes millions in back taxes.

It also helps me to understand why Trump is so psychologically damaged. It was mostly his father's cruelty, something that came about when he was unloved and abandoned as a toddler. I don't know if that actually excuses his own cruelty, but it explains it. Mary does not seem to have much of a sense of humor herself and I found her no-nonsense account to be a little annoying at times. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I would give it another read. I didn't learn anything I didn't already know, just from watching the news and having read other people's experiences about dealing with Trump. I think I learned more from Tony Schwartz's description of having ghostwritten "The Art of the Deal" with him.
Garden bounty
On a more positive note, our community garden is producing wonderful goodies. Now that our dry season has begun, I am going to be watering the garden every morning. It's so wonderful to see all the good food at my fingertips. To be honest, I have just about had my fill of zucchini, but I am now snatching up the cucumbers. Lots of delicious possibilities. I'll be showing more as they begin to ripen.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A gentle morning walk

Pileated woodpecker having breakfast
Melanie and I decided to have a short walk this morning, along the Interurban trail, since she had made plans to have lunch with friends, it being her birthday and all. For once, I decided to let her be the one to determine today's excursion, from the possibility of driving south to one of her favorite hikes, or whatever she desired. When we started, we heard this fellow making quite a racket, pounding away as he made dozens of holes in this snag, looking for breakfast. He didn't fly away while we snapped lots of pictures.
Unidentified plant
We saw this lovely flowering plant by the side of the trail, new to both of us. I'm sure someone can identify it, since we couldn't. It looks similar to a lilac, but has no smell and a different leaf. It's pretty, though, and Melanie's favorite color. We also saw a couple of eagles swooping quite low overhead, probably just wanting to say happy birthday to Mel (that's what I told her, anyway).
Bellingham Bay
At one point, we had a good view of the bay, and it was a bit surprising to see all the whitecaps, since we were in the trees and insulated from the wind. The weather was overcast for the entire morning, but by the time we finished around noon, it had begun to clear and the wind had died down over the bay.
Ferns galore
The view along the gentle trail is quite lush and verdant at this time of the year, with so many ferns at this point I had to show them to you. I love the different shades of green.
Our turnaround spot
We got to this point, where the Larrabee state park lands begin, and turned around to head back the way we had come. It was almost exactly three miles in each direction, giving us a nice six-mile jaunt, almost completely flat with only one little dip to descend and climb back up. Nothing, really, to speak of.

Next week we'll be doing something a bit more challenging, Mel promises me, but I did very much enjoy a lovely walk on the Interurban trail with her on her birthday. And now it's time to return to my book (I'm reading Mary Trump's memoir).

Monday, July 13, 2020

Our new normal

John at our "table"
This little spot outside the coffee shop where we have been hanging out for years is our new meeting place in the mornings, when there's some sunshine, anyway. That is my lawn chair in front, with my sweatshirt that I wear to keep warm during these cool summer mornings. You can see how early it is by the length of the shadows. John is busy calling Gene to see if he will join us (he did, for a short one while he grabbed some coffee). Our coffee shop will not be having sit-down inside dining any time soon.
Even "Pipe Man" is masked
While I was on a walk yesterday, I saw this funny plastic pipe figure, and then I noticed that it is also wearing a mask. So many people here are doing the same. Our governor has asked us to help get this virus under control by wearing a mask whenever we leave our homes.
Beginning June 26, every Washingtonian in an indoor public space, or in an outside public space when unable to physically distance from others, will be legally required to wear a face covering.
 There is a curious visitor to my front porch: this handsome fellow who has decided this is his chair. I don't know where he lives, or if he's a stray, but he certainly seems to be well fed. He's what is called a "tuxedo" cat because of his coloring.
For whatever reason, he seems to spend at least a little time here in this spot every day. My next-door neighbor thinks he is a feral cat, but he just doesn't act like it. He seems quite comfortable with people. I tried to feed him once, but he wasn't interested, so I haven't tried again. Once, he slipped inside while the back door was open, so I picked him up (he's heavy!) and placed him back outside. He meows to say hello, but that is the extent of his conversations with me. I feel a little like I've been "adopted." Maybe along with many of the other apartment dwellers.

We've got the fabled perfect weather going on right now. It only lasts for a few short weeks in summer, but when it's here, I am in heaven. Lots of sunshine, cool nights and days in the high sixties and low-to-medium seventies (20-25°C). Hope you are keeping comfortable, too!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Soggy trail but fun anyway

Lake Padden sign at trailhead
Well, after days and days of sunshine and delightful weather, it started raining Wednesday evening and kept going into Thursday morning, just in time for our hike. We decided to go anyway, although we didn't bring Joe along (Dianne's sweet dog), since he hates to walk in the rain. The Lake Padden main trail goes around the lake in 2.6 miles, so we figured we'd probably just go once around and call it a day.
Melanie and Dianne, my walking companions
It was raining and on the cool side, but if you enlarge the above picture, you'll see that there were some young people swimming in the lake. I asked one person as he left the water whether the water is cold. "Yes, very much so." He shivered as he made his way over to his clothes. I'm not sure what they are preparing for, but it was fun to watch.
Lake Padden
And then the rain began to lessen, almost stop for awhile. We decided to go ahead and make a second loop of the lake, as well as to take a side trip up the Padden Gorge, adding another mile (almost, anyway) to our day's mileage. We ended up going more than six miles and enjoying our trip much more than we originally thought we would.
Canadian geese lolling in the grass
These geese are obviously very accustomed to people. They weren't fazed by our presence, and continued to groom themselves and just chill out, probably enjoying the fact that the rain quit, just like we did.
Tasty daisies
We saw two enormous slugs enjoying themselves on these pretty daisies. Obviously these guys can climb quite well. Some people don't like slugs, but I have learned to appreciate them, even if I am not exactly finding them warm and fuzzy. More like slimy and slithery.

When we ended our walk, the rain picked up again, just a little, but we ended up having had a pretty wonderful and mostly rain-free excursion. We are now happy and feeling much better after our morning exercise.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Summer is in full swing

Front yard in summer
On Saturday, the 4th, I went for a solitary walk and saw this home with a rather exuberant front garden. I stopped to admire it and take a few pictures. There is a short walkway on the left that allows passage from the front of the house to the sidewalk. The picture, though, shows how all the recent rain has helped to create some delightful garden spots.
More abundance
This little patch of purple and red caught my eye on the Western Washington University campus. The roses were so fragrant, and I stopped for a while to admire and, well, smell the flowers. Bees were going crazy on the purple flowers.

Today, a few of my hiking buddies went on a nine-mile hike, which is a little far for me these days. I'm learning that I have limits, and as I slide deeper into elderhood, I need to remember that. Although some of my peers can continue to push their limits past what I can do right now, I am still very happy that a six-mile walk with lots of elevation gain and loss is still possible for me. That is what I managed on Saturday.

I'm finding that diet and exercise can continue right through the pandemic, even if it's a bit different these days. I still miss the gym and my social life, but visiting the coffee shop and then drinking coffee in sidewalk lawn chairs, socially distant from my friends, we can still enjoy ourselves.
My garden patch
I just went down to the garden to get a couple shots to show you how it's going out there. All those carrots, nestled between the tomato plants and the radishes, are ready to be harvested, or thinned. I know nothing about how to do it, but I guess I'm going to have to try to find out.
Summer squash
Fortunately, nothing needs to be done with these squash, other than pulling them off the vine and bringing them inside for eating. They are good raw or cooked, and they are going great guns out there! I love them shredded raw in salads.

And although I'm not showing off any pictures of the ripe raspberries yet, it's time for me to spend some time picking them and enjoying them right off the vine. I did manage to eat enough while taking these pictures to give myself a bit of a tummy ache. Once you start, it's hard to stop...

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A day on the Salal trail

Starting up the Hemlock trail
It was supposed to rain today, so we decided to take a hike where we could turn around at any time, or extend if we wanted. It was Melanie and me, taking the Hemlock trail up to the Lower Salal trail, then to the regular Salal, and then back down the Hemlock. We could have made it longer by adding in a jaunt up the Huckleberry trail, but I decided to keep it short, to see how my lower back did with more than a thousand feet of elevation gain and loss.
Must be tasty
We saw lots of old trillium plants, and this one was certainly well chewed, for some reason. You can see the spent blossom remnants in the middle. It was pretty perfect temperature for hiking, on the cool side, and occasionally we felt a light mist but no real rain.
Melanie on the Salal 
It was really nice to see how beautiful and green everything is. Yesterday it rained most of the day, and a few puddles still dotted the trail, but mostly nothing stopped us from having a good time.
Lovely Lower Salal trail
It's hard to say enough nice things about this trail. Melanie took me on it earlier this spring, and I was pleased to learn that I am stronger today than I was before, and that the elevation didn't bother me as badly as I feared. It helped me to consider going on a bit longer trails in weeks to come.
Really big mushroom
We ran across an entire patch of these big mushrooms. Many of them had been munched on, making me think they are probably not poisonous. However, I am not willing to take any chances by tasting them myself. Anybody know what it is?
I asked Mel to take a picture of me in my newest mask. Almost everyone we met on the trail was wearing one, although we were outside and probably safe. If someone didn't have one on already, they pulled it up as we passed by. Nobody wants to catch the virus, as it's beginning to surge around the country, and our own Whatcom County is not immune.

Getting exercise is a good way to keep my system healthy, and I truly enjoy these Thursday trips with my dear friend Melanie. I hope we can keep on doing them until our regular Thursday hikes can resume. We covered six miles and more than 1,000 feet of elevation. It was a really good way to spend four hours of our day. Hoping for more like this!