Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
Puddle Jump to Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve
Todd Elsworth

Northwest of Ferndale, you can get out to the shoreline at Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve and look due east across the Straight of Georgia at British Columbia’s Galiano Island. Looking south over the Alden Bank you will see the San Juan and Lummi Islands in the distance. The reserve is a Whatcom County Park that “features 54 acres of forest, bluff and beach, with a 3/4 mile fully accessible trail to spectacular viewpoints of the Strait of Georgia and San Juan Islands. A switchback path descends from the bluff to access a windswept cobble beach.”


The flat trail to the bluff was dotted with puddles. We were excited to get to the beach and since we were running, why not try to jump over the puddles along the way! We’d take the time (like we always do) to stop and read the signs that add value to our ventures. “Perhaps you just spotted the pileated woodpecker. This large bird dines mainly on carpenter ants and other insects exacted from living and dead trees. Listen for the deep whoosh of its wings, the slow drumming of its bill on wood and the loud staccato of its call” We stopped. Looked. And Listened!


As we made our way another sign caused us pause. “The Messy Forest- This forest may not look ideal to humans, but to the plants and animals that live here its is home. Downed and standing trees provide scarce habitat for many birds, amphibians and small mammals. The decaying wood and thick undergrowth is like and all-you-can-eat buffet!” Our tour guide April pointed out special places as well. Look out for the stump where people place little gems that they find on the beach upon their return.


This didn’t look like troll territory, but “the water beneath the boardwalks and the trees rising above harbor many resident and migratory animals. Listen for he  sounds of the forest… the chatting of a Douglas squirrel, the nasal “yen yenk” call of a red-breasted nuthatch. Can you spot a black-tailed deer in the dappled light, or an Oregon Salamander scurrying under a log?” We keep an ear to the ground.


There are a couple of benches to provide a resting point before you head down to the beach. This bench honors Carl Batchelor, conservationist, Planner and Whatcom Land Trust board member. He cared for the land. The plaque in his honor also reads, “There are some who live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold.


Excited to get down to the rocky coast, my daughter, kept her pace down the stairs and beat me to the beach. Seems like everywhere we go it’s a race! Glad I’ve been training for Kulshan Quest AR this year so I can keep up with my 6 year old too!


The stairs are decorated with discarded fishing floats that wash up as flotsam on the beach. The stairs are short and steep. But once you’re on the beach you have it all to take in.


The size of some of the logs that have washed up on the beach are amazing. The scars of use criss-cross many pieces that end up pushed up against the shoreline.


This was one of my favorites. A huge burl at the base of an old log that had been weathering itself here on this rocky outpost of the western shores of Whatcom County.


While we beach combed, skipped rocks and did our mini parkour rock and log balancing acts down the beach a tanker is busy hooking up with a couple tugs who will guide it into the refinery dock to the south.


The large boulders strewn along the beach provide great opportunity for climbing and getting a better perspective of it all.


Photo Credit: April Claxton


For more outdoor adventures near Bellingham, see the full list of Todd’s articles.

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at


  1. Great article. thank you. Hope to take some lady friends there soon.

    Comment by barbara Curry — June 16, 2015 @ 6:04 pm

  2. Hi Todd,
    how difficult your hikes for 60+?
    thank you,

    Comment by Mila Faulkner — November 12, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

  3. This hike is a relatively flat walk through the forest on the bluff. The stairs down to the beach are a bit steep, but manageable.

    Comment by Todd Elsworth — November 14, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

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