I had so much fun in West Seattle, I had to break it up into two blog posts. In part one, I explored the Junction. Next up: Alki Beach.
I hopped off the shuttle and headed to Cactus, which came highly recommended by my boss. That it served Mexican food was enough to sway me. But the real hook was its delectable butternut squash enchilada. It was good enough to make me briefly consider vegetarianism, if only so I could work butternut squash into every meal.
If you’re keeping track at home, I’d indulged in a twice-baked almond croissant, a pint of beer, and a butternut squash enchilada by this point. I needed to burn a few calories, so I started walking.
I was in luck, because I was at the west end of the 2.5-mile-long Alki Beach Park. It’s a sliver of a park that serves as a buffer between Puget Sound and the small coastal community that’s formed along its shores. It’s also where the first white settlers arrived more than 150 years ago, laying the groundwork for modern Seattle.
I hadn’t even walked 100 feet, though, when my post-meal buzz wore off at the sight of this sign:
I spent a good chunk of my formative years on the Oregon coast, where a piece of landmark legislation, passed in 1967, prevents private beaches from ever taking root in the state. Every square inch of Oregon coastline, to this day, belongs to the general public, thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill. It’s that kind of unfettered access that has led to some of the best memories of my life. Accordingly, it’s absolutely unthinkable that beach access would — or could — be restricted, for any reason. Who is anyone to keep me — or anyone else — from enjoying the sights of the coast?
I briefly considered causing a bit of a ruckus to protest the Draconian ideals behind private beaches, but there were too many people around. I will live to fight The Man another day.
So I just enjoyed all 2+ miles of public beach to the east. I walked along the paved path, stopping every so often to soak up the sounds of lapping waves and stare at the blue expanse before me. It was heavenly — just what I needed after gnashing my teeth at the sight of a private beach.
If the Junction feels like a coastal community, Alki Beach is — in every sense — a coastal community. For a brief stretch, it’s lined with kayak/paddleboard/rollerblade rental shops, restaurants, pubs, and random shops. The restaurants generally fall into one of two categories: burger joints, and fish and chips spots. Nearby homes are decorated with nautical themes, which means buoys hanging from fences and seashell wind chimes. Most homes are weather-beaten, with chipped or peeling paint.
I’ve always had a not-so-secret desire to live by the coast — and in a coastal community — so I started plotting ways to break my current lease. It would be worth nine months of rain and clouds, I reasoned, to wake up to the coast every day. Then I remembered what the commute would look like (hellish, at best) and backed off. I’ll just have to settle for the occasional visit.
For some odd reason, a miniature Statue of Liberty overlooks Puget Sound in the midst of Alki Beach. An interpretive panel explained a bit of history behind the statue but neglected to answer to one pressing question: Just why did they install a mini Statue of Liberty?
At some point, the restaurants and funky shops gave way condos. Lots and lots of condos. Suddenly, it was one elegant condo complex after another. Only the occasional house — with an outdoor deck or patio, of course — broke up the otherwise-continuous parade of condos. After the 20th or so variation of “Bayfront Condominiums,” it became a little disheartening.
Coastal communities deserve better than cookie-cutter, soulless condos. Beach towns should be full of character, which means ramshackle one-bedrooms and rundown two-bedrooms — and they should all have buoys hanging from their fences! Indistinguishable, heartless condos have no place in a coastal community.
Minor complaints aside, it was a fantastic walk. Everyone should make time for the coast, even if it’s just Puget Sound, on occasion. The coast is good for the soul. The soft waves didn’t crash into the seawall on Saturday; they nestled up to it. The gulls sang their squwaking song, as only they can. The water was blue enough to make Walter White envious. The clouds burned off by lunch, adding a spring to everyone’s step — mine included.
The walk ended back at the water taxi, which started the trip back home. I’d been
on the island in the community for a solid six hours and had loved every minute, soapbox moments aside. Whether it’s for a relaxing stroll, an almond croissant, or just to breathe in that beach air, I’ll be back before long. It’s too pretty to forget.