Anupam Sharma, known to his friends as AP, spends a lot of time on the Sammamish River Trail, logging on an average more than 300 days a year on it. Here’s his story and how our paths crossed.
Anupam was born and raised in the Central State of India.. His ancestors were wheat farmers. At the age of nine his father (Dr. S. P Sharma) and his brother moved out to an urban city to get an education with no financial support. His father worked various small jobs (selling newspapers, providing tuition to kids etc) to pay for his own school and later achieving a PhD in Organic Chemistry. AP looks back at his father’s courage charting a new path as decisive in his family’s life. His father’s positive, can-do and a supportive attitude to take risks was behind AP’s decision to come to the United States in 2000. AP did his Masters in Computer Science from UCLA. He married Sonal in 2002 and together they forged their own path.
AP and Sonal first lived in Ohio, working at LexisNexis. It was very flat there. AP took up running. He enjoyed training on the flat trails for 5K races. When he joined Microsoft in August 2008 , he moved near Crossroad Mall in Bellevue, he had a hard time training. He ran on pavement, the streets were congested and there were lots of red lights. He started looking for a flat area where he could run to prepare for a 5K to raise funds to help the poor in India with literacy. A group of friends went to Marymoor Park and ran. That was his first time on the Sammamish River Trail.
After that, AP ran regularly on the Rivertrail, usually starting at Marymoor and running to City Hall or the red (steel) bridge near our apartment at Avignon which was about three miles. He was very impressed with the trail, how green it was and he started coming regularly, at least on weekends, to run. From running 5ks AP started running half-marathons. He needed nine to ten miles of running. He began to run the Rivertrail from Marymoor to Sixty Acres Park. That was in 2009. He remembers seeing all the youth playing soccer; the big field and the youth playing made him happy. He also remembers that then the mileposts used to be wooden; marking half and full miles. From Sixty Acres he ran to Wilmot Park and one time to Bothell. In 2013, AP, Sonal and their daughter Aditi moved to Education Hill. The main criteria for that house was its proximity to the trail, so in love with the trail he was. He found a quick route from Education Hill down to Sixty Acres Park which became his starting point for running, or walking in the winter months.
In 2014, a friend introduced AP to road biking. His friend was doing the Seattle to Portland (STP) race, and encouraged him to take up the sport. He bought a road bike and this opened up new possibilities of exploring the Rivertrail. For the first time he biked from Sixty Acres to the University of Washington, discovering the beautiful spots from Kenmore to Seattle which run along Lake Washington. Through Biking AP got to know how far the trail goes. He has done the entire loop that runs from the Rivertrail, to the Burke Gilman Trail to Discovery Park on the Sound, then back again across the 520. You can bike from April to October, so AP would run or walk the trail during the winter months.
He experienced the Rivertrail in its different seasons, loving the different scenery and natural beauty of each. The first sign of spring are the crows, thousands of crows at Sixty Acre Park, eating bugs in the grass. Then the trees start to bud. And birds and their songs fill the air. Sometimes he walks “Birdtrail Loop” in Marymoor Park, where over one hundred species of birds can be spotted. He enjoys hearing the woodpeckers, drumming on the hollow trees. AP often walked early in the morning, enjoying the sunrises of spring as they lit up the yellow-greens, pinks and whites of the budding trees. He notes that the trees near the Redmond Way Bridge are especially beautiful in March and April. And he loves the poplar trees all along the trail that go from their bare branches of winter to the little green buds, then a greenish, gold of new buds. “The long-lingering Spring is really beautiful,” he says. AP doesn’t mind the spring rains. For him it is even more fun to walk when it is raining. “All you need is a good jacket and rainproof shoes.” Spring last from March through Memorial Day.
Then it is summer. The days get warmer and longer in the summer. The trees are in full glory and there are lots of people on the trail walking and talking, skating, biking, roller-blading. Boaters navigate the Sammamish in their kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards. The Wild Roses come out in June; AP loves the smell of the roses, which lasts for a couple of months. Other flowers are in bloom too, like the daisies near the Train Track (name) bridge. AP enjoys biking in the summer. The long warm days mean that you can enjoy the Rivertrail at twilight and beyond, with the lights of the bridges and the moonlight shimmering on the river. “The summer sunsets are really beautiful,” AP says. The greens of summer begin to make way for the tans and browns of August as the grass dries out.
September marks the start of Autumn. Salmon spawn. The leaves on the trees turn cadmium yellow and orange, alizarin pink and sienna brown. AP’s favorite tree has pumpkin (Saffron) colored berries that light up in the sunlight. For AP, Fall is symbolized by that saffron color. He loves how the leaves change color and coat the trail near the old senior center that is being rebuilt. For him the saffron color of those berries and leaves symbolize the Indian culture that he left behind and his mother’s devout faith. Like her he’s attached to reading the ancient wisdom scriptures from India, which tradition says are over five thousand years old. The saffron color reminds him of the wardrobe of the monks and connects him to the saints who compiled those Scriptures. In the ancient vedic tradition, one of those saints, Ved Vyas, compiled significant scriptures, like Vedas. Vedas promote spiritual knowledge born of meditation, the way to achieve which is the practice of Yoga. Yoga is a term that is first found and explained in the Vedas.. Autumn’s saffron colors and doing Yoaga at 60 acres park connects AP to his culture and to his devout mother who lives so far away. Autumn lasts until the end of November.
Then it is winter. December, January and February are mostly wet. It is fun for AP to run and walk the trail then. He’s always able to find a break in the rain during the day when he could go out. Winter is when the Canadian geese immigrate from Canada to the warmer climates in the south. Thousands of them fly overhead in their Vs, calling in their distinctive honks, and landing in the river. AP enjoys the dark of the Rivertrail during those months. “You have a totally different vibe to the trail. The air is fresh. The river is high, sometimes even covering the trail.” There are times when fresh snow covers the trail and trees; that is especially enchanting. There are fewer trail-goers in the winter. The beavers are always there, busy with their work. Every Sunday morning in the winter season, around 7:00am, AP and a friend walk the trail starting at Marymoor, enjoying that sacred season.
One November day in 2021, AP was walking the trail. He came to the pickleball courts near the old senior center. Some people were playing and he stopped and watched their game, mesmerized for over an hour. He started playing there in the spring. At first AP struggled to connect to the people playing. But then, according to AP, I showed up and started interacting with the players. Then a guy named Gary, a gal named Angie and her daughter Ella, started playing. Gary, Angie and Ella were gifted at building community too. AP started bringing his daughter Aditi to play. Soon a community around the sport of pickleball formed. As AP and I got to know each other, I discovered we shared a common love for the trail, a trail that brings very different people together and that can even build bridges of friendship. I look forward to walking the trail with my friend AP and enjoying the trail’s seasons in all their dappled glory.
The Bridges of Redmond ProjectThe Bridges of Redmond is a project by presbyterian pastor and artist Jason Dorsey they tells the stories of the Sammamish River that flows through Redmond and the people who love it. Read more here.
Read the story of Jason’s Redmond Roots hereRead the story of past Redmond mayor Christine Himes here
Read the story of past Redmond mayor Rosemarie Ives hereRead the story of river poet Ken Osborne here
Read the story of culture weaver and community builder Laura Lee Bennett hereRead the story of Salmon Caretaker Roger Urbaniak here
Read the story of sailplane hall-of-famer Bob Dodgson and Sixty Acres Park here.
Read the story of photographer Ed Weiss here
Painting the Sammamish RivertrailEnjoy Jason Dorsey’s paintings (one a day) of the Sammamish Rivertrail here: