Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hiking Around Seattle - the Cheshiahud Trail










Hiking Around Lake Union on the Cheshiahud Loop

 Border Collies Tim and Hank at Gas Works Park, Seattle
We recently explored the Cheshiahud Loop, a dog-friendly urban trail in the heart of Seattle that many people don't know about.  In fact, despite living in the Seattle area for many years, I had never heard about it until recently.  This is an urban hike along some busy city streets and Seattle does have a leash law, so this is definitely NOT recommended as an off-leash hike.

So where did the name Cheshiahud come from? 

I was wondering that myself, so did some research.  The trail was named in honor of  Lake John Cheshiahud, also known as "old Tom" of the Duwamish tribe.  He and his wife, Madeline and their family lived on the shores of Lake Union, one of the few native Americans who remained in Seattle after 1860 instead of moving to a reservation.
Lake John Cheshiahud, aka 'Old Tom' and his wife Madeline, Portage Bay Seattle c1904
Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Public Domain

Where to access the Cheshiadud Trail?

Since the trail circles Lake Union you can start at any point along the six mile route.  Since there is a large parking lot at Gas Works park, we decided to start there.  




Gas Works Park

Although the parking lot at Gas Works Park is large, it is a very popular park, and the lot can be overflowing by afternoon.  My recommendation is to get an early morning start to make sure of finding a spot.
Gas Works Park -  Seattle WA
Gas Work Park is so named because it is the site of the old Seattle Gas Light Company gas plant that converted coal to gas.  The plant was in operation from 1906 to 1956.  After the gas company shut down, the site was acquired by the City of Seattle in 1962, but it was over a decade later before it was opened to the public as a park in 1975.  Many of the components of the old gas plant were preserved in the design which makes it not only a very unique looking park but is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Burke-Gilman Trail

North Lake Union - Seattle, WA
Although we could have started out our hike going in either direction, we opted to go east along the Burke-Gilman trail.  Since the Burke-Gilman trail is heavily used by bicyclists and runners we opted for the safety of the sidewalk that parallels the trail.  The trail can be a collision hazard to a pedestrian, especially one walking with two dogs.  The bicycles tend to sneak up silently from behind and then pass within inches as they zoom along the trail.  If you or your dog were to unknowingly move into their path, it wouldn't be pretty.


Underneath the University Bridge - "The Wall of Death"  

Art Under the University Bridge
After about a half a mile we arrived at the University Bridge with an interesting (weird?) piece of public art.  An ironic display from the standpoint of my earlier comment about the potential for collisions on the Burke-Gilman Trail, but was actually inspired by the "Wall of Death" motorcycle stunt rings that were popular in the 1920s and 1930s,

Crossing University Bridge - Seattle, WA
We climbed a stairway to utilize the pedestrian sidewalk on the University Bridge to cross the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  A word of caution for people crossing the bridge with their canine companion:  The bridge does shake some when a large, heavy vehicle like a bus or truck passes and it is a drawbridge, so where where the bridge opens there are a couple of areas of metal where where you can see down to the water below. My border collie, Hank, tends to get a little apprehensive crossing those types of surfaces.  He crossed over it fine, but I could tell that it made him somewhat uneasy.

Boats on Lake Union
The Lake Washington Ship Canal and Lake Union are popular locations for rowing crews to practice.  A public launch area can be seen at South Passage Point Park on the opposite shore under the I-5 bridge.

South Passage Point Park - Seattle Washington
After crossing the bridge we turned to the right and passed the South Passage Point Park and stopped for a few minutes to watch the crews launching their boats and have a drink of water.  Despite the fact that you are traveling along the shore of a lake, dogs are not allowed in the water at any of the numerous small parks,so I consider this is a dry hike. Be sure to bring water for both yourself and your dog.


Lake Union Houseboats

Lake Union Houseboats - Seattle Washington
After the short break at South Passage Point Park, we proceeded south along lake and soon our first glimpse of some Lake Union houseboats, made famous in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle.


A Pocket Park on Lake Union Seattle
This is one of several little pocket parks all along the east shore of the lake providing plenty of places to stop, take a break and enjoy the views.

Houseboats on the east side of Lake Union - Seattle
All along the east side of the lake are views of more houseboats and the entrances of the docks leading to the homes.  There are about 500 houseboats in Seattle and although they are currently considered very desirable upscale homes, it was not always so.    Watch the video below to learn more about the history of Seattle's houseboats.




Why are there fences around the trees?


Screens Protecting Trees from Beavers Around Lake Union
If you take this hike and wonder why all of the trees along the lake have fences around them, it is to protect them from beaver damage.  Yes, there really still are beavers in this lake that is surrounded by urbanization.

The Seattle Steam Plant


The Old Seattle Steam Plant - now Zymogenetics
As we walked further south, the lake takes on a more industrialized character with shipyards and the historic old Seattle Steam Plant building.  It is now home to ZymoGenetics, a biotech company acquired by pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2010.


In front of the old steam plant the trail becomes a foot bridge alongside, but separate from, busy Fairview Avenue.

Bridges are Scary for Hank the Border Collie
 As you can see from his splayed paws, this was a little scary for Hank and may be for other dogs as well.

The Center for Wooden Boats

The southeast corner of the lake features an area with several restaurants and as we turn the corner and start heading west we passed the Center for Wooden Boats.



The Center for Wooden Boats - Seattle
The Center for Wooden Boats celebrates the Seattle area's seafaring history with a collection of historic boats, tools and the opportunity for the hands-on experience of using them.  Lessons, boats for rent and free sailing voyages on Lake Union on Sundays are some of the main attractions.


Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) - Seattle

Next to the Center of Wooden boats is the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), full of exhibits from Seattle's history.  It could be considered the Smithsonian Museum of Seattle.

Lake Union Park


South Lake Union Park - Seattle Washington

At the southern-most tip of the lake next to MOHAI is Lake Union Park, a pleasant plaza with lawn, plantings and an elevated pool that is used to sail miniature sailboats.  At this point we have completed about 3 miles and are at are at the half-way point on our trip around the lake. Gas Works park can be seen almost directly across the lake to the north.

Kenmore Air Floatplanes


Kenmore Air Floatplanes on Lake Union
Lake Union Park is also a great place to watch seaplanes take-off and land on the lake.  Kenmore Air offers flights to and from numerous Pacific Northwest destinations from their dock near the southwest corner of Lake Union.

Old Railbed On the Cheshiahud Loop Trail around Lake Union
As we continue traveling north along the west side of the lake, the trail includes sections that still have the old railroad ties and rails.




The west side of the lake also has views of several docks with houseboats.

Welcome to Fremont - Center of the Universe



Fremont Bridge Seattle, WA
After traveling north along the west side of the lake, we climb a flight of stairs up to the sidewalk and are only a colorful bridge crossing away from "Fremont, Center of the Universe."  The Fremont neighborhood is popular because it is the most artsy and bohemian area of the city.

"Waiting for the Interurban" - Fremont, Seattle
After crossing the bridge is a view of one of Fremont's most frequently photographed public sculptures, "Waiting for the Interurban".   Under darkness of night, locals dress the figures in funny clothes or in celebration of local events.

In Memory of JP Patches - Fremont - Seattle
Another sculpture we saw along our way is named "Late for the Interurban" and was created to honor JP Patches, a clown character portrayed by Chris Wedes.  Along with Gertrude, the other figure represented in the statue, JP entertained two generations of Seattle area kids from 1958 to 1981 on his beloved local children's TV program, the JP Patches Show.   He continued to make public appearances, especially to support local charities until 2011, when he retired about a year before his death in 2012 at the age of 84.  The sculpture was installed in 2008

Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle Washington

We turned right at the next street and circle back around passing underneath the Fremont Bridge to rejoin the Burke-Gilman Trail


Path on the west side of Gas Works Park - Seattle, WA

We walk another half mile or so, and soon are on a gravel path leading back to Gas Works Park.

Border Collies, Tim and Hank at the Gas Works Park Parking Lot
We arrived back to the parking lot at Gas Works Park about 3 hours after we began our hike around Lake Union on the Chesiahud Loop.  If you would like more details about the route, the Seattle Parks department has a printable map and more information about the Chesiahud Trail on their website.

If you are interested in more walks and hikes around Seattle, I recommend City Walks: Seattle 50 Adventures on Foot, by Ingrid Emerick.  Although it was written in 2009 and could use an update, I like the handy card system that allows you to pick a hike and take the card with a map of the route, and points of interest along with you.


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