Monday, September 28, 2020

That's so far out


Astronomy Picture of the Day

I am a daily fan of the Astronomy Picture of the Day and saw this one on June 28 when I marveled over it. If you go to the link under the picture, you can learn about how it was taken, and what you are looking at. Of course that's the Great Red Spot in the middle of the picture, but in the lower left you are seeing one of Jupiter's moons: Europa. And in the upper right is the shadow of Io, another of Jupiter's moons. 

I have been fascinated with the closeups of Jupiter that have emerged from the Voyager 2 journey that began in 1979. And yes, there is also a Voyager 1 out there. Both of them will not return to Earth but will transmit data back to Earth for a long time to come.

Voyager 2 is near the edge of our solar system and will one day also enter interstellar space. Many people are unaware that even after over 40 years, both probes are still actively generating scientific data and transmitting it to Earth.

 Sometimes I get a real burst of energy from seeing such incredible views of our Solar System, knowing that the ups and downs of our earthly travails are small in the larger scheme of things. Not that it makes it any easier, but it just gives us a chance to step back and ponder such majesty.

If you have some techniques for staying sane while the world around us grows ever more chaotic, I'd love to hear about them. Until then, I'll keep my head in the clouds and beyond.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Soggy but satisfying

Looking for a shot

Melanie and I blew off our hopes of making another trip to the mountains, in light of the fact that it will be very wet for the next few days here in the Pacific Northwest. It was raining heavily when we met to share a walk around Lake Padden, either once or twice, depending on how much rain was coming down. You can see by the way Mel is dressed, we were ready for anything. 

Grey skies and choppy waters

Although it wasn't completely dry, there were moments when we were very warm and comfortable enough to take off our rain hats and unzip our coats. It was a nice way to get in our steps for the day, even if it wasn't bright and sunny. I've been much wetter on past Thursday hikes.

First signs of fall

The leaves are beginning to turn a bit. This lake has many deciduous trees that will turn brilliant colors, but they are just now beginning their display. Another week or two and I'll return to see what they will show us this year.

Magnificent trees

There are also many beautiful old firs here, and they stand in mute dignity as they observe the comings and goings of people walking, running, and hiking, either alone or in small groups with their dogs happily sniffing every tree. Even in the rain, there were still a good number of fellow travelers around the 2.6-mile loop. We went twice around and then headed home for lunch.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Saying goodbye


Snagged from the Atlantic website

Boy, this was a hard one to process. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been around and on the Supreme Court for such a long time, and I followed her all the way. A determined and dedicated person, she still succumbed to what will be the fate of all of us one day. I will miss her wisdom and inspiration for a long, long time. As will many of us. Farewell, dear Ruth, and I hope you will rest in peace with your husband Marty. They had an incredible marriage, which you can read about here, if you're interested.

Oh, and one more thing: don't forget to get a flu shot this year, since we are in the middle of a pandemic. My blogging friend Kay wrote a very informative post this morning about the differences in what you might receive from your pharmacy. She just calls it "Flu Shot" but I have already called to see what they offer at mine. After hanging on the phone for a half hour, I gave up. I'll just go there and see what they have available.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bagley Lakes in the smoke


Terry, Dianne, Melanie (and me behind the camera)
I am trying to write this post without having the option of returning to the Legacy version, so excuse me if I don't get this quite right. The four of us drove up to Heather Meadows in the wilderness area, because we thought the air quality would be better up high. But nope: as you can see in this picture, we had very little view of anything but mountains shrouded in smoke. Although the air was better for breathing, it sure wasn't much better for views.

Bagley Lakes

As you can see, as we walked around the lakes, our view was not great, but the weather seemed warm and we had strong filtered sunlight. We kept thinking it would be getting better, but it never did. We had planned to hike to Ptarmigan Ridge, but when we saw that we would be robbed of a view, we chose this short but lovely hike around the lakes.
Melanie in a great shirt

By the time it warmed up a bit, or after we had been walking awhile, Mel showed us her message shirt: "Hope isn't canceled." The stone bridge is under her feet, and we decided in order to make the hike a bit longer to start up the trail towards Hermann Saddle. We had no intention of getting there, but turned around after a short while and having eaten lots and lots of blueberries (they are ripe and perfect).
Terry, Dianne, me (Mel's picture)

I wanted to add a picture that included me, so you can see that I was really there, too. It was nice to have nowhere special to go, just being outside in the beautiful outdoors, even with the haze. There were still plenty of flowers for us to enjoy, and the weather was comfortable.
A myriad of flowers still in bloom

As I said, we picked lots of blueberries, and somehow or other when I took this picture of Dianne, it turned into a B&W portrait. I don't know how it happened, but I sort of like the looks of it.
The best ones are always just out of reach

Dianne was the best spotter of blueberry patches and found some for us to munch on to our heart's content. The bushes are just beginning to turn red. The berries were so good that it was almost worth the drive just for them!
Another view of nature's garden

We truly enjoyed our short but beautiful walk in the wilderness, and after a couple of hours, we decided to head up to the top of the highway, Artist's Point, just to see if by some chance the air quality was better there.
Visitor's Center on the way to the Point

No, it was no better. As you can see from this picture I took from the car while Melanie was driving, it's not any more clear, but we kept on going until we parked at Artist's Point.
App on Melanie's phone

Melanie has a cool app on her phone that shows you the name of the mountains you are looking at. Or at least would be, if you could see them at all. It was fun to see just what we were missing out on. But all in all, it was a good day, even if we hardly covered enough steps for me to get my daily quota. I can't complain too loudly, though, as I am glad we went, and glad for the great company as well.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Staying indoors mostly

Heron fishing expedition

 On Saturday, Melanie and I braved the unhealthy air for a quick walk along Bellingham Bay, thinking that the air might be a bit less hazardous because of the fresh western air coming off the bay. It didn't bother either of us, no stinging eyes or scratchy throats, so hopefully we didn't make ourselves at too much risk. It was a good thing we went when we did, though, as the air deteriorated more during the day.

Yesterday, it was bad enough that we didn't even open the windows for sleeping. After reading that the best thing you can do when the air quality is that bad is to stay inside, keep the windows closed, and use a HEPA filter on your air conditioner. Well, since we don't have any such thing, we hunkered down and woke to learn that the air this morning is somewhat better. South of us, down in Seattle, it's worse than we have here, so it might change here, too. There are many uncontrolled fires burning all across Oregon. It's all very scary.

What to do with myself? I didn't want to watch the news because it tends to depress me, so I looked on Netflix for an uplifting movie. There were so many choices that I grew a little overwhelmed, and then I saw a movie that I watched before, after having enjoyed the novel so much: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Set in the UK after World War II, it tells the story of the occupation of the isle of Guernsey during the war and its aftermath. I know it doesn't sound very uplifting, but believe me, it is. It not only has a happy ending, but the story is compelling and filled with heroes and heroines. After I finished watching it, my mood had dramatically improved, and I went to bed feeling quite contented.

And now here I am on Monday morning after having made a quick trip to the coffee shop to hang out with my two pals John and Gene, and now I'm going to browse Netflix and see if I can come up with another winner.

P.S. I am now using the new Blogger interface with little problem. Either I got better, or it did. Are other users having any problems?


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Chanterelle and smoke


Air quality not so great

Today we didn't know how the air would be in the mountains, so we decided to stay close to home. We decided to hike an old favorite, the Chanterelle trail near Lake Whatcom, You can see it in the above picture, taken from the overlook at the top of our 2.5-mile hike. We do have some air degradation, but it's nothing compared to the air south of us. San Francisco looks terrifying, as the entire state of California is on fire. Once the direction of the wind changes, we will be getting more smoke, and possibly really unhealthy conditions. So, for now, I'm counting our blessings.

Our hiking group today

It was Dianne (with her dog Joe), Chris ( and his delightful dog Boo), Melanie, and me. This was our turnaround point before heading back down the way we had come. It was warm but not terribly hot, and much of our trail is shaded.

Boo and Joe

These dogs are wonderful. They are both extremely well behaved, and spent time both on and off leash. I am such a fan of dogs like these, who mind and even sit when  asked to pose for a picture. You can see how dry the grass is, and I've never seen this trail so dry. There were few places that were worthy of pictures.

Dry with leaves beginning to fall

Our trail is lovely, even if not a very long hike. We gain about a thousand feet within that 2.5-mile trek, and if we wanted to continue up to the terminus, another 2.5 miles and another thousand feet, we could have. But instead we decided to head back and take a short trip over to the lake on the Hertz trail before heading home. We logged maybe six miles total, and enjoyed not only a wonderful morning's hike, but also wonderful company the entire way.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Labor Day 2020

Kaffeeklatsch Avellino
During this pandemic and the most unusual summer season of my almost eight decades of life, this particular spot outside my coffee shop has become somewhat famous. John and I (the two oldsters on the right) have been doing this ever since the pandemic made it impossible to hang out inside. Other than when we've had a bit of rain (when we sit inside the cab of his truck), we've hauled out our lawn chairs and enjoyed conversation, scintillating and otherwise. The definition of the word kaffeeklatsch is as follows:
(noun) An informal social gathering at which coffee is served. Talking or gossip at an informal gathering where coffee is served.
Yep, that's us, all right. Our gossip is often of the political kind, or about the latest movies or books we've read and want to share with each other. It's been a really wonderful morning interlude for me during the shutdown. I don't know when we might actually be able to be inside again, but we now have dozens of people who drive by us and wave, apparently happy to see us still there.

When the weather changes, I don't know what we'll do. Perhaps drill some bolts into the trees and put a tarp over the area? Or just see what comes into being from the remnants of the fall season? In any event, I have been enjoying the time spent outdoors talking with friends who sometimes join us. Of course, they have to bring their own chairs, and the seating is limited. But the conversation is always lively.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Maple Grove and more

Where we began today's journey
Today, Melanie and I made the long journey south to Baker Lake to begin our hike to Maple Grove. The weather was astoundingly good, clear skies and cool temperatures to begin, at least. We started early, since we had to drive an hour and a half to reach this spot.
The trail
It is a magical place, feeling much like I imagine a fairyland would, with huge trees festooned with moss, lots of green ferns along the sides, a quiet hush on the trail as we made our way towards Maple Grove, about four miles from the start.
Sturdy bridge
We crossed this bridge, which is usually accompanied by a roaring torrent of water, but at this time of year, it was actually quite mild. I never cross these bridges without being very careful and holding on to the railing for dear life. Melanie almost skipped across!
Mt. Baker reflected in Baker Lake
At Anderson Point we have our first view of Mt. Baker. The water in the lake was quite still and made for a perfect reflection. A few boats rippled the water, but otherwise it was perfectly calm.
More beauty
Looking to the left of Baker, this view caught my eye, with the perfect symmetry of the trees, with those on the right showing the first signs of fall. It was sublime.
Red maple leaves turning
Melanie walked out towards the water to get a couple more shots, and I saw her framed in this delightful scene like a forest sprite, with the dramatic color of the lake behind and the red leaves in front.
Maidenhair ferns
All along the trail, I saw my favorite ferns in large clumps. The maidenhair fern usually grows near water, but several times I saw them just looking pretty without any obvious water source.
Mel with giant tree
Towards the end our day's journey, I asked Mel to stand next to this tree, so that its size can be truly appreciated. Dappled sunlight completes the picture. We went out and back, covering more than eight miles and a mere 800 feet up and down. But it was enough to make my feet hurt and pointed out my lack of fitness. I always thought of this hike as being easy, but it was anything but for me today. However, once we were back at the car and on our way home, I felt nothing but gratitude for such a fabulous day. My aches and pains melted away. Pretty much, anyway.