Mom with 2 kids by rv
Featured Outdoor Activities Washington

RV camping near beautiful Bellingham

Caption: Lake time by the clubhouse.

Written by Emily Helgeson

Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the Northwest RVing Blog hosted by MHRV (Manufactured Housing and Recreational Vehicle) Show Association.

When my husband Brad and I were first married we had a house in the Bellingham, WA area. When we moved years ago, we decided to make it a rental house. So once a year we go back to do some maintenance and general upkeep. Now that we have kids, saying “we” do maintenance is totally the royal we, as Brad does all the maintenance and I watch our two kids, Nolan and Molly. But either way, we love the opportunity this gives us annually to head back to an area near to our hearts and turn what could be one long day of driving into an annual camping trip with our RV.

This year we got to bring our daughter Molly along for the first time, which offered challenges (as she still wakes up in the middle of the night) and of course, added fun. We left our house in the morning and headed straight to our rental house to get the work done first. While Brad got started on some projects, I helped the kids with naptime and then we spent time enjoying the neighborhood. I got the kids settled in the jogger and we headed to the neighborhood clubhouse. Unfortunately, due to Corona Virus precautions, the community pool and playground were closed, but there was still plenty of fun to be had.

Nolan, Molly and I had fun cooling off from the afternoon sun in the lake with access near the clubhouse. The kids enjoyed finding treasures under the water gathering rocks, tall grass and watching the foam at the edge of the water. Though there were no geese seen that day, further entertainment was in store for us as we watched an excavator working to put in a new tennis court. The kids happily crunched their snacks and watched until the team called it a day. With extra time to spare until Brad was finished up working at the house, we continued our walk throughout the neighborhood- my favorite memories from when this was home.

The kids were so fascinated at all we could see on our walk. Houses of all shapes, sizes, and colors, a variety of garages, and special yard decorations like fountains and even an old traffic light that still could function. Living “in the sticks” now, our walks have beautiful views of nature, but most houses on our neighborhood walk are back among the trees. This up-close look at so many houses was so new and interesting to them. We took a break here and there to pick some dandelions and even some fresh blackberries. Then it was time to head back to meet up with Brad who was all finished up.

We drove our trailer and parked near the clubhouse for more time near the lake. The kids had so much fun earlier in the water that they wanted to go back with their swimsuits with Daddy to join them too. It had cooled off a bit, so the water time was brief, but Nolan and Daddy had fun playing with lily pads while I made dinner and Molly played in the trailer. After dinner we drove over to an empty graveled area in the neighborhood to camp for the night as the kids’ bedtime was nearing.

Once the kids were settled in, Brad and I enjoyed picking more blackberries growing just outside the trailer. As we picked, my mind was filled with the memories of picking blackberries at that exact spot and then making my first ever homemade pie, back when we lived here and had been married less than a year. After berry picking, we spent a little time walking along the water’s edge of the surrounding lake. This is such a beautiful place. I am so glad to have a reason to come back each year.

The next day we headed out after breakfast and continued our walk down memory lane with a trip to Lake Padden. We had searched online ahead of time and found a gravel lot labeled for day use trailer parking. Fortunately Brad was able to back us in there, but if you travel here with your RV, keep in mind it doesn’t have space to turn around and backing up is tight. It seemed a bit off for it to be labeled as trailer parking, but never the less it offered us a great option for spending the day here and letting the kids nap.

We started off with a walk around the lake- a little longer trip with a double jogger and some stopping with the kids, but after finishing their lunches in the jogger, we stopped at the lake access and let the kids enjoy more water play until nap time. Once the kids were down, Brad laid down for a nap as well, while I laced up my running shoes for a jog around the lake. I can’t count the number of times I went running here when we lived in the area. And it’s hands down what I miss most from the Bellingham area. Ending my run near some more blackberry bushes, I picked some more berries to share and then headed back to the trailer.

By that time Nolan was up so I took him back to play at the lake while Brad had some time to himself until Molly woke up. When she got up, Molly and Brad met up with us enjoying the water, sand time and especially the friendly and hungry ducks! Nolan had fun telling us who the Mommy, Daddy, Kid and Baby were in this cute little duck family.

Larrabee State Park

Then we headed back, buttoned up the trailer, and drove to our camping destination for the next two days- Larrabee State Park. We got settled in with just enough time for some dinner, a little play time, and a campfire before bedtime. Nolan’s eyes sparkled when we roasted a marshmallow with him. And little Molly sure enjoyed her first taste of a roasted marshmallow too. So much fun and a great reminder to see the joy our kids find in even the little things. After the kids were down, Brad and I lingered in the peace and quiet- reading and sitting around the campfire.

The next morning after breakfast we headed out towards the nearby beach. We enjoyed the walk there, though three-year-old Nolan said it was a bit far. On the route there we walked under a bridge with a train driving over the top! Such an interesting and noisy experience! (Keep in mind this train runs very close to the campground, so noise is to be expected). Once we got to the beach, we had fun enjoying what seemed to be a pattern on this trip: water play and picking wild blackberries. Nolan was excited for a beach with seashells. And it was extra fun when Daddy found a tiny crab to show us. After making the trek back to camp we got the kids lunch and then down for nap.

Once they were both up from nap we made a couple more stops along memory lane. We drove in to Fairhaven and got gelato to share! So good and very much missed throughout the years. Nolan had fun picking out his own flavors. Molly seemed less enthusiastic with such a cold snack, but enjoyed people (and dog) watching from our outdoor table.

We then took a brief drive around the area near Western Washington University where Brad and I both attended college. It was so fun to see again- though I’m still so thankful to be done with school….and homework. Crazy to think I’ve been graduated from college for over 10 years! That makes me feel old, but driving by campus, it seemed impossible that so much time had passed. But here we are, two kids later. Time flies!

Back at camp we stoked up the campfire and enjoyed playing around our site and taking brief adventure walks nearby. Then it was dinner, bedtime for the kids, more campfire time, and bedtime for us parents. Yay for sleep!

The next morning we finished up our stay at Larrabee State Park with a brief hike on the Fragrance Lake trail across the street from the campground. We walked until Nolan reached his max and then headed back. Though we didn’t make it to the lake or a viewpoint, we had fun doing a scavenger hunt along our way. Check out my printable scavenger hunt page for little ones. Once we were back to camp we loaded everything up and started the drive for home.

Fragrance Lake Hike

Along our route, we stuck with our common routine when in need, of hitting up Costco along the way. For us “country folk” it’s so nice to just do this when we’re already driving by and don’t have to make the three-hour drive round trip to the nearest Costco. This works perfect for us- with some fridge and freezer space, room for a cooler if needed in the truck bed, plus plenty of space to store our stock up in the trailer. After eating some Costco pizza in the trailer for lunch (a Brad must-have) we finished the drive home and settled in.

This trip was the perfect way to incorporate spending time working on the rental house. While work was definitely done (thanks Brad!), the majority of our time was spent enjoying the area we first called home.

Author: Emily HelgesonEmail: Emily Helgeson lives with her husband and two children in Eastern Washington. They enjoy adventuring together and are learning how to use their RV to continue this lifestyle with their growing family.