Exploring: Burke-Gilman Trail

By Leslie Parks - Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I quickly open my eyes and then moan, rolling over and pulling up the blankets. My eyes are closed, my mind feels closed as well but we've plans and it doesn't involve staying in bed.  John rolls over and intertwines his legs with mine and throws his arms over my body. Good morning he whispers.  I groan and keep my eyes closed. If I stay here maybe the alarm hasn't woken me up. If I stay here, maybe just maybe my mind will wake up ready for the day but it isn't to be.  See we've planned on biking in Seattle.  There are trails close to home, in fact right here in our home town and the county just south has a great trail as well. However we've planned on a trail in Seattle.  I stumble into the shower and then downstairs for the desperately needed cup of coffee. A little real life is thrown into our morning with grumpy kids, arguing, discipline and some of that without grace. All have apologized and we are off to a family adventure with a stop for a new helmet and more bike locks. We are the type of family to drive 80 plus miles to bike 15 miles. Why? It doesn't make sense. We live in a beautiful area but we do crazy things. The five of us squish into the small extended cab of the truck with the bikes hanging over the edge of the bed on each side. We talk, we argue, we get on each other's nerves just to bike 15 miles. Am I stinking nuts? Maybe, quite possibly. We find our way to Golden Garden Park. It's right on the sound, with a sandy beach, compete with volleyball courts, a grassy area, a boat launch and public restrooms.  The last is probably the most important. This trail that we decided to ride goes all the way from the Sound to Redmond. I think that round trip it's 54 miles.  We being woefully out of bike shape could never make it that far. We haul the bikes out of the truck, grabbing helmets, water bottles, leaving jackets and after a pit stop we finally make it to the trail.  Except we really don't know where the trail is. We know the general direction and head that way until we stumble upon it. A quick stop because Isaac's chain has come off and we continue, We go past abandoned tracks, we go past graffiti fences, which Lona says is make-up for trains. We go past concrete buildings with beautiful flowers and rebar as a fence. We bike along the canal and a draw bridge that goes up and down until we get to the locks. Everyone calls them the Ballard Locks because they are in Ballard but they are actually called Hiram Chittendon Locks. I had taken the kids maybe four or five years ago here and have always wanted to come back.  We spend time watching the boats enter and exit the locks. The workers are harnessed in and toss lines after calling out instructions to each skipper. The boats range from yachts that cost more than our house to kyakers.  We could spend hours there just watching a marvel of modern engineering. We can only manipulate our created world. We see fish in the fish ladder but our stomachs are yelling at us, feed me. A stop in the visitors center is extremely helpful as I am given a bike map.  The trail merges with street traffic at this point and doesn't pick up as a designated trail for another mile, mile and a half. Right outside this the locks is a "world famous" fish and chips restaurant.  Job or Lona pointed out the irony of making a fish ladder to help the fish and now we are eating fish. Protect them so we can eat them. I guess that is how it works. We continue on only this time weaving through pedestrians and traffic until we come to Ballard Avenue where I want to spend time photographing the street, the people, the buildings but we are on a mission. We find the trail again and continue on past Gas Works Park, past the wall of death, and to the University of Washington. A couple of weeks ago, we drove past it and I wasn't impressed but upon riding through campus it is another story. The buildings look as if they are castles and they tower over the people with almost a haughty tone saying "this is a place of higher learning, only the most qualified are allowed here." The fountain at the center reminds me a little of ones I would find in Europe and the grounds are kept in beautiful shape. But we have more to see so onward and to the stadium where we look in, then around the stadium and onto the path once more.  Finally we decide at no particular place to stop for snacks.  The kids head of to a Circle K while John and I discuss continuing or turning back. We turn back. We've gone as far as we want. With the kids we discuss the trail, our favorite parts so far.  It's something we do, we recap what we've liked on all our outings and roadtrips. It gives me insight as to watch catches their minds. We turn around and ride with me bringing up the rear.  You see I want to stop and take photos, I want to take time to notice the little things and document them and riding Isaac's cheap piece of blah, I can pedal has hard as possible and still not keep up with them. So I take my time and enjoy the rode, jumping off my bike when something catches my eyes. We arrive back at the truck and the kids are clamoring for McDonalds.  I just can't do that and feel like pizza instead. Siri, where is the closet pizza place and we are given two different restaurants. I choose the snootiest sounding one and off we go.  Isaac doesn't want to walk in. He feels like we are under dressed in shorts and t shirts. We peak in the window and there are fine white table cloths and beautiful stemware on the tables. Yep, I think this is perfect. We walk in and are ushered to the patio area which I'm immediate love.  The floor is cobblestones not cement, there are velvet curtains, hop and grapevines growing over trellises, fountains running, small intimate wooden tables and wicker chairs. It is cozy and comfortable and we are not under dressed. We order pizza that sits lightly in our stomachs, a beer and a glass of wine and we are ready to drive 80 miles again to go home. We recap again the day, our favorite parts are the locks and the restaurant.  The surprises are Isaac losing a bike pedal, how absolutely terrible his bike is, the size of the restaurant, the number of people and variety of people on the trail. The wishes are to come back and stop and look around on Ballard Avenue, to go through the botanical garden by the locks, and to return to the restaurant that surprised us.

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