Thursday, June 17, 2021

Goat Mountain 2021

The first section of trail was easy

Today eighteen Senior Trailblazers decided to carpool up to Goat Mountain for an excursion in the High Country. Since we are limited to 12 in a group, we broke into faster and more moderately paced hikers and navigated the long drive to the trailhead. I was (of course) in the slower hikers, and by the time we arrived at the trailhead, the faster hikers were just setting out.


The trailhead is already at 2,500 feet, and we climbed uphill for about three miles to the viewpoint at 5,200 feet. This is a LOT of elevation gain in a short distance, but the beginning of the trail was simply delightful, with lots of trillium to enjoy, and plenty of waterfalls across the trail. 

First snow

We didn't see any snow until we got around the 4,000-foot level, but then there were patches that began to cross the trail. We managed to navigate the distance without mishap, until we got to the "meadow" where the snow was constant.

The beginning of the meadow

We donned our microspikes and started the long slog across the snow, constantly climbing upward. There were many times when the intense sun and steep climb made me wonder what the heck I was thinking! It was hard, and at times I thought about turning back. But I didn't.

Half of our crew at the top

That is the beautiful Mt. Shuksan behind some of our hikers today. It was impossible to shepherd this entire group into a picture, so I contented myself with this motley crew. I was quite spent by this time and only wanted to find a place on a rock that was not covered with snow, so I could eat my lunch. 

The spectacular view

After I rested, I took in the incredible view and then gathered my strength for when we would have to go back down the way we had come. We lingered for awhile so the faster group could take off and left us some time to bask in the beauty.

Mt. Baker

I felt quite rested and happy to be in this place, but I knew we had to get back down, and some of us were on the tired side (I'm speaking for myself here). Fortunately for us, we had great footgear to help us descend.

Mel's gear in front, Tom's behind

The difference these things make is impressive. Especially so on the uphill part, because by the time we began our descent, the snow was soft and caused some of us to slip and slide. My knees took quite a beating, but I think they'll be fine by tomorrow.

Back down to the trillium

I was very happy to finally get to take my spikes off and walk on the trail, with solid ground underfoot. We went somewhere around seven miles round trip, up and down around 2,700 feet. I'm tired, and it's close to my bedtime, so I'll sign off here and take a few moments to water the garden.


Monday, June 14, 2021

June flowers and garden news

Front porch flowers today

 I was taken by surprise this morning when I walked to the bus. Yesterday's rain was supposed to be finished, with just a slight chance of showers. I foolishly believed the forecast and made all the wrong choices about what to wear. Just in case of a little rain, I wore my raincoat but instead of waterproof shoes, I wore my sneakers. Bad choices all around: it was misting when I walked out the door, but before two minutes had passed, I was in a light rain. Then it wasn't so light, and by the time I had walked the fifteen minutes to the bus stop, I was soaked. My shoes even squished.

Our flowers and gardens love all this rain, which should be completely gone before the end of the week, but for now it's kind of pretty and the mild temperatures make me want to be outdoors. If I go out again today, I'll dress properly. But first a quick foray into the garden, since the rain has stopped.

My garden spot, with massive potato greens

I tried to get a picture of the entire plot, but I couldn't show you one end without giving you the big story of my potatoes, which have become wild and unruly, and way too close together for proper "hilling" technique. So, I'll just let them go and see what I end up with when it's time for harvesting. My kale, lettuce, nasturtiums, beets and zucchini (not shown) are also going great guns. I've harvested the Russian kale and am amazed at how quickly it grows back (right in front of the potatoes in this picture).

Sort of orchid-like

Walking out the gate, I saw this delightful flower and was pleased to see it looking so pretty with the heavy raindrops pulling it down. I don't know what it is, do you? And while I was out looking at the garden, it began to rain again. Darn! Just when I thought the skies were clearing, giving me a chance to get in today's steps.

We might actually make it to 66°F today, about the temperature we hit yesterday. When I read about the heat in much of the rest of the country, I feel real gratitude for the mild temperatures and high humidity we have here. The flowers, wildlife, and all the rest of the June abundance loves it. 

I sat down to read a new book yesterday, and by the time I had read the first hundred pages, I realized I had read it before. And not that long ago, either, since it was written in 2015. Since I remember so little about it, I'll enjoy the second read, probably even more than the first one. I went ahead and re-read the last chapter, and the entire book came back to me. Now I'll enjoy a slow immersion into the rest of it, as I currently learned that the ending is a satisfying one. Do you ever forget a book like that? I never did when I was young, but now... 


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Maple Grove 2021

Kirk, Cathy, Melanie (and me)

 Today is the first day that the Senior Trailblazers gathered in the (still closed) Senior Center parking lot to carpool to a hike in the wilderness together. There were thirteen of us, and most of the group decided to make the journey up the Mt. Baker Highway to tackle the first attempt of the season on Church Mountain. But some of us weren't too keen on it, since rain was in the forecast, and there is still plenty of snow on the trail to the meadow.

So, four of us went "rogue" and headed off to Maple Grove instead. This is a long drive south to Baker Lake, but it's also one of the prettiest hikes around. Kirk just didn't want to walk on snow while hiking in possible rain, and the other three of us were very happy to hop in Mel's car and drive off to see what awaited us.

Maidenhair ferns

This lovely hike along Baker Lake is so beautiful, and has some easy challenges, but no snow, and lots of incredibly lush scenery. It's like being in a fairyland. One of my favorite ferns, the maidenhair, is abundant all along the four-mile trail. I could not resist a few pictures.

Me beside a magnificent old tree

I was simply amazed at the sheer size of this old tree, and I stood next to it so you can appreciate how gigantic it is. I'll bet it's hundreds of years old, and I'm glad it was spared from being cut down for its wood. Now it can be appreciated for years to come by many admirers.

Moss-covered trees next to lush greenery

As we walked along the trail, we enjoyed so many ferns, flowers, and plant life that it was truly magical. Although the place changes from season to season, it also has a sameness that brings joy to my heart. 

Baker Lake and hidden mountains

And then we were at the lake, which in past years has shown us wonderful views of Mt. Baker and Shuksan, but not today. Just low clouds and peeks of a view now and then. It was time for lunch, so we sat down at a picnic table in a light rain, just the four of us, before heading back the way we had come.

Turquoise lake below us

At one point we were some distance above the lake and could see its pretty color through the trees. I had hoped to capture the loveliness, but this is all I could manage. It's a very weak attempt, but perhaps you can use your imagination to embellish it a bit.


There were lots of bunchberries, pretty little white flowers that are in the dogwood family. It is also called creeping dogwood or dwarf dogwood, and you can find all about it on that link. In any event, we finally made it back to the car and drove back to Bellingham, replete with eight miles of hiking (and even a little elevation), plenty of good conversation, and looking forward to another fine season of hiking!


Monday, June 7, 2021

Pacific Northwest invasive species

English ivy taking over

On my walk back home from the coffee shop in the mornings, I pass by this bench and pretty green area, which is now covered with English ivy (Hedera helix). Although it's pretty, it is invasive. See how it's climbing up the bench? And the entire ground cover is now ivy. This is one of several areas of ivy I see on my walks. It reminds me of kudzu, which I am familiar with from seeing it take over huge swaths of trees in southern states. (That article tells of how the kudzu invasive species, Japanese arrowroot, came into the country.) 

But for now, I'll concentrate on English ivy and how it got here. This article on invasive species tells the tale.

English ivy is an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas, growing along the ground as well as into the forest canopy. Vines climbing up tree trunks spread out and envelop branches and twigs, blocking sunlight from reaching the host tree’s foliage, thereby impeding photosynthesis. An infested tree will exhibit decline for several to many years before it dies.

So, even though it's pretty, and came here as early as the 1700s, it's not native, and it's something we should cultivate. My friend Peggy long ago showed it to me in the forest and we pulled some out while we were walking. I also learned that it can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals, but if ingested it's pretty awful. (Don't worry, I won't try it!)

Another invasive species around here is the Himalayan blackberry. I remember when we first moved here and I discovered the sweet, heavy fruit on these plants, I was enchanted. Then I found out that it is not quite the innocent fruit it appears to be. 

Contrary to its common name, Himalayan blackberry (HBB) is a native of Western Europe. HBB was probably first introduced to North America in 1885 as a cultivated crop. By 1945 it had naturalized along the West Coast. HBB occurs on both acidic and alkaline soils, mainly in areas with an average annual rainfall greater than 76 cm (29 inches) at altitudes up to 1800 meters (6000 feet). 

This information comes from a PDF document entitled, "Controlling Himalayan Blackberry," and I learned that it too is very difficult to eradicate. We certainly have enough rainfall around here to entice it to grow. Learning all this doesn't mean I'll stop gathering and eating these blackberries when hiking, but I now have a healthy respect for their ability to take over other species. If only they weren't so delicious!


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Official start-of-summer party

Al (on right) with his group of hikers

Today the Senior Trailblazers met at the Lake Padden parking lot to have our annual beginning-of-summer gathering. Last year we didn't even have this luxury because of the pandemic, but this year we decided to meet, with everyone fully vaccinated, and have our usual hike before lunch. Instead of a potluck, everybody brought their own food, and a few people did bring enough to share. 

For the hike itself, we broke up into two groups, one fast and the other slower (Al's group, which I was part of), with a beautiful day and the light wind making us pretty comfy, after two rather warm days.

Al giving us some options for distance

The trails behind Lake Padden cover at least six miles, if we went over all of them, but we wanted to get back before 11:00am, so that we could have some time before eating to learn about the nifty portable kayaks that several of our hikers purchased this year. 

Chris setting up her foldable kayak

These amazing kayaks are lightweight and easy to use. Chris has the smaller size (being short and not needing a full-size one), which weighs around twenty pounds and took about ten minutes to get ready for use.

Haven wants to be first!

Once Chris got it assembled, we carried it down to the water and put it in. Sue has one, too, which is full size, and it was already down at the water's edge. These are called Oru Kayaks and they seem just right for people who want something easy to transport and fun to use.

Setting out for a paddle in the lake

Everyone who wanted to take a spin in a kayak had a chance to, and we all agreed that it's a wonderful and very safe feeling way to enjoy a nice paddle around the lake. Once we were done, we gathered under the rented pavilion to eat together and then have a short meeting about the summer season to come.

A senior social event, for sure

We had a wonderful turnout, with the three different hiking groups as well as seniors who joined us in previous years, those who hiked with us once upon a time but have turned to other pursuits. It was great to see old faces that I hadn't seen for years. After a really fine gathering, we headed home with plans for an exciting season ahead. With everyone fully vaccinated, we will begin to carpool for our long trips to the wilderness. Happy days are here again!


Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Zuanich Point Park

 On Saturday, Melanie and I had a really nice walk down by the waterfront. Lots of flowers and lots of boats in the marina. Squalicum Harbor has numerous places to walk, and we covered around five miles before heading back into town.

I'm glad to see that Blogger has fixed its problem downloading images. I guess it lasted for several hours but there were enough people complaining that it got fixed relatively quickly. On Thursday, I did take this lovely picture and am sharing it now.


Fortunately for me, I am back in the swing of blogging, and although I contemplated going back and inserting the rest of the pictures in my last post, I figured nobody much cares, and this was the best of the lot. Hummingbirds love this flower.

This Memorial Day, I am remembering those who sacrificed everything to keep our country safe, as well as those dear loved ones I have lost over the years. A few weeks ago I visited the local cemetery, but I'll stay away today since it will probably be very busy.  Instead, I'll go for a solitary walk around the neighborhood, mostly to get my daily steps in, as well as to break in a new pair of boots I bought on sale yesterday. I thought about simply walking to the coffee shop from home (around three miles) to break them in, but then sanity returned. What if they hurt my feet? It's much better to go out nearby and be able to return home sooner if necessary. So that's what I'll do. So far I like them very much!

Keen Terradora II waterproof boot

I hope you will have a relaxing Memorial Day holiday if you celebrate it, and a relaxing day in any event, no matter where in the world you are. 


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Y Road trail up Stewart Mountain

 Well, this kind of sucks. I simply cannot put any pictures on my blog for the moment. I went on a nice hike with 13 other Senior Trailblazers and am now trying to write the post, with no luck at adding any pictures. When I try to download one, it tells me there has been "an unexpected error in processing my photo. Please try again later." I tried pulling up the post in another browser, but I got the same notice.

Then I tried a different photo, same problem. So, I guess, not knowing how long this error will continue, I'll try to paint some word pictures. Here goes.

The weather was expected to be atrocious, and it rained all night, so I figured I'd better be ready for anything. Rain pants, rain hat, and my most trusty rain jacket. I supposed I should have also added a rain poncho, just in case, but I took my chances and headed to my friend Melanie's house to carpool with her. I sure didn't expect many people to show up on a day like today, but I was mistaken: 14 of us met at 8:30 in the Y Road parking lot. We were ready!

(I just took a moment to try once again to load a photo. No luck.) We trudged up the service road until it takes off into the forest on some muddy but passable trails, climbing upward as we hiked. Although we were dressed for rain, it hadn't come yet, and I began to get quite warm, so I ditched my hat and opened my jacket, hoping that it wouldn't be seen by the Universe as me actually believing that the rain would stay away. The wind blew in some pretty strong gusts, and the heavy dark sky overhead warned of the rain to come.

After we reached a viewpoint, and saw that we could see downtown Bellingham, which was bathed in sunlight (while we still expected any moment to be drenched), we decided to stop for a quick snack and settled into a nice little spot out of the wind. We chatted for awhile, and four of our hikers decided to head back down, thinking I suppose that they might stay dry while the rest of us would deal with the rain.

After a bit, we also decided instead of going any farther, maybe we should head back down. It would mean a round trip of under six miles, although we'd climbed 1,400 feet and would have to deal with rather steep and muddy trails back to the cars. So that's what we did.

And now, after having been frustrated by Blogspot's inability to let me post any pictures (I'll try one more time: nope), I'll just stop here and let you know what a great day we had, even if it didn't actually begin to rain until we reached the parking lot, and those heavy clouds gave us a chance to thumb our noses at them before heading home. Here's a link to the trailhead and the hike.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Stump stories

Magnificent old stump in its dotage

On my walk around the neighborhood to accumulate steps to help keep myself from deteriorating too much during the pandemic, I often pass by this old stump on East Maplewood Avenue. It's really quite well maintained, and the people who keep it in good shape are either children, or adults, or both. Isn't it fun? If you look towards the middle of the scene, under the red-and-blue door, there is a train track going into the bowels of the stump. Not really, but a closeup does make me wonder.

Magic fairies might be the train conductors

There are many old stumps in my neighborhood, telling of another time in which these giant trees threw their shade far and wide, for so many animals and humans to enjoy. These days, they are magnets for those of us who believe in magic.

I wish there was some way to take a trip back in time and see what this street looked like fifty to a hundred years ago. There are dozens of old stumps like this one on this short little street with quaint homes (which are much sought after, considering how much they sell for today). It does make me really grateful that I am able to live in such a beautiful place in our country. I love it here!


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Lily, Lizard and North Butte

Happy birthday to Joy! (Melanie took the pic)

Sixteen Trailblazers met in the parking lot of the Upper Trailhead on Blanchard Mountain, and we immediately broke into two groups, one going farther and faster, while the other group (mine) gathered in front of this sign to wish Joy a very happy birthday. In two days she will reach her ninth decade of life and turn 80!

We are going farther these days, and I will just barely be able to finish this post before it's time for our Trailblazers Zoom meeting. Since we never saw the other group today, it will be fun to hear from them how it went. We saw Richard, who was with that group while his other half, Chris, joined us. He told us they went to Samish Oyster Dome, as well as Lily and Lizard Lakes for around nine miles. We, on the other hand, visited Lily and Lizard as well as North Butte, for around eight miles and took our time, going much more slowly. We spent some time at each place we visited.

Lily Lake

Lily Lake actually has some lily pads, which is the only way I can tell the difference between these two lakes. The sun came and went all day, but I had a peek of sun just in time to illuminate these lily pads.

The view from North Butte

We again had a bit of sun to capture the view from the North Butte lookout, which entails a bit of a hike from Lily Lake, and then afterwards back down to Lizard Lake.

Lizard Lake

We spent a good bit of time here, and stopped for a nice lunch. The breeze picked up and nobody was all that warm, but it was still quite a lovely day. 

Lovely trillium

We also saw quite a few trillium that are mostly done blooming for the season. We also saw lots of woodland violets and other flowers, but I didn't get any pictures of them, unfortunately. This was a rather long hike for me these days, and I'm finding myself feeling quite content to finish this post a bit early and get read for the Zoom call. We also went up and down around 1,600 feet, and my feet can tell you all about what that feels like! All in all, it was a really good day, and I'm happy I went. The Trailblazers are back!


Monday, May 17, 2021

A cloudy day for a change

Lilacs and golden shower tree

Walking back from the bus today, I saw these pretty blossoms, which were much easier to capture because of the overcast skies. We've had days and days of sunshine, but today it seemed a bit more familiar when I walked out to heavy clouds and the possibility of rain. Today I won't need to water the garden.

I'm feeling pretty good today after several uncomfortable days recovering from the tooth extraction. I don't know why I didn't realize that the recovery would be tough, but I really didn't. As I looked ahead at the surgery, I forgot to think about the aftermath. It hasn't been fun, but I am finally thinking I've managed to escape the dreaded "dry socket." I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but so far so good. The foods I have been eating are all soft, easy to swallow and digest. Especially the coffee ice cream. It's only been four days, and although the ice cream is almost gone, I am still losing weight every day. When you have to think about every single bite of food that goes into your mouth, and being careful to stay away from the wound, it makes a difference. My usual snack of raw almonds (no way!) and anything remotely chewy are not in my diet for now.

Front porch garden

I have been spending time sitting on the front porch enjoying my flowers and even talking to them about how much joy they are bringing to me. And now to you. I have decided that petunias and geraniums are my favorites, since they don't require much more than water and a bit of encouragement to flourish. I'm giving up on the fancy stuff.

After having read just about everything I could find online about how best to take care of my mouth after the extraction, I'm looking forward right now to getting through the next week without any setbacks. Then I can begin to think about my next adventure in growing older, where I seem to be losing bits of myself in the process.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

A medium molehill, my friends did a mountain

Dentist, me, technician

I felt very safe in the hands of my dentist office, with plenty of delightful ways to keep myself from paying too much attention to what was going on. I opted for nitrous oxide, which is giving me a big grey nose, sunglasses, and prior to coming here today, I took 2mg of Ativan for anxiety. I was feeling pretty woozy under the influence of Ativan and don't know if I'd take it again. I walk like a drunken sailor, wobbly and with no ability to walk in a straight line. Now, four hours later,  I am feeling it beginning to wear off, and I'm grateful.

The nitrous oxide was another thing entirely. I liked it from the first moment I sniffed in some oxygen-laced nitrous and felt it made the entire event much less traumatic. The plan was to remove a 40-year-old crown from a back molar and remove the entire tooth, which had developed some serious periodontal disease. Unfortunately, this old friend didn't go easily: the tooth had to be separated into two parts in order to remove it completely. It's now gone into the dustbin of history, or whatever else you do with old teeth.

I was given a picture of my mouth, sans tooth, as you can see here. The white part on the left is the crown that covered the tooth, and you can see its neighbor in both pictures. At the moment I am keeping a saturated cotton on the cavity, and I'm hoping that recovery will be straight forward. Little by little I'm regaining sensitivity in my lower lip and cheek, but it will be awhile before I'll know how much residual pain I'll have. It should be minimal.

Left picture, two teeth; right, only one

And all the while I'm sitting here in my lazy chair, feeling my mouth come back to normal, the Senior Trailblazers are all out on Raptor Ridge, enjoying magnificent weather and lots of mileage and elevation gain. If I feel better by mid-afternoon, I'll go for a walk myself, but right now I am just being lazy.

The crowd on Raptor Ridge

I think I'll go for at least a short walk, since the weather is really calling to me. I don't have to go far, just enough to wash all the drugs out of my system!


Monday, May 10, 2021

Had a great Mother's Day

Lily and me, plus flowers

Lily hosted me, John, and Gene for Mother's Day, and we had a super-wonderful meal, to which we all brought something to share. John brought the biggest part, with his incredibly well seasoned cod, which he cooked right before we sat down to eat. Plus Lily made scalloped potatoes, and we had John's fresh asparagus, and a big salad. Gene and I brought dessert.

Cod, potatoes, asparagus, salad

Once we had enjoyed this treat, we ended the feast with lemon scones with whipped cream and John's homemade rhubarb sauce, and Gene brought wine and bear claws. As you can imagine, after all this we were very full and went our separate ways happy and with a little bit more avoirdupois.

I just watched a really interesting video clip from a 2014 60 Minutes program, which John insisted I watch. I'm going to try to embed it here, but if it doesn't work, you should be able to click on the above link to get to it.

Well, that was a lot of work. Did I get it right? In any event, the video is entitled "Living Into Your Nineties." And John was right:  I did enjoy the interviews with these wonderful seniors. I can only hope...


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Fragrance Lake, Fiona, and fairy slippers

We were seventeen all together

Today seventeen Senior Trailblazers met at the Lost Lake trailhead, our first real gathering since the pandemic began. Since the Senior Center is still closed, we drove either alone or with friends, all of us now completely vaccinated and able to gather in larger groups outdoors without masks. Earlier in the week we had been led to expect rain today, but we learned it had decided to wait until later in the afternoon before moving in. So we had a lot of interest in getting out and about.

My group of nine (I took the picture)

We broke into two groups, one of 8 and the other of 9, and I joined the group that would go more slowly and not travel as far as the other one. We walked up the service road to Fragrance Lake, figuring we'd take the hiking trail back and make a loop out of it. 

A meagre waterfall today

Since we haven't had much rain lately, you can see that our waterfall is looking much less impressive than usual, but it's still very beautiful. Our group decided to make our way to Fragrance Lake and make a trip around in and head back to the parking lot. But that is not how it turned out.

At the lake

Once we got to the lake, Tom suggested that we explore a "gentle" trail that would take us up to Fiona Ridge, and then we could decide how to get back to the original trail after exploring the ridge. 

Trail up to Fiona Ridge

Tom led us up the trail, which was obviously not well used, and in no way would I call it "gentle." Apparently that is only in comparison to the steep and difficult Fiona trail that is more well known. I struggled my way up the trail, and fortunately I had the help of Richard, who held out his hand for me many times, as I made my way up steep and rather treacherous spots.

A calypso orchid

One bright spot on the trail was the discovery of some gorgeous and rather rare pink orchids, right by the seldom used trail. Melanie got this picture, since mine was out of focus. These are also called fairy slippers, but their actual name is Calypso bulbosa. That article tells us that they are a perennial member of the orchid family found in undisturbed northern and montane forests. 

Trail to Fragrance Lake 

Once we came off the ridge, we were on Cleator Road, which we had to walk for about a mile until we got to this trail that would take us either to the service road or the longer but more lovely trail back to the parking lot. Since by this time we were pretty tired, we chose to take the shorter and more direct route back.

In any event by the time we finished, we compared our devices and worked out that we had covered around eight miles up and down, which explains why I feel so tired right now! It was a good day, and a great way to begin our post-pandemic season. It was nice not to have to worry about masks or social distancing, since we are all fully vaccinated now and our options are opening up.

I'm glad I had the chance to do this "short" hike and to learn that I am still capable of making longer trips into the wilderness. It was a good day indeed. And even now, after 3:00pm, the rain has still not started!