It happens in a
flash as the afternoon Sounder trains carry commuters
north from Seattle to Everett, a glance at an otherwise
secluded beach frequented by mostly gay men who take
it all off.
"Every day we look outside the train and count
how many are there in their birthday suits," said
Sarah Thompson of Edmonds, a project manager. "It's a
plus for riding the train. It's an added bonus. It's
the entertainment factor for the Sounder."
The beach below a bluff in Woodway,
a peaceful suburb that bills itself as the
Quiet Place, has been a favorite with male nudists for
decades. In 2004 the start of Sounder service gave them new
exposure to commuters shunning the Interstate 5 traffic
follies for a ride along the eastern shore of Puget Sound.
"All the women pile themselves up against the
window," said Steve Barber, a rider who works for King
County law enforcement. "It's comic relief."
As the train crosses from King County to
Snohomish County and passes the huge tanks at a
roofing and paving plant, books close and fingers cease
their tapping at laptop keyboards as attention is focused
through the shoreside windows.
"It's just a fleeting, maybe, four or five
seconds, but it's definitely worth it," said Cecile
Bagrow of Edmonds.
"Most of the time we have to get up out of our
seats to look out the window," Thompson said. "It
depends on who's on the train. Sometimes we get kind
of rowdy about it."
The rocky beach is bounded by railroad tracks,
fences, and the water. It's accessible only by
trespassing on land owned by Burlington Northern Santa
Fe Corp. and a petroleum company.
"You would have to be one of the people that
sleeps both ways to miss it," Thompson said. "They're
Some men recline on towels. Others stroll this
way and that, stand gazing out at the water, scamper
for cover, leap into full frontal view in an apparent
effort to shock the riders, or just wave at the train.
"There's an average of six a day," Thompson
said. "Sometimes there's more, sometimes less.
Sometimes we're disappointed because there aren't any."
Police chief Doug Hansen said he's been aware of
naked men on the beach throughout his 20 years of work
in Woodway but adds that more have been seen in the
past five years.
Local officers sometimes team up with Edmonds
police and Snohomish and King county deputies to shoo
away the nude sunbathers, most of whom come from the
Seattle area and foreign countries, Hansen said, adding that
their reactions range from "openly hostile to embarrassed."
Although nude sunbathing and trespassing on
private property are against the law, the officers
generally just give warnings and seldom issue tickets,
By some accounts, the beach has been frequented
by gay men since the 1930s, and Mayor Carla Nichols
said local residents have not complained.
"Just about everybody in town is aware," Nichols
said. "Now that we have the commuter trains going
regularly, it makes sense it would eventually become a