Hear that rain hitting the roof? That brisk breeze, the swaying trees? Yeah, that sounds good. That sounds like winter, and it sounds oh-so-sweet to us. The heat lamps are lit and the tent is dry. The taproom is cozy. The fire pit out back is cranking. We’re ready for winter. Because this time of year, it’s all about knowing where to go when the sun doesn’t shine.

So, where to go? The first answer: a brewery. The second answer: the Chuckanut Ridge trail.

One of the most under-appreciated trails in Bellingham, the Ridge trail is a playground for hikers, bikers, and runners all around. But it gets dark. And a roller-coaster ridge line may sound miserable in the dark, but embrace the coming shadows. Hop on your bike. When you want to really feel the coming of winter, and the snow is just out of grasp still...head to the Ridge.

Soft dirt and slick rocks make turn this trail into a playground. There is a shattering of stillness to ride the ridge, a feeling that the trail is not a measured in mileage but rather in moments. On two wheels, you whip through the trail, bursting into a previously-tranquil scene and leaving it just as quickly. The Ridge remains only disturbed for seconds before returning to its unfazed state while you, the rider, seek the constant chaos, from turn to rock to tree.

Until you reach the cliffs. There, you are part of the coming winter. The brief gap in the trees exposes you to the frosty winds. Your sweat begins to dry, and everything is cold again. Bellingham lays sprawled out beneath you, and the Mount Baker foothills roll endlessly. The volcano herself is at the end of horizon, waiting for the coming winter.

Unlike a handful of the most-popular trails in Bellingham, the Ridge forces you to shoulder the bike and haul it up steep little chutes between the trees. The trail dips and rise with such suddenness in places that you are unable to ride it as one quick, rapid, blur: you have to piece it together, slowly, section-by-section. But it’s about the sum of these pieces.

There’s always a place to play, even when the sun doesn’t shine. Sometimes, it’s even better.

Go ride the Ridge. Please. You won’t regret it. Oh, and the best part about the Chuckanut Ridge Trail is that, well, there happens to be a nice little brewery on the Southside of town on your way back. Does that make us the closest pint to winter?