Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lily, Lizard and lots of laughter

Our group of thirteen today (me taking the picture)
What a great day! We had thirteen Senior Trailblazers hike up the south side of Blanchard Mountain, from the Upper Trailhead. We hiked up a gentle slope until we got to the first trail junction. We decided to go ahead and hike to Lizard Lake first and then take the connector trail from there to Lily Lake and Max's Shortcut, and then head back down. Al calls these hikes "lollipops" because we start and end on the same trail, but have a loop in between.
Misty trees
We expected rain at some point during the day, but the forecast didn't indicate heavy rain, just showers. Although we have been fooled now and then, we only had a few little raindrops fall on us for the entire time we were out playing in the woods.
Lizard Lake today
Lizard Lake was shrouded in mist, but it was quite pretty as we bundled up against the breeze coming off the lake. It was still early for a lunch stop, so we decided to head up towards North Butte, which is where the connector trail is going to Lily Lake. As we climbed (which was welcome, since we'd all gotten a bit chilly standing around discussing our options), a few light sprinkles caused us to don our rain gear. For my friends who like maps, here's a map of the Blanchard Mountain trails.
Yep, it's time for a little rain gear, all right
We didn't have Al with us today, but Ward (who we haven't seen in quite awhile) set a very nice pace on the entire hike. We ascended from Lizard Lake to the connector trail. And then off we went towards Lily Lake after having made our decision not to go up to the viewpoint.
Lily Lake in the mist
It was getting close to lunchtime when we reached Lily Lake, but the same cool breeze we felt while at Lizard Lake made the possibility of stopping here not too appealing. We decided to head down Max's Shortcut and possibly find a place out of the wind to stop for lunch. That's just what we did. I bundled up with all the warm clothing I had brought with me, and I was just fine. We climb somewhere around 2,000 feet of elevation on this hike, so we had both the humidity and the breeze to contend with as we ate a rather quick lunch.
Our canopy of trees
We spent a lot of time laughing and carrying on like a bunch of teenagers rather than old folks, and I had a moment when I just had to stop to give thanks for this wonderful group and the lovely place I live. Bob had just returned from a trip to Asia, and he also said he is grateful for being able to come home to such a lovely part of the world. We are indeed blessed.
Heading back down the mountain
And then it was time to gather up our stuff and head back down. Once we reached the final turn back to the cars, we had descended enough altitude and been hiking quickly enough to begin to take off some of our extra clothes. No rain at all for the last part of the journey back.
Me, almost back to the beginning
Melanie took this picture of me just before we reached the cars. Back at the trailhead, we discussed how far we had gone once we changed into our comfy shoes and shed our rain gear. We finally agreed it was somewhere around eight miles or so. It was a simply lovely day, and everyone wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving and several of the the Trailblazers wished me a successful surgery before we meet again. Another fine day!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

And so it begins

Not me, but it could be
Yesterday, I went for my pre-op appointment for cataract surgery on my left eye. SG went with me, and after we left, I actually began to feel excited for the possibility of seeing more clearly. Two weeks from today! It's true that with the AMD (age-related macular degeneration), my vision won't be perfect, but according to my surgeon, it should be much better. I learned all about the procedure and how it's done. I like the surgeon and trust him, which is important when one is going through any kind of surgery.
Teeny-tiny little lens
Once the cataract is removed, this little lens will be inserted through a small opening. Those little "arms" are designed to hold it in place. It's folded up like a taco and opens up into the space where my cloudy lens resided. The most important period is the first week, and after that I should be mostly healed. Of course, I was treated to a litany of all the things that COULD go wrong and I had to sign a release form. But after many days of researching it all (not recommended for the faint of heart), I now am beginning to look forward to it. Sort of.

The whole procedure only takes a few minutes, and from the time I go into the operating room until I come out is about an hour. I'll have an eye patch and a severely dilated pupil, which will take up to 48 hours to return to normal. I'll hopefully be showing you a picture of something interesting. That week I'll miss the hike, but unless I have complications, I'll be back on the trail the following week.

I sure am glad I live in these amazing times when we can have such improvement in our quality of life, and for the most part, it's covered by Medicare. I'll end up making a co-pay of $400 per eye, which I consider a bargain. Wow!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Coffee shop excitement

Me, John, Gene
Really, there was a time when we used to talk to each other. We've gone the way of most of the rest of America, I guess, staring at a screen. Our friend RJ was in line to get coffee when he snapped this picture on his phone. I notice that the other two people in the picture are also engrossed in their gadgets. These days, one or the other of us holds up our tablet to share a particularly interesting picture or video; otherwise, we are all lost in our own worlds. A sad commentary on what passes for conversation. We do sometimes close them all up and talk, but it's not often: usually when we've been shamed into it.

However, I do find it easier to read the news online rather than turn on the TV, because I get to choose to read what interests me and skip the rest. Plus, there are no commercial interruptions unless I accidentally click on one of those annoying popups. It's become more and more common for me to read digitally rather than read words on a page. I do resist reading novels and other books online (for the most part) because I love the feeling of having a book in my hands.

This morning we ladies walked around five miles in overcast conditions, but before Lily and I returned home, it had begun to rain. It looks like it will continue for several days. Good thing I don't mind the rain all that much and prefer to load up on rain gear rather than stay holed up inside!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chanterelle, anyone?

An old favorite with a new name
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to hike on another rainy day. We have done a version of this hike for many years, but recently the Forest Service and volunteers have given it a facelift: a new name and plenty of good trail work to make it a much more interesting trail. I enlarged the trail description so you can read it:
We didn't find any mushrooms today
We have called this hike by different names, but basically this has been the starting point for a nine-mile hike up the south side of Stewart Mountain, containing lots of bushwhacking and whatnot to get to what would not be much of a view today. Here's a post from 2013, so you can see what the entire hike looks like in the spring. Today we sauntered up the Chanterelle trail to the overlook. The work they've done on the trail makes it much less steep and adds a little distance as well.
Overlooking Whatcom Lake
We had a little light rain, nothing like last week's deluge. This rain is what I consider to be more indicative of Pacific Northwest weather. Some of us had ponchos, and I got this picture to show our colorful array.
Frank, Joy, me, Kirk
Everyone looks at their picture and comments about some aspect of their appearance. I couldn't help but notice how SHORT I am compared to everyone else. But these are all especially tall people, I tell myself. See the nice gravel at the overlook? That's new, along with several new switchbacks on the way up, making the trail much easier to navigate.
Three people are not in the picture, I'm not sure why
We gathered for a group photo, and I'm not sure who took it. Dianne, Rick, and Melanie are not in it, so it was one of them. You can see that we are all a little bit wet, but nothing we hardy souls can't handle easily. It helped that it wasn't all that cold, although a light breeze had picked up after awhile, so we moved on up the mountainside.

Since our next section was uphill, we were plenty warm by the time we got to our lunch spot. Although it was still early, nobody really wanted to continue up higher on the logging road, so we spread out and enjoyed a nice stop out of the wind. And somewhere along the way, the rain quit.
Lovely leaves
As we headed back down, we fully expected the rain to begin again, so nobody took much rain gear off. It's partly out of superstition: once we think we're clear of the rain and act accordingly, it's like a neon sign to the elements. We had lots of beautiful spots like this one as we made our way through fallen leaves on the trail, and although we never saw the sun all day, nobody was unhappy to have it remain nice and dry. We covered around seven-and-a-half miles and 2,000 feet up and down, so it was a good workout.

Home early, being warm and cozy, it's even too early for my wine. It won't be long, though; I am feeling quite content and happy to have been outside with my good friends today.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hugging meditation

John and I sharing a hug
Back in July, I wrote a blog post about the Five Buddhist Remembrances. (It was on my other blog, I realize now.) Anyway, the Fourth Remembrance is a reminder that all that we love and hold dear is temporary and there is no way to keep from being separated from it all. However, I found this quote that speaks to me:
Another way of practicing the Five Remembrances is through something Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh calls hugging meditation. When your partner or children leave for work or school, hug each other for three full breaths, and remind yourself of the Fourth Remembrance.
You can see that John has availed himself of the hugging meditation, since he doesn't have anybody at home to hug. He and I hug once every morning when we are having our coffee. He's a really good hugger! Thanks to Michelle for the picture.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Snow and coffee

Everything is white
I woke yesterday morning, after our wet and rainy hike, to this: a snow-covered front porch. I decided to walk to the bus, but it was difficult to make my way through the icy, slippery snow, so instead I cleaned off my car and drove downtown so I could visit my friends at the coffee shop and then work out at the gym. Since the streets were still rather warm, the snow wasn't causing any icy patches on the pavements, and I made it to the parking lot with little difficulty.
Nobody sitting outside for some reason
As I left the coffee shop to head for the gym, I was feeling pretty happy about having gotten out on such a wintery day. The class had less than half its usual number, and this morning, Saturday, I've learned that the walk with the ladies has been canceled because of icy conditions. Lily and I will still drive to the coffee shop and maybe we'll head over to the local indoor mall and walk there. In any event, we'll be fueled by some excellent coffee and company.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rain, rain and then hail

Melanie, Richard, Chris, Richard, Mike, Frank (and me of course)
We knew today would be wet. Only one day this week with 100% chance of rain, and of course it is on a Thursday. When we arrived at the Senior Center, I was surprised that there would be this many hard core hikers show up. Al didn't join us, as he is coming down with a cold. It was a good call.

It was nice to see Frank, since he's been missing for a few weeks. Come to find out that two weeks ago today he had his appendix removed. He was getting ready to come on our hike but didn't feel well and finally went to the hospital and ended up having surgery. He's fine now, however, and it was great to see him back.

Mike is a new guy, first time today. He is a good hiker and was well prepared for the weather. We all were, as it turns out, and we sure needed it. Starting at the North Chuckanut trailhead, we headed up to Cedar Lake in dry conditions, to start at least.
Richard, Melanie, Mike, Frank, Richard, Chris
You can see that most of the big-leaf maple leaves are now on the ground (one jumped up on Frank, it seems), and it made for some wonderful scenery, and also some fun shushing through them, as they were sometimes ankle deep. At this point they were also mostly dry.
Piles of leaves
That was about to change, however. The first two hours of our hike to Cedar Lake were only intermittently wet, with just a few sprinkles to keep us in our rain gear. But then about 11:00am, right on schedule, the rain began to pick up. Those who still didn't have all their rain gear on stopped to fix that.
Ponchos, rain pants, and rain skirts
Compared with last week's glorious hike in the high country, this one didn't have much to take pictures of, and as the rain kept on becoming more widespread, we decided that once we got to Cedar Lake, we'd stop for lunch.
As far as we got around Cedar Lake
By the time we reached this spot, it was both windy and rainy, so we decided to find a nice place out of the wind to have a quick lunch. I didn't get any pictures of the spot, because it was, well, raining, and I didn't want to pull out my camera. As we ate, someone reminded me of a phrase our friend Carol once said about us: "We may be crazy, but we aren't lazy." That was particularly true for today.
Cedar Lake
This picture of Cedar Lake is the best shot I captured all day. After we packed up after a lunch where some people didn't even sit down to eat, we headed back the way we had come. And the rain got heavier and heavier until suddenly the rain was making noise! Pellets of hail begin to fall, creating a thunderous sound on my rain hat and on the surrounding forest. It continued for at least ten minutes before letting up somewhat.

I never took my camera out of my pocket again for the entire trip down to the cars. We covered around eight+ miles and who knows how much elevation gain and loss. It was so lovely to be back inside a place where it was warm and dry, and we are now happily ensconced in our homes listening to the continuing rain outside. A good day indeed!