Thursday, December 30, 2021

At least a half foot of new snow

Sue Schimscher's photo

No walk with Melanie or Lily today, as nobody wanted to drive anywhere after getting another blast of snow last night. According to Sue's picture (taken from the Seeing Bellingham Facebook group), she measured 8.5 inches. I believe it! I decided to wait until the sun came out and the snow had stopped before going out and taking some pictures of my own.

Downtown sidewalk partially shoveled

I had to walk to the bus in the street, mostly, since the sidewalks were not cleared and it was almost impossible to navigate the deep snow when it wasn't compacted yet. I watched for cars (there weren't many out) and plowed back through the snow  to where the sidewalk should be when one came by. It was very tiring to go less than a mile to the bus. And then  I had to wait a half hour longer than usual for it to show up. But indeed it did. In fact, three showed up at once. They had chains on their tires, which must have made it much harder to drive. I didn't expect the bus to be on time, and I was not disappointed.

My picture of the snow

This photo was taken just after getting off the bus on the way home. It was deep and untrammeled, so I figured it might give you an idea of what I was trudging through. For much of the way home, however, the snow was easier to navigate, as other people had helped to make the sidewalk snow more dense and tightly packed. 

David Parker's photo

I also found this amazing photo of Lake Padden on that Facebook group. I had heard that it got cold enough for the lake to begin to freeze over, something I've never seen before on that lake. I learned that in 1980, it froze solid all the way across, and people were actually skating on it!

Every time I think that we must be through the worst of it, more challenges present themselves. However, we expect that we might see above-freezing temperatures by Saturday, New Years Day. Or maybe not. I do hope one of these days I'll be able to resume my usual activities. In the meantime, there's lots of movies and other stuff to stream. This too shall pass, right?


Monday, December 27, 2021

A cold and windy holiday

Snow looks like white blossoms

If I wasn't feeling so cold, I could really enjoy seeing Christmas being white and delightful. But yesterday, the day after Christmas, we here in Bellingham woke to 10°F (–12°C) and wind blowing 30–50mph, giving us a wind chill of –20! I didn't even attempt to leave the house for any reason, much less thinking about going out to breakfast with John. I called him on the phone and found that he, too, didn't leave the house all day.

But today, I got an early morning call from him asking if I'd like a ride to the coffee shop, and I of course said yes, since he would be driving his big ol' truck with huge tires and lots of weight to keep us safe. He showed up about 7:30 and we drove downtown, looking at all the snow and hearing the snow crunching under the tires, with nary a slippery slope to navigate. It was lovely, looking around at all the snow in dawn's early light. The skies had cleared, and the wind died down to nothing while we were out. Bellingham got anywhere from 4–15 inches, depending on your location.

The coffee shop, however, was closed. Nobody there, no lights on, and no idea why (other than the obvious one that nobody could make it in). We decided to head to Fairhaven and to Shirlee Bird's cafe, which has great coffee, and enjoy a good breakfast as well. And that's just what we did. We sat in the cab of John's truck because the frigid temperatures outside and all the snow on the ground meant it would be the warmest place to eat and drink. Delicious food, and once we were well caffeinated, John drove me home. 

The only task I have for today is to write this post and possibly go for a walk. I've fallen down on getting my steps during the holiday and miserable weather, but I figure I've banked a little backdrop of effort by not missing many days in the recent past. It's not good to do that very often, especially at my age, but it's definitely indicated that I should be careful out there. I'll wear my boots and strap on my microspikes to help keep me from slipping on the ice. With the right gear, it should be exciting. And relatively safe!

Hope you had a safe and delightful holiday, whether you gathered with friends and family or just stayed home. I watched a couple of movies and enjoyed hanging out with my guy. Watching the wind blowing snow into drifts while being inside, life is good.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Next-to-last hike of the year

What the trail looks like today

Today it was again just Melanie and me as we headed out to the Chanterelle trail, one of our favorite in-town hikes. When we were on this hike last month (November 18), we had a few obstacles to navigate, the biggest one was numerous trees that had blown over during a windstorm and crushed the bridge underneath. Just so you can appreciate the amount of work that the trail crew accomplished, here's a photo of what we had to surmount back then.

That's me peeking under the trees

You can see the crushed bridge just below me in this shot, compared to its state today. The bridge still needs to be rebuilt, but it's passable if you're careful. It was an easy and enjoyable trip today. Although it was supposed to rain today, fortunately the weather held off until sometime later: maybe tonight the rain will begin. 

Lake Whatcom peeking through the trees

We made it up to the viewpoint, where you have several lovely views of Lake Whatcom. As you can see from all the clouds, the weather was definitely unsettled. But so pretty, and as I have already said, no rain. It is 2.5 miles to this viewpoint, and the clouds only added to the beauty. 

More beautiful Lake Whatcom

Looking to the right, we gazed out over the lake and saw Bellingham in the distance in partial sunlight. We were also blessed not to have any wind, either. The temperature was only in the mid-thirties (34°F), but it was really pleasant while we were moving. We didn't stay at the top for long and then headed back down the trail.

Our delightful trail

This is one of my favorite spots on the Chanterelle trail. We are almost back to the beginning, as it's an out-and-back hike, and I needed to show you what a fine place Bellingham is to live in, with numerous hikes like this one. Depending on what the weather does between now and next week, we'll know whether it will be white and extremely cold, as is predicted, or whether it will be more like today: perfect in just about every way.

Yes, we have both snow and below-freezing temperatures on the horizon. But as today shows, those guys can be wrong. I'm hoping it won't be as bad as the forecasts are projecting. Every day it's changed a little, so I'm hoping for the best. In any event, I won't be doing much traveling between now and the end of the year. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve already! I do hope you are set for the holidays and will stay safe, warm, and surrounded with love.

We climbed 1,000 feet and covered just under five miles total. Mel headed off to join a friend for lunch, while I came home to get a nice lunch and sneak a couple of hugs from my newly shorn partner. He's already having to shave again to keep a good seal around his masks.


Monday, December 20, 2021

Frosty Christmas week

Rose hips (Jessica Hamerski)

While looking for a picture to grace my Monday post, I found this lovely shot, taken this morning and posted on the Seeing Bellingham Facebook group. Jessica Hamerski captured what to me is a perfect Christmas scene, frosty red rose hips. I didn't even venture out to walk today, but I could have taken this myself if I hadn't been feeling so lazy.

It's definitely feeling a lot more like Christmas here, with the temperatures plummeting and the stores filled with shoppers. I went to the grocery store and was amazed at the numbers, then I remembered that it will be like this right up to Saturday, when many places will close for the holiday. I'm finally set for the duration.

It was very strange not going to the coffee shop this morning. I'm going to stay away for awhile, until the virus settles down a bit. My partner decided that, in order to get a good seal on his new masks, he needed to shave off his beard and moustache! It's been ages since I've seen him clean shaven, but I'm already getting used to it. Men can change their looks so much by simply changing their facial hair. And it's been decades that I've seen that bare face I love so much. 

We might actually have a white Christmas here, with our ubiquitous precipitation possibly becoming snow on Saturday! We'll see. At least I won't have to drive anywhere: no place will be open, other than Safeway where we found coffee on Thanksgiving. Maybe John, Gene, Lily and I will get together there, masked and socially distanced, of course. John's heavy truck should do just fine in a little bit of the white stuff. 

I'm hoping you are all staying safe and warm in your own happy places. It's the season to be celebrating, whatever your beliefs. In the words of a dear blogging friend, Merry EVERYTHING!


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Holiday walk and repast

Holiday Senior Trailblazer hikers

Today Melanie and I drove to the trailhead for the Hertz trail that used to be an old railroad bed for a holiday walk with many of our old friends, not seen for awhile because of the pandemic. Not that the pandemic is over or even going away anytime soon. We didn't ever go inside and really enjoyed catching up. A holiday party had been scheduled but canceled because nobody wanted to be inside with so much Covid still going on.

Al and Nancy

I noticed that Al still has his Covid ponytail, which might not be cut anytime soon, but now it's long enough to look like he's always had it. Nancy is a newer Trailblazer, and I was glad to have a chance to spend some time learning about several new Trailblazers who have joined since I stopped hiking with them regularly. The last time I joined the group was during the summer, and now the winter solstice is right around the corner: next week, in fact.

Crossing the first of two covered bridges

This trail is an old friend, traveled many times with just one or two of us, and often the place where we would have a nice six-mile walk before gathering for a party. I'll be glad when we are able to do that again. I was reminded about how much I care about all these dear friends.

Trail crews have cleaned up a lot of debris (Mel's pic)

There were several places where recent windstorms have caused some big trees to fall, and the trail crews have done a good job of clearing his well-used route. There were several places like this one.

Hikers ahead

Mostly the trail looked like this: lots of wet and muddy places, but because of the hard work of the trail crews, quite passable, except for a few places that needed to be tiptoed through. 

End of the trail

After just over three miles, we came to the turnaround spot. You can see we had very little sunshine; none, in fact. Lake Whatcom was still and after having been hiking at a good clip, we were all warm and enjoying being here for awhile before heading back. The good part is that, although we had a 30% chance of rain, we had nary a drop by this time.

Looks like a mini-mountain

The low clouds never really cleared while we were out, but it didn't matter, as we were having lots of conversations and glad to be outdoors together in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. And then before we knew it, we were back at the trailhead.

Reward at the end

Several people had brought goodies to share for afterwards. We set our food out on a rock (this was only part of the feast) and enjoyed Chao's homemade guacamole and salsa, Melanie's special pumpkin pie treats, Joy's brownies, Chris's cookies and chex mix. Not to mention a very special treat from Patrick: some alcoholic Franjelico hazelnut liqueur, and another I don't remember the name of (but it was good, too). Patrick brought tiny little glasses to hold the liqueurs, and not being acquainted with the drinks, I was cautioned that they are made to sip, not quaff. They hit the bottom of my stomach with a real wallop!

In any event, it was a delightful way to safely enjoy the holiday season with some good friends. And here I am with one of my favorite people:

Mel and me

It's now behind us, and we did have a few sprinkles before it was all over, but we are hardy hikers and drinkers and didn't mind a bit. It's now time to finish the post and publish it, and settle in for a long winter's nap! (smile)


Monday, December 13, 2021

Interesting weather

Dianne, me, Melanie

 On Saturday, Mel and I, along with our friend Chris, went twice around Lake Padden, our choice because the awful weather during the previous night included howling winds and lots and lots of rain. It was still stormy, but less so, when we left for the lake. By the time we had gone once around, however, the sun was shining brightly and the winds had died to next to nothing.

Afterwards, Mel and I headed off to Scotty Brown's restaurant to meet Dianne and enjoy a nice lunch together. Dianne is still in recovery mode after having a problem with her hip for awhile now. Although she's not yet ready to hike, she sure was amenable to lunch and a midday holiday quaff with us. I ordered 6 ounces of the house red wine; Mel the pinot noir, and Dianne ordered a martini! I've never actually had one of them, but if it tastes half as good as it looked, I might have to try one.

I hadn't been inside a restaurant to dine for ages, since we have had to be careful with the pandemic. We wore our masks until we were seated and then again whenever we got up for the restroom. The beautiful sunshine that poured through the windows gradually lessened and the clouds built up again. But we enjoyed our drinks and meal before going out to our cars. I was surprised that the rain had started again.

As we stood there saying goodbye, suddenly we were engulfed in a heavy windstorm and sideways hail and rain! In just a few minutes, we were soaked. But within a short time in Mel's wonderful SUV with heated seats, I was just fine. This morning I had to drop my car off for some major work and will now walk to the auto shop not knowing if the weather will hold or not. Just to be on the safe side, I'll be ready for anything.


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Rain and snow mix

Tree roots over rock and a bit of snow

Melanie and I decided once again to make our own Thursday hike, since the weather was supposed to be pretty wet, with cold temperatures to boot. We didn't want to go where the schedule suggested, so we tried once again to reach Fragrance Lake, since we didn't make it all the way there last week. It was "snaining," in Mel's words when we started out: snowing and raining at the same time. We started up the trail and saw lots of puddles, and a little bit of snow, as you can see here. I have always loved the look of those tree roots and have shown them to you before.

Snow-covered ferns

As we climbed in elevation, much of the rain turned into snow, with these ferns showing just how much was still sticking on them, even though the rain had washed some of it away. The trail was clear wherever trees blocked the snow, and we began  to experience the occasional "whump" of snow falling from the trees onto us.

Snow creating artistic scenery

This tree, fern, and white patch of snow on the trail made for a lovely scene as we headed toward the lake. As we climbed, there were a few places where we might have needed our foot spikes, but we hadn't packed them, not expecting much to be on the trail. If we had decided to come back on the trail, I think we would definitely have benefited from them.

Brand new bridge

Finally we reached the lake, and the first thing we noticed is this newly created bridge that starts the .75-mile trail around the lake. Knowing that places we usually take for granted and climb over would probably be a little dicey, we decided just to head right for the lake and go a short distance.

Yes, there was a bit of snow, all right

Mel took this picture of me in the snow, and what you can't see but that I couldn't forget, my gloves had gotten soaked from all the rain, and my hands just wouldn't warm up. She was in the same boat. We had not brought the right gear to stay out very long. (Note to self: winter gloves and spikes next time.)

Light snow kept falling at the lake

Although you can't really see it, we were looking at the far side of the lake through a snowy curtain. If you enlarge the picture enough, you can make out some of the tiny snowflakes as they fell. We turned around soon after this picture was taken, and the reason I took no more was because my frozen fingers wouldn't allow me to use the camera. The screen didn't recognize my attempts. We headed down the service road instead of back on the trail, even though we knew there was a place that had been washed out and blocked off, but we found it to be still passable (carefully).

We skipped the viewpoint, since there wouldn't have been one, and I didn't get any pictures of the waterfall. It looked about the same as it did last week, but we hurried past it and continued back to the parking lot, where Mel revved up her car's heated seats and steering wheel. We probably didn't even get five miles out of today's hike, but it was still a good one, and we were both pleased that we made it to the lake. It's always a fine destination! And as we headed home, we sang Christmas carols and continue to celebrate, as we often do, a fine day out in the forest.


Monday, December 6, 2021

Our first snow of the season

Not much but quite pretty

It's been a couple of years since Bellingham has seen any lowland snow, but I think this year might be different, for a few reasons. One, the incredible amount of rain we've had so far (with more in the forecast), and knowing that it only needs to be a little colder (which is what happens during winter) for us to have the precipitation turn to snow. 

Today, when I looked outside before sunrise, I saw white stuff on the lawn and reflected in the outdoor lights, still on as the days have gotten so short. We are not far from the shortest day and longest night of the year: December 21, 2021 at 7:59 am PST. That's two weeks from tomorrow! And not long after that, the new year will begin and the holidays will be behind us.

I've been enjoying the holiday season very much so far. Even the ubiquitous commercials all clamoring for me to buy something haven't bothered me very much. That could be for several reasons, the most important being that at my age there is nothing much I need. Yes, I'll probably make a purchase or two, but I and my partner don't exchange gifts, and there are no children looking to me for anything. I remember how much I looked forward to Christmas when I was a kid. My sister and I would even search for where our parents hid the presents and try to find out what we were getting. I know it was wrong but we were unable to wait! I got pretty good at feigning surprise (smile).

Santa needs a boost

Walking to the bus this morning in the dark, I passed by this home that always makes an effort to decorate. I noticed that Santa and his reindeer were a little collapsed on the roof, probably from the weight of the snow, miniscule as it was. You can see on the lawn there was a mere inch of the white stuff. But then again, it's early December, with much more likely to come. I'll keep an eye on Santa.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Two-fer walk today

Service road and lots of ferns

Another day with just two of us, and we decided to go for an old favorite, Fragrance Lake. When we arrived at the trailhead, we saw signs that the service road going to the lake is blocked off at about the two-mile mark. We could have gone up the trail, which we usually do, but we wanted to see the damage done to the road, so we went up that way.

Although I didn't get any pictures of the washout, we did find a couple of hikers who took some pictures, and so we headed back down after taking a look at them. There is a small area that people have been using to get around the closure, but we weren't interested in trying it. We had a few options: go back to the parking lot and take the trail (which would have made this a much longer hike than usual), or just call it a day and maybe head down to Squalicum Harbor and walk there for a bit, to make our hike into maybe five miles altogether (that might be stretching it). In the meantime, we were treated to the usually small waterfall, which has turned into a torrent.

Quite the display

It is the result of our record-setting rainfall for the month of November: 14.57 inches in Bellingham! And everywhere there are washed-out roads and areas in our town, with (I hate to say it) more rain still to come. Fortunately we had a brief time this morning to enjoy ourselves without any rain.

We walked another half-mile or so past the falls before turning around and heading back to the parking lot.

The falls from another angle

You can see in this picture how much misty spray is coming down, along with all that water. It goes underneath the road here, and we could see signs that during the worst of it, the water went over the road. But not today, thank goodness.

Dappled sunlight for a brief moment

As we moseyed back down, it was so nice to see a few bits of sunlight, after so much rain. We decided, once we got back to the car, to drive over to the harbor and walk until we got our regulation number of steps in. 

Squalicum Harbor

We didn't go far, since my tummy told me we were close to noon and I wanted to have some lunch. I hadn't brought anything but a few nutrition bars, so I convinced Mel that we should just head to our respective home and have lunch there. She agreed.

Rose hips

Although the flowers are pretty much gone now, there are abundant rose hips available for anybody who might want to make some tea. You can also see that there were no longer any peeks of sunshine, just more clouds. But the harbor was a gentle place for us to get more steps without wearing ourselves out. It was an easy day, but one I enjoyed very much. I hope the other Trailblazers, who were attempting a ten-miler, had as good a day as we had.