Whatcom County is the kind of place that grabs visitors by the heart, and quickly turns them into residents. It's got a natural beauty that quickly becomes a part of you as you savor its bold delicacy. No surprise that it's home to one of the country's best systems of county parks, and to vast stretches of true wilderness locked up into the North Cascade National Park.
Dominated by 10,878 foot Mount Baker,Whatcom County is almost all mountains, so most of it's 180,000 people live on its western edge in a piece of rolling farmland. It's one of the few places in Washington where the mountains not only meet the sea, the Chuckanut Mountains (the foothills you drive through coming up from the south on Interstate 5) march right into it to become the San Juan Islands.
Native artifacts thousands of years old give it a feeling of permanence, despite the fact that it's dominant feature is Mount Baker, a live volcano whose steam plume regularly spurts a reminder to the wary, sort of a giant snooze alarm for those who forget that the ground they're walking on may have come out of the top of that mountain not so long ago. Like an elixir, Western Washington University keeps the place young, and young at heart. A high quality university, one distinguishing characteristic its students have is their creative ability to find ways of sticking around once their academic career has ended.
And finally, one of our greatest blessings sits to the north, British Columbia, Canada, host to the 2010 winter Olympic Games. Baring any border line ups, is close enough to visit twice in one day and still be home for dinner.
City of Blaine
Initially settled in the 1850's by wilderness survey parties and by prospectors from several area gold rushes, Blaine boomed in the late Victorian era and then faded, leaving a downtown neighborhood of old buildings and grand wooden homes, some of which still stand today.
Known as the "Peace Arch City" for the 62-foot Peace Arch monument sitting on the international border in a 40-acre park, half in the US and the other half in Canada. Blaine is half water, and along with Bellingham it's one of just two towns on the water in Whatcom County. Blaine sits on Drayton Harbor, a nearly circular 4,000-acre jewel that is one of the most important stops, along with nearby Birch Bay, for migrating shorebirds and seabirds along the west coast. Like a huge shallow dish, the harbor sustains a lush variety of plant and animal food.
Blaine's marina provides moorage for over 350 boats, as does nearby Semiahmoo Marina, a part of the world-class Semiahmoo Resort & Spa on the west side of Drayton Harbor. Once home to the Alaska Packers Association (APA) cannery, the 200-room resort hosts gatherings from around the world in a breathtaking setting surrounded by a pristine beach. The passenger ferry M/V Plover that once delivered cannery workers across the harbor to work still runs in the summers for tourists. The 1,500 permanent Semiahmoo residents live in homes clustered around a award winning golf course designed by Arnold Palmer and her sister course at Loomis Trail, providing year-round play!