Springtime in the Northwest means melting snow in the mountains, streams rushing with cold, clear water and showery days warmed by the occasional sun break. Trees sprout new leaves, flowers appear and the days grow noticeably longer. For families with children of any age, it's a time to reconnect with nature, to truly appreciate the beauty of the region we call home.
Skagit Valley backroads
One of my favorite trips with our daughters is to pick a destination in Skagit County - such as the Padilla Bay nature center near Bay View or the Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner - and use that trip as an excuse to wander the back roads of southern Skagit County. It's a great way to get out of the house on a blustery day.
You'll see migrating birds of all sorts, especially in late winter and early spring. Also in spring, many of the fields glow with the color of tulips, irises and daffodils. Bring binoculars and a camera.
Use caution if you stop on the main roads for a photo or to look at birds. Pull off the road, activate your hazard blinkers and exit the car on the passenger side, keeping small children close. The speed limit is 50 mph in many places.
There's heavy traffic in this area -- especially on weekends -- during the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which takes place April 1-30. You can follow your own self-guided tour with a printable PDF map available at tulipfestival.org.
Birding maps are available under the heading "recreational opportunities" at padillabay.org. Information about the Skagit County Historical Museum is at skagitcounty.net/museum.
To get to the area, take Interstate 5 south from Bellingham to the Bow Hill Road exit No. 236. Drive west to the village of Edison, continuing either south on Farm to Market Road or turning west on Bay View Edison Road (which eventually turns south along Padilla Bay). We like to make a big circuit through Bay View and La Conner, stopping at the Breadfarm or the Farm to Market Bakery for a little something.
Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Bellingham Families news online at BellinghamFamilies.com or on Facebook at Bellingham Families.