Thursday, September 28, 2023

Rainy Blanchard Mountain hike

Today's "Relaxed" hikers

I joined our hike leader Linda, who decided to skip the scheduled hike to Hannegan Pass because of the rain. It was pretty much a small but dedicated group, six of us to be exact, and we ventured out onto Blanchard Mountain for who knew how long a hike we might actually take, considering the weather.

Our first junction

We hiked up the trail from the Upper Trailhead on Blanchard Mountain, until we got to this first junction. We decided to hike towards Lily Lake, but changed the route a little by first going up to Lizard Lake, then cutting over to North Butte, and finally making our way to Lily Lake.

Lizard Lake in the fog and rain

The weather forecast was just about right on: rain until around 11:00am, then cloudy until 1:00, and partly cloudy conditions after that. After checking out Lizard Lake, we climbed a little bit to get to the junction that would take us to North Butte. We knew there would be little to no view, but I really wanted to see that bench again.

The bench overlooking the bay

When I saw this earlier in the summer, I wondered how the heck this metal bench was brought here. We speculated that perhaps it was dropped in by helicopter (although not likely), but today I learned that one of our hikers, Owen, and five other people carried it up here and bolted it to the rock. In good weather, you are looking at a great view. Not so much today.

Owen at another junction

Since we had already been to Lizard Lake, and then North Butte, finally we hiked to Lily Lake. We were getting close to lunchtime, so we would stop there for a short lunch break.

Lily Lake for lunch

It was still raining, but not as impressively as it had been earlier. It wasn't cold, but nobody was completely dry, so we didn't stay all that long. Just enough to be replenished and get ready for the return trip.

Lily Lake

We did see some new-looking beaver activity, so I guess there are still some around the lake. And as you can see in this final picture, it was still raining lightly. But things were looking up. We went back down via Max's Shortcut, and we did notice that the rain finally stopped, as predicted. Occasionally we even saw a shadow, but not really much of one.

By the time we reached the trailhead, we had covered close to eight miles and somewhere around 1,600 feet up and down. By that time, we were beginning to see a few patches of blue sky overhead. And by 2:00, when we were on the highway, it was turning sunny! What a day we had! I am so incredibly happy that I went, in spite of the rain, and that I was in such good company. Another fine Trailblazer hike.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A major change in the weather

Golden leaves

This is a favorite tree that I like to watch as it moves through the seasons. It's one of the first to sprout leaves in the spring, and one of the first to change to gold in the fall. And we have received so much rain in the past few days that it's gotten a little soggy on the trail. I didn't go with the Senior Trailblazers this morning; instead I just went on my usual 3-mile walk through Cornwall Park. This tree is in the neighborhood. The picture was taken last week before the rain started, and I noticed today that many of those pretty leaves are now on the ground, creating a carpet of gold.

On Sunday I went on a really nice walk to Fragrance Lake with one of my new hiking friends, Barb. We went up to a place that I visited often with Melanie, and it made me feeling wistful, remembering.

Magnificent straight trees

On the road back down from the lake, I always love to see these beautiful straight trees, and once again I captured them to remember the day. It looks like our High Country hikes are over for the season, but you just never know for sure. I'm happy with the many places available around here without having to drive very far. This stand of trees is on a trail less than a half-hour's drive from my home.

One of my sisters just had a birthday (they do come around more quickly as I get older, it seems). My sister Markee is now 62! That's the age our father was when he died, which seems not so long ago, but it's been 44 years. And Markee is now a grandmother; just recently this gorgeous creature, Evelyn, came into the world. I would be over the moon if I had been so lucky to live closer, but in any event, meet our latest family member:

Born June 25, 2023

Isn't she just adorable? She was more than eight pounds when she was born, and perfect in every way possible. I don't know when I'll get a chance to meet her in person, but I'm happy to welcome her today, squeezing those little cheeks in absentia and hugging her from afar.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Yellow Aster Butte 2023

Linda and Helen on the trail

This turned out to be one of my favorite hikes of the entire season, and it was all rather impromptu. Helen was originally scheduled today to take us on a hike to Park Butte, but the Forest Service has already removed the temporary bridges, so we decided instead to move up next week's hike to Yellow Aster Butte. Not to mention, the weather today was supposed to be clear and cool, both of which actually happened.

Beautiful Mt, Baker

The trail starts on a mountain road that continues on to Twin Lakes, but after five miles of bumpy road, we reached the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead. We saw an incredible number of cars that had arrived before us, in the vicinity of perhaps fifty, and this is on a weekday! Apparently a lot of people realized that the weather is going to change soon and took advantage of today's perfection to hike on a favorite trail before it is gone for the season.

A gaggle of hikers on our way up

It could not have been more perfect: the skies were clear, the full sun was not too hot with a delightful breeze blowing, and everybody was in just the best mood as we headed up a rather challenging 2,000+ feet of elevation. This group tends to follow the rules and we stayed together, until three of our hikers decided to stop part-way up and rest there, while the remainder of us went off to our lunch spot, about a mile farther up the trail.

No wildflowers left, just spent fireweed

At our lunch spot, I gazed up at the rest of the hike, which I've done on earlier attempts, up to the top where there is a wonderful 360-degree view, but we didn't do that today. This is the "Relaxed Hike" group, after all.

John peeling an orange in front of the top

Although I've climbed to the top in previous years, another steep scramble of around 500 feet, I had little to no desire to go the distance from here. I was happy to stop in the beautiful sunshine and enjoy the view, as well as my lunch, with my friends who were also enjoying the day.

Mt. Baker, Helen, Tammy

I love this shot, which shows us just before we started back down, with another picture of Mt Baker with two of my dear (if newly minted) friends in front. We had finished our lunch and it was time to head home.

Mt Shuksan of the left, Baker on the right

I did want, if possible, to capture both of our beautiful mountains in one shot, which I managed as we started back down. Everybody made it back down without a mishap, except for me: I slipped on a rock and hit my knee, hard enough to cause a pretty good sized hematoma, but it didn't stop me from continuing back down to the cars. Since I was in a car with two retired nurses, I was given the treatment, a good wrap with an Ace bandage and admonishments about what to do when  arrived home (RICE, of course, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

And now I am home, still sipping on my glass of wine as I write this post, with a nice hot shower awaiting me after I'm done here. It was, without a doubt, one of the best times I've had on this hike, and I once again thank all my wonderful fellow hikers for a really GREAT DAY.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Definitely feels like fall

Pumpkins and mums

Every year around this time, I am once again reminded that as the seasons pass from summer to fall, the flowers that bloom now are much different from the beauties we see in summertime. But still very, very lovely, if I let go of my preconceived notions of Gorgeous. Comes with the territory. 

When I lived in a tropical climate, we didn't even have seasons, much less such glorious bounty as you see above. In Puerto Rico, I remember thinking how cold it would have been with the temperature we have today, here in the Pacific Northwest. It would have seemed uncomfortably chilly. At 61°F (16°C) I am these days right in my element. Sitting in my easy chair inside, I could not be happier with this environment. Perfect for walking, as well as bundling up with a sweater as I sit here writing this post.

I decided once again to skip the Happy Wanderers hike today. They took a ferry to Lopez Island to enjoy a couple of hikes there, as well as arrange a fabulous potluck feast for everybody. They will catch the 6:30pm ferry back to Bellingham. By that time, I'll be winding up my perfect day and enjoying a glass of red wine. I  will definitely look forward to seeing and hearing all about it, but from my easy chair.

Thursday's hike into the mountains sounds really fun, and the weather looks perfect, so I might decide to go with them. But I'm making no promises to myself. Octogenarians don't need to play by the same rules as everybody else! I'm rather liking this ability to mull over the possibilities and choose whatever feels right in the moment.

More fall flowers

I did make an appointment to get my hair cut, and these pretty flowers smiled at me on the pathway to her studio. It was nice to have just one thing to accomplish today, and now I am sitting here thinking it might be appropriate to find just the right quote for the day.
To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization. —Arnold J. Toynbee
Toynbee was a British historian, and in his Study of History he describes the rise and decline of 23 civilisations. His overarching analysis was the place of moral and religious challenge, and response to such challenge, as the reason for the robustness or decline of a civilization. I wonder what he would think about the state of the world today. 


Thursday, September 14, 2023

Another laidback Thursday

Mt. Baker from High Divide

This is the view I suspect that the Senior Trailblazers saw of Mt. Baker today, when they went off to climb Excelsior Peak from the Damfino Lakes trailhead. I last went up on this hike back in August 2021, and I found a couple shots that show how beautiful it was then, and probably is today as well.

I truly didn't know whether I would join them on this beautiful day or not. I got up and arranged all my gear, and then went back and forth about whether to go. By the time I walked out the front door, without my car keys in my hand, I realized I was going to catch the bus to town instead and not join the hikers after all. It was a nice time at the coffee shop with John, and I solved the Wordle puzzle and decided that I could attend the Zumba class at the Senior Center before walking home from the Cornwall Rose Garden. 

Yesterday when I began my walk, a lady approached and told me that she has noticed me starting out from this place often at the same time, and we chatted a bit about getting exercise (which is what she was doing as well) as two women "of a certain age." Although the walk is much easier than what I would have done in the mountains, I did really enjoy being out there today. In the Zumba class I worked up a good sweat, and have managed to close all my exercise rings with little trouble today.

From 2021

Melanie took this picture of me on the trail, with my head covering, which is just a regular baseball cap with a snap-on piece for sun protection. Today is just as sunny as it was back then, too, and I would have had to wear something like this to keep the sun off my neck, just like I did here. It has a French Foreign Legion look to it, don't you think?

The hike is around seven miles round trip, with almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Now that it's late in the afternoon, I'm wondering how many people went and whether they had a good time. Probably. My walk today was a mere three miles and negligible elevation, but it was quite pleasant anyway. 

It's nice to have so many different choices, and I think I did make the right one for me on this beautiful day. I'm not tired at all and feeling quite happy at the moment. Hope you have had a good day, too.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Happy Wanderers today

 A surprisingly large number of Senior Trailblazers showed up for our Tuesday hike: 22 to be exact, which a few old timers thought might be a record. We piled into quite a few cars to get us all to the trailhead, so we could hike the five miles of trails in the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. When I used to do this hike with Melanie, we'd often take two trips around the shorter loop, to make it a little longer. 

One of our many stops

We didn't do that today, though, so it was over before noon, but we all had a really good time. We were all ready for rain, as it has been forecast for the afternoon, and we did have a few sprinkles, but nothing much, really. It was overcast but pleasantly warm and humid. At every junction, our leader Persis asked us to stop and wait to regroup. Quite a large group to keep track of, any way you look at it.

Geneva Pond

The last time I was here, there was a huge amount of pollen in the air and on the surface of the lake, but today, as you can see, the water was still and clear. We then made our way to the junction that would take us around the larger loop, which also has some elevation (not much; we had less than a thousand feet today).

Persis and a huge old growth tree

Since we didn't have Leanne with us today, our leader Persis did a good job hugging this tree in Leanne's honor. There are many such trees in this magnificent reserve, which doesn't allow horses, dogs, or bikes on the trails, to keep from disturbing the natural environment.

Such a beautiful place

We are so fortunate to have such a magnificent acreage to enjoy so close to town. We were all sad to say farewell for now to our environment, but we all look forward to visiting this place again soon. It's open year round.

Information about the reserve

It was nice to visit with my new friends, the Happy Wanderers group, one of the three Senior Trailblazer groups to choose from. This one is the only one on Tuesday, and both of the other groups gather for a hike on Thursdays. I'm still up in the air about whether to hike later this week, since I had quite a strong reaction to the second Shingrix shot and still have a very sore arm. In any event, today was a delightful way to spend my Tuesday morning!


Thursday, September 7, 2023

My walk home

Side entrance to Cornwall Park

I decided at the last minute not to join the Senior Trailblazers for their hike up to Ptarmigan Ridge. I took a spill the other day and managed to scrape my knee and ended up with my back acting up as a consequence. It's not that I felt I couldn't actually do the hike, but it just didn't seem worth the effort while not feeling entirely healthy. I must keep in mind that there are consequences for not watching every step carefully. So, I decided to take pictures on my way home from the yoga class I took this morning.

Pickleball court

I like to walk through Cornwall Park as I begin my two-and-a-half-mile trek home. This pickleball court is always active with lots of players, making a racket I can hear for blocks before I get there. I take a fairly short route through the park, and then I cross a major street before I cross over to one of my favorite areas, East Maplewood Street. It's not very long, but I always enjoy seeing the sights.

Fantasy Village

There are obviously children who live on the street, who have created this tiny little village with an old tree that has lots of nooks and crannies. I loved to create such places when I was a kid. My imagination knew no bounds, and these little craftspeople are definitely talented too, I think.

Voluminous flowers

There are many front yards that look like this one, filled with lots of late summer flowers. I see the passage of the seasons as I often take the same routes through the year; it's lovely in every single one. 

My favorite color

This pretty pink spirea caught my eye. At least I'm pretty sure that is what we are seeing here. In any event, I spent some time admiring them and decided to share the beauty with you.

Rainbow bridge

After I leave East Maplewood and cross another busy street, I walk across this bridge, which has been painted in the colors of the rainbow. It's a community project spearheaded by Ben Mann, and you can read all about it on that website. It's also the entrance to the Birchwood neighborhood, where I live.

Blackberries galore

I then enter the final trail I follow on my way home, with plenty of these wonderful blackberries to snack on as I make my way home. Although they are from the invasive Himalayan species, that doesn't make them any less tasty.

Apples getting ripe

This tree is filled with bright red apples, which are probably ready to eat now, but since they belong to someone, I don't take any. I can see from the ones that have fallen on the ground that they are pretty wormy, anyway. But they show that the harvest season is in full swing.

 My driveway

And finally I reach the driveway that takes me up to my apartment, one in a series of twenty-six. You can't really see how up it is, which is only a problem when it's icy and cold in the winter. Today I waltzed up to my apartment and came inside to grab some fresh hugs from my honey and have some lunch. It was a good day!


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

September skies

Squalicum Harbor

Now that we are into the unofficial days of fall, the temperatures are moderating, and the skies are beginning to look a lot more interesting, as you can see here. I took this last Saturday while walking by myself. The long holiday weekend is now behind us, and I am very glad to be looking forward to weather that is more comfortable for me. I don't really mind the sun, but it's so much nicer when it's not mid-July, with endlessly long days and short nights. We are just a few weeks away from the actual autumnal equinox (September 22), when the days and nights are at equal lengths. After that, the nights will be longer than the days until we get to the winter solstice.

I have already begun to see leaves changing color, which surprised me. I didn't think it would start so soon. Maybe this year we'll have spectacular color and I can capture the display in photos. I can hope, anyway.

I just listened to an interesting podcast about being kind to oneself. It was an interview with Kristin Neff, who has written several books about the prospect of developing self-compassion. She's got a cool website with plenty of information about how to attend some of her workshops, held around the country as well as virtually. From that website:
Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy. 

Who doesn't want to be nice to ourselves? Well, it turns out that most of us would never treat a friend the way we often treat ourselves when we make a mistake or are ashamed of something we've done (or not done). I know I am much harder on myself than I am on others. So I've decided to treat myself better, more like I would treat a friend. Maybe before it's all over, I'll have forgiven myself for past actions that make me wince when I recall them. 

How about you? Do you easily forgive yourself when you've made a mistake? If so, please feel free to share that information in this safe space. I'm tired of figuratively kicking myself!