Monday, February 28, 2022

Sunflowers and tears

One of my summer sunnies

I just learned that Ukraine's national flower is the beautiful sunflower, so I went looking through my pictures and found this one. And between getting the latest news from the TV and occasionally bursting into tears, I am also very happy to learn how the international community has come together to protest Putin's invasion of Ukraine. If you want to be inspired (and it also might bring a tear or two to your eyes as well), you can check out this article in The Atlantic.

I tend to take my freedom for granted, because I've always had it. It's only been the last several years that I've wondered if America will make it intact through this scary and unsettled time in the history of the world. Yes, we have been here before; it's the nature of things to change and evolve, and politics and national borders don't hold still. But never before did I think the turmoil might actually reach our shores during my lifetime. Figuring that being old means I would probably be on the other side of the grass before the sh*t hits the fan (what a graphic image that is, eh?), well... I may get a chance to experience what it means not to be able to speak out. In Russia right now, there are plenty of people in that situation, and they are not that different from me.

I would like to give a shout out to the Lion of Kyiv: Volodymyr Zelensky. He not only is leading by example, refusing to leave when his country is under attack, but also showing how a much stronger and better armed foe can be, if not defeated, at least held off. The rest of the world is watching this amazing person stand up to tyranny. It does make me wonder if we have anybody with that kind of grit in our own political theater. Surely we must, surely. There are more courageous leaders today because of the example he has shown to the world.
If we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces. —Volodymyr Zelensky

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Another unexpected hike

Marine Park this morning

Well, Melanie and I had decided to spend our Thursday hike going to one of our favorite places, Fragrance Lake. Instead, we woke to a couple of inches of snow and very slick roads. We drove instead to Marine Park in Fairhaven to start a gentle hike along the Interurban trail. I thought this picture looked like it could have been taken on a summer's day, if you didn't know that the white stuff in the foreground is snow, not sand. 

I've been home for awhile, but it's been hard for me to tear myself away from the news of the day. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, as I watched the invasion of Ukraine unfold on TV, along with probably most of the rest of the world. It's a terrifying and bewildering moment in history. The period when World War II ended and we entered a relative safe period is over, kaput. Who knows what this means and what is coming? But that's all I want to say about it now. Excuse my digression: back to my wonderful outing with Mel this morning.

We walked from Marine Park up the few blocks to the trailhead and noticed that wherever the sun was shining brightly on the sidewalks, it was easy going, with most of the snow gone, but everywhere that was still in shade was slippery, requiring careful navigation to keep from losing our footing. 

Some pretty scenery

The snow made everything quite magical, however. We saw only a few people on the trail, but almost everyone was out walking their dog, showing what a pet owner has to put up with (being dragged out to witness the wonders of the outdoors, even when it's below freezing and snowy). Nobody seemed to mind, lots of smiles on people's faces, and the dogs looked ecstatic, muzzles covered with snow and smiling, too. Much better idea to be out here rather than indoors.

Green in springtime, not today though

This scene varies greatly with the season. In the spring, the green succulent plants that are now covered with snow make for a truly enchanting spectacle. It's not bad today, though, with the snow creating a lovely geometric landscape. We ended up walking almost five-and-a-half miles, a very nice outing indeed. 

And while I was on Facebook last week, I snagged a picture to share with you, reminding me that a heron rookery is somewhere in this Fairhaven neighborhood. This was taken in Semiamoo by Jesse Sacdalan, and I loved it. Since I didn't have many pictures taken today, I'll end with this gorgeous creature taking wing.

Great blue heron


Monday, February 21, 2022

Windy, sunny but cold

Big old downed tree

When Melanie and I hiked last Thursday, we had a chance to revisit an area that was completely impassable last time we were there. They have cleared the trail, but so many downed trees are still around, like this one.

I see that much of the nation will be joining us here in the Pacific Northwest in another gasp of winter weather. We are situated just a few miles south of the Canadian Fraser River and what is known as the Fraser Gap,  a cliff that narrows over the river. Cliff Mass, Seattle meteorologist, explains it like this:
The most substantial weakness in the Cascades north of the Columbia River is the Fraser River valley, located just north of Bellingham. When cold, dense air fills the interior basin of British Columbia, a big pressure difference occurs down the Fraser, and as a result cool, dry air pushes along its axis to the southeast.

I found this quote in numerous places, but the fact is that if you live in the area, when the winds pick up out of the northeast, they are usually coming through the Fraser Gap. We are in the midst of an outflow of cold air from Canada, ahead of a big temperature drop to come tomorrow. I suspect that the big tree I show here was felled during a windstorm from that area. That is usually the strongest wind we experience, and I'm quite sure trash cans and small dogs will be airborne in the coming hours. (I hope I am exaggerating about the dogs.)

When I got off the bus this morning, I was facing directly into the harsh northeast wind, and as I bundled up and hurried the mile-and-a-half to home, I got very chilled and wished I had worn even more clothes when I ventured out this morning. And even though the sun is shining fiercely, the temperature is just above freezing and will drop into the low twenties tonight (–6°C) and even colder tomorrow night. Although I will head out again later today, I'll be ready for it, covered head to toe with warm clothes.


Thursday, February 17, 2022

Lily Lake Loop hike

Trail to Oyster Dome/Lily Lake

 Today, as become our habit, Melanie and I didn't join the other Senior Trailblazers as they made their way to Lost Lake (too long a hike for me at the moment, around ten miles) and instead drove to Blanchard Mountain to attempt a shorter hike. At the last minute, we decided to start from Samish Overlook rather than at our usual starting point at the Upper Trailhead. This would give us a chance to see a bit more variety than usual, as well as shorten it.

Me and downed timber

Mel took this shot of me as we passed by the place where we were unable to get through the last time we were because of a severe windstorm and lots of downed trees. Now it's been cleared off, and we were able to climb the trail until we came to the junction that would take us either to Oyster Dome or to the Lily/Lizard trail. Since by this time there was heavy fog, there would be no view from the Dome, so we sashayed over to Lily Lake.

Foggy scene

This is not a long or difficult hike, but it wasn't nothing, either. We climbed and descended more than 1,000 feet of elevation in almost five miles, and at times the fog was so thick that it fell from the trees like raindrops. And it wasn't warm, either.

Turnoff to Lily Lake

Finally we made it to the trail that would take us to Lily Lake, and we enjoyed our relative isolation, as we only came across a few fellow hikers on the trail. It was a lovely destination spot for our short hike.

Lily Lake through the fog

When we first arrived at the lake, it was completely socked in and we could see very little. But as we had decided to stop for a snack, I was able to catch this scene during a very short window through the fog. Before long it was fogged in again.

Forest denizen

Once we started back, returning along Max's Shortcut, giving us a loop rather than an out-and-back return, we saw this completely moss-covered critter, which looked to us a bit like an alien come down to Earth to visit. If you look closely, you can see his ears, shoulders, and stick-like arms. 

Samish Overlook, our start and finish

And then we got back to Samish Overlook where we started out in complete fog and a sharp wind, to discover that the fog had begun to lift and the wind had quieted, making us very content to have had such a nice time on the trails, enjoying the scenery and fine company. Just the two of us. We climbed into her wonderful car and she turned on the seat warmer for my back, and we congratulated ourselves for having made such a good choice for the day. 

Not to mention that I am feeling great and happy to be working my way towards more challenging hikes, thanks to Melanie!


Monday, February 14, 2022

Grace once agaIn

She's so pretty even in rust

Someone on Seeing Bellingham (a Facebook group) captured this lovely image of our very own Grace, and I've posted many a photo of her before. I especially like this closeup, unsure of how the photographer got so close, but nevertheless felt I could share it with you. She is performing the Standing Bow pose, which I remember from those years long ago when I did Bikram Yoga. I got tired of the intense heat, and then I learned that Bikram himself is somewhat of a charlatan, even if he did start a movement that has helped many people get stronger and healthier. All his studios have been renamed, at least around here. I never did get really proficient at this pose, and we don't do anything remotely like it in Iyengar Yoga, which is what I practice now. But I do remember it well.

Did you watch the Super Bowl? I sort of did, since I really wanted the Bengals to win, and so Hubby watched it with sound (using headphones) and I sort of halfway watched it over his shoulder. Once the Bengals were ahead and it was getting close to the end, I stopped watching because I was WAY too involved in the outcome. But I have to say, if you must lose a game like that, they did it in just the right way: on the very last play of the game. It truly was a contest, and anybody's game right to the last. (I caught up with the action today online.)

Today's Wordle almost didn't get solved. I was poring over what it might be when some of the other people in the coffee shop got involved, and we solved it through discussion. I knew the first and third letters, as well as the fourth, but nothing I tried seemed to fit, and then a couple of people saw me struggling. As I shared my dilemma, one person took out a paper and pencil and rummaged around with the letters and said to try one word that fit, but I didn't want to because it meant a consonant would appear twice. (That works but doesn't occur very often.) With nothing else to try, I put it in, and lo and behold, it was the correct answer! It amazes me how much solving that puzzle improves my day. And I am so glad there is only one word a day to keep me from endlessly playing the game. 

I am reading three different books on my Kindle, which means I read whatever I think might make me feel better, rather than getting involved in a thriller that keeps me reading until I finish the book. Since getting exercise every day is becoming more realistic, as the weather improves along with my back, I think I'll head out to get some miles in. I didn't walk home from after the coffee shop trip, as it was raining very hard and John was willing to take me straight home. But now it's stopped raining and looks good for the next bit of time, so I'll take advantage of it. Hope you have a fun Valentine's Day!


Thursday, February 10, 2022

Lower Salal trail loop

Foggy morning

Melanie and I decided to hike an old favorite of ours, the Lower Salal trail, returning down the Hemlock trail, making for a really nice 5.4-mile loop, with 1,200 feet of elevation gain and loss. Slowly but surely, I'm recovering from that pesky back injury. Although the distance isn't a problem, this was the first time I've tried to navigate that much elevation.

Trees shrouded in dense fog

We drove to the trailhead in the fog and noted that it was projected to lift sometime around 11:00, but it only begin to clear around almost noon. It didn't really matter, since we knew the trail well and were able to enjoy being outdoors and have fog instead of rain for a change. It was thick enough, however, to make me wear my raincoat for warmth much longer than I would have otherwise.

Tree covered in moss

There was no shortage of beautiful green moss to admire, on trees and rocks and turning what would otherwise be simple brown to myriad shades of green. We didn't see many mushrooms, a few here and there, but occasionally we did find some real beauties.

Turkey tail mushroom

I remember learning that this particular kind of fungus has medicinal properties, so I had to look it up and share (from Healthline): 

While there is an abundance of mushrooms with medicinal properties, one of the most well-known is Trametes versicolor, also known as Coriolus versicolor. Commonly called turkey tail due to its striking colors, Trametes versicolor has been used around the world for centuries to treat various conditions. Perhaps the most impressive quality of the turkey tail mushroom is its ability to enhance the health of your immune system.

Apparently it is often used to treat certain cancers. In any event, it sure is delightful to see in its natural state. As we hiked along, we approached a place Mel has called the "under-over spot," and we discovered that one of the logs has fallen.Now I guess it has changed to the "under-slip sideways" spot.

The changing forest floor

If you look to the right of the big heavily rooted tree, you can see a log lying on its side next to the round rock. That is the log that has fallen, and I suspect that next time we come here, it will be moved to the side or will have been cut into pieces. It falls right across the trail at the moment. We slipped sideways to get around it, but some enterprising (and probably younger) hikers had just walked across the top of it. 

A favorite stand of trees

Little by little, the fog began to lift, and as we made our way back to the trailhead via the Hemlock trail, we enjoyed the return even more than the beginning of the day. We also had to navigate another change in the trail.

Trail damage

We saw this when we started out, and not knowing the condition of the trail, we of course had to take a look. At one point the water must have gone all the way across the trail, but now it's just a bit of a nuisance to cross it, no problem if you have waterproof footgear, which we did. But it looks as if the waterfall must have grown quite large and uprooted several trees in its wake.

Waterfall today

Just a few feet away from that sign is what's left of the waterfall today, with lots of downed trees and some water across the trail, but nothing much otherwise. I think the trail crews have quite a lot to accomplish in the area, so I look forward to seeing what the area might look like in the near future. It was fun to be out in the woods today, checking out what's the same and what's changed, and to feel pretty good after our workout. I hope the other Senior Trailblazers had as much fun on Blanchard Mountain as we did in the Chuckanuts!


Monday, February 7, 2022

Passing the time

Snowdrops spied in the debris

 Walking back home today after my bus ride to and from the coffee shop, I saw these little guys hiding on the forest floor. More sure signs that spring is definitely on its way. They weren't there last week, and I'll keep an eye on them as they continue to develop and blossom. 

I met John at the coffee shop, but he had to leave early to drive all the way to Seattle for a routine checkup of his shoulder surgery. His right shoulder isn't healing nearly as fast or as easily as the left one did last year, but it is slowly coming along. Normally, he would drive me to my favorite trailhead and I'd walk the three miles back home. At first I waffled about whether I'd do the entire distance, but it got so nice outside, with the clouds clearing and plenty of sunshine to brighten my mood that I decided to do the whole bit. And as soon as I hit the trail, I saw these pretty snowdrops emerging to improve my mood even more. 

I wrote a blog post yesterday on my other blog (Eye on the Edge) and, although I spent a good deal of time writing it, I never did quite get around to what's on my mind about the passage of time. So, I'll give it another shot here. First of all, I am a fan of routine, trying hard to get much of my daily life smoothed into a nice gentle pattern. I'm not sure if I've always been this way, but certainly in my senior years, it always makes me feel better when I have a rough outline of the day ahead. Since it's Monday, it's time to write this post, and once I've done that and posted it, I can go through the rest of my day feeling like I've accomplished something.

Ever since the pandemic, my usual daily routine has been drastically altered. No more five-day-a-week classes at the Y, and after the omicron variant emerged, I stopped going there altogether. I do two or three Zoom yoga classes a week, from home, and I do get an acupuncture treatment every few weeks in his office, but that's about it. I do grocery shopping, usually during senior hours, but sometimes during regular hours, and I usually regret it if it's crowded. Everyone in our local community food co-op is masked, but that just isn't true at Costco. I went there yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, and I ran into about a half-dozen people not wearing masks there. Our Costco offers senior hours twice a week, 9:00-10:00, and I will definitely keep my visits to those hours in the future.

About that time thing: I have come to realize that one of the reasons I like routine so much is that it shields me from the awareness of how quickly and relentlessly things change. In fact, change is a constant I cannot control. Even if this Monday looks a lot like last week's, somehow I now need a haircut and every day my Apple Watch exercise rings need to be filled up again. The routine doesn't actually keep time from passing, I just don't notice it as much.

Truly, I do enjoy seeing the flowers spring up from the ground as time passes, and the progression of the seasons usually brings me joy. But since I am stuck in time with no way out (except one I am not looking forward to), it makes sense to me to find ways to appreciate every moment for its own distinction and not try to "pass the time" without acknowledging it. 


Thursday, February 3, 2022

Soggy Hertz Trail

Dark and drizzly Lake Whatcom

I wasn't exactly looking forward to our hike today, since it was supposed to be rather wet. And it lived up to expectations, but it could have been worse and even wetter, so I'm thanking my lucky stars that Melanie and I made the right decision to hike together on something that could be stopped whenever we felt like it. The other Trailblazers went elsewhere and I guess they might have had a better day, even if it was just as wet.

Our wide and wet trail

One of the nice things about the Hertz Trail is that it is flat and with just the two of us, I could decide how far I might want to take the trail, with my back much better but not fully functional. I didn't feel any discomfort when we started out, so I was hopeful that I could make it to the end and back, around six miles, and consider myself healed. 

Licorice fern-covered log

There wasn't much to photograph, but I was taken by this log, which looks a little like a green caterpillar climbing up the slope. These particular ferns love to find their homes in decaying forest debris, helping to return everything to the elements.

Bench overlooking the water

I noticed that this bench, at about the 2.5-mile mark, was dripping and not looking very comfortable for sitting on today. We were pretty much by ourselves for the first part of this hike, since most forest visitors must have felt like maybe it would lighten up if they just hunkered down for awhile. It was pretty warm for a change (around 6°C) but the light misty rain just didn't stop at all during our time outdoors.

Tiny signs of a sun up there somewhere

This point on our walk is the only time that we actually cast a shadow, even if it wasn't very much of one, I did momentarily hope that the weather might change. But it didn't; we kept our raincoats on the entire time.

Moss-covered logs

The other Pacific Northwest helper that returns the forest floor back to nature is the ubiquitous moss, which is pretty much everywhere around here. It gave some color to an otherwise dreary day. As we made our way back the way we had come, I realized that I had managed to walk about 5.5 miles today, which is the most I've done since being injured. The last mile wasn't very much fun, as my back had begun to hurt again and the muscles seized up to keep me company on the way back. Fortunately, once we got to Mel's car, I was able to sit in the heated passenger seat and soak up all the warmth to relax it all once again. 

By the time we got home, I was happy that I'd accomplished it, and that I had the company of a dear friend who didn't mind my complaining during that last bit. I am so much better today than I was a week ago, so I have stopped feeling grumpy and am giving thanks for having had a real "forest bath" today!