Enatai Beach Park

Sometimes it isn’t the location.  It’s the timing.

Enatai Beach fishing pier

On a day I would have otherwise forgotten, I found myself exploring a park whose official description is limited to an address, a photograph of a non-descript building and instructions on how to rent the park.

I-90 sunset

I had low expectations.  My primary interest was to see what the underside of a highway might look like.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I-90 sunset

I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something I like about infrastructure.  Especially unassuming infrastructure.  Things we built to perform a function, not to serve any ephemeral standard of beauty.  Things that we maintain and keep polished because they do something for us, not because our souls find joy in gazing upon them.  For some reason, these things strike an aesthetic chord.

In a world where by any reasonable measure, the ugly outnumbers and outweighs the beautiful, a highway is the triumph of the ugly.  It’s an overt monument to dominance, to anti-nature.  It’s an industrial revolution that is also deeply counter-revolutionary.  I should have every reason to be revolted by such a scar on the landscape, and yet often I am fascinated.  There may be a Darwinian element to this appreciation, a recognition of fitness and adaptation.  Or perhaps something Hegelian, an understanding that like the Tyrannosaur or the Humvee, the I-90 exists because it must exist and there was no possible alternative to it coming into being.  Better to admire than to live in indignation.

Or perhaps there’s simply a fine line between the gorgeous and the hideous.

I-90 sunset

I-90 sunset

In addition to the I-90 bridging its way to Mercer Island, there’s also a fishing pier at Enatai.  And this is where timing comes in.  In the space of minutes, a location with no purpose but to prohibit anything fun…

Enatai fishing pier

… becomes something halfway between Kenai and Fiji.

Enatai Beach fishing pier

Fishing pier

And at the right moment, a building that is to design as a spork is to utensils manages to be something more.

Enatai silhouettes

Enatai light

I returned to Enatai the following weekend.  The place was the same, but the light had gone.

Had I had not seen its perfect moment, I wouldn’t have given it another glance.

Enatai fishing pier

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Wilburton Trestle

The Wilburton Trestle is a wooden train trestle on the East Side, just southeast of downtown Bellevue.  According to Wikipedia, it’s 102 feet high and 975 feet long, which makes it the longest wooden trestle in the Pacific Northwest.  Although it belongs to BNSF, like most of the railway infrastructure in these parts, it hasn’t been used since 2007, when the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train went out of business.

Did I mention it’s made out of wood?

Wilburton trestle

Wilburton Trestle

 

Aside from walking under it, there are two ways to approach the trestle.  The first involves a climb up a steep muddy slope to the south side of the trestle.  This path involves pathfinding through a thicket of Himalayan Blackberry, while probably trespassing in some unsuspecting neighbor’s yard.  However, it offers a fine view of downtown Bellevue and, if you’re there at the right time, a nice romantic sunset view.

Wilburton trestle track

(If you can persuade your significant other to risk the mud and brambles, that is…)

Wilburton trestle track

The second is simpler:  park somewhere around 118th Ave SE & SE 5th St, ignore the sign promising DANGER, and walk along the tracks until you reach the north side of the trestle.

Danger

Walking the trestle from here is fairly dangerous and is clearly not for the acrophobic.  My constant companion couldn’t make it more than ten paces out.  The wood feels flimsy, and has enough gaps between the slats that the ground below is always visible.  The handrail consists of two flimsy wires, and there are pools of tar in places.  In short, it’s exhilarating.

Train's-eye view

One step beyond

The future of the Wilburton Trestle is unclear at this point.  It will likely depend on what happens with the proposed new light rail line that will connect Bellevue to the rest of the Sound Transit line sometime in the distant future.

Last train to Bellevue

Rumor has it a new trestle may be built to handle a local light rail line, with the old trestle kept around and used as a pedestrian path for hikers.  If confirmed, this would be a great use of a beautiful historic structure.

End of life

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