Monday, August 31, 2020

Red, white and blue

Red potato bouquet
Yesterday Carter (our chief gardener) and I finished pulling out the rest of the potatoes. We had already harvested the white (Yukon gold) and blue potatoes, which were planted earlier than these red ones. When I pulled on the above-ground dying plant, what did I find at the end of them but this wonderful bouquet of red potatoes! Plus, underneath this batch were even more beautiful reds. They are my favorites, although the blue ones are actually quite tasty and make an interesting hue when mashed. So, we ended up with red, white and blue spuds to add to our garden harvest.
Mixture of reds and whites
The last section of potatoes ended up as quite a mixture of colors. They are definitely the best tasting potatoes I've ever eaten, but I'm not sure whether it's because I actually pulled them out of the ground myself or not. In any event, I am fast becoming an experienced potato farmer!
Gorgeous flowers
These pretty flowers caught my eye at the Farmers' Market on Saturday. I meant to take lots of pictures of fruits and veggies, but I got waylaid by a package of Raven Breads' brown butter shortbread cookies. I'm still trying to work off those extra calories. In fact, I'd better get off my chair and go out for a walk while the sun is shining. The days are getting shorter and shorter so I'll finish up and go make some tracks.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Lizard Lake

Chris with Luna and Melanie
Today, three of us (with another sweet dog, Luna) met at the Upper Trailhead parking lot to take a trip to Lizard Lake and return via the Alternate Incline Trail. Cool and sunny, the day was pretty darn perfect, as we started up to the lake via the regular trail from the parking lot. I got to lead, since I am the slowest of us, so that I could set the pace. I sort of like the feeling of being in the lead, where Al always used to be when we could all hike together. Someday, maybe, that will happen again.
On our way to the lake
We got to the junction where we would head towards the lake on the British Army Trail. The deep forest kept us cool while the sun shined overhead. It was so nice to stay cool on our way up. We gained a fair amount of elevation to this spot, and then it was pretty much level.
At the lake, where we usually have lunch
It was still early when we reached Lizard Lake, but we decided to take a nice long break in the stillness and have an early lunch. I have never been here this late in the season, because we would normally be hiking in the Mt. Baker Wilderness, but because of the pandemic, we are taking trips closer to home.
Lizard Lake
You can see from this picture of the lake and reflection that it was very still and quite lovely. I enjoyed staying here and reminisced about all the times I've been here in the rain, snow, and cold. This was way better and we lingered for awhile.
Alternate Incline Trail
Melanie and Chris wanted to return via this trail, since the usual way back is a bit longer, and Mel said this is one of her favorite trails. I like it just fine, and it is fairly steep in places, but we were traveling downhill so it wasn't too hard on me. The trail comes out on a service road, meaning that we needed to walk in the sun (mostly) as we made our way back to the parking lot.
Mt. Baker from the road
One of the reasons I think Melanie likes to go this way is the gorgeous view you get of Mt. Baker from the road. We covered around six miles and more than 2,000 feet up and down on our beautiful hike today. And I'm not even tired! We skipped going to North Butte, which would have added another mile or so, but it wasn't necessary for us to enjoy the day. Next week we might try something a bit more challenging. A little at a time, that's my motto!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Fall is just around the corner

Leaves are beginning to turn
On Saturday, my friend Melanie, along with Dianne and her dog Joe, went to Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale, just a few miles north of Bellingham, to enjoy a nice walk in the sunshine. I noticed this tree, which is beginning to change colors, a preview of what we'll be seeing everywhere before long. September and Labor Day are less than two weeks away. Time is flying by so quickly, but I am really blessed to have close friends to share these walks with me. We wore our masks and socially distanced from each other and people we encountered along the way.
Dahlias still wet from a morning shower
The farm has a lovely dahlia garden, a late summer flower that comes in many different flavors and colors. I loved seeing them and watching the enthusiastic bees that swarmed around us. And concentrated on the task at hand.
Another variety of dahlia
Although the flowers that open up and point their petals are my favorite, I also enjoy this variety as well. They remind me of pretty carnival balloons. After strolling through the gardens, we resumed our walk, which was just right for the morning: a cool breeze kept us from getting too warm, and the flat terrain didn't wear me out, as I might have felt in full sun on a hilly slope. We stopped to sample wild blackberries along the trail.
Smiling Joe
Joe is such a good dog. I asked him to let me take a picture of him, and he sat politely and accommodated me. He got to take a dip in the Nooksack River and his fur curled up to make him look even more adorable.

Today I'll spend some time in the garden removing the dead snap pea detritus, so that Carter, our communal gardener extraordinaire, can plant something for the fall harvest. My guy, SG, is doing very well as he continues his rapid recovery. Today my day is full of activity, and I'm glad to be entering my very favorite time of the year: fall.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Samish Overlook to Lily Lake

Samish Bay from the Overlook
When I woke this morning, I heard the gentle sound of rain falling. Uh-oh, I thought, it's going to be another wet Thursday hike. However, by the time I met Melanie for our trip up to Samish Overlook on Blanchard Mountain, it had not only stopped, but the clouds cleared right off. This is the view from the Overlook before we started our trip to Lily Lake.
Mel, Sue and Chris (all socially distanced and masked)
It was cool and delightful as we began our hike. I realized that I was the slowest one of the group, and Melanie suggested that I lead, since I could then set the pace. Reluctantly, I agreed but there was little else I could do but trudge up the steep trail towards the connecting point that would allow us either to go to Oyster Dome or towards Lily and Lizard lakes.
Maidenhair fern growing from a tree
I am always ready to take pictures of this lovely fern, and when I saw it growing from the inside of a tree, I had to share its beauty with you. We trekked on the Lily/Lizard trail towards Lily Lake, when we saw this guy.
Pacific newt
He was in the middle of the trail and not moving, but when we decided to move him to the side, we saw that he is still alive, but moving slowly. Maybe he was cold. I found this information about the Pacific newt. There are four species, and this one is called the rough-skinned newt and is highly poisonous. We only touched him with a stick but saw that he is orange on his underside.
Lily Lake
And then we were at the lake and stopped for a short snack. We had sun and clouds, with little to no breeze (it's usually windy right here) so we took our time before starting out again. Once we headed back, we took Max's Shortcut back to the Overlook, giving us a nice loop hike of less than six miles but 1,100 feet elevation gain and loss.
Samish Bay at low tide
The bay looks quite different than it did when we began our hike, and the clouds had once again returned, but it was a wonderful temperature and a very satisfying hike. Chris is a new friend that Melanie met on the trail a while back, and he is fun to hike with, as well as being very knowledgeable about equipment woes. I had forgotten my poles and used a spare set of Mel's. They kept slipping and Chris fixed them right up!
Fall flowers
I took one last shot of the bay with these pretty yellow flowers in the foreground, and then it was time to head back home after a delightful no-rain hike!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Harvesting potatoes

Not my potatoes, someone else's
Yesterday I harvested potatoes for the first time ever. Having a community gardener (Carter) who plants stuff I haven't done on my own before has made it quite an adventure. Frankly, I had no idea where or how to even begin to find them. Carter had written on our community board that the potatoes were ready to harvest and told where they are located in the garden.

I went out and looked around, puzzled, and after giving up the first time, yesterday I saw Carter out in the garden and asked him to show me where the potatoes lived, so I could help harvest them. I forgot to take a picture, so I found this one on line that looks a lot like what we pulled out of the ground.

The above-ground part of the potato plants were withered, and he just stuck his hand in the dirt and wiggled it around and voila! out came a potato, then another and another. I carried them onto the picnic table and kept coming back for more as he continued to pull them out of the ground. I was surprised to learn that potatoes don't have "handles" connected to the tops, they just seemed to keep coming out of the ground, like magic.

I took a fair portion of Yukon Golds and blue potatoes and put them in a paper bag to cure for a couple of weeks. (I learned about this from a website.) The potatoes look so pretty and adorable, nothing like I imagined before I became a potato farmer!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lower Salal trail

North Lost Lake trail on way to Lower Salal trail
Well, just to show that you can never anticipate what a day in the forest will look like, we stayed close to home today, rather than heading up to the wilderness as we had planned earlier. Why, you ask? I'll explain later. It turned out to be a beautiful day, if a little on the cool side, when we met at our usual Chuckanut trailhead. I had my friends Melanie and Dianne, and the wonderful dog Joe, to share the day with me.
Smiling Joe
We decided to hike up the North Lost Lake trail to the Lower Salal trail, which is a very pretty up-and-down delightful trail.
North Lost Lake trail
The Lost Lake trail meanders upwards at an easy angle, which is good because we knew we would be coming back on the Hemlock trail (which is a little steeper) after navigating the Lower Salal and part of the regular Salal.
Beginning the Lower Salal trail
You can see how this trail narrows to a single person track, after having been on the wide trail, and I am beginning to think this Lower Salal has become my favorite low-country trail. It's easy to get to and well marked and maintained.
Me and Joe
Melanie took this picture of the two of us, just as we were leaving the Lower Salal to join the next trail. We are both posing, as you can see. I am holding my breath so my belly wouldn't hang out over my pants, but I think it makes me look just a little silly. Joe looks natural, though.
Sun-dappled and delightful
Then we headed back to the cars, after a almost six-mile walk and wonderful company. We ended up passing perhaps a dozen people on the return trip, and everyone except one couple were masked. Our county is beginning to get the virus under control, since everyone is taking it seriously.

Now, about why we didn't go on a longer hike. My dear husband had a mild stroke on Sunday and spent the next two days and nights in the hospital. He is able to get around moderately well, but I knew that I didn't want to be gone all day, which would have happened if we had added another three hours just for travel. Hopefully we'll make it up there one of these days, but today was not the right time. I really needed to get out, and since I've been able to take my usual Thursday "forest bath," my spirits have risen and I can take whatever comes my way for the rest of the day.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What day is it again?

Dahlia in early morning light
I especially love how the light seems to be coming right out of these flowers. I took this picture as I and two friends were beginning a nice excursion into the forest from town. We walked, socially distanced of course, for around six miles before returning to town and the treat of a bear claw (which added back all those calories I'd burned on the walk).

One thing I can't get over is how much better I feel after a walk like that. And it's just about the only thing I can do with company these days. I still don't feel comfortable eating at a restaurant, even outdoors. But getting outdoors and moving always seems to help my mood.

The days are running into each other during this pandemic. It takes me a few minutes when I wake in the morning to figure out what day it is. I no longer have much of a schedule, and in the Before Times, I went to bed knowing exactly what the next day would hold. Of course, there were some interesting events that might spring up unintended, but that doesn't happen much when you are stuck inside with nowhere to go.

We are almost halfway through August, and we are experiencing a nice break from the heat. At this latitude, we are losing more than three minutes of daylight every day, which adds up to a noticeable difference in a week's time. Once we get to the end of August, many trees around here will have begun to turn into fall's brilliant hues. So, even though I'm having trouble finding out which day it is, I know that the seasons keep on turning, turning, turning.
But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you. —Stephen King

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Well, that was interesting

Chanterelle trail in the rain
Today Melanie and I tossed out our earlier plans for a long drive south, or even to the Mt. Baker Highway for a beloved hike, because our weather changed. Drastically. From last week's extremely hot temperatures, today we woke to a light rain and a cold front. The forecast called for a light rain in the morning, changing to sunshine by early afternoon. We decided to stay close to home and hike up the Chanterelle trail. It rained on us for most of the way.
The viewpoint 
I grumbled about the rain, which barely let up at all as we made our way up the two-and-a-half miles to this point, but just as we approached the viewpoint, the rain stopped and the clouds began to clear. It was like a switch had been flipped. Just like that, the heavy rain was gone, and August had returned after an interlude into fall-like weather.
Vibrant thistle
And just like that, my spirits lifted and I was suddenly interested in the flowers and plants surrounding me. Melanie suggested we walk up the trail for a short bit so we could extend the hike into a five-mile round trip excursion, and I agreed.
A beautiful drippy yellow flower
I'm not sure what this pretty flower is, but notice that it is still covered with lots of rain. It was such a quick change that it gave me a chance to get some lovely shots. And, as I said already, my mood went from gloom to sunshine, along with the skies.
A fairyland
Just before we emerged from the forest into the open, Melanie pointed out this spot, where the damp forest changes into a beckoning landscape, from darkness into light. And then we walked into partial sunshine as we made our way back down to the car. It was, all in all, a lovely outing, and I now feel quite happy to have been willing to get wet today.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hanging in there

Trail with leaves
We are now experiencing quite lovely weather, with the temperature hovering around 70°F (21°C) and a partly sunny sky. I know it might sound cool to some of my readers, but for me it's perfect. I just returned from a four-mile walk in the neighborhood in order to get in my 10,000 steps for the day. I was surprised to see that we are already losing some leaves, as you can see in the above shot, a precursor to fall, when the scene will be covered with more gold.
Magnificent old tree
I feel incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful places to get out and enjoy during this summer. This gorgeous old cedar tree stands on the trail to Fragrance Lake, which is just a short trip from my home. Well, relatively speaking, that is. I can get to the trailhead in a few minutes, but then climbing up to the lake would take awhile. I do stop to say hello to some of my favorite trees when I'm there.
And last Thursday, my friend Mel and I saw this lovely sight on the Heliotrope Ridge trail, off the Mt. Baker Highway. My spirits are lifted by sights like this one, and the wonderful feeling of the spray took my breath away. If I must be limited in my activities these days, I cannot express my gratitude enough to state what a difference it makes for me to be in nature, taking a "forest bath" now and then.

I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the outdoors wherever you are. It really does give you a chance to adjust your attitude and will bring a smile to your face, I hope.