The late fall season is upon us. The leaves have fallen, the mercury a bit lower. The rain has come back to both drench us and comfort us in a two-faced, love-hate dichotomy. We love the “snugga-bility” of staying indoors, yet there’s just something out there in the cold; an adventurous escape hiding out there in the damp, chilly, and sometimes muddy urban Seattle environs.
What makes The Emerald City unique is the endless indoor and outdoor possibilities Seattleites can really sink their teeth into during this damp fall season. As much as anywhere else, West Seattle holds a ton of adventures from which to take advantage. And despite the recent deconstruction of the Aurora viaduct, allow yourself time to visit and experience the awesome array of autumn activities West Seattle can offer. Here’s 5 places to get you started on your West Seattle adventures.
I love Lincoln Park simply for its diversity alone. But during the fall and winter months, the park is still a great spot to run the ton of trails that slither in, out, and around the endless expanse of trees all the way down the hill to the Puget Sound shore. And for those sunny, fall days where you want to get out and enjoy a nice picnic in the park, there are plenty of shelters with fire circles. A highlight for me would be the horseshoe pits and the amount of space to throw the frisbee around or play soccer.
While technically closed for the 2011 season except by reservation, Alki Kayak Tours delivers on every level when it comes to seeing the Seattle area from another angle. Though I myself haven’t made it out for a ride yet, my friend Scott Matthews is a fantastic tour guide who will show you astounding details of Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, and even the Duwamish River from angles you would never have known before. With rarely-seen plants and animals, seeing the city and nature itself from a kayak, stand-up paddle board, or fishing boat is an experience you don’t want to miss.
What’s there NOT to do on the shores of Alki Beach? It’s amazing how much this place has changed even since I moved here 12 years ago. Everyone who knows Alki understands the running trail along Harbor Avenue facing downtown Seattle to Alki Beach through Beach Drive. I doubt there’s a better overall view anywhere on the West Coast of the US for running or biking. Not up for exercise at the moment? Cool. There’s always an opportunity for a fantastic outdoor barbeque at any of the stand-up park grills on the grassy areas of the beach. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the recently refurbished Alki Statue of Liberty monument and promenade. It really is a beautiful site to behold. If you’re in the mood for food but not ready to bear the tougher elements of the season, feel free to stop in to any of the numerous new restaurants and bars along the Alki strip. They say life IS change. Well, I dare say change, as well as time, has treated Alki very well.
Schmitz Preserve Park
One of my favorite spots to go for a quick hike, Schmitz Preserve Park has quite the inspirational history. Donated to the city of Seattle in chunks from 1908-1912, the largest piece came from Mr. Ferdinand Schmitz who, upon seeing how so much forest was being logged, took it upon himself to preserve as much of the forest as possible. The effort at preservation shows. The intense green that surrounds you is a beautiful site to behold as is the creek that accompanys you along the way. Still, even within Schmitz’s preserve, you can still see stumps from the loggers who got a hold of a couple trees. After 1908, the park eventually gained notoriety as a welcome and refreshing complement to the West Seattle parks establishment. If you find yourself walking up through the winding trails, don’t be surprised to find a monstrous crocodile waiting for you!
One of the few natural waterways left in the Seattle city limits that remains largely unpiped (1/4 is piped), Longfellow Creek’s three-mile long watershed provides open space, educational opportunities, flood control, recreation, wildlife habitat and economic benefits to West Seattle residents.
Running south to north parallel to the Delridge valley and emptying out into the Duwamish River at the head of Elliott Bay, Longfellow Creek is both a fun and educational destination to ponder urban influences on our natural surroundings and resources. For a long time, urban development has been polluting the creek through individual sources of fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, oil and paint. Since I have been in West Seattle, an ongoing community campaign has formed to keep Longfellow Creek as clean as possible through regularly scheduled cleanup efforts. Looks like their efforts are paying off.
Take into account the restaurants and nightlife that has sprung up along California and 35th Avenues and you have quite the urban adventure waiting for you. Yes, the viaduct may be gone, but the activities that inhabit this area of Seattle will never leave. Let me know when you’ll be coming out!