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Book Review: Seattle Walks

Posted by ATripp at Sep 26, 2017 04:00 PM |
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“Seattle Walks” is a great place to get started on an urban adventure. The book’s 17 walks will train you to look for things you’ve never noticed before as you walk the Cheshiahud Loop or from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington.

by Allie Tripp

What’s your favorite hiking trail? I’m willing to bet that you pictured a dirt path through fields or forests, one that culminates in an alpine vista or some glacial body of water. While my favorite changes monthly, it almost always includes an up-close view of Mount Rainier. That all might change with David Williams’ new book, Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City, which highlights an entirely different kind of trail by detailing 17 urban walks in Seattle.


“I hope that these walks will enable you to see Seattle in a new light and to acquire a new appreciation for how the city has changed through time, how the past influences the present and how nature is all around us, even in the urban landscape, which many people consider the least wild place around." —David Williams

Last year, I logged more than half of my Hike-a-Thon miles on urban trails, and I am proud that WTA is increasing our understanding of and work on urban trails in our new strategic plan. So I’m particularly excited by this book. Whether you’re motivated by decreasing your carbon footprint, interested in exploring a new part of Washington’s largest city or just pressed for time, urban walking can be just as invigorating for the soul as a hike in the wilderness.

Seattle Walks is a great place to get started on an urban adventure. The book’s 17 walks will train you to look for things you’ve never noticed before. Have you wondered where the Cheshiahud Loop name came from? Discover the answer with Walk 8. Have you wanted to walk from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington all on the same street? That would be Walk 7 on Madison Street. What is the only stone used in buildings in all 50 states? Find that information on Walk 3.

Geology nerds, history buffs and odd-fact lovers alike will find a walk (or many) that speaks to their area of interest. Williams references original maps and historical documents frequently to detail his many discoveries across the city. Whether you’ve lived in Seattle your entire life or are just an occasional visitor, you’ll learn something new from these walks.

Even if you don’t want to take the actual walks, the book is still worth a read if you ever find yourself in the downtown Seattle area. “Who’s Watching You” (Walk 5) details the plethora of stone and terracotta animals that adorn Seattle’s downtown buildings. Williams debunks a common myth about the Arctic Building walruses and even offers tips for refurbishment of stone animals like these, just in case you have any terracotta animals at home.

Each walk includes a distance estimate, your trailhead (and end point) and a map with detailed descriptions of key places of interest, along with photos and historic maps. New construction will inevitably affect certain routes over the coming months, but David’s philosophy of urban walking embraces change and discovery.

“I encourage you to venture into new parts of Seattle and discover the diversity of terrains, people, cultures and green spaces that make up the city. One of the simple pleasures of walking is getting out of one’s routine,” he wrote.

This book is a must-read for Seattle trivia buffs and should be a staple of any home bookshelf to entertain visitors (or yourself during drizzly Northwest winters). Maybe your next favorite hike will be in the city!

This article originally appeared in the Sept+Oct 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.