The first of a Pacific Northwest Fall day can be just as beautiful as the first coming of a refreshing spring. The other day I went jogging. I was wearing long sleeves but all in all it was a very nice day. Yet there came a brisk wind and all of the sudden dried and crumpled orange maple leaves started whirling around the paved street, and helicopter leaves twirled down from the sky. This year Seattle has enjoyed one of its best Indian Summers. Practically all of September was sunny which is saying much. Now at the beginning of October, purples, reds and oranges are starting to mix with our Evergreens, slowly easing us into the spirit of carved pumpkins, spiced cider, and Thanksgiving. I thought before I picked out Halloween candy, now was a good time to visit one of Seattle’s most popular weekend parks.
In 1962, a massive gas plant went out of business on the north end of Lake Union. The city of Seattle purchased the 19-acre plot, and 13 years later Gasworks Park was opened to the public. It was genius. The boiler house had been turned into a picnic shelter, the exhauster-compressor building masterfully became a children’s play barn of painted pipes and machinery, and the remaining components sprouted out from the lawn like giant pieces of urban park-art. Today, Gasworks is one of the most popular parks in Seattle. Thousands of people gather here to celebrate Seattle’s annual 4th of July celebration, featuring an elaborate fireworks display set off from a barge in the middle of Lake Union. Still thousands more arrive throughout the year for picnics and Frisbee, stunning views, and on windy afternoons to climb the Gasworks kite-flying hill.
Surprise, surprise, I had never actually been to Gasworks, making this park all the more spectacular for me. When I first arrived I was drawn to the colorful play barn I’d read so much about.
In the barn, I also noticed a group of young guys, agile-as-animals, leaping from some of the machinery. I had an inkling as to what they were practicing—I had seen the opening chase scene in Casino Royale, and a news special on this sort of thing in Chicago. So I started talking to them, and asked if I could take some pictures. “He’s who you should video,” they said, pointing to Alexander, of the strong and humble type, who had recently moved to Seattle from Russia.
It’s called Parkour, and it turns out that Gasworks Park is the Seattle groups’ favorite place to hold practice. It also turns out that I had arrived on a special day for them—they were participating in Parkour’s first ever “Global Climate Jam,” and were holding a 2-hour public training session, as were hundreds of other Parkour groups in other vicinities throughout the world. To learn more and see a map of world participants visit: Parkour Generations, and be sure to check out Parkour on YouTube to be amazed.
As I walked down to the lake, I noticed couples picnicking, and others enjoying books on a blanket of grass. Once I reached the pebbly shoreline, there was no one around except a group of geese preening and basking in the sun, and there seemed to be a hundred sailboats out on the lake.
The next place I checked out was the famous Gasworks Park kite-flying hill. There was already a crowd gathered at the top, and I could see a colorful butterfly and pterodactyl soaring high overhead.
There is also a sun dial lying flat at the top of the hill. And to save you from inner-turmoil in trying to figure out how to read it, there is an instructional plaque in the southwest corner of the platform. The easiest way to start is to find the current date in the innermost oval and look in the direction of your shadow (cast by either the sun or the moon). Aside from a few dates where you have to make adjustments for daylight savings, it’s perfectly accurate!
The wind was blowing around 15 mph that day, and there were about 7 families who managed to get their kites to ride the breeze while I looked on. This (more than The Kite Runner, even though I loved that book) made me want a colorful kite to fly of my own, and brought back nostalgic memories of flying kites on the beach at Ocean Shores. I think I’m going to go to Gasworks Park Kite Shop in Wallingford. They’ve got kites of all shapes, colors and sizes, and a very friendly and knowledgeable staff, so says Yelp.
Aside from these colorful kites, sea planes flew overhead. Most likely they were toting passengers to and from Vancouver, B.C. or the San Juan Islands, and probably were out for some aerial sightseeing of Seattle and nearby mountains as well. What a beautiful day for it!