History of the Bellingham Traverse

DRAFT. I needed to put this content somewhere. It still needs some massaging. 

If you like stories, here’s the abridged version of how the Traverse and the brand identity came to be…

The Story- My name is Todd Elsworth and The Bellingham Traverse is my creation. Born in Bellingham, raised in Kirkland, I graduated from Western Washington University in 1992. After graduation, I moved to Ketchum, Idaho where I met Mike “Baldy” Wilson who introduced me to the writings of David James Duncan. Reading The River Why is a strong reminder how much salmon matter to the people of the Northwest and the commitment that we as humans must have to protecting their habitat.

On my own life journey, I told my buddy Baldy that I was headed to the Northeast to pursue my dreams of studying and teaching American History. Baldy’s response was “You are a salmon boy- born in the Northwest, you will return”. With this in mind, I traveled by sailboat from Seattle through the Panama Canal to Antigua in the Caribbean. Then up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where I lived for six years and became an active member of the community.

While in Portsmouth, I became involved with a bicycle advocacy group-Seacoast Area Bicycle Routes by creating an event to raise money for a bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The event was a success and consequently ran for four years. After a short teaching career, I joined close friends at a design house, Harbour Light Productions, where they were able to take philanthropy to the next level helping non-profits throughout the region with design, web production and other related consulting services. Next, I became involved with many groups and gained a strong understanding of the unique needs and roles that non-profits play in any community. It was then time to continue the journey, but before leaving New Hampshire, I competed as a soloist in The Son of Inferno Pentathlon- it took me 6+ hours to finish.

Returning to Bellingham in 2001, I wanted to create an event that was essentially an extension of myself. It went back to the readings of Duncan- who had then released a book titled “My Story as Told by Water”. I had viewed my own life’s journey in an parallel to that of salmon. Here was an opportunity to create an event that helped to tell the story of salmon.

The ideas spawned from there. The goal was create an event that would help raise the visibility of the importance of salmon in the ecological landscape while taking part in recreational activities that people enjoy in the region. It had to be a big circle, so I literally connected the dots of the local parks utilizing the extensive network of greenways and roads to make for a scenic yet challenging course.

It was also important to have it be a community event. Many athletic events raise money for good causes that are health related, but not many raised money for the environmental community. I started with a list of groups that stood out as leaders including Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, RE Sources, North Cascades Institute, Conservation Northwest (previously NWEA) and many others. The objective was to give these groups an opportunity to be seen by the public in a forum called the Eco-Expo that hosted booths of the groups near the finish line.

The Bellingham Traverse began in 2001 and has morphed over the years. 


Todd Elsworth created the Bellingham Traverse in 2002 under a private label Bellingham Benefits, LLC- which evolved to become Fourth Corner Productions, LLC and dissolved in 2019. As a private corporation hosting the event, Elsworth wanted to create a benefit for local nonprofits. Our community was built into the foundation of the Traverse as a fundraiser for local and regional non-profits. Recreation Northwest was founded in 2013 and leased the Bellingham Traverse from Fourth Corner Productions until it was sold to Pacific Multisports in 2018. 

In the first years of the Bellingham Traverse, the event also coincided with the ECO-EXPO, showing off dozens of local organizations and helping raise funds for their selected groups. The event would have “Bait” for fundraising milestones to encourage people to get donations for the non-profit of their choice. We wanted the event to give back to the community- especially to those who are traditionally found at the bottom of the spectrum doing environmental and social work. 

The designer was Loren Bates working for 360 Productions in Bellingham in the Unity Building downtown, where we both had office space. 

I worked with Lauren to create a symbolic and iconic visual brand to launch the new multi-sport race that I had created. I knew that I wanted to have the foundation of the race be based on the life cycle of wild salmon. appreciating the multifaceted elements that salmon bring to our society- including the economic, social, and cultural elements. I wanted to have the artwork be a reflection of the original art of the peoples of the northwest coast. I worked with Loren on the design referencing the work from the book by Hillary Stewart titled ``Looking at Indian art of the Northwest Coast” The book outlines the simplistic anatomical features that are shown in two-dimensional artwork of the Northwest Coast tribes and three-dimensional artwork of more northern First Nations people. 

The first draft that Lauren created had the salmon rotating in a circle and what caught my eye was the tail fins and how they resembled the same shape of a human hand. The progression of the logo was to have Lauren more intentionally show the tail as a human hand to create symbolism. Integrating the human hand in its animalistic form, showed the care and feeding that the natives had done for the fish in the past. We also planned that our event would be able to raise money for local and Regional nonprofits that worked in the Environmental and Community focused organizations. This was our way of giving back and including it in the design of our iconic logo. 

This is from the Wayback Time Machine:

“Traverse participants must choose one green group from the list to the left to be the beneficiary of the funds that they raise. seventy-five percent of the entry will go to the group of choice.

Check them out, they will all do wonderful things with the capital that you raise. Think of yourself as an ad-venture capitalist.”

Green Groups 2003


First Course



Monday, August 27th, 2012


Todd Elsworth, Director
Bellingham Traverse

Bellingham Traverse Shifts Fundraising Model after 10 Years of Operations. 

For the past 10 years Bellingham Traverse, a multi-sport race that celebrates the life cycle of salmon, has helped raise over $100,000 for the local and regional non-profit community. The Traverse has offered incentives, called Bait, for individuals to raise money.

In 2012, Bellingham Traverse evaluated its fundraising model and business practices to increase satisfaction with the community. “We have been paying attention to how our participants have been behaving over the past with regards to fundraising and how they also respond to the prizes that have been given out. While a noble effort to encourage the fundraising for others, it was not a message that resounded loud enough,” says Todd Elsworth, Director.

The results of the evaluation have created a shift in the fundraising model for the Bellingham Traverse. Whereas in the past, the Traverse was open to a large group of fundraising beneficiaries, in 2012, only ONE organization will be selected.

As the ONE beneficiary, the chosen organization will receive a percentage of the surplus revenue for the event. They will also receive a complimentary registration to the event so they can raise money on their own behalf as a fundraising opportunity for their organization.

We have chosen the ONE non-profit that will be the beneficiary of the 2012 Bellingham Traverse. The selection criterion was three fold: Mission, Community Involvement, and Fundraising. Our panel reviewed the list and rated their effects in the three categories. The final list came down to Conservation Northwest, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Kulshan Community Land Trust, RE Sources (Power Past Coal), Sustainable Connections, Whatcom Independent Mountain Peddlers (WHIMPS), Whatcom Land Trust, Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation.

We are fortunate to have such a strong representation of interests in our efforts of sustainability both locally and regionally. To cut to the chase: Kulshan Community Land Trust (KCLT) is the chosen ONE for 2012. We are excited to make this announcement to the community and encourage people to choose KCLT as one of their personal or professional beneficiaries as well.


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You Moist Remember This ~ Tom Robbins


Well, yes, I’m also here for the volcanoes and the salmon, and the exciting possibility that at any moment the volcanoes could erupt and pre-poach the salmon. I’m here for the rust and the mildew, for webbed feet and twin peaks, spotted owls and obscene clams (my consort says I suffer from geoduck envy), blackberries and public art (including that big bad mural the authorities had to chase out of Olympia), for the ritual of the potlatch and the espresso cart, for bridges that pratfall into the drink and ferries that keep ramming the dock.

I’m here because the Wobblies used to be here, and sometimes in Pioneer Square you can still find bright-eyed old anarchists singing their moldering ballads of camaraderie and revolt. I’m here because someone once called Seattle “the hideout capital of the U.S.A.,” a distant outpost of a town where generations of the nation’s failed, fed-up and felonious have come to disappear. Long before Seattle was “America’s Athens” (The New York Times), it was America’s Timbuktu.

Getting back to music, I’m here because “Tequila” is the unofficial fight song of the University of Washington, and because “Louie Louie” very nearly was chosen as our official state anthem. There may yet be a chance of that, which is not something you could say about Connecticut.

I’m here for the forests (what’s left of them), for the world’s best bookstores and movie theaters; for the informality, anonymity, general lack of hidebound tradition and the fact that here and nowhere else grunge rubs shoulders in the half-mean streets with a pervasive yet subtle mysticism. The shore of Puget Sound is where electric guitars cut their teeth, and old haiku go to die.

I’m here for the mushrooms that broadcast on transcendental frequencies; for Kevin Calabro, who broadcasts Sonics games on KJR; for Dick’s Deluxe burgers, closing time at the Pike Place Market, Monday Night Football at the Blue Moon Tavern, opera night at the Blue Moon Tavern (which, incidentally, is scheduled so that it coincides with Monday Night Football – a somewhat challenging overlap that the casual patron might fail to fully appreciate); and I’m here for the flying saucers that made their first public appearance near Mount Rainier.

I’m here for Microsoft but not for Weyerhaeuser. I’m here for Longacres Race Track but not for Boeing. I’m here for the relative lack of financial ambitions, the soaring population of bald eagles and the women with their quaint Norwegian brand of lust. Yes. Ya. Sure, ya betcha.

But mostly, finally, ultimately, I’m here for the weather.

In the deepest, darkest heart of winter, when the sky resembles bad banana baby food for months on end, and the witch measles that meteorologists call “drizzle” are a chronic gray rash on the skin of the land, folks all around me sink into a dismal funk. Many are depressed, a few actually suicidal. But I grow happier with each fresh storm, each thickening of the crinkly stratocumulus. “What’s so hot about the sun?” I ask. Sunbeams are a lot like tourists: intruding where they don’t belong, promoting noise and forced activity, faking a shallow cheerfulness, dumb little cameras slung around their necks. Raindrops, on the other hand – introverted, feral, buddhistically cool – behave as if they live here. Which, of course, they do.

My bedroom is separated from the main body of my house, so that I have to go outside and cross some pseudo-Japanese stepping-stones in order to go to sleep at night. Often I get rained on a little bit on my way to bed. It’s a benediction, a good-night kiss.

Romantic? Absolutely. And nothing to be ashamed of. If reality is a matter of perspective, then the romantic view of the world is as valid as any other -and a great deal more rewarding. It makes of life an unpredictable adventure rather than a problematic equation. Rain is the natural element for romanticism. A dripping fir is a thousand times more sexy than a sunburnt palm, and more primal and contemplative, too. A steady, wind-driven rain composes music for the psyche. It not only nurtures and renews, it consecrates and sanctifies. It whispers in secret languages about the primordial essence of things.

Obviously, then, the Pacific Northwest’s customary climate is perfect for a writer. It’s cozy and intimate. Reducing temptation (how can you possibly play on the beach or work in the yard?), it turns a person inward, connecting them with what Jung called “the bottom below the bottom,” those areas of the deep unconscious into which every serious writer must spelunk. Directly above my writing desk there is a skylight. This is the window, rain-drummed and bough-brushed, through which my Muse arrives, bringing with her the rhythms and cadences of cloud and water, not to mention the twenty-three auxiliary verbs.

Oddly enough, not every local author shares my proclivity for precipitation. Unaware of the poetry they’re missing, many malign the mist as malevolently as the non-literary heliotropes do. They wring their damp mitts and fret about rot, cursing the prolonged spillage, claiming they’re too dejected to write, that their feet itch (athlete’s foot), the roof leaks, they can’t stop coughing and they feel as if they’re being slowly digested by an oyster.

Yet the next sunny day, though it may be weeks away, will trot out such a mountainous array of pagodas, vanilla sundaes, hero chins and God fingers; such a sunset palette of Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Vegas strip, and carrot oil; such a sea-vista display of broad waters, firred islands, whale spouts and sailboats thicker than triangles in a geometry book, that any and all memories of dankness will fizz and implode in a blaze of bedazzled amnesia. “Paradise!” you’ll hear them proclaim as they call United Van Lines to cancel their move to Arizona.

They’re kidding themselves, of course. Our sky can go from lapis to tin in the blink of an eye. Blink again and your latte’s diluted. And that’s just fine with me. I thrive here on the certainty that no matter how parched my glands, how anhydrous the creek beds, how withered the weeds in the lawn, it’s only a matter of time before the rains come home.

The rains will steal down from the Sasquatch slopes. They will rise with the geese from the marshes and sloughs. Rain will fall in sweeps, it will fall in drones, it will fall in cascades of cheap Zen jewelry.

And it will rain a fever. And it will rain a sacrifice. And it will rain sorceries and saturnine eyes of the totem.

Rain will primitivize the cities, slowing every wheel, animating every gutter, diffusing commercial neon into smeary blooms of esoteric calligraphy. Rain will dramatize the countryside, sewing pearls into every web, winding silk around every stump, re-drawing the horizon line with a badly frayed brush dipped in tea.

And it will rain an omen. And it will rain a trance. And it will rain a seizure. And it will rain dangers and pale eggs of the beast.

Rain will pour for days unceasing. Flooding will occur. Wells will fill with drowned ants, basements with fossils. Mossy-haired lunatics will roam the dripping peninsulas. Moisture will gleam on the beak of the Raven. Ancient shamans, rained from their rest in dead tree trunks, will clack their clamshell teeth in the submerged doorways of video parlors. Rivers will swell, sloughs will ferment. Vapors will billow from the troll-infested ditches, challenging windshield wipers, disguising telephone booths. Water will stream off eaves and umbrellas. It will take on the colors of the beer signs and headlamps. It will glisten on the claws of nighttime animals.

And it will rain a screaming. And it will rain a rawness. And it will rain a disorder, and hair-raising hisses from the oldest snake in the world. Rain will hiss on the freeways. It will hiss around the prows of fishing boats. It will hiss in electrical substations, on the tips of lit cigarettes and in the trash fires of the dispossessed. Legends will wash from the desecrated burial grounds, graffiti will run down alley walls. Rain will eat the old warpaths, spill the huckleberries, cause toadstools to rise like loaves. It will make poets drunk and winos sober, and polish the horns of the slugs.

And it will rain a miracle. And it will rain a comfort. And it will rain a sense of salvation from the philistinic graspings of the world.

Yes, I’m here for the weather. And when I’m lowered at last into a pit of marvelous mud, a pillow of fern and skunk cabbage beneath my skull, I want my epitaph to read, IT RAINED ON HIS PARADE. AND HE WAS GLAD!

This essay is excerpted from “Edge Walking on the Western Rim: New Works by 12 Northwest Writers,” edited by Mayumi Tsutakawa with photographs by Bob Peterson.  “Edge Walking on the Western Rim” is not a simple literary anthology. It brings together 12 writers from Washington and Oregon for a purpose: to reflect on their choice of the Northwest as a home for living and working. Why here?

In the essay, local wise guy and novelist Tom Robbins gives us his answer to that question. Robbins was born in North Carolina but made his way to the Northwest during the 1962 World’s Fair and stayed. During different times in the 1960s he wrote for both Seattle metro newspapers, then moved on to novels with “Another Roadside Attraction” in 1971.  

Originally published by The Seattle Times. Sunday, August 28, 1994. I carried this piece of newsprint around for decades before I finally had the chance to meet my admired author. Here we are at Village Books while he signs the original copy I found back in 1994. I transcribed it online to be able to share with people over the past decades. 

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Mindsets – Choose to Change

Last night, I picked up Mindset for some inspiration. We had a meeting this morning with our current and new staff, so I shared these timely words reflecting of our team philosophy as an evolving and nimble organization- doing our “post pandemic pivot” – offering new programs for Recreation Northwest

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. 

In one world- the world of fixed traits- success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. 

In the other- the world of changing qualities- it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself. 

In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. 

In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential. 

In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. 

In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented. 

You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.” 

I’m delighted have the new CREW in place and looking forward to this next chapter for our organization and community. The Universe brought us together! 😉 

~ Todd 

Quotes from Mindset, The new psychology of success. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. p15-16

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Federal Funding – A piece of CAKE

For Rob,

We interpret the world through our own lens. I have enjoyed listening to this song as a my motivational theme song to find federal funding for the activities and programs that we dream up at Recreation Northwest. As you know, our mission is to promote outdoor recreation and bring people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. As we discussed today, we are mission driven and money motivated (we need it to function) in order to help get folks outside. 

As for the Federal Funding from CAKE

When I listen to this song these lyrics strike me differently: 

You’ll receive the federal funding, you can add another wing
(we really just needed more office space in The Cooler and subsequently moved into our new office new space on N. Forest) 

Take your colleagues out to dinner, pay your brother to come and sing

(you’ll be able to afford to bring pizza for board meetings and hire a consultant to motivate them to fundraise)
Sing, sing, sing
(otherwise known as fundraising) 
You’ll receive the federal funding, you can have a hefty grant
(whether it’s our Parkscriptions program or launching the Washington Outdoor Business Alliance- you think that there’d be some funding out there to help us make it happen) 
Strategize this presentation, make them see that you’re the man
(as you know, this is what I do) 

The video from CAKE shows what their original intent was in their lyrics. I like my inspirational interpretation better. They also get points for Italian Guy 😉 

The Good NEWS:
We are receiving Federal Funding to help us get back to work! But that’s a whole ‘nuther story that you’ll have to wait to read on The Confluence

We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Enjoy that whiskey! 


~ Todd E. 


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Man Crush

Post from 2018 I never finished. It’s 11.02.20. 

It started with Tina Fey. After listening to Bossy Pants on audiobook, I started watching 30 Rock when I could. This brought my attention to Alec. I didn’t really know much about him, sure I’d seen him in some movies, but really didn’t follow him.



Tandem Biking the Olympic Discovery Trail

We went from Sequim Bay to Port Angeles on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Here’s what we saw…More words to come. Enjoy the slideshow. 

We made it! 60 total miles. Go check out the Olympic Discovery Trail for yourself. The Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance has other routes/rides on the peninsula too! 

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ULTRAViolet Sparks

In the dark
cotton pad and jelly
add a spark
You’ve got fire!

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Helen Ayres

Helen was an incredible lady who lived a life that represented her Swedish and Greek heritage. What a combination and what an outcome in this lady we so loved.
            Her Swedish side showed itself in her strong independence and pride in her ability to care for herself, her house and her personal matters. That was so evident in these past few months in all that she did to have her affairs in order, never wanting to create a burden to anyone.
            Helen was extremely organized and precise in details. Her work at Standard Oil was met with praise and accolades. Her perfect handwriting was as precise as the other facets of her life.
            Helen’s appearance was impeccable. She was a blond, Swedish beauty but shied away from attention and compliments.
            Now, looking at the Greek side: Helen could have fun, laugh, and joke. That twinkle in her eye gave her away many times. She had a feistiness and a great sense of humor that kept us entertained and laughing. 
            Helen loved to dance! She talked about how she and Sam became dance partners and partners in life. She said Sam had two left feet, but his smile is what made her twirl on the dance floor. They made a happy couple, both fun loving, and joyous.
            One story we asked her to tell us numerous times happened after Doug had passed away and Helen found herself alone.  She decided to test herself.  She packed her little dog in the car, bought a big box of donuts and headed south on the highway to California. Stopping at rest stops, she made friends with the truckers who had passed her on the road. This blond bombshell had created quite a stir among those gentlemen.  Apparently, the truckers used their CBs to alert others along the route. Soon she was passing out donuts, along with laughter and smiles, enjoying the camaraderie.
            We’ll miss this lady who was quite the combo! We’ll miss sitting on her couch sharing family stories, photos, and peppermint patties. We’ll miss going out to lunch together and having her navigate us around those crazy mixed-up streets in her neighborhood. We’ll miss her Christmas cards with that beautiful handwriting. We are grateful for the times we had with her, we feel blessed to call her family as well as a friend.  I’m certain we all can agree, what a gal!

I Am – Violet E.

I am adventurous and friendly.
I wonder how the people back 3,000 years ago felt when they were in the solar eclipse
I hear the sound of my dog sprinting across the fresh grass
I see the tree outside our classroom window waving in the breeze
I want to be running throughout the forest with my friends on a bright, sunny day
I am adventurous and friendly.
I pre tend that everything I do and wish for will be real
I feel sad when one of my family members pass away
I touch the sand and rocks while I’m playing on the beach
I worry when something happens in my family that freaks everyone out and I don’t know about
I cry when someone I know gets hurt or killed by something terrible
I am adventurous and friendly.
I understand how the sun come to be
I say thank you when I appreciate something that is given to me
I dream about traveling all over the land and sea
I try to be the best of me I could ever be
I hope that someday if I work hard enough I can achieve anything
I am adventurous friendly Violet.

My writing gig – part three

As 2017 comes to a close, here’s the list of stories I enjoyed writing for playing in Whatcom County. 

My writing gig – part two

My writing gig – take one