Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Five Best Things about Birch Bay, Washington

Living in a small resort community in the extreme northwest of the U.S., I like to think about the good things that come with life here. After more than four years in the area, I have found the following are the five things (plus some bonuses) I like best about Birch Bay, Washington.  

Above-Average Sunset in Birch Bay
1.  Spectacular sunsets.  Birch Bay gets many different types of cloud formations, some with rain, others just blowing through for our enjoyment. At sunset, these ever-changing clouds over the Pacific Ocean create brilliantly original sky colors that reflect on the water to make unusual ocean hues.  Add a floating flock of ducks, gliding sea gulls, feeding herons, and boats, islands, and snow capped mountains in the distance, and the sunsets are often memorable.

2.  Birch Bay State Park.  The park stretches almost a mile along the ocean, and offers a great place to picnic or play. It has open space for Frisbee and football, a basketball court, and lots of picnic tables. It provides a great vantage point from which to view the unfolding sunsets. With the park, access to the ocean is always available.
Shoreline of Birch Bay State Park

3.  Wildlife on Terrell Creek.  Terrell is a small creek connected to the ocean. At one time, salmon migrated up the stream, and efforts are underway to restore it for salmon. It lies a few feet from my deck(s) and window(s), so I get a good view of all the action going on in and around it. The creek ebbs and flows with the ocean, attracting a wide variety of wildlife. Heron regularly come to spear little fish. Sometimes river otters swim in to catch fish and munch on them on the creek bank. All types of ducks float on the creek, efficiently diving for their prey.  A kingfisher is usually sitting on a telephone line that crosses the creek, waiting to drop life a rock to scoop up a small meal. Eagles and hawks regularly fly by. You know they are around when you hear the sea gulls screaming their heads off. In the spring and summer, the sweeps and bats are busy darting about, feeding on bugs in the evening.

River Otter in Terrell Creek (photo by Jim Kundell)
4. Fresh Berries. Birch Bay is a short drive from the overflowing berry fields near Lynden. In the later part of June, July, and early August, piles of fresh raspberries, blue berries, and straw berries are a short drive away -- either pick’em yourself or get berries that were picked and put in a box that day. In September, blackberry bushes are ubiquitous for free picking, if you can put up with the thorns.

5.  Lots of other things. I have to cheat and have more than one fifth favorite thing about Birch Bay. These rank about the same:

The C Shop (Great neighbors; the best chocolate and bread.)

Clean Air/Cool Summers (After living most of my life in the south, my sweat glands were pumped up; they have now atrophied after a few years here. The temperature very rarely reaches 80, and when it does, the ocean breeze makes it tolerable. The oxygen-rich air from the ocean is energizing.)
Ice Cream at the C Shop, a Birch Bay Hub

July 4th Celebration (Crazy anarchy rules the day; uncoordinated mayhem in the skies over the Bay)

Moderate Politics (If I had a choice, I would to be surrounded by people who think as I do -- sort of like living in San Francisco. The second best option is to have competitive politics in which the winner is often the person closest to the reasonable middle.)

Squirting Clams  (When the tide is way out, you can walk out several hundred yards on the tide lands and find the squirting clams. They can be identified by the holes in the sand, often with the ends of their small "tubes" they send up to … I don’t know, breath or eat or something. If you stick your toe in the hole,  touch the “tube” with a stick, or stomp hard by the hole, the clam usually will squirt out some water. The best ones with have a mighty squirt, with water falling on your head, or at least, on a leg.  A competitive sport with a kid is to go out and see who can get the other person the wettest from clam squirts.)

Waiting for the Fireworks on July 4th
Spectacular Mountains  (Glance beyond the bay and, on a clear day, you will see snow covered mountains. To the north are the Canadian Cascades that surround Vancouver; to the west is Mt. Baker, the second highest peak in Washington and a slumbering volcano. You can drive to the small city of Glacier, just before the vertical drive up to the National Park, in about 45 minutes. In 90 minutes you can be in the snow, even in August.)

Birch Bay with Canadian Cascades in the Background
I have a shorter list of things that I dislike about Birch Bay (hint: frequent rainy and overcast days is among them), but I will save that for later.  When the sun is shining here and we are, at last, enjoying summer, it does not seem right to gripe about anything.

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