One Foot in Front of the Other

Spring is putting out feelers in Seattle.

Certainly, there will be rainy bouts of winter’s revenge pretty much until summer, but it’s nice to be reminded that, at least by the sun’s standards, spring starts on Saturday, March 20. Who are we to argue with the sun?

Seattle’s cherry trees got the memo. Many are blossoming all pretty and pink and white in parks and neighborhoods around town. Admiring cherry blossoms on the Quad at the University of Washington is a springtime salve for many Seattleites, but with UW warding visitors away due to COVID-19, consider a walk with more room for social distancing.

Lake Washington Boulevard fits the bill. No matter the forecast, this long, flat lakefront walk from Colman Beach to Seward Park is a delight. There are views across the water to Mercer Island, the Eastside and the mountains beyond, plus ducks and beaches and docks, hidden treasures, soon-to-bloom flowers and a cluster of lovely South End green spaces capped off by preeminent Seward Park.

Grab a (rain)coat (it’s chilly by the lake), a buddy and a mask and get out there — you know the drill.

Colman Beach to Seward Park

Round-trip distance: 6.4 miles

In Mount Baker, Lake Washington Boulevard South snakes through hunter-green Colman Park in trademark Olmsted Brothers fashion down to Colman Beach, where there’s a small parking lot. At the water’s edge, just north of the beach itself, there’s a large tree with bulging, mangled bark warts.

Hopefully soon, the tree will bloom and extend shade over a bench sculpted out of a boulder that rests between the tree’s roots and the water. There’s a dedication carved into the smooth back of the bench: “The art of living is always to make something good out of something bad.” Sit with that.

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The panorama extends across Lake Washington to high-rises in Bellevue and snowy peaks beyond the city in all directions; to Mercer Island right across the water; and to the huddle of evergreens on the Seward Park peninsula, jutting into the lake.

Start south on the concrete path that parallels Lake Washington Boulevard, where cyclists and cars zip by year-round. If you don’t mind a bit of mud, there’s a reliable dirt trail down the embankment that runs closer to the water, providing some foot-traffic relief. That route runs the entirety of Lake Washington Boulevard Park, south through Mount Baker Beach to Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center.

Much of the foliage on this walk is just thinking about blooming as of this report — watching the journey change from week to week this spring will be a treat.

About a half-mile north of the rowing center, there’s a ceramic, quadruple-amputee woman who sits on the rocks by the water just off the dirt path. Her faceless head looks like a peeled-and-cored apple and her ankles would be soaked if she had legs. A bough of holly sits in her lap. I watch scary movies, so I didn’t touch the shrine and I didn’t wait for it to get dark to skedaddle.

Genesee Park and Playfield bumps up against the rowing center to the south across Lake Washington Boulevard. Look out for a few cherry blossoms in the meadow of that park, which has trails that meander south toward Columbia City. Keep an eye on backyards for blossoms peeking over and around rooftops along this walk, too.

The dirt path disappears at this point in our southbound journey, but the concrete path that mirrors Lake Washington Boulevard continues right along the waterfront. The lake views here never get old.

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Lake Washington Beach at 50th Avenue South is the midway point of the southward march; rest a moment here, about 1.5 miles from Seward Park. In addition to the beach, there’s a picnic table (judging by my recent walks, a popular spot for low-risk pandemic dates) and a couple of benches, also dedicated: one to a lifelong lifeguard — “still on duty” — and another advising visitors to “enjoy every sandwich.” (My 11th grade English teacher, Mr. Friedman, always used to say this.)

The boats at Lakewood Moorage mark the start of the homestretch. Rounding the corner at the small marina brings Seward Park into full view, where a few larger boats (or ships, or yachts — no offense intended, boat people) often idle offshore in Andrews Bay. Lake Washington Boulevard Trail hugs the shoreline here, with a few benches plopped down in the grass as you work your way toward Seward Park.

Rounding the corner toward the park doesn’t pack too heavy of a punch right now. But as spring settles in and evolves in the Seattle area, the final stretch will only get more beautiful. As of this report, about a half-dozen cherry trees in bloom greet walkers at the entrance to Seward Park — a string of trees at various stages of blossoming, from saplings with a few buds trying to unfurl to full roseate grandeur.

Of course, if 6-plus miles sounds like, well, a walk in the park, you can significantly extend your walk in gorgeous Seward Park — but it’s typically packed, there’s construction going on right now, and Lake Washington Boulevard has plenty of charm on its own. Turn yourself around for the 3.2-mile walk north to Colman Beach, and keep on the lookout for Easter eggs you might’ve missed on the walk south.

Don’t feed the waterfowl, and don’t disturb the Limbless Lady.