Pathway of Lights / by Kevin Swantek

 They even light the docks that surround the lake with the little candle-lit lanterns.

They even light the docks that surround the lake with the little candle-lit lanterns.

This last Saturday (Dec. 14th) I walked over to Greenlake to check out the 37th Annual Pathway of Lights for the very first time. For anyone who doesn’t know, Pathway of Lights is an event where volunteers set up thousands of luminaria that light both sides of the 2.8 mile path around Greenlake. The event is scheduled from 4:30 - 7:30 and there are several stations around the lake where one can listen to live instrumental music, caroling, or get a hot chocolate. 

I first became aware of the this event two years ago. Last year I was unable to participate because of some other conflicting holiday obligation (I can't remember what). This year I promised myself not to miss it, but due to a volunteer opportunity, that required me to be somewhere else by a certain time, I felt much more rushed for this walk than I wanted to be. I would have happily stopped at each station along the way, had I the time.

 Taken from the Greenlake path.

Taken from the Greenlake path.

I started the walk, relatively promptly, at 4:30. Dusk had set in, and the darkness was coming fast. The luminaria at dusk were very beautiful, and it allowed me to get a couple of instagram photos before the daylight had completely gone. In the dark of the night, there just wasn’t a good picture to be taken of those damn candles.

A lot of people turned out for this event, and it presents a few challenges for the Greenlake regulars. The pathway around the lake becomes quite congested, and I noticed the few runners I saw struggling to navigate their way through the packs of people. Also, because of the crowds, it can be hard to walk around the lake at your own pace without either feeling pushed along, or slowed down. None the less, it was still an incredibly festive environment. I saw a small family in a tiny boat with a string of lights being pushed off from the shore, paddle boarders with what looked like candles on the back of their boards, and children strung up with battery-powered christmas lights. 

 Paddle boarders, with what looked like candles on the back of their boards.

Paddle boarders, with what looked like candles on the back of their boards.

Overall it was fun, and the weather was amazing for Seattle at this time of the season. Next year I’ll make sure I have the time to experience the whole thing the way I would have preferred to. One thing I'll try is to start out between 3:30 and 4:00 in order to capture more pictures at dusk, and maybe getting to enjoy the full beauty of luminaria (depending on what time the candles actually get set out on the path) before the crowds get too unwieldy. Once the sunsets, and the daylight is completely gone, the luminaria just aren’t as impressive. I think in some part that's because with the number of people on the path, it's hard to find an unobstructed view. That's fine though, because the magic of the experience really becomes about the holiday spirit that so many bring with them. That's the reason why I’ll definitely plan to take a second lap around lake. I really do want to stop and listen to the music, and enjoy all of the holiday cheer. Pathway of Lights is an event I would highly recommend to families looking for something to do during the holiday season. If young kids are involved, weather and length of the walk are certainly considerations. With a couple of spiked hot chocolates, or maybe Irish coffee, It could also make for a fun date night.