September 24th, 2006

discovering Discovery Park (and West Seattle shoreline)

Now that autumn is officially here, the weather of course has turned to summery gorgeousness. Yesterday TonyD and I took his daughter down to the Arboretum for a little walk. We took the path onto Foster Island, under 520, and along the boardwalk to Marsh Island, before turning back. I noted that the first time I really visited the Arboretum was with the Dowlers and a couple friends for a family picnic, back around Miss Dowler's first birthday I think. At that time we walked not quite as far as the 520 underpass before turning back before little Miss Dowler got fussy; now she can run freely about and we easily covered twice the distance, and probably could've gone a little further if it hadn't already been so late in the day.

After that, I took a ride out to West Seattle to check out a couple parks I was curious about. Seola Park turned out to just be a forested watershed area; despite the name of Seola Beach Drive, there is no public access to the shoreline there. It's the southwest corner of Seattle, which was part of my curiosity, and the place to start for a theoretical walk around the West Seattle shoreline. I then drove up a bit to Lincoln Park, which does have a nice beach and cool views of the southern Puget Sound. It was already sunset when I arrived, and by the time I'd walked to the north end of the shore and back twilight was all but gone and it was rather chilly, so off home I went. My visit to these two parks did convince me that the theoretical walk around the West Seattle shoreline is doomed to remain theoretical, as it looks pretty clear that the majority of the shoreline is private property.

Today, the weather was even nicer, so I decided to hike out to Discovery Park and find out what's there. Along the way I finally determined that yes, there is a pedestrian underpass below the Ballard Bridge, which gives access to the West Emerson Street bridge into Interbay/Magnolia. I also happened to get a flyer from the city in the mail the other day, which states that the city is finally going to extend the Ship Canal Trail the rest of the way to Fisherman's Terminal, so at some point in the near future it'll be possible to get there while avoiding the traffic at the intersection of Nickerson and 15th Ave. Anyhow, I walked there and then up W Commodore Way to Commodore Park/the Locks. This confirmed that it's about an hour's walk from my place to the Locks, which isn't bad. Because of my previous walk in Magnolia, I knew there was a footbridge there crossing the railroad tracks and leading up to W Government Way, giving me quick access to Discovery Park.

Discovery Park (link to the city's site, not Google Maps) itself is pretty big. For the most part I followed the Loop Trail, which is 2.8 miles long and which doesn't even extend all the way to the northern part of the park where the Native American Daybreak Star Cultural Center is situated. However, I left the Loop Trail in order to follow the South Beach Trail down to the shoreline, and then walked around the point to the North Beach Trail and followed that back up to the Loop Trail. The south bluff of the park has a spectacular view of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier looming over it, while on the beach near the lighthouse there are great views of Mount Rainier to the south and Mount Baker to the north, and the Olympic Mountains across the Sound as well. The Loop Trail through the forest is pretty cool as well; it's easy to forget that you're not only in the city, but also a former military fort that still has a small Army Reserve base and military housing.

I spent the better part of two hours walking through the park, and then headed back to the Locks to cross into Ballard and head home by way of the Burke Gilman Trail and Fremont. I might've spared myself the extra walk but I had to get some groceries at PCC Natural Market. In all, I spent about five hours walking and covered, oh let's see, I probably did 4.5 miles in the park, and going by my estimates of my previous walk into Magnolia and what the "proper" Ballard-Chittendam Locks loop would entail, that was probably another 7.5 miles, so around 13 miles. At this rate my next walk will have to be something like walking up to the Golden Gardens Park - apparently that's "only" 4.7 miles away from my place. We'll see whether the good weather lasts long enough - I've got plans the next couple weekends, so that walk may end waiting for next year.