I abandoned my Redmond-based-tech-company job back in September of last year, but I still keep in touch with a few folks who are keeping their noses to that grindstone, and I sprung a couple of them on a Thursday afternoon a week ago to make a canoe commute from Lake Sammammish to Lake Washington. These two lakes are connected by the Sammammish River, which is well known for it's paved bicycling path but doesn't get a lot of attention as a waterway in its own right. But it's got a lot going for it: it's super local, making it very convenient to paddle, it's got a lot of wildlife, and it runs close to several fine breweries and tap houses in the fourteen mile journey from Redmond to Kenmore.
We put in at Idylwood Park, a nice little waterfront spot directly downhill from the Microsoft main campus. Lake Sammammish is home to all kinds of watercraft of the jetski/ski-boat variety, but was happily quiet and wake free early on a Thursday afternoon.
Past rows of waterfront houses to the lily-pad choked north end of the lake, a channel appears that winds past the Marymoor Park dog off-leash area on the right, and a rowing club's boathouse and dock on the left. This short channel is notable for the dramatically high count of tennis balls collected in the margins of the waterway.
The lake is held back by a concrete weir. The narrow channel was open, and was just wide enough for us to pass through...just. About six minutes of shallow but rapid water, and some overhanging branches to avoid, and we were through to the slow but steady flow of the Sammammish Slough. This particular portion of the river may be unnavigable at other times of the year, so paddlers may need to carry their boats around.
Lots of wildlife along the way: geese, ducks, kingfishers, countless blue herons, muskrats, and beavers were all in attendance.
But like any urban river the Sammammish has collected a few bits of detritus along the way.
About 9 miles in we beached the canoe at a waterfront park, locked it up with a bike lock, then walked along the railroad tracks to get to The Collective, a taproom with an abundance of refreshment on hand. It's good to keep hydrated on a trip like this.
Back to the water, to try and finish before dark. We pulled into the Kenmore boat launch just as the sun was setting.
We encountered only a handful of other boats on the entire paddle -- we basically had the waterway to ourselves. Thinking about the gridlocked highways in the area, and even the perpetually busy bike trail running alongside the waterway, I don't think there's any way to traverse that distance and encounter so few people. As commutes go that makes it pretty attractive.
If that kayak or canoe of yours hasn't seen much water, consider the Sammammish. It's an easy paddle, unhurried and uncrowded, and it's in our own backyard.