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When Best Laid Plans Go Awry: Mother’s Day at Padilla Bay

Last updated Dec 2, 2018 | Published on May 17, 2018

Ava explores the beach at Bayview State Park

This Mother’s Day, I got to spend the day with my family at Padilla Bay. A tidal bay located near Anacortes, Padilla Bay is centrally located between my home in Seattle and my family’s home in Whatcom County. I was curious to check out the Padilla Bay Trail, which is recommended as a wheelchair accessible trail as well as an easy walk for kids. It seemed like the perfect trail for our family.

My family squints into the sunshine at the camera

We met at the Breazeale Interpretive Center, as we thought it would be fun for my niece and nephews to learn about the ecology of the region before hitting the trail. Also we had read online that a key was needed from the Center to unlock a gate allowing wheelchair access to the Padilla Bay Trail. Sadly, the center is now closed on Sundays, which was a bit of a disappointment. So it was time for Plan B.

Checking out the Upland Trail

Wheelchair rides!  Yay!

We decided to explore the Upland Trail instead, a .8-mile trail in the woods behind the Interpretive Center. The day was heating up and we looked forward to strolling in the shade under the cover of trees. My nephews took turns riding on my dad’s lap as he wheeled along the path.

Thumbs up!  Of course, this is just before we got to the part with the mosquitoes…

My mom and me on Mother’s Day

As we approached the trees, the nice paved trail ended and the remaining path was definitely not wheelchair-accessible. This is when the mosquitoes came out in force. I am one of the lucky few who are not terribly bothered by mosquitoes but the same can’t be said for my family members who are apparently quite tasty. We retreated with impressive speed and regrouped at the Interpretive Center.

“There’s no water coming out. Uh-oh – it’s out of batteries!” -Collin

Kirsten and Collin

Time for a new plan. Another trail from the Interpretive Center led to an overlook with beach access and views of the bay. This trail had the allure of a tunnel under the main road and we figured this was a foolproof way to intrigue the younger generation. Because tunnels are cool, right? So off we went, admiring flowers along the path as we walked.

Walking to the overlook

The tunnel

I took up the rear with my mom and dad, chatting and taking a little extra time to navigate the wheelchair ramp. By the time we reached the tunnel, the kids had already lost interest and were heading back to the car. The beach access consisted of a steep winding stairwell that I thought looked pretty cool but wasn’t really appropriate for small children or dogs. The kids were tired of walking and wanted to play on the beach, and I can’t say that I blamed them. I stayed behind at the overlook for a while, enjoying the beautiful view with my parents and their dog, Chumley.

Dad enjoys the view

Dad enjoys the view

Mom and Chumley, aka The Library Dog

So, on to Plan D – THE BEACH! We drove down the road to Bayview State Park and spent the next hour or so playing by the water. The kids had a blast exploring the shoreline and playing with each other. I got to spend some quality time with my stepson and my mom, which made it a happy Mother’s Day for me.

Yay!  It’s the beach!


My stepson Brendan and me

After the rest of my family headed home, I decided to check out the Padilla Bay Trail on my own. A 2.25-mile path separating the Salish Sea from Skagit Valley farmlands, the trail affords lovely views of the bay on one side and Mt. Baker on the other. I ambled along the trail enjoying the late afternoon sunshine before heading back to my car.

The Padilla Bay Trail

No Name Slough

Mt. Baker is just visible from the Padilla Bay Trail

Ironically, I discovered that while the gate to the Padilla Bay trail was indeed locked, the pedestrian entrance is actually just wide enough to admit a small wheelchair. I’m 92% sure that my dad’s wheelchair could have actually made it through the entrance, without the need for unlocking the gate. We probably could have walked the Padilla Bay Trail in the first place. But that’s not what the day had in store for us and we ended up having a great day anyway. Sometimes the best days are the ones that don’t go as planned.

Access gate to the Padilla Bay Trail.  I bet a wheelchair could have fit through there.  Oh well.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

1 Comment

  1. Unicorn

    Thanks Rod! Nice to hear from you. I’ll pass your greeting along to my folks 😊😊


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