Friday, August 27, 2010

A Different Perspective

Welcome to my neighborhood, Alki Beach, located at the north end of West Seattle. It is a wonderful place to live, just minutes from downtown Seattle, yet offering the relaxed atmosphere of a beach community. Nearly every day, weather permitting, I walk along the beach and enjoy the ever changing views of sky, water, islands and mountains. Sunny, stormy, placid, moody, always dramatic - I never get tired of the remarkable scenery here.
This is the view from here: the bike path and walking trail in the foreground; the waters of Puget Sound just past the beach; beyond that you see Bainbridge Island; and above it all, the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. If you look closely, you can see a white Washington state ferry in the distance, making the crossing between Bainbridge and downtown Seattle.
I watch these ferries go by every day and pretty much take them for granted. I realized the other day that it had been years since I'd been on one. I decided it was high time to take a little day trip and get a different view of my neighborhood and city - a view from the water.

On Tuesday, I left my house around noon, headed for Coleman Dock in downtown Seattle, hoping to catch the 1:10 boat to Bainbridge. I was surprised and delighted to find that on a sunny, August day, during the height of tourist season, there were short lines at the terminal. I bought my ticket, took my place in the loading area and within a few minutes I was on board and underway.
This ferry, the Tacoma, is one of the largest in the Washington state ferry fleet. It can carry up to 2500 passengers and 200 vehicles. It dwarfs everything else on the water, except for the jumbo cruise ships that operate in summer, carrying passengers to Alaska. It takes about 30 minutes to make the crossing to Bainbridge, which leaves plenty of time to get out of the car and go upstairs to the observation decks for a look around.
There's no better way to view the waterfront than from, well, the waterfront. Here's part of that sweeping view, looking north. You can see the Space Needle in the distance.
Looking even further north, on a very clear day like this, you can see Mt. Baker. This mountain which is part of the Cascade range, is located near the Canadian border.

Arriving at Bainbridge Island, the ferry docks in the little town of Winslow. I got off and headed into the picturesque downtown area to look around and get some lunch.

[Afterward, I stopped at Eagle Harbor Books and bought a copy of their paperback, "From Bad to Verse: Celebrating Three Years of Bainbridge Island Limericks." This book is a compilation of limericks that have been winners in an annual contest sponsored by the bookstore. Being a lover of limericks myself, I had to have a copy. And after sharing the story of my 50th birthday limerick party with members of the bookstore staff, I was encouraged to enter next year's contest. Woohoo! What fun.]

From there, it was back to the car to go check out the views from the southern tip of the island. I have been to the north end many times, mostly to visit Bloedel Reserve, an extraordinary public garden. But this time, I wanted to see my neighborhood from the point of view of being across the water from my daily walks. I left Winslow, and having forgotten to bring a map, I figured I'd just turn left (south) and somehow find my way. And so I did, winding through miles of woods, acres of green, cool and soothing on a hot day. When I came, literally, to the end of the road, I found what I came for -- the view was stunning!
To the left, I could see the low outline of West Seattle. To the right, Blake Island. And straight ahead, in all her glory, magnificent Mt. Rainier. On a different day, I would expect to see West Seattle and Blake Island, but the mountain is elusive. We can go days, often weeks, without a view of it because of weather conditions. Although I've seen Rainier hundreds of times, it is surprisingly easy to forget how big, and how majestic, it is. So when, as we say around here, "the mountain is out," we locals can be just as awestruck as people seeing it for the first time. I stood for a while, taking it all in, feeling like one of the luckiest people on the planet: grateful for the day, for the view, for being in the Northwest and for having the opportunity to hop on a ferry and have this experience. At last, my eyes were full and it was time to head back to the ferry for the trip home.

I arrived at the terminal around 4:30 and again had just a short wait to board. As we are approaching autumn, the days are shorter and the light in late afternoon makes for good photography, so once we were underway, I went up top for more views and photo opportunities.
In a few minutes, we were alongside my Alki Beach neighborhood, the very top of Mt. Rainier visible above the bluff. Nearly every day, from somewhere along that stretch of beach, I look out and see a ferry. On this day, I'm riding a ferry, looking back the other way.
Moments later, we were back in downtown Seattle. Passengers disembarked and we all went our separate ways. As I drove along the beach on my way home, I looked back across the water at the island I'd just left. My splendid, unhurried little getaway had only taken a few hours. But it gave me a fresh perspective on the geography surrounding my neighborhood. As a bonus, I am sure I will never forget the view from the southern tip of Bainbridge Island.

Related post:

An R-Rated Botanical Limerick