The Rambling Writer Bikes Along Lake Whatcom

Last time, Thor, Bear dog, and I hiked above our nearby Lake Whatcom to an overlook. This time, taking advantage of another sunny day, we loaded up our bikes and took to the Hertz Trail that runs along an old railway track along the east shore of the lake. The former Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad (established in 1902) was used to transport logs as well as coal from the Blue Canyon Mine at the south end of the lake. Bear loves a chance to really run as we zip along the dirt track shimmering with sunshine through the fresh spring leaves.

The trail, which runs about 3 miles along the lake, starts among old cedars in a shady stretch.

We love the green tunnels opening up to views of the lake.

All the plants (here bracken ferns) are bursting this time of year with fresh energy. It feels as if we’re soaking up that spring zing!

Bear dog loves to munch on the fresh grasses.

Almost to the end of the trail:

Ready for a picnic. Bear lets us know that grass is not enough. “I’ll be happy to help out with that leftover chicken salad.”

Bear, normally a rather dignified beast, suddenly gets very excited about the waves stirred up by the wind, and plunges in to snap at the water. He doesn’t like to swim, though, so quickly scrambles out.

Steep cliffs border the trail, with rocky outcrops.

Runoff creeks tumble down from the slopes.

Now that it’s an official park, there are two fancy new bridges crossing the creeks. We used to just hop over the rocks in the creek beds.

I still experience surreal moments after moving back to my home town of Bellingham, WA, after many years as a nomad in far-flung parts of the globe. When I was growing up, our “far corner” of the Pacific Northwest was pretty much off the radar, and much of the surrounding area was undeveloped. The old trail along the lake was mostly overgrown and involved a tricky “secret” access and some bushwacking, but offered serenity and privacy for skinny-dipping. These days, our county population is growing quickly, and we’re an outdoors-adventure destination, so it’s almost impossible to find solitude on hikes. We avoid outings on the crowded weekends.

The trail head now features an informational kiosk with local history, some dating from the late 1800s when my great-grandparents on my mother’s side settled here. The years have brought good changes, including a reduction of clear-cut logging and no more coal mining that involved abusive labor practices, lynchings, and riddling underground Bellingham with miles of unstable tunnels.

All things considered, I feel blessed to live in this beautiful place with sea and mountains and forests (and plenty of rain to keep it all green). What kinds of surreal moments have you experienced on a return to your own home town?


Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has just received a second Cygnus Award, for Science Fiction.

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