Wednesday, June 22, 2022

After the Flood

Pink dogwood
Hovander Park is the loveliest place in Ferndale for a quick after-dinner walk or bike ride, especially if you include Tennant Lake and the trail along the river to Slater Road.

The gardens have suddenly recovered this week, after the flooding last winter, although many of the farm animals are gone now. The chickens, ducks and geese are still there, and some rabbits, but the goats and their pens are gone. In the old days, the park also kept sheep, cattle, pigs, peacocks, pheasants and other game birds, but those have been gone for years. The Scottish Highland Games will be held at the North Bellingham Golf Course in the future, in pouring rain this year. This will give the park a chance to recover - marching massed pipe bands are hard on the lawns and shrubbery.

This weekend's weather forecast is for our first hot spell of the summer - temperatures in the mid-70's, up to 80 even. Unfortunately, even though I haven't been riding very much I somehow developed a bit of saddle-soreness which I have to let heal up before attempting a long ride. At least I've finally got my new bike adjusted comfortably, apart from the chafing . . .

So in the meantime I'll just enjoy the flowers, on foot.

Highwater mark on 11/11/21

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Cap Sante - Memorial Day Weekend

Summit of Cap Sante
May and June have been moody months, with days of drenching rain and wind, then a sunny break, then more storms. On Memorial Day weekend, for a change of scene, I took a car trip to Anacortes and spent a day walking around the parks and waterfront.

It's been five years already since the summer I worked at Island Bicycles in the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. That summer I passed through Anacortes at least a couple of times a month, on my way to or from the ferry landing. I bicycled and/or rode the bus between Ferndale and Anacortes and by the end of the summer I was in the best shape of my life. But that was five years ago, and now I'm not.

Back then I would walk or ride my bike on the flat land around downtown, looking up to admire the rocky top of Cap Sante. On foot this time, I decided to climb up to the top - only a few hundred feet. I walked the paved pathway by the marina, out to a viewpoint below the bluff. A couple of short cement stairways lead uphill from the paved footpath, which I assumed logically would put me on a trail all the way to the top. But in the pandemic years, the steep hillside has been heavily used by some very enthusiastic frisbee-golf players. Much of the understory plants have been trampled, leaving large areas of bare dirt between the frisbee targets. Although it was hard to distinguish any particular path, I thought as long as I kept going up I would have to arrive at the top eventually. The hillside got steep enough that I had to look for footholds on roots and rocks, and catch on to tree branches for balance. Then I came to some cracked, jagged bare granite where I wedged my feet and fingers into vertical gaps, climbing twenty or thirty feet to the top of the rocks. Once there I scanned the view of the bay and the town, and also . . . a small parking lot with a bench and viewpoint marker. A narrow paved road goes up the far side of the bluff so you can just take the easy way and drive up to the top.

Panorama view from the top of Cap Sante:

I'd brought a map and compass with me, just to keep oriented, and was surprised to find that the town of Anacortes is actually south of the peak. The shoreline curves and winds around much more than it seems, at least if you're used to thinking in terms of highways running north-and-south.

After admiring the views and exploring around the rocky top of the bluff, I found a gravel trail leading downhill through the woods, which came out by the yacht club - a much easier route than the one I'd taken on the way up. From there I walked around the marina a bit more, then had a very filling fish & chips lunch at The Cabana - under an umbrella, because it was sprinkling a bit.

After lunch I headed (by car) toward the ferry terminal, but this time I followed the road that branches left away from the turn-off to the ferry loading area. I'd always been curious about what lay down this road when I passed through five years ago, but back then I was always too rushed or too tired to explore it by bicycle. The road leads to Washington Park, which has a nice beach area, perfect for Memorial Day family picnics. The sun was shining again, so I walked the beach a bit, and followed a paved road/trail through the park. Along the road there are pull-out areas just big enough for a car/camper, next to grassy waterside picnic areas. I think I walked a mile or two before turning back - it was hard to judge the distance around the whole park, but it would have been a good long hike, and my toes were blistering.
Walking is a good alternative form of exercise and sight-seeing, and it's good to get a break from bicycling, and I'm glad I got to visit some places I'd missed on my bicycle trips. But I've only been riding about twice a week this spring, only 20-40 mile rambles on the weekend. I'm starting to feel a bit decrepit. It's time to start rehabilitating myself. As soon as the rain lets up.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Signs of Life

Fish tacos & americano

My favorite downtown lunch place, The Bagelry, has reopened. Last week I enjoyed a Saturday brunch sitting indoors out of the rain.

This Saturday was a perfect sunny day for a bike ride to Blaine, for lunch at my other favorite place. To make sure my appetite was keen, I rode a little extra on the sandspit by the marina, out to the public fishing dock. After lunch I walked on the boardwalk on Portal Way, where a summer craft fair and farmer's market was underway.

Seagulls resting on the fishing pier

I usually take a back way to Blaine, out on Enterprise Road as far as Loomis Trail Road, where I turn left and then meander around the farm roads, heading west until I get to the town of Blaine by Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor. Riding on the inland roads was warm for May, but it was brisk and breezy near the water, and it's fun to go from rural fields and forest to marine views all in one day-trip.

Usually I ride home on the waterside, along Drayton Harbor to Birch Bay, which makes it a longer, hillier ride on the way back. Today I went by the inland route, trying out some different farm roads, to see what things look like going the other direction. This made for a 40 mile ride, the longest I've done since last summer. I'm still adjusting the fit on my new bike - I think I've got it set now, but I am out of shape.  Still, I'm not training for any ambitious rides so I'm free to ramble at will.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Local Conditions - Hovander & W. Smith Rd.

Looking east . . .
Looks like local road authorities - not sure if that's Whatcom County or the City of Ferndale - may have finally decided to let this section of road sink into the swamp. This is W. Smith Road just past where it turns off from Hovander Road, by the railroad tracks beside Tennant Lake. For decades this area has flooded in the winter, and now the pavement is cracked and sunken in the lowest part of the roadway. This year a large puddle has remained since the flooding in January.

Looking west

These photos were taken on Sunday, when cars and bicycles were still driving through. On Monday the water was deeper and "road closed" signs were posted at both ends. Maybe someday soon it will be a new bicycle/pedestrian trail, with a nice boardwalk above the marshes . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

This Year's Tulips

At the turnoff to Farm to Market Road
Last weekend I got out for my traditional annual Tulip Festival bike ride in Mount Vernon. I drove to the Chuckanut Park & Ride lot in Burlington, meaning to ride Josh Wilson Road toward the tulip fields, but I missed a turn somewhere and ended up going too far north on Hwy. 11. I headed back south on Farm to Market Road, a route I remembered from back in 2014 when I was training for the Red-Bell 100, mostly because of a short-but-steep hill about halfway along. That year I made it halfway up the hill before I had to dismount and walk; this year I managed only about half that far. That's what car-commuting has done to me.

The rest of the ride was flat and easy, though, and car traffic was surprisingly light for a sunny Saturday afternoon, with only minor back-ups at two intersections, and slow traffic on the main street of Old Town Mount Vernon. Drivers were good sports and didn't try to block the bike lane to avoid being passed by cyclists. There were a good number of bicyclists out, too, including many people on ebikes, enjoying the freedom to get out to cruise around in the sun.

The tulip fields aren't as extensive as usual, because many farms lost a lot of bulbs in flooding over the winter. But two of the largest farms had vast fields in bloom, and one smaller new farm had some lovely plantings. Shops and restaurants are re-opening, too, now that pandemic restrictions are easing.

I rode a little more than thirty miles, with a stop for lunch at the Skagit Community Food Co-Op. I'm looking forward to more weekend day-trips, and maybe commuting by bike again, when Bike to Work month comes around in May.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Happy Spring

Sometimes it seems our February weather is colder, snowier and stormier each year. Luckily now I have Facebook to show me photos from two or three or eight years back. My old pictures are usually of snow several inches deep, or flooding from heavy rain and melting snow. It's good to have a digital memory more realistic than my own. Now it's March, the crocuses are up, and I'm ready for spring.

A couple of weeks ago I took my newish TriCross to REI to see if they could add some spacers to raise the handlebars. Turns out they couldn't, but they did swap the stem for one that is angled sharply upwards, and gives me almost an inch more height on the bars.

Today was the first chance I've had to take it for a test ride, and the new stem is just the change I needed. No more numb hands from leaning on the bars, no more stiff neck from riding with my head cocked back too far. I'm much happier now, and ready to travel.

Maybe I'll even start commuting by bike again soon - except that if I don't move my car regularly it tends to get vandalized.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Still a Bit Wet Out

New shoes
Today I got out for a twelve mile ride, my first for 2022, and first since October. I was tired and a little sore by the end, but no lasting pain. Very foggy this morning, and the pavement was wet and gritty, but not too cold and no rain. Some puddles remaining over the roads, however. This is on Church Road near Barnstar Farm.

Also got to test-ride some new shoes. These are Shimano brand, meant for touring and/or mountain biking, with no cleat-plates, just a flat, stickyish sole. They kind of remind me of the saddle shoes my parents forced me to wear when I was a kid, which I hated. These look pretty sharp, though, in classic black & white and coral-colored laces (they come with a spare set of black laces for a more conservative look). The sole isn't quite as stiff as I'd like, but I've been looking for something like this for a long time and I'm pretty pleased.