Long ago the expanding city of Seattle swallowed up two of its neighbors, and neither of them has ever forgotten.
Ballard and Fremont, once cities in their own right,are now Seattle neighborhoods of a particularly independent-minded kind. They're close together, though not contiguous, and if you travel to either of them today, you'll encounter a unique characterthat still resists complete assimilation — Nordic and proudly maritime in Ballard; arty and free-spirited in Fremont.
Each is undergoing a kind of 21st-century renaissance, with shops and restaurantsmoving in, and a new, often young crowd arriving to live or just to play. But in either one, you can still lose yourself so thoroughly that you will barely even remember you're in the same town as theSpace Needle.
In Ballard, the best starting point is the Hiram Chittenden Locks, connected to the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which were completed about 90 years ago. The locks help keep thesaltwater Puget Sound from despoiling the freshwater Lake Washington, and they carry fishing and pleasure boats upward and downward between sea level and the lake's 26-feet-higher elevation.
Watching thelocks fill up like a giant bathtub is a surreal experience as the rising water lifts yachts and fishing vessels. But the irresistible flourish is the glass-lined tunnel that snakes along the locks and,in salmon spawning season, allows tourists to spy on the fish as they make their way up their ladder — actually a series of ascending weirs.
If you've only seen salmon in the form of thinly slicedgravlax, the extreme close-up views of chinook and coho can be a shocker. One day this fall, visitors pressed their faces a few millimeters away from the fat fish, which clunked into each other, formedtraffic jams and sometimes turned their vacant expressions on the tourists.
Just beyond the fish ladder, American Indian anglers were exercising their fishing rights under treaties dating back to...