Me-Kwa-Mooks Park: West Seattle

It was the last day of my visit to Seattle. Younger daughter and I were walking down Beach Drive SW, on our daily exercise walk, looking for something interesting to see or do. She mentioned a park that we would soon be walking past that had some very nice features, and more of an old growth, untouched atmosphere. We decided to venture into Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.

This saying is credited to Chief Sealth, sometimes called Chief Seattle, for whom the city of Seattle is named. The Duwamish people were the original inhabitants of the park.

Me-Kwa-Mooks is an Indian name meaning “shaped like a bear’s head”. If you use your imagination, you might say that about the West Seattle peninsula, especially if you had a map or a good aerial view. The entrance to the park is on the east side of Beach Drive in a small clearing with several picnic tables. The trailhead is identified by a sign and several plaques that are covered with brush and barely legible. Like most other parts of West Seattle coastline, this park is located on uphill slopes that end with a rather steep climb up a bluff. It’s about 20 acres of heavily wooded, undeveloped land.

The trail is narrow and you have to hunt for it.

Undeveloped, perhaps, but there are trails and some evidence of work having been done on them. Someone had been pulling out piles of English ivy, an invasive plant, and there was an irrigation line visible along the path in places. But there was no signage, and some of the trails ended abruptly. Having been there before, younger daughter knew one trail led to another entrance farther down on Beach Drive. She also knew that there was a trail that led to the top of the bluff. That was the one we wanted.

This was a path that suddenly didn’t go anywhere.

The trail to the top, naturally, was the trail that kept going up in switchbacks, becoming steeper and less easily navigated. It eventually went straight up, a dirt path with no natural hand holds or places for feet to rest. But, lo, there was a hose – the flat, cloth covered kind – and it came from somewhere up above and held our weight, so we grabbed it and climbed. And just when the hose no longer followed the path, we saw a rope that finally helped us to the top.

Don’t know why this hose was there but it came in handy…
We could have used a longer rope.
This was our exit point. Wouldn’t your inner child just love to have a creepy hole like this to dive into?

The Wikipedia article about the park states that in 1994 a bunch of 4th and 5th graders from a local school helped make the park. That’s exactly the feel I got from our experience. It was a mythical, magical forest, perfect place for tree forts, treacherous paths, and dangling ropes leading to “who knows where”, a kid’s dream playground.

We made it to the top, mostly because there was no way we were going back down some of the places we had been. It was clearly not everyone’s “walk in the park” and I was a little surprised that it was accessible in this day of lawsuits and litigation. Risk was involved. We had fun, but I’m thinking most people take the other path. Just sayin’…

A Pretty, Long Walk – West Seattle

We didn’t walk very far on Sunday, but we made up for it today. We took Charlie with us. He is a curly haired Wheaton terrier who generally likes to go out for exercise.

Meet Charlie. Also notice the beautiful flowers.

The first hour was a city walk, past houses that face out to Puget Sound. As you might expect, they were on the expensive and extravagant side, but so interesting to look at. Built on the bluff with creative driveways and staircases, and landscaping that had me taking pictures every few minutes. We walked south from Alki and ended up at Lincoln Park. For us it was around 10,000 steps, for Charlie it was considerably more and he was thirsty. We were looking for a water bowl, which can commonly be found around fountains, since so many people are walking their dogs. Charlie found one.

Small gardens with joyous profusion
Gardens that probably have professional caretakers
Sidewalk gardens, purple lavender abounds…
Gardens with random wildflowers

Next we headed east through the park in the direction of California Avenue. It is the main business street that runs down the middle of the West Seattle peninsula. Our only stop was to buy water at a gas station, again sharing with Charlie who was beginning to act a bit tired. Our walk north toward home ended up going through Schmitz Park. It was like entering a different world.

I’ve written something about Schmitz Park every time I’ve visited Esther in Seattle because it has an access right behind her house. I ALWAYS visit this park. I’ve not been anyplace like it and consider it a magical, singular experience. It’s an old growth forest with trails following a large ravine from the top of the bluff, down to lower elevations near Alki and the beach. The trails are not fancy, not paved. There are no signs directing where to go. No railings on the steep portions. Click this link for more visuals of Schmitz Park.

The Hidden Forest

The forest and the ravine insulated us from the noise and heat from the city street. It was shady and dark, with the sounds of water flowing into the central stream. Many parts of the path were wet with cool mud and took some navigating. It must have felt good on Charlie’s paws. And 20 minutes later we were home, having done nearly 20,000 steps total. A good walk, I’d say.

Home again to Esther’s daisy garden

Walking on the 4th of July – Seattle

More important than what I saw, was the reality of seeing it with other people. We saw this together, and it was part of our relationship building. I love doing things with Esther and Ryan, on their home turf. We are blessed that we all love to walk, and can still do it.

West Seattle is its own little world, a peninsula really, with Elliot Bay on the west and north sides connecting with the Duwamish River on the east. At the coastline there is a highway around the peninsula, on the level with the beaches. This level holds only the highway and beach sidewalks on one side and a row of high rise buildings and homes on the other side. Behind the row of homes is a steep, tree covered bluff. There are homes built into the bluff and some very steep streets giving access to them. Then there is the top level of the peninsula that is high, with magnificent views in all directions. The main part of the town is on the top level and has some very exclusive residential areas.

Today we walked on the beach level around the west and north sides of West Seattle and then climbed up the bluff on a street called Fairmount. The Pacific Northwest rain forest vibe was strong on this upward climb. I was puffing my way up and using the excuse of taking pictures to rest and catch my breath.

Once on the top level we needed nourishment and stopped in for frozen yogurt. Once the brain freeze was wearing off we walked through some of the residential areas to catch views of the beautiful private gardens and Puget Sound. Here is a small part of our 15,000 steps.

The tide was out, exposing a lot of beach. Lots of people were out there looking for ? Ryan said the clam season had started, or maybe they were just looking for beach glass, or taking in that view.
Historic building at risk as high rise condos surround it. Can you imagine laying all those small stones? The door is only a paper picture – I’m not sure what the intent was.
Our climb up the bluff took us under a main road. I always find it a little scary to see understructure and realize how much we depend on it (and how seldom we think about it).
We earned our treat, and after all, it was a holiday.
Homes on the top of the bluff have views like this. Blackberries and blue sky…
Can you imagine having a redwood (I think that’s what it was) in your front yard?
We also found a “hobbit” tree with a secret door.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Alki Drive, post 7

Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.

A summer shot along the sea wall from Alki Beach.

West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter.  It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.

On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.

There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.

The bluff is not very high here. Another row of houses hanging on up top.

Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.

This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos.  Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.

Draw a circle around the one that is not like the others.

The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.



On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.


I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.

One of many eateries lined up along Alki Drive in the beach area.

And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park.  To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago.  This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.


Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Christmas in Seattle, post 3

My first day in Seattle was not rainy, not snowy, not even terribly cold.  The sun shone and Charlie and I took an afternoon walk on Alki Ave. and on a couple stairways up the bluff.  It was a whole different view from our highest point because there were no leaves on the trees. Puget Sound was beautiful and the Olympic mountains across the way were snow capped and rugged. It was not one of our longest walks but good for the first day.

Probably the most interesting thing of the day was a gift from youngest daughter. She gave me an electric jacket. Sounds dangerous? Apparently not. It is a carefully constructed down jacket with strategically placed heated areas. There is a lithium battery which gets connected to a wire in an inside pocket in the back.

My heated jacket, with battery (oh, and Charlie).

You can turn it on three different heat settings with a switch located inside the front opening. If it’s 35 degrees outside and you have the jacket on low setting, it will keep you toasty warm for six hours.

On/Off switch, cute.

Youngest daughter says it’s like wearing a soft heating pad on your shoulders, but of course it’s much more convenient and a bit more fashionable. It even has heated gloves that you can connect at the sleeves. The gloves have screen sensing fingertips so you don’t have to take them off to work your phone. Speaking of phones, you can also charge your phone with your jacket battery in a pocket especially for that. It has a hood. And the whole thing only weighs 1.59 pounds.

Glove attaches to the connector on the sleeve = nice warm fingers.

Youngest daughter has had a jacket like this for a while now, having seen it as a kickstarter project online.  If you are curious about the jacket or other products made by the company, you can find them at  They make a heated hoodie and a sleeping bag.  It feels great out here where it is 35 degrees. Now I’ll have to move somewhere colder than Florida so I can make good use of it.

A portion of my day was spent getting settled in my room. I love it when there is enough closet space for unpacking and hanging everything in the suitcase – no need for pawing around trying to find my wrinkled clothing. It has been an AirBnB room now for about a year and has had a good number of interesting guests staying in it. My daughter’s house, which she has named “Ocean’s Arms” is only a few blocks from Alki public beach and is in a neighborhood of small private homes and apartments, with coffee shops, eateries, finer restaurants and a couple nice parks. It is a good vacation spot with a very relaxing vibe, and if you have read any of my previous Seattle posts you know that there is no end to the captivating places to walk. Urban hiking at it’s finest.

The other venue for the day was Cafè Fiorè, Oganic Coffee House,  where youngest daughter does a lot of her thinking and writing. I can certainly enjoy being in the coffee shop and writing, and I did it, but I am also partial to sitting at home where I usually write and the coffee is cheaper.  It’s a pretty place with a fun loft looking out on an artistic chandelier and the lower entry level. Fortified with a latte, I was able to whip out a post for my brother’s business blog while watching hipsters come and go. Ah, the Seattle life.

I took my vitamins, second day in a row. Yay me.  We were in bed by 9 pm because youngest daughter was needing to go to her workplace the next day. She does contract work for Starbucks corporate and I planned to do a little “learning” about it.  Come by and read about it tomorrow.

Walking Seattle the Last Time (this trip)

Charlie seems to enjoy stair climbing. Maybe he does. Well, maybe he doesn't. I don't know. Charlie seems to enjoy stair climbing. Maybe he does. Well, maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know.

Charlie and I visited all the stairs we have discovered on the West Seattle slopes.  You can’t live here without becoming very familiar with staircases and crazy steep streets.  See what I mean…

from Schmitz Park up to Admiral Street, 80 steps from Schmitz Park up to Admiral Street, 80 steps
SW Stevens St. with a staircase at the end... SW Stevens St. with a staircase at the end…
At the end of SW Stevens to the plateau on the top. At the end of SW Stevens to the plateau on the top. (60 steps)
Nicely groomed staircase to someone's house Nicely groomed staircase to someone’s house
Seriously, some residents park on the street and climb up to their houses... Seriously, some residents park on the street and climb up to their houses…
The slopes rise so steeply that houses are hardly ever on the same level as the street... The slopes rise so steeply that houses are hardly ever on the same level as the street…


This lovely flight contains 167 steps This lovely flight contains 167 steps
a little explanation helps, - at least we know who to blame. a little explanation helps, – at least we know who to blame.

All things considered, I have to say that the stairs of Seattle are more scenic and inspiring than the stair climbers at the gym, and every bit as much exercise.  Would you climb these steps just to see what’s at the top?  I did.

The Hidden Forest

It’s right in the midst of a city and thousands go past it every day without even seeing it.  It’s Schmitz Park in West Seattle and it’s one of the first places I walk when I visit my daughter.  One of the entrances to this park is on the hillside above her house.  The wide path passes under major streets as they descend to the waterfront.  At other points it is high above the city looking out over the sound.  But most of it is in the midst of an old growth forest full of clear springs, lush vegetation and towering trees.  A lot of the paths are well traveled and I meet a lot of others walking their dogs or on bikes.  Gradually the paths narrow and get steeper, and less maintained.  Trees fall across the path and are left there, either because they are too difficult to remove or because they are intended to be a natural barrier.  When Charlie the dog is with me, I have to lift him over some of the log jams, and the climb makes us both breathless.  If we are persistent we come out on top of the ridge overlooking Alki Beach, almost in someone’s back yard.  Then we take the easy way down, on the streets where the view is not obscured and we also have beautiful yards and gardens to look at.  Take a virtual walk through this beautiful place with me…

Enter the park with a bit of history. Enter the park with a bit of history.
Trees soon cover the path with shade and silhouettes Trees soon cover the path with shade and silhouettes


Beautiful greenness everywhereee Beautiful greenness everywhereee
The ground is usually damp with seepage from the many springs and books. The ground is usually damp with seepage from the many springs and books.
Old growth of several different kinds of trees can be seen... Old growth of several different kinds of trees can be seen…
Towering is a word that comes to mind often Towering is a word that comes to mind often
And then there are the fallen. And then there are the fallen.
and even they spur the imagination. and even they spur the imagination.
A hobitt tree A hobitt tree
20150629_103827[1] The path gets almost obscured and very vertical…
And emerges here... outside the forest in a residential neighborhood clinging to the side of a ridge. And emerges here… outside the forest in a residential neighborhood clinging to the side of a ridge.
A whole different knd of beauty is on display all the way to sea level. A whole different knd of beauty is on display all the way to sea level.


Over the top, literally... Over the top, literally…


Esther took my picture Esther took my picture
and I took hers. and I took hers.