Thursday, April 28, 2022

Lily and Lizard from Samish Overlook

Samish Bay from the Overlook

 Melanie and I decided to start our hike today from Samish Overlook, which would give us the opportunity to extend or shorten the day's adventures, depending on how we felt. Especially me, since the eight-mile hike we could have done, had we included Oyster Dome and the North Butte possibilities, might have been just a bit more than I am quite ready for. You can see from this lovely view, the day was fine, with a few clouds and cool, but otherwise just about perfect.


And what did we see in magnificent profusion? Hundred of trillium, some just unfurled and ready to receive our admiration. These delightful flowers only bloom for a short period, one three-petaled blossom each season. We are always happy to see them, a sure sign of spring, especially when they are just out, like this one.

Emerging fern

I love to see the ferns as they come out of the ground and open to the sky, and they have such beauty from this stage right until they become the ubiquitous ground cover we are so accustomed to seeing here. Nature showing her finest work.

Red currant blossoms

The sun caught these beautiful blossoms beside the trail, and I was hoping this picture might give you some idea of the amazing scenery we were treated to on our hike. I spent more time taking pictures than I should have. As we went from Samish Overlook to the first of our lake visits, I realized I would be asking Mel to shorten it, since I was already feeling tired and it was still early.

Lily Lake

We went first to Lily Lake, after having gone uphill for what seemed like forever to me, gaining more than a thousand feet of elevation in a couple miles. But once we got to the junction to either Oyster Dome or the lakes, we've done the majority of the uphill, so I was feeling pretty good by this point. After taking a look at the Lily Lake, we decided to hike over to Lizard Lake, a bit of up-and-down but nothing like what we'd just accomplished.

Trillium surrounded by woodland violets

Woodland violets are out in profusion also, and we saw this trillium emerging from a field of them. The colors are a little muted from what they looked like in person, but you get the idea: it was just gorgeous!

Lizard Lake

What I didn't see when I took this picture is the amazing reflection of the cloud in the lake. These two lakes, Lily and Lizard, are so similar to each other that I couldn't tell the difference between them except by their placement in my photos. We decided to have lunch here, before heading back down the trail called "Max's Shortcut" which would take us back to Samish Overlook.

Max's Shortcut

It's a nice trail, well maintained and wide enough for us to walk side by side for awhile. And this was where we saw some of the most batches of trillium. By this time we were looking for something spectacular to capture, but we made an effort to gaze at each one we saw and tell it how beautiful it is.

A plethora of trillium

So many in one place, we had to stop and take pictures. The most we saw together like this was 16, but usually they are either by themselves or hanging out with a few others. We hiked almost seven miles and 1,400 feet up and down, but for me, it felt longer. All that stopping and stooping over the flowers to photograph them took its toll. But now I'm home, happy and feeling very good to have successfully covered as much mileage as we did, and I didn't fall behind too badly, either. I also twisted my ankle a bit but by morning it should be fine. Another great day!!


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

About that Monday post

Flowering ornamental cherry tree (I think)

I just spent a bit of time trying to discover whether the bright pink flowers on the trees all over town are ornamental cherry or not. They are everywhere right now, gorgeous to look at, and the ones I've seen every year don't seem to produce any fruit, so I'm guessing they are ornamental. It doesn't really matter: I am enjoying them too much to worry about what they're called.

I went to bed a little early last night, just feeling tired and wanting to lay there in bed thinking about the day and getting myself ready for a good night's sleep, when my Apple Watch vibrated to let me know I had a phone call. Since my iPhone was in the living room, I answered it on my Watch (I don't usually do that). It was my friend John calling to ask me where my Monday post was. I groaned and let out an expletive and realized that I am continually forgetting to write that Monday post. Probably it's because I write once a week on my other blog, on Sunday mornings, and I don't have much desire to come up with something new so soon. So, I've decided that my Monday posts will appear on Tuesdays, whatever I decide to call them. Welcome to the New World!

It was supposed to be raining today, but other than a few stray raindrops, it's been pretty dry and almost sunny. I walked by the Cornwall Rose Garden to ascertain that many of the plants are now heavy with leaves, but I couldn't see any rosebuds. Yet, anyway. I'm looking forward to seeing them appear and turn into lovely roses, which I will share with you, of course.

Mom at the top, Kid Bunny at the bottom

And who should hop out in front of me as I got to the trail, but these two bunnies. The little cottontail closer to me is smaller enough from the other for me to speculate that this is a new little guy. When he saw me, he froze the way bunnies do, and as Mom hopped across the trail, he stayed very still and never took his eye off me. I talked to him but he doesn't speak Human yet, and after a fair amount of time he followed her off into the bushes, and I continued my walk home.

There are plenty more clouds than rays of sunshine right now, but the temperature is mild and I can feel myself gearing up for spring. I think even I might have experienced my fill of rain for the time being!


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Predicting the weather

Today's trillium

Well, I sure wasn't expecting the fine weather day Melanie and I ended up with. When I left home this morning in a steady rain, raincoat and pack cover already in use, never did I think the day would turn out like it did. We almost decided to go to our go-to rain destination, Stimpson Reserve, but by the time we were ready to go, the weather gods decided that the rain would likely diminish within a few hours.

Woodland violets (yes, they're yellow)

We headed to a favorite hike even in the rain, the Chanterelle trail, which has a lovely viewpoint at the 2.5-mile spot, with another 2.5 miles possible if we wanted to go that far. By the time we started hiking, my raincoat and pack cover were stashed inside my pack. It had stopped raining, with all the greenery and trees covered with moisture, but it was actually pleasant and almost spring-like after the rain stopped.

Lake Whatcom from the viewpoint

I've shown you this spot many times, and it never fails to present me with a slightly different sky, and of course the plants are beginning to fill out as the weeks pass from winter to spring. We saw numerous trillium in bloom, which is always a treat for us. We also saw other spring flowers, and since Melanie is trying to get me used to longer hikes, we did keep going upwards after stopping briefly at this spot.

Turkey tail fungus

This pretty mushroom fungus is grown and harvested across the world for its health benefits. It has several immune-boosting properties. I once ordered some capsules to help my own immune system when it needed it. (Check out the link for more information.) We admired it and kept on going upwards.

Our trail

This is a lovely trail, and as you can see here, we actually had brief moments of sunlight appear before us. We traveled over six miles up and down, with an elevation gain and loss of around 1,400 feet. Not too shabby, and I think I did pretty well, all things considered. I was ready to turn around when we did, since the downhill makes my knees complain rather loudly.

Brand new bridge

We were both very pleased to see that the trail crews had finally built a new bridge over this spot. In past excursions, we had to delicately pick our way across the bridge that was destroyed when a large tree fell during a severe windstorm. They did a very nice job, and we complimented the absent workers for their hard work, even though they are probably somewhere repairing another trail, I suspect.

We did have a wonderful day after all, when we were expecting rain and discomfort rather than such a pleasant time. You just never know what you're going to get in the Pacific Northwest, and you just need to put on your Big Girl pants and head out, hoping for the best but being ready for the worst.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Almost forgot my post

Me and Lily at the festival

I was just sitting here minding my own business and getting reading to watch the PBS News, which I realized I forgot to write my Monday blog post, with all the pictures of the Tulip Festival! So, instead of the news, here's my batch of pictures from our wonderful Saturday trip to the Skagit Valley.

Just amazing designs

It really was a beautiful sight for the eyes, even though it was cold and having my hands tucked inside my jacket all day, except when capturing a picture, didn't seem to make me feel all that much warmer. I am glad we went when we did; we were some of the first people inside once it opened, and it meant we could get some pictures without lots of people.

Lots of varieties, some not yet open

I was surprised at how many of the tulips have not even begun to show any color. There were plenty of places that made me wonder what color they will be. But there were plenty of others that were showing their loveliness.

Big ones, small ones, all pretty

Every year they show off their tulips, and then after they've all bloomed, all the bulbs are taken from the ground and then they start all over again next year. My favorite ones are those pretty pink ones behind the white.

Variegated ones, too

See the ones in front of the orange at the top? They haven't even begun to open, but the pretty red ones in front of them are at their peak.

Sunlight coming through

I love this picture, even though I couldn't get away from that guy on the sidewalk with all his camera gear. He seemed to be following me, but the brilliant tulips with the sun coming through made it worth keeping.

More beauty

We walked out towards the fields in the back, but it was so cold and I really wanted to go inside the store to warm up, so we skipped that part and instead went indoors to get out of the cold.

Nice little basket with flag

When we headed into the little town of La Conner for lunch, I saw this sweet bouquet with a Ukrainian flag, which touched me and I thought it would be a nice way to finish this post. (BTW: I just got a call from John, wondering if I forgot again to write this post. I told him I am almost done!)


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Chuckanut hike revisited

Trillium in all its glory

 Today Melanie and I went on a trillium hunt, much like an Easter egg hunt, instead with beautiful trillium flowers seen (and not picked) in vast numbers. Last time we were on the Lower Salal and Hemlock trails, there were none to be seen. Today we saw many dozens, maybe even a hundred. Most of them were just beginning to unfurl their leaves and show their single blossom. They have three petals and three leaves and are ephemeral, coming about this time in the spring and leaving us once again after a few short weeks.

Pretty in pink salmonberry flower

It was a sunny day, and the Trailblazers went elsewhere, while the two of us went off on our own. We spent a great amount of time looking for and photographing the flowers, but especially the trillium (Trillium ovatum). Unfortunately for me, several of the pictures I took were out of focus, which I didn't discover until I got home and looked at them on my larger screen. No matter, my eyes captured the scene and it filled my heart with gladness to see such beauty.

Salal trail

We started at the Chuckanut Mountain trailhead and hiked almost six-and-a-half miles and climbed and descended around 1,400 feet of elevation. So it wasn't quite a cake walk, and I feel quite well exercised, thanks to Mel's gentle prodding. I started out feeling I wasn't up to the task today, but by the time we kept seeing more and more trillium, my happiness level just kept climbing (and so did my feet).

Skunk cabbage, AKA swamp lantern

We saw a fair amount of skunk cabbage growing in the wet areas, and this one caught my camera's eye.  Once they get past their opening moves, the leaves on these plants just keep growing and growing. At this time of the year, they are pretty and eye-catching. Why the name? According to that link,
The plant is called skunk cabbage because of the distinctive "skunky" odor that it emits when it blooms. This odor will permeate the area where the plant grows, and can be detected even in old, dried specimens. The distinctive odor attracts its pollinators, scavenging flies and beetles.

 My smeller is just not what it used to be, so I don't notice the smell, but some websites say it's when the leaves are bruised that the smell becomes strong. I'm not going to try it, though. I'll take their word for it.

Huge old nurse log with young tree

I saw this tree growing out of the "nurse log" underneath it, and studied the scene for awhile, wondering how old that tree is, growing quite satisfactorily from that old one. Our magnificent old forests are filled with wonders like this. 

As you can see, it was quite a lovely day, with lots of sun mixed with clouds. But it never quite warmed up as I would have liked; I kept my coat and gloves on most of the day. We are in a rather cold spell lately, with temperatures running around 10 degrees below normal. As long as the sun shines, I can deal with it. All in all, it was just a fine time outdoors, and now that I've finished my post, I'm going to rustle up some lunch!


Monday, April 11, 2022

Capricious spring weather

Magnolia tree

 I almost didn't go for a walk yesterday, because it was Sunday and sometimes I give myself some time off. However, it was mostly sunny and gorgeous (even if cold) that I decided I had to take at least a short one. Of course as soon as I set out, dark clouds threatening rain decided to join me. It was indeed cold, windy and spit some hail at me, but mostly it was just fine. I was dressed for it. This picture captures the mood.

At this time of year, we are treated to numerous flowering plants and trees, and I always enjoy seeing these magnolia trees. There are many varieties of this plant, but I don't remember seeing such gorgeous flowers on trees in other parts of the country. Wikipedia gave me some fascinating information about them:

Magnolia is an ancient genus. Appearing before bees evolved, the flowers are theorized to have evolved to encourage pollination by beetles. To avoid damage from pollinating beetles, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are extremely tough. Fossilized specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and fossils of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae date to 95 million years ago.

I wasn't sure whether these are really magnolias, since I was so accustomed to seeing white flowers in other places I've lived. It turns out they come in white, pink, purple, green and yellow varieties. And they've been around for a long time, according to Wikipedia. Long before humans arrived to appreciate them.

 After such a nice day on Thursday, I wasn't mentally prepared for a return to almost-freezing weather in just a couple of days. And we will get down to temperatures close to freezing for most of the upcoming week. But with the strong springtime sunlight, it won't last long. I'll finally get around to planting my front porch flowers and getting some starts in the garden. I've been so lazy about it but I refuse to let myself feel too awfully guilty. Sometimes you just gotta cut yourself some slack.

I have been mostly staying away from the news, since it doesn't seem to help my spirits to see the carnage going on in Ukraine, and the politics in our polarized country also don't provide me with any sense of serenity. Fortunately, I'm still meditating every morning and that, more than anything, has helped me cope with current events. 

And I got my fourth Covid shot last week. Other than a sore arm, I didn't notice any real symptoms. I sort of hoped for a teeny bit so I'd be sure that it "took." Anyway, I'll assume it did. Both of us are now double-boosted, and we wear our masks in indoor settings when it's crowded. Although most people really dislike wearing them, I always feel more secure when I'm masked. It will take me awhile to be willing to drop them entirely. After all, what's the problem with skipping colds and flu, which have left me completely alone since I started wearing one?


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Fragrance Lake on a beautiful day

View of Puget Sound from Overlook

Today, Melanie and I revisited one of our favorites, Fragrance Lake, on a simply perfect, beautiful day. We went up the Fragrance Lake trail, with a side excursion to the Overlook, a short .2 miles from the trail. Once we got to the lake, we started down the Two Dollar trail, made a complete loop around the lake and returned via the service road. It made for a 6.5-ish mile loop, with somewhere around 1,400 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Gate at top of trail

We didn't hurry, but I did take time for a few breathers on the way up. I got my second Covid booster shot two days ago, and I didn't know if I might be tired from it or not, so I was careful not to overexert myself. I felt fine for most of the day. And when I looked up from the trail as it leveled out, I was quite impressed with the tree growing out of that stump and had to share it with you. I don't know how long it has taken to get so large, but one day, as it continues to feed off the "nurse stump," it might grow to be full size! Nature is amazing.

Fragrance Lake

When we reached the lake, it was smooth as glass, as you can see here. The mild temperature and lack of wind kept us from needing much in terms of hats, gloves, and coats. We stuck them into our backpacks and just enjoyed our lovely environment. We did see quite a few people for a Thursday, but they were outside like us, taking in the gorgeousness that is Fragrance Lake.

Partial boardwalk around the lake

As we made our way around the lake, we took our usual side trip to the Two Dollar trail, going part-way down until we took a turnoff that would take us to our lunch spot. This is becoming our "usual" journey to make sure we get in at least six miles, which we did today.

We stopped here for lunch

We had climbed up enough distance to see the lake below us on the left. We stopped long enough to enjoy a quick lunch, and Mel pulled out some delicious chocolate for the two of us to savor. I smiled when I saw this picture, one of the few that was actually straight: most times I must fix the angle, since most of my shots tip one direction or the other. You can see we had plenty of shade from the unaccustomed sun.


On the way back, we passed by the waterfall that varies so much from day to day. It was still flowing, but not as full or as hard as the last time we visited. Still, it was sure pretty to my eyes.

And then we had returned to the car, both much renewed from our time outdoors. I was in a particularly gloomy mood, from the news of the war, and a talk with my sister yesterday when I learned of some difficult times going on with family. I really needed to have a reset, and today's hike was just the thing. In perfect weather, with a good friend to share it with, trees in bloom and birds singing, I am now feeling quite a bit better. I heartily recommend it!


Monday, April 4, 2022

Spring wind and rain

Lilac bud from this morning

Walking home this morning, I spied this almost-ready-to-bloom lilac as I began my trek up our apartment complex driveway. Every year I see these appear as if by magic, with nothing one day and the next, leaves and buds ready to spring forth. Again, I am reminded that while I'm sleeping, or when I'm walking, or sitting quietly in my chair, spring flowers are emerging at breakneck speed. That's what it feels like, anyway.

It's April, after all, and here in the Pacific Northwest all that rain is helping these flowers to "spring forth" in all their glory. Within a week, there will be flowers where this lovely bud now teases me with anticipation. Lilacs have long been a favorite flower, from back in my teenage years when I ordered a shirtwaist dress from a catalog with a lilac-and-leaves print and wore it until it finally gave up. Do they still make shirtwaist dresses? I don't think so, but I remember that one with fondness.

The Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley began this week, and looking at the Bloom Map, I see it's still early but within another week or so, my friend Lily and I will head down there to see the display. Considering all the rain we've experienced lately, I'm sure that this year will be a wonderful spectacle, a riot of colors and a feast for the eyes.

Last night we had a huge wind- and rainstorm, with what sounded like a train barreling by at close range, but by the time I got up to start the day, it had quieted considerably. Although it was still windy, at least it wasn't that destructive and noisy kind we had earlier. I was dressed for it, and actually thankful that the buds are still waiting to emerge, so they were pretty safe from it all.

First local tulips peeking out of the ground

I saw a fenced garden and peeked through the slats to notice that there are already a couple of early tulips beginning to bloom. Yes, they sprang forth to show that they are getting ready to make a lovely display. It's just the beginning, with much more to come! Yay spring!