Over the last few months our family has been hitting the road for afternoon adventures around Whatcom County. We hop in the minivan with a vague destination in mind, stop when the whim strikes us and often discover places we didn’t even know existed.
Our trips remind me of the “Sunday drive” of old, and with gas prices at a seven-year low in the county, why not get out of your Sunday rut? (Plus, football season is over, so you really don’t have an excuse.)
Our family’s Sunday drive has just one rule: No electronic devices. No Kindles or smart phones (except so I can take pictures) or even noisy toys. The idea is for everyone to enjoy each other’s company and the scenery unfolding out the window.
These drives are an excellent choice in cooler weather. After we hike around a destination we can hop back in the van and get warmed up as we head to our next stop. And these drives get us out of the house on rainy days when we’re starting to get cabin fever. Best of all, we can pack a snack and not need to spend any more than the cost of gas if we choose.
Here are a few highlights from some of our favorite drives:
This trip happened to be on a Saturday, and happened to coincide with a Cub Scout event in Ferndale. As we were looking for our Scouting event, we passed the Appel Farms Cheese Shop at 6605 Northwest Drive in Ferndale. The kids all chimed in with “cheese shop!” as we saw the sign, so after we finished with Scouts, we made a beeline for the cheese shop.
The shop includes not only Appel’s delicious fresh-made cheese, but also deli sandwiches, baked goods, espresso and milkshakes, a cozy seating area and fun cheese-related swag. (Who can resist a hoodie that reads “I Love Cheese”?)
Out back of the shop is a large pond where visitors can sit and enjoy the country scenery. We even spotted a frog on the edge of the water! And in the field next door, a trio of goats amused us by tromping around on their wooden play structure and coming over to visit in hopes that we’d brought them a snack.
We continued our drive on the back roads between Ferndale and Lynden, ending our day with a stop at the Lynden Pioneer Museum.
Mosquito Lake Road
On a chilly January afternoon we piled in the van in search of eagles. This plan went kind of bust as we missed the turn for our original destination and didn’t realize it until we were several miles past! But that’s part of the fun.
We drove further along Mount Baker Highway, and eventually headed for Mosquito Lake Road, where I had recalled we might find an eagle hot spot. About a mile down the road at the Mosquito Lake Road Bridge we saw all sorts of folks with binoculars and cameras, so we found a safe place to park and ventured out.
Just beyond the bridge is a small park with limited parking, the Welcome Bridge River Access. With fairly easy access to the Nooksack River, this spot is ideal for bird watching, fishing or just getting your toes wet.
We only spotted two or three eagles that afternoon, but that didn’t matter to the kids. They had a great time exploring the river’s edge, skipping rocks and examining salmon carcasses.
On our way home we headed south along Highway 9, soaking in the golden afternoon light as we drove, and laughing at the chicken alongside the road. (Of course, this lead to a round of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes.)
Along this less-traveled route you’ll find the Acme Café and the Blue Mountain Grill. If you’re interested in ending your drive on a full stomach, either spot is a good bet.
Most recently we explored the south end of Whatcom County, starting with a drive around Lake Samish, before heading along Old Samish Road for a stop at the Pine & Cedar Lakes trailhead then on to Woodstock Farm off Chuckanut Drive.
Our stop at the trailhead wasn’t much more than a glorified potty break and a chance for the kids to stretch their legs by running up and back along the first leg of the trail, which ended in a promise to come back and hike some more in the future.
Then we headed to our main destination, Woodstock Farm. Once the family estate of Fairhaven civic leader Cyrus Lester Gates, the City of Bellingham now owns the land overlooking Chuckanut Bay.
The kids could barely contain their curiosity as they ran and explored property, eager to know the story of the farm and its buildings, admiring Madrona trees and marveling at the train tracks right below us.
If you own a camera bigger than your phone, this is place you’ll want to be sure to bring it along. The views of the bay and beyond are spectacular and beg to be photographed.
If you visit Woodstock Farm, you will most likely need to park at the nearby North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead and walk into the park by crossing Chuckanut at Spokane Street. (Full details are on the city’s website.) The park itself has just two parking spots, one designated for vehicles with a handicapped placard.