Today I accidentally caused us to miss church. To be fair, I didn’t mean to — I forgot it started at 9:30 instead of 10:00. Goodness knows how I forgot this, but there it is. Too many schedules in my brain, perhaps.

But the good news is that we missed church for a great family activity: our weekend park walk. This week we stayed close to home, visiting O.O. Denny Park, conveniently only a short drive from our house.

On the way, I learned that O.O. stands for Orion Orvil, a truly amazing name for one of the white dudes who founded Seattle. This property belonged to O.O. Denny as a “country retreat,” and his widow donated it to the City of Seattle after his death. It officially remains a City of Seattle park, although jointly managed with the county, since it’s across the lake from the actual city.

I know all of this interesting background thanks, once again, to Urban Trails. In addition to trail descriptions and directions to the park, it frequently provides interesting historical information about the site and what you see on the way. We read these historical descriptions on the way to the park, learning a little more about our region as we go. (As a side note: Support local organizations like Mountaineers by purchasing their books! The internet’s firehose of information can’t replace this kind of well-researched compendium.)

I’ve ridden my bike past O.O. Denny Park many times, used its bathrooms on more than a few occasions, participated in a couple park cleanup volunteer events there, and visited the lake-side part of the property once or twice. But I’ve never hiked the actual trails before.

First of all, you have to accept that O.O. Denny Park is small. It doesn’t offer miles of crisscrossing paths to lose yourself in. It has a couple pretty simple paths that intersect enough to allow you to walk a few different short loops through its delightful lowland woods.

What that doesn’t really capture is its charm. First of all, Sylvia lives in O.O. Denny Park. Sylvia is the largest tree in the county, an estimated 600 years old and more than 23 feet in circumference.

Benji Hugs Sylvia the Big Tree
Benji hugs Sylvia the big tree.
Family with Sylvia the Big Tree
This tree is really tall!

Seeing that tree helped me imagine, with a certain amount of sadness, a time when Sylvia wasn’t unique. Less than 200 years ago, trees at least that size covered the entire region. I’m glad Sylvia remains, but I feel sorry we came and wreaked such havoc on this beautiful place. I wish O.O. Denny and his contemporaries had operated with a little more thought for the future — and I hope that we don’t make their same mistakes.

Anyway, philosophy aside, O.O. Denny Park also offers a sparkling little creek with a number of classic log footbridges over it.

O.O. Denny Park Bridge
O.O. Denny Creek Crossing

Unfortunately, the creek showed clear evidence of the drought that already plagues this normally wet corner of the world. Even so, we barely restrained Benji from spending the rest of the walk time playing in the creek. I expect we’ll return at some point expressly for that purpose.

Although I read the history of the park on the drive over, I didn’t actually read the trail description, so the enormous staircase that climbed a couple hundred feet up the side of Finn Hill surprised all of us. Some of us took it more stoically than others. Don’t let this picture deceive you; Benji had just stood up from an apparently very effective short rest when I took this. Most of the time I wouldn’t say we could use the verb bounding to describe our ascent.

O.O. Denny Hill Stairs
Benji bounds up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs we looked at the map and found a connection through a short section of neighborhood streets back into the trail to form a loop. That was about the time we looked at a watch and realized that if it was 9:20 right then, and church started at 9:30, we should probably resign ourselves to missing church. Oops.

But it worked out fine that we missed church; instead, we went from the park to the Lake Forest Park farmer’s market, where Benji tried a lime-flavored popsicle.

Trying a Lime Popsicle
He finished it, but I don’t think he’ll choose that flavor again.

Overall, I highly recommend O.O. Denny Park for an accessible park with mostly very easy trails that showcase a tiny slice of surprisingly old forest. And, as I said: Little creek, we’ll be back.

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