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Back roads to Expo 86 in Vancouver...an extra 15 miles, half-day.

Back roads to Expo 86 in Vancouver . . . an extra 15 miles, half-day

Expo-bound motorists with time to spare may enjoy this back-road route from north of Seattle to the Canadian border. It adds about half a day (with stops) to the usual 3-hour trip on I-5. But the scenic and recreational rewards are many: fertile farmlands, spectacular coastline, picturesque villages, seashore parks, and a national estuarine reserve.

Produce stands dot the route, bursting with fruits and vegetables; some also sell fresh seafood. You'll pass country inns, small hotels, and good restaurants.

This route also brings you to a border crossing that links with the Trans-Canada Highway, which will take you within 3 miles of Expo.

Marysville to Stanwood: forests, a beach park, the views begin

In Marysville, just north of Everett, leave I-5 at exit 199 and head west on Tulalip Road/Marine Drive through the forests of the Tulalip Indian Reservation. In 13 miles, you'll reach Kayak Point County Park (trails, picnicking, camping, fishing pier, boat launch). An 18-hole golf course--call (206) 652-9676--sits across from the park. Continue north 5 miles on Marine Drive to the Stillaguamish delta, with views of farmlands, Camano and Whidbey islands, and the Olympics. Stanwood's main street reflects its Scandinavian heritage in galleries, books, arts and crafts, a museum.

Stanwood to Bow: heart of the farm country

Cornfields, pastures, pioneer churches, and restored Victorians share the scene here, along with rural hamlets, country inns, produce stands, and an orchard.

Leaving Stanwood, motor north on State 530 into the sprawling delta of the Skagit River. As you approach Conway, follow signs left on Fir Island Road toward LaConner. Immediately on the right is a large farmers' market; look for bargains on fresh seafood and late-summer produce.

Continuing west, you'll cross a bridge over the green strand of the South Fork Skagit and pass a tall-steepled pioneer church. Soon comes the Skagit Wildlife Area. The comings and goings of shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors make September a good month for a visit--you may see white-fronted geese, pintail ducks, and later, snow geese and whistling swans. There are 6 miles of slough-side trails and views to the Olympics.

The route continues west through cropland and then--about 4 miles out of Conway-- swings north onto Chilberg Road and crosses the North Fork Skagit on a high bridge. At a Y intersection a mile or so beyond, stay left, following signs past dairy farms to LaConner, 3 miles away.

This town's inns, restaurants, waterfront shops, historic buildings, and art-colony ambience make it a favorite of weekend visitors. A festival set for September 13 and 14 will include boat trips on the channel, children's games, displays of antique farm equipment, a mountain man rendezvous, and Indian canoe races (call 206/466-4444).

Drive north from LaConner 6 miles on LaConner/Whitney Road, passing handsome Victorian farmhouses and grand views of Mount Baker on the way.

Cross State 20 onto twisting Bay View/ Edison Road. It edges Padilla Bay tideflats, then comes to tiny Bay View in 3 miles and Bay View State Park just beyond (waterfront picnicking, woodsy campsites from $6, clam digging, boat launch, trails).

A mile north, turn right at Padilla Bay National Estuarine Sanctuary. Its interpretive center is open, free, from 10 to 5 Wednesdays through Sundays. There's also a short nature trail.

In another mile, the road swings right, ranging inland past Merritt's Apples, an orchard selling Gravensteins, Jonagolds (mid-October), Galas, and 20 other kinds.

At a T junction in 3 miles, turn right; in a mile, you'll cross the Samish River. In another 1/2 mile, join State 237 at picturesque Edison (the town cafe has great hamburgers). Bend east on 237 and in less than 1 1/2 miles join State 11 (Chuckanut Drive) near Bow, where the Rhododendron Cafe serves good homespun meals.

Bow to Bellingham and on to the border: island views, more countryside

In this stretch, rocky coast rich in views is followed by more green pastureland.

North of Bow, the highway reaches the base of craggy Chuckanut Mountain; pullouts on the steep scarp offer fine views of the San Juans. Three restaurants (Chuckanut Manor, The Oyster Bar, Oyster Creek Inn) follow; the first is large and informal, the second two are smaller and noted for seafood.

Eight miles north of Bow is the main entry to Larrabee State Park (picnicking, camping, trails, beach, boat launch). A few miles farther north, stop at Fairhaven Park to enjoy its roomy rose garden, new streamside trails, play area, and picnic shelters. A few blocks ahead is Fairhaven, a small historic district of brick-front shops from the 1880s.

Just before the historic district, State 11 turns right onto Valley Parkway, which leads you east 1 1/2 miles to I-5.

Drive I-5 north about 5 miles and take exit 256 onto State 539. It arrows north through lovely dairy country. Past a bridge over the Nooksack, turn right into Lynden, whose tree-lined streets and Dutch shops make an appealing side trip.

After you pass Customs, continue north on B.C. Highway 13 about 7 miles to the Trans-Canada Highway. Follow it northwest 28 miles to First Avenue in Vancouver, leading to Expo's East Gate.

Photo: Wave-sculpted sandstone provides bayside vantage at Larrabee State Park along Chuckanut Drive, near north end of the Expo detour

Photo: Maple leaf greets Canada-bound travelers at Aldergrove border crossing. Map shows how our suggested route diverges from I-5
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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