Thursday, July 28, 2022

Hertz trail in the heat

Lake Whatcom this morning

Melanie and I again went our own way on this very sunny and very warm Thursday. I noticed that both Senior Trailblazer groups modified their schedules to hike somewhere close to large bodies of water, as did we. With the entire Pacific Northwest trapped under really warm temperatures, it seemed like a good idea, with the heat predicted to rise into the mid-eighties to low nineties (22–32°C), we headed to the trail on the southeast shore of Lake Whatcom, also known as the Hertz trail. It follows the route of a now-defunct railroad, the Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railway. It's flat and very pretty year round. 

The first of two covered bridges along the trail

When we started out, the weather was simply delightful: shady and a light breeze kept us very comfortable for the first part of the hike. We shared the trail with bikes, other walkers, many leashed dogs, and a few runners. Obviously if anyone planned a run anywhere near us, it should be early in the day. Everyone seemed to want to get an early start, too.

Planned expansion of the trail system

Just before we came to the bridge, we saw this sign telling us of the expansion of the trail system: there will be a trail that connects the Hertz trail to the other existing trail in the area, the Chanterelle trail. You can see the red line at the bottom of the notice that explains where it will be constructed. It looks like it will be quite steep going both directions, which means I might not be doing it myself, with my old knees complaining just to look at the description.

Pretty tiny yellow flowers

The trail is beginning to show the lack of any recent rain, but I hoped these little yellow flowers would show up better than they did. I didn't manage to take very many pictures today, so this is all you get. We saw some almost-finished foxglove flowers, but there's not much left to bloom in late July.

More Lake Whatcom

Although this picture doesn't look much different from the first one, by this time it was beginning to really heat up. Much of our shade was gone, as the sun rose up over the ridge and began to make us feel ready to get out of the sun. We only walked around five nice flat miles, but I was so glad to finally get inside Mel's lovely air-conditioned car and call it a day. Well, at least a morning. We finished by noon, and for a very warm day, I think we did very well indeed.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Flowers and weeds


I always hesitate to call any flower an actual weed, but this one is special that way: its name has "weed" right in there. These invasive morning-glory-like flowers are pretty, but when you read about this plant, you have to consider that it's more destructive than pretty. Bindweed (Convolvulus sepium) is more than just a nuisance. From that link:
Bindweed is considered to be one of the most noxious weeds in the world because of its yield-robbing practices in crops such as wheat, potatoes and legumes (beans and peas). Spreading by seed and through a deep, extensive horizontal root system, bindweed seed can persist for many years in typical garden soil.

We had a fellow resident who lived in the apartment complex for many years, and she would go out to the hedge and pull the bindweed. Apparently it takes many years of persistently doing this before it leaves for good. Our resident left before it was gone, and when I see them returning to the hedge, I think of her.

Beautiful lily (Stargazer?)

There is nothing weedy about this gorgeous flower. During the pandemic, I started a long walk on a regular basis to take the place of working out at the gym, and this is the second year I've watched this lily come into bloom. I think it's a version of the stargazer lily, since it points upward and has the most amazing fragrance, that even someone who is smell compromised (like me) can catch its strong fragrance. I've been watching it from the time it first emerged from the ground, until today when I see it's finally begun to bloom. 

Right now the trails are inundated with plenty of flowers and weeds, and they continue to give me smiles and fill me with gratitude for living here, where most times the weather doesn't keep me away. Of course, I'm used to walking in rain, but we are in the dry season now, and my eyes keep filling up with beauty! I love living here.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Fragrance Lake without the Two Dollar trail

Fragrance Lake trail

Today Melanie and I went on one of our favorite hikes, up the Fragrance trail to Fragrance Lake, around the lake, and back down the access road, making a nice five-mile loop. Instead of taking the trail halfway around the lake that would take us down the Two Dollar trail, we skipped it, since I wasn't feeling all that ambitious and was happy to keep the hike a little shorter. We did climb about 1,200 feet up and down, so it wasn't all that easy. Maybe for Mel, but I was happy I didn't have any moments where I felt like I had to stop and catch my breath.

Lovely view of Samish Bay from the Overlook

As we usually do, we took the path that leads off the main trail to this viewpoint, where we can see Samish Bay, Lummi Island, and when it's perfectly clear, we can also see the Olympics, which are behind those low clouds. The weather could not have been better, though: cool and really delightful in the shade, which we had plenty of on the trail.

Interesting tree roots

I was mesmerized by this strange looking tree root, covered with moss and snaking around like a little like a, well, snake. Probably at some point there was something under it that section to make it gain such a shape, but in any event, I thought it would make for a good picture, and it does.

The lake with lily pads

Then we were at the lake, and as we made our way around it, we were both surprised by the large numbers of people we saw: some swimmers even, several dogs, and plenty of hikers who were enjoying the wonderful day, as we were. If you look carefully, you can see some of them in the light directly across the lake from us.

The trail going around the lake

In this picture, the lake is on the left, just barely visible through the trees, and we were almost around the lake and back to the main trail, which leads up to the logging road where we walked back to the parking lot, giving us a nice loop hike. It was a pretty perfect day, with no surprises, pratfalls, or problems of any sort. Now I'm home, it's early in the afternoon, so I'm going out to water and prune my flowers and let them enjoy some TLC.


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Grateful to have a home

More beautiful roses

I love where I live. We have been here in Bellingham since we moved here in 2008, and the years have flown by, with the speed definitely picking up lately. Is it because I'm older, or is it because of some other unknown factor? It seems I barely make it through the weekend and it's already the middle of the week. Did someone change the rules? Are there still seven days in each week?

I have to remember to pay more attention to each day, each moment of my life, so that I don't get blindsided by events seeming to occur more and more often. My birthday is right around the corner now, and I've barely had enough time to get used to having had the last one. 

But it could be worse: I might end up being one of those people I see every day on the streets: you know the ones without a home, without any place to go when they awake from a restless sleep on the sidewalk. I'll bet time doesn't fly by for them, as they must endure the heat or cold without any ability to escape their misery. And there are more of them all the time. Will I one day be one of them?

Probably not. I have a monthly income from Social Security and annuities from my working days. But if rent continues to increase at the rate it did last year, I could also end up on the street. It's not inconceivable. Perhaps most of those I see every day didn't think it would happen to them. Our social safety net has developed huge holes in it, and as the population has increased, places for the marginalized among us are disappearing at an alarming rate. I'm not only scared for them, but for what it means in the larger sense for the world. 

Although I try to stay positive, there is little I can do in the short term, other than to give some small amount to the food bank or the local homeless shelter. And try not to look away. This problem belongs to everyone. What do you think we can do to help?


Thursday, July 14, 2022

Maple Grove at Baker Lake

Signpost at our hike's start

Melanie and I decided to take a long drive to the start of one of our favorite hikes: Maple Grove, which begins at Baker Lake South. It's a long drive to the south of Bellingham, through Sedro-Woolley and then a drive down Baker Lake Road until we get to the road that allows us to drive across the dam. From there, it's a short distance to the trailhead.

The day was sunny and cool

Along this trail, we can hike to Anderson Point, about two miles from the start, where many overnight campers were headed. There are numerous beautiful places to camp there, but if a person wants to go even farther, the next spot, another two miles along the trail, is Maple Grove. That is where we went today.

Green and gorgeous

There were so many beautiful streams to cross, including this one, and I've never before seen so many maidenhair ferns (my favorites). I guess because of our wet spring, they have come out everywhere there was water.

Our first view of Mt Baker from the trail

Baker Lake is such a wonderful place to visit, and the view of the mountain from the trail is one of the best. You can see the lake through the trees, but I wanted to capture that lovely mountain from this vantage point. We were on our way to the lake, anyway.

Deer ferns and foam flowers

I took several pictures trying to capture the magnificent greenery along the way, and although this picture doesn't really show you how beautiful it is, it's the best one I got today. We kept going until we got to Maple Grove and the lake.

Lake, mountain, and relaxing teen

There are times when the lake is so smooth that you can see the mountain's reflection perfectly. Not today, but what that meant is that there was a light breeze that helped to keep us comfortable all day. We had lunch here, and there were plenty of campers everywhere, along with day hikers like us. It was definitely a great day to be there.

Mel and the magic cedar tree

I've taken pictures in front of this tree before, but this one, of Melanie, is so good that I had to share it with you. She's wearing her new hat on its maiden journey into the forest, not to be the last one either, I'm sure. We were close to the end of our trip by the time I took this picture. 

Once we made it back to the car, we drove home while we each enjoyed an ice-cold ginger beer that Mel pulled out of a cooler. It was altogether a pretty perfect day, and we traveled a little more than eight miles out and back, and up and down over 1,500 feet of elevation. What a day! I'll definitely sleep well tonight.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Hanging in there

Looking up

One thing about not having steps up to our apartment front door (that's it behind the watering can) and having to walk in an alley to the steps up to our back door is that I can see my front porch flowers from a new vantage point: looking up at them. In some ways they look prettier, since the sunshine means they are growing extremely well in ways I can't see from the front. The white petunias were a surprise, since I cannot see them in all their abundance from the front. The geraniums are sure doing well, looking good from both sides.

We had what, for me, was a very hot day yesterday. It got up to 84°F and was very warm inside our apartment. But fortunately for us, the temperatures today have fallen by at least ten degrees. It is, of course, summertime and most people expect warm weather. But since I'm not a fan of too much heat, I am thrilled by the current early afternoon temperature of 69°F. And I don't see any heat domes in our immediate future.

It's bird fledging time, and I've been watching some immature crows learning how to fly. You can always tell the babies, even though they're the same size as their parent, since they flap their wings helplessly and beg for food, even when they can manage it themselves. They are a little bit smaller with shinier wings, and they don't always make very graceful takeoffs and landings quite yet. I smiled at one youngster who I think had not been out of the nest for long, waddling to the edge of a roof and peering over the edge. I could almost hear him saying, "it's a long way down there!" Instead of taking off, he backed away and ran to Mummy for some courage. Since I was walking to the bus, I never saw whether he made the leap.

I envy them for their ability to fly. Learning how to navigate a canopy when I was a skydiver was not something that came naturally to me. Eventually I got the hang of it, but it was never the reason I jumped out of airplanes. I loved the freefall and deploying my canopy and landing it properly was a necessary part of the experience, if I wanted to do it again, at least. However, watching birds flying effortlessly brings back memories of my time under canopy. It's really fun to fly.


Thursday, July 7, 2022

Foxgloves and more

Foxgloves from the viewpoint

Melanie and I discussed where we wanted to go this Thursday. We are both curious as to how the Senior Trailblazer hike went, up in the High Country, but we decided to stay around town once again and enjoy the partly cloudy but dry weather. (There's still plenty of snow up there but not in town.) Always a favorite, we chose the Chanterelle trail, just a short half-hour drive from home. We knew we could make this a short (five mile) or long (ten mile) hike, depending on how we felt when we got there. We went just under six miles, with 1,400 feet of elevation gain and loss, making it a pretty nice but not too taxing day.

Sun-dappled trail

As you can see here, it's a lovely and well-maintained trail. There are several places on this trail where a service road gives workers truck access, and we saw a young man chopping back plenty of foliage along the trail to keep things from getting out of hand. Foxgloves are everywhere, and they certainly made it look like a party.

White foxglove

They come in white, like this one, and pink that varies from pale to vibrant magenta. They are in their early stages and everywhere we looked we saw them gracing the side of the trail.

Hairy berry

We also saw that the salmonberries are ripening. Why this one has a black crown of fuzzy hair isn't clear, but it sure makes for an amusing picture, don't you think?

Today's view from the overlook

I always need to show you the lovely view we have from the viewpoint, which we reached after 2.5 miles. There were plenty of clouds and a light breeze to make the climb very pleasant. I suggested that we start up the second part of the trip and figured we'd turn around after a half-mile or so.

Intriguing trail

Here's the beginning of the second half of the trail, made quite enticing with all that foxglove along the side. We did make it almost a half-mile before I asked if we could turn around and head back down. My knees felt pretty good, but we would have had to climb another 500 feet or so if we wanted to make it to the terminus. I didn't feel the need, and Mel was, as always, very accommodating.

Nature's garden

There were so many pretty flowers everywhere, but this lovely little natural garden caught my eye as we headed back down the way we had come. It was a wonderful day, with just enough challenge to make me feel like I'd actually done something good for myself, but not enough to make anything hurt. And considering the fine company, I couldn't be happier to have had such a lovely day. I think I might have earned a small glass of wine. A day well spent.


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Holiday weekend done

Fourth of July roses

Walking home after John dropped me off at the Cornwall Park Rose Garden, I saw some beautiful and rather timely roses. These do look a little like rosy fireworks, don't you think? I'm really glad this holiday is over; I am not a fan of all the noisy fireworks, some of which sounded like they were in my backyard! 

I feel so bad for the wild, as well as domestic, animals, which have no idea of what is going on, or why. It reminded me, as I lay in bed trying to ignore the booms and other loud sounds, that it must be terrible to be living in a war zone where this is happening day and night, and that the sounds are being caused not by fireworks, but by missiles. 

Last Saturday I was rear-ended in my Honda Civic. I was getting ready to merge with traffic onto a busy street when boom! I am hit from behind. It was hard enough to cause an instantaneous reaction in my bowels, and suddenly I needed to get to Melanie's house, fast! It wasn't far, so instead of stopping, I drove quickly to her house, just a few minutes away. After making quick use of her bathroom, I told her what had happened, and she said to call the police right away, since I left the scene of an accident. Fortunately, the driver had already called to report the incident. He and I have had a few conversations since. All of my tail lights and signals are operative, so on Thursday I am getting it fixed. I'm not sure whether or not the young man has insurance. If he does, he will pay it; otherwise I will. I have a fairly hefty deductible before insurance pays anything, and I think this damage won't fall into that category. What do you think? The only damage is to the bumper.

You should see his car

In any event, I am feeling pretty good right now, since I just left my massage practitioner's office and am laid-back and relaxed and enjoying our sunny weather, which has climbed all the way into the low seventies (71°F) by mid-afternoon. I have heard it said before that here in the PNW, summer starts on July 5th. This year, it looks like they might be right!