Friday, September 30, 2016

Seattle Stairway 100K - stage 5

Columbia City to Beacon Hill

We squeezed in this walk on Sunday morning before the Seahawks game... because, priorities.

I planned this route to start and end at Link light rail stations to make things easier. So we drove to Beacon Hill, parked near the station, and rode the train two stops to Columbia City. On thing was immediately clear.

Lions. They're lions. Not sure why I thought it was a dragon last time. Of course, I'm also not sure why there are so many different sorts of lions at the Columbia City light rail station, but ...

The beginning of this walk was pretty downbeat... just walking on and on through the neighborhood along quiet streets. Then we came to our first set of stairs, at Ferdinand and 51st.

Ferdinand Stairs, 68 steps
This took us up a block onto a ridge, where we crossed a small street and then found this path pointing in the right direction. The maps here were a little confusing ... but this path was clearly "in use" despite not being on the map...

Private walkway? Hard to tell. 
Eventually, however, it opened up onto some stairs ... and some more stairs ... 

and some more.

Lower Ferdinand Stairs, 171 stairs (??)
At some point there was a stairway that branched off to one side... but we just kept heading down.

oh, yeah, streetcar rails!

And when we reached the bottom, we were only a block or so from this:

view south to Seward Park

Lake Washington, all pretty in the morning light.

view north
As we approached Lake Washington Boulevard, we saw signs saying "road closed" ... which worried us a little, as we weren't sure we could navigate around a detour. But then I remembered that it was a Bicycle Sunday, where they close off the road to cars and let bikes and pedestrians roam free.  How great is that?

We walked along the lake. It was ALL I COULD DO to not write "OR WE WILL TURN THEM TO STONE"  on this post. Wil moved me along quickly so my inner vandal couldn't get out.

All too soon we turned up Genessee from the lake, and then headed west along it for several blocks, until we hit Rainier Avenue South. We shifted north by a block, and then went up the Adams Stairway.

Adams Stairway, 182 stairs

As we approached, there were a bunch of teenagers sitting on the steps. They saw us and essentially scampered off, leaving their "Swisher Sweets" packets behind them. Oh, the kids today.

Obligatory "pedestrian street sign" photo...

The Adams Stairway was surprisingly long... crossing alleys / narrow streets as we went up. Here's the view back down from the top:

Adams Stairway, from the top
We then went one block north along 34th ... a funny little street with a surprising number of "modern" homes with interesting finishes. And because they're built on a steep slope, many of them have little "elevated walkways" going from the street to the house. Pretty cool.

We then reached the Lilac Stairs ... which started out feeling like a private path, until I noticed the telltale streetcar rails ... this time painted a stylish black.

Lilac Stairway, 113 stairs
We got partway down the stairs, and saw this:

how cute is that pedestrian detour sign???
Now, this might have been a little annoying, since we ended up having to go back along an alley to the stairs we just walked up ... but it's actually pretty cool.

It's nice to see that the city is still maintaining -- and improving -- these stairways. They even posted a handy map of the detour for pedestrians. So we went a block south, down a flight of stairs, and then came back up the block to the bottom of the closed section.

Honestly, this does my heart good. It makes me happy to live in a city that is trying to encourage more people to walk. Or maybe just build more places to smoke Swisher Sweets...

We re-crossed Rainier Avenue, then climbed a hill to get on 37th ... sadly missing the opportunity to climb up these pretty new stairs, the Charlestown Hillclimb.

Charlestown Hillclimb stairs -- pretty!
There's even art at the top -- that metal "tree" has a periscope in it.

However, the route then took us down these stairs ... an unexpected stairway-turned-park.

The stairs are broad, clean, and have trimmed grass on both sides.

Horton Stairway, 100 stairs

And partway down, there's a waterfall ... or, at least, a course for a waterfall. (Hey, I'm currently happy to have had a dry summer!)

You don't see a lot of gargoyles here in Seattle ... would love to see this spouting water!
We made our way back over to where Rainier Ave meets MLK Way, and then headed up our last big stairway of the day: the Hanford Steps.

There are 25 flattish ones covering the first block, and then a very clean set of 110 more... which you can see in the distance of this photo:

Hanford Stairway, 25 steps lower, 110 steps upper
I didn't take any pictures of the stairs, oddly enough, but I did take one of the colored concrete on the landing at the top.

top landing of the Hanford Stairway
At the top of the stairs there was MORE HILL. I mean, seriously, shouldn't they have built a stairway? That said, if they had, we wouldn't have seen these:

These little penguins are pressed into the concrete on the sidewalk ... along with what we *think* was a childish drawing of an anatomically correct heart. Yeah, I knew I should have gotten a picture or you wouldn't believe me.

(While looking for a picture ... or any information ... about these penguins and hearts on the sidewalk, I came across this very cool site Beacon Hill Public Art. It sadly didn't have any information about them, but had lots of pictures and locations of public art around their neighborhood.)

We assumed that perhaps the penguins and hearts are related to Kimball Elementary School, with its cute mural sign ... but I still can't find any information about them. So it will remain a mystery. An undocumented mystery...

We popped back out on Beacon Avenue South, admiring the cute restaurants and bars and more public art:

I think I'd like to do something similar in my neighborhood!
And then back to Beacon Hill Station, where we kicked things off. Maybe it's because this station is underground, but this might be my favorite of all the Link stations.

Another good day -- and a reminder that we should be exploring more Seattle neighborhoods. Next stretch of the walk: Beacon Hill to Leschi!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #15

When we climb Kilimanjaro in 2017, we'll be following the Rongai route. Kandoo Adventures created this amazing route flyover:

Also from Kandoo Adventures:

The Rongai route is one of the least frequented of the official Kilimanjaro routes. The upside of this is that there will be few other climbers about and for most of the trek you are walking through virgin wilderness and awe inspiring scenery.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Seattle Stairway 100K stage 4

Today's stretch was a solo jaunt -- we had considered doing it on Sunday morning, but the weather forecast was for rain. Imagine our surprise when the sunny morning turned into a sunny midday ... not a drop of rain.

I then decided I would do the walk on Monday morning, as the forecast was for brighter weather... and then woke up at 6:30 to a torrential downpour. Okayyyy, fine, I'll do an indoor project. Except that by 8:30 the sky was blue again. So back to plan A. Or was that plan B???

I took the bus to the start at Delridge and Holden. Amusing to ride the bus and see all the places our walks crossed this key road!

This leg started right up some stairs:

Holden Stairway, 135 stairs

I love seeing the little walking figure on these pedestrian "street" signs.

I don't know why, but this stairway reminded me of my childhood. Even looking at the picture I feel that way, though I can't actually picture any stairs like this in my memory. (Maybe the stairs down from Woodway High School?)

The stairs were tidy, looked as if they were used frequently, and had a funny "plaza" at the top, with two exits. Odd.

I should point out that this stretch only has three stairways, so to get one out of the way right off the bat made me feel like I was farther along than I was!

The route followed Holden up the hill until it dead-ended at Highland Park Way. The sidewalk (seen from across the street in the picture below) also dead-ended. So I had to scamper across the busy four-lane road with nary a crosswalk or traffic signal in sight.

No harm, no foul, however (it was after 10am by this point), and I turned and headed down the hill.

I have never been on this road before -- it travels from White Center down to the Duwamish Waterway.  I should point out that I got slightly drizzled on during this stretch ... just enough to make me put on my Gore-tex jacket, which promptly made the rain stop.

On the map it looked like I might need to perform a weird out and back to cross Marginal Way, but there were clear crosswalks. (No idea why the map takes a weird turn here!) Once across Marginal, I rejoined the Duwamish Trail -- a nicely maintained, well signed shared-use path.

Okay, so it's not particularly scenic, passing port buildings and winding around bridges, but it's better than nothing. And I do like a city that still has industry. A curving ramp carried me up onto the 1st Avenue South Bridge...

... where I caught a tiny glimpse of the Duwamish in its "natural" state. Yeah, I know, it's surrounded by concrete, buuuuut.

I can almost imagine wildlife living down there ...
Then up onto the bridge proper:

And a nice, calm view of the Duwamish Waterway in its non-natural form...

Amusing that it had never occurred to me, all the times I have driven across this bridge to go to the airport, that there was a bike/pedestrian path alongside it.

Once across the river the path peels off and curls under the bridge.

Again, not super scenic... but interesting... A lot about this trail feels like you're "backstage" somehow.

From there I walked to Georgetown, though the route didn't take me through the scenic part. If I ever do this again I might detour ... but for now, here's a tiny bit of public art on a traffic signal control box.

After making my way underneath a tangle of overpasses and elevated roads, I went up the ramp at Lucille Street ... who even knew this was possible? Apparently not drivers, ask I was nearly hit by not just one but two cars, both running a red light to turn onto the ramp as I crossed at the crosswalk. Whee.

But the pathway was sure nice.

It crossed the train tracks.

And then just went up up up the hill. By this point it had turned hot and I was REALLY GLAD that I had braved the potential storms (storms that were hitting about 15 miles north of where I was!).

As I walked up the hill I was reminded that we were in the flight path. Whoosh!

Eventually I reached the bottom of the Lucille Stairway, a loooooong stretch of stairs. So long you can't see the top from the bottom. I even had some company, sort of...

Lucille Stairway, 158 stairs
And up. And up. (My fellow traveler is now waaaaaay ahead of me.)

There's even a "false summit" of sorts ... but it just levels out for a short time before going up up up some more.

not done yet...
From the top of the stairs it's a short walk to Beacon Avenue South... which is when I realized where I was: Beacon Hill. (Who knew?) I had driven along this road, but it was nice to see that the broad park-like median had a meandering path along it.

A few twists and turns through Beacon Hill later and I came across the Chief Sealth Trail.

I had glimpsed this trail when we visit our friends Alan and Don, but didn't know anything about it. But the Chief Sealth Trail was built in the greenway under the big power pylons using recycled material from the Link Light Rail project. Pretty cool. I am definitely coming back to run or bike or walk this trail someday!

I took a tiny detour to walk an all too brief stretch of the trail, hearing the buzzing power lines overhead. Seriously -- I have already figured out that you can take a bus from one end of the trail to the other ... so you can park at one end, run the trail, and then bus back. Genius. But that's an adventure for another day...

Back on track, I started to head down the east side of Beacon Hill toward Columbia City.

One last, grand stairway awaited:

Seriously, these were fantastic. Or maybe I was just tired. But note the features here... a slow "run way" start with 3 steps, and a landing, 3 more steps, another landing, 3 more steps, another landing, and then.... DROP.

Down the first stretch -- nice new stairs.

Ferdinand Stairway, 125 steps
Then a sinuous curve halfway down:

then a flat stretch, with some amusing little stairs up ...

and then the remaining flight of stairs.

These do go on a bit, don't they?

I've just realized that these are very different than the stairs I expected -- apparently they were rebuilt this year. These images by Susan Ott Ralph come from the Google map of the Seattle Stairway 100K route and Community Walks site and show the old stairs:

As you can see, these stairs have been extensively redone, apparently in 2011 to help support the Link Light Rail project. Of course, I do miss the old streetcar rail supports!!!

At the bottom of the stairs is Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and the Columbia City station. And dragons. Here there be dragons. (Hmmm, or is that a lion???)

It would have made perfect sense to end the trip there and hop on the light rail to get downtown, but I had a little farther to go... to the Columbia City Ale House for a pint and some lunch.

a well deserved reward!
This stretch of the walk wasn't particularly interesting or scenic, but I did cover a lot of ground and am now back into stairway territory. Besides, how fun to cross the city from west to east on foot? I'm already looking forward to the next stretch!