Thursday, August 31, 2023

Fragrance Lake and beyond

Group 2 today (me behind the camera)

Our Senior Trailblazer groups are beginning to smoosh together, as you can see from this picture of today's hiking group. Al (third from left) is the usual leader for Group 1, but today he was ours, and since the weather was not all that good for a trip to the mountains, he led us on a local hike that started at the Two Dollar trail and went all the way up to viewpoint looking out over the Sound. 

At the top of the Two Dollar trail

There are hikers who regularly go with the harder group mixed in with the more leisurely middle group. We were blessed with a very congenial mix today, and everyone had what seemed to be a good time.  I was very happy to be on this trail, which was a favorite of Melanie's and mine when it was just the two of us. 

Our dense beautiful landscape

The Pacific Northwest is such a beautiful place to live and enjoy. Many of the hikes that take us through such dense forests remind me once again how fortunate I am to be here, out and about, able to take in such scenery, and to be joined with so many like-minded folks.

Fragrance Lake

When we reached the lake, it was overcast but we had seen a few peeks of sunshine. And then the fog moved in, as you can  see here. It didn't last very long, but the feeling it gave me was one of serenity. Instead of heading back right away, Al suggested that we take the South Lost Lake trail up to the viewpoint before returning the way we had come. 

Looking out at Samish Bay

It was pretty foggy still, but you can see a few islands through the clouds. We had more and more sunshine, but it was still quite cool and perfect hiking weather. At this point, we decided to have lunch, since some of us were getting hungry. From here, we returned the way we had come, as planned, giving us a bit more than eight miles of hiking, with around 1,200 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Heading back down

Although it was a little more distance than I had anticipated, I only got a little grumpy before we stopped for lunch. I really should try to remember that having a little something to snack on as I walk will help my mood immeasurably. But for whatever reason, I forget each time, until it happens again. Maybe one day I'll learn.

In any event, we did have a wonderful day out in the wilderness, and the fun part is that we had no rain until we reached the cars, and then we got a few sprinkles as we piled back in for the trip back to the Senior Center. Another great day!


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Hike canceled this morning

Sunrise yesterday morning

 No, the air quality is not the reason our hike was canceled this morning, because the air quality around here improved quickly when a front moved in, hopefully bringing us some wanted rain. When I went outside, the air felt okay, but I could feel a little irritation, and as you can see from our orange sunrise, it wasn't wonderful.

So, I drove today to the coffee shop and then went off to the Senior Center to meet my fellow Happy Wanderers for a nice around-town excursion. But when I arrived, I learned that our leader had decided to cancel our hike because of possible lightning in the area. However, it didn't happen, but then again, neither did the rain. We received a disappointing .05 inch of rain last night. Barely enough to wet the streets, and certainly not enough to keep the wildfires that surround our area in check.

Fortunately for me, there were seven of us who didn't get the message that the hike had been canceled, so we went off together for a quick walk in the nearby neighborhoods. We did make it all the way to the Barkley area, where I knew there was a grocery store that would allow me to pop in for a quick bathroom break. A couple of my fellow hikers are familiar with the area, so I did get to see a home where the owner was busy revamping his front yard. 

Rocks with some painted ones interspersed

He was busy tearing out some green grass and replacing it with rocks like these, a few small plants, and his wife's painted rocks mixed in throughout. He said that if any of the rocks grabbed us and we wanted to take one, to feel free. We didn't, but I sure did enjoy looking at them. You have to take your time and enlarge the picture, if you want to get the full display. He said he is looking to make his entire garden into one that no longer requires so much water to be beautiful, and he definitely is making progress in that regard.

I was a little sad that we didn't have a wonderful hike like we had last Tuesday, but it was understandable that Barb didn't want to take any chances with the weather. We have another chance at a bit of rain this evening, so perhaps we'll get more, if not a real soaking like we'd prefer. It seems like everywhere these days there is either too much or too little precipitation.

I'm worried for my sister's home in Florida, where she lives a few miles inland and a little south of Tampa. This hurricane Idalia looks very scary, with it projected to make landfall tonight. Looking at the projections on TV, it looks like the storm surge will be substantial, although I do hope everyone is able to stay safe. 

I just saw a text from the person leading our usual Thursday hike, and he's suggested that we modify it because of unsettled weather for the next few days. So, I might be going on another hike if he decides not to drive all the way up to the Artist Point. As he says, there might be some local rain to play in, rather than driving seventy miles for the same chance. We'll see. Keep your fingers crossed for Florida to make it through this upcoming storm, as will I.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Fall is in the air

Falling leaves and overcast skies

 We are definitely seeing the first signs of fall around here, including nice cool weather (I think the high temperature yesterday was 68°F (20°C), but already today (Thursday) it's much warmer. And the picture I show here was taken two days ago; you can already see that the leaves are beginning to fall.

Today I decided once again to skip the long drive for the Thursday hike, since I had such a nice time on Tuesday and didn't feel the need to drive two hours each way for a four- or five-hour-long hike. Plus I woke this morning to another orange sun, although the air quality is in the good range, there is a lot of smoke in the air from distant fires in British Columbia and even a few here as well.

Yesterday I went to a Senior Center monthly meeting, my first time in what is called a "low vision" support group. It made me thankful for the sight I still have, and now I'm beginning to understand what I still have to deal with in the future. Most of the people in the group are suffering from macular degeneration, as I do, or with side effects from strokes. Most of these people use a cane and no longer drive. Next month we will have a speaker from WTA (Whatcom Transit Authority) to find out about special transit and, for those who don't already use it, the regular bus schedules that are offered seven days a week.

I've been using the bus system for years now, since once you reach 75, you receive a "gold card" that allows you to ride for free. Those over 65 but under 75 pay half fare, and those with disabilities have other arrangements as well. I'll learn more next month, but I am feeling very glad to have others to talk with about how they manage, and what's available for those with vision impairments of all kinds.

Right now I am able to function quite normally, and I even drive short distances in bright sunlight. I'm able to use a regular laptop and my iPad normally. I use my Kindle and readers to see larger print, but I need to take breaks often, as my eyes get tired very quickly. After a few minutes of rest, I can pick up a book and continue reading. Gone are the days when I could read for hours at a time and never even notice a problem. I do notice that computer screens are easiest for me to use, since the type is illuminated from behind the letters, and that makes all the difference. It was fascinating to see how others have adjusted to their diminishing sight. And it was encouraging to learn about what options are available to us as we age.

It also makes me very happy that the one ability that doesn't seem to have diminished is my ability to think, write, and contemplate. That doesn't mean I am as mentally sharp today as I was twenty or thirty years ago, but then again, I am doing everything I can to eat right, exercise, and use my brain in new ways. I've learned how to solve sudoku puzzles lately, and although I can't say it's fun exactly, I sure do like the feeling of accomplishment when I've completed one. And of course I love Wordle and play it every day. How about you? Are you enjoying stretching that aging brain? If so, what tricks do you have that you're willing to share?


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Alger Alp 2023

Squires Lake

 One thing I notice about the Happy Wanderers group is that there are a LOT of us on almost every single hike. Today was no exception: 18 of us set out to hike to Alger Alp and then make a short trip around Squires Lake. It is not a long hike, but the first part, on old logging roads to the overlook, tends to feel longer than it actually is. You gain about a thousand feet of elevation in a couple of miles.

Where to go first?

We stopped at the bridge to decide whether we wanted to go to the top of the peak first, and then make our way around the lake. That's what we ended up doing. I don't think I've ever been on this hike in the summer; it was a usual winter hike for Group 1. Frankly, it was quite lovely and enjoyable and not too taxing.

Up and up

You might notice the person on the left, Joe, who has been recovering from back surgery and wanted to see if he could do a Happy Wanderers hike before tackling a longer and harder one with Group 2. He did fine and was quite happy that he's making such good progress.

Our viewpoint from the top

We took the South Ridge trail along the ridge until we reached this spot, only to find that a fierce wind was blowing hard, keeping us from staying there for very long. Much of the view across the Skagit Valley was obscured by clouds, but you can see that we did get a chance to see a good distance anyway. I think Mt. Baker would have been visible if the clouds had parted.

On our way back

We decided after retracing our steps to this spot, to take a trip around the lake before heading back to the cars. That's my newest friend Cindy smiling in front. She almost looks too young to be a Senior Trailblazer, but I allowed that she is really eligible. She has a great sense of humor, too.

Admiring the lily pads on Squires Lake

And then we were back at the cars, everyone in a really good mood and discovering that we covered somewhere around 5.6 miles in total and gained and lost around 1,100 feet. Not a bad day for the group, and I made even more new friends today! I'm hoping for many more days outside enjoying my forest bathing.


Thursday, August 17, 2023

Thinking about the mountains

Looking at Mt Baker from the Boundary Way hike

 I didn't go with the Senior Trailblazers again today, but I did consider it, ruminating hard on whether to go even though it's still pretty hot outside (it's more than 81°F here in Bellingham right now), and partly because of the long drive. I decided not to investigate Cowap Peak and Boundary Way again. This picture (above) was taken in 2009, when I did the hike with the Trailblazers. That was fourteen years ago, and although it wasn't a hard hike, it took all day long to navigate the long access road (15 miles) to get there, make the hike, and return. I just don't have the same oomph or desire these days to spend all day long making the trip.

Don't get me wrong: I am still a little sorry I didn't go, because I enjoy the company of my newest hiking friends, and because I feel a bit like a wimp. We have been having way too hot weather for my liking, and this morning the final straw that made me decide not to go was when I looked at the temperature in Glacier (partway up the Mt. Baker Highway) where we used to stop for ice cream in the old days. The temperature at altitude was five degrees warmer than down here at sea level! Nope, I said to myself, the hot weather is still around and I am not ready to exercise these old bones in the heat. I'm sure they had a good time without me, darn it.

Ward and Linda in 2009

This lovely picture of two of my favorite people was taken in front of the peaks that separate Canada from the United States and are called Boundary Peaks because of it. Plus it was really nice to reminisce once again about these two hikers who also don't venture out on these long treks any more. 

Instead, I went to the coffee shop as usual and decided to take the Zumba class at the Senior Center before heading back home to spend some time with my guy before making a quick trip to the grocery store. I was again surprised to see that a few of my usual items have increased in price. When will that ever end? In any event, I made it back home and have enjoyed catching up on reading the latest posts from my virtual family. Now it's early afternoon and I'm wondering if the hikers have returned yet. One very large portion of my mind was with them all day, anyway. Hope they had a good time.

Whatcom Falls, day before yesterday

I did want to show you the full picture of the usually roaring falls taken on our hike last Tuesday; I did post another picture, but I realized from a couple of comments that, even though they are sparse, they are still very lovely. And also to remind myself that I did get a little "forest bathing" this week, didn't I?


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Wandering to Whatcom Falls

In Whatcom Falls Park

Today was expected to be hot, but eleven Happy Wanderers met at the Senior Center to take a walk from there to Whatcom Falls Park and back. And when we were in the shade, it was pretty darn perfect, but as the morning wore on and we were in full sun, it felt more than a little hot. Yesterday here in Bellingham we reach 86°F (30°C) under an excessive heat warning. Yes, I know this is nothing compared to what much of the country is experiencing, but it sure felt hot to me. Last night our bedroom temperature only fell to 72, which is almost too hot for me to sleep. I did manage some, but this is hard on us PNW fragile flowers.

Ina and totem pole

We had a delightful walk in the park (so to speak), and made it all the way to the restrooms before turning around and going back pretty much the way we had come. Since our leader, Terry, was a little unsure of the best way to return, she kept checking her phone for directions.

"I think we want to turn here"

Fortunately, one of the Trailblazers lives in the neighborhood, and she helped us find a reasonable way for us to return back to downtown and the Senior Center. You can see how lovely a day it was.

Low water

We crossed a familiar bridge, but I hardly recognized the stream below us, since the water level is so low it seemed strange to experience such dryness. Even the falls are just a trickle right now.

What's left of Whatcom Falls

Although the falls are just a shadow of what they will be once the rains return, they are still very beautiful. I loved standing on the bridge and enjoying the moment with my new hiking friends. We dawdled a lot when we were in a place like this, and then finally we found a place to stop and have a bit to eat. We ended up going either as short as 6.5 miles, or as long as 7.8 miles, depending on whose device you believed. It felt around seven miles to me. Once we returned to the Senior Center and made our way home, I decided to stop by the community co-op and have a buffet lunch and a delicious coconut water drink to replenish my electrolytes. 

All in all, it was a lovely day, and we were all happy to be out and about in our lovely neighborhood with our friends. We once again lived up to our name, the Happy Wanderers.


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Switcheroo happening, it seems

More Cornwall Rose Garden roses

It looks like my usual Thursday hikes are becoming more likely to be on Tuesdays, with the Happy Wanderers, which is the switch I'm referring to in the title. I had a great time with them this past week, and today both Thursday groups were going on hikes much harder than I wanted to attempt. Both were scheduled to go to Goat Mountain, or possibly Group 1 to Welcome Pass with its 67 switchbacks. Nope, I am happy to enjoy a leisurely day with my usual three-mile walk and a visit with my beautiful neighborhood. 

Local bouquets

Often when I pass by this place on my early morning walk, there are plenty of bouquets to choose from; I wonder if they will all be sold by day's end. From this picture, you can see it was overcast to start off the day, but by noon the sun came out, and by the time I finished with my acupuncture appointment at 3:00pm, it was getting HOT out there. I came home with my qi all in balance from the treatment, and as usual, feeling like a million bucks. I had another good night's sleep last night, including almost a full hour of deep sleep. 

Stargazer lilies (I think)

I saw a woman out watering her extensive front garden, and we chatted about the weather a bit. She said she has a tendency to overwater her plants but with the sparse precipitation we've experienced lately, nothing looks anything but perfect to my eyes. As I walk by, I have always admired her plants as we pass through the seasons, now on our way to autumn, but for the moment we are in full flower.

Himalayan blackberries

If you look closely at this picture, you can see that the invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes are getting ripe. They grow everywhere around here and just keep coming back when you try to remove them. Here's an excerpt to explain:
Himalayan blackberry is an aggressive invasive species. Once established, it can spread rapidly into undisturbed sunny areas, displacing native herbaceous plants and shrubs. Plants spread by seed or by older canes arching over to root several feet from the original plant.

So for some people they are a real headache, but they sure do taste good! This particular spot is one I watch on the trail back to my home, and when they begin to ripen like this, I often stop to sneak a few. I have a friend who picks lots of them every year and makes blackberry jam that lasts all winter long.

More Rose Garden beauty

So here I am, at the end of another Thursday writing a post about my simply wonderful hike-less day, but with lots of happiness, beauty, and abundance galore.

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. —Albert Einstein

Thank you, Albert! I think it's time for me to have a little wine to finish up the day's journey. I wish you all the best!


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Oyster Dome and Lily Lake

Checking out our scheduled hike

 Today I went with the Happy Wanderers Senior Trailblazers group again, this time in a huge crowd of 18 of us! We carpooled up to Samish Overlook, which (as you can see from the picture) was devoid of any views due to overcast skies. It was cool, breezy, and quite comfortable for hiking.

On the trail

Our leader Barb took us from the Overlook onto the Pacific Northwest Trail, which leads upwards to the junction of Oyster Dome (one direction) or Lily Lake (the other). It was very pretty, and since the last time I was here with Melanie, I notice that the trail looks to be in much better condition. The entire hike was about 800 feet of elevation, all of it during this part of the day's exertions. Everyone stayed together, and we did have to stop and wait a few times for the slower hikers to catch up,

My favorite fern, the maidenhair

As we hiked, we all noticed how dry it is right now. The streams that we needed to cross are all dried up. The only moisture was in the mist that surrounded us, and once we got to Oyster Dome, it was thick enough to feel like actual rain.

Pausing for a quick snack at Oyster Dome

For some, it was the first time they had ever made it to Oyster Dome, so it was a bit disappointing that they couldn't actually see the majesty of the view. Next time, perhaps they will have better luck. We decided to head back down to the junction and make our way to Lily Lake.

Lily Lake

You might be able to see a little bit of the clouds began to break up, just about the time we reached the lake. In the next few moments after I took this shot, we actually had some direction sunshine! We stopped and ate our lunch and basked in the warmth of the rays.

Chatting while we enjoyed lunch

Everyone was in a very good mood, and our efforts to make it to this spot were well worth it. This new group of hikers lives up to its name: definitely happy. This is the largest group I've ever shared the spot with, and I was feeling so grateful for the day, the exercise, and the company.

Ghost Pipe

Someone spied a patch of ghost pipe, which is an interesting plant, that I thought was a fungus, until I found this:

Ghost Pipe is in a group of plants known as a mycoheterotrophs, mycoheterotrophic plants are partially or entirely non-photosynthesizing  plants, that have a relationship with the mycorrhizal fungus and the mycorrhiza fungus have a symbiotic relationship with the trees where its roots attach.

 If you want to know more about this mysterious plant, you can read about it on this website, Every Leaf Speaks. It is considered sacred and has many healing properties. It was great to see it and leave it just as we found it.

Then we returned to Samish Overlook via Max's Shortcut and the Larry Reed trails, which led us through lots of forest as we enjoyed both sunshine and shadow on our way back.

Ina looking a lots of pink flowers

No, that is not me, but my new friend Ina. She is looking at both pretty pink fireweed and some pearly everlasting white flowers (behind her). We were beginning the final push back to the overlook, and I couldn't resist this picture of her as we crossed the road.

Samish Overlook again, this time with a view

And then we were back where we started this six-mile, 1,000-foot hike, feeling pretty good and looking forward to heading home and a nice shower (or, as in my case, a bath) after a good day's exercise. We all made it back safely, and most of us were pleasantly tired but not overly so, and ready to leave the view and our wonderful company after another great day in our beautiful PNW forest.


Thursday, August 3, 2023

Another day without a hike

Cornwall Rose Garden #1

I didn't go out with the Senior Trailblazers again today. I just couldn't get myself excited about a two-hour drive to hike somewhere I've suffered through in the heat during past years. It was a trip to Watson Lakes, which I last did in 2018. You can see what the trip was like then at the link here. Once I read it and reminded myself that it's very hot and sunny today, I decided to skip it. Again. That's two Thursdays in a row, and I guess without Melanie to take me on some of our old favorites, I'm in danger of turning into a regular old person, not going out on a hike every week.

Cornwall Rose Garden #2

Instead, I just made my usual walk from the Rose Garden and took pictures of the pretty flowers. Instead of my usual step count on Thursday, I'm lucky I have garnered 9,500 for the day (about 3-5,000 less than usual for a Thursday). And here it is, late in the afternoon, and I'm already feeling tired enough to think about how nice it will feel to get horizontal.

Yesterday, I went to see Oppenheimer with my friend John. It was a disappointment, not because the movie wasn't really pretty good, but the sound was so loud that the words were all distorted and it was already a very difficult story to follow. I complained about the volume, but the theater only gave me some headphones to wear, which helped somewhat, but not enough. My hearing aides were turned all the way down, but still. And for three hours, John and I suffered through the ordeal, not happy at all about seeing the movie. I had seen Barbie in the same theater last week, and it was fine, so it was something that could have been remedied. I don't think I'll be going back to that theater any more.

That said, the second half of the movie was better, since I did begin to follow the story, and afterwards I looked up the accuracy to find out if all the events were true ones, and sure enough, it was quite true. I didn't realize that Oppenheimer had been pilloried so badly after having invented the atomic bomb and having regrets about the incredible loss of life in Japan. It was a very sad story, and here we are still living with the threat of nuclear war every day. It was well done but not uplifting at all.

Cornwall Rose Garden #3

So, on that note, I will need to find something that will raise my spirits, which looking at these pictures of pretty roses does somewhat. And I think I need to find a good quote. How about some good old brainyquotes?
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. —Helen Keller
Or this:
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. —Joseph Campbell

I especially need to listen to Joseph, and remember that when I'm needing a lift. And yes, I'm feeling better! I hope you are finding your own path to navigate the shoals of life, and finding a way to enjoy the inevitable ups and downs.


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Volunteering for Senior fun

Piles of potato salad cups

Today I did some volunteer work at the Senior Center, after having been talked into it by one of my new hiking buddies, Barb. She got several of us to sign up to help package 1,000 lunches to give away tomorrow at the annual Senior Day in the Park, held in Hovander Park in northern Bellingham. We managed to make sack lunches with potato salad (I was the Chief Lid Securer), fruit cups, a fresh baked cookie, and all the fixings for a barbeque sandwich, which I guess will be provided there. There were lots of us working, so it was actually quite fun. After I helped with this part, I then added condiments to the bags before they were boxed up and put into the huge walk-in fridge to keep them safe and fresh for tomorrow. It was enough fun that I think I'm going to have to volunteer more often at the Senior Center.

I won't be going myself, since I couldn't get a ride and the bus was full. Instead, I'll go to the movies with my friend John to see Oppenheimer. I have already seen Barbie, which I enjoyed very much. This is the most indoor cinema I've been to since the pandemic. I'll wear my mask, just in case. Now that I've had a chance to recover from two hours of standing (and working hard to keep up) in an assembly line like that, I'm feeling pretty darn good.