Janice Podsada (left), Andrea Brown (center) and Sue Misao explore Everett. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Janice Podsada (left), Andrea Brown (center) and Sue Misao explore Everett. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Not all who wander are lost, but we definitely were and are

The pandemic freed us from our desks and opened our eyes to the Everett around us.

As journalists, we chase the story.

As walkers, the stories find us. There’s a new one around every corner of Everett.

The virus closed our office and the gyms, not like we went daily anyway, so we find another way to get our steps in.

Our feet take us places we would never go.

We troll alleys. We peer through windows. We probably trespass.

We make friends: Big Red the chicken, Rockwell the artist and Alfred, a half-naked man.

With our daily routines erased, we gain a new appreciation of what’s so easy to take for granted.

A man watering his lawn obliges us with a cool spray. A passing car radio lends us some music for a curbside dance.

We spy a 12-foot gold Statue of Liberty on a deck and a weed growing through cracks in the sidewalk ominously shaped like a coronavirus.

There’s beauty in the graffiti at Howarth Park and sorrow at a memorial cross near Depot Park for a homeless woman who was slain.

Passing the jail, we feel gratitude at being on the outside instead of the inside.

Sue leads the way — she says Janice and Andrea walk too slow. She never says hurry up. She just gets that look on her face.

Sue leads the way through the Everett Golf & Country Club. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Sue leads the way through the Everett Golf & Country Club. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

B.C. strolls on the Green Mile

The walks started in the spring of 2019 as a 20-minute midday break to escape the office.

Bored with circling the parking lot, we embark on the nearby Interurban Trail, a stretch we dub The Green Mile. The secluded trail is a bit sketchy, but surrounded by greenery so also pleasant.

The chirping of birds replaces the drone of the police scanner.

At times we step over empty vodka bottles, candy wrappers and uninhabited underwear.

We come across shirtless and amply tattooed Alfred standing by his shopping cart piled with belongings. Unlike the joggers and bikers who zip by us without a word, Alfred is delighted to chat with us.

Farther down the trail, Sue wants a leaf from a skunk cabbage plant, but not badly enough to get her shoes wet. She coaxes Janice to walk through the swampy brush to fetch one. Janice, always the good soldier, bravely plucks a leaf nearly as big as her.

We parade back to the office to present it to Julia-Grace Sanders, a reporter who’d written a story about marauding bears and their love for the first tender shoots of skunk cabbage. About to be married, we give her the leaf as a wedding present. Her reaction — surprise, bewilderment — says it all. Skunk cabbage isn’t on her gift registry.

All this happens B.C. — Before COVID.

Herald reporter Julia-Grace Sanders appears to appreciate the gift of a giant leaf in 2019. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Herald reporter Julia-Grace Sanders appears to appreciate the gift of a giant leaf in 2019. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Pandemic changes

The virus outbreak halts life as we know it. We are scared to leave our homes, trapped by fear and by age that puts us at-risk to die.

A month after the plague bans us from the building, we meet up outside the Herald offices for a trail walk reunion. It’s a much-needed dose of normalcy, even masked up and walking six feet apart.

Why stop? We began meeting up one or two times a week.

With no time clock or editor to punch, we leave the Green Mile path.

The walks extend into long adventures through Everett and beyond in the heat. Feet aching, masks itching, it feels good.

Janice counts steps on her phone. Andrea plays the Chicken Dance when the going gets rough. Sue forges ahead.

Some days we have a destination, most days we do not. As the graffiti on the Howarth Park rock says: “Not all who wander are lost.”

In April, many businesses are closed. We press our faces into windows of dark storefronts. We peek over fences.

The streets stay busy. We strain to hear each other talk behind masks over the din of traffic.

After about 14,000 steps, we part ways.

That time Janice wanted to see the freeway up close and personal. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

That time Janice wanted to see the freeway up close and personal. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Ben and Phil

This walk in June is four miles to stand in front of executive editor Phil O’Connor’s house and yell his name.

He doesn’t come out of his manicured Craftsman home.

We text him. No response.

He later says he would have served us lemonade had he known we were there.

Uh-huh.

Truth is, Phil is an afterthought. His house just happens to be on our course this day through the side streets of the north end of Everett.

We see bungalows, purple houses, apartment buildings and mansions, sometimes all within a tree-lined block.

The architecture is a contrast to the cookie-cutterdom of the suburbs. Each street is different, the rectangular blocks a part of history by builders of diverse heritages. Every house has a story, and walking by with fresh eyes we can imagine it. Seeing new sights we are like tourists traveling foreign lands.

Or so we pretend, since we can’t go anywhere.

Another day’s walk takes us to see Sue’s workplace nemesis, reporter Ben Watanabe, east of Broadway. He rents a house with other millennial hipsters. The brick home is much bigger and nicer than we envision the likes of Ben living in. It has an arched porch and the lawn is mowed.

Ben greets us wearing a pink sweatshirt of Molly Burch, an Austin singer-songwriter we’ve never heard of. Her music spins from the turntable, a pleasant vibe after walking noisy Broadway.

Unlike Phil, Ben does not disappoint. He brings out a tray with a pitcher of delicious cold water. He serves Sue first.

We are still waiting for Phil to bring us lemonade.

Ben greets us wearing a pink sweatshirt with the logo of his favorite girl band. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Ben greets us wearing a pink sweatshirt with the logo of his favorite girl band. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Sheep and Waldo

Sue decides we need a destination: Forgotten Creek Trail.

We trek through Rucker Hill, past the Twin Peaks house, and get sidetracked in the hilly roundabout streets where kids ride bikes and kick balls. If only Janice had her unicycle, she would have fit right in.

Sue says if she doesn’t take the lead, Andrea and Janice will literally stand in one spot for entire whole minutes not moving at all. Andrea has a tendency to stray away to chat up strangers.

Forgotten Creek Trail. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Forgotten Creek Trail. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Eventually, with Sue’s prodding, we are on Forgotten Creek Trail, a 10-minute jaunt through a tranquil forest. The hidden trail starts on Kromer Street across from the Providence Pavilion for Women & Children. The end is at Depot Park on Bond Street, where the body of Shannon Yeager was found in 2017, beaten and stabbed. A cross decorated with flowers stands in her memory. She was 46 and the mother of a teenage son.

We wind up at the Soundview Bar & Grill, a legendary dive and Ben’s favorite hangout. He has told Sue he better never see her there, so she is naturally delighted to have finally found it. “I’m never leaving here,” she says.

We are the only people in the bar wearing masks. A patron calls us “good little sheep.”

It is nice to get noticed. Usually we are invisible. Just three AARP-card-carrying ladies on a walk.

Deluxe outdoor seating at the Soundview Tavern. (Sue Misao/ The Herald)

Deluxe outdoor seating at the Soundview Tavern. (Sue Misao/ The Herald)

The next few walks in July are wanton meanderings.

A stroll along Hoyt Avenue leads to an impromptu tour of a Schack Art Center exhibit. Rounding the corner at Colby, a man paints a colorful mural.

We duck into the Funko headquarters store so Andrea can get a gift for her granddaughter.

“Do you have ‘Where’s Waldo?’” she asks.

The wry clerk says, “Yes, but you have to find him.”

At an indoor flea market, Sue buys a ’60s psychedelic silk tie on a whim.

Harlan & Bridget

On a muggy August afternoon we explore an area we’ve seen as a blur so many times while driving on I-5. Turns out this Hewitt-Pacific avenue corridor is a bounty of off-the-beaten-path commerce.

We dilly-dally at the Smart Foodservice (formerly Cash & Carry) Warehouse on Cedar Street. Hundreds of bottles of flavored syrups line an aisle. An end-cap has the world’s largest bags of sugar.

At Co-op Supply, a farm supply and animal feed store since 1939, Janice educates us about bully sticks in the dog chew treats aisle.

Cooked and dried, it’s a three-foot pepperoni stick, without the pepperoni: These are made from bulls’ private parts. At a previous reporting gig, Janice wrote about a Connecticut salami factory that made dog food and bully sticks, on the sly, breaking state rules.

We pass a bistro, home decor store, reptile shop, helium factory and barbecue shack. All are open, a contrast to April with so many dark windows.

We pose in front of a coffee stand boasting “good food and hot women.”

We are pretty hot, but not like those gals.

From left, Janice Podsada, Sue Misao and Andrea Brown at Beverly Lake in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

From left, Janice Podsada, Sue Misao and Andrea Brown at Beverly Lake in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Our latest walk takes us to the congested madness of Evergreen Way. The Safeway-Starbucks-Wells Fargo corner at 75th Street SE has got to be one of the scariest intersections to cross on foot. With us on this occasion are Janice’s two senior dogs — Harlan, a peppy rat-terrier, and Bridget, a pokey, big-eared Corgi-mix — so there are 14 paws among us scrambling the harrowing crosswalk.

Unexpected beauty awaits a mere block away. Hidden from view, unless you live in surrounding housing or are nosy like us, is this huge body of pristine water.

Beverly Lake has lily pads, ducks, docks, a fountain and an island in the middle. A man fishes in a rowboat.

We walk behind a condo complex called Boardwalk to get a better view. Next to it is Park Place.

Harlan and Bridget make many yappy friends along the way.

By now, the three of us combined have walked 1 million steps since April. Our journey has just begun.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown

Janice Podsada: jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097. Twitter @JanicePods

Sue Misao: smisao@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3209. Twitter @suemisao

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