Walk This Way: Ginnels and snickets — a series of fortunate discoveries (and about 250 Inukshuks)

Publisher’s note: With the stay-at-home order,  many of us are walking for exercise — 6 feet apart, of course. Have a story of your favorite walking route and/or photos/tips to share with readers? Email them to myedmondsnews@gmail.com.

Did you know that Edmonds is thick with ginnels and snickets?  And even a multitude of inukshuks (if that is the plural… )?  But first, some definitions:

– Ginnel – (plural ginnels) (English, especially Yorkshire and Lancashire) A narrow passageway or alley often between terraced houses.  Readers of Anne Cleves will know this already.

– Snicket – (plural snickets) about the same, and for the purpose of this article, somewhat smaller than a ginnel.  It sounds smaller, anyway.

– Inukshuk (plural uncertain; can anyone help?) A structure of rough stones, often in the form of a human figure, traditionally used by the Inuit People as a commemorative sign.

After heart problems and a stent implant 10 or so years ago, and after a more recent amputation of one foot and the fusing of the other, I am, like Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost, “Doom’d (well, strongly encouraged) for a certain spell to to walk the night — or streets — till, in my case, my calories are burnt and purged away.

Which has been an enormous amount of fun. I can now make it from the waterfront to Yost Park, and I plan an assault on the west face Anaedmonds soon — i.e., all the way up to Five Corners.  Getting back down may be the real problem, but then the descent always is. It’s exhilarating to feels the strength and conditioning coming back, though the pounds are pretty stubborn!

And on the way I’ve discovered so many wonderful things (years ago, when I was actively training, I even discovered someone restoring an ancient steam tractor on a driveway off a main road in Lynnwood).  Chiefly there have been some great gardens, some wonderful houses, lots of friendly and encouraging Edmonds residents – including a very nice little girl on a bike who said, ”I’m sorry about your leg” one day last summer when I was wearing shorts.

But perhaps the most useful and delightful discovery has been all the numerous small alleys and passages in Edmonds —  the ginnels and snickets.  I have discovered to my glee that it’s possible to walk almost all the way from the Sunset-Route 104 line  up to 9th, and almost never set foot on a street!  This makes for fascinating, often graveled, walks through what feels much more like “neighborhood” than  apartment- and store-lined streets, and these passages are almost entirely deserted, a real plus as we isolate against the virus.

Sometimes these are the narrowest snickets:

And at other times full-blown alleys/ginnels. Here’s one of my favorites. It runs all the way from 9th down to 3rd, emerging half a block north of the fountain:

And this one has some great views out over the new park-to-be; a nicer day would have made for a better picture, but this is Edmonds, and it is March:

I’ve also started to explore the “Hidden Streams of Edmonds,” largely underground now, like the Lost Rivers of London (the Fleet, etc.). One such comes down just south (and slightly uphill) from Holy Rosary, and dives underground at 7th. This is Shell Creek playing hide and seek with us. Another pops in and out of view on Walnut, where there have been some lovely gardens laid out to make use of the stream and trickling water that must be even more beautiful in summer.  I trespassed onto a private driveway to snap this — apologies to the owners, whose address I will not divulge. You have a treasure!  Can you forgive my trespass enough to invite me for a real visit sometime over the summer? Champagne included in the self-invitation!

Now for the inukshuks. Park at Haines Wharf Park. A ginnel leads directly north and up from the north end of the parking area — lots of up! —  past some lovely houses with even lovlier planting on the west side of the ginnel. You emerge onto 75th Place West at the bottom of North Meadowdale Road (my next assault will be to the top of Meadowdale Road – to think we used to run it when we were training!). Go left, or north, and this will lead past some lovely houses which must have incredible views, to Lund’s Gulch, a hidden gem of a park, a country club in the early 60’s when we moved here.  Once past the disabled-vehicles-only gate (plenty of room for pedestrians – and no traffic) you are in Inukshuk land:

I lost count at about 150 posts, which must bring the Inukshuk count way over 300. Some posts have three intricate stone piles, all come up from the beach (where free rocks are to be had, should you be so inclined). Hats off to the Inukshukers! I was absolutely delighted to see these, and couldn’t stop laughing for sheer pleasure! It’s a miracle no one has knocked these down, though I did see a small group of parents with young children who did knock a few over. I picked some up from the ground and put them back, but down is a lot further than it used to be, and back up is some how even further. (I’m convinced that someone turned up the gravity a few years ago. I guess old age is when you wait untill you drop several things before you lean over to get them. It’s a question of efficiency, of course…)

There’s much to see in Edmonds, in or out of the bowl.  I’ll leave the conclusion to G. K. Chesterton (“The Rolling English Road”):

For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

— By Nathaniel Brown


5 Replies to “Walk This Way: Ginnels and snickets — a series of fortunate discoveries (and about 250 Inukshuks)”

  1. Using alleys as urban trails is disrespectful and unsafe; alleys are not designed for foot traffic and do not have the same set-backs and sight lines as streets. I’ve had close calls when backing out of my back garage or pulling back into the alley with the fences and shrubberies that obscure visibility.

    Using alleys now, with enforceable social distancing, is even more inconsiderate and selfish. Alleys are not that wide and these paths, promoted in your article, cant be traveled by two people staying 6′ apart.


    1. Thanks for the reminder about safety, Gregg. I would ask of everyone that we be kind to each other during this time. We are all trying to navigate as best we can. If someone is walking down an alley it is likely they are not purposely being disrespectful. I hope that if we are going to be following social distancing rules, we know that on a trail or narrow walkway, we would follow behind each other at the appropriate distance.


  2. Just in, from a friend in England: “In Sussex we call a ginnel a ‘twitten’ which I think means the same thing and not a snicket though it may apply to both. I wonder if Lemony Snicket is related.”

    Gregg: I encountered no one in the alleys; far fewer in fact, than on the streets, where everyone was observing at least ten feet. We’re all being safe and careful, and getting much-needed fresh air and exercise. Walking alone, I’m pretty confident that I can avoid anyone backing out, and at any rate, I saw none. But the article was about exploring Edmond and finding treasures.


  3. Thanks for this article Nathanial…I love reading British mysteries and now some of the vocabulary makes sense lol. I’ll definitely be exploring some of the ginnels and snickets of Edmonds. I will be aware of safely, be respectful and greet my fellow walkers from a safe distance.


  4. Nathaniel, thank you for sharing a lovely journey along the ginnels and snickets of our charming and relatively untraversed (is that a word?) Edmonds. I love reading your writing, and you are as wonderful at describing the local beauty as you are when you travel abroad. Please do share more of your journeys that lift our hearts and minds to kinder and more pleasant places.


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