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!
We took this walk about three or four weeks ago, during that one week every fall when the turning leaves reach the height of color and seem to vibrate with the intensity of a hot summer sun. At every turn, we were met with another shade of gold or red, providing a visual memory of warmer days in the midst of crisp autumnal air, an interesting juxtaposition to summer’s warmth and cooling green.
Since we live near Whatcom Falls Park, most of our walks, as this one did, begin there. We set out to walk to Fairhaven via a favorite back road route we have cobbled together over several hit-and-miss walks. From Fairhaven, we walk back to downtown Bellingham and either walk or take a WTA bus home (up the hill). The walk to downtown is about 11 miles and to back Whatcom Falls Park is about 14 or 15 miles. Either way, it’s an all-day excursion. Our route takes us over Bellingham’s southern foothills just east of I-5, through the Puget neighborhood, and drops us down into the Sehome Shopping Center area. This is where we happily discovered an entirely new constellation of interconnected trails called the Connelly Creek Trail and Nature Area. We caught the trail by climbing the stairs on the west end of Adams Street, one block south of the Ferry Avenue trail head. https://www.cob.org/documents/parks/parks-trails/trail-guide/connelly_creek.pdf
Initially the trail threads its way through a thin area sandwiched between apartments and condominiums before emerging into the green open fields of the iconic Joe’s Garden produce farm. This was a real treat. We stood for a long time just looking.
The trail crosses Taylor Avenue at Joe’s Garden and enters the larger Connelly Creek Nature Area. Here, you cross the creek many times. Numerous bridges give you glimpses of the creek along the way. There are many trail crossings and spurs leading into the neighborhoods of Happy Valley. The trail is well marked.
We followed the trail to Old Fairhaven Parkway and jumped on the Interurban Trail at the corner of Old Fairhaven Parkway and 24th Street. This section of the Interurban follows Padden Creek and provides access to Fairhaven Park. It eventually ends in the heart of Fairhaven with its many restaurants and cafes offering rewarding refreshments for the famished walker! Walking south (the other way) on the Interurban takes takes the walker all the way to Larabee State Park. From Fairhaven, it’s about 17 miles round trip. We’ve done it once and hope to do it again soon.
The walk from Fairhaven to Bellingham along the South Bay Trail is a favorite for obvious reasons. It can lift any mood.
Discovering Connelly Creek Trail and Nature Area has only added to our appreciation for the value Bellingham and its residents place on creating and maintaining an interconnected system of trails. The urban walker is truly fortunate. We look forward to our next trail discovery!
These warm September and October weekends are perfect for a walk along Birch Bay, a small protected, shallow bay located just north of Bellingham. Aaron and I often think of Birch Bay when we want to feel like we’ve gotten away without getting away. We take our Westy, a picnic lunch, a good book or a deck of cards, and make a day of walking and relaxing in this warm, walker-friendly community. We estimate our walk on this day at about 6 or 7 miles. We parked our van just across the street from the Birch Bay Visitor’s Center and walked south, through the town of Birch Bay and on to Birch Bay State Park, where we turned around and walked back. Going in this direction, we were walking against the wind, or uphill, first and with the wind, or downhill, on the way back. We appreciate doing the work first.
During the first few miles, the bay is on the right and summer homes, condominiums, and restaurants line the left side of the road. You can access the shore all along the way in this stretch.
Just after the restaurant/condominium stretch and before you get to Birch Bay State Park, there is a section where houses, small motor inns, and condominiums line both sides of the road. I had the thought that I wouldn’t see the bay again until we reached the state park. I was delighted to discover that about every 6 – 9 houses was a public access to the rocky beach.
Birch Bay State Park is a wide open area dotted with picnic tables and fire rings. Parking passes are required to park here. Many groups were out enjoying the sun and surf.
I’ve seen so many rose hips on our walks this fall. I think it’s a good year for them. They line a section of the road in the park.
On our way back to our van, we saw volunteers scouring the beach for trash. Cool.
The drive to Birch Bay is about 40 minutes from Bellingham. The warm temperatures, fresh salty air, and relaxed community atmosphere make this walk a perfect autumn day trip.
Aaron and I hiked to Park Butte Look Out last weekend. This is a busy place! At 10am, we pull into the very last spot in the large parking lot and consider ourselves lucky. After all the parking spots have been filled, hikers park on both sides of Forest Service Road 13 for quite a way, perhaps 1/4 mile. Our rough estimate is that about 75 cars parked at the trailhead on this sunny and warm Saturday in August. Most groups of hikers were two or more. Add to that a Washington Trails Association workparty at the look out and a pack train of mules and horses transporting supplies to another workparty, and one can easily imagine the constant hum of foot traffic on the trail. Imagine also, every hiker with a bright smile, rosy cheeks, moist brow, and lungs full of autumn-tinged alpine air and you have imagined a perfect day for hiking on the southern slopes of Mount Baker in the north Cascades of Washington State.
The first section of the trail winds its way through Schrieber Meadows, which was bursting with ripe mountain blueberries. We found out that it is very difficult to walk and pick blueberries at the same time! In this area, much of the trail is elevated on wooden walkways to protect the sensitive meadows beneath.
The Washington Trails Association maintains a ladder bridge across Rocky Creek. The creek is the color of milk chocolate from the sediment it carries on its way to Baker Lake.
Did you know that a female mule is called a molly? That’s what the leader of this back country pack train told me. They were bringing supplies to a trail crew up ahead. I didn’t catch his name, but his molly’s name was Emily and she was lovely.
The elevation gain from the parking lot to the look out is 22oo feet in about 3 3/4 miles. The last push to the look out is pretty steep and a little eerie if heights aren’t your thing. The 360 degree views are fabulous. You can sleep in the look out on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis. The work crew, who were painting the look out, trumped hopeful backpackers the day we were there. But there were plenty of other camp sites nearby; either at Cathedral Camp or at a small tarn, where I went swimming.
After descending from the Look Out, we walked over to a small unnamed tarn, had lunch, washed off trail-dusty legs, soaked feet, and I took a refreshing dip!
This is Cathedral Camp where backpackers can find many campsites and a pit toilet. Unfortunately, there is no water nearby. The above tarn is the closest water source. There were many tents there when we started down at 4pm and backpackers were still arriving! Bring your earplugs if you plan to camp here!
This was a stunningly beautiful hike. Between the mountains, wildflowers, blueberries, sunshine, tarn, and pleasant company, the only thing we were missing was our overnight backpacking gear.
I mistakenly said, in my last post, that we had walked to North Tonawanda when we actually walked to Amherst. In the city, it’s difficult to discern where one city ends and another begins.
I’m writing this a few days after Day 26 and our arrival at the waterfront in downtown Buffalo. This eastern terminus of the trail is located in an area called Canalside.
This was the longest and most challenging stretch of the walk. We walked about 22 miles. The trail in Amherst and Tonawanda meandered through parks and affluent neighborhoods but eventually led us next to oil refineries, under and along freeways, next to the city of Buffalo’s sewage treatment plant and crumbling (yes, crumbling) brick factories of old. The trail was maze-like as it wound its way towards Buffalo. At one point we came to a locked gate with a sign that said this section of the trail was only open Monday – Friday. We were there on Saturday. It gave a street to use instead. We also had a long detour at one point.
It was close to 6pm when we reached Buffalo, hot, tired, thirsty, and just pooped. The streets were mobbed with people as it was Buffalo’s annual “Rib Fest.” The festive feeling in the air was rejuvenating and just what we needed
Thank you for your encouragement and well wishes sent along the way. This was a challenging endeavor and we were, many times, carried along by your words and reflections.
We had to walk a mile and one half to rejoin the Erie Canal trail this morning. Our route took us immediately from the busy road our motel was on to a country road lined with fields of bush beans and a horse ranch. Traffic was light and it wasn’t long before we came upon a pioneer cemetary. It was not marked by a sign indictating its name, nor was there an access road to it. There was no where to park. Although many of the stones were toppled or broken, some were standing, with names and dates readable. Most of the dates indicated that the deceased had been born in the early 1800’s and lived till the late 1800’s. The cemetary is mowed by someone and a quick Google search called it the Calvary Cemetary, owned by the Roma Catholic Church of Lockport and set to be restored. The first Erie Canal opened in 1825 making many of the folks in this cemetary first generation canal residents.
This amazing stone house was very near the cemetary and is where the horses lived.
The trail towards Tonawanda/Buffalo begins with rural farming residences, changing to rural residences, giving way to to suburban neighborhoods, with four lane boulevards lined with Home Depots and Rite Aids swallowing it all. We are staying on the latter. Urban Trail Trivia: the number one piece of litter is discarded cigarette cartons.
This is a picture of the trail early this morning. The official fence along the Erie Canal Trail is constructed as seen above. I’ve contemplated the reason behind the design for many, many miles now. These are my conclusions, in order from the least likely to most likely. Initially, I thought they had forgotten to put in the third rung, then I came to a more meaningful conclusion. The open space, where the ‘missing’ rung is, represents the canal and the rung just above it represents the towpath where mules and horses pulled the boats and barges. A more practical reason for its design is that it makes the trail identifiable if one is not sure where they are…this happened for us today when we weren’t sure which way to go; we saw the fence and knew the correct way to go. The last rationale is purely economical. The canal system would save 25% on the cost of the fence runners by leaving one off.
Here are a few other things we saw today.
We experienced a slight feeling of melancholia today knowing that after tomorrow we would be saying goodbye to the canal and trail that have been our home for the last month. The trail has provided a consistent way forward, strewn with a variety challenging challenges, meant to exercise our commitment and endurance, as well as many open, generous, and heartfelt human exchanges, meant to strengthen our belief and trust in the goodness of the human community. We are also ready to be finished and look forward to returning to Bellingham. I will likely post a few times after we finish. I will take no offense if anyone wishes to unsubscribe from receiving this blog after The Erie Canal Walk concludes. My future posts will likely be focused on walks closer to home.
I forgot a couple tidbits I had intended to include yesterday. We thought this was an interesting moment. At this spot, we are very close to Lake Ontario, maybe 8 to 10 miles. Neither of us have seen Lake Ontario but hope to next week. You can really see the absolute lack of shade in this section. In a word: brutal.
We read this on the lift bridge in Holley. We are guessing that the lift bridges are more than 100 years old. How cool , right!?
We walked about 18 miles today. It was long, hot, and muggy but we made good time, arriving in Lockport around 2pm.
We saw more apples today and this smoke stack, which must been at Lake Ontario. It was SO tall.
Lockport is home to the “flight of five,” which refers to the series of five side by side locks built to climb the Niagara Escarpment, a 70 foot high cliff of sedimentary rock. The double locks enabled boats going opposite directions to keep moving. They remind me of escalators. The city has restored one side of the original locks while the other was enlarged to accommodate modern watercraft. Here’s a little information.
This video is a little grainy but give an idea of the sound and sites.
I’m so glad tonight is the last night of the DNC. Since we are on the east coast, we are watching in real time. President Obama began speaking around 10pm our time. We are staying up way too late to watch, but who wouldn’t want to watch our beloved president give his final address to our nation?