Seattle is a big city filled to capacity with streets, sidewalks and skyscrapers. Bracketed between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound, it provides abundant hiking opportunities for anyone venturing out of the city into these big wildlands, but what about hiking within its street-jacketed urban environment? A Christmas vacation in Seattle with my family provided me with the opportunity to find out. Guided by my son Will's advice and a local guidebook, I sought out remnants of wild country in streetless pockets of urban environment including fields, forests and beach bluffs in the vacated Army base of Discovery Park and old-growth forest in Seward Park. My longest hike turned out to be a 7-mile loop that took me through Interlaken Park and Foster Island.
|Counterclockwise loop route (orange line) from Eastlake (NW) to|
Interlaken Park, UW Arboretum, Foster Island, and Montlake Cut
(maps generated by SPOT Adventures; click to enlarge)
Leaving home, I stride across the bridge over Interstate-5, howling with traffic. Only a few minutes later, I enter the moss-edged lane to Interlaken Park where the soft susurration of drizzle on forest foliage is the dominant sound.
beneath towering trees of Douglas-fir, cedar, and hemlock...
|Western Red Cedar|
whose boles and branches are covered with mosses, lichens, and epiphytic ferns.
The remnant is small - a fragment of forest that formerly covered the isthmus between Puget Sound and Lake Washington now occupied by the urban infrastructure of Seattle - so I saunter along a drizzle-soaked trail to extend my time in the wild woods. Reaching its edge of the bottom of the ravine, I strike north through manicured plantings in the UW Arboretum and under the Evergreen Point Expressway, roaring with high-speed traffic.
While crossing an elevated arch on the boardwalk, I spot a pair of kayakers paddling across Union Bay in front of Husky Stadium. We exchange greetings as they pass beneath me and I watch them disappear into the plethora of pillars supporting the nearby expressway above the watery mosaic of the marsh.
At the head of Union Bay, the trail follows the steep banks of the Montlake Cut, a man-made channel connecting Lake Washington to Portage Bay of Lake Union, itself connected to Puget Sound via the Chittenden Locks to form the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
At Montlake Bridge, I finally reach the end of the trail connecting scattered natural areas and now need to complete my loop by walking once again through a maze of streets and highways. I recross the I-5 overpass, pass through residential streets, and step up the final stairwell to home, satisfied with having navigated the streets of Seattle to explore its streetless natural places.