Kirkland: Take a walk, and a swim, around eclectic Juanita area
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
The walk: Kirkland has some of the best walks on the Eastside, with a necklace of parks glittering along the Lake Washington waterfront. Stroll through the downtown area and you can check out the Cow and Coyote sculpture and other artworks the city proudly displays in its public spaces. Go north to Juanita Bay Park and you will be amazed by the richness of the bird life. A little farther north still and you reach Juanita Beach Park, once a thriving resort that fell into disrepair. Kirkland took ownership of the park recently from King County and is slowly reviving its lost glory.
A 2.8-mile walk starting at Juanita Beach Park takes you along the waterfront and through neighborhoods both established and new. The walk can easily be shortened to 2 miles by forgoing a northern loop.
The park entrance is off Northeast Juanita Drive. Begin the walk at the eastern end of the sandy beach. Take the floating boardwalk that acts as a breakwater. By edging away from the shore, the boardwalk instantly gives you the feeling of being in the midst of the lake environment, and you can see herons, gulls and other birds close-up. You also get views across the lake and you can see the taller Seattle buildings peeking over the hills.
Once you reach the beach again, take a footbridge across Juanita Creek and cut across a grassy area back to Juanita Drive. Cross over at 93rd Avenue Northeast and head north. You pass an aging pumping station, due to be replaced next year. A large forested area to the west provides a nice backdrop as you pass by condominiums and homes.
After about half a mile, turn east on Northeast 124th Street. The housing here is diverse and the street even has a mobile-home park, something of a rarity on the Eastside these days. When you get to 95th Place Northeast, head north again.
Now you are really into a quiet, established residential area with fir trees, maples and cherry blossoms.
Checking out the different styles of housing can be fun. Loop west on Northeast 126th Place and north on 94th Avenue Northeast. Look for a fancy tree house on the left with a "Wm. Bear" sign. Head east on Northeast 128th Street and then south on 98th Avenue Northeast back to 124th Street, where you head east again until you reach 100th Avenue Northeast, where you head south.
Stay on the road, which changes names twice as it turns into 98th Avenue Northeast. It leads you past the bright, pastel-colored Juanita Village, a distinctive new development of condominiums that was controversial before being built, but which is now beginning to thrive. Construction on the second phase of the village is already beginning.
If you feel like a coffee or peeking into the village a little more, you can head for the Starbucks, which has a distinctive dome and seems to be a social hub for the new development. Some pubs and restaurants are also scattered around this area. The road then winds back to Juanita Drive, where you head west back to the park entrance.
For the shorter 2-mile walk, simply stay on 124th Street from 93rd Avenue until you reach 100th Avenue.
Secret tip: Bring your bathing suit, and take a dip after the walk. Halfway around the boardwalk is a floating pontoon where the water is deeper and likely cleaner than at the shore, where it can sometimes be polluted.
Lunch: Before you return to your car or the bus, you can try the Spud fish-and-chip shop on Juanita Drive right across from the park entrance. An old-school joint that has been a local favorite for decades, Spud offers a range of deep-fried seafood and other snacks — even deep-fried artichoke hearts. It may not appeal to the health conscious, but it sure tastes good and you have probably earned a little grease from all that walking. You can console yourself by remembering that the restaurant uses vegetable oil and fries that include nutritious potato skins.
Access: The walk is mainly along sidewalks that are accessible for most people. The beach and boardwalk portions could prove difficult for those in wheelchairs. King County has maps and more information about this walk and other city walks on its Web site.
Parking/bus routes: There is free parking at Juanita Beach Park. Spots can get scarce on hot weekend days and it's good to get there early. Metro buses that stop at the intersection of Juanita Drive and 98th Avenue include Routes 255 and 260 from downtown Seattle; 277 from the University District; 935 from the Kingsgate Park & Ride; and 234 from Bellevue and Kenmore.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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