Last week I hopped on a JetBlue flight for a 48 hour whirlwind tour of the eastern suburbs of Seattle to find an apartment that we'll call home for the first year of our lives on the West Coast. My one overnight was at the Motel 6 in Issaquah, which is a community located west of Seattle on the southwest corner of Lake Sammamish. I chose to stay Issaquah because it was one of three communities we were considering (we finally decided on Redmond, home of Microsoft, for convenience to my wife's job at the Overlake School). Ironically, Issaquah is located directly off I90, so I felt right at home at the very western edge of the Mass Pike. The Run (map): I woke up in my motel room at about 3:30am West Coast time because I'm used to waking at about 6:30am East Coast time. I waited until there was a little light at around 5:30 and headed out the door to explore Issaquah. I first ran east on NW Sammamish Road. Along the road I hopped on a bike path with a small sign, "Issaquah Trail System." I followed that trail under a bridge and into a small wooded area behind some of the Costco headquarters buildings. On that trail there were multiple warning signs about bears and cougars. The trail ran right along I90 at one point, and didn't seem like the best place for bears and cougars to hang out. Nonetheless, I'll admit the signs made me nervous, and the two deer that I almost literally ran into on a small wooden bridge over the Issaquah Creek made me jump! You'll notice on the map link a little back and forth on the trail where I was trying to decide whether to challenge the deer for a crossing or just loop back around the the road. You'll also notice the loop returning me the NW Sammamish Road. Off of NW Sammamish Road I turned on 221st Place SE and worked my way down to the Issaquah Front Street area, which is the small downtown shopping area. Downtown Issaquah is very quaint with some notable local joints including XXX Root Beer, an old fashioned Shell Gas station, and the local running store Uphill Running (the day before I went into meet owner, Trey, and had a great conversation about the local running scene.) Finally, at the Southern end of the shopping area, I took a right turn on Newport Way NW and worked my way back towards I90 to cross on the footbridge that led directly back to the Motel 6. Thought for the Day: Our goal with apartment hunting was to find an apartment in a community that we felt we could also buy a house, and thus minimize he chances of making my daughter change schools twice in a year. One remark made by my real estate agent as she toured me around made me laugh. She would say, for a given community, that we could buy a house, but "it would be older, built in the 1980's." In that market, 1980 might seem old, but in the Boston market it would be relatively young. The house in which our Jamaica Plain condo is situated was built in 1880 -- 100 years older than the "old" buildings in the Northwest! To me, a house with any insulation (we literally have none in our house) and wiring not covered in cloth would be a major upgrade. Don't get me wrong, I love all the unique/antique architecture in Boston. It's a beautiful city. I would just like to be a little warmer in the winter.
My most recent entry about the Back Bay Fens section of Boston's Emerald Necklace park system inspired me to keep that theme and take my running to the opposite end of the Emerald Necklace to its end at Franklin Park. During the fall, the cross country course is used hundreds of time by high school, college and open runners. It even hosted the 1992 IAAF World Cross-Country Championships.
I was introduced to Franklin Park as a clueless freshman attending the annual Harvard, Yale & Princeton cross country meet as a member of the Princeton team. So clueless was I, that I was partially responsible for the entire junior varsity men's race veering off course. Luckily, I redeemed myself later in the fall when I learned from my faults and assisted in saving the majority of the varsity men at the IC4A Championship from meeting the same fate. Since that fateful fall, I have run many races, logged many training miles, and coached high school athletes in races at Franklin Park. Despite its popularity as a racing destination, at almost any other time it is rarely in use for recreation, outside of the occasional use of playing fields. When I am out running in the park (weekend or weekday), I am often all by myself with miles of trails and parkland at my disposal. This park is the hidden gem of the Emerald Necklace and perhaps of all of Boston. More on this in my Thought of the Day below.
The Run (map): I started the run at the Glen Road entrance at the Jamaica Plain side of the park. I ran up the hill and joined the trail for the cross country course at around the 1/4 mile mark. At this point, the course heads down hill, past White Stadium and up Bear Cage Hill. Bear Cage Hill has an actual deserted bear cage on the top that was part of the original zoo. Running down the back side of Bear Cage Hill, I ran past the "Giraffe Entrance" of the current Franklin Park Zoo (ironically not anywhere near the Giraffe exhibit), down the finish stretch of the cross country course, and past the finish line I crossed over to the golf course side of the park. I followed the series of paths and roads around the course to Scarboro Pond, located on the back side of the course. Then following the pedestrian paths away from the pond I returned to the golf course loop back to the crosswalk and then back to the cross country course. I jumped back on the course for "The Wilderness" section of the course, which is a half-mile long trail through the woods. Upon exiting The Wilderness, I took a left off the course and headed downhill back to my car. Thought for the Day:The fact that so few Boston residents take advantage of the trails through Franklin Park is somewhat frustrating to me. As I mentioned above, when I run in the park I often do not see many other runners. The loop around the golf course gets some use, but it is largely under-utilized. Less than a mile away the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Pond, and Olmsted Park sections of the Emerald Necklace are often full of people running, walking, biking and just hanging out. These sections, however, are on the border of Brookline, which is one of the most affluent and desirable communities around Boston. So desirable that Red Sox owner John Henry has a mansion just up the street from Jamaica Pond on the Brookline side. Franklin Park, on the hand, is on the border between Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and Mattapan. The sections nearest the park remain less affluent neighborhoods with large immigrant populations. They are neighborhoods often described, by both Boston and non-Boston residents, with the kinds of stereotypes associated with the "inner city." Because of its location, people tend to worry more about personal safety, as though around every corner there might be a drug deal going down, or a mugger hiding behind every rock just waiting for an unsuspecting jogger. In other words, people are afraid to go to Franklin Park out of prejudice. Brookline and the "safe" sections of Jamaica Plain are mainly white, and the folks who utilize Franklin Park on a daily basis are not. Residents in Jamaica Plain pat themselves on the back for embracing the diversity our neighborhood has to offer. Their exercise habits, however, reflect another reality.