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Seattle has many options for a walkabout
Fit for Life columnist Nicole Tsong offers options for getting you off the beaten path and out for a nice long walk.
SEATTLE TURNED me into a walker. I moved here from Anchorage, where the winter weather drives the less than hardy indoors. I love Seattle's year-round temperate weather; walk 'n' talks quickly became my favorite way to move while catching up with friends.
Experts say walking is exceptionally good for you. All I know is it's easy on my joints and pocketbook. Fold in the lovely scenery that surrounds our fine city, and there's no excuse to stay inside.
But as easy as it is to walk in Seattle, I fall into walking ruts. I've memorized every curve of Green Lake; I know the hills above Fremont and Fremont Peak Park like the back of my hand. In the past couple of years, Seward Park has become my super-scenic hamster wheel.
If you can relate, it's time to mix things up. Expand — or create — a walking repertoire that goes beyond well-trod trails like Discovery Park and check out some cool vistas and other sights.
• The Other Lake Tour: Lake Union is bigger and more central than Green Lake, but for walkers/runners it is the Other Lake. Still, Lake Union can show up Green Lake any day with art, culture and history on the six-mile path. Route: Start at the Interurban sculpture at the corner of Fremont Avenue and North 34th Street. Follow the Burke-Gilman Trail east through Gas Works Park onto Northeast Pacific and Northeast 40th streets to Peace Park, where you can view "Sadako and the Thousand Cranes." Head south on the University Bridge to Fairview Avenue East; admire the houseboats. Round the southern edge of the lake, stopping at the Center for Wooden Boats before making your way back to Fremont via Westlake Avenue North.
• Scenic Stairs Tour: Madrona and Leschi boast views of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington — and a lot of stairs. The blog Seattle Stairways features a 1.7-mile stair walk that goes through the Madrona Woods and Leschi Natural Area, a hidden gem. Route: Start in downtown Madrona at East Spring Street and 35th Avenue. Head toward the lake down Spring Street, winding your way down via stairs and streets, heading north on 37th Avenue, east on East Union, south on 38th Avenue and Newport Way, then east again on Spring until you reach Lake Washington Boulevard. Head up more stairs in Madrona Woods across from the Madrona Bathhouse, or stay on Lake Washington Boulevard. Head up the hill at East Terrace Street; Leschi Natural Area is at the top of the stairs. Return to downtown Madrona north on 36th Avenue, west on East Cherry Street, and north again on 35th Avenue. For a more detailed, stair-heavy walk, see http://seattlestairways.blogspot.com/2010/02/stairway-walk-4-madronaleschi.html.
• Stairs to the Summit: For an honest, sweaty workout, you could huff up and down Queen Anne Hill. For a stairs option, cross Queen Anne east to west. Route: At Westlake Avenue North and Galer Street, head west on Galer. You'll pass the old Queen Anne High School, the TV towers, and the highest point of Queen Anne while traversing stairs. The route (and stairs) ends at Ninth Avenue West.
• Mercer Slough: Try this Bellevue classic. The Mercer Slough is 320 acres of wetlands right off Interstate 90. Route: Start at the Winters House off Bellevue Way Southeast and do a wide loop around the entire slough on the paved Periphery Trail, or walk along the trails crisscrossing the center of the slough. With five miles at your disposal, it's the perfect dose of Eastside calm.