Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stairway 100K - stage 7

Mount Baker to Downtown

Last week's rain-shortened trek meant this week's walk was on the long side...

That said, a good chunk of the miles is just the long, straight stretch from Madison Valley up to First Hill... somehow the stairless stretches pass by quickly.

We drove to Mt. Baker, where we left off the last stretch. We *could* have taken the bus, but the 70-minute ride put us off a little.

We started with a visit to the Mt. Baker Ridge Viewpoint, a tiny parklet with a sundial structure and slots in basalt columns that align with the sunset at the Equinox and Solstice.

Mt. Baker Ridge Viewpoint

But we couldn't wait for the Solstice to roll around ... we had stairs to walk! 

starting point for this stretch
The Day Stairway starts with a grooved "runway" of sorts, before dropping off the edge of the ridge.

grooved pavement ... just to get you on your way
Then down the first set of stairs, between 31st and 30th ... and another grooved "runway" at the bottom.
Day Stairway West, 147 stairs
We crossed a street and continued down the second stretch of stairs; these ones felt "newer" because they were in flights broken up by landings...

Day Stairway West, lower section
And then down these amazing, "Metropolis"-feeling stairs to enter Sam Smith Park... the park that sits right on top of I-90.

At the foot of the stairs we were close to the I-90 pedestrian / bike path tunnel entrance. I still have a weird soft spot for brutal poured concrete... One almost expects flames to burst out of the tunnel. But it's mainly just spandex-clad cyclists and the occasional pedestrian.

We poked around the park a little bit, admiring the "Philosophical Promenade", a public artwork created in the late 1980s by Keith Beckley and Dennis Evans described as:

a visual poem that allegorically depicts everyone's journey from "dawn" to "twilight." The artwork is composed of two identical sets of 12 conceptual "gateways," or sections that are approximately 50 feet apart along a pathway. Each "gateway" is thematically titled in inlaid bronze with an adjacent bronze plaque depicting a symbolic representation of a different stage of the journey - a figure walking up a river with wind blowing on him, pushing a wheel up a mountain, crawling across a sword which spans a chasm, holding a walking stick and lantern and walking a path between two poles. Adjacent to each plaque is a rock set in a rectangle surrounded by inlaid bronze lettering with a philosophical statement, meant to give a clue or trigger for understanding and interpreting the plaque's image. As you move down the pathway, the story of the journey unfolds. - Seattle Office of Arts and Culture

Here's a closeup of one of the rocks:

We left the park and headed partway up the ridge to 30th ... up a steep "grooved pavement". Seriously, why not put stairs in??? Though I suppose if you lived on the ridge you could ride your bike down this bone-jolting stretch and then join the I-90 bike tunnel...

Notice the sky in this picture? The weather was supposed to be pretty terrible, so both of us were wearing our Gore-Tex. But the rain held off, and by the end it was actually decent weather.

As we headed north on 30th, we popped out on a block with a great view toward Bellevue. Some of the residents of the lower side of the street have built little platforms at the edges of their property next to the street, complete with stairs leading up to them. Why? This view...

But, of course, a ridge means ... it's time to head downstairs. These are the Dearborn Stairs.

Dearborn Stairway, 154 stairs
At the bottom we dropped onto 32nd, and headed north toward Frink Park ... but after we turned up the hill to take us to the top edge of the park, we noticed some good looking stairs, so took a detour up the King Street Stairs.

See stairs? Climb stairs. 
Pretty irresistible...

We popped out on S. King Street and admired the view from the curved terrace.

And *then* it was time to go to Frink Park. That's F-R-I-N-K, not Frick. Take that, autocorrect.

Seattle's Olmsted Legacy -- it's kind of a big deal. Keeping in mind that Seattle was founded in 1851, it's pretty amazing that the city decided to develop a parks system... and hired the Olmsted Brothers to design a series of parks... 52 years later. The 1903 plan detailed a series of parks and boulevards to create an "emerald necklace" for the city. It wasn't all developed, but a remarkable number of parks were.

One of the best parts of the Olmsted plan was that each park was meant to be unique, and to reflect the area around it. In is 1903 report John Charles Olmsted wrote:

"The different parks of the city should not be made to look as much like each other as possible, but on the contrary every advantage should be taken of differing conditions to give each one a distinct individuality of its own."

Because Capitol Hill already featured a "highly finished style of city development", Volunteer Park featured a formal design with flower beds and an observation tower. But 17-acre Frink Park, which was still a wild forest, was left mostly pristine, with roads following the counter of the landscape.

Olmsted's initial plan for Frink Park, from OlmstedOnline
(Note that in the bottom left corner of the plan you can see the King Street Stairs ...)

The route we took doesn't seem to appear on the original plan, since we started between Jackson and King streets down a dirt path with some stairs inset into it. We did pop back out at the edge of the park on the corner of 32nd and King, and joined the stairs so visible on the plan above (even if they didn't really look like that...)

We wound our way through the park, down what I am reliably told are 187 stairs.

Some bits were more "stairway formal" than others ...

And on down to the lake ... almost. We headed a block north on Lakeside, then turned up the Jackson Stairway, which was handsomely rebuilt in 2011.

entering the Jackson Stairway, 135 steps
These stairs took us back up to Lake Washington Boulevard and the juncture of Frink Park and Leschi Park.

heading up the Jackson Stairway
Once in Leschi park, we followed a very quiet Lake Washington Boulevard under a handsome bridge and past this oddly cool house.

Looking back under the bridge ... what *is* that? Really don't know...

We finally found ourselves at the corner of E. Alder and Erie Avenue -- where our walk was supposed to end last week. Seeing how long it had taken us to get here, we made a very good call to cut it short then!

Some more wandering through a swanky neighborhood filled with a weird mix of architectural styles, and we arrived at the Randolph Stairway, connecting Wellington and Randolph. Yes it's a nice stairway... but does anyone actually use it other than runners?

Randolph Stairway, 125 steps
I do like that this stairway curves to follow the hill...

Randolph Stairway
The route then did a hairpin turn -- still going past houses that were for sale but so expensive that one needed to "contact agent for price". Mmmmkay. But we did find this little passageway at the end of 38th:

a pedestrian stretch of E. James Street
It's this kind of hidden path that I bet the neighbors would love to get closed down... Keep the rambling riffraff out. :)

We crossed Wellington Avenue, mentally toasted the Iron Duke, and kept going down the stairs.

James Stairway, lower stretch, 106 stairs
This popped us back onto Lake Washington Boulevard, where we followed the lake and took a little break, before diving into Madrona Park.

The path through the park was pretty -- lots of wooden stairs -- but we suddenly met quite a lot of people out walking their large dogs, so we pretty much just kept moving along.

Then on to the 38th Avenue Stairway, which runs from Newport Way up to E. Spring Street on 136 stairs. It's great that we have nice new, well maintained stairs ... but they're not very interesting, are they?

38th Ave Stairway, 136 steps
Except Mother Nature likes to keep things interesting ... like here where a tree crashed down and broke the handrail.

nature always wins, eventually...
More meandering through leafy neighborhoods, trying not to get run over by minivans ... hurrying for the safety of the 37th Avenue E. Stairway.

37th Avenue East Stairway, 101 stairs
I think both of us were at the "are we there yet?" phase of the walk... but we hadn't even gotten ourselves to Madison yet. And to think I once envisioned doing this walk in three 20-mile days!

Some more neighborhood meandering, and noticing how quickly areas can go from fancy to "just about to gentrify" in a block or two.

The Thomas Stairway took us up up up to Madison, with a little zigzag to complete the final stage on the other side. 
Thomas Street Stairway, 114 steps
It was something of a relief to get to Madison, since that marked what would just be a long, straight shot to downtown. See, my old phone is on its last life, and didn't charge while sitting on the charger all night. So we were using Wil's phone to navigate, but didn't have any backup. So at some point partway along the walk I took screenshots of the route map and turned off all the apps to save batteries. But getting to Madison made everything pretty easy. Just head toward downtown until we hit Boren.

A little shift over to University Street and then we arrived here:

I hadn't been in Freeway Park in.... well, probably two or three decades. (Other than the very edge of it, just outside the convention center.) The park was opened on July 4, 1976 and has been recognized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation as the first park built over a freeway. (Yes, there are others. Apparently.)

A set of intertwined stairways and wheelchair ramps lead down from 9th and University into the park.  I'm pretty sure I have never been in this part before.

Freeway Park stairways
The design of the park is a mixture of poured concrete and lush greenery, with fountains and water features thrown in. The Cultural Landscape Foundation describes the style as "aggressive", but most other sources call it "brutalist"...

All in all, as the park descends between 9th and 6th, there are 122 stairs.

I think I can remember being in the car with my beloved Montessori teacher Miss Barb, driving underneath the park as it was being built, and hearing the song "Wildfire" by Michael Martin Murphy, and all of us singing along. Though I have no idea why I would have been in a car with my Montessori teacher...

I can also remember either a school field drip or a Camp Fire Girls outing to visit the park, and playing in and around the fountain.

But I can't remember ever visiting the park after that. Pity -- because it's really lovely. Perhaps if I ever work downtown again (sigh) I will make a point of visiting it.

From Freeway Park we did a little loop up and around the edge of the park so that we could walk down the Convention Center stairway. The Convention Center was built to coordinate with the concrete-and-foliage feel of Freeway Park, so it's a pretty smooth transition.

Washington State Convention Center Stairway, 111 stairs
We were truly in the home stretch now .... just down the 71 steps next to Benaroya Hall ...

Benaroya Hall Stairway, 71 steps
down the 41 steps along the side of SAM past Hammering Man ... then down the Harbor Steps, which I simply couldn't photograph well...

Harbor Steps, 106 stairs
a block under the Viaduct on Alaskan Way, and then all the way up the 2-part Union Stairway ... first the stairs that feel super temporary... still ...

and then the bigger, nicer stairs up to 1st Avenue.

Union Stairway, upper half - 141 stairs in all

An at least 7.55-mile jaunt for this stretch ... but it sets us up for the remaining stages.

One wrinkle -- we didn't want to wait 23 minutes to catch a bus back to the car that would take another 25 minutes to get there. So we called an Uber.

Our driver was ... well, a little nutty. We gave her the address -- the same one I used to navigate to the start -- and set off. We got onto I-5, then I-90 ... and her GPS said not to take the Rainier Avenue South exit. I had mentioned that we'd need to get over asap, but she said, "No, the exit is still half a mile away."

I had one of those existential crises ... WAS there an exit from the tunnel? Had I just never known?

Well, no. Of course there isn't. And we went sailing through the tunnel and onto the bridge... Which means that what happened on the previous stretch -- where our Uber driver was 2 minutes away and then suddenly getting farther and farther ... well, it's that they were being sent the wrong way.

So our short ride became something of a long ride, and in the end I had to navigate the driver back to where our car was... and our $8 ride became a $23 ride. Oh, Uber.

But next time we just need to get ourselves to the waterfront downtown, and go from there ... and end up in the University District. Easy peasy! (Well, if the weather will cooperate, that is...)

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