Anacorteans (or whatever those who live in Anacortes are called) are very familiar with the Tommy Thompson Trail, which, according to Anacortes Magazine, “consists of approximately 3.3 miles of paved trail for pedestrians and bicyclists between 11th Street and across the train trestle to March Point” and, Trail Link, “follows an abandoned corridor of the old Burlington Northern Railway and is named for a man who ran a narrow-gauge railway along the Fidalgo Island shore.” Although currently only a few miles long, a Cross Island Connection – Guemes Channel Trail to Tommy Thompson Trail is in the works that will extend it to the Anacortes Ferry.
Officially, the TTT runs from 11th Street at its northernmost to March Point Road at its southwesterly end, but it’s easy enough to continue northward about eight blocks along Q Ave to 3rd Street (the planned route continues north to 8th, one block east to R Ave and then north to 3rd Street before heading west towards the Guemes Channel). Currently, traveling out and back from the start point at 11st Street allows runners, walkers and bikers about a 5-K each way, for a round trip total of a 10-K of paved trail on which to travel. Over the years, I’ve traversed it dozens of times.
One weekday morning, I stopped by 3rd Street (technically north of the official start of the trail) at about 7:30 am. The first things I noticed, besides the sunshine, were the sights and sounds of shipbuilding taking place along the nearby waterfront. Facing the south from the same spot you can see the sidewalk that extends beyond the north end of the trail.
Middle North Section
Continuing south for about a mile, you’ll reach a parking lot complete with bathroom facilities at 21st Street. From here you can access the Anacortes Skatepark, mere feet from the trail.
Middle South Section
Along 30th Street, you’ll find another public restroom at a Yacht Broker building opposite some murals. Thirty-fourth Street is just a few blocks south. This is where you’ll notice a lot more information signs, usually in groups of three. As you enter the trail here, you’ll notice the Thompson Parkway Rules. My favorite, “Dogs: Woof, Woof, Arf, Arf.”
Soon you’ll reach what I think is the prettiest part of the trail, the south end, where it extends across Fidalgo Bay. Just a little further south, you pass through the Fidalgo Bay Resort RV Park. Park along Fidalgo Bay Road and access the TTT along Weaverling Road (the entrance to the RV park) to learn that the Samish Indian Nation owns this land. It isn’t a typical place to access the trail because there isn’t much space to park except maybe for a couple of cars along the dirt shoulder beyond the bike lane. Normally, you’d already be on the trail heading south as you passed through the RV park.
A Samish Indian Nation totem pole greets you as you enter the RV park. At the base of it is a sign with a key to the Welcoming Pole’s symbols. As you walk east along Weaverling Road (or south along the trail), you’ll notice a second totem just to the east of the trail north of the RV park. Soon, you’ll reach the trail, where you’ll see the final of three restrooms (a porta potty) next to an artwork display of fishing related items. As I neared the trail, I noticed a Belted kingfisher perched atop a tree at the inlet between Weavering Spit and the trail. Although one of my favorite bird species, I’ve found them to be nearly impossible to photograph because they are shy and fast flyers. As I lifted my camera, it dashed off, making its call as it did so. “When the tide is out, the table is set,” applies to herons and gulls as well as to humans.
The trestle, about four-tenths of a mile long, marks the southernmost part of the trail. Along much of the trail, you may notice broken shells, the result of birds dropping them in hopes of breaking them and accessing the mollusks inside. As a 2012 Newsletter story confirms, the Skagit Bicycle Club provides volunteers to clean them off. Although the wind was really blowing, several crows were hanging out on the cable that runs along the top of the fence on either side of the trestle part of the trail. A photo I took of a crow was my favorite of the day. As I neared the end, I heard a super loud siren coming from the direction of the Shell Puget Sound Refinery followed by an assurance that the warning sound was only a test.
Soon, I’d reached the south end of the trail. Bikers (and runners who want to go far) can access March Point Road just beyond the signs. I had no plans to complete any extra miles on this particular days, when I reached the end, I turned around and headed back. I noticed a bunch of ducks harvesting something (probably mollusks) along the north side of the trail in Fidalgo Bay. I was super happy to have had some really cool creature-encounters along the Tommy Thompson Trail, which is a great place to walk, run, people and creature watch.