4 Days, 4 Walks

We’ve had a little streak of great weather in Tacoma lately, so I took advantage of that and went on some long walks.  Here’s a map of my recent travels:


Walk 1 is in green, walk 2 is yellow, walk 3 is blue, and walk 4 is red.  My apartment was the starting point for all but the first walk.

Walk #1: Over the Bridge


My walking adventures began on Monday, when I saw that the weather was going to be warm (yay!) and the skies clear (double yay!) for the whole day.  I had considered bicycling across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge before, but I wasn’t sure about the slopes on either end of the bridge, and I also wanted to take some pictures, which is easier by foot.
So I decided to walk the whole thing.

I actually parked in the lot of the War Memorial Park, which is just east of the bridge.  From there I was able to take the Scott Pierson Trail all the way across the new side of the bridge (completed in 2007).  I was glad the sun was shining, because the chilly side winds were no joke; I wore my jacket the whole time.

I walked from the park all the way to 24th St., which is the first cross-street I reached.  It was about 2 miles each direction, and it took about an hour and a quarter to do the whole walk.  It was rather nice – there were a lot of bicyclists and other walkers/joggers doing the same thing, though it sure was a loooong way down to that water.  I might try this again if the weather decides to cooperate.

Walk #2: Titlow Beach at Low Tide


It had been a while since I’d gone on a walk that long, so I didn’t go out again until Wednesday, and this time I wanted to do a comparatively shorter walk that I’d done before.
So I walked down to Titlow Beach at low tide – the lowest tide I’d ever experienced there.  I saw some new things, like good-sized crabs shuffling alongside seaweed, and seagulls scavenging now-exposed starfish (like the one above).

It’s only about a mile to Titlow Park, but I ended up spending a good hour walking along the rocky shoreline before heading back.

Walk #3: All the Way to Chambers Bay


This was my most ambitious walk.  I had driven to the little park above the Chambers Bay Golf Course before to take sunset pictures (there’s a great view) and had noticed a trail that runs along the top edge of the golf course parallel to the road (complete with many joggers and dog-walkers).  I knew it would be a long ways by foot but I thought it was worth trying, as Grandview Drive is very pedestrian-friendly (it passes two schools, and has both sidewalks and bike paths).

Again I was surprised by how little I noticed hills while driving in my car, compared to walking.  It was quite the workout.  From my apartment to the start of the trail was over two and a half miles, about an hour’s worth of walking.  I was already somewhat tired by the time I reached the trail, but my curiosity was piqued when I noticed that the trail was not a simple straight line paralleling the street (as I had thought).  There was a bend that led in the direction of the shore.

What I’ve since found out is that there are actually two separate trails: the Grandview Trail, which is the one that parallels the street on top of the 200-foot bluff above the golf course, and the Soundview Trail, which is the one I spotted winding downward toward the Narrows.  Fun quote from that webpage about the Soundview Trail:
Difficulty Level: Difficult (grades in excess of 10%)
Length and Duration: 2 1/2 miles

Guess who decided to walk the whole thing, just out of sheer curiosity?  Luckily, it was a beautiful day.  The trail itself was amazing (Yelp reviews agree): it passed a large lawn and a children’s play structure that I would have loved to explore when I was little, and then descended the bluff through a wooded natural area via a series of tight, steep switchbacks that made me glad I was on foot and not on a bike.  It came out very near the water, with just train tracks and the beach separating the two.

I passed several exciting signs that told me to beware of being pummeled by stray golf balls (enter at your own risk!) and soon realized that the trail actually led through the golf course.  Three of the holes were between the trail and the shoreline.  Eventually I wound up at the south end of the golf course, where there is a great bridge that crosses over the train tracks to the beach, and a massive Central Meadow (a.k.a. lawn) filled with people sunbathing, flying kites, and playing with their dogs.  The slog back up the bluff was the hardest part of the trek, though I was glad I could go up the south end hill instead of the steep switchbacks I had descended on the north end.

After that, I took the straight, flat Grandview Trail back the way I had come for a mile and a quarter, and resigned myself to walking the two-and-a-half miles back to the apartment.
Total miles walked: almost 9.  I decided that the next time I want to walk the trails by the golf course, I’m just going to drive there.

Walk #4: War Memorial Walk


I was still a bit worn out from the walk to and through the golf course, but the weather was still amazing, so I walked again today.  I wanted to do a walk similar to my first one, since that distance seemed pretty manageable.  And I wanted to start by going uphill and finish by going downhill. Interestingly enough, I found out that the War Memorial Park east of the bridge is exactly two miles from my apartment, so I decided I would try that as a destination. (Trivia: The park was moved in 2002 to its present location – the original park location was in the path of construction for the new half of the Narrows bridge).

I started going uphill via 27th Street rather than the Google-suggested 19th Street, because 27th is much safer for pedestrians (though the sidewalkage is spotty).  Then I headed north on Sunset Drive, which was a straight shot to 6th Avenue.  It was a pretty quiet, suburb-like street, which actually went downhill gradually – I knew this would mean more climbing soon.

Sure enough, I hit 6th lower than I expected to, and ended up scaling another hill until I hit Jackson Ave.  Then another downhill spell and I was at the pretty park again.  The flowers there are gorgeous right now, and the trees lining its sides are in bloom.

I took a slightly different route back, walking the length of the park to cut the corner and come out on 6th Avenue.  Instead of taking Sunset again, I opted for another, even quieter road called Karl Johan Avenue.  This street is pretty flat, so I avoided further uphill travel.  It also features quite the eclectic arrangement of houses: a cute brick house with a neglected, fenced-in tennis court in the front yard, older mid-century homes with overgrown hedges, modern mansions with glass-railinged balconies and electronic gates, a house with Asian influences in its hanging lanterns and pagoda. The road stopped at 19th so I jogged over to Mountain View Avenue and made my way back to 27th, then downhill (whew!) to the apartment again.

All in all, I enjoyed my walking experiences.  The weather is supposed to change for the worse this weekend, but I hope the skies clear up soon so I can go out on more adventures!


Adventure of the Day


I just moved to a new apartment in Tacoma last weekend, and have been unpacking boxes quite busily for the past few days.  Today I took a break because the weather was gorgeous – sunny, mostly clear, but chilly (about 40 degrees F).  I was determined to try riding my bicycle for the first time since last May.

My first snag: the rear tire was quite squishy.  It wasn’t flat, but it definitely needed some air.  I suspected that this might be the case, and I was prepared.  Although I didn’t have a pump myself (long story; my last one was attached to a bike that was stolen), I knew that the nearest gas station was three and a half blocks away.

Now, if I had wanted to do things the easy way, I would have just crammed my bicycle into my little Nissan (it has been done), and driven those three and a half blocks in the car.  But noooo.  It was a beautiful day, and I was determined to get some real exercise.  So I grabbed my coat, gloves, and helmet and headed out to begin my quest.

My second snag: this was Tacoma.  It was not Phoenix, where everything is flat excepting the mildest of inclines.  There is a tall rock that juts up by my last apartment called “A” Mountain.  Let’s just say that “A” Mountain could fit easily inside the hill on which my new apartment rests.  Oh, and the nearest gas station is in the uphill direction.

Being the genius I am, I decided not to ride up the steep side of the hill, on a road with no bike lanes or sidewalks.  I chose the slightly-less-steep side, with bike lanes.  That didn’t change the fact that halfway up the hill I was huffing and puffing, trying to make progress on a bike with a squishy tire with legs that haven’t been seriously worked out in half a year.

I ended up walking the bike the last two blocks.

Thankfully, some luck was in my favor.  The gas station had a working air pump that accepted quarters, and soon my bike tires were full and I was a little rested.  Time for the fun part of the adventure!


A Google map of my brief adventure. The bottom left marker is my apartment (roughly). The bottom right marker is the gas station at the top of the hill. The upper marker is the beach access by Titlow Park. At the top of the map you can see 16, which crosses the Tacoma Narrows Bridge just above the crop.

Now that I was at the top of this hill, it was all downhill from here.  I started coasting as soon as I crossed the street after the gas station, and then I didn’t stop.  I flew back down the three and a half blocks to my apartment, but I didn’t stop there.  I kept going downhill – and in about three more blocks I had gone as far as I could, having reached Puget Sound. (For reference, my apartment is south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: I can see it from my balcony.)

I coasted right down into a pretty little place called Titlow Lagoon, where there are a few walking/biking paths that extend all the way around the lagoon.  Here I encountered my first Seattle wildlife: ducks, seagulls, crows, and a gorgeous heron who eyed me suspiciously. In the park, I also encountered Seattle not-so-wildlife: a collie, a Shih-Tzu, two other small dogs, two Labradors (yellow and black), and a poodle.  These were accompanied by their owners, naturally.

After my tour of Titlow Park and its lagoon, I crossed the railroad tracks to see how close I could get to the actual Sound.  The answer: all the way.  There’s a small public beach south of Titlow Park, though it looks a bit rocky.  I didn’t go down onto the beach myself because I had my bike (plus I was ready to head back at this point).  There’s a neat little cafe and a tavern right there by the park that I noted for future reference.

Finally, the trip home.  Uphill again.  This time I made it about halfway back before I had to start walking my bike again.  I should note that while my apartment is in the middle of a large hill, it is also on top of a small hill of its own.  I don’t know if I could ride up that thing even if I were in the best of shape.  I might explore to find an alternate route next time.

Anyway, I eventually made it back (yay!) and slogged myself up to my new third-floor apartment.  One Tacoma adventure down, hopefully many more to come!

Bonus Edition: ASU’s Maroon Convocation

On Friday morning, following the night of the big university commencement, I went to convocation – which included just half of the students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences rather than the entire ASU student body.  For this one, everybody gets to walk across the stage and get their name read, so it’s worth going to.  Problem was, we had to be there and ready by 7am, after being up late the night before.  Ugh.  More play-by-play impressions follow the picture.

Another photo courtesy of my mom’s phone, from the stands.

The crowds are amassing while we are trying to find a place to park.  I tell my parents to drop me off and park in the structure next to the arena.  Little do I know what consequences that innocuous choice will have.

Graduates have to line up outside by last name to get their photo identifier / name pronunciation card.  For some reason the line “R-S” is backed up 30 people deep compared to most other lines with three or less waiting.  This could go either way – people with R-S last names might be inherently smarter and thus more likely to graduate, or they could just be inept at performing simple activities like picking up notecards.

Eventually the girl managing the P-Q line (which is deserted) steals the R box to break up the line (and to have something to do).  Things move faster.

Now we’re supposed to make a single file line behind our department’s banner.  The room allotted makes it physically impossible for English department graduates to go single file.  We end up making a sort of milling mob, which is more creative and organic anyway.

I see people I know, which is already an improvement upon commencement.  My fellow creative writing cohort Anita teams up with me in line so we each have someone to talk to during our ordeal.

The whole “lining up outside” idea is looking worse and worse, particularly for those of us in direct sunlight wearing dark polyester gowns and hats.  30 minutes pass, then 60, then 90.  I picture some archaeologist years from now excavating a dig site and finding hundreds of skeletal remains in maroon academic regalia.

Finally we move.  Determined volunteers chivy us along and make us funnel into a form more closely resembling a single file line.  This is important because about six of these lines will be walking down the road to the arena in concert, and if one poor soul gets lost an entire department might not graduate.

I suggest to Anita that we should hold onto the tassel of the person in front of us, like baby elephants with their mother’s tail.

As we enter the arena, we are funneled through metal gates eerily reminiscent of a stockyard.  I revise us from elephants to cattle in my head.  Highly educated cattle.

One of the global studies graduates tries to sneak into the English line, which is moving the fastest, then realizes that she would have to spend four years studying a different major before that could work.  She returns to her stalled line.

Turns out the English line zooms along because we get to sit in the chairs on the floor of the arena.  Our group is going to walk earlier than most of the other departments.  Take that, psychology students!

The next five minutes are spent texting back and forth with my parents, trying to locate them in the stands.  The fact that they’re almost directly behind me makes this difficult, but eventually I find them.

The speaker for this event knows what he’s doing, and is even funny, in that older-generation-trying-to-appeal-to-the-younger kind of way.

His analogies might be a little unsuitable for Arizona graduates.  He talks about walking on thin ice.  Then he asks how many people have ever seen ice.  I mentally facepalm.

We’re moving!  We’re moving!

My picture is taken three times during my walk. I hope that one of them turns out okay.  That’s all I really need.

I hear my dad all the way from the stands when my name is read.  Thanks, Dad.

English students sit and prepare to wait out all of the rest of the graduates.  It’s going to be a while.

One of the psychology students has managed to affix what looks like the upper hemisphere of a brain to the top of her mortarboard.  I grudgingly acknowledge that psychology students do have some skills, after all.

Hurrah!  Done again!  This time plus a nifty diploma cover!  We’re blinded by different color spotlights as the graduates file out.

We repeat the whole lost-lambs-with-cell-phones scene as we file out of the arena.  Baaaa.

Oh yeah, that parking lot thing?  Utter disaster.  We’re on the third floor and it takes an hour and many mini freak-outs before we exit.  I’m surprised we got out alive, in a war zone with angry, frustrated people with large vehicles all attempting to back out at once.

But we make it…still in once piece!  And double-graduated to boot!