Shilshole Bay: Walk through Golden Gardens or visit the fishing pier and marina
Northwest Weekend editor
The walk: Get a strapping lungful of salt air and let Puget Sound's cool breezes ruffle your hair as you get a close-up look at boats at dock, boats being launched, boats in races and boats dangling fishing lines, with an often stunning backdrop of the Olympic Mountains.
Start at Golden Gardens Park, one of Seattle's favorite places for beach bonfires and (in dry weather) outdoor drum and marimba concerts celebrating changes of season, the full moon and whatever else moves the musicmakers.
First walk to the north end of the park to count waterfowl of many feathers in a popular duck pond. Then follow the sandy beach southward as you dodge kiteboarders and stone-skippers. When the beach ends, join the paved walkway along the waterfront. Wander to the end of a fishing pier to check on the catch, then cross a boat-launching ramp and continue along the walkway as it meanders along a long seawall past 1,500 boats moored at the Port of Seattle's Shilshole Bay Marina.
South of the marina's main building (step inside for public restrooms or to sign up for sailing lessons), you can't miss a monument inspired by the Ballard community's Nordic heritage: a giant bronze statue of whiskered explorer "Leifr Eiriksson" (that's how his name is spelled on the statue). With a very large sword at his side, he leans on an axe that could take out Poulsbo in one swipe (and he is looking kind of menacingly in that direction).
As Seaview curves toward Ballard, end up at the tiny Northwest 60th Street Viewpoint, with two park benches dedicated to boat lover Norman Maust and donated by his loving wife, as noted on a carved rock.
Sit and watch scruffy fishing boats, hulking barges and gleamingly varnished yachts jockey for position as they turn in toward the Ballard Locks.
Hoof it back to Golden Gardens, for a round-trip of about 1.8 miles.
Secret tip: Between Shilshole Bay Beach Club (aka the Ballard Elks Lodge) and the West Marine store (6317 Seaview Ave. N.W.), look for a faded-out, once-blue "Public Shore" sign (now overshadowed by a "No dogs allowed" notice). Follow a narrow, unpaved path to a tiny, rarely visited public-access point to Puget Sound. It's a private sandy beach tucked between expensive condos and the mini-palm trees of the swanky Elks Club. Enjoy an in-your-face view of the entire Olympic range on a clear day, or an in-your-face splash of Puget Sound during stormy weather.
Access: Level paths, sidewalks. Wheelchairs and strollers can negotiate all but the sandy beaches and the "secret" public shore.
Parking/bus route: Golden Gardens Park has free parking. Metro's Route 46 goes there on weekdays. On weekends, get off the No. 17 or 44 at Ballard Locks and walk from there, adding a half-mile each way. Or for the highly energetic, take No. 17 to 32nd Avenue Northwest and Northwest 85th Street and look for the long stairways down to Golden Gardens.
Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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