Recreation Northwest

Account From a First Time Adventure Racer

Kulshan Quest was an awesome experience..Sarah and I were the only all woman team and the only women participating in the 6 hour race. And I can’t remember for sure, but I think we may have also been the only first-time adventure racers too. We hit every single check point including all the bonus points and had a fantastic time in the process. We finished the kayak leg right in the middle of the pack but ran into a few snags on the trek and the mountain bike legs. The navigation element definitely makes it more challenging over just following a pre-set course! I feel like we learned a ton that will better equip us for next time (“Things I Learned” in the comments). And no matter what, I got to spend a beautiful solstice day with a good friend in one of my favorite places being active and having adventures of all kinds. Thanks to Brent Molsberry and Quest Adventure Races for creating such a fun event!

Sara & Cheryl KQ 2014Things I Learned From My First Adventure Race
1. There aren’t many things I’d rather do on a beautiful sunny Saturday than spend time on an adventure with a good friend in a beautiful place. 
2. It is hard to paddle a kayak and look at a map at the same time. Next time either use a tandem boat so someone is always paddling and someone can navigate or memorize the checkpoints and questions. 
3. Do not separate. More importantly, don’t separate the map from the passport. One is no good without the other. And you will lose at least an hour looking for each other—more if not for the help of some passing mountain bikers.
4. Have a backup plan in case of separation so you don’t spend an hour looking for each other. The backup plan you create after you are already separated is not likely to be what the other person would assume for a backup plan.
5.Run more, bike more. Even when all you want to do is kayak.
6. Mountain biking is less scary the second time. But the second time mountain biking is not likely the best scenario for your first race. Do some mountain biking in the next year.
7. It is also hard to ride a bike and look at a map. Or run and look at a map. Watch the people that have done this before. They have really cool things that make stuff easier. Get some of those things that make stuff easier.
8. Trust your instincts. If it looks like a giant boulder split in two, it’s probably THE giant boulder split in two. Don’t spend an hour looking for other giant boulders split in two, just call to find out if the checkpoint has been accidentally removed. Sometimes that is the case.
9. This area is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are parts of the Chuckanuts I didn’t even know existed before yesterday.
10. Navigation isn’t easy. GPS is easy. Get lost in the woods a few times this summer and practice getting out. Don’t just stick to the trails you know, find some new ones. 
11. A LOT of work goes into putting these races together…we are so lucky to have something like this right in our backyard! I can’t wait for the next one!!
Cheryl Perry & Sarah Hare
Kulshan Quest, 2014

Traverse Inspiration

stephanie race readyAs we neared our destination I could see friends jumping up and down, clapping and cheering us on.  For the very first time, I wasn’t on the outside looking in, I was actually in the race.  My husband Trevor, running next to me, squeezed my hand and I knew I could do anything.  When we passed the line, friends were there with open arms, where I had no problem collapsing in my best friends hug, tears streaming down out of pure exhaustion and only the complete joy a dream accomplished could bring. 

For years I’ve been on the sidelines, jumping up and down with the crowd at Boundary Bay, hands above my head shouting “You got this!”  I watch my friends run through the finish line, excited to see them finish.  Here, in the outdoor sanctuary of Bellingham, we seem to be surrounded by athletes, or just a highly active population, taking advantage of all the area has to offer.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve aspired to hike mountains, be a snow bird, bike to the top of Galbraith and paddle board across Lake Padden.  However, when I became ill with a serious digestive disorder in 2008, my dreams, along with my spirit were crushed.  I was quickly forced to leave a masters program, quit my job, live on a strict diet (if you think gluten free or Paleo is hard, you have no idea!) and survive multiple procedures with feeding tubes to keep me alive. 

This was the year I refused to let anything get in my way.  After signing up the last 2 times and having to back out, I was determined to make something happen.  Back in January, I had what is called a central line placed in my chest to provide my body with with IV nutrition to add weight I could not gain on my own and build up the strength to live.  As terrifying as this journey has been over the years, it has also provided the energy to have a more active and fulfilling life. 

Stephx2TraverseMy best friend Stephanie competes in the Traverse each year and has been by my side through thick and thin.  Always encouraging me along, she asked me with a hesitant yet hopeful voice, if I would like to sign up.  “YES!”, I replied without a second thought. I still can’t run long distance and the bike rides are a little too much, so kayaking would be my best bet.  My husband Trevor is in great shape and enjoys mountain biking, competing  in that part last year.  Because I wanted this so very badly, he agreed to partner with me on the kayak, to be the extra strength I would need to make it through. 

The summer flew by and we only had the chance to practice a few times with rentals from Padden or the Fairhaven boating center.  Suddenly race day arrived and all I could think about was pinning on my number. Something so small and insignificant to most, yet I had always imagined, like a young girl imagines her first wedding dress, what it would feel like to wear my own. 

The previous night I infused with the IV nutrition (we call her Ivey), ate a small and simple breakfast upon waking, and after a trip to our favorite store, REI,  Trevor and I made way down to Marine Park.  Though the sun was shining and summer weather at it’s best, the moment my eyes got a peek at the water my heart sank.  I saw the white caps and the bay looked choppy enough to make even my husband nervous.  “Okay,” I thought to myself, “if everyone else can do this we will obviously be okay right?” Luckily, it was decided to move to the Fairhaven boat launch, a calmer area to take off from. Instead of focusing on the waves I thought about where I was 2 years ago, lying on the hospital bed being told I would probably die, to the present, gazing at the beautiful bay that I would soon cross just as I had crossed what felt like oceans before. 

stephanie kayakOur runner rounded the corner, smiling despite the exhaustion, and it was time.  We jumped in the double kayak and began paddling.  I should first let you know that we had not once practiced in an ocean kayak, only the flat ones from the boating center.  But we had no choice but to just go with it.  The trek across the bay was probably one of the most physically defining moments of my life.  I wanted to burst in to tears when we passed someone who flipped over, though due to our lack of steering capabilities we were too far out to really see.  When my right arm began to hurt and my stomach turned upside down I just kept smiling and encouraging us to get to the other side. 

What felt like hours later, we slid up to shore and with nervous jelly legs, hopped out to meet the rest of the team, anxiously awaiting.  Lots of high fives and hugs later, we began the fun to the finish line.  Well, I mostly walked but my team kept me going with words of encouragement and sips of water, knowing the end was near. 

Once we arrived, surrounded by those who understood how much this meant to me, it was unreal.  No matter how hard life gets, I can now say I’ve completed a race and never again will I forget how I felt the moment I crossed the line.  Priceless. 

stephanie team

Thank you to everyone who encouraged and had faith in me.
Stephanie Torres



Northwest Adventurers Take On Island Quest

Nadja- Race start at 6:30am at fire station in Eastsound- Had to check in and find out where to drop off our kayak and bikes first in the autumn pre dawn.
Thick marine fog added to the mystery of the day we were about to embark on.
In true adventure race style, at the pre-race meeting just before the start we got the race course- we’re going to Sucia island!!

Began with about a mile run to North Beach Park where we jumped in our kayaks and launched in thick fog relying on compass bearing to get us to Sucia island, where the kayak checkpoints had us circumnavigate the rugged shorelines of this remote island state park. After finding the 4 clues/checkpoints- buoy numbers, counting boards on benches, it was time to transition to land.
Spent the next few hours running/trekking around Sucia, down every trail and service road, atop of cliffs, through old growth forests, searching for 14 checkpoints over 10 miles of back and forth down each finger of the entire island …

Then back to the kayak to paddle 3 miles back to Orcas island and switch paddles for pedals for the final leg that would take us back to the trails of Moran State Park- after finding 3 checkpoints on the 5 miles or so road ride to the park it was time for the grande sufferfest of riding/hike-a-biking up Mt Constitution trails – where I had my greatest bonk of the day- Super sick feeling to my stomach made worse by the push up the hill, ended up doing Jim’s endurance racing trick of curling up in the fetal position for about 15 minutes to calm my rates down and get a bit more food in me so I could continue- a team of 4 guys we had past on the climb past us back during this break, but to my elation, we caught back up to and passed them on the descent and game on, we’re still racing! Got my 7th wind of the day and dug dug dug, down our favorite trail there that we had just ridden last weekend to get the final checkpoints hidden under bridges, in swamps to the FINISH LINE!!

Jim- “Exciting, fun course- one of the coolest courses for an adventure race in this part of the country- Geographically, pretty *^%*ing awesome! Wish I could do it again tomorrow.”
Nadja & Jim's SJIQ Adventure
–Nadja & Jim aka Northwest Adventurers

Finding Quiet and Peace on an Adventure Race

So many pieces came together for me to make the San Juan Island Quest a success. I wanted to do this race in 2010, but other thingMegan Milliron 2014 SJIQs came first. Then the Army moved us twice and I had two children–both made it hard to complete any adventure races. I even signed up for a race in North Carolina–while living in Key West–that fell though and I participated in an adventure racing clinic in West Virginia. I had a vision of adventure racing solo so that I could improve my orienteering skills. 
I  look at a day with two young children like an adventure race: limited sleep and starting early in the morning, eating on the go, bending and moving and carrying all day, not always knowing what is coming next. But there are differences, too. Racing is quiet and peaceful. Smooth paddle strokes out to Sucia Island. Soft dirt under my tires as I cruise single track in Moran State Park. 
My 12 hour solo race was everything I wanted and needed it to be. Even two nights of sleep deprivation prior to starting would not dampen my mood. I came home refreshed and searching for a spring race to get me through until the 2015 San Juan Island Quest. 
–Meghan Milliron aka Grey Ghost

Recreation Northwest as Community Stewards of Fairhaven Park

I am an advocate of transparency and sharing stories. This is the story of how our organization, Recreation Northwest, came to be increasingly involved in Fairhaven Park and the Chuckanut Community Forest. It spans the time from January – May 2014.

~ Todd

In January 2014, Recreation Northwest became Park Stewards for Fairhaven Park in partnership with City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department. Together, we planned to have quarterly volunteer Work Parties to help maintain and improve trails in the forest where the Bellingham Traverse Trail Run and the new Kulshan Quest Adventure Race are held.  This land is historically known by the names 100 Acre Wood, Fairhaven Highlands or Chuckanut Community Forest. Recreation Northwest’s Executive Director, Todd Elsworth, introduced himself to the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District Board and received their support in helping to spread the word and connect with other interested parties.

It quickly became evident to our organization that there was a much bigger need that has to be filled. Christopher Grannis, (now former) President of the South Neighborhood Association, approached Elsworth and asked if Recreation Northwest would be interested in doing more. Both agreed that with the increased use in the woods, some of the trails in the forest are doing more damage to the land and the watershed than we’d like. Erosion and sediment runoff into streams is evident in some key areas.

Grannis also gathered Tim Wahl, Greenways COB and expert Don Hunger, to talk about what the potential for engagement would like like for the property and Recreation Northwest as a stewardship organization. Elsworth was learning about all the moving parts and pieces for creating a successful first project- to set the stage for future successes. Connecting with the right people and getting the key players in place to determine the potential scope of this project took time.

Bill Hasenjaeger, COB Parks and Recreation Advisory Board contacted Elsworth and met on March 2nd to express his interest in trails and working together to tackle this newly acquired piece of public property. The public perception is that there is not a plan or funding in place at the city to take care of the newly acquired land. Elsworth was referred to Leslie Bryson, Design and Development Manager. City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Dept.

Bryson met with Elsworth on March 6th to discuss and ensure that at least in the short term, the city is working towards a “mini-plan” to take care of the evidently critical areas. The political realities of the civic Master Planning Process that needs to be carried out is well down the road. The city has no budget to improve or build trails, much less do the long-term planning in the near term.  

Bryson and Elsworth agreed that a great Phase One approach to improving the critical areas of the trails that lead into the forest could start with a section of trail at the entrance from Fairhaven Park- past the upper shelter, at the green dumpster. Phase Two would have to undoubtedly require much more planning to cross the wetland area to head up the hill and access the network of trails.

James King, Director of City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation, via Bryson, gave his support for the project. Bryson explained that there were preliminary studies, permits, materials and volunteer labor that would have to be accounted for in this project. Elsworth is currently creating a budget and scope of work for Phase One.

On April 24th Gerry Wilbour, trail-building professional with Northwest Trails INC., walked the site with Elsworth, Grannis, Hasenjager and David Laws- Laws is Secretary for Recreation Northwest and recently submitted his application to join the COB Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Wilbour wanted to determine if a reasonable trail could be built to avoid the wetland where the current trail passes through. Wilbour was able to mark a trail that he was satisfied with for a proposal- it also serves a key need of connecting Fairhaven Park and 18th Street. Wilbour has agreed to work with Recreation Northwest to provide estimates for a project overview with regards to the materials and labor required for the project. This information will be a key component in the budget. Wilbour has agreed to donate his services to the project.

Bryson referred Elsworth to Kim Weil, COB Planning and Community Development Department on April 28th. Weil identified the piece of property that the proposed trail would be using as “The piece North of Fairhaven Highlands”. Weil explained that the property needs a new wetland delineation performed- the last one was done in 1997. She identified NW Ecological Services, Vikki Jackson, as the firm who did the most recent study for the land to the south. Weil also addressed the need for a surveyor to come in immediately after to identify the wetland boundary. These two pieces must be coordinated.

As of May 5th, Recreation Northwest is finalizing putting a budget together to see what it’s going to take to have this be a successful project. The project will be volunteer driven- read that funded- in order for it to be successful. A fundraising campaign will be developed to support the project and the organization to set itself up to be prepared to transition into Phase TWO as well.

On May 6th, Recreation Northwest’s Program and Policy Committee (Dave Laws, Kurt Baumgarten, Mike McAuley, Don Hunger and Brent Molsberry) met with staff (Elsworth and April Claxton, Executive Manager) to discuss the merits of the proposal and prepare for presentation at Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for May 19th.

Elsworth was directed to get MOA with City. He contacted Bryson and has received the forms. They require a detailed budget and a 90 day commitment to complete the project. Recreation Northwest is completing the budget to determine the scope of the fundraising project.

In the interminable words of Paul Harvey, Now you know, the rest of the story.

~ Documentation by Todd Elsworth.

Community Stewardship Project – Fairhaven Park and the Community Forest

Community Members,

I would like to provide a brief overview of where we see the role of our organization, Recreation Northwest, as volunteer stewards of Fairhaven Park and the Chuckanut Community Forest lands and trails. Here is my account of how our organization got involved from the beginning: Recreation Northwest as Community Stewards of Fairhaven Park.

This is is an opportunity for Recreation Northwest to demonstrate the direct implementation of our mission to “promote outdoor recreation and bring people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play.” As committed stewards of Fairhaven Park and the Community Forest, we have identified the needs in the community and have positioned ourselves to be able to fill the void.

To begin with, people have been asking, “How can you do this trail work if there isn’t a master plan in place to know what the future holds?” We have worked with local professionals and the city to agree that there are critical areas that provide access to the trails in the forest. These access points will not change, and with that confidence began our first steps with Phase ONE.

Beginning with Phase ONE, we will be able to start with a small success of building a piece of the puzzle that will be put together over time. This trail relocation project will move the access trail from Fairhaven Park into a better location on higher ground. The trail will also connect Fairhaven Park and the 18th Street Entrance. Read: Status Update from October 2, 2014.

Phase TWO will get us a bit deeper into the woods. The perceived plan is to find a better way across the wetland as the trail system moves up hill to connect with the network of trails into the woods. We realize that the need for an elevated walkway to reasonably cross the wetland is a reality and will be a large scale project. We will also be working towards providing a lesser grade trail to get up the hill that currently is unsustainable.

During our fundraising campaign, I heard many questions and concerns about the future use of the woods and the trail network. Phase THREE and beyond will lead us down a much more complex and involved path that has yet to be fully scoped. We are confident that we as a community can do it, together. As we work to do these projects we consider the balance of conservation and recreation in our approach. Our role may be in helping host community discussions as we work with the city to come up with a master plan sooner than later. 

This is the first step in a much larger project that holds the potential to be a demonstration site of logical, thoughtful and sustainable recreational land-use design. The possibilities that this land holds are endless and with Recreation Northwest leading the charge, we are confident that we will win-win.


Todd Elsworth


Todd Elsworth, Executive Director

Direct: 360-739-8458
We promote outdoor recreation and bring people together to enjoy, preserve 
and improve the places where we play. 
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