Avid outdoor enthusiasts Jori Saeger and Brett Maurer spent their first date walking the Queen Anne crown loop together, taking in the lingering April cherry blossoms, followed by an hour-long sit in a park.
"When we were looking to move in together, the first place we visited was in Queen Anne — actually a place we walked by on our first date — and it immediately felt like home," said Saeger.
After the pandemic arrived last March, thanks to a creative walking challenge they created, the now-engaged couple got to know their beloved neighborhood even better.
"Pretty simple," Saeger explained. "Just walk all roads, alleyways and anything that showed up on the Gaia map of Queen Anne."
Every morning they would open Gaia and assess what new territory could be covered.
"We’d plan a quick route to take on and then just set out walking, usually between 2 to 4 miles, depending on the day," she said.
The final stats are incredibly impressive: 85 walks totaling 228 miles and 21,319 feet of ascent, requiring three days 18 hours to complete.
"In hiking parlance, 'redlining' requires one to hike every mapped trail in a given wilderness area, a challenge that seemingly first caught on in the White Mountains of New Hampshire," said Maurer. :With Covid putting something of a damper on our adventure plans, we downsized the challenge to Queen Anne. This not only created an adventure goal close to home, just beyond our front door, but also a way to know our neighborhood intimately. This is surely something we never would have done without [the pandemic]."
The beginning of the challenge, they say, was a breeze. Every walk was new, and they quickly got to explore many different parts of the neighborhood.
"As time wore on, we would do 'clean-up' walks, where we would walk three miles and maybe just get a certain block that we hadn’t gotten," said Saeger.
Some explorations proved more memorable than others.
"One day we started out the walk on a cloudy day, but when we were almost two miles from home, we got stuck in a torrential hail storm," she said. "We ran from awning to awning, both silent and realizing that we really had no other option but to just book it home. We ran all the way home, not in running gear, and still agreed that it was a fun walk. "
Early on, the couple discovered that if they walked a certain direction out of their house, within only a few minutes, they would be treated to the most incredible view.
"In the winter as the sunrise aligned with our walking time, there were a few mornings where we were stopped in our tracks [by a] pink sky, Mount Rainier glowing and the city buildings shimmering with light. What a way to start your day. "
During some months, however, factors beyond their control put the walks on hold. Take, for example, the week-plus last September when Seattle skies were engulfed in smoke.
"We were going CRAZY," Saeger said. "Our mornings were thrown off. We both felt antsy. We saw the distinct difference in our day-to-day lives when we didn’t have the walk setting the stage for the day. That realization motivated us on cold or days we would have rather slept in, knowing how much better our days were when we did it."
She adds that they were able to appreciate the good with the bad, as the challenge also required them to traverse miles and miles of alleyways, parking lots and industrial roads.
"The alleyways were surprisingly a favorite," Maurer said. "Front yards are nice, but they’re a curated scene for public viewing. What’s going on in the back is often a different, more interesting, a more real window to the world."
When asked about tips for fellow city walkers, the duo says it's easy to find a walk you like and simply stick to it. "I walked the same four-mile loop in Fremont hundreds of times, but Covid has really pushed us to enjoy our neighborhoods and to seek out new adventures," said Saeger. "I encourage everyone to meander down streets you’ve never gone on."
When they finally completed their goal, "after awkwardly zigzagging a parking lot, I weirdly felt more accomplished than I have in awhile during Covid! Never underestimate the power of a goal, no matter how random or trivial. We all need a little motivation these days."
So is the couple ready to tackle a new neighborhood ? They're still enjoying their morning walks around Queen Anne, they say. No doubt, countless more dazzling sunrise panoramas await.