Last weekend, we took advantage of the unseasonably gorgeous weather in Seattle and went on our first of 50 City Walks in Seattle. On one of our many garage sale exhibitions this summer, we discovered a box of cards that invites you to explore undiscovered gems hidden in neighborhoods and parks of the city. As master geo-cachers, the summons to find hidden treasure was an offer we couldn’t turn down (not to mention the box of cards was about $.50 – another reason not to refuse).
So, after Peter’s early soccer game, we laced on our walking shoes and schlepped up some snacks and were off to discover what nuggets Schmitz Preserve Park had to offer.
Schmitz Preserve is the city’s largest old-growth forest. 53-acres of lusciousness is neatly tucked away inconspicuously near the popular Alki Beach in West Seattle. We accurately followed the map to our destination. However, surprisingly, houses surround the park on all sides, so we missed the simple entrance and had to be redirected to the stone gates that marked the trailhead. Once we confirmed that we were in the right place, we headed off on our adventure under a canopy of changing multi-colored leaves and on top of a carpet of thick green moss and ferns.
One step past the gate and you see giant trees toppled over ravines and roots the size of your thigh twisted and mangled sprouting new saplings. Tree limbs that were seemingly on a trip down to the ground have made U-turns and are headed vertical once again. Bases of trees have been uprooted and their diameter is wide enough to be a circular dining room table set for eight. Having lived in the arid climate of Colorado most of my life, I am still perpetually shocked at the verdant environment I now call home.
We walked along a prepared path admiring the Douglas firs and red cedars. It was only a few minutes before the sounds of the city disappeared altogether. What remained was the gentle whirl of a small creek that ran through the middle of the forest. Overlooking a ravine, we saw that the water was only about 10 feet down. But the slope was steep and wet, and having just started, we weren’t interested in getting muddied up yet. We decided to stay on high ground until we came to a giant tree that had fallen across the gulch providing a bridge across the bubbling brook. With a trunk at least 2 feet wide and covered in thick green moss, it seemed like a comfortable byway to the other side.
The kids and I immediately hopped on the tree and suggested that we use it to cross over the water, stay dry, and explore the other side of the forest. Karl has no love of high things and suggested we could go on ahead and he would find another way around. So, Lucy and Peter followed me onto the trunk and together we walked until we got just past the ledge of the trail and were above the chasm. There, I quickly discovered there were no other trees on which to lean or branches on which to hold. My bravado swiftly escaped me when I realized I was standing over a 15-foot drop to a very shallow body of water. There, a terrifyingly awesome feeling flitted in my belly. Something akin to fear had me insist that we all back up slowly and get off the “bridge.”
Once my young were back on land, safe from danger, I exclaimed, “It’s so scary! But…I want to make it all the way across!” Karl, naturally, shook his head and asked, “Why?” I replied, “Because I love that feeling. I want to have it again!” That terrifyingly awesome feeling I had in my belly was unfamiliar. I don’t regularly practice taking risks, seeking danger or chasing thrills. Sure, I’ve had my raucous days of skinny dipping, cow-tipping, TP-ing, and Truth or Daring. I’ve even been skydiving! I’m not immune to wanting adventure. But, I don’t make it a part of my everyday life. And I miss it. What amuses me most is that I knew that feeling – it wasn’t entirely foreign. It had just been a long time since I had felt its presence and I forgot how exhilarating it is. And like rekindling a friendship after a long separation, it takes a moment to get past the unfamiliar before remembering how wonderful it used to be and is again.
After some hesitation, I decided I would cross that moss covered tree trunk bridge to get to the other side. I chose to engage that part of myself that had long been forgotten and invite the exhilaration of fear to be a part of my life once again. With Karl still shaking his head and my kids squealing in anticipation, eager to see their mom do what they themselves were longing to do, I set one foot in front of the other and with great commitment and concentration began the gymnastic act that was an attempt to cross a slippery balance beam made up of bark and bristle…