27 – Northridge and Big Rock Garden Parks

Even after several days of heavy rain, the series of trails leading out of Barkley Village can be relied upon to not to be flooded or muddy, and that is just one of the reasons I frequent there. My other reasons? I can easily get in a good six to eight mile hike without having to leave town. I get to visit two of my favorite parks, Northridge Park and Big Rock Gardens Park. Plus, I know where an early flowering currant is located along that trail. That was my goal today – to see if winter was close enough to being over for those lovely blooms to be out. Sure enough, yes!

Beautiful signs of Spring spied along the trail . . .

Beginning on the Railroad Trail, it was not long before I had switched to the Klipsun Trail and was climbing up and over Alabama Hill.

Steps along the Klipsun Trail

Those trails are popular bicycle routes, and a biker came flying out of the tunnel under Barkley Boulevard. Going so incredibly fast, he practically knocked me over as he mumbled apologies and flew past me on that narrow trail. (Note to self – spend less time daydreaming about the sweetness of early spring blossoms and more time paying attention to what might come barreling out of the tunnels up ahead!)

My next stop, the duck pond.

Me . . . at the duck pond along the Klipsun Trail

Then, on to the Loop Trail around Northridge Park.

Northridge Park Loop Trail . . .

After completing the loop around Northridge Park, and one short side trail, I backtracked along the Klipsun Trail until I came to the trail that leads through a forest preserve and on to the Big Rock Gardens Park.

Big Rock Garden Park . . .

Short trails meander through the park and around a display of 36 permanent art sculptures. Information about the sculptures is available here – http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/big-rock-garden-permanent-collection.aspx. After my tour of the park, I headed back through the woods, and following the Klipsun Trail back to the Railroad Trail, returned to my starting point.

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26 – Lower Bay to Baker Trail

Teased by this trail last week during the Bellingham 10K Volkswalk, I am certain that I managed to cover more than 10K today by following the Lower Bay to Baker Trail all of the way to Squalicum Beach and then taking several other intersecting trails that went through parks in that area too.

Squalicum Creek . . . at Little Squalicum Beach

And since the tide was out, I even got to enjoy a very long walk along Squalicum Beach.

Me . . . at Squalicum Beach

 This is one of my “regular” trails as it seems so conviently located, and I have hiked it dozens (probably closer to hundreds!) of times. Winter, spring, summer or fall, I enjoy it. Go here – Snow Day – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, or here – Precarious Parking – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, or here Fall Colors – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, to see photos from a few of the other times that I have hiked this same route. Here are more photos from along the trails today.

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I love finding creative art along the trail and certainly enjoyed this. I called it Chicken Head Rock. Curious, I looked for an artist signature, but found none. What a most clever eye some beach visitor must have had in order to have seen the potential of this particular rock. Not small, it is about four feet across. I like it.

Chicken head rock art . . . at Squalicum Beach

25 – Whatcom Falls

Finally, an afternoon without rain, and what a perfect day it turned out to follow the trails to Whatcom Falls Park. Having a lot (okay, everything!) to do with all the rain we have been receiving lately, I have never seen the falls any more spectacular than it was today. Yes, that same rain that you would hear me complain about if you were near by, so maybe I should reconsider my grumbles. Turns out, rainy days are not so bad – especially if you like waterfalls!

Whatcom Falls . . . most spectacular after days of heavy rain

Thinking back, I have been following the trails along Whatcom Creek since the summer I turned twelve. That was the year my family moved from an acreage at the end of a dead end road that bordered National forest lands to a house in Bellingham located less than two blocks from Whatcom Creek. Whether along those trails or in the creek on inner tubes with crawdads pinching our toes, knowing little more about life besides traipsing through the woods, my siblings and I spent most of our spare time those next few summers in exploration mode along that creek somewhere between home and Whatcom Falls Park.

Whatcom Creek . . . from Woburn Street

Many changes have been made along those trails since then. A pipeline exploded leaving death, char and distruction in its wake. As replanting and rehabitation efforts have successfully restored the area, so have new foot bridges and flights of stairs replaced muddy, slippery hills along the way.

Looking down . . . steps along Whatcom Creek Trail

Safety rails rails have been errected along some of the highest, most dangerous cliffs, and benches added along the way.

Checking out the view below . . .

There are plenty of options for trails around Whatcom Creek. Some intersect with trails that take you into Salmon Park, the Joe Martin Athletic Complex and Saint Claire Park, while others trails meandering along either side of the creek will lead you into neighborhoods along the way, or on to a bigger system of trails through old railroad easements. My personal favorites are the trails that take me to Whatcom Falls Park though. Information about Whatcom Falls Park is found here – http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/whatcom-falls-park.aspx – and a map of the trails here – http://www.cob.org/documents/parks/parks-trails/trail-guide/whatcom_falls.pdf.

Today’s hike began with a half mile walk through the neighborhood to reach the trailhead on Lincoln Street (not visible on the map at the link provided, but our access was a little left (west) of what is shown there). Following along the edge of the creek on the Whatcom Creek Trail, Lower Gulch Trail and Waterline Trails until we reached the falls, then we turned around and headed back.

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Highlights from this hike – good company, good conversation, fast moving water, a most spectacular falls, blue skies above and not too much mud or water along the trail. Go here – Whatcom Falls, the Video – to see my video on YouTube of a most spectacular Whatcom Falls.

24 – Volkswalk – Bellingham 10K

Consisting of designated, pre-planned, mapped out routes through towns, parks and forests, usually either 5K or 10K in length, it was in 2007 that I was first started Volkswalking. Volkswalking groups often combine several of their designated routes in order to host 40K to 70K “events” and invite other Volkswalking groups to join in on all that Volkswalking fun as log books are kept and pins, awards and badges are handed out to the participants. So that’s what I did for a couple of years, I Volkswalked. I participating in walks and events with the Northwest Tulip Trekkers, and found myself following the streets of Anacortes, LaConner, Bellingham, Arlington, Blaine, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Wenatchee, Oak Harbor and more.

My Volkswalk Event Log Books

While some of my favorite Volkswalking treks took me to new trails, through forests, parks and preserves where I had never been to before, it seemed a majority of their routes were along sidewalks and city streets. An avid trail hiker, before long I found myself returning on my own to more thoroughly explore and hike many of those trails that were new to me (some of which remain my favorites to this day!) rather than continuing to trek with Volkswalking groups.

Fast forward 2012, Volkswalking friends from the Everett area were in Bellingham for a 10K that included Cornwall Park (I recently hiked the trails through Cornwall Park – see Hike #22 – Cornwall Park), the Lower Bay Baker Trail (one of my local favorites!), so I joined them.

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As with previous Volkswalks, I still felt considerably more time was spent walking along city streets and sidewalks for my personal taste during today’s 10K, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the companionwhip along the way. Since this Volkswalk route turned off the Lower Bay to Baker Trail and back onto city streets well before reaching Little Squalicum Beach (if you didn’t know it was there before this Volkswalk, you still wouldn’t!), I was left with the feeling of wanting more. Coincidently, a hiking friend and I had recently discussed following the Lower Bay to Baker trail from Cornwall Park to Little Squalicum Beach. Go here – Snow Day – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, or here – Precarious Parking – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, or here Fall Colors – Lower Bay to Baker Trail, to see photos from when I have hiked this route in the past. Now I look forward to when this rain storm that has been hovering heavy over our heads has moved on so that I can hit that trail again.

23 – Whistle Lake

Spotting high, rocky cliffs across Whistle Lake while hiking in that area last month (see: Hike #12 – Heart and Whistle Lakes), I suspected that preview was but a teaser. Enticed by those cliffs, my suspicion was confirmed as we hiked along those very cliffs today.

From one cliff to another . . . Whistle Lake

With a maze of trails throughout the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL), because our goal was to follow the perimeter, for the most part it was obvious which trail to take when faced with another sign.

A handsome trail sign . . . Whistle Lake

My new 2010 edition of the ACFL map for the Whistle Lake area was in my backpack, but only pulled out a couple of times when the trail led us away from the immediate edge of the lake and into a more forested area somewhere near Toot Swamp. The 2006 edition of this map is available online here – http://www.pnt.org/maps/Whistle%20Lake.pdf, and the newer edition is usually in stock at the Lake Erie Grocery.

Bridge along trail where Toot Swamp meets Whistle Lake

For this hike, we began on ACFL Trail #20 as I had before, but once we reached the ACFL Kenny Oakes Trail sign, we took Trail #204 until we came to Trail #246. Following Trail #246, we later re-joined Trail #204 again. From Trail #204, we continued on to Trails #22 and then #205 until we had gone completely around the lake.

ACFL Kenny Oakes Trail . . . sign

Three-quarters of a mile from the parking lot to the lake shore, approximately 2-1/2 miles around the lake, and then 3/4 of a mile back to the parking lot, it was not a particularly long hike, but the combination of good weather, beautiful scenery, great company, even stopping for a picnic along the way sure made it one of my favorite hikes.

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The ACFL trail maps appear to use a rating system unique to their own. Except for Trail #20 with a rating of “easiest”, all other trails are rated as “more difficult”. Per their trail descriptions, that rating seems to be due to tree roots, rocks and steep, short hills. Yet based on trail ratings for other trails that I frequent (i.e., the Chuckanut Mountain trail system), all of the trails covered today seemed “easy”.

22 – Cornwall Park

It was love at first sight as six-year old Lopez greeted me along the nature trails at Cornwall Park.

Making furry friends along the trails . . . at Cornwall Park

As if a clone of Torrie or Bigelow, I could barely resist when his owner said I could have him. A special bandage and plastic bag had been made up to protect a wound on one of his back paws so he could safely run the trails today and I could tell when the two made eye contact that both of their hearts would probably break if they were to part. I simply sucked up more than my share of Golden hugs and forced myself down the trail to see if that old bench was still along what we called “Lovers’ Lane” when we were children.

Bench along Lovers' Lane . . . Cornwall Park

Well-established, not much has changed at Cornwall Park during my lifetime. The wading pool has been replaced with a new set of colorful stuff for little ones to climb and play on, those exercise stations that challenged my son and daughter as we explored the trails in the early 80s have disappeared, frisbee golf now winds through the big trees, and a few more trails have been added throughout the forested portion of the park. The bridge over Squalicum Creek seems to look the same to me now as it did when I was eight years old – but I suspect at least a board or two has been replaced since then.

Footbridge over Squalicum Creek . . . Cornwall Park

With approximately a mile and a half of nature trails throughout the park, I covered them all – twice – and few a third time.

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Information and about Cornwall Park can be found on the website for the City of Bellingham here – http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/cornwall-park.aspx – and a brochure that includes park history and a detailed map can be found here – http://www.cob.org/documents/parks/parks-trails/cornwall-park-brochure.pdf.

21 – Interurban Trail to Teddy Bear Cove

Hike #10 – Teddy Bear Cove completed last month was pretty much the same as this hike, but my friend had indicated that she has wanted to go to Teddy Bear Cove for decades, but did not know where to find the trail. Having called me earlier in the day, she mentioned that she was attending the travel presentation at our local Senior Center in the early afternoon. I decided it must be time for me to pony up my dues for 2012 so that I could attend too. Meeting there, we headed off for the trailhead after learning about some great sounding travel destinations along the British Columbia Sunshine Coast and the Discovery Islands.

Meeeting up at the travel planning presentation . . .

Even if you have been there before, the trailhead to Teddy Bear Cove is tricky to find if you are driving along Chuckanut Drive – but if you are hiking along the Interurban Trail, you will see a very obvious sign directing you to Teddy Bear Cove.

(Pic by Beth) Beth and I at the Teddy Bear Cove sign, below Chuckanut Drive

It is impossible to say which one of us actually takes the most pictures, Beth or I, but thank goodness it is not a contest. Suffice it to say, we both take a lot! I like this picture she snapped of me along the Teddy Bear Cove trail. It is a beautiful trail.

(Pic by Beth) Me . . . along the Teddy Bear Cove Trail

Not an exceptionally low tide, but it was out, so we had more beach to explore and more access to the giant sandstone boulders than when I was there last month. Climbing on the rocks is always fun! I love this picture I got of Beth. She was attempting to climb the rocks to reach the cliffs above, but eventually turned around.

Beth . . . climbing on the boulders at Teddy Bear Cove

I love it when I find oysters on the beach. It brings back fond memories from my childhood of big family get togethers along these same beaches – picnics, beachcombing with the cousins, clam digging and oyster gathering with my father, potato salad, fried chicken and sunburns.

(Pic by Beth) Me . . . finding oysters at Teddy Bear Cove

To get there yourself, start at the North Chuckanut Trailhead, follow the Hemlock Trail for a short distance until it intersects with the Interurban Trail. Follow the Interurban Trail until you see the the sign pointing to Teddy Bear Cove. Turn off the Interurban trail and take a very short trail with steps leading down to Chuckanut Drive. Chuckanut Drive is a narrow, winding road with lots of blind corners and fast moving traffic, so extra caution must be taken when walking across. Once you have safely made it across, go down one more set of steps, and once below Chuckanut Drive, you will finally see a big sign for Teddy Bear Cove. (Who decides where to place these signs anyway?) Follow the Teddy Bear Cove Trail to the beach. Enjoy!

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20 – Port of Skagit Nature Trails

All with a rating of “easy”, I decided to stop at the Port of Skagit Nature Trails to hike a few more miles on “more friendly” terrain for a cool down hike after my trek down and up Little Mountain (see Hike #19 – Little Mountain) before driving home. The Nature Trails wind through forests, around wetlands and pass by the Skagit Regional Airport. An added bonus, watching airplanes take off as I followed the trails.

Another plane about to lift off . . . at the Skagit Regional Airport

There is no doubt about the fact that they are easy trails, but I actually found them to be a tad boring and not as desireable as other nature trails I frequent. Often following the Josh Wilson Road, Ovenell Road, Higgins Airport Way and the Farm-to-Market Road, because these trails are so near the Bayview Business & Industrial Park and the airport, even with that added bonus of watching airplanes take off, there was much more truck traffic than I like. Garbage trucks, semi trucks, big trucks, lots of them, all distracting while on a nature trail! There was a nice view of the mountains across the Skagit Valley to enjoy though – once I was able to ignore all that traffic and look beyond those busy roads.

Along the trail . . . mountain view in the distance

With just over ten miles of trails in this system, today’s hike included only about four miles worth. Hearing frogs croak and seeing several red winged blackbirds along the wetlands, I enjoyed that portion of these nature trails the most!

Me . . . along the Port of Skagit Nature Trails

Even with all the truck traffic around the area, the fact that there are ten miles worth of trails here does make this a good place to stop if you have just a couple of hours and want to get a little exercise. You can go here – http://www.beactiveskagit.org/uploads/Port%20Trail%20System.pdf  – for a map of the trails, and here – http://www.portofskagit.com/environmental-stewardship/public-walking-trails/?/nature-trails-environmental/public-walking-trails/ – for more information on the Port of Skagit walking trails.

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19 – Little Mountain

When the word “Mountain” is part of the name of my hiking destination, even when paired with the term “Little”, I still expect that the trails will be on the challenging side.  Having completed several good hikes earlier this week, I had been rained in for the last two days and was starting to feel a little sluggish. With what appeared to be a break between downpours, I was hoping for just enough of a challenge on the trail today to make up for having been idle for the last two. Today’s hike on Little Mountain was no disappointment. The trails offered plenty of challenge, and I only got caught in two very light, very short rain showers.

Little Mountain . . . viewed from the road

This was my first time to Little Mountain so I was not familiar with the options for parking at the base of the mountain. There is a narrow road that goes all the way up to the top and on my drive up, I only noticed a couple of spots that might have been suitable for parking. One looked to have space enough for one car – and it was already full, and the other might have just been a turn out because the road itself was very narrow and signed for drivers to yield as vehicles came down.

Started at upper parking lot - hiking down, then back up

I ended up parking in the lot at the very top of Little Mountain. That was good – and sort of bad at the same time. Good because I got the payoff of the great views from the top of the mountain first (instant gratification!). Bad though because all trails winding around the mountain eventually led down. Then, of course, I had to turn around and hike back up. I prefer to hike UP first, then I coast as I go down. Seems to work better for my energy level. Today, I kept thinking about that wonderful view I had enjoyed as I first got out of my car all the while I climbed my fatigued little body back up that mountain. I enjoyed the viewpoint to the north the most (seemed more northwest than north to me, but I didn’t bother to pull out my compass to check). I think the reason I liked that view the most had something to do with the spectacular structure they saw fit to build there. Isn’t that something?!

The view from that bench . . . on Little Mountain

The trails on Little Mountain are maintained by the Mount Vernon Trail Builders, a group of volunteers dedicated to building a community trail system in Mount Vernon. I noticed several signs posted regarding the need for volunteers for several upcoming work sessions. I had to chuckle about the names given to some of the trails. Names like – Lazy Boy, Surfer’s Way, Down South, High Road, Over the Top, Huff N Puff, Up Only and Drop Down. Their rating system indicates that every trail on the mountain is either “More Difficult” or “Most Difficult”.  The Lazy Boy trail, for example, holds the rating of “Most Difficult”. I found it interesting that the legend next to the map showed a rating of “easiest”, yet there no trails with that rating. Perhaps “easy” trails are yet to be built!

Yup, that's me . . . along the Sidewinder's Trail on Little Mountain

With trail after trail on Little Mountain, there were more miles available than I could cover this afternoon. I will go back another day, after I have identified suitable parking at the base of the mountain, and hike the other trails. I like the payoff of a great view.

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Information about Little Mountain Park can be found on the website for the City of Mount Vernon here – http://ci.mount-vernon.wa.us/little_mountain_park.

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