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!
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.