Sunday, December 13, 2009
Winter Walks in Carkeek Park: Relax and Enjoy the View.
With the chilly weather we’ve been having here in the Northwest, it’s easy to go into hibernation mode. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian blood, but I love being bundled up and outdoors moving in cold weather. Plus I need to burn off those extra calories from holiday meals and parties. (Ahem, don’t you, too?)
Today I hit the trail in my neighborhood treasure—Carkeek Park. With several miles of trails that wind up and down through second-growth forest, it’s easy to get a good workout and a sense of solitude here. And there are spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympics along the way.
I park down in the gully near Piper's Creek. So close to the winter solstice, the sun doesn’t rise high enough to melt the heavy frost that coats the ground down here. It looks like a light layer of sugary snow.
I pass my favorite western red cedar tree alongside Venema Creek, then head up a few switchbacks into the forest on the North trail. Although most of the big-leaf maples and alders are bare, bushy sword ferns and healthy patches of shiny-leafed salal still line the trail. When I lived in New England for a few years, I remember coming home one Christmas and being surprised at how green and verdant it was here in the winter.
On this cold weekday afternoon, I cross paths with just one jogger and her golden lab. My heart really gets pumping while I walk briskly uphill as the trail angles upwards and west toward the Sound. After about 15 minutes, I emerge from the forest into North Meadow.
If you don’t stop and relax here for a moment, you’ll miss a commemorative plaque embedded in the concrete at the foot of a bench.
This plaque always make me stop and smile. I wonder if these are words that John Sturgeon lived by. The view is lovely, with the Olympic Mountains rising ruggedly beyond the broad blue stretch of Puget Sound.
Then I plunge back into the forest and head down toward the beach.
I always like to cross the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks that line the Sound and go down to the water’s edge on my Carkeek walks.
But first I stop at the top of the stairs leading down to the beach and take in the beautiful afternoon.
I love that we have these beautiful beaches here within the Seattle city limits.
Sometimes I see kite surfers here on windy days, but today the sea is calm.
For a few minutes I just stand and watch some bufflehead ducks dive and resurface close to shore, then it’s time to loop back to my car through the gully along Piper’s Creek.
When You Go
Carkeek Park, in northwest Seattle just beyond the northern edge of Ballard, encompasses three city streams that support a restored salmon run. Monthly volunteer trail and park maintenance parties meet the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon.