Nine miles from downtown Seattle, Carkeek Park sits amid the suburban mess. You can only get to the park if you know where to turn. It’s worth risking the twists and having a try at the strange tiny roundabout to reach the slice of wilderness just out of the earshot of the city.
The park’s 220 acres gather around Piper Creek. The parks central field was filled with what looked like a thousand summer campers setting up tents, tugging on kite-strings, and walking on coffee-can stilts. when my father and I arrived.
Carkeek’s rocky beach stretches along Puget Sound across the railroad tracks a short walk from the open field at the heart of the park. The pebbles of the beach are smooth, turned over a million times by the gentle waves, but not enough to be pulverized into sand just yet. We ventured to the water’s edge but soon relinquished the beach to children. Let them ponder the pebbles.
We retreated to the bridge which crosses over the train tracks dividing the rest of the park from the beach.
My father and I leaned against the railing on the beach side at the top of the stairs. A couple of young women, leading younger girls across the bridge, came by some time after we’d paused there, waiting for a train we weren’t sure would come by.
“You have to get across before a train comes,” one of the young women was saying, her tone conspiratorial as she gently pushed the girls along. “Once someone died up here! The train came by and blew its smoke and he suffocated!”
The girls hurried across and down the stairs to the beach.
Across the water, Bainbridge Island cowers beneath the shadow of the even more distant Olympic Mountains. A few far-off snowcaps matched the whitecaps on the water, the tiny crashing waves. The sound lapped at the shore, we waited. The train never came.