Mt. Baker from Bellingham Bay

Mt. Baker from Bellingham Bay

This afternoon was a glorious blue-sky sunny autumn day with temperatures in the low 50s. Perfect for a bike ride around Lummi Peninsula. I chose to ride counter-clockwise for the first time in many visits to this regular loop, so I came back along Lummi Shore Road. The view from the road is across Bellingham Bay to Mount Baker. I was pedaling briskly, but able to enjoy the spectaular view of the mountain at the same time. The water was nearly totally calm, unusual for the bay, and the sky was a cloudless rich blue.

When I got home I decided I needed to return with my camera for the late afternoon light. I parked at one of the higher points along the road so I could look down on the water as well as across the bay to Bellingham and the mountain. Unfortunately, by 5:45 pm the sky had some high cirrus clouds and light haze over the mountain. The view just wasn’t as dramatic as I had envisioned. Always the optimist, I set up and made a series of exposures as the sun went down. I shot with my 70-200mm lens, coupled with a 2x teleconverter for many frames (including the one here).

I waited a while after the sun left the mountain to see if the sky would get interesting in that time between the sun dropping below the horizon and darkness. The clouds over Lummi Island were OK, but not spectacular. Over Baker there was nothing interesting going on so I headed home.

The frame here has benefitted from some work in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance the color of the sky and improve the contrast of the forested hills and the city buildings. It’s closer to what I envisioned than the raw camera capture.

And the bike ride?  I set a new personal speed record for the year, averaging 18.9 mph over about 32.5 miles. Much of the time I was riding 21-22 mph on the flatter sections of road. There are no big hills, just a few gentle upgrades on the route.

Roadside Weeds

I’ve been out bicycling a lot of miles around Whatcom County this year. While it’s mostly a speed thing challenging myself to see how fast I can go, I’m also observing what’s in bloom along the side of the road. It changes every few weeks, although there are few flowers, like Queen Ann’s Lace, that stay in bloom for a long time.

Japanese KnotweedRight now the showiest plant in bloom is one of our nasty invasive weeds, Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum). There’s some question about the taxonomy, so what we have may well be Bohemian Knotweed (Polygonum × bohemicum), a hybrid species. Regardless, it’s a tall showy plant with drooping panicles of white flowers that forms large masses at the side of the road.  It prefers moist places like ditches and streambanks and spreads by underground rhizomes. It’s very difficult to eradicate as any tiny bit of root will start a new plant and spraying common herbicides seem to only slow it down. The preferred method of attack is to inject herbicide directly into the stems, which is very labor intensive.

I’ve noticed that along some of the county roads it has been mown down, which might help keep it in check. At least seeds won’t set and spread the plant that way. Last winter the plants that hadn’t been cut drooped over onto the shoulder and partially blocked the way along one of the busier parts of one of my regular routes.

Japanese Knotweed is an example of a plant that was originally introduced as a garden specimen and got away. For more information about it and the other big knotweeds see this page from the Whatcom County Noxious Weed Board.

Common ToadflaxAnother pretty roadside weed, not nearly as widespread around here, is Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris). It’s only a foot or so tall and covered with attractive yellow flowers. I saw a patch of it along Slater Road near the railroad tracks yesterday. It’s not on the Washington noxious weed list, but its cousin Dalmatian Toadflax is.

Of course, not everything blooming along the road is a weed. I also saw quite a bit of the fall-blooming Pacific Asters on my rides this past weekend. My long ride was a loop out Mt. Baker Highway, down Mosquito Lake Road to Acme, down to Park Road and over to Lake Whatcom, then south past Cain Lake to Alger, and home by way of Lake Samish and Lake Padden. You can see the route on Map My Ride.

1001 Bicycling Miles

I set a rough goal to bicycle 1000 miles since I started logging my distance in mid-August and this afternoon I made it! It’s definitely harder to find nice days to ride during the winter months than during the warm and sunny days of August and September, but I’ve managed to get out. This afternoon’s ride was one of my regular routes, about 17 miles with a sustained 5 miles of uphill cranking. There was slushy snow at the side of the road at higher elevations around North Lake Samish and on the hill heading toward Lake Padden, but the main road surface was merely wet.

For the statistically inclined:

Since I can’t predict how much I’ll be home in 2008 I’m not ready to set a cycling goal for next year, but I should definitely be able to do more than this year since I won’t wait until August to get started.

Cycling on Ice

It was sunny again today, and I needed another break from scanning and processing files through Photoshop. So even though it was only 32°F outside and I thought there might be some frost in the shade I went out for a 25-mile bike ride.  I picked the hilly route out by Lake Padden, down and around Lake Samish, and back along Old Samish Road to Fairhaven and then home.

City streets were bare and dry for the most part, but the shoulder on Samish Way was frosty and a bit of snow in places so I rode in the traffic lane. The downhill from Galbraith Road had even more snow and frost so I rode carefully and more slowly than usual. I was surprised that the grade down the Lake Samish was clear, as was most of the loop around the lake.  I thought I was home free.

Then I hit Old Samish Way, which apparently never saw the sun nor much traffic today. The road was almost completely covered in packed snow and ice. For once, I was happy to have the rough surface of chip seal as I eased myself down the first long hill. Not long after I started down another cyclist on the way up stopped and flagged me down. I gently squeezed my brake levers, but the road was too slick and my tires lost traction and I ended up sliding 10 or 15 feet on my side.

I picked myself up and determined that I was OK and so was my bike.  The other cyclist simply wanted to know if the road I had just traveled was as snowy as the one he had just come up.  I was a bit annoyed at crashing to be friendly and answer a question that could easily be answered by observation.  Oh, well.  He apologized for flagging me down and instigating my spill.  He also decided to turn around and go back down the way he had come, which I think was slicker than the way I had come.

I followed the other fellow a bit and then rode around him and continued on my way, still cautious but not as timid as the other rider.  After my spill and stopping to chat I was cold. Riding downhill in freezing temperatures in the shade did nothing to help me warm up and by the time I got home my fingers and toes were really cold. Thank goodness for hot showers and hot tea. I ended up with a little bit of road rash on my elbow and hip.

Sunshine on Mt. Baker

The low winter light on Mt. Baker this afternoon was as nice as I’ve ever seen it as I bicycled east on Slater Road. There’s lots of fresh snow on the mountain, and the Black Buttes cast long shadows on the side of the peak, accentuating the volcano’s shape and texture. It would have been picture perfect except for the uninteresting strip of clouds hanging over the summit.

I wasn’t in a position to do any photography anyway. I’d been working furiously preparing high-res files for a stock agency and just had to get out of the office and burn off some energy, so I went for a brisk but relatively short bike ride in the afternoon sun. I only rode a little under 17 miles today, cruising along the flatlands near the Nooksack in a loop that took me out Marine Drive, up Ferndale Road, east on Slater, and then back to town on Northwest.

Wednesday afternoon I also took off for a ride, but with more hills and an inevitably slower pace. It’s nice to be able to get out and ride during the winter months to keep my blood circulating and general fitness level up.

I’ve also put in a couple of days of kayaking since Thanksgiving. The first was about 10 miles on Lake Shannon near Concrete, with glorious views of both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. It was a gloriously sunny day with heavy frost on the ground when we launched. The second kayak outing was on Saturday on the Samish River, paddling upstream from the mouth at Edison. It was a cold and snowy day, although we didn’t get snowed on as heavily as we thought we would. There were numerous bald eagles and other raptors perched in the bare trees along the river and several blue herons at the water’s edge. We also saw lots of coots and smaller numbers of other waterfowl. Upstream of the tidal influence the current was about 1 mph, just enough to notice but not enough to cause a lot of extra work.

The Mt. Baker ski area opened on November 27 and I went up for opening day. The snow was cold, the sky blue, and the skiing great. I ran out of legs before I ran out of daylight.

We’ve got so many recreational opportunities around here that it’s sometime hard to decide just how to go out and play. That’s a blessing.

Great Day for a Bike Ride

We don’t get a lot of nice sunny days in November around here, but today was glorious with temps in the low 40s.  So I took off early afternoon for a 31-mile bike ride around Lummi Peninsula.  It’s a nice loop on roads that mostly have a good shoulder and not too much traffic mid-day.

One of the challenges of biking this time of year is figuring out how to dress.  I’ve decided that long underwear under my bike shorts on the bottom, and a long underwear shirt under a lightweight cycling jacket on top works fine. I think I want to invest in a pair of bike tights, but haven’t found any I like at a price I’m willing to pay. My fingers get a little cool in regular fingerless bike gloves, and my feet got a bit chilly in lightweight bike shoes and cotton socks.

I started out strong, averaging about 17.8 mph for the first 1o miles.  At 17 miles I was up to 18.3 mph. Then I started to tire as I rode along the gently undulating Lummi Shore road, enjoying the view across Bellingham Bay to Bellingham, Mt. Baker, and the near-full moon a few degrees above the mountain. By the time I got to Marine Drive, about 27 miles in, my energy level was really sagging. I kept going, but riding slower and slower, and made it home. My overall speed was 16.7 mph, about one mph and 7 minutes slower than the last time I’d done the same ride.

I’m wondering if I just ride slower when it’s cold.  I decided I hadn’t eaten enough for breakfast and lunch today, so simply running out of fuel was part of the problem.  I tanked up on a cup of hot chocolate, an energy bar, and a bowl of raisins and nuts when I got home. Proper nutrition will fuel you better and longer than if you just “go with the flow” I suggest you visit website here regularly, as I will be giving vital advice for keeping your energy level high.

In any case, vigorous exercise for a couple of hours is a great antidote for sitting at the computer captioning photos.