Mara said she wanted to go on a hike at Carkeek Park today. Carkeek is a wonderful place. It’s a huge forested park north of Ballard that runs down a deep valley from the Greenwood/Holman area to the Puget Sound. It has everything your best Seattle parks have — playground and open fields, for example — but also a few things more. A railroad runs through it, for one thing. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks divide the main, upper part of the park from a sunny, sandy beach that looks across the sound toward the northern reaches of Bainbridge Island. For another thing…well, it has a sandy beach on a body of saltwater. There you go. And for a third thing, it has a network of kid-friendly trails, some actually quite steep, that traverse the ridges on both sides of the valley.
We go there a lot, usually spending some time at the playground, some time at the beach, and some time on the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, waiting for trains. You can see them up the coast as they round the corner at Everett, or down the coast coming out of Shilshole, and it’s very exciting for kids. I usually keep a close eye out while we’re at the beach, and when I see a train far off (actually you can kind of feel them in the ground from miles away), I give a holler and we all run for the bridge, where you can watch the train go right underneath you at top speed. The engineers know that this bridge is loaded up with train-loving tots, and they always wave and blow their horn. Some of Mara’s earliest memories will doubtless be of getting diesel exhaust up her nose and holding on to my legs as the big trains pass below.
We forewent the beach today and did a hike among the hills instead. Here are a few pictures of that woodland adventure, preceded by some other recent snaps I felt like posting.
Looking at that last image, it makes me realize that one of the best things about doing stuff with a kid is remembering how magical even the simplest things once seemed, and wondering when I first saw a certain kind of light strike a forest in just a certain way or smelled the damp fertility of the woodland duff. This time might be that time for her. She may not remember the place exactly, but the look and feel of it will become part of the canvas of her deep memory, a truth she’s always known.