“The sun’s gonna be out in Bellingham by 2:00 tomorrow. Wanna go? Leave by 9?” Chris asked me, knowing my answer.
Naturally, we went, with no real plans except to hike around some Pacific Northwest waterfall trails, which I assumed wouldn’t really be all that impressive this time of the year. Boy, was I wrong.
An easy one-hour drive north took us out of the rain and into the familiar picturesque college town nestled near Bellingham Bay, the foothills of Mt. Baker, the North Cascades mountain range, and minutes from the Canadian border. Passing several established neighborhoods on Lakeway Drive and Silver Beach Road, amber autumn colors gracing their doorsteps and pathways, we envisioned upcoming festivities and family gatherings. It was truly a fall-meets-winter kind of day, with the recent first snowfall resting among the leaves.
Unconvinced, our twelve-year-old son thought he was too cool for his coat, even as we stepped out of our van into the freezing temperatures at Whatcom Falls Park. Rather than battle his will, we assumed a brief trip to the playground would persuade him into his “puffy coat” still warm inside the car. Nope. Apparently, “being cool” is quite literally a statement.
Adjacent to the playground, we found a fish hatchery, round, stony, and stocked with fish. Marveling for a moment while Chris changed camera lenses, we imagined a life spent swimming in circles and held back the temptation to throw pebbles into the water to disrupt the monotony of their lives.
Mere feet from the hatchery and parking lot, a well-traveled path led to the iconic Chuckanut Sandstone Bridge, an arched and mossy architectural accomplishment, dividing a series of stunning waterfalls and connecting its visitors to a small three-mile forested trail system in and around the Whatcom Creek bedrock.
Bounding down the slight embankments, over tree roots, and along the water’s edge, the kids puddle-jumped and ran contentedly, slipping slightly on the frozen rocks. The trail offered even more fun: sliding down icy staircase ledges, exploring empty sheltered structures and hollowed-out trees, throwing bits of snow at each other along the way. Bald eagles circled the sky, and we scoured the tree tops for their nests before heading back to the bridge.
One waterfall chute, complete with an iron gate at the base, intrigued the kids, and they took turns throwing leaf piles off the bridge, to cascade down the slide into the rushing creek below. We speculated about the slide in summertime, and plausibly concluded, like many others before us, that it would be an exhilarating ride, if not for the obligatory gate below.
“Would you like to go swimming there?” asked Chris to Alex, our youngest daughter, age three.
“Yes! With my bathing suit on!”
“No, no, NO!” said Ryann, our middle girl, age six. “If you went swimming there, you would DIE,” she said with a giggle.
Perspective matters, as with all things in life. Maybe we wouldn’t be swimming in the waterfalls, but we found them, and our day was happier because of it. We searched for sun and found so much more.
Until our next adventure, tell us what you think! We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe and comment below: Where’s your favorite waterfall? Have you been down any natural water slides? What do you like to do outside in cold weather?
~Angela, Chris and kids