Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve hike

Melanie on the Hemlock trail

My friend Melanie texted me yesterday and told me to meet her at the Chuckanut trailhead, one of our favorite places to hike these days. She also said we'd have a couple of other people join us: Sue (who did a long hike with Mel on Monday) and Al, who is slowly getting back in the groove of a weekly hike. Also in the parking lot were two more Senior Trailblazers, who went off for a much longer (and faster) hike than ours.

Polka dots?

Al is wearing a new mask, one made by his wife. I complimented him on the polka dots, but he said no, those were supposed to be Covid viruses. In any event, it's a good look for him. It was raining lightly for much of the early part of our hike, but he was more than prepared, including with waterproof overmitts.

Huckleberry Point

Our first destination was up to Huckleberry Point, and since there was no view whatsoever, I took a picture of a fallen mossy branch, with a bit of the bench (also mossy) on the right side of the picture. The trail was plenty muddy, but it was still nice to be out and not fending off a downpour.

Mel assisting

We decided to head from there down to see Chuckanut Falls, which we knew would be pretty full with all the rain. We encountered two women on horseback who were helping to open up the trail by sawing through big fallen logs. That's Mel helping to move that big section of log out of the path.

Chuckanut Falls

The falls were indeed very impressive, filled with lots of roaring water. I've seen this scene when the falls were no more than a trickle, but today it was just beautiful. We have more rain in the forecast, which should increase the volume even more.

Fog amongst the trees

We didn't go all that far today, but it was definitely a delightful way to wind up an unusual year of hiking. We covered 5.5 miles and a bit of elevation (I'm not sure exactly how much). We also enjoyed the company and the shortened distance on a mostly dry day. I always have a great time when I'm able to hike with little to no discomfort and with fun friends, like today's.


Monday, December 28, 2020

It's still December (barely)

Solstice snow

A week ago today, we got some snow, the first we've seen here in more than a year. I don't think we had any lowland snow last year, and this one was a surprise: we weren't expecting to get anything out of this northern blast, but we got about a foot of snow, depending on where in the area you live. It was actually pretty delightful, since I didn't need to go anywhere, and I could just enjoy it.

Today, after some fog, we will have sunshine for most of the day, and the temperature is expected to be above freezing. Not exactly balmy, but definitely great for a nice walk in the sun. We don't do much celebrating for the holidays, but I did visit my friend Lily to watch the new Wonder Woman movie with her on Christmas. With all the windows open and keeping socially distanced, it was a delightful way to spend the day. And then I went home to my very own Grinch (he only said "bah humbug" a few times) to enjoy the rest of the day.

I was dismayed to see how many people actually traveled over the Christmas holiday, with the TV showing packed airports and full flights. It will undoubtedly lead to more infections, and I'm truly frightened about how awful this is for our health care workers. Not only are they already overwhelmed, but if it gets worse, they will be unable to give adequate care to their patients, through no fault of their own. 

I saw a sign on TV held by an unmasked man that said, "Selfish and Proud." I never thought the day would come when I would say, "What is this world coming to?" But I wonder, I really do, especially about my beloved country.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve walk

Terry, Al, Melanie, and me

It was a little bittersweet, going out on a wonderful walk on a sunny day, when in previous years there would be lots of us Senior Trailblazers, then gathering for a Christmas celebration afterwards. Not this year. We are limited to no more than five, even outdoors, and thanks to Melanie's decision to make something happen today, we four met at the trailhead of the Hertz trail (also known as the north shore of Lake Whatcom) for a brisk six-mile walk (round trip). Brisk in more ways than one: it was downright cold to start.

Lake Whatcom with low clouds

I wasn't sure I would even be able to make it this morning, as the doors to my car froze solid. After trying everything I could think of, I managed to finally get the driver's side door to release and let me in. It was around 23°F (-5°C), not all that cold, but we recently had some snow and then very cold temperatures. The moisture in the air, once frozen, made life difficult in many ways. Part of the problem is that the clouds cleared overnight. What you see in the above picture is low fog.

Our nice three-mile-long trail

You can see that we are dressed warmly, and for once I didn't take my pink down jacket off during the entire hike. Once my hands and feet got warm, I was cozy and very happy to be out on such a nice day, with people I enjoy being with.

Old pier in the foreground, lake behind

There was little to no wind, and as we walked we warmed up quite nicely. At first there were only a few people, but as we headed back the way we had come, more and more people joined us on the trail, going the opposite direction as us. I would have surprised if it were otherwise, as the day just got nicer and nicer.

Smooth as glass

As we began our return, you can see the lake was incredibly smooth, no ripples from the wind (thankfully), and the sky was beginning to clear. It could not have been more perfect, in every respect.

Terry's cookies, Melanie's muffins, nice bench

We stopped before we finished the hike to enjoy some sweet treats from Terry and Mel. I confess that I had more than I really needed, since I am beginning to carry around a few more pounds than I'd like, because I can't seem to resist these delicious indulgences. There will be plenty of time after the holidays to make amends. Right?

It was truly a delightful morning, and I continue to count my many blessings, not the least of which are such fine people to share my holiday with. And then to come home to my sweetheart and enjoy some time with him. Life is good. I hope you will have a lovely holiday, too. 


Monday, December 21, 2020

Great Conjunction and the Solstice

Jupiter and Saturn

I was planning to write a short blog post about the solstice, which occurred locally this morning around 2:00am, but upon looking up some information about it, I learned about a truly rare event that will happen in the sky tonight: the close (appearing) conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn right around sunset. On this website, I found some interesting information:

This year's great conjunction also marks the first time in nearly 800 years since the planets aligned at night and skywatchers were able to witness the event. (The 1623 conjunction wasn't visible to skywatchers on much of the Earth because of its location in the night sky, so the last time the event was visible was in 1226.) 

Wow! That's a pretty rare event, all right. And because it is happening at this time of year, it is also called the "Christmas Star." If you want more information about this event, just click on the above link from

The winter/summer solstice happens annually, marking the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer south of the Equator. After today, our nights will slowly begin to shorten, and by the end of January, we'll be able to notice the difference. 

I love to pay attention to the sky, when there's actually a chance to see something other than rain pouring out of it. We're in the middle of a real gully washer right now, but it's supposed to stop and give us some sunshine for a few days. Do you know that phrase? Of course I looked it up:

When it rains in Oklahoma it mean rains you can drown in with your raincoat on. Oklahoma is where the gully washer was invented. Oklahoma is home of the original frog strangler. 

Oboy. Now I'm wondering about "frog strangler," but I'm going to leave it alone. This could go on forever!


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Madrone Crest on a dark day

Melanie, Terry, and me in a selfie

We didn't know what we might face today as we pondered our choices for a hike. Last night and most of yesterday, the rain fell and the wind roared. We decided to head for the Chuckanut trailhead, which would give us many different choices, depending on what the weather might throw at us. We were ready for anything.

It was very dark and threatening, with dark clouds overhead but mild temperatures. And guess what? It didn't rain on us at all in the first part of our adventure. And we were in uncommonly good spirits, as you can see from the selfie I took of us as we started out.

The waterfall with plenty of water

Just as I thought, the waterfall at the beginning of our hike to Madrone Crest was flowing fast and showed us how all that rain had filled it up. It made the waterfall a delight to see. Sometimes it dries almost to a trickle, but not today.

Fern forest

We walked through many places where the ferns are incredibly abundant. They are with us year round, but because they are so ubiquitous, I forget to appreciate them and how much green abounds here, even in the winter.

Lower Salal trail

My favorite trail these days is the Lower Salal that takes us on a winding and hilly trek as we intersect other trails on Chuckanut Mountain as we made our way to Madrone Crest. Today is was wetter than I've ever seen it, with plenty of puddles and squishy spots. That said, it was still quite pleasant just to be out.

Madrone Crest trail

I didn't get any pictures from the "viewpoint" today, since we were in a misty and rather damp fog by this time. It was just nice to be only experiencing a little bit of the wet stuff, compared to how it could have been, considering the weather forecast. Just another reminder that you need to go out anyway, even when it looks bad. In the Pacific Northwest, you deal with the weather and decide when you might need to turn around and head home. Today was not one of those days.

Strange fungi

We saw these fungi growing out of a tree. They were soft and rather alien looking, but certainly worth a picture and speculation whether those tucked into the bark of the tree will grow into bizarre critters one day (let's hope not). In any event, the day was a real success, and we covered seven miles and around 1,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Not a bad day at all, and the best part for me is that by the time I finished, I didn't hurt anywhere! My hip has been bothering me and I worried a little that I might be attempting more than I should. Apparently not. Another satisfying day with great friends.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Holiday is upon us

Early morning light

 Walking around my neighborhood in the early light, I am seeing more and more really delightful decorations. Although you can't see the top of that inflatable helicopter (with a single blade that moves slowly), I stop each day to enjoy the happy decor. I did walk by in the afternoon one day and saw that the helicopter was deflated when all the lights are off. I almost didn't recognize the home, it looked so forlorn and unadorned. Fortunately, our long nights mean that most of the time the lights are on.

A vegetable Santa

I saw this wonderful edible Santa on our local gardening web page, and I was enchanted with it, even though I couldn't find anybody I could attribute it to. I used it anyway. Don't you just love those eyebrows? And his blueberry eyes, too. Someone had a lot of fun creating this guy.

Lake Padden, smooth as glass

Last Saturday, it was just my friend Chris and I who went twice around Lake Padden. We thought about going on the trails behind the lake, but neither of us is very familiar with them, so we decided we'd take our chances with the probability of encountering lots of other walkers. There were indeed plenty of them before we were done, but happily, EVERY ONE of them was masked. As we have entered a more strict lockdown, I guess people are abiding by the rules better than before. 

Chris recently bought herself a foldable kayak, and she realized that as smooth as this water was, she could easily navigate on the lake when it looks like this. We saw several kayakers, but they were moving too fast for me to catch them. No matter, I truly enjoyed the serene untouched water and reflections in this picture. I'm sure the day is not far off when Chris will launch her new kayak into this scene.

A friend gifted me with Jacquie Lawson's Advent calendar to be enjoyed every day from the first of the month through Christmas. I am taking great pleasure in it, and every day I must search the scenery to find a hidden gnome, which when I click on it, disappears and shows up in the virtual living room. There are also a dog and two kittens who are in different places every time I visit. And something new is added every day. It's a lovely and much appreciated gift.

And today, we in the US have received our first doses of the new vaccine to help us get the coronavirus under control. That is an especially welcome gift, since three hundred thousand Americans have already died from it. I am hopeful, today, for a brighter future.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Fragrance Lake loop hike


Our group today (I took the picture)

We are limited to groups of five in our hikes, and this was today's group. Dave and Joy Church (right) are a married couple, so they might actually count as one instead of two, but we decided it was important to stay within the Covid boundaries. Terry and Melanie and I made up the rest. We masked up when we saw any other people on the trail, kept our distance from one another, and set out from the Lost Lake trailhead to hike up to Fragrance Lake to start our hike.

A beautiful old cedar tree

There are so many really magnificent trees on the two-mile trail to Fragrance Lake, and today this one caught my eye. We also had many fern forests to enjoy as we made our way up to the lake.

Fragrance Lake

It was another one of those days when the lake was smooth as glass, with the reflection of the trees almost exactly the same as the trees themselves. You could probably turn this photo upside down and not know for sure which side is really up. The bare branch in the foreground gives it away, though. 

The Two Dollar trail

Then we went over to the Two Dollar trail to head back down to the service road. This is one of my favorite trails, and no I don't know how it got its name: it's 1.7 miles from its start to the lake. Maybe Two Dollar sounds a little better than One Point Seven?

Melanie took this one

Before we started down the trail, Melanie took this of us changing our gear to be more comfortable. For some reason it got a little colder on this side of the lake. I am putting my jacket back on before hiking any further. 

A little fog

As we started our descent, the fog moved in and gave me a bit of a chill. I was glad I had put on my coat again, but as we kept going, we warmed up considerably. We ran into three other Senior Trailblazers while on the hike (they went much further than we did) and were almost back to their cars. We, however, had to hike another couple of miles on the service road and the Interurban trail to get back to the parking lot and our cars. By the time we finished, we had gone somewhere around seven miles and around 1,100 feet up and down.

I didn't enjoy the road part very much, because the surface is harder on my knees and hips, which apparently noticed that I recently had a birthday and am expected to get more decrepit as I age. However, once we got to the cars, Melanie slipped me some ibuprofen and turned on the seat warmer for the ride back. By the time we reached our homes, I was feeling fit as a fiddlehead fern. It was another wonderful day in the forest without any of the wet stuff (well, the fog was a little damp), but you know what I mean! 


Monday, December 7, 2020

Decorating for the season

Donated decorations

 This was taken a few years back on the Boulevard Park pathway. Every year about this time, people begin to take the time to decorate the trees and delight all the people who walk in the park. I always love to see what's available every year. This morning when I walked from home to the bus, I saw, before daybreak, plenty of colorful lights newly added to homes around here. Our days are getting shorter and shorter, as we move towards the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, known as the Winter Solstice. 

Some facts about the Winter Solstice, which will occur at 2:02am on December 21st in 2020 (snagged from the Time and Date website):

  • Most people count the whole day as the December Solstice. However, the Solstice is actually at a specific moment — when the Sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. (I didn't know that.)
  • The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning 'the Sun stands still'. This is because on this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. It's also common to call it the day the Sun turns around.
  • Most places in the Northern Hemisphere see their earliest sunset a few days before the Solstice and their latest sunrise a few days after the Solstice. This happens because of the difference between how we measure time using watches and the time measured by a sundial.
There are many more interesting things to learn about the Winter Solstice on that website. It's one of my favorite places to visit to learn more about astronomy.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Decisions, decisions


Where to first?

I went out to Blanchard Mountain with two of my best hiking buddies, Melanie and Terry. We started at the Upper Trailhead and decided we'd go to both lakes and come back down the Alternate Incline Trail, which made for a pretty wonderful day.

Nice dry trail with no wind

We were actually amazed at how mild it was, although the temperature probably didn't reach much more than 39°F (3.8°C). There was plenty of sunshine when we started out, and the wind was nonexistent. Both of those factors changed over the course of our adventure, with high clouds coming in and a bit of a breeze, but nothing major.

Boardwalk to Lily Lake

We decided to go to Lily Lake first, and then take the loop trail behind the lake, which would take us to Lizard. Both Lily and Lizard Lakes look very similar, but there was something a bit different with both of them today.

Lily Lake

If you look carefully, you can see a thin film of ice beginning to form on the lake. Before long, when we visit these two favorite destinations, we'll be seeing much more ice, and even snow. Today, however, there was only a hit of ice. It never fails to astonish me, however, how different the environment can be from visit to visit. After a quick view, we went up the loop trail to Lizard Lake.

Lizard Lake

You can see just a bit more ice has formed on Lizard Lake, and I'm not sure whether it's because it's a little bit higher elevation or not. You can see that the high clouds are beginning to form already. We stopped here to have a quick lunch and explore the area a little.

Fresh beaver action

Although we never see any beaver here, it's obvious that they have been busy. Here at Lizard, this tree looks to have been felled not long ago by the industrious critters. I'd love to see them one day. And then it was time to head back to the cars. We decided to make it an entire loop hike and return via the Alternate Incline Trail, which heads down to a service road instead of giving us the more scenic forest. However, there is one place on the road that gives us a view.

Mt. Baker

Yes, there is our beautiful Mt. Baker, easily seen from the road, and almost back to the cars. We covered around seven miles and ascended and descended 2,300 feet of elevation, making it more than just a "walk in the park." I am happy to know that even at my advanced age I am able to continue to enjoy this activity. I'll keep going until that changes.

None of us knows what the future holds for any of us, from one day to the next. For now, this is where I'll find serenity and hope for the best. We saw very few people on the trail, and everyone was masked, even if they were donned at the first sign of someone coming by. I feel very fortunate to live in a state where the vast majority of the population honors the rules put in place by our governor. 

It was truly a lovely day, and my company helped me to get some good quality conversation. In a short while, I'll join a Zoom call with my other Senior Trailblazers and find out what others are doing during this fine weather.