Friday, September 30, 2011

Land of Parks, Part One

I am still often amazed at the number and diversity of parks in this city.  I thought that my former city had many parks, but at least in comparison, I was mistaken.  There are so many parks, I can hardly keep track, but I have made it my mission to explore each and every one of them.  I am actually doing a good job of it, having visited so many in my months here.  Having a dog helps.  It inspires me to get out and walk around.  I love to explore, but without the dog, I might be writing about exploring the television.  And speaking of dogs, Seattle is lousy with dog parks.  It seems like anytime someone in the city sees a vacant lot not being used, the city turns it into a small park.  This really adds to the quality of life in the city.  I love showing visitors some of our parks too.

I can think of fifteen parks I have visited already, just off the top of my head.  But I am going to start out talking about just a few that I have already visited several times...

Discovery Park is my favorite.  For me, it began as a place with a long natural hilly terrain good for practicing for my trek in Africa.  After that, I fell in love.  I have taken several out-of-town guests to walk its trails.  I am always astounded about the beauty and diversity of nature in this 534 acre park.  It is also remarkably large for a city park.  The obvious trip is the loop trail.  I believe it is around 3 miles long.  The trail takes you through most of the areas of the park, giving you a variety of terrains and scenery.  One one side, you are walking along sea cliffs with incredible views of the Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island.  On the other, you are waling through dense and lush greenery in what seems like rain forests.  This trail is suitable for all but the most out-of-shape.  All of the visitors I have taken here were happy that I did.

A popular side trip is down the steep trails and stairs to the beach.  It is quite a spectacular descent.  I had to try to enjoy it inside my head I kept hearing, "but you have to walk back up all of this."  It is not as bad as it seems (assuming you do not come back exactly the same way).  You are rewarded with more spectacular scenery  from the rocky beach and a quaint little lighthouse.  From there you can take trails along the water and see even more varied terrain, including marshy areas.  Unfortunately, I have had to skip this part during the last few trips because dogs are not allowed in the beach area, even on leashes!  I really hate this, but it would seem almost cruel to the dog to come to this park and not bring him.

I have explored most of the more than eleven miles of trails.  There is always something new and interesting to see.  There is a Native American center and historic buildings.  There are three different parking areas.  There is a cool little nature area with bridges and small bodies of water.  Unfortunately, this area also does not allow dogs.  I can only guess that some thoughtless dog owners spoiled it for the rest of us years ago.  That will not stop me or my dog from coming.  I look forward to visiting this former military base again and again for years to come. 

If Discovery is the wild sister, Seward Park is the calmer, more mature one.  This is very much an urban park, paved and somewhat manicured.  The trails are flat, for the moderately motivated.  This park also has a 2.5 mile loop, but it circles almost the entire park, a peninsula jutting out into Lake Washington.  It is perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.  I hear it is also good for early morning runs, if you are into that sort of thing.

The park is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Washington.  Walking that loop, you get great views of the lake and Mercer Island, downtown Bellevue, and look back on Seattle itself.   On a clear day, you get a nicely framed Mount Ranier (like the view below).  Crisscrossing the loop are trails into the woods, for a more natural experience.  I like the diversity of people you will see here.  The easy walk lends itself to outings for the whole family.  There are picnic areas if you get hungry.  The park is deep into a residential area and a little tricky to find, but worth it.  From the most of the Seattle shores of Lake Washington, just head south and you will run into it.

the view from Seward Park

Warren G Magnuson parks is another former military base.  This one still retains many of the military buildings used for various purposes, known and unknown (to me). This is Seattle's second largest park, at 350 acres.  While it is a large park with numerous parts and functions, it is largely known to me and my family as a dog park.  Magnuson is not just any dog park, but the best dog park I have seen anywhere.  Though Marymoor park in Redmond has a bigger off-leash dog area, I prefer Magnuson.  You start out in a big open field where dogs can run and chase balls or each other, or sniff each others balls. There is an area with water faucets and bowls.  To the right is the small dog area, but there are plenty of lap dogs running around with the big dogs.  There is a break and a little used open area off to the side.  Then there is the long trail to the beach.  If you look through the fence on the right as you get close to the water, you can catch a glimpse of the Sound Garden.  Yes, the band used to hang out there and smoke pot, and I guess they stole the name.  Borrowed... borrowed the name.

Magnuson Beach

Luckily the beach is double-fenced off, because my dog starts to go crazy when we get close.  It is nice to have that extra measure of control, because once he gets through those gates, he is off like a Hell's Angel after someone who stole his bike.  (well except the dog is going in the water).  On a busy day, the crowd of dogs, large and small, is almost overwhelming.  It is impossible not to smile with that many canines having SO much fun. Any ball or toy thrown will likely see three or more dogs racing for it.  While this bothers the occasional possessive owner, most realize this is all in good fun.  I am sure that there is much more to this park than I have experienced.  I know that they show outdoor movies in the summer.  But my dog and I just have so much fun in the off-leash area, that it is hard to find the time to explore anything else.

I plan to write about all the other parks I encounter over time, and summarize in a separate page.  I also plan to write about individual parks more in depth over at, including more information on Discovery Park right now.  Meanwhile, get out there and enjoy the parks.

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