Park Perks

Free fun for all

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The afternoon was uncomfortably hot and muggy, and a series of annoying phone calls had made me fussy and longing to be anywhere other than my stuffy office.

That was why, when my fella picked me up from work a couple weeks ago, he knew exactly what to do when I got in the car and, still glowering, told him I desperately needed to get out of the city, at least for a little while. It wasn’t an order, but I was hoping he’d see the desperation in my eyes and respond favorably to my plea.

“Chuckanut Drive?” he queried. I nodded my assent, rolled down the passenger seat window, and away we went.

Less than 10 minutes later, my bad mood was dissipating. Not long after we passed Fairhaven Park and entered into the cool shadows provided by the canopy of trees that line a healthy percentage of the 20-mile scenic byway, the temperature became more manageable. Instead of feeling peevish, I took in the mammoth ferns and old-growth trees, smelled the briny air, looked out at the water glimmering below us and was glad to be alive.

Because my guy built and maintained trails in and around these parts for many years and is well aware of the many nooks and crannies lining Chuckanut Drive, our final destination that afternoon ended up being a secret hideaway about 15 miles down the road.

While my savior rummaged around in the forest, I hung out on a perch where a previous visitor had installed a small deck and bolted a pleather easy chair, and allowed my mind to go blank while I attempted to count the ripples of water hitting the shoreline. The one clear thought I did have was that I was incredibly lucky to be living in a place where it was so easy to experience the joys of nature without having to travel too far.

On our return trip, we drove past Larrabee State Park and I remarked that we should set up camp there for a while and pretend to be vacationers from afar. We could hike, bike, fish and laze about on the beach, only going into Bellingham for supplies.

I pointed out that “Mountain to Sea Day” at Larrabee—part of the “Free Fee Days” for Washington State Parks—was coming up Aug. 4, and that might be a good time to show up to plan our Staycation.

Once there, I told him, we could query local organizations such as the Washington Trails Association about the best places to hike or bike and see if they jibed with our picks.

“I’d be into that,” my driver replied. “We’d already know where to go, but we’d have more time to explore.” With that, we started planning our next adventure.

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