November 23, 2011
Last weekend I decided to soak up what may be the last nice autumn weather Seattle will be seeing by making a trip to Carkeek Park in Greenwood.
Carkeek has a lot going for it in any season: beach frontage, open grass playfields, an awesome playground with a salmon slide, picnic areas, trains occasionally chugging through to little kids’ delight, and miles of well maintained trails for runners, walkers, and bikers. While Carkeek Park is one of my favorite Seattle parks to visit any time of year, fall has a leg up for three important reasons: fall color, spawning salmon, and the apple season.
“Apples?” you may be wondering. Yes, apples. On the quieter, south side of the park, there is actually a preserved historic orchard on a hillside and each year you can walk through to sample a few heirloom apple varieties. Carkeek also hosts an annual Piper’s Orchard Festival of Fruit, featuring lots of great apple recipes, kid friendly activities, and even an old fashioned apple press that is still pumping out cider.
I love walking through this side of the park. There are so many crisscrossing trails that I always find myself exploring a different area or at least taking a slightly different walking route. Some follow the ridge out to a bluff and views of the water, some stay deeper in the woods, while the easiest and most accessible paths pass through wetlands on boardwalks and bridges to follow the stream.
And this time of year that stream is a hot spot. Here you can see wild salmon make their determined way up this small creeklet in a final act of reproduction. All told I saw nearly a dozen salmon last Saturday. The first few were resting in shallow, slow-moving water. The next group was making dramatic leaps to pass over a small cascade in the stream. A few lucky people actually got to see the salmon release their eggs for fertilization. And finally I saw several that had succumb to the struggle either after reproducing or reaching total exhaustion. It was the cycle of life happening right before my very eyes!
The number of salmon in the stream was a pleasant surprise. All the work that has been done to preserve this little salmon run has definitely made an impact. It also made my Saturday afternoon hike through the golden trees, bright green moss, and sprouting fungi all the more worthwhile. I seriously recommend heading out in the next few weeks to see the last of the salmon, the fall leaves, and Seattle’s nice weather!