Here’s an efficient antidote to the post-holiday blues: Get on Interstate 5, point your car north and drive an hour to see the big, white birds — tundra and trumpeter swans and snow geese — encamped in the Skagit Valley.
The back roads won’t be crowded: The legendary traffic congestion happens in the spring, when the daffodils and tulips take over the fields and the white-feathered foul are but a winter memory.
The geese, down from the arctic regions, take up residence in the Skagit Valley from November into February, but their numbers reach their height in January. Pity the farmer who must listen to their raucous plaint all day, which one wag has likened to “badly played bagpipes.” Mercifully, they return to the nearby bays and lakes for the night.
You’ll likely see them off I-5, feeding in the crop fields, but it’s best to get off the freeway for closer viewing.
The scenic route would have you take the Arlington exit, cross west over the freeway toward Sylvana and follow north to Stanwood. You’ll see only small gatherings of white in the rich bottomland en route until you are closer to La Conner.
The quicker alternative is to continue north on I-5 until Conway (Exit 221) and proceed toward La Conner.
The approach to the bridge at Fir Island tends to be a popular swan and goose gathering point.
Trumpeter swans have wingspans up to 8 feet; the snow goose is much smaller, with black-tipped wings. Sometimes a whole field of them will rise into the winter sky in unison — it’s a sight worth the drive.
— Mike Dillon