This Saturday, when all my smart instincts said I should be out on my 24” training for the CA Muni Weekend, Mother Nature vetoed my plans. Mostly sunny, cool temp, nice breeze…it was that one day you get each year if you live in a seasonal climate that just “feels” like the first day of autumn. How could I spend it pedaling around in the woods, all but obscured from the sun and wind? It had to be the 36-er and the open air.
I chose the Sammamish River Trail, which—aptly—follows the Sammamish River, connecting Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington east of Seattle. If you look at a map of the Seattle area, Lake Washington is the really big lake that runs north-south just east of the city, and Lake Sammamish is the smaller lake—also north-south—a few miles further east. Lake Washington is connected to Puget Sound, and Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As a result, both lakes are key members of our local salmon eco system, and in the fall, the slow-moving Sammamish River fills with salmon returning from the Pacific to spawn in the creeks that feed into Lake Sammamish. But I digress…
The salmon aren’t here yet, so on this day the action was all on the trail. It’s flat, super-smooth, fast, and wide-enough to accommodate easy passing. Multi-use brings lots of bikers, in-line skaters, walkers, even the occasional equestrian off to the side. I started at Marymoor Park on the north end of Lake Sammamish. I had originally been thinking a 12 miler, with an easy pedal down the river, a nice snack and ale at the Redhook Brewery, then a somewhat less-easy pedal (the ale…) back to Marymoor. That’s what I packed for, both in food and in water. As I pedaled along, however, I started thinking about the salmon, and their annual journey through this small passageway. Wouldn’t it be fun to ride the entire passage and go from one lake to the other and back? Yes it would. It can’t be that much further, I thought, so I pedaled right past my intended turnaround point without slowing down. This decision changed my 12 mile ride to a 26 mile ride, although I wouldn’t realize that until I finally reached Lake Washington and found a turnaround point at Log Boom Park.
Still, it turned out to be a good decision, as most of the action happened during this extended part of the ride. There were a couple of cool old wooden footbridges across the river. There were big old banana slugs straying out onto the path, making for quick swerve opportunities and the occasional Squish. There were Great Blue Herons all over the place. I hopped off a couple times to get some pics, but they were visible all through the ride, wingspans well in excess of the 36 inches I had been thinking was cool transportation.
But the funniest wildlife was at the Log Boom Park turnaround. I stopped to rest, refill my camelpack, and nibble on what little food I brought. I was watching some folks over at a nearby picnic table, who seemed to be having a fight. As I looked closer, I realized that they were not fighting with each other, but rather were yelling at a duck. After a minute of this, they also started “shooing” the duck, and one lady actually got up and chased the thing for a good 10 meters cursing a blue streak as she went. Of course, I wondered what this all was about, but since she chased it over toward me, I soon found out. This duck was a total jerk! He was flockless, fearless, hungry, and totally aggressive. Apparently the lady that was cursing him had a couple minutes earlier been feeding him (what a cute little duck!). But when she stopped feeding him he started pecking at her ankle. She nudged him away and he came back, pecking at other ankles underneath the picnic table. Soon no one at the table could enjoy their lunch because they were, here it comes: being nibbled to death by ducks! Once the thing got over near me and saw I was eating something, he waddled right up between my feet. No way I was sharing even a crumb with 13 miles still to go, so he quickly started pecking at my ankles as well. Good thing I had shin and ankle protection on…I could laugh heartily in his little duck face. Then I took some pictures before leaving him to the next group of visitors.
The last, and maybe best, wildlife came on my return trip. I was spinning along at a good clip of 11mph or so, when I hear this whining noise behind me. Then a zing zing of a bicycle bell…”on your left”. Soon, a little old lady of about 75 passes me on her bicycle. Immaculately dressed, as if for church not a trail ride, she gives me a big smile and a friendly wave. “That sure looks harder than riding one of these!” she says. I was about to response with a “Yup, this one doesn’t have a granny gear”, but quickly thought better of it. She added a quick comment that her bike had a motor-assist, hence the noise. A final wave and she was gone, leaving me to laugh that not only had I been “chicked”, I had been “really old chicked”. Couldn’t ask for a better ending than that, or a better way to spend 9/11 than sharing freedom and sunshine with some fellow inhabitants of the planet. Total miles: 26; max 13.2 mph; average 10.6 mph, total pedal time 147 minutes.
Here’s a link to my photos from the day: http://gallery.unicyclist.com/album331
Here’s a link to the park system’s site for the trail: http://www.metrokc.gov/parks/trails/trails/burke.htm. As a point of reference for folks outside the Seattle area, if I had kept riding forward on this trail instead of turning around at Lake Washington, another 15 miles would have brought me to Gas Works Park, now famous for great trials riding in both Universe and Universe II. Very soon—maybe next week—I want to do the full trail end-to-end-to-end, for a 54 mile total. That allows breakfast and dinner in Seattle, and lunch at the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville.