The Rambling Writer Hikes to Teddy Bear Cove

The past couple of weeks, our far corner of the Pacific Northwest has enjoyed “blistering” highs in the upper 70s and even flirting with the upper 80s (sorry, friends who are baking in real heat waves), which calls for some hiking and swimming outings. Thor has been laid up with leg/ankle issues, so it’s up to me to entertain Bear dog. This week we had the perfect combo of sunny day and high tide in the afternoon to warm up the bays along Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham, so off we headed for a favorite short hike and a swim at Teddy Bear Cove.

Now an official park with its own sign, when I was in my teens and twenties, Teddy Bear was a semi-secret Hippie nude beach that required a scramble down a rough trail and a laid-back attitude. Now that it attracts more visitors, I have to remind myself that changes are inevitable with our growing population. It’s still a beautiful destination, just a 20-minute drive and a 30-minute hike away.

We start at the Arroyo Trail along Chuckanut Creek.

After crossing the bridge, we head up switchbacks.

The trail crosses some boggy areas with quintessential Northwest foliage of sword ferns, skunk cabbage, and devil’s club beneath mossy maples, cedars, and fir. A couple of boardwalks help.

Light filters down through the big-leafed, mossy maples.

Bear is heading toward one of his favorite streams for a drink along the way.

The trail joins the Interurban, a wider stretch that was the old railway route in the early 1900s. When I was growing up in Happy Valley in Bellingham, my sister and I used to race our horses bareback along this route.

Heading down some steep switchbacks toward the bay, we can see the present-day railroad tracks that run along Chuckanut Bay.

Finally, we arrive at Teddy Bear Cove. Below is the north side of a protecting spit of rocky cliff. As the tide comes in, the bay warms up enough that I can enjoy a lovely long swim and float basking in the sun sparkling over the water. I’m convinced I was a dolphin or an otter (we have seen otters at this cove) in a previous lifetime, as I start to pine and wither if I go too long without submerging in the sea. Like the ancient Greek Antaeus who needed to touch the earth to maintain his life force, I need the sea for nourishment. The only time I’ve lived away from shore was a 3-year stint in the desert of Eastern Washington, where I certified and worked as a nuclear reactor operator at Hanford. (A story for another day; suffice it to say that it was not my happiest sojourn.)

Bear dog is not a swimmer, but he loves to wade and poke around the shoreline, cooling off in the water. I leash him in the shade with his packable water bowl as I swim.

After I dry off, we climb onto the rocky spit to take in the views to Dot Island and the San Juan Islands to the west.

The beautiful madrona trees with their orange trunks grow only along the shoreline (also a few on the shore of nearby Lake Whatcom).

Bear dog checks out the other beach on the south side of the spit. This side is rockier, with barnacles, so a little trickier to wade in for a swim.

The railroad tracks run south. Taking the Amtrak train is a great way to get to Seattle and parts south, while enjoying the views.

A last glimpse of the bay past madrona and native oak trees, then it’s back to the trail.


You will find the Rambling Writer blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara is eagerly anticipating a return trip to Greece this fall as she works on a sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect.




The Rambling Writer Hikes to Teddy Bear Cove — 6 Comments

    • Thanks, Cat — yes, I’ve seen your type of madrones in southern Oregon, inland. Both types have those wonderful, smooth trunks when the bark peels. Beat dog has a double coat, with insulating undercoat, so he does well in the heat. We were told not to clip him short for the summer, as it could be dangerous. He actually goes out to lie in the sun in our driveway when it’s too hot for me!

  1. So very beautiful! I was just on the Amtrak to Portland a couple weeks ago. Spectacular scenery! (Glad I missed the Montana quake, though. They’re annoying enough at home without being hit by one on the road.)

    • Also lucky you avoided a recent derailment on Amtrak, caused by an engineer not slowing when he should! But I still love riding trains.

  2. I am so envious. My plantar fasciitis is keeping me home on these beautiful days.