Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Alger Alp 2024

Kris in front, one of 18

 Yes, I went out with the delightful Happy Wanderers Senior Trailblazers this morning. I was joined by seventeen other hikers for this excursion, led by Terry who took over for Barb who couldn't make it. We carpooled from the Senior Center to the Squires Lake parking lot and started our uphill journey to Alger Alp. The entire six miles we hiked were without rain, for a change, and it was also extremely mild, with the temperature in the mid-fifties (57°F). A very enjoyable outing.

View across the valley at the top

We got to the top and spent some time enjoying the view and having a snack before heading down and visiting Squires Lake. I climbed the little rise just behind this view, to check out some violets I've seen many times growing up there. But either they didn't survive the cold, or it's just not the right time; violets are hardy enough that maybe next time I'm there I'll see them.

Hikers before we started back

I did capture this scene as I made my way back down the rise, and we went back and took another trail so that we could circumvent the lake before it was all said and done.

Far side of the lake

Squires Lake was calm and serene today. There have been times when it's been frozen solid, or times when the sun was shining brightly, but today it was just a mellow and quiet monotone.

Squires Lake again

We did have a very wonderful hike, with good company and lots of smiles as we navigated our way back to the parking lot. It was just a little after noon, so we didn't stop for more food but headed back to the Senior Center. I think everyone enjoyed their outing, and I'm always grateful to those who are willing to drive. Without their help, I would not be able to join them. All I need to do is give them a small donation, so thanks again!


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Blanchard Mountain loop hike

Most of today's Senior Trailblazers

I was able to capture most of our hikers today. Our leader, Owen, was busy organizing his pack as I took this shot. We set out from the Upper trailhead parking lot on Blanchard Mountain, and walked the mile along the logging road to get to the starting point for today's hike. Once we got here, it's pretty steeply uphill until we get to the place where we can branch off to other places.

Persis checking out the sign

We knew we wouldn't be coming back this way, and many of us had not started this loop hike here before. From here, we went to the Lily Lake connector trail, which would take us to the trail to North Butte (which we decided to skip anyway, as it was not exactly going to be viewable). The heavy clouds and occasional sprinkle confirmed the wisdom of this choice.

Linda, Owen, John

The forest was beautiful, as it always is, and we were fortunate not to get drenched, since that was a possibility in the weather forecast. Everyone was happily enjoying the hike and we decided to skip a visit to Lizard Lake, too, and so we headed directly to Lily Lake.

The group

Don took the picture, and John was nowhere to be seen right then, but this is the rest of the hardy seniors. It was only around 11:00 or so when we got to this spot, but everyone was willing to have a quick lunch. It had grown colder as we gained in altitude, and by the time we stopped hiking, it was no time at all before everyone was cold.

Ice slush on the lake

I forgot my overmitts, so my hands got pretty cold before we got going again, and I was also nursing a sore arm from having slipped and fallen on a wet log. Between the group members, my arm was treated with an antibiotic ointment and a couple of perfect-sized bandages finished up the job. Although it's sore, it's not my first injury hiking, and hopefully won't be my last. It was worth a scrape to have been there today.

Cindy looking beautiful among the ferns

We returned along the trail that would take us to the Upper Trailhead parking lot, where we left our cars. And on the way, we saw that the waterfall crossing the bridge is now quite full.

Roaring waterfall

Last time I was here, there was only a trickle. But some of this must be snowmelt, and the rest is from the days of rain we have been experiencing. Before it was all said and done, we had covered about 6.5 miles and gained and lost around 1,300 feet of elevation. Not too shabby, and now that I am home and feeling pretty good, maybe it's time to take away the last of the pain from my skinned arm with a bit of wine, eh?


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

First hike after the snow

Ina and Barb on the trail

It was pretty neat to see how much the snow has receded from our hiking areas, partly because of the warm rain, and partly because it's been almost a week since it fell. It was mostly clear, but there were icy patches, so we Senior Trailblazers kept our eyes open and used our trekking poles to help keep us upright. But after I had gone five days with no exercise at all, I was happy that we went five miles from Marine Park through the 100 Acre Woods and the Interurban trail. It was a round trip amount, and there were 14 of us altogether to start. We didn't know what we would encounter, but, other than some wet patches and the intermittent ice, the footing was great!

Heron nests in the trees

We passed by the Post Point Heron Rookery, a place where Great Blue Herons come to raise their young during the spring. You can learn more about the city's attempts at protecting them here. From that link:
The herons typically occupy the site annually between February and August. They utilize a variety of habitats in and around the colony for nesting, roosting, loafing, foraging and staging. 
Back at Marine Park

It's hard to believe that less than a week ago, we were caught in the huge snowstorm, but the weather cooperated to help us get back to our normal environment. All that snowmelt should make for plenty of wildflowers to sprout a few months from now. Of course, we have two more months of winter to get through before that happens, and who knows what that will bring? Hopefully, we will emerge with plenty of moisture for growing flowers and veggies once the sunshine returns. In any event, so far we have been quite fortunate, especially when I look at what is happening in the rest of the country.

And I am quite happy to have gotten my exercise routine back on track! Hope you are having a good week and that you will enjoy a a bit of exercise yourself. 


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Thursday adventure

From my front porch

No hike today, in fact many places of business are just simply closed because of the amazing snowfall we received yesterday, Wednesday. It did finally stop, but by then the buses were no longer running and people were asked to stay home. Today, Thursday, we are busy digging out from about 6, 8 or more inches of snow, more for the date than we have ever received here. You can tell with a quick glance at the cars, which are buried in what looks close to a foot of snow. 

I did get out yesterday and took the (still functioning) bus to the coffee shop, where I managed to have a great cup of coffee and treat before deciding that the snow was not going to stop anytime soon, so I'd probably just head home. I'm glad I did, because by noon the buses were no longer running, and I don't know how I would have gotten home otherwise. The website for the WTA (Whatcom Transportation Authority) said they would find a way to get anybody back home who traveled to their destination by bus. I didn't know any of this until I got up this morning, wondering if I could make it to town or not, and learned that the buses were all running on schedule, although using chains. That meant I wasn't sure when the bus would actually get there. However, I took my chances and headed out in the dark, using the (mostly) deserted street instead of the sidewalks, where snowplows had made them impassable. It was pretty easy going, especially compared to yesterday when I had to struggle through deep virgin snow.

Today, before I caught the bus home, I made my way to the co-op for a couple of things I forgot yesterday. When I got there at 8:45am, the doors were closed. They had sent everybody home at 5:00pm yesterday and the sign said they would reopen at 9:00am. I chatted with other people who waited along with me for the doors to open. Once they did and I got my items, I walked back to the bus station and caught my usual bus back home. The Senior Center was closed yesterday and again today. Many shops were also not open, I noticed.

Photo by Cindy Plaster

I find it interesting how all snow pictures look like B&W, since there is nothing really that changes color when all that you can see is the snow and where it piles up. This picture is, I believe, the bridge over Whatcom Falls where I was on Tuesday. I found this lovely shot on the Seeing Bellingham website on Facebook.

I will probably be using Microspikes on my walk to the bus tomorrow, since all this snow will begin to melt once the rain starts and we get above freezing. Right now in the early afternoon we are at 32°F and the temperature will fall, but rain is on the way. It will take a lot of it to make all this snow melt, so tomorrow will probably be very slippery. I'll be prepared. Although I didn't get much of a walk today, what I did get meant I used a lot of energy struggling through the snow. Feeling pretty accomplished as I sit here writing this post.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Finally above freezing, and now...

Whatcom Falls

Today an amazing number of Senior Trailblazers went for a walk in the park. Whatcom Falls Park and Bloedel Donovan Park, to be exact. We started from Civic Center, where twenty of us gathered, led by Barb. Way too many, but what are you gonna do? We all wanted to enjoy the last day of our cold snap. Right now (afternoon), we are above freezing for the first time in several days. And what is coming next, you ask? It looks like the dry and cold days are behind us, with the possibility of several inches of snow and some icy conditions instead. Sigh. I actually enjoyed having no snow but really cold temperatures. The footing was great, with little possibility of slipping and falling. That is about to change. 

It is winter, after all, but we are used to more moderate temperatures around here, with a little rain, even mixed with some slush, but what is forecast is a different animal altogether. I might not be getting behind the wheel of my car for a few days, and instead will walk to the bus as usual, hoping not to need my Microspikes to stay vertical. It's not the snow I mind, but the ice. And I need to remember that I am old and fragile, not likely to bounce back if I fall. So I will do what I can not to fall. That said, I don't want to stay indoors with possible adventures ahead.

Once we all gathered at our starting point, someone couldn't get their car door to lock, so we waited while her possessions were transferred to another car. By the time we started, I was freezing, cold hands, cold feet, and wishing I had worn more warm clothes. But then we began walking, and part of our trek took us up a steady incline, which I welcomed because it helped me get warm. After a couple miles, I was toasty warm and happy to be out. (Next time, I won't forget that extra layer.)

The stairs

We took a different way back after a quick lunch at Bloedel Donovan Park, and we took these 105 stairs down to Woburn Street, crossed and then were back on a trail. Sometimes it feels nice to be taken care of, and Don walked behind me as I navigated the stairs, unless I might feel the need for assistance. Without that railing, I would have needed his strong arm to hold onto. But it was just fine, and we were close to the trail that would take us back to the Civic Center where we started.

We ended up going just under seven miles, with a fair bit of elevation gain and loss, but everyone was very happy to have been able to be out and about on a winter's day. I don't know if we will be hiking at all on Thursday, with the weather forecast making it look like maybe the best thing to do will be to stay home and watch the show from inside. We'll see. Today, however, was great!


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Seriously scary winter weather

Seen on a tree in our neighborhood yesterday

Six of us Happy Wanderers went on an impromptu walk yesterday, Wednesday, since our regularly scheduled Tuesday hike was canceled because of wind. So, on a quite nice day between storms, we enjoyed walking from the Senior Center to Irongate and back, about six or so miles, led by Barb. It was really nice, and the sun even came out to visit for awhile.

Today, for our Thursday hike, Don and I decided to take a walk of our own from the coffee shop to the Ferry Terminal in Fairhaven. The weather wasn't bad at all when we started out, with the temperature around 36°F, but it was supposed to be the high temperature for the day, with cold air and wind projected to get worse as the day went on. Sure enough, by the time we finished our 6.5-mile walk, it was definitely colder with a light breeze already starting. We haven't seen much winter weather so far this season, but it's sure on the way now. Here's what the Weather Channel predicts:

Record-breaking cold temperatures are expected to spread across western Washington this afternoon and tonight and continue into at least early next week. The coldest temperatures and wind chills are expected Friday through Sunday followed by a very slow warming trend.
Right now, at 3:40pm, the temperature has dropped to 21°F and the wind has started (feeling like 15°F) coming out of the Frasier River Gap in Canada, and it is expected to drop our temperature to around 8°F with gusts to 55mph. We lost electricity for four hours on Tuesday, and I suspect it could happen again, with winds like this. Which means, if that happens, another scary cold snap that could make our humble abode uninhabitable. In such a case, we would be looking for somewhere with heat. My first guess would be the coffee shop, of course. But until it happens, we will hunker down in our home and hope for the best.

We are not alone in our cold snap. I learned that much of the country will also be subjected to really awful winds, subfreezing cold, and blizzards for the next few days. I really feel for the critters who won't be able to be in a warm place, as well as all the homeless people. Warming centers are opening to help house the homeless in our area. I fear for all of them. But we will get through this; we just need to stay calm and look for that elusive silver lining. 


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Trappist beer

I love a good beer

Well, what do you know about beer? I know very little, actually, except for what I enjoy after a satisfying hike or a nice repast at the end of the day. I also like red wine, but there's something special about a good dark beer that just cannot be beat. When I was in Germany years ago, I was introduced to a wonderful Trappist beer, dark and heavy, nothing like I had experienced in drinking American beer.

I also learned that German beer is changed dramatically by the laws and regulations that allow beverages to be imported. All I can say is, don't bother to look for a good dark German beer here.  However, these days there are many delightful beers to be enjoyed if you live in the Pacific Northwest, where all kinds of dark beers are brewed. But there's nothing is quite like a Trappist beer. There is an amazing history to these monastic beers that you can read all about on that link.

Tonight, I am sitting here in the evening hours while I drink a good winter ale from a local brewery, and it did bring back memories of those days in Germany when I learned a great deal about beer. Today I am drinking this ale because of a massive change in our environment, which started when I woke up this morning to a home without electricity. You don't know how much you need it until it's just not there. Dark, wind blowing a gale outside, and no internet, no coffee, no nothing!

I got myself out of bed and went to the car to drive somewhere that would be able to bring me some caffeine. By the time I go to the first intersection, I saw lights galore, so I went off to the coffee shop. We ended up being four or more hours without power, but I was able to communicate with my guy through text messages until I learned it was time to come back home. Our hike for the day was canceled, and I didn't get in a walk, but otherwise it's been an okay day.

Tomorrow I will take the bus to the coffee shop and will maybe go to the Senior Center. Our terrible weather is predicted to start tomorrow night, while much of the country is already in the midst of severe winter weather. Anyway, that was my day and now I'm thinking it's time to chill even more and then  hit the sack.


Thursday, January 4, 2024

Raptor Ridge

Owen, Penny, Linda, Beth, me

I didn't take this selfie, Penny did. That's why it looks like she's concentrating so hard, trying to get us all in the picture. I've never taken a good selfie, so I asked somebody else to give it a try, and I think she did a pretty good job. 

Since there were only five of us, it was much easier to be able to visit with everyone. Last Tuesday's large group of 22 meant that I didn't actually get to socialize with most of the participants. Today, we drove in one car to the North Chuckanut trailhead, and everyone was able to enjoy each other's company, along with the weather. It was raining when we started out, but quickly faded to nothing. The mild temperature and lack of rain was quite well received. But it didn't last: before long as we gained altitude, we were needing to put our rain gear back on. We took the Huckleberry trail from Hemlock, both parts of it, and were able to skip most of the Hemlock trail's steepness. This adds about another half mile to the trip, but nobody minded. 

Penny taking a look at the "view" from Raptor Ridge

The higher we climbed, the more the wind and rain picked up. This scene shows you why we didn't lollygag out on the ridge; instead we retreated until we found a place pretty much sheltered from the fierce wind to have our lunch.

Our lunch spot

Nobody was all that warm, but we are hardy Senior Trailblazers. Although we didn't dawdle, we were able to enjoy a nice break from all the uphill. (We did cover around nine miles in total.) We returned the exact same way, although there are plenty of other ways to approach and return from Raptor Ridge.

After lunch and before we started back

We not only hiked nine miles, we also went up and down around 1,700 feet or so. A few devices showed more, but we agreed on this number. And as a bonus, by the time we were around a mile from the trailhead, the sun came out! Full sun, so we began removing some of our extra clothing until we looked like we were on a springtime hike, rather than the first Group 2 outing of the year.

End of the Huckleberry trail

We were back at the Senior Center before 2:00pm, and everyone was happy that we had enjoyed such a great day together. Now I am tired and really glad to have been along on this lovely adventure!


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Chanterelle trail 2024

A small part of the Happy Wanderers today

Another year has begun, with the Senior Trailblazers Happy Wanderers group having had 22 people show up this morning for a five-mile walk up the Chanterelle trail together. We were actually pretty strung out, which is needed for such a large group. But we did it and were back at the Senior Center before noon!

We were lucky once again with the weather; although it was dry and cloudy when we started out, by the time we began our descent back the way we had come, sprinkles dotted the trail and bounced off our heads. Nothing that experienced Trailblazers would even call rain, just some light sprinkles.

Lake Whatcom from the viewpoint

I have taken this same picture countless times, but I'm pretty sure that this is the first one with the Happy Wanderers. It was a frequent destination for Mel and me, and the other Trailblazer groups come to this spot but continue on for another two-and-a-half miles, making the entire outing ten miles rather than five. We climbed 1,000 feet up and down, so it's not just a simple hike. A few people were not quite ready for such a change in altitude, but they did manage to make it up eventually.

Smiles at the top

We chatted and took our time before heading back, but then we began to feel the chill and decided to warm up by hiking downhill, back to the cars. It was not long after I took this picture that I began to feel the coming rain — er, sprinkles. By the time we piled into our cars and started back, it might have qualified to be referred to as rain. Nobody minded, since we were ensconced in our warm, dry vehicles.

It was definitely a wonderful way to begin another year of forest bathing, being outdoors in the elements, feeling the invigorating fresh air, listening to the birds and smelling the odor of freshly cut pine on the side of the trail now and then. Now that I am home, with lunch under my belt, I am aware that another day of exercise and community has lifted my spirits. Life is good!