This is the second of two walks we took over New Year’s 2018 in the San Juan Islands. The first was The Shaw Island Walk from our previous post.
This round-trip walk begins and ends in Friday Harbor, Washington on San Juan Island. The map for the walk says that the mileage is 6 miles to the American Camp Visitor’s Center. We have walked it twice now and believe that it’s more like 7 + miles one way, making it 14 or 15 miles round trip. Additional miles and time are added if you hike on any of the trails in this National Park Service Historic Park, which you really must do. So, prepare for an “all-dayer.” Pack a lunch, snacks, plenty of water, warm layers, and of course, rain gear. We lucked out on both trips here and didn’t need it. It can also be a help against the winds at the southern tip of the island, which is a peninsula of sorts and exposed to the elements on all sides. The trail offers amazing views of Griffin Bay and Mount Baker at many points along the way. Walkers will also enjoy views of the open pastoral land common on San Juan Island. Miles of additional hiking trails and views of Haro Strait, Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Mountains reward the walker’s efforts at American Camp.
Finding the trail…
This was our second time walking this trail. The first time was at New Year’s, when 2015 turned into 2016. We stumbled upon it quite by accident, not knowing there was a trail all the way to the south end of the island. Much to our delight, we have found many trails in the same way. This time we knew about the trail, of course, but also found the true beginning of the trail on Spring Street in Friday Harbor. If staying in Friday Harbor, walk up Spring Street, the main road up from the ferry, until the airport becomes visible on the south, or left, side of the street and watch for the teeny-tiny sign that indicates the trail. The signs to follow are green and about 4″ x 4″ and say “American Camp Trail.” Sometimes they are just a small green arrow. The walker must be diligent in looking for them at every crossroads, corner, or intersection. It’s a bit of a fun scavenger hunt as you look for the next clue leading you ever onward towards your destination. There is one short section (about 1/8 mile) of road walking on busy Cattle Point Road. Road walking is never fun for me, but the shoulder was wide-ish and the drivers, for the most part, gave us the space we needed to feel safe.
I would suggest getting an early start if hiking in the winter. We opted for a leisurely morning and found ourselves returning to Friday Harbor just after sunset, which is early here in the Pacific Northwest on New Year’s Eve day…somewhere around 4:15 p.m.. The late start meant we couldn’t spend as much time at American Camp as we had during our first time there.
The Frazer Homestead Preserve would be a nice side trip to this walk. Here’s a picture of the original farm house with Mount Baker in the background. What a view to wake up to!
We saw no other walkers on the trail except a young trail runner close to American Camp and a man walking his dog on the Minnie Mae section. We had to wonder how many people walk from town to American Camp and hope we are not the only ones who enjoy these kinds of adventures. Admittedly, winter walking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’m betting more walkers take advantage of this trail during the summertime.
Thanks for reading and as always, Happy Walking and Happy New Year!
Getting There (with this walk, getting there was half the fun!)…
This walk begins at the ferry dock on Shaw Island, Washington. You can park your car at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal for $5.00/day, buy a ticket inside, and off you go. Be sure you’re on the correct ferry as this is a busy place, with many ferries coming and going. Also, be sure you know what time you need to be back at the ferry dock on Shaw Island to catch the ferry back to Anacortes. The ferries to Shaw Island are fairly infrequent compared to the other islands, especially in the winter months. Aaron and I were staying on San Juan Island and caught the smaller inter-island ferry over to Shaw Island in the morning and back to San Juan in the afternoon, which was super fun and added to the adventure!
Washington State Ferries serve four of the 172 named islands of the San Juan Islands: San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw. Shaw Island is the baby in size and population. It has a year-round population of about 250. There is a historic general store at the ferry dock (closed for the winter), a post office, and an active community center. In a word, it is idyllic, making it the perfect venue for any walk.
I had a fairly good idea of where we were headed, “from the ferry dock, walk south along Blind Bay until you come to the Community Center, turn left, walk some more until you come to Shaw Island County Park, check out the beach at Indian Cove, then continue, in the same direction, to Squaw Bay, where you’ll see the trail head leading north into the Graham Preserve. Follow the trail through the Preserve back to the Community Center and walk back along Blind Bay to the ferry dock.” And that’s pretty much what we did…easy peasy. A few cars passed as we walked and we met two other walkers, who were on holiday on the island. Other than that, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Oh, I musn’t forget the two cats at the ferry dock, who entertained and kept us company as we awaited the ferry back to Friday Harbor.
This walk could easily be made longer by continuing west on Squaw Bay Road, turning north on Hoffman Cove Road, which brings you back to Blind Bay Road. We were constrained by ferry times and actual hours of daylight, which are few at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll save that walk for one of our long summer days perhaps.
Imagine an outdoor museum with native ferns, salal, and vine maple for a floor and a glittering ceiling of sunlight twinkling through the canopy of towering cedars above. This is what makes this special park a feast for the eyes and a respite for the soul. Once you enter the park and begin winding your way through the gently rolling serpentine paths, an unmistakable mantle of peace and quiet envelops you while sculptural delights surprise you at every turn. Some are whimsical, some invite heartfelt contemplation, while others are meant to be puzzled over. Over 39 artist pieces dot this 2.5 acre haven of artistic exploration. If you’ve never been to Big Rock Garden Sculpture Park, you have a real treat awaiting you! For directions, hours, and events at the park, please see the City of Bellingham’s website here.
There is a small parking area at the park but I would suggest parking your car or taking the bus to Bloedel-Dovovan Park and walking up through the quaint Silver Beach neighborhood, into the cedar and sword fern forests of the Silver Beach Preserve, and on to Big Rock Garden Sculpture Park. The entire walk there and back is no more than 2 miles, making it great for kids or when time is limited. Once you’ve arrived at Bloedel-Donovan Park:
Walk north on Electric Avenue and cross Alabama Street.
Continue straight up the slight incline on Dakin Street about 2 blocks and turn R on Silver Beach Avenue.
Walk about 2 blocks and turn L on Peters Street.
Walk up Peters Street until you see the path directly in front of you (as if Peters Street continued but turned to path) This section is short but steep. Yay for walking workouts!
Keep following the path until you see sign for Big Rock Garden Park…it’s super easy.
A Handful of Big Rock Garden Park’s Treasures…
If you want to add more walking to this walk, you can follow the path back (the way you came) through the Silver Beach Preserve and follow the well-marked trail signs north to Northridge Park. This park is at the very top of Barkley Hill and the main trail makes a big loop that brings you right back to where you began. This would add roughly 2 more miles to your walk. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.
I hope you find your way to this special park. It is sure to surprise, delight, amaze, and possibly even inspire you!
This is my first post in quite a while. In late March, I fractured the 5th metatarsal on my left foot, resulting in a complete cessation of any walking. Four months later, I’m up to about an hour of walking every couple days and lots of yoga. That is all my physical therapist will allow. We’re looking at six months to full recovery and that’s only if I’m ‘good’ and follow his advice. It’s been a real learning experience. I’ve learned about patience, how to care for oneself, how it feels to be disabled, how society views, cares for, and accommodates the disabled, and the precious gift of health. May I never take it for granted…
Western Washington University…
Western Washington University began in the 1890’s as a “State Normal School,” eventually becoming a college devoted to education majors. Since then, it has become a larger learning center with degrees offered in many majors.
This was a perfect day to stroll through the hillside campus of WWU in Bellingham, Washington. It had rained in the morning leaving the air fresh and the earth well-watered. The temperature was cool but not too cool. The campus looks out over Bellingham Bay and the distant San Juan Islands. The grounds in summer are spectacular. Century old trees, fragrant rose gardens, and native plants are cared for in a manner that support the ideals of education: imagination, vision, beauty, balance, and purpose. The natural world that has been artfully created on WWU’s campus, invites the visitor and student to stand up straighter and lift their gaze to a higher potential and goal. So, in addition to the sculpture garden, there are the nature gardens too…an added treat.
The Sculpture Garden…
The sculpture garden is overseen by the Western Gallery. There are 27 sculptures on the sculpture garden map. It seems you can pick up a handy booklet about the sculptures in the Western Gallery but I used only the map and it was fine. I want to take this walk with Aaron soon so we will pick up a booklet then. Honestly, it was enjoyable just contemplating the artist’s meaning of the sculptures rather than reading the meaning. When I have the booklet, I’ll be able to see how close I came to understanding the artists’ messages.
The map uses letters of the alphabet (A to Z to AA) as a key to the location of the sculptures. For the most part, it was accurate. I expected the sculptures to be in plain sight and and most of them are. Some are more difficult to find as they are on walls, in buildings, or off the main trails, which added to the ‘discovery’ aspect of the walk. There were two that were missing (I could see where they had been) and one that I searched and searched for but never found. It was disappointing too, as it has the most interesting title, “The Islands of the Rose Apple Tree Surrounded by the Oceans of the World For You, Oh My Darling.” Who wouldn’t want to see that sculpture, right?!
Parking can be tricky at WWU. I was lucky to get a parking spot on Garden Street just below the campus. One could easily take one of the numerous public buses that go up to WWU from downtown too. After parking, I walked up (and I mean up) to Red Square, the heart of the campus, where exhibit A was waiting. I followed the ‘alphabet’ on the map, making it a scavenger hunt of sorts.
Some of the sculptures are favorites of the students and visitors for obvious reasons…this would make a great walk for little people, as many of the sculptures are interactive, as you’ll see.
We’ve seen this next one for many years but have never gone up to it and inside it. It has a quality like no other. It is titled, “Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings” by Nancy Holt. I felt an inner quiet immediately come over me like never before.
The map takes you all the way to Fairhaven College. This is not to be missed. The campus is designed in such a way that you feel you are at a mountain retreat. It would be great place to have a picnic lunch…
After Fairhaven College, you walk over to the state-of-the-art Wade King Student Recreation Center. Wade King lost his life as a youngster in the catastrophic Whatcom Falls Park fire. His family has given countless dollars, in his name, to promote the education of youth in Whatcom County. I was struck by the symmetry of the flags leading to the Center and the next sculpture, a water sculpture, dedicated to all those who served in WW II.
Here is a video of the water sculpture, “Rain Forest,” by James Fitzgerald at Wade King Student Recreation Center, WWU.
Here are a couple more of interest. One is inside the library. One is below a sky bridge of sorts, which given the layout of the sculpture was the best place to view it.
As you can see, this is a wonderful walk. The pictures in this post are just a handful of the entire collection. The campus is built on the side of a hill so the walker can get their muscles working. The sculptures are varied and artistically and thoughtfully created and placed. They are truly beautiful and inspiring. I ended up buying lunch from one of the vendors outside the student union and ate at a picnic table on the plaza outside the Performing Arts Center with it’s fabulous view of the bay. The book store is worth a look too. I was on campus for about 3 hours total. This is a wonderful walk for visitors and locals alike!
Have you ever gone to the mall to walk? Before this week, the idea of mall walking was a fuzzy concept for me, hovering somewhere between “I’ve heard of it” and “you’ve got to be kidding.” I might have even rolled my eyes and chuckled at the thought. Well, my experiences of the past two days have totally humbled me. I am now a champion of mall walkers everywhere and their mission to maintain and enhance their physical and emotional health and well-being by taking advantage of this clean, warm, indoor venue for walking.
Strong winds are common in the Northwest’s Puget Sound, making walking in our thickly wooded parks and streets, a bit risky. These strong winds frequently topple trees and any wind advisory means walkers should stay out of the woods until the winds calm down. It was this scenario, a few days ago, that gave me the idea to try mall walking and I wasn’t the only one! There were probably 50 – 75 seasoned mall walkers there. All ages. All abilities. All cool.
Tips, Suggestions, and Observations from Two Mornings of Mall Walking:
Our local mall, Bellis Fair, opens its doors at 7 a.m., year round, Monday – Saturday, to provide a warm and welcoming space for walking. It is located just north of Bellingham, at the intersection of Meridian Street and I-5.
There is mall walking etiquette. Everyone walks anti-clock wise. I suppose you could walk clockwise but no one did.
Mall walking is an inclusive and social atmosphere. People greet you and say ‘good morning’ and seem genuinely happy.
I walked during the holidays, so the music was 100% Christmas. I’m thinking the music is normally soft rock.
Some people had ear buds in, listening to news, music, books on tape, This American Life, or whatever. Great idea!
You don’t need to bundle up. The mall turns the lights and heat up at 8:00 a.m. because the big stores, such as Target, Kohl’s, and Macy’s, open then. During non-holiday hours, lights and heat probably go up at 9 a.m.
After my walk on my first day, I went to Macy’s (Yes Lisa, my Macy’s guru, I thought of you!) and did a little shopping before it got busy.
This could be a great way to entice teenagers to walk with you. First a walk, then a shop!
This is the ultimate window shopping experience. I was told once that modern malls are the equivalent of ancient shopping bazaars with their textiles, food vendors, jewelry, etc. and it’s so true!
There are bathrooms and water all along the way. Never a bad thing.
One seasoned walker told me that “one full lap, without cutting corners, and twice around the food court,” was one mile. I would agree. I did four laps minus the “twice around the food court,” in just over an hour.
Here’s a very informative booklet on the benefits of mall walking published by the CDC and University of Washington: Guide to Mall Walking
Mall walking is a good use of this huge, vacant, indoor space and it’s far more interesting than walking on a track.
Mall walking is a definite alternative to walking in severe weather. It’s a good “go-to” walking venue when the winds are strong. I’ll probably continue to walk primarily in nature, but it’s fun to mix it up and experience another community that promotes walking. See you at the mall!
For the past 9 or 10 days, the Pacific Northwest has experienced snow and freezing temperatures. The low temperatures have kept the snowy earth covered with a blanket of white, a gift that we seldom receive anymore. This was the first significant snow in town in a few years. It is always magical. The schools close, people ride the buses, families play together in the park, snowmen appear, and the world becomes a quieter and slower place, mirroring the sleep of nature. Perhaps the snowfall is a gentle nudge from Mother Nature, encouraging us to follow her lead.
This walk was taken around my neighborhood and in Whatcom Falls Park. I really just want to share some videos and pictures of my walks in the snow. I hope you enjoy them!
I hope this video doesn’t make you dizzy!
I’m always amazed that this park is two blocks from my house! What a treasure.
These swans appeared on the pond. We think the cold temps grounded them for a bit. They didn’t like us getting too close.
We awoke to rain and wind this morning with temperatures soaring to 43 degrees from a low of somewhere around 16. The snow is gone and green blankets the earth once again…at least for now!