Tuesday, May 31, 2022

First Rose Garden color

Just beginning to open

John dropped me off this morning at the Cornwall Rose Garden, where I hoped I would see the first roses opening up. And sure enough, although this single rosebud is the only spot of color in the entire garden, other than the varied greens and reds of the new leaves on the plants, there are plenty of buds everywhere. By the time we get through the upcoming week, we might see temperatures reaching into the seventies (21°C) if we are lucky. So far this year, we've been experiencing below-normal temperatures, but hopefully that will change. Tomorrow is the first day of June!

Even though the roses have a ways to go, there are numerous flowering plants all over town. Of course, our state flower, the rhododendron, is opening extensively, and has been for a few weeks already. 


Even though our tulips have come and gone, iris are also flowering everywhere: purple (of course) and white ones mostly. I remember yellow iris in Colorado, but I haven't seen much around here. The pretty California poppies are up, too. It's a very colorful time of the year, but I am really looking forward to some rosy days ahead!


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Chanterelle trail

Lots of new green

Today Melanie and I decided to head up the Chanterelle Trail, one of our favorite wintertime hikes. We may be doing these lowland hikes many times more during the coming season, since it's still snowing in the High Country. I just heard on the news today that our local ski areas will remain open until mid-June because of the snow situation up there. 

Vanilla-leaf plants

I noticed today that the vanilla plants have come to bring their flowers out. Those straight white flowers are what give these plants away. From that link:
In the months of March-June Vanilla Leaf send forth a bottlebrush-like flower featuring 8-20 long white stamens that form a showy spike positioned above the center point of the leaves. The flower spike can range from 1”-3” in length.
The leaves smell strongly of vanilla when dried. It is also known as Deer's Foot, but I have only heard the plant called vanilla leaf. Anyway, it was nice to see these lovely three-leaf plants appear since all the trillium have faded away. At least, we didn't see any of them today.

Dandelion gone to seed

We saw lots of dandelions, both in their blooming state, but also gone to seed like this one. Melanie said when she was a kid they called them fairy dust as they blew the seeds, like this:

Mel scattering seeds, or fairies, in the forest

Although it was forecast to rain today, it's not supposed to get here until later. We were off the trail by 2:00pm, so we escaped the rain. The beautiful trail pulled us up until we got to the Viewpoint.

Whatcom Lake

It was quite warm, for us anyway, with the temperature in the mid-sixties (18°C) and quite humid. But the humidity didn't deter us as long as it didn't turn into rain. Now that I am home, I see in looking out the window that the rain has started. 

Looking at the viewpoint from the trail extension

We thought about going farther up the trail, where the second half gives us another five miles and plenty of elevation, but my knee was already complaining so we turned back. We ended up hiking almost six miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gain and loss, so we did get a pretty good workout. I'm happy and not completely tired out.

Mossy tree

I was taken by the design of the moss on this tree as we headed back down the trail. It's also got a couple of vanilla leaf plants at its base. All in all, it was a very good day, and I'm always glad when we have three wonderful items in our day's exertions: (1) no rain, (2) good company, and (3) great views. Now it's time to begin the rest of my day. Hope you're having a good one, too!


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Right in the middle of spring

Beautiful purple iris

As I walk through the neighborhoods on my way home from the coffee shop, I have watched the profusion of flowers of every kind emerging from the fertile ground, helped along by abundant rainfall this spring. Fortunately for us here in the Pacific Northwest, the rain has also helped keep the temperatures low, while much of the rest of the country has been baking in the hot sun. We still are a month away from the first day of summer, but until this week, it has seemed much more like late winter or very early spring days. I love living here and hope we can avoid any hot spells. If we do have them, they usually occur in late July or August. 

Yesterday I almost saw a murder. I happened to catch a skirmish going on in a tree just a few feet away from me. It was an owl trying to capture a squirrel. I stopped to watch to see what would happen, the squirrel hid, and the owl perched on a branch right in front of me. I only got this one shot, but he wasn't willing to lose sight of the squirrel, just in case.

Barred owl, side view

When I pointed my cellphone at the owl, he seemed to be looking straight at me, but no, the picture shows his gaze is turned away from me. I don't know if he managed to catch this particular squirrel, but they are simply everywhere, chasing each other around in circles, up and down the trees, scampering across the ground, and pretty much being crazy. It's mating season. 

Cassia fistula

This lovely sight is commonly known as a golden chain tree, or golden shower tree. It sure is pretty! I have also seen some in other places, I think the same genus, in a gentle lavender color. It is also used by some people as a medicinal plant, although from what I've read, I'll steer clear of eating it.
It is a popular ornamental plant and is also used in herbal medicine. It is both the national tree and national flower of Thailand. It is the state flower of Kerala in India. It is the provincial flower of North Central Province in Sri Lanka.
*   *   *
I have an acupuncture treatment in an hour, so I'll head to Fairhaven soon. It's been three weeks since I last saw him, and I'm hoping he can help my sore right hip and leg. They are never perfectly okay, since I messed it up with all that bad landing in 2000 and the nerve was damaged. Mostly I'm able to cope with it, but every now and then it flares up. Anyway, here's hoping for a good outcome today! Hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you are.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Stellar weather, perfect day

Tree and fern on Fragrance Lake trail

Today Melanie and I went on one of our favorite hikes, rain or shine: the trail to Fragrance Lake with a side trip to the Two Dollar trail, around the lake and back down the logging road that gives us a nice almost-seven-mile hike with 1,400 feet elevation gain and loss. A perfect day for it, too!

Mushroom emerging from the soil

We saw this mushroom on our way to the viewpoint. I thought at first it is an amanita, but I think they are red with white spots. Not that I had any intention of trying to eat it. It's awfully pretty, whatever it is. As wet as it has been lately, I'm surprised we are not seeing more mushrooms.

Viewpoint showing Samish Bay

You can see from this picture what a beautiful day it was. We did need to wear our jackets and even our gloves for much of the day, as there was a light breeze and temperatures were quite mild.

Trillium turning pink

We saw quite a few trillium, and a number of them were old enough to have begun their color change, from white to pink to purple in some cases. We did stop to admire all of those we saw, knowing we will soon need to wait another year before we'll see them in our local environment. If we are lucky, we might see some in the High Country, but it's still snowing hard up there, and we don't really know when we might be able to travel to some of our favorite hikes. So we'll enjoy them while we can, down here at sea level.

Smiling fungus

We saw this enormous fungus on a tree just off the trail. I climbed up to see it from eye level, and it looks almost as if it has melted or something. It felt cool and a little damp to the touch.

Fragrance Lake

Before long, we were at the lake, which is surrounded by incredible amounts of greenery at this time of year. And the sunshine was abundant as we made our way around the lake and down the Two Dollar trail a ways to our lunch spot. Melanie treated me to two of her amazing buckwheat cookies.


This lovely trillium is still white, and looking almost perfect to my eyes. It's a beauty, don't you think? This was just before we turned off the main trail and there it was, waiting for us to admire it and appreciate its magnificence.

Ferns unfurling

Everywhere we looked there was new growth and new fern leaves emerging from their tight coils. I think these are sword ferns, but I might be wrong. Several different varieties of ferns looks similar to one another. They sparkled in the sun, happy to feel the sun on them (they didn't say so, but I bet they like it). 

Another wonderful day, one of those where I can feel the day's exertion in my legs and the kiss of the sun making my cheeks rosier than usual. However, I would not exchange even a minute of today's adventure for something else. It was sublime! Maybe summer is really here.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Dry morning for a change

Magnificent lilacs

I walked to the bus this morning in perfectly dry conditions. I even left my raincoat snug inside my backpack and didn't need to pull it out all morning. However, the rain conditions this afternoon have picked up. Yes, I am truly tired of all this rain, but we still have more to come. It's sure been good for the lilacs, though. I've never seen them this luxurious in all the years I've lived here. And they are right at their peak. It won't last, so this picture is meant to capture the moment for posterity.

I walked through the Cornwall Rose Garden on my way home, and I do think I am seeing the first signs of rosebuds. I know it's hard to tell from this picture, but the red blob in the middle is almost surely a bud. The rain has certainly made them happy, but the cooler-than-normal weather and cloudy skies has curtailed our springtime flower show a bit.

Maybe I'm imagining a rosebud

By now, I would have thought that there would be lots of buds throughout the garden. Of course, it's still only mid-May and summer is six weeks away. But all this rain down here has translated into snow for the High Country, and we are thinking we might not be able to do any of our normal summer hikes until much, much later than normal. Every day Mt. Baker gets a little more snow. At least we are not in any danger of an early fire season.

After I walked home on my usual three-mile journey, I noticed how beautiful it is even when the sun isn't shining, especially when the clouds are not letting out any wetness. Not yet. I came home, got in my car and drove to Happy Nails to get an overdue pedicure. It had been long enough since my last visit that I was almost ready to snip those toenails myself. Luckily, I didn't need to wait very long, but I also discovered that they are now requiring appointments unless you want to wait. Next time I'll make an appointment, but it shouldn't be for at least two months.

When I was reading my latest book on quantum mechanics, I ran across this funny cartoon, which has been around a long time. I found it online a dozen times at least, but every time I see it I break into smiles. I'm hoping it might do something similar for you.

Thank you Sidney Harris

And with that, I've managed to come up with my Monday post. John thinks I should call it my Tuesday post, but that would not explain me at all. I'm happy to fiddle around with time a bit.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

We decided to skip the rain

Hertz trail

The weather forecast was for rain today, lots of it. This was NOT what Mel and I had in mind for our Thursday hike, so we decided to start at the Hertz trail and walk until the rain made us turn back. But you know what happened instead? We started in cloudy conditions on a beautiful, almost flat trail that heads along the north shore of Lake Whatcom for a little more than three miles. Since it didn't rain on us, we ended up going the entire distance, and a little bit more. It was cool, not quite 50°F, and the wind blew most of the time we were walking, but it was more than pleasant: it was wonderful, and so nice to be outdoors.

A little side trail

In all the years I've been hiking this trail, I had never before noticed a trail heading off towards the water, and today Mel investigated it, finding this little promontory with a bench to enjoy sitting by the water and contemplating the lake. We sat just long enough to be grateful for the fine place we live and then headed back to the main trail.

Peering out at the far shore

The water was choppy from the breeze, but we didn't mind. We disturbed a goose who had taken refuge in a cozy little spot, giving us a bit of a scare until we knew what it was we were seeing. I was pretty sure it wasn't anything dangerous, but when you're contemplating the silence, a sudden splashing with a few honks, well, it could be anything, right?

Pretty white flowers

We saw buttercups, salmonberries, dandelions, invasive geranium Robert (I've been hiking with people who pull this plant out whenever they see it), and this pretty white flower which I couldn't identify. Maybe one of my readers can. We didn't see any trillium, though, after weeks of seeing them everywhere.

Towards the end of the hike

As we headed back to the parking lot and the trailhead, the wind picked up considerably and we got a few little sprinkles, reminding us that the rain was still on its way. And just as we returned to the car, here it came, just a little at first, but now that I'm home warm and cozy inside, I can hear it drumming hard on the roof. It couldn't have worked out much better for us, I think. It was a day to get in our steps, keep our rain gear in our packs, and be grateful for the little things that make life better. Like today.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Morning springtime walk

Cornwall Park Rose Garden

In returning from the coffee shop today, I asked John to drop me off in front of the Cornwall Rose Garden, so I could see how the plants are coming along, after we experienced the coldest April on record for this are. Everything has slowed way down, and as hard as I looked I could see no signs of any buds to be found anywhere. But hopefully it won't be long now, as the sun's rays reach out to kiss these branches and encourage them to give us some rosebuds.

Top, October 2021; bottom, May 2022

I also noticed that my favorite maple tree in the park has regrown all its leaves, which I admired as they changed from green to red, a little at a time, and then fell to earth to nourish the surrounding soil. Although the change appears gradual, when observed on a daily basis, the seasons continue their cycle of birth, growth, and decay. As does the entire universe, whether I'm paying attention or not: change is constant and inevitable. Even in the farthest reaches, where the light we see from the stars is millions of years old, I marvel at the technology that allows us to study distant galaxies and ponder the nature of life and existence.

Yes, I still have not left behind the fascination that has caused me to learn more about quantum mechanics and to discover how much is still waiting to be understood. It's a very fertile time to be alive! Just as spring is followed by summer, discoveries wait to be uncovered, and I hope I'll still have a functioning brain when the next new thing comes about. Ya know?
When you think about the complexity of our natural world — plants using quantum mechanics for photosynthesis, for example — a smartphone begins to look like a pretty dumb object. —Jeff Vandermeer
In the meantime, I'm going to get my hands and knees dirty, with a smile on my face and look to enjoy some of our infrequent sunshine.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Singing in the rain

Can you tell how wet it is?

Okay, maybe we weren't really singing in the rain, but at least we were out there in it, rather than curled up warm and dry at home, like I am right now. Melanie and I decided to go to our usual rainy-day spot, the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. It's got two loop hikes on its 370-acre property, which is filled with ancient old-growth trees and plenty of beauty everywhere. It wasn't raining very hard when we first started out, but it was obvious that plenty of rain has been falling here, with lots of puddles and slippery spots. 

Very soggy trillium

We saw lots and lots of trillium, all of them of course quite wet, but still very beautiful. You could tell that some of them have been around for awhile, as they are beginning to change color, as well as having lost their early perkiness. We still stopped to admire them.

Fungus on a very mossy tree

It was wet and very pretty, with so much of the undisturbed forest just the way it was in years past, with many of the trees also showing their age. Because of the fragility of the forest, dogs are not allowed, and the magnificent trees are not troubled by other domestic animals either. There are plenty of human admirers, though. Even on a day like today, we saw a half-dozen fellow hikers.

Wild bleeding hearts

The bleeding hearts are finally coming into bloom, showing off their pretty pink flowers, with lots of diamonds of rain sparkling on the leaves. I love the wild version of this plant, very different from the cultivated versions. They are all gorgeous, nevertheless.

Geneva Pond

We first did the shorter loop to Geneva Pond. You can see the raindrops on the water and the misty backdrop and the clouds in the distance. At this time it wasn't raining very hard, but the cumulative effect was enough to get us quite drippy. Thank goodness for good rain gear and boots!

Misty scenery

After the shorter loop, we decided to take a quick trip back to the parking lot and then on to the three-mile loop. This gave us a total of about five miles, give or take, and plenty of time to enjoy the beauty all around us. I never got a good picture of the slippery and sloppy parts of the trail, since I was busy trying to stay upright.

Maidenhair ferns and trillium

Although it isn't easy to see the maidenhair ferns in this picture, it's because once they get wet, they repel the raindrops and revolve upwards. It turns out that the botanical name for the fern refers to their ability to repel water.
The word Adiantum comes from the Greek adiantos, which means ‘unwetted’ and refers to the way that maidenhair fern fronds repel water.

 We did stop often to admire the scenery and the different plant life surrounding us, but after awhile I was anxious to just get out of the rain, and stop having to try to keep myself from slipping in the mud, which seemed to disturb my lower back muscles. When we returned to the car, my sore back welcomed Melanie's heated seat as we made our way back home. For a very wet day, I think we did a good job of getting our quota of steps and exercise. Now to enjoy a cozy and warm home!


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Lilacs are finally blooming


 I posted about the lilac bush in our driveway a month ago, thinking it would be just a day or two before they came into bloom, but then we had some seriously cool and rainy weather, keeping the flowers from growing for awhile. But now that is behind us, and we have lots of sun mixed with clouds and, of course, rain. Perfect temperatures, though, and now those lilacs are opening. I sure wish I had more than just a memory of the smell: my sniffer can barely make out any fragrance, even when picked and placed inside the warm kitchen. But I know very well what they smell like.

I do think I like posting this Monday missive on Tuesdays, as it gives me more time to relax and reflect with whatever comes into my mind. Today on my walk back from the coffee shop, I saw five bunnies on the trail! Not all at once, but every now and then one would hop back into the bushes when it saw me. One stayed and eyed me for quite a few minutes before leaving (I stopped, too). It makes me wonder whether there are some regulars who feed them. It is tempting, but a bunny who cannot find lots to eat with the abundant salad fixings all around won't be long for this world, I suspect.

In an hour, I'll need to drive to my acupuncturist's office for a treatment. Although I don't have any really pressing problems, I always feel so much better after he takes those needles out and my body's meridians are balanced. Today I'll ask him to help boost my immunity and also help my ankle fully recover from last week's minor sprain. Otherwise I'm feeling pretty darn good!

Looking ahead to our hike on Thursday, it looks like I'll be needing all my rain gear. Soon, we'll be warming up outside and the rain will diminish in another month or so as we begin our summer heat. It's short around here, usually. I cannot believe what happened in India during April: a strong heat wave well over normal highs. I am so grateful that I live in such a beautiful place, and we only occasionally reach temperatures that are uncomfortable. Climate change may give us a bit more of them, but nothing like the 45-50°C temps India suffered through, making this April the third hottest on record. They are back to their normal 90s (33-35°C).

I hope everything is fine in your neck of the woods. We might even reach 60°F today! Like I said, it's been cool around here.