Thursday, May 16, 2019

Walking Seattle: The City at 3 Miles an Hour

Sometimes accidents can turn out to be happy accidents. 

Last  week my car keys inadvertently traveled over the mountains in a friend's car while I (and my locked car) remained in Seattle. He wasn't going to be back for several days, and my spare key fob went missing a while ago.

Since the City of Seattle is actively trying to make residents drive less, I was a model citizen for a few days. Between the bus, walking, and bicycling, I also got more exercise than normal. It felt great.

Okay, so I did snag a few rides from friends, but not much. I like to go as many days as possible without getting in my car and driving. But this wasn't planned.

What struck me while walking were the details that drivers usually blow past, like the dog that really wanted to crawl out from under the fence I passed but didn't quite fit. Or little sidewalk "libraries," where people add and take books for free.

I passed sweet dragonflies painted on a mailbox.

On Sunday morning I took the bus 3 miles downhill to the Ballard Farmer's Market, with a plan to bus back up to Crown Hill where I live. But when I started walking to catch the bus to go home, well, I didn't stop walking until I got home.  Later I estimated over 5 miles walking around my Northwest Seattle quadrant that day.

The next day there were two mile+ trips to Greenwood for tea and errands. I'm blessed to live around tree-lined streets with exuberant yard landscaping.  I was also fortunate to not have a busy schedule that day.

Tibet in Seattle; I spin the prayer wheels outside Sakya Monastery when I walk past.
When I passed the multi-story developments sprouting up like mushrooms in Ballard and creeping northward, it wasn't so pleasant because the developers basically scrape the lots bare and then add token sidewalk shrubbery. 

Single-family residential zoning is being chipped away in favor of more density in Seattle. This is changing the city's character and eliminating trees, yard landscaping, and gardens. But that's another discussion.

  I realize that to a lot of Millennials and transplants, being without a car is standard practice. But Seattle is still playing catch up with Portland to the south and Vancouver to the north on efficient transit options. And if you use Uber or Lyft, you're still driving around,  even if you're not behind the wheel.

Urban chickens on the next block.
When the days are longer, warmer, and drier, it's easier to walk more. But I'm energized to aim for more car-free days regardless of the weather. How about you?

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 
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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Wenatchee Hiking: Above it all at Saddle Rock

My Wenatchee, Washington, area friends all seem to have found the fountain of youth--or at least an elixir to slow the aging process.

I think in large part it's because they're so close to such splendid outdoors opportunities, like the mile+ dash up to Saddle Rock on the southwest edge of town. One friend seriously does this hike from her home as a morning workout.

Saddle Rock rises spectacularly almost 1,000 feet above Wenatchee in what is now the Saddle Rock Natural Area, a city park. I've heard about friends' hikes there for years but didn't make it up there myself until a couple weeks ago.

The Hike
At my friend's recommendation, we parked at the northern trailhead access at the Wenatchee Racquet and Athletic Club’s (WRAC) main parking lot off Skyline Drive. A few spots near the entrance to the lot are designated for hikers.

While the trailhead was easy to find, we did manage to misinterpret the trail signs (raising my hand here, guilty) and did a longer hike. But no worries, it just made for more exercise and time in this beautiful place.
We wandered left instead of right at the first junction, and ended up just below a lower set of crags (which I'm sure are named). We realized our error and cut right towards a higher junction to Saddle Rock. 

The rocky outcrop to the upper left in this shot is NOT Saddle Rock.

Despite the brilliant sun, the breeze that day had a cold bite, so we bundled up against the windchill and slathered on sunscreen (at least I did). With each strong gust of wind, the silver-green bunchgrass along the hillside undulated like waves on a rough sea.

Of course the arrowleaf balsamroot was coming on strong, but we were a little too early for much purple lupine action. No matter. In a month or so the green in these foothills will fade to dusty brown.

Arrowleaf balsamroot

With the wind and profusion of spring bird calls and wildflowers, it really did feel like the hills were alive. At least many things are alive in the hills (thankfully no rattlesnakes showed themselves). 

The higher we walked, the more spectacular the views became. It's no wonder so many come up here for the sunrise or sunset.

Looking down at Wenatchee and the Columbia River in the distance.
Before Saddle Rock came into view to the south, we crested a rise and then dropped down for the grand finale.

Saddle Rock formations from north and above.
View downriver of the Columbia.
In late April, snow still lingered up on Mission Ridge about 4,000 feet higher. This annual intersection of spring green, blue skies, and snow is my favorite time of year over here. (Well...autumn is pretty spectacular too.)

We didn't spend that much time on the rocks. It drops off pretty steeply. 

On the way down we heard some lovely bird calls from sagebrush near the trail. I couldn't identify, but I'm sure birders would be all over it.

By the time we made it back down to the car, we estimated about 4+ miles of hiking with the detour, with a gain of over 1,200 feet. It was a perfect couple hours on a brilliant spring day.

Have you done this hike or do it frequently? Always love to hear about your experiences too in the comments below. Due to the increasing amount of spam, please leave your name (or at least a pseudonym) and a little something to personalize your comment so I know you're not a bot. We LOVE comments. :)

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 
In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBookTwitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

When You Go
Check out Wenatchee Outdoors' informative web page about this hike, with trailhead instructions.