Everybody knows Bellingham is beautiful, but until I started walking on the South Bay Trail on a regular basis at the tail end of February, I don’t think I fully appreciated how unique it truly is.
I’m an exerciser of convenience, so the fact that the woodsy waterfront trail can be entered directly via my workplace at the Herald building—the basement exit delivers me into the alley right above the Bellingham Farmers Market’s Depot Market Square—makes it easy for me to finish work, don my sweats and walking shoes, stretch, turn on my tunes and, within a couple blocks, stroll directly into a scenic wonderland.
By the time I pass the giant murals of vintage bicycle riders on the walls near the HUB Community Bike Shop, I’ve usually hit my stride.
Even after countless afternoon walkabouts, I have yet to get sick of the views that follow. When I started walking in late winter, the trees were leafless, which made it easier to see the waters of Bellingham Bay in the early section of the trail. When the foliage filled in, there was still plenty to look at—including wild rabbits, twittering songbirds, an occasional eagle or heron, blackberry brambles gone crazy, the Cornwall landfill cleanup, and, of course, a wide variety of other humans in various states of motion.
And without fail, there’s always somewhere to glimpse the long Horizon Lines cargo ship that seems to be endlessly docked in the downtown waters.
Over time, I’ve observed other landmarks that let me know where I am and how far I’ve come. Just before the one-mile mark, for instance, there’s a slight fork in the trail. I’ve seen joggers stop and rest here, stretching their legs on one of the two big boulders that come complete with a water view.
Not far beyond that—and before the trail morphs into Boulevard Park—is a two-part sculpture reminding pedestrians of the boundaries of bygone times.
“This monument marks the 1903 boundary between Whatcom and Fairhaven,” reads the marker on the right. “At the consolidation of these towns in that year the City of Bellingham was born.” The marker on the left fills readers in on Fairhaven’s past, as well.
Soon after that, Boulevard Park comes into view, and my walk typically gets a little more crowded. If it’s a sunny day, the park is filled with Frisbee players, parents with strollers, yoga practitioners and those who simply seem to be looking for a calm respite from their busy days. If it’s cloudy and chilly—as has been the case of late—I can expect to not have to angle for space on the trail.
With fall taking over, the curve of Taylor Dock seems to pick up every nuance of autumnal wind, which can make it difficult to power through the final stretch of the trail. But I do, and am typically rewarded with amazing plays of light on the water and the briny, invigorating smell of the sea.
It’s getting darker much earlier these days, which makes me wonder how much longer I can continue my routine without neglecting my office job. I’m contemplating joining the YMCA for the winter, but still plan on hitting the trail on days I simply can’t stand to be inside any longer. After all, it’s not going anywhere, and, when I need it, it will still be there to help remind me of why I love Bellingham so very much.
For more info about the South Bay Trail, visit http://www.cob.org
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