Thursday, February 25, 2021

Another Interurban adventure

Looking out at Bellingham Bay

We were really unsure of the weather this morning, so Melanie and I decided to walk the Interurban trail once again. It's becoming a pandemic urban standby, when we aren't sure of the conditions. We expected wind, some rain, and moderate temperatures, and that's pretty much what we got. Except the rain fell heavily last night, and let up for the few hours we were on the trail. More wind and more rain are still to come today, although we had a nice little window of respite.

Fifty shades of green

As we walked on the very wet but well tended trail, we skirted myriad puddles and made our way past the many trail markers until we got to the boundary of Larrabee State Park, our turnaround point. Our conversation covered the gamut, from the state of our sore ankles (both of us) to the latest movie options to stream. 

Tiny little sprouts in front of an old hemlock

We saw plenty of signs of the spring to come. Buds are just beginning to open on shrubs. Although it will be awhile before we see any flowers on this trail, there are other places around town where I see that the crocuses are beginning to flower.

Nancy's Garden

Sharp-eyed Melanie spied this carved owl, and we went to investigate and found this delightful little garden, complete with a stone bench and a sign that says, "Nancy's Garden, inspired by Nancy Arnold's love of family, friends and nature." And of course that lovely owl drew us right in.

Melanie in the garden

Mel was going to sit for her portrait, but the bench was way too wet. She chose instead to give her sore ankle a rest while I snapped this picture.

My turn

Then it was my turn. This will not be the only time I visit this sweet little grotto on the Interurban trail, and maybe next time I will be able to stay for awhile. We covered around 6.5 miles on this hike, and enjoyed every second of our time out and about in the beautiful and very green Pacific Northwest forest.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Rain, sun, and more

Roaring waterfall

Last Thursday we saw this lovely waterfall, which is fuller than usual, thanks to all the rain we've been having. That, combined with a few days of sunshine, has made our hikes lately very satisfying. I noticed that I have taken a picture of this waterfall every time I've seen it. You can see why; it's so pretty.

It sure is beginning to feel like spring cannot be far away, with more and more light every day, and little shoots coming out of the ground. Today I noticed that primroses and other early spring flowers are on display outside my local grocery store, adding to the feeling of change in the air. It is almost March, after all. And we will change our clocks here in the US in just a few more weeks, moving to Daylight Saving Time (March 14). We'll "spring ahead."

As I climbed the steps to my apartment this morning, after having gone on the bus to the coffee shop to join John in a cup of coffee (not literally), I have realized it's time to start wearing two masks when on the bus and when shopping in grocery stores that allow too many people inside. Although I lost my recent appointment to get a Covid shot, there are plenty of options beginning to open up here in Bellingham. I think I have an appointment for a shot next week in Ferndale, if they receive their doses, and by mid-March it looks like we will have a mass vaccination place open up just a few blocks away. They are hedging their bets until they learn whether they will receive enough vaccine doses, which seem to be in short supply everywhere right now.

Soon. One way or another this elderly citizen should be getting her first jab. We don't get to choose which vaccine we will receive, but if I had my druthers, I think I'd choose Pfizer, since it seems to gain immunity more quickly. But I'll take whatever I am offered! How about you? Would you choose one over another?


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fragrance Lake loop

Melanie on the trail

We weren't at all sure whether any of our normal hiking trails would be accessible today without either snow or mud, or (worse case) both at once. We decided to head up the Lost Lake trailhead to Fragrance Lake, traveling on the trail on the way there, and on the service road back.

Fragrance Lake trail looks good here

As you can see from these first pictures, early on the trail looked pretty good, with only a few muddy spots to navigate, and little to no snow. But that would change as we gained altitude and made our way upwards. We took the side trail to the viewpoint on the way.

Samish Bay and snow on Lummi Island

Once we reached the viewpoint, the view was just incredible. That's Lummi Island closest to us, and it's not often that we see snow on it, in the high spots anyway. I'll bet they got hammered with the rest of us a week ago. At this point in our hike, it was still and calm, not a breath of wind. 

Icy and snowy trail

Less than a mile from the lake, we ran into a slick and snowy trail. Fortunately for me, Melanie had brought an extra set of grippers to use on the bottoms of our shoes. They worked really well, once they were able to be secured onto our boots; the ones I used struggled to escape and once popped off like an unhappy rubber band. But once on, they made a huge difference.

Fragrance Lake

And then we were at the lake. The ice is receding from the shore; you can see that it was really cold here earlier this week during our deep freeze. Today the temperature was above freezing, but not by much. It had begun to snow at one point, and then the wind joined in.


The trail taken back to the parking lot via the service road gives us another pretty waterfall to enjoy. The road was snowy at the top but quite nice further down. We managed to walk about 5.5 miles round trip, and other than snow on the trail, and a windy patch towards the end, it was a successful and quite lovely adventure. Thanks, Mel!


Monday, February 15, 2021

Cold is letting up a bit

Chilly but safe breakfast site

It really did get quite cold around here, but it's now mostly behind us. We received somewhere around six inches of snow right here in my neighborhood, but I learned that Seattle and parts south received twice that, or more. The snow wasn't really that much of a problem, but on Saturday when I usually head out for a nice walk with my pals, it was not only snowing sideways, but the temperature was cold enough to make it seem much, much colder. We decided to call it off. 

John called and asked if I wanted him to pick me up and head to the coffee shop, which delighted me. Even if I couldn't get a walk in, I could still quaff a cup of my favorite coffee. He cleared off his heavy-duty truck and came over to my place. I climbed in and we made it without incident all the way to town. Although the shop was supposed to open at 7:00, when we arrived at almost 8:00, we were the first people to come in the door; the usual shift of workers couldn't make it in, and the backup person had just arrived. We got our coffee and sat in the truck cab to enjoy it.

Gene called to ask if we had had breakfast yet, which we hadn't, so he suggested that we make our way to Chrysalis Inn and Spa in Fairhaven to take in their new covered outdoor area for dining. He had eaten there the night before and thought it was quite pleasant, if a bit on the chilly side (they have overhead heaters and lap blankets). 

Once we got there and checked it out, we decided to risk it and take a table inside, which was separated from the other (unused) tables with plexiglass, since it was well ventilated and much warmer than the patio. Even with all the amenities we found it to be too cold out there. The picture is taken from our table, showing the patio seating area.

We enjoyed a fairly decent, if overpriced, breakfast and decided to head to our respective homes and hunker down for the duration. All weekend I was forced to stay inside because of the wind and snow and cold, but today the snow has turned to rain, and the temperature is right now hovering just above freezing. And that feels almost balmy in comparison with the previous temperatures. Walking in slushy snow, however, is a lot of work. I did walk from the bus stop to my home, just over a half mile. It felt like walking through soft sand, but nowhere near as much fun.

We are through the worst of it, and I'm hoping that the rest of the country will soon be back to "normal." Pandemic normal, that is.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Chilled to the bone

Bridge in Boulevard Park

It really doesn't look as cold as it was. The temperature today when we walked was only 21°F (-6°C), but the wind! Oh, my did that make a difference. We had cold north winds blowing as high as 25mph, sometimes right in our faces. Melanie and I had decided to hike the Chanterelle trail today, but because of the high winds, we changed our minds and instead walked from Fairhaven to the Western Washington University campus and back, so that we could stay out of the possible path of falling trees.

Lone rose in the frozen garden

We walked past the rose garden on campus, and saw this quite pretty lone rose, with an icy background showing it is definitely last year's flower, but still hanging in there. Unfortunately, every time I took off my glove to take a picture, my fingers got chilled and it took quite awhile for them to recover. My face mask was actually protective from the wind, but after a short while the moisture from inside froze solid! It did help make it even more of a shield from the wind, so I'm not complaining.

Bellingham Bay from campus

Again, I was surprised when I saw this picture that it doesn't reflect our frigid environment. Although I was proud of us for managing to walk 5.5 miles, it was really only when we turned back towards Fairhaven and had the wind at our backs instead of in our faces that I stopped feeling like a frozen icicle. Make no mistake, it was truly a difficult day, but we didn't give up or turn back from the task at hand.

The bay as we headed back to Fairhaven

Once I got home, I bundled up with a fuzzy warm sweater and sat down to enjoy lunch, which I was gifted by Melanie. She's an amazing cook, but the best part were the brownies she shared with me in the car right after we finished our walk. Chewy and deep dark chocolate, they immediately brightened my outlook for the day.

Hopefully, by the time our next hike comes around, the weather will have improved, one way or another. I was glad for every bit of warm clothing I had with me, but I could have used even more, had I known how bone-chilling cold it would be. Now I'm just happy to be inside!


Monday, February 8, 2021

Gonna get real cold here

Same waterfall, a few days apart

Last Saturday, we had another rainy day, along with several beforehand, too. We're used to the rain, but I was astounded in the difference between this lovely waterfall a week ago, and Saturday's deluge causing an amazing torrent in the same place. When we were walking, you could see and hear the spray coming from the waterfall long before we saw it. I remembered I had captured it before, so this contrast was a fun one to make.

We are free of rain for awhile, but instead it will be COLD. Like twenty to thirty degrees colder than we usually experience, and there is a real possibility of some lowland snow as well. When I lived in Boulder, we would sometimes say it was too cold to snow, and maybe that will be the case here. But in any event, we will need to bundle up to deal with a high temperature of 33°F (0.5°C) on our next hiking day, Thursday. Every time I look at the forecast, it is a little colder. Brrr!

Green shoots of (I think) tulips

And this morning, returning from my trip to the coffee shop, I saw these pretty signs of spring in a neighbor's garden. I think these are tulips, but I don't know for sure. If they are, it must mean that they are beginning to come up in the Skagit Valley, and my hope is that I will be able once again this year to visit the RoozenGaarde tulip gardens. Last year because of the pandemic, they were not open to visitors. I guess it's too early to know for sure, since we are entering into an uncertain phase in the quest for a return to normalcy. It is only February, after all. My fingers are crossed for the 2021 festival to be held in the Skagit Valley.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Our old friend, Rain

Foggy view and a soggy trail

This morning, when I looked at the weather forecast, I groaned. After yesterday's bright and beautiful full sunshine, today was projected to be the opposite: rain all day, no sun, and the likelihood that it could be a washout. But I sighed and gathered all my rain gear, so that I could join my friend Melanie for a hike in the Chuckanuts.

Mel's picture of me

It wasn't cold exactly, but even while exercising I kept feeling cold, but I think it was because of the light rain we endured much of the time. Since I was expecting a downpour, I was pleasantly surprised by nothing more than a few sprinkles through the canopy of trees overhead.

Some recent tree clearing

We saw lots of evidence of recent damage to trees from the windstorm a few weeks ago, and plenty of evidence that crews have been busy trying to clean it up. It made me wonder about other areas of wind damage we've seen, and whether they consider which areas are most heavily used in deciding where to focus their efforts. This is on the Hemlock trail, which gets plenty of daily use.

Lower Salal trail

One of my favorite trails in the Chuckanuts is the Lower Salal, and while we were on it today, we saw no other people. The weather might have had something to do with that, but for whatever reason, it was just the two of us today. It was great to be out in the forest. We chatted about recipes, new and old TV shows, and much more.

A licorice fern-covered rock

Once we were back on the Hemlock trail, I noticed a strange-looking rock beside the trail, with an amazing number of licorice ferns that covered it completely. It looks a little like a green haystack, maybe.

A favorite waterfall

And finally, just before we ended our almost-six-mile hike, we passed this waterfall, which regular readers of my blog might recognize, since I almost always include it. Every time I see it, it looks different because of the amount of rain that feeds it varies from day to day and season to season.

And with that, my weekly excursion into the forest ends, and I am happy, warm and toasty, and looking forward to a good night's sleep later on. Being outdoors for a good part of the day always helps me sleep.


Monday, February 1, 2021

Hey, it's already February

Lake Padden

Anybody who has followed my blog for any length of time could probably have named that place, even without the caption. Lake Padden is one of the Bellingham jewels that I visit often. It's 2.6 miles around the main loop, with lots of horse trails behind it if one wants to go on a longer hike. My Saturday walking group always went twice around, for 5.2 miles at a fast clip. I sure miss those gatherings, and I'm hoping that at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will be able to return to gatherings larger than five, even outside.

Not that I'm in that much of a hurry, but it's already been almost a year in lockdown from Covid, and who knows when it will begin to get better? I have been unable to get a vaccine dose, and I've spent plenty of time online trying to snag an appointment at one of the four locations that offer them. I can't even seem to get on a waiting list. 

I'm beginning to wonder if we will once again miss the April Tulip Festival, which was canceled last year. Or if indoor dining in a restaurant will someday in the near future become available again. We did get a brief respite a few months back, but then our local numbers went sky-high, and I sadly cannot even visit close friends without worrying about the new more contagious variants. It would be awful to contract one, but even more awful to give the disease to someone. I'm pretty sure I had the virus in late March of last year, but it was a mild case and I am probably just as susceptible now as I ever was. 

Such a pretty natural garden

But! The good part is that it's already February, and I have spied new shoots sprouting up out of the ground, all over town, and that means that we will soon have lots of things to do outside. I'm thinking right now about what I might plant in my little garden spot and just this morning took a quick look at a seed catalog for inspiration. We are now gaining three minutes of daylight every single day, so spring cannot be far behind! Yay!