For most of February, the wintry weather, along with Heather’s busy work schedule, has kept our afternoon walks close to home. We went to Carkeek Park a couple of times, and once in a while to Magnolia Village or the library, the grocery store , the Mount Rainier viewpoint on Magnolia Boulevard, or the maybe the Ballard Locks. That’s about it. So I was surprised on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we got in Heather’s car, drove to the locks, parked and started walking from the parking lot, along the canal and right across to Ballard over the spillway and the locks.
I’ve been across those narrow walkways of the locks before, and in the past the crowded aisles made me nervous. In winter, however, crossing the locks wasn’t congested, and I hustled across without incident. We marched right through the botanical garden on the Ballard side and onto the Burke-Gilman Trail, where we had to dodge runners and cyclists for about 20 minutes. I figured we were headed further north to the Shilshole Bay Marina or even Golden Gardens Park, places we’ve walked before. But this time we turned off the sidewalk into the parking lot of the popular seafood restaurant Ray’s Boathouse, which seemed to be closed at the time. We walked all the way out onto the adjoining wharf, where we were finally able to see the perpetrators of the incessant honking that we hear every afternoon of late when we walk in Discovery Park, just across the canal in Magnolia. Ten or more sea lions were unleashing a constant symphony, singly and in groups of twos and threes, never stopping and louder than a visiting Schatzi when the mail carrier delivers to our house.
This article and video from the Seattle Times gives you all you need to know about these California sea lions. This particular herd of the migrating species showed up at the mouth of the canal in December, and they were still hanging out and barking loudly as the calendar turned to March. Apparently they like this pier just fine. For most Magnolians living south of Discovery Park, hearing those husky honks every afternoon provides an amusing diversion. For people who live or work near the canal, however, its their personal March Madness. We can sympathize.
While it was nice to walk someplace different for a change, while walking back south toward the locks I realized that I still had to traverse the canal again to get back to the car. Things went smoothly on the return trip until Heather decided to stop between the locks to watch a couple of pleasure boats locking through. This imprisoned me to linger on the narrow walkway between the two locks, which left me much too much time to discover water rushing below and on both sides of me. Although this made me queasy, I was trapped on this thin island until the lock filled, allowing the boats to progress to Puget Sound level and the bar across the walkway to lift. When that finally happened, I trotted over the closed lock and the noisy spillway to the Magnolia side in record time. I had enough excitement for one afternoon.