Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bellingham's Chuckanut Drive Loop

On sunny spring days, I like to take road trips. Recently, I chose to take Chuckanut Drive from Bellingham south to the Skagit Valley. You can go in either direction, but heading south gives you the best views of the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands.

Take the Cuckanut Drive (State Highway 11) exit from I-5 in Bellingham. The road passes Old Fairhaven, an interesting destination of its own with lots of quaint shops and restaurants. There is excellent signage for Highway 11. You will take a left at Fairhaven and then bear to the left again before starting on the scenic drive.

The first part of Chuckanut Drive is lined with private homes on both sides of the road. When you get six miles south of Bellingham, the road enters Larrabee State Park. Follow the signs to the Boat Launch in Wildcat Cove on the right. Parking is free, but it costs $5.00 to launch a watercraft. The gates close at dusk.

From here, there are unobstructed views of Samish Bay. There are restrooms, picnic tables and both sandy and rocky shores to explore. I could see myself launching a kayak to paddle around the surrounding headlands. I settled for some photo opportunities. Right now it is uncrowded, but I can imagine it is very different when summer arrives. There is a nearby campground that is open year-round for those who want to stay a little longer.

All along the drive there are spectacular views. This is particularly true south of Larrabee Park. Turnouts are available to stop for pictures. There is also trailhead parking for a variety of Chuckanut Mountain Trails and the Interurban Trail that runs all the way back to Fairhaven. Some trails allow mountain bikes.

On this trip, I did not stop at any restaurants along the drive. There are two well known ones, the Chuckanut Manor Seafood and Grill and The Oyster Bar. Parking is limited along the busy road and both are somewhat pricey. If you've been to either of them, maybe you can leave a comment with a review.

I continued on Chuckanut all the way to I-5 and made a loop back to my starting point in Bellingham. It was a nice spring afternoon trip. One resource I use for travels and activities in Bellingham is the Insider's Guide: Bellingham and Mount Baker. It covers just about every topic you might want. You can check it out at

Do you have any favourite day trips around Bellingham? Let us know. -- Margy

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Indian Creek Chronicles" by Pete Fromm

I found this week's book at Cozy Corner Books and Coffee in Bellingham. If you live nearby, I'll be returning it for credit on future book purchases. Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness in a memoir by Pete Fromm (St. Martin's Press, 1993). The story begins with Pete in college at the University of Montana studying wildlife biology. Swimming was his passion, but during his second year he got a new roommate, Jeff Rader, a hunter. Rader's philosophy was that a difficult outdoor adventure "always makes the best stories afterwards."  Nineteen year old Pete wanted a life experience worth telling about.

Like me, Pete came from a camping family. Unlike me, he aspired to become "a mountain man." It began with reading mountain man stories. Then it morphed into camping adventures around Missoula. Then the opportunity arose to work eight months from mid-October to mid-June in the Bitterroot Wilderness living in a tent forty miles from the nearest plowed road tending half a million salmon eggs.

After the wardens dropped Pete off at his tent and gave him some cursory instructions, he was on his own. Fortunately, Pete did have enough outdoor experience to survive, even thrive.  Through Pete's story I traveled snowbound trails and roads, listened to the silence, saw the wildlife, and dreamed of outdoor adventures of my own. I highly recommend you put on your snowshoes and come along for the trek.

Check your local used bookstore or you can purchase it online at If you have a Kindle, it's available with the title Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Bitterroot Wilderness. -- Margy

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

While Wayne and I were visiting Tucson, we used one of the sunny says to drive up to the Saguaro National Park West and Tucson Mountain Park. While we were there, we stopped at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The entrance fee isn't cheap, but the natural displays are well done and very informative.  The trails are a mixture of paved walkways and well-pack desert gravel.  The terrain is mostly level, and ramadas made with natural desert materials give shaded rest spots along the way.

Different desert habitats are depicted including the desert, mountain woodlands, desert grasslands, and pollination gardens.

Displays include typical desert animals including mountain lions, bears, wolves, coyotes, squirrels, prairie dogs, javelinas, lots of birds, and other creatures great and small.

While the animal habitats were clean and natural, it was a bit sad to see these proud animals on display.  I guess there's a fine line between needing specimens to study and allowing animals to remain in their home environments. -- Margy