The beavers didn’t show their furred heads Saturday afternoon, but the group gathered at Seattle’s Thornton Creek wasn’t disappointed. Their scarves wound snug and their camera’s aimed steady, the captivated onlookers were happy to behold the animals’ carefully constructed lodge, the small pond surrounding it, and the regal Blue Heron perched in the trees above. It was like a scene lifted directly from the pages of National Geographic, only this wild utopia is located not on the outskirts of the city where one might expect, but tucked only a few blocks from a sprawling metropolitan mall in the Maple Creek neighborhood of Seattle.
The beaver habitat at Thornton Creek was just one of many awe-inspiring attractions featured during Feet First’s debut Stairway Walk’s Day, an expertly choreographed city-wide event that included fifteen walks from Seattle’s Jake and Cathy Jaramillo’s new book, Seattle Stairway Walks: An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods and was led by Feet FirstNeighborhood Walking Ambassadors, and the Jaramillo’s themselves. Saturday’s participants trekked alongside creek, forest, and coastline via stairway in Seattle, Bellevue, Burien, and Mercer Island. They crossed humble wooden bridges and towering concrete overpasses. They marveled at new construction and reminisced about what came before the buildings and freeways and uncovered streams. Most agreed that it is the coexistence of these contradictions, the old and new, the wild and domestic, the grey and green, that makes the Puget Sound region such a desirable habitat for humans and animals alike.
The walks not only offered breathtaking views and a few hours of light afternoon cardio (most routes were spent descending the stairs), they also offered a historical context for the surrounding areas. Stairway Walk leader Bryan Fiedorczyk, his seventeen-month-old daughter nestled in a carrier on his back, made a point to incorporate historical notes on the Longfellow Creek to Pigeon Point Stairway Walk. Fiedorczyk takes great pride in sharing the evolution of the area with others. I’m helping to preserve that local knowledge base that’s important for retaining community character, he says.
Fiedorczyk’s daughter wasn’t the only infant in tow. Several walkers attended with young children, while others were accompanied by four-legged companions. Newly acquainted neighbors basked in the views and soaked up the history as they remembered the past, reflected on the present and considered the future of Puget Sound’s innumerable treasures, both natural and man-made. Stairway walkers experienced firsthand the benefits of living in an area where swiftly running creeks run alongside recently erected condos, vast beaches lay steps from residential neighborhoods, and industrious beavers make their underwater home less than a mile from a bustling mall.
This event was coordinated by Feet First and featured exclusive walks from Cathy & Jake Jaramillo’s new book, Seattle Stairway Walks: An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods. Stairway Walks Day was made possible by Feet First Neighborhood Walking Ambassadors, staff, volunteers, Board and Committee members, and partner organizations Outdoors NW, WABI Burien, and Seattle Parks & Recreation’s Sound Steps.