Monday, December 27, 2010

On the Sammamish River and Burke-Gilman Trails...

Let me say that if these two trails are indicative of the trails up here in the Seattle area I am more than merely envious. The difference between the Southern California routes is as much a "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" experience as I have had. And that is not to say that So Cal paths are bad, because they are not; there is just so much more in the Emerald City. When we in So Cal think of bike trails, I think we tend to envision a single path, probably along a river. Up here you need to envision a network criss-crossing the region. Another significant difference is trail signage. The signage up here is just amazing; where ever there are trail junctions there are directional signs, where ever there might be confusion as to direction, there are signs. As long as you know where you want to go, it would be difficult to get lost. And the drivers; they almost always had the right of way where the trail crossed streets, but almost always came to a stop and let me ride through (maybe because I looked so cold and miserably wet).

Anyway, I had some time today to sample the two trails mentioned above. I did not get underway until about 2:00, so my time was limited. The afternoon was gray, and wet, the kind of day that in Ireland would be called a "soft day", but clearly that is not a deterrent to anyone here, as not a minute would go by that I wasn't passing someone headed the opposite direction. There was a healthy mix of recreational riders and commuters out and about. Starting in Woodinville I proceeded along the Sammamish River Trail which merged into the Burke-Gilman Trail, which runs along Lake Washington and into Seattle. I went as far as the University District (which made for a 29 mile round trip), at which point, I needed to turn around. My So Cal winter gear would have been adequate for riding up here, but the mountain biking gloves, are not made for warmth, and the cold blowing off the lake quickly found that weak point.

As it's name suggests, the Sammamish River trail does follow the river, for a portion at least, of its course. Even in the day's gloom it was quite scenic. The Burke-Gilman Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion which passes through some small commercial districts, some upscale lakefront residential areas, some very nice neighborhood parks, and comes out at the University of Washington. As often as not, houses block the view of Lake Washington, but the houses, especially with their seasonal decorations up, are mostly attractive in their own right. The views you get of the lake between the houses are like little surprises along the way. The Burke-Gilman is also a greenbelt, so there are some nicely wooded sections to pass through; in fact most of the route is wooded. I noticed that this has caused some problems of its own, as some areas with steep slopes have given way, with mudslides coming down onto the path recently (they were all cleared however, this day). How 'bout some photos:

Starting out along the Sammamish River Trail

there are two of these underpasses for the Burke-Gilman Trail to keep cyclists out of dangerous relationships at intersections

seaplanes with Lake Washington beyond

 one of the many parks along the Burke-Gilman Trail

 the Burke-Gilman Trail is a Rail-to-Trail conversion

 welcome to Seattle

 kayak lessons in this weather? i'll pass

lakeshore view

 one of the undeveloped sections along the Burke-Gilman

 my turn around point in the University District

 U of W; the big structure at the upper left is the stadium where the Huskies play

bridge and rider in the rain

 trail signage

 the significance of this mural escaped me until i got back to home-away-from-home, at which point i realized it depicts a rail-to-trail with the train and tracks giving way to bikes and path. this is on the back side of a building, where only trail users can see it

 more of Lake Washington

 bridge over the Sammamish River on my way back; getting dark now

 same as above, but panned a little left

 highway overpass above the Sammamish

 do i look cold? me at journey's end. i was expecting a lot of rain this trip, so i brought the Origin8 single-speed thinking it would be less maintenance hassle. i think it was a good choice, s.s. was no problem on either trail

ghostly me, suffering from hypothermia, or something. much great riding to be had up here.

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