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Thursday, May 6, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Issaquah: Casual stroll offers glimpse of past, present, future

Seattle Times Travel editor

City Walks


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The walk: Here's a jaunt that combines a path through woods, a historical train depot, a new library and a landmark salmon hatchery, all within the pleasant core of one of the Eastside's busier towns.

If you leave your car on Second Avenue Southeast just north of its junction with Front Street South, you can strike off on a paved trail on the west side of Second that takes you north toward downtown Issaquah. In about a half mile, you'll emerge from the trees at the city's Community Center on your left and a skateboard park on your right. Keep going, north on Rainier Boulevard.

You'll cross Bush and then Andrews streets, both offering side trips and glimpses of some of the city's older neighborhoods. Off to the right on Andrews, for example, is the old Gilman Town Hall (built in the 1890s, when the city was called Gilman), which is now a museum, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. Behind it is the original, two-cell city jail, built in 1914. If you walk ahead a block on Rainier to Sunset, turn left (west) and walk a block to Front Street, you'll find the new library. Add another block or so to your detour and you'll come across the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, operating since 1936. All of them are enough to keep you entertained for hours.

But back to our original walk. North of Sunset on Rainier lies the city's restored railroad depot, and site of what many residents hope will be the terminus of a year-round trolley service to Gilman Village, about a mile north. (An antique trolley is under renovation.) For now, you'll have to walk, certainly not an unpleasant adventure. You'll follow the old railroad tracks along Rainier Boulevard North, which eventually crosses Front Street, and continue along to Gilman Boulevard. And — here we go again — more side-trip opportunities. To your left is an entrance to Gilman Village, a shopping area begun with the revitalization of some of the area's oldest buildings about 30 years ago. Ahead, across Gilman, is the just-opened southern stretch of the still uncompleted East Lake Sammamish Trail, available for those who really want to extend the day's walk. (For now, the gravel walkway stops at metal gates near the lake, waiting for a solution to a years-long dispute over abanboned railroad beds many hope will become the trail's missing link, to connect the cities of Issaquah and Redmond.) The return route is the same, so plan on seeing some of the sites you missed along the way. Or, you can branch off once you hit Front Street and walk through a bit of downtown (and original old town) Issaquah. Bear right onto Front Street where Rainier crosses it and head south to Sunset. At Sunset, turn left, walk about a block to rejoin Rainier, where you'll turn right and walk south along the paved trail to the starting point.

Secret tip: If you do this walk in the spring, you'll see a host of lovely fruit trees in bloom along Gilman Boulevard. If you take the walk later in summer or early fall, those trees will be ripe for the taking, literally. Passersby are welcome to take (and eat) the fruit — for free.

Lunch or snack stop: At the halfway mark, at Gilman Village, one of the shopping center's earliest tenants, The Boarding House restaurant, offers solid lunch fare. It's great for a bowl of soup midwalk. 317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 7; 425-392-1100. Hours are 9 a.m to 5 p.m. every day but Thursday and Friday, when the restaurant closes at 6 p.m., and on Sunday, when it closes at 4 p.m.

Access: The walk is flat and paved, for the most part, and access is good for people of all abilities. It's easy to turn around and head back to the starting point anywhere on the route.

Parking and bus route: Parking is free along the roadside at the start of the walk. Additionally, during the week, you can take Metro's Issaquah Express (Route 554) from downtown Seattle to the Issaquah Park & Ride Lot and then board a free shuttle (Route 200) that will take you to Front Street South and Second Avenue Southeast and the start of the walk.

On weekends, you'll have to adjust — the 200 is not running. You can still take the 554, but you'll have to transfer to the 271 to downtown Issaquah and alter the walk accordingly.

Terry Tazioli: 206-464-2224 or ttazioli@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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