Nature at your doorstep
ROCKPORT — You don’t have to drive hours to a national park in order to enjoy the great outdoors. Beaches, old growth forests, wetlands and scenic vistas are all accessible outings for those living in the Pacific Northwest, and award-winning guidebook author Craig Romano wants you to know it.
The Mount Vernon resident spoke of the extensive trails covering the Bellingham, Mount Vernon and Anacortes areas Saturday during a standing-room-only presentation at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Howard Miller Steelhead Park.
Romano’s talk was part of the monthlong Skagit Eagle Festival put on by the Concrete Chamber of Commerce. Festival activities are offered every full weekend in January in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount.
Back at the packed Interpretive Center, Romano breezed through a slideshow of well-known and hidden-gem trails, many reachable by public transportation or a short drive.
Those in Bellingham can tread the 7-mile-long Interurban Trail that connects Fairhaven Historical District with Larrabee State Park, marvel at the old growth forest in Arroyo Park or brave the crowds on the wildly popular Oyster Dome hike, which provides sweeping views of Samish Bay.
To avoid the masses, Romano recommended hiking when the Seahawks are playing.
Skagit County also boasts a wealth of outdoor opportunities, including the Port of Skagit County and its 10 miles of trails, Washington Park in Anacortes, Skagit Riverwalk Park in Mount Vernon and the Kukutali Preserve, a property near La Conner that is jointly managed by Washington State Parks and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
Romano’s book, “Urban Trails Bellingham: Chuckanut Mountains, Western Whatcom, Skagit Valley,” includes even more adventures that require no special gear or major effort.
At the end of the talk, avid walkers Char Poth and Robin Bailey of Bellingham said they both valued living near the great outdoors.
“Being close to nature is part of the thrill of living here, and trails are a way back to those places,” Poth said.
Romano’s event culminated in a guided nature walk along the Skagit River. About 50 people joined him, many squinting into the trees in the hopes of spotting an eagle.
“I saw it first!” a woman exclaimed, pointing to a tiny white dot across the river.
For more information about events at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center, visit skagiteagle.org/upcoming-events. Skagit Eagle Festival events can be found at concrete-wa.com/skagit-eagle-festival.