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.
Lately, I’ve begun listening to This American Life on some of my walks. I don’t listen on every walk because one of the enjoyable things about walking is listening to the sounds of nature. I think of natural sounds, such as birds singing, water running, or the wind rustling the leaves as medicine for the soul. But occasionally it’s nice to listen to a story while walking. An in-depth human interest story can, like nature, refresh and inspire. This American Life is an hour long radio show so if I listen to an entire episode, I know I’ve walked for an hour, which is approximately three miles. I have an app on my phone on that allows me to stream the program.
This walk could be done anywhere, but because it involves having headphones on, it’s best done off roads, like in a park or on a trail. In Bellingham, I usually walk with headphones in Whatcom Falls Park. Within its 241 acres, there are so many trails that I can walk for an hour and rarely retrace my steps.
My Favorite Episodes…
I am inspired to share some of my favorite episodes of This American Life. Perhaps others might have some to share too. I hope you can find time to enjoy one of these.
Tell Me I’m Fat ~ June 17, 2016
The Perils of Intimacy ~ May 27, 2016
In Defense of Ignorance ~ April 22, 2016
Anatomy of Doubt ~ February 26,2016
Day at the Beach ~ January 31, 2014
I see there are only 8 days left before Aaron and I begin our walk along the Erie Canal! The box of supplies we sent should be at our hotel in Boston by now. I’ll keep you posted!
We woke up to a rainy morning. Last night I had decided to walk to work with Aaron and then back home by myself. It’s about 4 miles one way. Now rain before a walk always gives one pause. It adds a whole new dimension to planning, physically and mentally. I haven’t always been comfortable with walking in the rain. I’m over that now and the secret, which everyone probably knew except me, is ‘be prepared!’ It only took one time being out in the wilderness, without rain pants or rain cover for my pack, to realize that I was ill-prepared and in potential danger. The feeling that accompanies that realization is very sobering and unsettling. So now days, we rarely walk without rain gear. Even if the sky looks perfectly clear and the forecast is bright. This is especially true if we are in the mountains. It’s happened more than once that we have been caught in an unexpected rain storm, glad and relieved we were prepared for rain.
But back to this morning! We live near Whatcom Falls Park, so this walk began there. We donned full rain gear, put my daypack’s rain cover on and set out at about 6:30 a.m.. Aaron just bought new ultralight rain gear from Outdoor Research. It is very shiny and lightweight. To save on weight the jacket doesn’t have pockets. This could be a deal breaker. But it does roll up to the size of a granola bar!
Rain in the early morning has a quality all its own with the drooping sea spray, the circles of raindrop ripples on the pond where ducks float, heads tucked under their wings, seemingly still asleep. In the following poem, Wendell Berry gives my experience words.
I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.
Continuing on, we followed the Railroad Trail north, out of Whatcom Falls Park, as it traverses Alabama Hill and curves west around to where it crosses Woburn Street at the Barkley Haggen and the new cinemas across the street. (This past weekend Aaron and I walked to a movie, had a nibble at Zen after, and walked home, about 5 miles round trip. It’s light so late now, that coming in from a walk at 8:30 at night is easy-peasy.) This morning, I walked with Aaron as far as James Street. He turned north and I turned south.
Did you know there are two pedestrian overpasses that cross Interstate 5 north of Alabama Street? They were constructed to give those residents of Bellingham living east of the freeway, access to Memorial Park. The Railroad Trail passes over I-5 to the south of Memorial Park and the other crossing (at the end of Illinois Street) passes over I-5 just to the north of Memorial Park. This park was created in 1889 to memorialize Whatcom County’s fallen soldiers. Here is a brochure giving the description of the park’s history and a map to the many, many different trees planted there years ago. It’s super cool and would make an awesome treasure hunt for those wanting to learn their trees.
After turning south, I walked to Avenue Bakery on James for breakfast. We love this place. That is really all there is to say about it. Love.
After breakfast, I continued south on James, across Iowa, to where it T’s into Meador. (Did you know there is a new Starbucks on Iowa near James?!! I had no idea Bellingham needed one more!) I took a left on Meador and and in less than a block, caught the Whatcom Creek Trail back up to Whatcom Falls Park. This is where the Whatcom Creek Trail transitions from pavement to stone dust surface and dips under Interstate 5.
It rained the whole way. I saw numerous snails on the trail. They had the most amazing yellow spirals on their shells.
The ducks were still ‘sleeping in’ on Derby Pond when I arrived back at Whatcom Falls Park. I estimate I walked between 8 and 9 miles and was on trails at least 75% of the time. Yay Bellingham trails!
Did you know that there was once an amusement park on the shores of Lake Whatcom? White City was its name and it was located on the north shore of Lake Whatcom in the early 1900’s. There was a Ferris wheel, a 15 room hotel, a roller coaster, an ice cream parlor, and boats for rent. The citizens of Bellingham would vacation at White City. They would ride the street cars on the Lake Line to the last stop at White City. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any remnants of this once bustling vacation spot, but it is still fun to walk along the lake and try to imagine it. Here is an image of White City in Bellingham in its heyday. I just read that it got its name “White City” because it was lit up by electric lights, making it white. I wonder if that is how Electric Avenue got its name.
This walk begins at Bloedel-Donovan Park’s parking lot on Electric Avenue in Bellingham. The walk is about 5 miles long with good elevation gain up to Northridge Park, descending back to Bloedel-Donovan Park. After parking in the lot, take a moment to walk over to the boat ramp and look across the lake to some square shaped condominiums. You will see that the land is quite flat around a lovely inlet. Try to imagine a Ferris wheel and roller coaster towering above the trees. It must have been quite exciting for the early residents of Bellingham to ride the streetcar out to the country and find an amusement park at the end of the line! Walk out to Electric Avenue and follow it till it becomes Northshore Drive. Follow Northshore around the top of the lake until you come to a 90 degree turn. Go straight onto Poplar and follow it around until you come back to Northshore. Cross Northshore and go up the hill on Academy until you come to Silver Beach Elementary School. Keep looking back as you ascend to get a good view of the lake and the area of White City. Take the first driveway that turns to the right at the school, next to a red brick building. This driveway will take you to the trail head to Northridge Park. As the trail meanders through stands of cedar and Douglas Fir, sword ferns, and vine maple, keep following signs for Northridge Park. You will eventually go under Barkley Boulevard through a metal culvert. Once you do, stay left and go on to complete the loop in Northridge Park. You will catch some beautiful views of the bay and of the flat land to the north as this trail ascends. On your way back, you could take a slight detour to see the sculptures at Big Rock Park. Once back at Silver Beach Elementary, wend your way back down through the quaint neighborhood of Silver Beach to Northshore Drive and back to Bloedel-Donovan Park. Be sure to go to http://www.cob.org to download maps of the parks and trails.
Bellingham is a city full of parks with walking trails that connect many of them. This walk begins and ends at a park and takes the walker through Northridge Park and very close to Big Rock Park and Whatcom Falls Park. I am very appreciative of those people, so long ago, who carried the vision and imagination of these parks for a future Bellingham they would never see.