Thursday, June 30, 2022

Lily and Lizard once more


Today Melanie and I decided to head over to Blanchard Mountain south of Bellingham, for a trip to Lily and Lizard Lakes. After days of serious heat, today we woke to moderate temperatures and mostly sunny skies. It was actually even a bit on the chilly side when we started out, but once we got moving it was perfect: a light breeze on top of lots of shade from the sun.

Our forest trail

We walked up the beautiful trail, enjoying the view although I (at least) struggled with the uphill part of our journey. We actually ended up going up and down 2,200 feet in around eight miles. A little more than last week, but today we had more steep sections. I took the uphill easy and then groaned when my knees complained on the downhill. I could not have done it without the help of my trusty trekking poles.

I was glad to rest awhile

Mel took this picture of me on the way to Lily Lake, and I kept watching for the benches I knew would appear sooner or later. I was surprised to see my spooky "friend" behind me, but the picture was too good not to use.

Nature's bouquet

Although the heavy rains of previous weeks are past, we still see plenty of signs of mushrooms. I like this "bouquet" of some kind of shrooms. We did see lots of oyster mushrooms still around (these are not them) but I do like seeing the composition of these.

Lily Lake

We made it to Lily Lake just a little past noon, so we stopped for a wonderful lunch. Melanie had brought me some of her homemade zucchini patties, which I ate enthusiastically, and then she pulled out some lemon cookies (no eggs, gluten free, and delicious) and I helped myself to them, too. She is a great cook and I knew I would probably not have a chance to eat any of my boring health bars.

Lily pads and blossoms

This closeup of Lily Lake shows some of the beautiful lily pads which give the lake its name. Flowers on the lily pads are abundant out there, too. Then, after lunch we decided to make a loop, rather than return back the way we had come.

Mel is figuring out the distances

Mel let me decide which way to return, and as the three options presented to us were all about the same in distance, we headed over to the Alternate Incline trail, which would take us to the service road and back to the car. I chose that route, although I knew the steep downhill would be a challenge for my knees. However, I did it but not without some complaining.

Alternate Incline trail

The Alternate Incline trail was beautiful, more lush and green than I've seen it before, and we enjoyed it, even with the steepness. You lose about 900 feet of elevation in just over a mile. And then we were on the service road, which was mostly shaded by the foliage and trees, so it was actually quite pleasant.

Foxglove on the side of the road

We passed by huge stands of foxglove, just newly opened, to admire and exclaim at their beauty. Many of you might know that foxglove (digitalis purpurea) is widely used as a heart medicine. It is highly toxic when consumed unawares, but when extracted and made into a drug (digitalis), it's commonly used in treating heart problems. We love the way they look, but just like the mushrooms, we'll leave them alone and just admire them.

So that was how we two spent our Thursday. Now that I am home and feeling pretty darn good, considering all that exercise, I am happy to state that I do feel more like my old self these days, even if I must be careful not to overdo. I am grateful to Melanie for the company, the food, and especially offering encouragement. Onward and upward!


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Missing steps, front porch flowers

Renovation in progress

We were given a warning a week or so ago that there would be a disruption of our access to some of the apartments in our complex. The second-story apartments, of which we have one, cannot be accessed from the front where we park our cars. Instead, we need to come and go via the back door, which works just fine in most respects. We are missing the sixteen steps going from the dirt section in the middle of the picture, along with access to the two corridors on both levels going from front to back.

I'm just glad we are down at the end, with three apartments between us and the work going on. At first there was a lot of noise, but now it's intermittent as the renovation seems to be going slowly. At first I felt inconvenienced, but I've gotten used to coming and going through the back door. It gives me a few extra steps every day, anyway. And I got to admire my downstairs neighbor's lovely iris as I walked by. They are gone already, but everywhere around here is lush with June blooms.

Flowers are doing well

I am pleased that my front porch flowers are doing so well, although I notice that the pansies are past their peak; I think I'll replace them with some more petunias, since they just keep growing and expanding their coverage. The left-hand basket is filled with them. And I've got a fern that seems to have weathered the heat we had this weekend. At the present time, we are back to normal Pacific Northwest temperatures, back into the mid-sixties (18°C) instead of 20 degrees warmer, which is what we had during our brief heat wave. I walked outside today and truly enjoyed the cool breeze that greeted me.

Once I reached my quota of steps and exercise for the day, I'm feeling a little lazy and will settle into reading a good book. I've downloaded a few onto my Kindle and think I'll kick my feet up and relax for the rest of the day. Zzzzz.....

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Testing the limits of my strength

Service road in dappled sun

Today I asked Melanie to hike with me up to Burnout Point along the South Lost Lake trail. It is longer and harder than I've been available to do for quite awhile, but  now that I am home after hiking eight miles and going up and down 2,100 feet of elevation, it makes me happy to say I not only did it, I only grumbled about my sore feet for a few minutes towards the end of the day.

The first two miles of the trail go up the Fragrance Lake service road before we turn off to head to our destination on the Lost Lake trail. Once we turned off the road, we had a very nice trail to follow, instead of the road.

South Lost Lake trail

I have never been on this trail when it was so completely taken over by foliage. Although the trail itself is clear, the vegetation on both sides was almost as tall as me. Flowers, bees, ferns, and myriad plants were enjoying the sunshine as much as we were! The stinging nettles were at times in danger of being within distance close enough to touch, which means that I had to be very careful not to be in their way. At one point I did brush against one, and that spot on my pinkie will be irritated for hours before it stops.

Looking out at the San Juans

We split off from the Lost Lake trail and headed off for our visit to the two spots we were calling our destination, first a look at the San Juan islands and Samish Bay. I couldn't get a very good picture because of the incredible growth of vegetation that blocked our view. It didn't matter, though, it was still a wonderful sight. And then we headed off another half-mile to view what is known as Burnout Point.

Mt. Baker is behind those clouds

Once again, we were thwarted from the full view, this time by clouds that hid our usual magnificent scene of Mt. Baker. No matter, we stopped for a nice lunch and then headed back down the way we had come.


Passing by our favorite waterfall, which today was nowhere near as full as we've seen it before, in the middle the sun lit up a segment of it that was so pretty; my camera didn't do it justice, but I had to include it anyway.

All in all, it was a very successful Thursday hike, and now that I know I can actually hike that far and that high once again, we'll be heading to some harder and more challenging places in the near future. I'm wiggling my bare toes in delight. Thanks, Mel, for challenging me to keep up my distance and strength!


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Converging events

Sweet rose

Today is the official first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere (winter Down Under), which started early in the morning (2:13 am PDT), with our area still not yet experiencing any of the high heat affecting much of the rest of the country. I'm glad, since I am not a fan of anything above 80°F. We are still waiting for that to impact us, although I guess by Sunday we will be dealing with 84°. Time to take my comforter off the bed, eh? Just in case, I'll wait until then. 

Every morning during the week, I take the bus to town and enjoy a nice cup of coffee with my friend John, and he drops me off by the Cornwall Rose Garden for my walk home. The garden now has plenty of roses, some of which have great scents that even my compromised sniffer can smell. One that is labeled "Honey" has the strongest odor, so I always stop by that one when I'm out to smell the roses. The pink one above doesn't smell strong enough for me, but I'll try a few more times as the sun comes out and releases more odor.

Last weekend marked the newly minted federal holiday of Juneteenth, with me having to find out some information about it, so I could celebrate it, too.  Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for the enslaved people in Texas. Although they had technically been free for years, nobody actually got around to telling them about it until then.

And last week, we lost our apartment's front steps to the second level, meaning several tenants, including us, now need to walk out the back door, down the back steps, and navigate an alley to get to the front of the place where we park our cars. It is a pretty ambitious project, and men with jackhammers are busy removing concrete and boarding up passages from front to back, supplying us with lots of noise, but until we have to open our windows, it's not too bad. No telling how long it will go on.

It seems like there is another converging event, but after sitting here trying to figure out what it might be, I'm giving it a rest. Perhaps it was that I needed to write this post. Whatever, it seems like I must be done.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Our Cheap Fragrance hike

Fragrance Lake trail today

Melanie and I went back to one of our local favorites today, one which I like to call (tongue-in-cheek) our Cheap Fragrance hike. We parked at the Larrabee Park trailhead and hiked up the lovely Fragrance Lake trail (as you can see above) to the Two Dollar trail on the other side of the lake. That's why it's "cheap": we hike far enough to make it to the Two Dollar, then back up to our usual lunch spot. I have no idea where that name came from. 

View of Samish Bay from the Viewpoint

Also, as usual, we made the side trip up to the Viewpoint and admired the view, along with the clouds. We had a 30% chance of rain, but other than a few sprinkles on the drive there, we were mostly in sunshine by the middle of the day.

Me at the Viewpoint

Mel took this picture of me at the Viewpoint. I debated over whether to include it, since I see my new vest adds at least ten pounds to my middle. But what the heck, I've got to face the music sometime, right? It's almost the same view as the previous picture, except for that strange lady in the center trying to look casual.

Fragrance Lake

By the time we made it to the lake, we had more sun than clouds, and the temperature was ideal, except for a cool breeze every now and then. Mel pulled out some homemade cookies from her pack, and I happily munched down two of them. They are gluten free and were simply delicious.

A tree covered with mushrooms

We saw lots and lots of trees and logs covered with mushrooms, some of which have been identified as oyster mushrooms and perfectly safe to eat. One woman on a bike had stopped to pick some and told us she loves these and harvests them whenever they appear. Mel and I said we would buy ours from the store, since we also know there are plenty of poisonous ones that an unsuspecting person might ingest.

Maidenhair ferns

We also saw plenty of my favorite fern, the maidenhair, along the side of the road. They thrive in wet areas, and our entire Pacific Northwest must be sprouting them, it's been so damp lately. I love them, in any case.

The waterfall

We also passed by the waterfall that looks different every time we see it. By midsummer it will be dried up, or just a trickle, but for now it's looking quite beautiful and full. It's only a mile or so from the end of our day's journey, so it was quite lovely to end our day with the roar of rushing water.

We ended up hiking almost seven miles with a gain and loss of around 1,700 feet. For that much exercise, I am feeling quite well and extremely pleased that my knees seem happy and our day's excursions have only caused me to feel great and not hurting anywhere. Plus the company was excellent!


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Another rose beauty appears

Love the color

While checking out the emerging roses in the Cornwall Rose Garden on Sunday, I saw this one that was not there the day before. It's such a pretty shade and one of my favorite colors. I couldn't detect any fragrance, but that doesn't mean much: I can smell a few roses, but only if they have been sitting out in the sun for awhile. And I realize that there are many roses these days that have little to no scent.
We've got to learn how to not look at creed or color. Look at how beautiful a bouquet of roses looks like - different color roses, all look beautiful. We have to learn how to let our beauty of the color of our roses shine to the world. —Charles Bradley

 I do love almost every rose I' ve ever seen, and strolling around in a rose garden reminds me of times in my childhood when I was visiting my grandmother's home in Bakersfield, California. She had a rose garden that went on for what seemed like acres (but was probably less than one), and I would admire and smell them to my heart's content. To me, roses are a very special flower that speaks to me of almost-forgotten bouquets, of almost-forgotten boyfriends from my youth. 

Then I met and married a man who always gave me bouquets of tiger lilies, and now they have become my new version of a love flower. Nobody can tell me that roses are the only flower that speaks the language of love.


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Hertz Trail in the rain

So lush

Another wet day. In fact, we will have to navigate through about two more inches of rain before this latest deluge is over. The next three days are forecast to be wet, wet, and, well, wet. Melanie and I decided to take in the Hertz Trail today, which has lots of trees to lessen the amount of rain that would make its way to our rain gear. We were ready!

Green, green, green

I didn't get many good pictures today, because it wasn't much fun to stand around and take shots in the rain. We did have a brief respite in the middle of our six-mile hike, where the rain lessened to some stray droplets. Then it started again.

Serene lake shot

You can see from this picture of the lake that we didn't have much wind, just a bit of a breeze that stirred up the water, but no whitecaps. We saw only a few people on the trail with us; I guess most sensible people stayed inside, waiting for better weather. We've learned that we need to get out, no matter what the forecast says, because they have been known to be wrong. And just being outdoors in the beauty raised my spirits, even if they were a bit on the damp side.

Foxglove against a rock face

Melanie also spotted the first foxglove of the season! The color is only visible on the lower petals, but it will be pink and white when it is in full bloom. We saw such incredible lushness on the trail today, and I look forward to visiting once again when it's a little bit drier. Since the trail is well traveled and well maintained, it was in great shape with only a few minor puddles to navigate.

And now I can  enjoy the rest of the day inside, safe and warm, with more than 16,000 steps recorded on my Apple Watch for the day's exercise. Not too bad for a day's activity, eh? I do hope your day will be a good one and that you will find some way to stretch your boundaries, no matter which approach you decide in order to do so. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Magnificent sunshine

The buds are now open

Yes, we finally have some open blooms in the Cornwall Rose Garden. Not many, but all the bushes are beginning to show a little color in numerous buds. We have a full day of sunshine today, after having a rainstorm every other day, and today is no exception. Although it was sunny all day yesterday, today we will have sunshine until late this afternoon, and then the clouds will begin another onslaught of precipitation. This Thursday is beginning to look particularly bad, just in time for our usual hike. 

The good part is that our temperatures have been very mild, with the occasional day when we reach 70°F (today should be one of them) here in Bellingham. I am not complaining about the cool weather, it suits me. 

It is June, after all, and our normal "June Gloom" should be prevalent for most of the month. And I have learned that because of the cool weather and all the rain that became snow in the High Country, we might not actually be able to visit Artist Point this year. At least not before the fall season, unless we get a super heat wave (I am hoping we won't). Sigh. We will see how long it will be before we can get back to the mountains. 

However, it's simply gorgeous here right now, so I'll concentrate on that. Plus I watched a documentary yesterday marking 78 years since D-Day, when the brave soldiers from 13 different countries stormed five beaches in Normandy and turned the tide of the Second World War. They gave everything they had and realized that the only possible outcome must be victory.
There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. When you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a son-of-a-goddamned-bitch named Georgie Patton!’ — General George S. Patton

But so many did not come back. More than 100,000 Americans and countless others from the other countries stayed on those beaches. We owe them nothing more than, well, everything. I spent quite a bit of time wiping the tears from my eyes, as I recalled the awfulness of D-Day, and thinking about all the people in today's world who are still suffering and dying in wars of conquest. I sincerely hope that one day the human race will have learned to live in harmony, peace, and love with one another. I know it's possible.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Start of summer potluck and walk

Today's beautiful forest

Today there were lots and lots of Senior Trailblazers meeting at Lake Padden for our welcome-to-summer party and hike. There were two groups of us, 18 in our "faster" group, and 15 in the "relaxed" group. Plus maybe another ten people showed up for the potluck who didn't hike. It was rather huge, really, but we were in the outdoors for the whole time, and I didn't pull up my mask even once.

Some of our group on the trail

The weather was just about perfect. Melanie went on her own hike in the Chuckanuts, not being comfortable with such a large group, even outdoors. Everyone asked about her and whether she would be coming back sometime soon, as she is missed. I feel fortunate to have her with me most Thursdays.

Two big trillium and MaryLou's hand for size

We didn't see many flowers in the greenery, but we did see this incredibly large trillium duo, with two purple (meaning old) flowers still hanging on. Melanie saw lots of trillium and she sent me some snapshots, but the one that really stood out for me is the one she took of a vanilla-leaf group.

Mel's photo from this morning

As I mentioned in my last post, the vanilla leaf plant gets its name from the smell of its dried leaves, which also make a good tea. Check out this page for how to make it.
Native Americans used vanilla leaf as an insect repellent and to perfume their homes. Once in the dehydrator, the plant's common name rings true: the room fills with the slightly sweet and calming aroma of vanilla. As a tea, it has the same effect.

 We walked somewhere around six miles on the horse trails behind Lake Padden, with around a thousand feet up and down. Not too shabby, but mostly we spent our time talking and catching up; I haven't seen some of these people in more than a year!

Chao, one of our hikers

I was enchanted with this tree (or trees), and Chao (a new-to-me hiker) is on the trail just before we headed back to the main trail around the lake. We had a potluck to attend, after all. 

A true potluck with two tables

As usual, we had a real potluck with nobody responsible for bringing anything except a table setting and a dish to share. We had our usual plethora of salads: perhaps a dozen different ones to choose from or try to sample every one. Other than a plate of sliced salami, I didn't see any meat at all.

This was early: another dozen plates appeared

The desserts were incredible. Before they were all assembled, we must have had three different cakes, and myriad cookies and brownies to choose from. I sure enjoyed the rhubarb bars in the upper left corner. Not that I didn't keep myself from sampling other treats, too.

A large and happy group

We continued to enjoy our feast, but I wasn't really able to get a good picture of everyone. This was the best I could do, so I just took pictures of my seatmates.

Jonelle and Joy, two old friends

I hadn't seen either of these wonderful friends on the trail for quite a long time, so I figured a picture of them for posterity would be a good idea. Both of these ladies are well into their eighties, and still very active. Jonelle has been a friend for over a decade, and Joy about the same. Joy's husband Dave was not there, since he had a painful operation last week. These things come with the territory of hanging out with old people. Being one myself, I am always happy to visit with them and wish them many more years of robust good health.

MaryLou and Frank

Across the table, two other old friends whom I haven't seen in awhile. That's one of the fun things about these gatherings: getting to see and catch up with so many of them, and hopefully with a full summer of outings ahead.

Me and Al

And since I hadn't visited with Al, our fearless leader, for awhile, I am also adding a picture of the two of us after having filled our stomachs with lots of good food after a wonderful hike on the horse trails behind Lake Padden. It's almost summer around here, and we actually got to 72°F today, for the first time this season!