Sunday, December 20, 2015

Skagit in December

One of my favorite things is to go for a drive around the Skagit in the winter, looking for birds. Someday perhaps I'll take the photography aspect of things more seriously.

I haven't done a really long run in a while, but on just about every weekend in the last month or so I've spent a bit of time hiking Skagit dike areas, Fragrance Lake, Fir Island, or some other local place.

The migratory birds in the Skagit are fantastic this time of year. Swans, snow geese, eagles, and all sorts of smaller birds. The days are short, which can be a downer, but also seems to bring the horizon nearer towards the end of the day. There's something edgy about the air on a clear afternoon day in December. Now, if it is raining, that's usually not as interesting, unless the rain is doing something different.

I'm hoping to do a few shorter races in January.  I'm also working on lining up a few winter hikes.

Here are a few photos from around the Skagit this year.

Heavy rainfall in November and December have resulted in near flooding of the Skagit.  This picture is from Freeway Drive near downtown Mount Vernon.  In the summer, there is a sandbar across the way here, where many sit in lawn chairs, fishing for salmon or just relaxing.

This is the Padilla Bay trail, which covers about 2.2 miles along the estuary. Herons are routine sightings, along with many other smaller flocks of birds. The trail is flat--a great place just to walk and reflect. Anacortes and the San Juan islands are viewed from here. I've long enjoyed going here. Friend Rich and I hiked this trail a few weeks ago.

These two above are from the Padilla Bay trail as well.

This I think is from the Fir Island viewing area, which is accessed at the Conway I-5 exit. Right now the government is doing some "improvements" here, which will improve habitat and provide more viewing opportunities. I saw my first snowy owl in the Skagit at this spot.

Looking out towards LaConner.


Two swans. I understand they mate for life, which is something like 25 years, migrating to Canada and the Arctic, and then back to the Skagit in the winter.

Eagles, swans, and a hawk, above.

Fragrance Lake, yesterday, as is the top photos with the ornaments.  Technically this is Whatcom County, but the drive up Chuckanut is Skagit, and part of the fun of it all.

Happy holidays to all my friends. Peace on Earth, peace be with you.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fowl Fun Run

This year's Fowl Run in Mount Vernon looked to be bad weather.  A big wind and rain storm has been pounding the Skagit Valley the past day or two. The river and creeks are running high, which is always a sight to see. On the way to race, I stopped at the Skagit and watched a full length tree moving down the river at a steady clip.

As it turned out, the weather during the run was pretty good, with little wind or rain. The winter fowl are flying into the Skagit, and so I saw snow geese and swans flying above, in fields.

My run was slow, with lots of walking. My body doesn't like running right now. I'll try to teach it better. I did the 10k, but the 5k was probably more apropos.  I don't know though--I'm fine with it now. I'm glad I laced them up, and got out there.

Afterwards, it was great to see good friends like Craig, Heather, Kevin, Steve, Toi, Delores and others, who made it all happen. Some pumpkin pie.

Thank you Skagit Runners!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Baker Lake 50k

Back to Baker Lake for me yesterday. It was a struggle, but I managed to finish my first ultra in a year.  This was my 12th Baker Lake 50k. Each one is special for different reasons. This year was a slow time, good peeps, and great weather. Baker Lake is my favorite race.

Yesterday's event went off perfectly. The temps were in the 50s and 60s, with clear skies, open trail, and postcard views of Mount Baker. The out and back is quiet, many slipsy bridges, undulating small hills, old growth, an occasional campground. I started slow and stayed that way, and so I didn't see many people until everyone turned around and was headed back.

Tim helped me out at the turnaround. I chose not to linger, because a.) I was going slow, and b.) I didn't want to stop. Thanks for the S caps! My stomach was a lump of cramps--for a while, they fixed me up.

By this time, the landmarks are very familiar to me. Three sets of switchbacks on the way up to Noisy Creek. The Noisy Creek sign means you're about an hour out from the turnaround. Maple Grove means an hour or less from the start. There are a slough of bridges, before you meet the road, coming up out of Anderson Creek. It's a climb that will hurt more than you'd like, but it ends soon enough.

Before the race I hung out with Stan and John, pictured below, who are a couple Baker Lake regulars. Such good people, with some of the longest ultra running histories you'll find. Stan was also doing his 12th, and I think John has 11 or 12 of these under his belt.

Good too to meet new friends, and hang out with old friends. Lots of Canadians are taking to this race! Especially good to see Tim, Al, Terry, and the whole Skagit Runners crew. Great to catch Ryan on the trail, finishing up a 100 miler version and a Washington Grand Slam. Wow and Congrats! Passing good wishes from Kendall, Mike, Van, and others on the trail. Many thanks to all the volunteers, including Terry, Delores, Tim, Kevin, James, Ryan, and everyone for putting on this terrific event.

On the way out, I listened to the Rolling Stones remastered Sticky Fingers. Might be their best album,  and the remastering is great, making for a quick drive back to the MV.  Now, the legs are propped up, and resolutions are in the works for the next event. Which will be...? Sooner than later, I'm sure.

Friday, October 2, 2015

New York City

Last week we went to New York City for the Global Citizen Festival.  I've never spent significant time in the city that never sleeps, and so we added a few days to be tourists. I've read the New Yorker for maybe twenty-five years, and have always wanted to visit. While my heart is in quieter places, New York is an amazing city, and for me this was an adventure of the first order.

Trains, trains, trains. For five days, we were subway and train gurus. We had our apps for schedules, but often I'd just ask someone. "Take the L to the A and get off at such and such station."  I even had an app which told me the best place to enter and exit a train. Grand Central Station at rush hour is sort of scary, with wall to wall people pushing to get onboard. On the ride to Yankee Stadium, a troupe of rapping, break-dancing, pole-dancing entrepreneurs entertained.

We stayed three nights in Brooklyn. Had pizza at the hipster pizza joint, Robertas, which has two Michelin stars. They had this radish dish that reinvented the bitterroot--loved it. Our neighborhood was full of graffiti and young Europeans, with a few food trucks, Brooklyn's Natural Grocery, and a feeling of rejuvenation. People walking around at all hours.

We did the water taxi tour, seeing the skyline, the Statue of Liberty and hiking the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge walk is very worthwhile, as is getting a few insights from a tour guide. We passed Ellis Island, the landing place for so many immigrants, and a personally significant sight for me.

We visited Ground Zero. The memorial is moving, and well done. Writing about it makes me sad though. I couldn't linger there too long. The memorial is actually two memorials, one for each tower, with one pictured below. 

Times Square. Crazy. The building size reader boards are worth seeing, and then leaving. So many people, coming, going. We got a few pictures with people dressed in costumes (Minion, Wolverine, et al.), and saw all the things you see on tv. So cool to connect these commonly televised sights with personal experience.

We happened upon a Comedy show at Carolines on Broadway. This was the score of the weekend, unexpected. Pete Davidson, the youngest cast member of SNL, was the featured comic. I think he's the funniest guy on the cast right now, and so this was amazing luck for me. His father died in 9/11, and he talks about it, darkly, sometimes. Great show, and I think he's going places. Jordan Rock, Chris' brother, also landed some haymakers. This is New York--we just happened to walk by, and were drawn in. Save Broadway for next time.

Yankee Stadium.  I love baseball. Great to ride the rails to the game, with all the Yankees fans in jerseys. I went in 2001 to the old stadium. The new stadium is much bigger, with legit 400 level seats.  Old time announcer.  Vendor options and atmosphere doesn't match early season Safeco. Around the 7th, I walked the stadium and checked out the Yankee Museum. So worthwhile. Yankee history is incredible, probably unmatched, though the BoSox might be right there. So many greats. In particular, I liked the featured exhibits on Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra (who just passed last week), Reggie Jackson, and Tino Martinez. They love Tino in New York.

One night we stayed next to Central Park, and I ran there the next morning. Central Park is a special place. You can escape there, and forget you're in the middle of Manhattan. New Yorkers love to run loops there--lots of runners hitting their strides. Its perhaps the greatest urban park in the world, so glad to get there. We actually spent all day their too on Saturday, on the Great Lawn.

Many other sites. Rockefeller Plaza. The NY bagel with cheese. More pizza. Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Wall Street. Chelsea District, and the Trailer Park bar. A visit to the local clinic--so interesting to see how NYers live. Taxi ride. Also, Pope Francis was in town, as was the UN General Assembly, making it a big weekend for New York, even by New York standards.

The purpose of the trip, and the highlight, was the Global Citizen Festival. This was an all-day concert in Central Park, featuring Pearl Jam, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay. Guest stars included Tori Kelly, Common, Sting, Ariana Grande, Bollywood's top singer, and others. Guest speakers included Michele Obama, VP Joe Biden, Malala (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Leo DiCaprio, Bono, Usher, Steven Colbert, Hugh Jackman, Kerry Washington, Olivia Wilde, Big Bird, Bill and Melinda Gates, featured videos from Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, and it goes on. The music was terrific, and Pearl Jam closed it out. Pearl Jam's rendition of John Lennon's Imagine, and the Eddie Vedder-Beyonce duet of Bob Marley's Redemption Song, with a Nelson Mandela voice track, were highlights for me.

The Festival was special, for many reasons. 60,000+ attendees, all on the Great Lawn. At least 48,000 attendees did not pay for their tickets, but won them through a lottery after taking advocacy steps for these various causes, such as signing petitions, tweeting, and calling Congress people. I was a lucky lottery winner. The effort wasn't hard, and the causes are very worthy. The focus on the Festival was the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are geared towards ending extreme poverty by 2030. The goals form a real business plan for the world's sustainability, and were adopted last week by the United Nations. No poverty, zero hunger, climate action, quality education, clean water and sanitation, and more--each cause is legit, and each cause had a luminary speak out for it. 

This was a truly inspiring day. It was terrific to be a part of this special event, and to see so many young activists there. Promising for the future, and a good time in Central Park.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Green Mountain

On Saturday I hiked up to the Green Mountain Lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. The Suiattle River Road into this hike has been out, more or less, since 2003, and just re-opened last fall.

This was a morning for cloud hiking. Fall was clearly in gear, with temps somewhere around 40 degrees, and signs of frost on the plants. Right now it should be called Red and Green Mountain.

The hike is about 4 miles to the lookout, which is perched at 6500 feet. I've seen the pictures, and the views are spectacular, of Glacier Peak and the surrounding area. My own views were restricted to lower elevations, as the lookout was in the clouds the whole time I was there. I was able to make a cell phone call from the lookout--there is that.

This lookout was the point of litigation recently. A non-profit group from Montana successfully sued the feds for using the aid of an helicopter in repairing or improving it, contrary to the Wilderness Act. Subsequently, legislators got involved to preserve the lookout, successfully. All this law and policy business made seeing the lookout that much more of a priority.

Coming down, the clouds lifted, and the open meadows came more into view. Spectacular splashes of red and green--my pics don't really do the views justice. Very beautiful.

The Suiattle River Road is full on washboard after mile 14 or so. I had to slow to 10-15 mph, or so, or the car would've shaken apart. The drive from Mount Vernon took a little more than two hours. Good times, listening to the new Mad Season-Benaroya Hall cd, a show which we attended in January. I was second up to the lookout for the day, but the trail got busy later on. Recommend the early start.