Welcome to Meet The Locals! A few times a month we feature an in-depth interview with a local resident from the Bellingham area. We will highlight a specific neighborhood and hear the inside scoop on what makes it unique and why so many people don’t want to leave!
Home, as we will discover through these conversations, is more than four decorated walls and furniture, it’s a rich web of interconnection and relationships with everything and everyone around us.
As we shed light on people’s specific stories and experiences, you will be infused with energy and hope to seek out places where you (and your family) can flourish!
Now, I’d like to introduce you to our guest today, Tara Griesbach!
Tara and her husband along with their 4 kids live in Sudden Valley, a nature-lover’s paradise about 10 minutes from Bellingham. They will celebrate 6 years in Sudden Valley this November.
Read on to find out…
- what surprised them most about Sudden Valley
- how they developed deeper friendships with their neighbors
- their favorite activities in and around Sudden Valley
- and which people have made the most impact on them since living there
Well hello Tara! To start with, we’d love to hear what initially drew you to Bellingham and then more specifically, Sudden Valley?
After 8 years in Arizona, we began feeling the nudge to be closer to the ocean and mountains.
My husband, a Seattle native, applied for a job transfer to Bellingham and was hired! We immediately began our home search, looking all over from the Columbia neighborhood to properties in Ferndale. But when we spotted a 4-bedroom home in Sudden Valley we just couldn’t resist, especially since we had 3 kids at the time and knew we were only going to need more space as time went on.
What surprised you most about the neighborhood?
It’s so old school and I love it!
The neighbors all know each other, my kids can ride their bikes around on the street without anyone worrying about them, and they can also explore the woods around our house.
What are your top 3 favorite parts about living here?
- Living in a forest! Such a natural and quiet setting and bit further from town.
- The people! The kindness of our neighbors and how connected we feel with our community here.
- The beautiful walks I can take from my front door.
Does your neighborhood partake in any special traditions or regular activities?
There’s always something fun happening in Sudden Valley!
We have what’s called The Dance Barn where you’ll find a whole rec center with pickleball, ping pong, and tennis courts.
Inside The Barn we also host all sorts of markets and our yearly Halloween and Christmas gatherings for families.
In the summer, there are outdoor movie nights and of course the community pool!
For you, when did your neighborhood in Sudden Valley really start to feel like a home?
Honestly, it took about 2 years for me to really fall in love with my neighborhood. For a while, I would find myself driving around town wishing for a big city lot with a fenced-in backyard.
But once I learned to embrace the limits of where I was, then it expanded!
For example, when our kids were younger, we discovered a magical trail, an old abandoned road of sorts, right behind our house. We didn’t even know it was there until we decided to explore our own backyard.
Also, regular activities like gathering at the bus stop every day with my neighbors, going on moms-only canoe and kayak outings on the lake a few times a month in the summer, and gathering at the local Mexican Restuarant, El Agave, or Tino’s Pizza for dinner all helped to strengthen our relationships and make new friends.
Beyond that, I feel like the key to making this place a home is to keep putting myself out there,
This looks like:
- going for walks around the neighborhood,
- visiting our local library each week,
- asking for help from my neighbors, showing up for them too,
- and also tending to our small plot of land in the community garden.
These are all ways I can grow my own roots here and get to know more people in the area!
What are 3 words to describe your neighborhood?
Who, in your neighborhood, has most impacted your life and why?
I would say both the neighbors on each side of our house and those across the street. We’re always looking out for one another.
We help each other out when someone is away or needs to borrow something.
They have us over for hot dogs and we exchange plants a few times a year.
My neighbor also cared for my children when my husband had to be rushed to the hospital this year.
(Fun Side Note: During our interview, Tara had to exchange a few phone calls with a neighbor to organize help with one of her children. Although it was an unexpected circumstance, the conversation was easy and casual. It perfectly exemplified how they show up for one another- no questions asked!)
What does it mean to be a good neighbor?
Simply stated: We can depend on one another.
I consider my neighbors all the people on my street, in every direction we’re surrounded by people who value taking care of and delighting in one another.
Whether it’s watering plants or watching pets when people are out of town or leaving little gifts on our doorstep, it all points back to this idea of- I’m here for you!
A few examples are on Easter, we had neighbors ring the doorbell and leave chocolate bunnies on the porch for the kids. We also have another neighbor who’s obsessed with houseplants, specifically Epiphyllum, and he’s always making plants for me, like putting plants together and bringing them over for me.
Do you have any secret spots you like to visit in Bellingham?
We love hiking Lookout Mountain up to the waterfall. It’s only about 2 miles out and back. A great hike for the whole family! We also love the Chanterelle Trail on Lake Whatcom. And another spot we discovered, and this one is about a 25-minute drive outside of Bellingham, is Point Whitehorn. It’s a beautiful walk along a bluff through a forest and down to a tucked-away, rocky beach.
What would say to people thinking of making the move to Bellingham?
There are so many wins about it!
The easy access to outdoor activities, laidback lifestyle, amazing breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, local flower farmers, and delicious bakeries.
There’s the small-town vibe and yet you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
What is one creative way you’ve given back to this community?
Guerilla gardening! The kids and I randomly planted tulips and seeds in places around the city. It was so fun to drive around months later and watch them popping up on street corners and along sidewalks!
To end, here’s a quick round of questions for you to answer about Bellingham:
Fiamma Pizza with the kids. My favorite is the Sweet & Savory pizza with their special Sudden Valley Ranch!
Nicki’s Bella Marina down by Zuanich Park is another local favorite of ours.
Favorite coffee shop or place to grab a quick bite?
Woods and Camber for coffee. Saltadena Bakery & Cake Shop for a treat and of course their macarons.
One thing you would tell a visitor they MUST do when they’re in Bellingham?
First, I’d say take Chuckanut Drive out to Larabee State Park, then make a stop at Boulevard Park when you’re back in town. While you’re there walk Taylor Dock to Keenan’s on the Pier to grab a bite to eat before heading out to explore Whatcom Falls Park.
Lastly, how would you define home?
A place where you feel completely comfortable and yourself!
Tara is a hoarder of art, plants, pencils, books, pottery mugs, and old film cameras. She’s a wanna-be minimalist living in a house of clutter, daily practicing the slow art of paying attention while leaning into the small and ordinary moments of life.
Tara lives in a noisy house, nicknamed “Cedar Hollow” nestled in the forest of Sudden Valley with her husband and four kids. They love spending time in the outdoors together. Whether hiking, biking, kayaking, or gardening, living in Sudden Valley gives them all of that and more!
For more information on the Sudden Valley community go to Bellingham Real Estate Stories.
Also, be sure to download your free Sudden Valley Relocation Guide!
Curious about homes in Sudden Valley? Check out these listings!