Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Semiahmoo Park – Trip Report, 3/10/17

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Semiahmoo Spit Trail

We recently took an afternoon and drove up to Semiahmoo Spit near Blaine to do some birding and check out a new-to-us trail. Semiahmoo Spit is a long sand spit that protects Drayton Harbor. Historically this area was used by Native Americans for harvesting natural resources, and it became an abundant salmon canning area after European immigrants settled. Now Semiahmoo Park has 3 buildings that have been restored for public use, and 2 miles of trails that people can walk along.

We began our drive north late in the morning, after sleeping in and taking our time deciding where to go. We had a blustery, rainy day to start with, and the forecast called for calmer weather as the day wore on. I didn’t want to be in a forested area, and really didn’t feel like braving the messy passes and snowshoeing in the rain. I asked the kids what they’d like to do, and Annika requested wide open areas with birds and room to run and play. I hadn’t been to Semiahmoo in many years, and thought it sounded like an easy destination with no danger of falling trees.

Trumpeter Swans near Mt. Vernon

We stopped briefly on the way up to get a closer look at the trumpeter swans in Mt. Vernon. There were large flocks of them along the freeway, which made it easy to exit off and find a safe place to observe them. We were hopeful as we drove north through occasional rain showers, as we saw some blue sky in the area we were headed. I hoped it would be dry! We got lucky with that, as we were right at the edges of the clouds, and there was no rain and mild temperatures. With the amount of rain and gloom we’ve had this winter, it felt like a gift.

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Semiahmoo Park

It was mid-afternoon by the time we pulled into the park. Semiahmoo Park has a good-sized parking area with a couple of picnic tables. Restrooms with flush toilets and running water in the sinks are located in one of the buildings. I had brought my stove and supplies to cook up a hot lunch for the kids, since nobody felt like eating sandwiches.

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Making Lunch, Semiahmoo Park

It probably took us an hour to get our stuff out, set up, cook lunch, eat it, and clean up. But it was pleasant to be out, and we enjoyed watching eagles and taking turns walking out to one of the overlook platforms to view the water and birds.

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The trail starts on the other side of the street
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The path is part of the Coast Millennium Trail

After our late lunch, we walked northeast along the paved trail on the inside of the spit. I stopped multiple times to look at the birds and look them up in my bird book.

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Drayton Harbor, with Blaine in the Distance

We followed the trail up to the edge of the resort area, then we crossed over the road and walked back on the gravel path on the outside of the spit.

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The Outer Trail, heading back to the car
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Cool Orange Lichen

An eagle perched on a snag in the evening light.

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Eagle on a Snag

Water birds fed out in the harbor, and sparrows flitted back and forth in the leafless bushes.

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Remains of the Bird
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Interesting Root Ball

Gentle waves lapped the shore on the ocean side. At one point we got a thrill when Gabe startled a juvenile bald eagle that had been feeding in a bush right next to the trail. Its partially eaten dinner lay grotesquely under the shrubs.

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Juvenile Bald Eagle

We felt bad for disturbing it, but we hurried quickly onward, and the eagle did return to finish its meal. I’ve never been so close to a wild eagle before, and that alone was worth the whole trip.

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Bald Eagle in Evening Light

After our walk, we drove over to Blaine to explore the town. I wanted to see the Peace Arch at the border. The kids were excited to be so close to Canada – they’ve never been up to the border before. We parked in the empty parking lot at Peace Arch State Park (border patrol agents were the only ones there) and walked down to the view of the peace arch at sunset.

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Peace Arch at Sunset

It wasn’t a very good place for scenic sunset photos, because cars are in between the camera and the water and sky, but it was an interesting perspective. Unfortunately, we had missed the most colorful and dramatic clouds while we were driving from the spit to town. Well, we’ll know better next time.

We ended our trip with a visit to the Woods Coffee shop north of Bellingham. Now we’ve been to 4 or 5 branches of this local shop, and my kids think it’s the best.

If You Go: Semiahmoo Spit is located off of Exit 270 on I-5, Birch Bay/Linden Rd.  Take a right on Peace Portal Dr., and at the light take a sharp left onto Blaine Rd., Hwy 548. Cross Dakota Creek, and take a right onto Drayton Rd. Turn right onto Drayton Harbor Rd. Follow this road through the housing developments, then turn right onto Semiahmoo Parkway. As you descend from the headland down onto the spit, watch for the park on the left. Semiahmoo Park is well signed, and no permits are needed. The address is 9261Semiahmoo Parkway, Blaine, WA. I wasn’t using a GPS program for directions, and I was able to follow signs all the way to the park. Semiahmoo Park is open sunrise to sunset. Pets are allowed on a leash. It looks like the paved portion of the path would be good for young children on bikes or for strollers. The museum on the property seems to be open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but I’m having trouble finding an actual website or more information about it. Perhaps you’ll have more luck if you are interested in it. In the summer you can take a ferry the short distance over from Blaine.

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Sunset

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