Thursday, November 30, 2023

Cypress Island

Heading out to the island

Yesterday, Wednesday, 12 Senior Trailblazers set out on our second trip with Island Opportunity Charters, a locally owned and operated water taxi that takes people on all sorts of adventures in the San Juan islands. This time we went to Cypress Island, a relatively undeveloped island close to the Puget Sound. From that link:
The island offers a scenic reminder of conditions in Western Washington prior to European settlement.  Steep Island topography provides vistas of the San Juan Islands, mainland Washington and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.  Cypress Island is a popular destination for boaters, offering recreation opportunities, scenic viewpoints, lakes, and miles of trails.
We were dropped off at Smuggler's Cove, and we started a hike almost right from the beach. The owners had a couple of other obligations and we said we would meet them at Pelican's Beach for a pickup at 3:00. Since it was barely 10:00am, we had plenty of time to find what the area had to offer us.

The group, with Eagle's Nest behind us

Before we left the boat, the owner took a picture of us with Eagle's Nest, that pinnacle behind us, as our highest destination spot. We were all successful in getting there, but first a bit of our day's activities.

Duck Lake

We first hiked to Duck Lake and saw a few small ducks in there, but mostly it was just a pretty view, and our first foray out into the wilderness. There was an old dilapidated cabin with a homemade "bench" for some of us to try out.

Me and Ina Sue

You know, I fully expected that we would be fighting the cold (it was subfreezing when we left Bellingham), but it was amazingly warm all day. Of course, not many of us took off much clothing, but there was not a breath of wind, making it seem much warmer. Then we went off to Eagle Cove, and noticed a sign that would take us to Reed Lake. Since it was only .6 miles, we decided to go for it. What we didn't realize is that it also ascended around 6-700 feet in that short distance. But we did get there.

Aldo Leopold bench

Don, who knows about such things, pointed out this Aldo Leopold bench beside Reed Lake. Do you know who he was? "The bench is named for Aldo Leopold, an internationally recognized figure in wildlife conservation and pioneering author and philosopher on environmental ethics and land stewardship." I learned about him from a fellow blogger, who sent me a copy of his Sand County Almanac

Reed Lake

You can see why it's named Reed Lake. And you can see how beautiful the area is, and why it's wonderful to see it continuing to remain undeveloped. There are only a few people living on the island, but they were nowhere near us.

Trail sign

When we would come to a trail junction, we would be reminded where we were, and how far to the next spot(s) of interest. We did return to Eagle Cove for lunch, and after we finished, we headed off towards Pelican Beach, where we would take a side trip up to Eagle's Nest (seen from a distance in that group photo). The view, however, from our lunch spot was spectacular. Mt. Baker came out for a quick view.

Mt. Baker on the horizon

When we passed by here later, the mist had covered up the view, so we felt very fortunate to have been able to see this at all. But we had a long and rigorous climb ahead of us to reach Eagle's Cliff. We ascended about 1,000 feet in just over a mile, so you know it was tough. But for me it was just as hard coming down. However, at the top, we had a great view!

View from Eagle's Cliff

I was so happy to finally get back to moderately safe trails as we descended. And I was happy that nobody was close enough to hear me whimper as I went down, much of the time on my rear end. And then our trip was over, with us only a few minutes late, with our trusty water taxi waiting for us.

Goodbye, Cypress Island

It was a wonderful day, a delightful adventure, and we have our leader Barb to thank for arranging it, and Bill for leading us to the top of Eagle's Cliff without so much as a scraped elbow! I was dubious that we would all make it safely, but we did, and now it's a memory I will not soon forget. Nine miles of hiking and some unknown elevation gain, too.

Today, however, I'm a little tired. I skipped the Thursday hike but did manage to walk three miles so I could close my fitness rings. Thanks to all who made our journey so much fun!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Enjoying my special week

A favorite tree losing its leaves

I have loved seeing this tree throughout the year as I pass it on my walk through Cornwall Park on my way back from the coffee shop most days. From the first buds in springtime, until the flaming leaves beginning their final days in late November, it's a joy to see. Today, I saw what it looks like now.

Bare branches

It was also very foggy this morning, so much so that I decided not to try to make it to the Senior Trailblazers' hike, but instead join John at the coffee shop and head home through the park. I was surprised that the fog stuck around for so long. But I also knew that I didn't want to miss my acupuncture treatment this afternoon, so it was a perfect way to get my steps in and be finished with my walk in plenty of time.

Taken from my apartment steps

We have a different species of maple tree that I see as I walk up the steps to my apartment, and it's only just begun to shed all its leaves. But there is no denying that fall is in the rear view window, and winter is beginning to take over. I had to watch my step as I walked to the bus, since the heavy fog and below-freezing temperatures meant that I could easily slip on icy tarmac if I didn't pay attention.

Tomorrow I'm going on another boat trip into the San Juan islands, this time to Cypress Island, which I know nothing about. If you check out that link, you'll know as much as I do about it. There are at least eleven of us going, and we are taking that same water taxi that took us to Sucia Island last month. It's another exciting trip into the San Juans, and we should get lots of hiking around the island as well. 

And! I bought myself a new iPad Air, and after much consultation with Apple's tech support, we (that would be SG and me) managed to get everything transferred from the old one to the new one, and everything seems to be working quite well. It's definitely a new version of my old friend iPad. And much faster, too! I am happy and only beginning my special week!


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Hassle free Turkey Day

Not a bad selfie

I managed to get a halfway satisfactory selfie of the two of us as we prepared our Thanksgiving dinner. This was the easiest, and one of the best, Thanksgiving meals I have enjoyed in years. Our local food co-op offers a "leave the work to us" Thanksgiving dinner, with stuffing, gravy, lots of turkey breast, mashed potatoes (that taste wonderful), butternut squash, green beans, and cranberry sauce. Other than the last item, everything else was freshly prepared and made from scratch.

Enough to serve four guests

We were able to prepare a lovely plate for each of us and slide them into the microwave for three minutes. It's been awhile since I've tasted such good green beans and potatoes (both of which were buttered and seasoned to perfection). 

My Thanksgiving plate

We had an early lunch, since I had skipped breakfast I didn't want to wait any longer, and then around 3:00pm we had seconds. And we still have an enormous amount of food left over for us to enjoy for the next couple of days. It was nice to eat just enough and not get stuffed all at once. I took a nice walk in between, and I have to say that this is definitely the way to go, no hassle, great food, and great company. Time for a lovely glass of wine to finish off the day.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

First holiday week of the season

Lily yesterday, looking pretty

Yesterday, Lily took me out for lunch after we had a nice walk in Fairhaven. She reminded me that we have now known each other for eleven years! It surprises me in one way, but in another it seems like she's been part of my life even longer than that. She has the entire week off from her job, after having worked seven days in a row, and now she's trying to connect with friends she hasn't seen recently. That means me, for one. We went bowling a month ago, and that was the last I heard from her until she called yesterday to suggest a walk and lunch.

Although there was a hike scheduled for today, I didn't attend so that I could have a one-on-one meeting with a woman at the Senior Center who knows everything about Covid tests. She had me bring in the three I've had around here for awhile, and she took an expired one out and showed me how you use the test to determine if you're infected. We are getting geared up for a winter of possible season of colds, flu, and Covid. I still wear a mask whenever I'm on the bus or in a crowded room, but I've grown lax after such a long time without even a cold. I think wearing a mask has kept me from getting sick, but I know it's just a matter of time. I've received the latest Covid booster, the annual flu shot, and finished my Shingrix double doses awhile back. I vacillate about getting the RSV vaccine, since there's a shortage at present, so I will allow myself to wait. My doctor thinks they are a good idea for old people like me.

Remember when I put a picture up about this huge pumpkin and said I'd let you know when I found out how much it ended up weighing? Well, I forgot and then it was gone from the display, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find out, but I did. It weighed 474 lbs. (215 kilos), or more than two of my friend John. Bet it was used to make some of those pumpkin pies I see at the store now, or at least I hope so. We are skipping the pies this year, but I suspect I'll be able to convince my honey to indulge in something wonderful to finish off our Thanksgiving feast. I haven't decided yet what that might be.

Our usual scene at the coffee shop

I always pull out my iPad (soon I'll have a new one, my birthday present to myself) and John's is almost identical to mine. Our glasses are on the side, since he uses them for close work and I take mine off for close work. You can see how low the angle of the sun is at this time of the year, and for the next month it will continue to come up later and set earlier, until we barely have nine hours of light for the entire day. The dreary times lie ahead, but I guess that's why we have all these holidays; it makes the long nights feel less oppressive. And then of course the sun will begin its long journey back the other way, until spring rears its lovely head. I will enjoy what's left of the fall season.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Lily and Lizard, and North Butte

Hat Creek, with hat

Today, a mere five Relaxed Senior Trailblazers went to the Upper Trailhead on Blanchard Mountain to make a loop including Lily Lake, Lizard Lake, and the North Butte viewpoint. I was so pleased to be part of the group, and we hiked upward at a pretty good pace. My pictures were rather sparse, since it was cold and I didn't much want to take my hands out of my warm gloves. However, we saw this sign, with a hat that stated we were looking at "Hat Creek," which is probably not on any maps, but it was worthy of a picture.

Lizard Lake

We hiked upwards until we got to the turnoff to Lizard Lake, where I captured this amazing picture of a still lake, reflections as clear as those on the actual shoreline. There is a small thin layer of ice on parts of the lake. From here, we took the turnoff to North Butte, were we would have lunch, and visit the iron bench once more.

View of the Bay from North Butte

Although the day was cold, it was mostly clear and when we were exercising, we were pretty warm. But it didn't take long when we stopped to get cold again. John had brought cinnamon rolls and hot coffee in his backpack, so we happily enjoyed the treat after we finished lunch.

The Five

It was such a pretty day that we weren't in any real hurry to leave, but our hands and feet got the best of us, so we decided to pack up, but not before Helen captured this picture of some of us with Gertie, her little gnome (tucked inside my jacket). I didn't realize that John had crept into the picture until I saw this.

Linda and me in front with Gertie, John lurking

See Gertie there inside my jacket? She is wishing me a happy upcoming birthday, it turns out. Other than the cold, the weather couldn't have been better: very light wind if any, and easy to follow trails. We couldn't have had a better day. I've been here in all kinds of weather, but this was one of the best weather days ever.

Mt Baker from North Butte

Since you need to get quite close to the edge to capture this shot, a sheer drop-off, Linda took this picture for me to share with you. I've seen Baker from many angles, and now I can add this one to my repertoire. It's so pretty!

Lily Lake

As we started over to Max's Shortcut, we passed close to Lily Lake, so I snapped this shot. There is a thin layer of ice on this lake, too, and when we got to the Shortcut, I didn't take any more pictures but just put my head down and followed the others back to the car. We covered somewhere around 8.5 miles and 2,000 feet up and down. A worthwhile day with great weather and even better friends. I'm tired but quite happy with our adventure.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023


John at the coffee shop today

It sure is nice to have John back where he belongs, after four days and nights at the hospital. He started having woozines and weakness and called his son (who lives nearby) and went to the hospital to find out what was going on. They admitted him and found that his potassium levels were all out of whack, and they ended up keeping him for that long before feeling he was well enough to go home. He lost a little more weight and has had his heart medications changed extensively.

Today he says he's not back to what he considers normal, but is on the way there. Hopefully he will, since being elderly means that every day is a gift. I saw a cartoon the other day about a man who had his 80th birthday and told his friends that he could "go at any moment now." It does something to your perspective when you pass that eightieth birthday, and John will soon be 84! But I think he's going to stay around for awhile longer; I hope so anyway.

I'm up there in the stratospheric age numbers myself. Soon I'll be eighty-one but don't feel that much different than I did a decade ago. I do have more aches and pains, but mostly they recede into the background once I get the old joints lubricated in the morning. I got plenty of sleep last night, and that always makes for a better day ahead. (I just had an image of the Tin Man's oil can squirting lubrication into my knees.)

Some dastardly vandal has trashed one of my favorite parks, I discovered this morning. I cannot imagine what devilish joy it must have given this jerk to drive his big truck all over the grass and destroy something so beautiful.

The entire lawn is mangled

Boulevard Park along the waterfront is one of Bellingham's treasures. I sure hope they capture him (it's almost always a him) and make him pay. Some people just cannot allow such beauty. But what the heck, it will grow back and at least we can be glad he left his AR-15 at home. 


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Madrone Crest

Today's Group 2 hikers (I took the picture)

It was simply a beautiful fall day as twelve hikers spent the morning and early afternoon hiking across amazing yellow leaves, as we went from the North Chuckanut trailhead to Madrone Crest, following an interesting route: up the Hemlock trail to the Huckleberry trail, then across to the Salal trail and hiking it to the turnoff to Madrone Crest. 

Golden leaves

Almost all the big leaf maple leaves have fallen, creating gorgeous carpets of bright yellow under our feet; there are a few trees that still retain their leaves, but they have all turned brilliant gold. We had a few moments of bright light coming through the trees, but mostly it was overcast, however mild and dry we might be.

Flower-like mushrooms were everywhere

As usual, we saw lots of interesting mushrooms, a sure sign of our newly wet environment. Rain was expected by the afternoon, and sure enough as I sit here I can see that it has arrived. But we were spared any at all, nary a drop fell on us.

Madrone Crest, our lunch spot

We stopped at the place where we would have had a view, if the trees had not grown up over the years to obscure any sign of the valley below us. A sign at the last junction before the Crest had indicated there would be a view, but some disgruntled hiker had scratched that out. I've seen the view in past years, but it is definitely completely hidden today.

A mushroom beginning to change shape

It was a really nice hike, I must say. We returned back a different route, taking the Madrone Crest trail to the Salal trail, then taking the Lower Salal from there. We also hiked on the Lost Lake trail, and back to the Hemlock where we started. It was somewhere around 8+ miles, and around 1,700 feet up and down. Very enjoyable, not too long, not too short. And no precipitation!

For those of you wondering what happened to me on Tuesday when I didn't write a post, I have no excuse, other than I simply... forgot. I got so involved watching the election returns and then finishing my wine before heading to bed that it slipped my mind. It wasn't until the middle of the night that I remembered. Now that I am officially old, I blame my diminished faculties for my omission. It might happen again, so be forewarned!

I'm just glad I can still hike long distances and feel good afterwards. Now that I've written this post, along with my Tuesday mea culpa, I can relax and enjoy the rest of the day, watching the rain and wind from inside a warm and cozy home.


Thursday, November 2, 2023

Sucia Island excursion

Leaving Bellingham Bay behind

Yesterday, 12 Senior Trailblazers went on an excursion on a cool boat from Bellingham Bay (Don looking out pensively) as we went out to Sucia Island, one of the San Juan Islands that I've never visited before. It was an all-day outing, with the two great owners of the Island Opportunity Charters, a water taxi service that took us there and back, treating us to an adventure I didn't even know existed.

The boat dock at Sucia

We were the only people on the island, which in summertime is usually overrun with others enjoying this lovely place, and it was wonderful. The weather was perfect, meaning of course no rain, mild temperatures, and a day to hike and explore the island.

Our lunch spot at Johnson Point

We first checked out Fox Point and then trekked a couple of miles to Johnson Point, where we had a lovely lunch, with a view of Mt Baker and plenty of open spaces just to ooh and ahh for around a half hour. We had walked around two or three miles by this point, and we were quite ready just to kick back and enjoy our surroundings.

Madrone tree along the trail

There were so many beautiful madrone trees on the island, some of the biggest and most healthy I've seen anywhere. There are so many bays and places to see on this island that we did have to pick and choose. After packing back up after lunch, we headed to the China caves. 

Cindy looking into one of the caves
The isolated coves and bays of Sucia Island once served the Lummi Indians in their seal hunting days. They later provided excellent hideouts in the 19th century for smugglers of illegal Chinese laborers, as well as for hiding illegally imported wool and opium.

 Wikipedia has a full page on the history of the island (which the above quote was taken from), and we sure did have a lot of fun looking into, and speculating on, the caves at one of the bays. We called the boat owners and the came and picked us up at this point, since they have a boat that allows for us to get onto the boat without a dock.

Getting picked up in style

From here we went around the part of the island that has an old lighthouse, one that gave us a perfect place to capture the entire group before making it back to Bellingham Bay. We had hiked somewhere around five or six miles and were getting pretty tired. Being on the water does that to me.

End of a great adventure

The owners took this great picture of the group, all twelve of us, in front of the lighthouse and, if you use your imagination, you can also see Mt Baker behind us. It was a wonderful day, an adventure I won't soon forget. Thanks to Barb for organizing it, and thanks to the boat pilots for taking us out and back in safety!