Trippy Seattle - Outdoors
So you want to do something outdoorsy? Well...there's...
- The Arboretum - rent a canoe from UW (u-dub, or the University of Washington) to get to Foster Island on Union Bay, or walk/run/bike around the gardens. Picnic away. Check out the Japanese Garden, too, a beautiful gem however much the nearby traffic on Lake Washington Boulevard is more than annoying. Then write the City Council about how much you enjoyed this peaceful garden of repose if it wasn't for so much *#^ noise!
- Lake Union - rent a kayak from Northwest Outdoor Center on Westlake or Agua Verde and kayak from the Chittenden Locks to the Arboretum (see above) or beyond. Or check out the Center For Wooden Boats or the new-since-2010 Lake Union Park. Or take a gander at some houseboats (yes, that one in the "Sleepless" movie does exist - on the NW side of the lake), boatplanes (for city overflights and shuttles to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands). On the north end of the Lake you can get city views from Gas Works Park.
- Myrtle Edwards Park - here's one for the jogger, rollerblader, or biker (cyclist!) in you. Hugging the waterfront north of downtown, you can hook up with other paths into Magnolia and Discovery Park. There is now a beach and sculpture garden adjacent to it on its south side (the Olympic Sculpture Park), plus a kinda cool bridge over to Elliott/15th Ave at the AMGEN/Immunex complex not far to the north of that.
- Alki Beach - swimming, volleyball, and kicking sand on wimps like Charles Atlas. Get a cocktail or a bite (to eat - leave the rest for the mutts) across the street, or cycle/blade/walk the long trail hugging the coast. This is where Seattle began, incidentally, but that doesn't explain the Statue of Liberty replica found here near the west end of the beach. Damn Boy Scouts!
- Discovery Park - located in Magnolia, this is the largest city park. Maybe Bigfoot is in there somewhere. Bald eagles nest here at times. There are also nice in-the-city hikes and views of the Sound. A wee lighthouse, too. Even some steep hills to try your bike out on. Or check out some of the info relating to the Native Americans who lived here before their land was stolen at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center. Oh, I meant appropriated. Modernized?
- Ravenna and Carkeek Parks - on the North side, Ravenna has a good number of trails in a watershed just north of UW, while Carkeek in the NW side abuts the Sound with a beach (which you cross over to, accessed via a handy skybridge over the railroad tracks).
- Seward and Magnuson Parks - On the south and north sides of downtown, these parks front Lake Washington. Swim alongside them in the summertime, if you can take the alpine-lake frigid coldness. Seward offers a nice woods and a mile-shore loop; Magnuson offers much more space to play about while tempting you to hop the fence over to the Soundgarden sculpture on the NOAA's adjacent land.
- Burke-Gilman Trail - This (paved) connector trail allows you to traverse most of the city from Shilshole Bay (part of Puget Sound) to the University of Washington (on Lake Washington) and then some. You can easily hook up with other trails to circle all of Lake Washington while easily maintaining cruising speed since it is pretty flat. Just watch for anal "On Your Left!" police. You know, the ones who let you know that you are supposed to say just that - even when you are moving at 1mph creep. Could I be talking from experience? Sigh. Oh: In Kenmore (and the north end in general) watch out for cops busting cyclists blowing through red lights and stop signs. No further comment...
- Marymoor Park - On the Eastside, here's somewhere to rollerblade/bike/jog and connect with the Sammamish Trail, which in turn hooks up with the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle. Or watch the remote-controlled planes and helicopters at the aviator's field. There's a big climbing rock and a velodrome, too.
- Golden Gardens - Adjacent to Ballard, this beach is the antithesis to Alki Beach. It's mellow most of the time, since there really aren't any businesses here or a proper car cruising scene. It's crowded on nice summer weekend days, of course, what with all the BBQ grills in action and fire pits going toward evening. No, you can't burn half the things I burned there back in the day. Which is a good thing. And a safe one.
- Green Lake - The yuppie park of Seattle. Collect all the non-action figures. Rollerblade/bike/powerwalk in a circle (~3 miles) about the lake with your coffee. I dunno. Nature in the city in a most designedly unnatural way. If you ever have even PART of a date here, consider suicide - for the rest of us. Zzzz.
- Whitewater Rafting - Many rivers rip during the spring and can be run at a variety of difficulty levels from Class I to V. High flow is generally found in the April/May/June months from the snow meltoff occurring higher in the mountains. Commercially-run rivers include the Wenatchee, Skykomish, Nooksack, Methow, plus a pile of others. At least half a dozen companies will happily do the guiding, usually a several-hour affair complete with a salmon/bbq meal at the end. The water? COLD. Always.
- Slackwater Tubing - Many rivers run very low as summer moves toward fall, thus allowing lazy floating on a raft or tube with your favorite beverage. Try US-2 or SR-20 on both sides of the Cascades. More companies are now getting into the act of renting out equipment for this quickly-growing activity in the already usually activity-focused PNW. The water? COLD as always. That's what the beaches along the way are for, as well as being places where you WON'T leave behind the containers for said beverages.
- Mountain Biking - There are many, MANY good places to MTB near Seattle, including Tapeworm in nearby Renton, Victor Falls and its seemingly endless network of trails toward Mt. Rainier, St. Edwards Park in close-by Juanita (generally for beginners, but the difficulty can be upped in adjacent Finn Park) and finally Tiger Mountain - where you too can learn the art of the face plant on the nearest real climb and drop to the city. If you venture an hour-plus from the city in about any direction, the possibilities become endless.
- Snow Shoeing, Cross Country Skiing - The hills are to the east, m'friend. Have snowshoe, will travel on trail or otherwise. For the cross-country skier, your best bet of maintained trails are at the Hyak exit on I-90, the Nordic Center on US-2 (past Stevens Pass), Leavenworth, or in Mazama (where you can go all the way to Winthrop - 20 miles - and more) along SR-20.
- Road bike the Skagit and Snoqualmie valleys, or Bainbridge and (better) Vashon Islands. To the north, east, and west, these all offer a mishmash of roads to let you put together your own 25-, 50-, or 100-mile special with little traffic and the random view. For a smaller jaunt, try the May Valley to the south of I-90 between Bellevue and Issaquah. Nature and farms.
- Hiking - Twin Falls is a short waterfall special even a 5-year-old can do. Trust me: I've tested the very thing twice, once each with a niece and nephew who didn't even have to be threatened with being left for bears. Mt. Si is the thing for a nearby climb of 3-4 hours (round trip), complete with a great view after the rock scramble on top. Same with Rattlesnake Lake. Yes, these are all popular in the summer, but for the right reasons. Of course there are thousands of hikes in the area which are equally or more worthwhile and less accessible, too (even better!) For the non-hiker, there is the stunning Snoqualmie Falls, viewable practically from the road just outside of Snoqualmie town. Yep, that's the one that shows itself so winningly in the defunct show Twin Peaks.
- Mt. Rainier National Park - There's GREAT hiking in this National Park 1.5 hours southeast of Seattle. Think canyons, snow hikes, rivers, endless trails. No, you couldn't ask for anything more. Yes, it's a volcano, so if you feel the ground shaking... well, it's probably too late.
- Mt. St. Helens National Monument - This is about 2.5 hours from Seattle, a National Monument that still looks pretty much like a blast zone. Check out the sea of downed trees in Spirit Lake that look like so many toothpicks. They're not, however, such a thing in the slightest: there are plenty of 50-footers and more among them. In the area there is plenty of exposed hiking, as one might expect without any old '(or even older) growth nearby.
- Mt. Adams - At about 3.5-4 hours from Seattle, the #3 peak in the Cascades (heightwise) is a doable long slog over one or two days. Camp at 9000ft if overnighting; bring crampons, poles, and an ice axe just in case. Trust me, if you've had one near-death slide begin on a snow field - and I now have thanks to Aasgard Pass in 2010, thank you not very much - that's more than enough.
- Mt. Hood - 4+ hours from Seattle, this is a dangerous peak to summit (like Mt. Rainier). But it sure makes for a stunning photo - talk about a dagger into the sky! A few people seem to die on Mt. Hood (as on Mt. Rainier) every summer, so please don't feel the need to do it: it's awfully beautiful down below, too. And gosh darn it, we like you! Supposedly Mt. Hood was the model used for the Paramount Pictures logo; then again, I've heard that said about other Cascades peaks, too. The mountain is, however, unquestionably and conveniently pretty close to Portland (less than an hour away).
- Hood River Gorge - Lying 3+ hours from Seattle, the Gorge (not the one at George) lies in the shadow of (Portland's) Mt. Hood. It's part of the Columbia River's path as it rolls to the sea. Did you know that the Columbia is the only river to cross the Cascades? Anyway, the Gorge is a sportsman's paradise - great windsurfing (for which it's known worldwide), plus equally great whitewater kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.
- Olympic (Peninsula) National Park - From the views of Hurricane Ridge, to the rain forest on its western flanks (the Hoh, the northernmost such temperate thing), the Olympics have it all and far fewer people than its range rival Cascades Mountains to boot. Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island or elsewhere on the Kitsap Peninsula to get started. Or drive down to Tacoma (via Gig Harbor) or Olympia (via Highway 101) and hang a turn to the west from I-5.
- North Cascades National Park - NCNP offers hike after hike, at all levels of difficulty, with limitless rewarding views. It officially lies to the northeast of the city a ways (a few hours), but similar hikes can also be found somewhat closer in state lands which engulf the range. Try biking from Newhalem all the way to Winthrop for a fun challenge. That'll be one of the most stunning 75 miles you'll ever traverse (but be ready to do a lot of climbing to reach Rainy and Washington Passes). One great thing about the NCNP is that there's not many people to contend with. It's generally far-enough away from Seattle to deter the day-trippers.
- Deception Pass - This is the narrow cut between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, NW of Seattle by an hour-plus by either coming up Whidbey Island from the south or coming down from near Anacortes (off SR-20) to the north. Enjoy stunning views from the high bridge and from below it on the beaches. Take in pretty hikes along the bluffs and beaches; The latter is loaded with some of the nicest stones you'll find around. It's a great kayaking area as well. No jumping or falling allowed.
- San Juan Islands - Kayak every which way about these gems, all pretty safe within their huddle from the elements (i.e. the current and even some of the rain). Or bike them - it's free to walk or bike on the ferries within the island group. The ferries (check the schedule - I'm serious!) only stop at four of the islands, however. FORTUNATELY, those four are the ones you probably want to stop at. Thinking of swimming from island to island? Nah. Think instead of hypothermia.
- Skiing at Mount Baker, Steven's Pass, Crystal Mountain, and Snoqualmie Pass is all available within three hours of Seattle. All are nice when there is actually snow. And sometimes there is, that mighty Cascade Concrete! On the plus side, it can be mighty fast stuff. That's the beauty of ice. Just don't fall and knock yourself unconscious like I did once (at Whistler, up in B.C.). I ain't never been the same since... but I did buy a helmet. I even use it every time I sit on the toilet - hey, you never know when those Burmese Pythons are going to make it over from the Everglades!
- Swimming Pools - Do these count as outdoorsy? I dunno, but two interesting pools within the city's limits are the saltwater Colman Pool in West Seattle (at Lincoln Park, by the Fauntleroy Ferry to Vashon Island) and the other outdoor one, Mounger Pool, in Magnolia. Both are particularly great for kids, and you can't beat the view at the Colman one. At the other pools you'll particularly want to check the schedule - if you don't want your lap swim to plow through a geriatric water ballet class or whatnot.
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