A trail grows in Seattle

  • By John Lindstrom / Special to The Herald
  • Friday, April 14, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The sign posted along the new Sammamish Trail reads, “No tresspassing. Violaters will be executed!”

Such vehemence seems to indicate that some local residents are still bitter about their defeat when they attempted to block the trail that runs from Redmond to Issaquah along the east bank of Lake Sammamish.

In the final million-dollar battle in the courts, King County prevailed, winning the right to convert the abandoned railroad grade into a public path.

The trail was completed about a month ago. It’s not paved, but the surface is relatively smooth, consisting of small gravel, entirely suitable for mountain bikes or “cross bikes” with wider tires.

I doubt you will meet any speedsters training for the famous STP ride on their thin-tired road bikes.

Last week, I decided to explore this intriguing route.

The Burke-Gilman-Sammamish River Trail now goes all the way from Shilshole Bay to Marymoor Park in Redmond.

This new trail tacks on nine miles as a southern extension.

I parked conveniently at the extreme east end of Marymoor Park, for a $1 fee, and rode east on 65th Street for about three blocks to meet the trail.

At first the route has a wilderness feeling, running next to Marymoor Park and swampy bogs filled with cottonwood trees. The busy east Sammamish Lake Parkway is always to your left (east).

Shortly, you enter a continuous zone I would describe as architectural or historical, with small stretches of open space. Some funky old neighborhoods still survive, dating from the 1950s and ’60s. However, you will mostly encounter much newer development, recently completed or still under construction.

None of these newer homes is part of any subdivision or platted development, because the strip of land between the trail and the lake’s edge is too narrow. Because of that, numerous architectural styles are showcased, providing great variety. These styles range from “faux rustic” to “Mediterranean palatial,” with many homes worth more than $1 million, even though they are crammed onto small waterfront lots.

In effect, the new trail establishes an intimate nine-mile-long “home tour”; you feel as if you’re riding down a long alley, with homes on both sides, flanked by beautiful landscaping, elaborate boating docks and interesting fences.

This proximity is what caused the big battle: Local residents have lost some of their privacy. However, they are protected by unobtrusive black chain link fences, with locking gates, and rows of trees and shrubs.

The first “local” I encountered was repairing his mailbox, whose destruction he blamed on the new trail.

He was anticipating a wave of theft, prowling and noise as the summer crowds begin to flock to the trail.

Two women, one pushing a baby carriage, expressed the opposite sentiment. One said, “It’s great! I can jog and walk right from my home … it’s safe and away from the road.”

Of course, everyone I met who didn’t reside directly on the trail thought it was wonderful.

Once I reached Issaquah, I ate lunch at Gilman Village, the quaintest place you’ll ever find, with several small eateries and shops sitting beside Issaquah Creek.

Heading back to Redmond, I faced a moderate headwind coming off the lake. In fair weather, a north wind will be the usual. The trail is essentially dead-flat level, making for easy work, but it will probably take longer going back to Redmond.

There are maybe 100 driveways and road crossings, most of which require vehicles to yield and give bikers and walkers the right-of-way. Trail users will encounter stop signs or traffic lights at a few crossings.

Although my ride was essentially unimpeded, it remains to be seen how much riders will be slowed down on a busy, sunny July day. Considering that gravel is slower than pavement, I’d allot at least four hours for a round trip, including a stop for lunch and time for photography.

John Lindstrom is an Everett photographer, freelance writer and avid bicyclist.

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