Outdoors

Over the Hill

Skiing through Sehome

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lord knows, I didn’t plan for it to happen. But if my predilection to explore snowbound urban landscapes hadn’t drawn me to Sehome Hill a few weeks ago, there’s no telling when or if I would have ever gotten around to pulling the maneuver off. 

Even in hindsight, it baffles me to think how an intrepid long-planker like me could have failed to exploit such a rare and singular opportunity that was staring me in the face as I migrated between neighborhoods throughout my decades-long tenure in Bellingham. 

The muscular flanks and forested brow of Sehome Hill are hardly an unknown quantity to me. During my long and storied occupancy of a duplex on the upper steeps of Jersey Street, the Arboretum was literally in my backyard—and I did my best to familiarize myself with the sprawling trail system that contours through the undulating timber up there.  

But alas, even during that prolific and fairly well-wintered period of time I never got around to kicking and gliding up there.

Fast-forward to a snowy evening in February. I was glued to the living room couch recuperating from an intensive bout of residential shoveling when I received an email from my ski buddy, Dr. Blixseth, who resides conveniently at an elevation just a few blocks below Instant Karma trailhead on lower Galbraith.

“Ready yourself for upland storm patrol,” he wrote, proposing an early-morning rendezvous at his place. 

“Dependent on snow conditions, you can ski up Lakeway, enjoy a complimentary five-course breakfast from my kitchen and we can spend the rest of the day shallywogging around the winter wonderland observing nature at our considerable leisure,” he wrote. 

Enthusiastically endorsing his plan, I assembled my street gear in preparatory fashion and planted myself back on the couch to observe shimmering densities of crystalized precipitation accumulate on the ground.

When I awoke a few hours later, I was pleased to find that a pristine eight-inch blanket of untracked powder had buried the street out front so enticingly that I couldn’t bear to stop myself from embarking on a pre-rendezvous expedition.

Kicking up Humboldt Street on happy heels, I veered westward off Old Samish Way to the foot of upper Jersey Street and commenced to ascend at a moderately comfortable pace. Sweating buckets as I entered the arboretum, a crunchy boot path helped carry me along the side hill to the top of the ravine, where I finally stopped to hydrate.

Once I found myself approaching the portal of the old tunnel at the top, I instinctively realized what needed to be done.

There was a bare spot in the center, but as the sound of crunching gravel echoed boomingly through the cave, I knew I was passing through somewhere strangely special.

Gliding out at the other end, I whispered down the road to Bill McDonald Parkway, crossed over I-5 via Samish Way bridge, and headed toward Lakeway with visions of biscuits and gravy dancing through my head.

It was snowing again. And there wasn’t a single vehicle to impinge my momentum down the road.

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