It sets itself up as a dewy eyed thing, damp and dismal with long grey periods. But whilst chunks of the USA seem to be ‘freezing their butts off’ the PNW (Pacific North West) is having an exceptionally mild and dry winter. It excelled itself last week by including four consecutive days of back to back sunshine and glorious blue skies – topping it off with wonderful sunsets. I’m regularly hearing “it is not usually like this” “don’t expect this every year” “this is the best winter since I moved here” so have been making the most of it. The house hasn’t been cleaned – but I’ve been to new parts of the city and revelled in glorious views.
I occasionally scan an ex-pat discussion forum, as it was really helpful when searching for immigration processing timescales and paperwork questions. People also talk about what they are missing from the UK – low walkability is a regular complaint. Well, much as with many other of their apparent losses, all we think is – move to Seattle! There are cars queuing on the freeway, but also miles and miles of waterside trails, copious green spaces and some delightful parks. Urban stairways ease access up and down the steep hills across the city. You never feel a lone walker here.
Despite knowing all of this I was still astounded by one of last week’s excursions, Discovery Park. What a joy! It is north-west of downtown and a simple bus journey took me to its entrance. It is 534 acres sitting on the shore of Puget Sound, there are nearly 12 miles of walking trails mapped out – plus many other routes possible. I wiggled between a few of the paths (sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident) and had an astonishing afternoon out. Remarkably beautiful coastal bluff; descents down to two beaches giving surprisingly different views and a lighthouse; gorgeous dense and vibrant greens within the forested areas. Looking back to the city there was Mt Rainier showing herself in the distance, and to the east the Olympic Mountains sparkled. It was breathtaking. I can see it is now going to be a regular in-city trip.
When downtown on Friday, attending an event at Seattle Art Museum and doing a bit of shopping I just had to go further down a couple of streets to walk along the waterfront – the views were too tempting not to be down there. One of the delights of Seattle is you are never far away from a dramatic view, even when on the freeway, and the green areas of the city were filled with workers having lunch outside.
We are regularly on the Burke Gilman Trail which goes close to the house, 27 miles of shared bike, walking and jogging trail. Much of it runs along Lake Washington, well often just behind the row of shoreline homes with their boat launches and occasionally a sea plane landing pad – it is easy to get house envy! The path is raised above them so water views are frequent, particularly at the moment whilst the trees are leafless. There are parks of varying sizes along the way which give direct access to the lake edge. Saturday’s sunshine saw us heading north, as we crossed the city boundary and went up to the head of Lake Washington. We looked west over the lake to the north cascade range so visible on this clear day. At Log Boom Park near Kenmore as we sat in the sunshine eating ice-cream (in January!!!) a bald eagle flew close by, and settled on a post in the water. Looking over the vast lake as the sun began to drop was delightful.
Sunday we left the city another way – catching the 35 minutes ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island which sits on Puget Sound. The spectacular views of the city, sound and islands going out were topped by the return journey which coincided with the sunset. Mt Rainer sitting in a pink fluffy sky, the sunsetting behind Blake Island as a sail boat went by, the city skyscrapers glistening in the late sun… I won’t pretend it was warm at the front of the ferry snapping photos, but it was totally worth the pain! The bloke stayed inside where it was warm, making the most of front window seats we had quickly claimed.
I’ve still so many city trails and parks to explore, thankfully, and have yet to get started on the hills and mountains that fringe Seattle and are so accessible. And the joy is that, whilst the constant blue skies won’t last, the views are nearly as beautiful in the atmospheric mist which may replace them. And the heavy downpours? well…they are needed to create that lush green growth and the magnificent trees so I will try not to complain too loudly! But for now it stays dry, and I’m rarely at home. Where next? Perhaps the 10 mile, 1800 feet elevation gain, circuit around Queen Anne neighbourhood, which includes the Olympic Sculpture Park, Elliot Bay Park, views over Lake Union and a detour over to Gas Works Park. Get those walking shoes on!