Monday, March 29, 2021

How are you?

Flowers and sky

I learned a new word today: phatic. It refers to "small talk," or the things we say to each other that start off a conversation, such as "How are you?" Nobody really wants to know how you are, since that's not usually the intent of the phrase. It's more often something we say to one another just to get conversations going. There's an interesting article in the Atlantic (I think you need to pay for a subscription in order to read this article, but I found it fascinating if you can get it.) I was intrigued by the title, which is Why People Keep Asking Which Vaccine You Got

It turns out, according to the author, that it's simply a way to get the conversational ball rolling, and these days, it's the vaccine and the pandemic that is on most people's minds. 

Suddenly, asking “How are you?” involved really and truly asking the question, whether you meant to or not. Who knows, after all, if the other party (or someone in their family) might be sick, or has lost their job, or has even just reached a new low of sorrow and terror.

Which takes that question out of the mundane, ordinary world we used to know, and reminds us all that these are not ordinary times. Vaccine small talk has given us something to talk about, and I am truly wondering how we are managing during these remarkable times. We won't soon forget about how we coped with this period of time. Phatic speech might have changed in some ways, but still...

Which one did you get? I got the Pfizer vaccine.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Hertz Trail at Lake Whatcom

Lake Whatcom

Melanie and I originally thought about heading up to Blanchard Mountain, which we have not visited for awhile, but since I had a headache and am only a little more than a day past my second Covid shot, we decided instead to do the much easier Hertz trail at Lake Whatcom. It's one of our favorites, and the cloudy skies helped us make the final decision.

Stump with guests

We saw this island stump had a few Canadian geese parked on top when we first passed by. Originally, we wondered if they had decided to make a nest there, but when we saw it on our return trip, they were gone. I did wonder about how they made it up there; I would have loved to watch their incoming approach.

Landslide leftovers

We knew that this trail had been closed recently and were not sure if it was open yet, since a fairly recent rock slide had been reported by other hikers. This picture shows that rocks and trees are no longer impeding the trail. We did see lots of sawed logs from downed trees, and the rocks on the side are new; they were not there during our last trip. A caution sign is in the far distance but it didn't tell us not to cross the area, so we headed on down the trail.

Lovely stream

There are two bridges in this 3+-mile stroll, and this is the stream that flows under the second one. It's hard to see in this picture, but all the deciduous trees and bushes are just beginning to send tiny buds out. Spring is definitely in the air.

Old tree still useful

This tree is now what is called a "nurse log," because it provides sustenance to plenty of ferns, moss, little tiny bushes, and who know what else? Although it barely retains its original shape, it will continue to nourish life until it becomes reabsorbed into the ground.

Hertz trail in dappled sunlight

As the morning wore on, the skies cleared until we received quite a bit of sunshine. However, it didn't last for long: on the way back I noticed that the clouds were once again clotting up the sky, but it didn't matter to us and the other hardy souls on the trail. Yesterday's rain stayed away, and we certainly didn't mind the mild temperatures. We covered around 6.5 miles on this out-and-back adventure. Now it's time to sit back and enjoy the rest of the day.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Spring has sprung

Blossoms are out everywhere

Actually, I took this picture last April 9th, and so far this season, these flowers are still to come. I've changed the route I take to the bus every morning where I snapped these pictures, wanting to give myself a little more distance, but I did take a look to see how these are doing today, March 22nd. They still have a ways to go. If we continue to have plenty of blue skies and warmish temperatures, I might be able to duplicate this shot this year on the same day.

I went looking for spring pictures, because the season is definitely here, and showing up in blossoming trees, daffodils, and tulips pushing out of the ground but not yet showing their flowers. Many of us are so anxious for our conditions to change, to get back to some sort of normal life.

Our governor just announced last week that the entire state would move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 guidelines for Covid, meaning that almost all activities that I once took advantage of will return, even if not in full numbers. My gym is again offering hour-long workout possibilities, but you have to register ahead of time and of course everyone will be wearing masks while working out. I have missed the stationary bike I once rode daily, and I'm happy to be able to return to that activity once again. 

I get my second Covid vaccine shot tomorrow, so by mid-April, I'll be fully vaccinated against the virus, but you won't see me taking my mask off any time soon inside any stores. As the weather gets warm enough, I'll still be sitting outside my coffee shop, as they are not thinking about opening the doors quite yet. They would be able to provide 50% occupancy under the Phase 3 guidelines, but it's not very well ventilated and I would rather stay outdoors in any event.

But! Rather than concentrating on what I can't do yet, I'm happy to concentrate on how we are managing to get the virus under control around here. It sure makes me feel more secure when I see everyone around me still masking up. The usual winter flu cases are almost nonexistent this year, because of wearing our masks against the coronavirus. And nobody I know has had so much as a cold for the same reason. 

It reminds me of the old saying that it's an "ill wind that blows nobody good." At least we stayed healthier than usual during the fall and winter. And as I said in the title, SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Yay!


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Chanterelle Trail

Map of the two trails

 Well, I didn't get many pictures today, since this trail hasn't changed much since the last time we hiked it and I wasn't inspired. It's one of our preferred winter trails, and we visited it quite often during our pandemic year in 2020. There are two trails indicated in the map; we ascended the Chanterelle trail this morning, shorter but more challenging because of the elevation gain. If you were to enlarge the map to read the section about the trail, you would see this information:

The Chanterelle Trail ascends 1,000 feet in 2.4 miles through a mix of forest types to a scenic overlook of Lake Whatcom and Lookout Mountain. The first 0.6 miles of the trail is shared hiking and biking. The remaining 1.8 miles is open to two-way foot traffic but bikes travel uphill only. Until a descending bike trail is constructed, bikes return to the trailhead via the Wickersham Truck Road.

 Once you get to the top, a short .1 mile walk takes you to a lovely view, plus gives you a round 2.5 miles to make the number look better in a blog post. This is the view you get at the top.

Lake Whatcom from the viewpoint

As you can see, we didn't have much sunshine today, but the rain held off until we were on the return trip back the way we had come. The weather was mild and only occasionally did the breeze affect us. I had to take my coat off and tie it around my waist, as usual.

Chanterelle trail

This is quite a nice trail, well maintained as you can see here. It's beginning to dry out quite a lot, however, and I do miss the intense green that we see at other times of the year. I didn't miss the mud, though.

Indian plum in bloom

This picture shows some Indian plum plants in the foreground that are just now beginning to bloom. Behind you see an old log that has been taken over by licorice ferns. You can see there is plenty of green in this shot, so I take back what I said earlier: it's still very green in my part of the country. The coming weeks should show us plenty of springtime blooms to join the Indian plums.

Tomorrow SG gets his second Covid shot, and I'll receive mine this coming Tuesday. I just saw an article that says that some people develop something called "Covid arm" which is a rash where you get the shot. I have at least three friends or acquaintances who have developed it; most received the Moderna vaccine. We are Pfizer recipients and I'm expecting at least some kind of reaction to our second shots. We'll see. In any event, I am glad that two weeks after that second dose, we will be as fully vaccinated as we can be! Yay!


Monday, March 15, 2021

Almost time to garden again

Hellebore, Western Washington University

On Saturday, Melanie and I took a nice walk around the campus of Western Washington University, and I spied this pretty flower. The only reason I knew its name is because one of my blogging friends in Seattle put several varieties of this lovely plant on her blog. I discovered this website while trying to find out which variety this one is, with no luck. What I did learn, however, is that there are many faces to the hellebore:

It’s not one plant, but a family of approximately 20 species, plus various subspecies. And it’s often called the Lenten, Christmas, or Winter rose.

 Many of them hang down and don't show their pretty undersides, unless you pick one up and turn it towards your face. I gasped at some of the pretty versions that exist. Are you familiar with this flower?

Yesterday was Pi Day, March 14, so when I went to our local co-op with my friend John, I saw they were selling some unique pies, and so of course I had to buy this one.

Blackberry Pi

Now what does one do with an entire pie when you only have one other person to share it with? Expand that number, of course. We took it to our regular coffee shop, where the barista was nice enough to cut it into eight pieces and keep some for the staff, while John and I enjoyed some reasonably sized pieces of this very delicious blackberry pie, not too sweet. We felt we had celebrated the date in just the right spirit.

And very soon now, I will begin to plan what I want to raise in my 2021 vegetable garden, as well as prepare my front porch for the flowers I plant there each year. I have been pretty lazy lately and let things slide, but the burgeoning spring is arousing my interest in getting started. Time to garden! Yes!


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Another Chuckanut adventure

Hemlock trail

 I find it harder and harder to make an interesting post, when my friend Melanie and I keep going up the same old haunts each week during the pandemic. Today we hiked the Lower Salal, starting off on the Hemlock trail, in search of signs of new growth, especially looking for the trillium flower, one of our early spring favorites. 

The Lower Salal trail

It was a glorious sunny morning as we set out on the Chuckanut Mountain trail, and the clearing skies overnight made for a very chilly start, but still the full sun and lack of any wind made us quite comfortable as we started the uphill part of the trail.

Ferns galore

Mel said that whenever we pass this section of the trail filled with ferns, she thinks of our friend Terry, who called this place "Ferndale." (We have a nearby town with that name, but you could hardly find any venue that might rival this one for sheer volume.) We searched high and low for any signs of trillium coming up along the trail, but so far no luck. I learned plenty about the trillium species we're most familiar with, Trillium grandiflorum, when I came home and researched it, hoping we just didn't know what the sprouts might look like. For one thing, they are one of our local deers' most tasty snack. I'm surprised that we have seen any, considering what I learned from that link. (The link takes you to Wikipedia's informative site.)

Skunk cabbage

We did see some early skunk cabbage, growing out of the swampy areas, but even these were few and far between. It's just early, I guess, and in a few more weeks we will be seeing many more signs of spring, which is now only a couple of weeks away. 

One of the many directions we could take

We have been to all of these places, more than once, but today I was not up for more than a 5.5-mile trip up and down the Lower Salal and Hemlock trails. Mel kept trying to entice me to make our hike a little longer, but this was all I felt comfortable doing, what with a sore ankle that I'm nursing. We did climb up more than a thousand feet, so I got a pretty good workout, even if Mel wanted to do more.

We had a great day and saw quite a few fellow hikers out with their dogs, and everyone was in a very good mood, as we were, too. It's hard to find much to complain about on a day like this one!


Monday, March 8, 2021

A month (or so) away

The Tulip Festival is on this year

 Last year, the Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley was canceled because of the pandemic. I was curious as to whether it will happen this year, since we are still in the midst of it, but we are getting vaccinated and hopefully will soon have some semblance of normal life returning. Since this festival is held during the month of April, I went online to see what's what. I snagged that picture from the RoozenGaarde website (linked under the picture). 

I learned the price of admission is more than twice what we paid last time we went, and that you must now buy tickets ahead of time, which is sort of iffy, since it's quite hard to figure out when the best viewing times might be. And I was happy to learn that there will be plenty of measures taken to ensure safety. Although I will be completely vaccinated and past the two-week period afterwards, it's nice to know that they are taking such precautions for everyone's sake.

My picture from 2014

I have visited the festival every year since I moved here in 2008 (well, I might have missed the first few years I was here; I do remember that my first visit was on the way home after a Whidbey Island hike with the Trailblazers). I've been there in sunshine and rain, in full sun and overcast, and never have I been disappointed in the displays.

In any event, it will be something to look forward to as we make our way into the glorious springtime here in the Pacific Northwest. Never fear, there will be plenty of photos!


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Party of One

Today's pretty trail

Yes, today it was just me for my Thursday hike. I decided to walk twice around Lake Padden, since it's one of my favorite places, and I could go at a more leisurely pace, stopping often at benches and enjoying the slower pace. Melanie couldn't come because she'd been able to get scheduled for a Covid vaccine shot, and that takes precedence. Now that I've been vaccinated (as of last Tuesday, along with friend John, with SG having received his first one earlier in the week), we are all feeling much relieved that Part 1 is behind us. We each received the Pfizer vaccine, and my only side effect from this first one was a sore arm for a day. I can still feel where the shot went in, but I wouldn't call it sore at all now, two days later.

Mossy tree branches

I don't have much in the way of pictures, since this is a fairly well-trodden and often visited place, but it never fails to be a lovely place to walk. The main trail around the lake is 2.6 miles, so twice around gave me 5.2 miles, and I enjoyed it very much, since there wasn't any rain, and only occasional gusts of wind.

Catkins on the trees

I looked for signs of spring, but the only thing I saw were these little early sprouts on the trees as they swayed in the breeze. Before you know it, they will blossom out in their full finery. Until then, I will keep looking and hoping for more. We have so much green around here, all the time, but much of it comes from moss. And the ubiquitous ferns.

Choppy waters

Every once in awhile wind would come up and I had to pull up my hood and stick my hands into my gloves, but mostly it felt quite comfortable. I saw quite a few people walking their dogs, some runners, and I was pleased to see that only a few people weren't wearing masks, even if they only pulled them up as they passed others (I was one of those myself). 

It was a nice day, and I was happy to get out, even if I was a party of one. Next week we should all be back to our normal routine, two or three of us together. Until then, I'll be enjoying reading about the goings-on of my usual blog suspects.

Monday, March 1, 2021

March memories

Golden crocus among the snowdrops

Boy, those golden crocuses sure looked a lot more brilliant when I leaned over to photograph them. I also noticed a few snowdrops mixed in, and figured that it would be a good enough shot to display on my blog. At least there are burgeoning spring flowers, and these snowdrops won't melt.

When I noticed that it's the first of the month again, and the first of March to boot, it brought back a long-ago memory of what this day once meant to me: it is the anniversary of my first marriage, in 1961. Wow, I thought to myself, it's been a half century since then! Are you noticing that I seem to have misplaced a decade? Yes, it's been sixty years!

My first husband, Derald, was also the father of my two sons. Now all three of them are gone, and here I am, writing a post sixty years after that distant day, with only memories (and a few pictures) left. If I ever need a reminder of how old I have gotten, all I have to do is dust off my treasure box of recollections. Or, failing that, count the aches and pains that visit me every day.

In spite of all that, I am more than grateful for what my current treasure box contains: a wonderful place to live, a sweet husband who cherishes our relationship, enough physical ability to get outside into the forests and wild places that surround me, and friends and family members who brighten my days.

March 1, 1961