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!

Saturday Snapshot: Puget Sound Sunset

Puget Sound Sunset by CRash

Taken yesterday, when the weather was sunny, clear, and gorgeous.  The weather today was pretty wonderful, too.  These are the days when I take my camera and head out for exploratory walkabouts.

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!

Voting by Mail


What I’m thankful for this Election Day: I don’t have to wait in a line at a polling location in order to vote. Washington is one of the two entirely vote-by-mail states in the country. Since I registered in late 2007, and have always voted in Washington, I have always voted by mail. For a long time, it never occurred to me that exclusively mail-in ballots were unusual in the U.S. – to literally “go to the polls” seemed like a quaint, 1950s sort of notion.

I guess that attitude might stem from being a Millenial, in an age where shopping online and having packages magically appear on the doorstep is the norm. In much the same manner, my ballot appears a couple of weeks ahead of Election Day in the mail, and I can send it back at my leisure. This year, I had my iPad beside me while I filled out my ballot, as well as the Voter’s Guide that was mailed to our household. The iPad was by far the more helpful of the two, since the Voter’s Guide had limited space and all information in it was ultra-condensed. Although I already had many opinions, there were a couple of measures where I felt more comfortable voting after a little more research. I spent quite a long time filling out my ballot.

Associated Press photo of an estimated 6-9 hour wait at a Florida polling site.

One of the things that strikes me about in-person voting is just how inconvenient it is. Right now election coverage is starting, and footage of ridiculously long lines is playing across the screen. What an annoyance it must be, particularly for those people who have to work today. This year in particular I’m thinking of the parts of the country impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and what people are already dealing with without having to worry about getting to a polling site. Voting in-person seems like an awful lot of effort to produce something as simple as a filled-out ballot.

Opponents of mail-in voting claim that mail is less secure, and your ballot is more likely to get lost somewhere in the system. However, in Spokane County, you don’t have to mail your ballot. If you are truly concerned, you can leave it at the auditor’s office. If you don’t want to use a stamp, you can drop it by a public library. And no matter how you choose to return it, you can check and see if your ballot was received by visiting the vote.wa.gov website.  With a first and last name and date of birth, you can not only check to see if your ballot was received in the most recent election, but you can check all elections in which your ballot was cast (post-2005).

As for security, both Washington and Oregon use signature-based identification. They seem to actually check the signatures, too – I’ve had mine questioned once, and I had to return a witness-signed confirmation form through the mail. I’m not sure exactly what they look for, but at least I know they’re looking!

Overall, the only thing I really miss with absentee voting is the excitement of getting to “go vote.” That, and the cute little “I Voted” sticker.

Saturday Snapshot: Stormy Palms

Here’s a photo from two days ago, when Phoenix was experiencing one of its 28 rainy days allotted for the year.  This was actually taken from inside my apartment, through the window.  During a break in the rain, the sunshine was hitting the palm trees.

Fun trivia for the folks in the home state: Spokane gets an average of 106 days of precipitation and Seattle gets 147.

The stats are from the 2010 U.S. Census (warning – excel spreadsheet).

The WASL Generation

I had a rather severe flashback to the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) today when I went to a school “development assessment” for ASU students.  It is called the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment), and has no impact on your academic status at all – it’s just used as a diagnostic tool for the university.  Regardless, it still gave me the heebie-jeebies.   Even the tests’ official websites are EerilySimilar.

What really gets to me is the similarity in the forms.  Both are essay-based, and both require analysis of a set of documents.  I’ve taken the CLA as a freshman and sophomore (not as a junior for some reason) and now as a senior, but this year was the worst.  I can’t really talk about the content of the test, but I will say that the documents and questions can’t have been much above a fourth-grade level.  And the dates on the “documents” were over a decade old.  Immediately I was ten years old again, opening my WASL in Mrs. Jokinen’s fourth-grade classroom, cringing in the hushed silence.

Of course, the CLA is computerized, so the slight background noise came from clicking keys rather than scratching number-two pencils.  But I came to the conclusion that I have been forever scarred by the WASL, in ways that the PSAT, SAT, and even AP tests fail to match.  The anxiety and stress of it was repeatedly battered into my brain during my K-12 years.

It began in 1997, a couple of years before my class took it.  The WASL was discontinued in 2008; meaning my class was the last group of seniors to take it.  It made us a subgroup of the Millenial generation hailing exclusively from the state of Washington – the WASL generation.

And it made me loathe document-analysis essay-tests. FOREVER.