[Wander Washington] A Sensory Experience at SeaTac’s Highline Botanical Garden

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” ― Henry David Thoreau

A trip to or from the airport is already excuse enough to look for a reason to stretch your legs, and for those that are plotting a trip to the SeaTac airport are in for quite a treat. Located just a stone’s throw from the airport at under three miles and five minutes, the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden is an extrasensory experience that’s worth immersing yourself in any time of year.

What started as a small one acre garden of private plantings by Elda and Ray Behm, was eventually slated for demolition when the SeaTac airport was slated for expansion; in 1999, the gardens beautifully evolved to sit on over 10 acres of land in a new location, with many of the original plants salvaged and transplanted – including a two acre section to mirror the original garden.

As you enter the Highline SeaTac Garden, you traverse through the Elda Behm Paradise Garden and can walk whimsically along the ebbing stream through the park, catching waterfalls and reflective views along the way as you explore your way through seven unique areas, some even maintained by local groups.

A wonderful adventure in the late Spring and early Summer, the King County Iris Society has a 500 square foot display bed of bearded iris. Not to be outdone, there’s also the Seattle Rose Society’s Celebratory Garden and the Puget Sound Daylily Club’s display garden, each with over a hundred different varieties of flower.

The Sensory Garden is full of wonder and amazement, and dazzles the senses with their unique collection of plants, from a variety of textures and fragrances, to a rain garden and a vine tunnel. Meanwhile, the Shade Garden offers a pleasant repose from the sunshine and features billowing arms of Alders and Madronas, as they shade the pathway in tinges of sepia tone, blowing wistfully in the wind.

Last, but most certainly not least – winding around the grounds, you’ll each my favorite – the historic Seike Japanese Garden.

Originally built in 1961 by the esteemed Shintaro Okada of Hiroshima, the gardens were a dedication to a fallen son; eventually, in 2006, the entire Seike Japanese Garden – from the bridges, hand-candled pines and massive stones, was relocated to the Highline Botanical Garden.

As many parks are across the state and country, the Highline SeaTac Gardens are currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic – please do your part, abide. If you’re itching to pay them a visit now, check out their socials – if you’d like to donate to the gardens as a community gesture – head here.

Website | Yelp | Facebook | Trip Advisor

Do you have a favorite, secret garden – or at least one you’re willing to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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[Seattle Sights] Wanderlust at the Woodland Park Zoo

Admittedly, it wasn’t until these last few weeks, being stuck inside with my thoughts, my books and crafts, camera lenses and unpublished blog posts, husband, mother in law and cats – that I finally realized: I have taken far too long of a hiatus from writing. It’s like ideas oozing out of each and every part of my brain right now, almost like the dam of my mind has been reopened and can’t stop pouring out experiences, learnings and epiphanies that are ripe for sharing; as I gallivanted through my memories – I realized I never shared the entirety of one of my favorites – the Woodland Park Zoo.

Hailed as a winner of multiple awards for Best National Exhibits by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and only second in number received to New York’s fabled Bronx Zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo encompasses 92 acres of public spaces and exhibits in the heart of Woodland Park, with over a thousand animals and three hundred species, not to mentioned over thirty endangered and five threatened. And to boot, the park is equal amounts nature as it is plants – bringing to life over 50,000 shrubs and herbs, 7,000 trees and over a thousand different species of plants.



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Boasting several different park entrances, you can make each visit equally unique by switching your style up and diving into a new arena. From the African Savanna to Tropical Asia and the Tropical Rain Forest, the Northern Trail and Temperate Forest to Australasia, the entire world seems to exists in the extreme microcosm of the Woodland Park Zoo.

My ultimate favorite: Molbak’s infamous and seasonal Butterfly Garden. With dozens of varieties of butterflies, this area is full is wonder and beauty – with hundreds of butterflies flying around you, it feels like you’re in a whimsical sort of wonderland. Any way you spin it, each adventure to the Woodland Park Zoo is unlike any others – I’ve collected a few of my favorite snaps from my last visits, enjoy!



On your way out, a great spot to soak up some final sunshine is over in the Rose Garden. The perfect setting for an afternoon or sunset stroll once the park has closed down, there you’ll find incredible landscaping, fragrant blooms from all over the world and a lovely reflection pool. Ever-changing with the seasons, the Rose Garden is a solid bet any time of year.


With over a dozen distinct eco-systems and geographic zones to roam through, and a diverse cast of characters within – you shouldn’t stress about fitting it the whole Woodland Park Zoo in during one visit, plus – let’s face it, the animals keep vastly different schedules than us and are often asleep during the day, which can make it hard to find them. The more times you visit, the more you’ll be able to take in – plus, it feels good to support a great cause, so I’m all for forking over the money for my membership. Within two visits, your membership will pay for itself, not to mention get you additional perks including discounts in the restaurants as well as the general store.

Become a Woodland Zoo Member here!

For more on the Woodland Park Zoo and my favorite – their incredible seasonal Butterfly Garden, visit their website and socials; or once this stay at home order is lifted – if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit – I promise you, it’s worth it.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Wander Washington] Chasing Waterfalls on the Snoqualmie River

Catching Reflections in Cle Elum

With the turning of the Seasons here in Washington, Spring is kicking herself into a beautiful full bloom; and as we’re making it through another week of Stay in Place orders in Washington, I know I’m not the only one who is simply itching to get out of her home, back into the great outdoors, and lap up the wonders sprinkled around this fantastic state. Leaving California, one of the big motivators was proximity and access to nature – and let me tell you: up here in the Pacific North West – we’ve got that down.

The last grand adventure that I took, was with my family for my father’s birthday; we took a day to ourselves and gallivanted out of Seattle proper and to the East on Highway 90. Our journey took us along the Snoqualamie River, South of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest into whimsical wonderlands just off of the beaten path; each bit lush with greenery, teaming with fungi, with offerings of waterfalls and scenic views at the end of each and every trail.

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We kicked off the day with a stop at Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington’s most fabled tourist attractions. A member of the National Register of Historic Places, Snoqualmie Falls gained most of its notoriety by being prominently featured on the hit series Twin Peaks. The Falls offers a quick walk, descending down through old growth trees and a temperate rain forest and down to the rushing river below.

We visited in the beginning of October, which was lovely with the mix of light wind, succulent sunshine and the tiniest dusting of snow on the mountain ranges nearby. I was told the best seasons to really get the full effect of the Falls are between the end of Autumn and beginning of Spring as the water levels in the area rise.

From there, we headed further East towards North Bend. Under the ever shifting blue skies and shifting autumn leaves, we found ourselves pulling off at almost turnout we could to explore the abundant little nooks and crannies along the way, finally stumbling upon one of my still favorite finds.

As you duck under the canopy of the tree grove and into what feels like Avatar, you’re greeted by colorful fungi and the delightful sound of rushing water.

Inching closer to the sound, you’ll find a narrow trail with spritzes of water tumbling towards your direction. Finally, low and behold – the breathtaking beauty of Franklin Falls. As you descend downwards, closer and closer to the waterfalls – rainbows cascade from the spray and you’re immediately enveloped in a magical mist. There’s simply nothing like it.

After a few moments reveling in the rainbows and raindrops of Franklin Falls, we were off, off and away again, still due East – but this time with a vastly different intention: food. In Ellensburg right off the highway sits the Aardvark Express, a fantastic Korean-Mexican fusion foodtruck boasting some damn fabulous bowls; I highly suggest the Hurry Curry Bowl for any first timers.

With full stomachs and happy hearts, we were back on the road – this time coming home due West, but with just a few more stops to make on the way back.

The first was on the back-end of Snoqualamie Pass in the vastly different landscape of Cle Elum, The Heart of the Cascades. With several hikes and water features, including lakes, the area is the perfect summer spot for camping, recreation and outdoor activities, as well as water sports and boating. Maybe it was the time of year, or just where we decided to take our pit stop – but the landscape started to feel more and more like the desert of Easter Washington than the lush vegetation of the more Western regions.

Finally, last but certainly not least – we took ourselves wandering along the river in Olallie State Park in search of the infamous Twin Falls waterfalls, which contrary to what the name states – actually boast five fantastic falls, serene swimming holes and a cacophony of birds chirping their way through the woods.

Lately, I’ve been reliving my adventures through my photos because of the one two punch of ‘stay in place’ orders and park closures. When this current Coronavirus chas is over, I’m almost positive there will be a flood of people out to all of the parks and open areas – so please, be conscious of your physical distance, and please don’t go out if you’re sick However, if you’re anything like me I know you’re feverishly plotting your next outdoor adventure – where’s the first place you’re planning on visiting once you can? Let me know in the comments below!

For more information on the trails mentioned, peep the links below:

Snoqualmie Falls: Website | All Trails

Franklin Falls: All Trails

Cle Elum: All Trails

Olallie State Park, Twin Falls: All Trails

[Wander Washington] The Magic + Majesty of Mount Rainier

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

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Whether you’re coming into Seattle or exiting the city stage left, there’s one piece of nature that simply towers over the rest, sitting pristine and pretty at 14.1 thousand feet above sea level. We know it now as Mount Rainier, but past indigenous tribes proudly remember and revere it was Tahoma, or Tacoma.

Located about sixty miles southeast of Seattle, the spectacular – and active! – stratovolcano has become a larger than life icon of the Pacific Northwest landscape. Made of alternating layers of lava, ash and pyroclastic ejecta flows, Mount Rainier effortlessly towers over the rest of the Cascade Mountain Range with 26 major glaciers and 36 square miles of permanent sparkling snowfields, earning its status as the most glaciated mountain peak in the contiguous United States. At the top of the summit, the geothermic heat spewing from a duo of volcanic craters prevents the rims from getting snowed in or iced over, forming the world’s largest glacial cave network of ice-filled craters.

While the current top formation of Mount Rainier is estimated to be approximately 500,000 years old, the mountain and the entire Cascade Volcanic Arc is considered part of the ‘Lily Formation’ and spans from roughly 840,000 years old to a whopping 2.6 Million years old. Many eons and moons ago, it’s purported that Rainier was around 16k feet high – but with increased volcanic activity around 5,600 years ago around 3600 B.C., the volcano erupted, removing the top 2k feet and causing the northeast side of the mountain to collapse. Now known as the Osecola Lahar – or mudflow, a wall of mud, rock and debris over 100′ high cascaded over land and into the waters of the Puget Sound, nearly 50 miles away. Though small eruptions have happened since with a frequency of every few hundred years, the last major eruption of Rainier was about 1000 years ago – to which many geologists say, we could be due for a ‘big’ one, and it could be absolutely disastrous to the whole planet.


“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”


Home to dozens of roaring rivers, reflection ponds and lavish lakes, the spectacle of the park shimmers and sparkles in full color from every which direction. Boasting assorted entrances, a plethora of unique micro-climates, and dozens of viewpoints and over 130 interpretive trail descriptions – you can essentially guarantee a completely new trip with each visit. I happened to fall in love with the park in a little under six hours, but with multiple lodges and camping spots on site, not to mention the vast amount of hotels around the base of the park, you can completely make a weekend of your visit while you marinate in every last inch of wildlife.


“Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”


With the velocity and veracity of shifting weather patterns, not to mention changes in altitude as you traverse the mountain – it’s also entirely possible to experience every season within a full days adventure. During our stay the other weekend, we were greeted by ambient low level clouds, only to peter out into gloriously clear sunshine at Sunrise Ridge, then a hail storm as we etched our way around the mountain, followed by an intense game of hide and seek with a bog of fog, and finally one of the most glorious lightning storms I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting under. That said – word to the wise, pack enough extra clothing that you can be warm and dry if the rain starts in, or have a tank top and shorts for when the sun finally manages to break through the day.


For more on Mount Rainier, head to their website or social channels – or simply pack a bag, and plan a visit!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

[Seattle Sights] An Afternoon Immersed in the Aquarium

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“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”

Big city life – there’s simply nothing like it! Between the hustle and bustle to the personalities that fill the room, museums of some sort or other around each turn, and enough live entertainment to submerse yourself in a different type of extrasensory experience every single night; one can lose and discover themselves, often multiple times in a day. Moving to Los Angeles a decade ago, I was immediately enamored with the neon lights and vibrant personalities. And now, moving up to Seattle, I’ve reawakened the wanderlust spirit inside me, and she’s been hungry for adventure. For as many museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, parks and music venues that Los Angeles has to offer – the one thing I always wished was a mere stones throw away: an aquarium. Well, low and behold – Seattle has an incredible one and I literally jumped at my chance to go as fast as I could.

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From the second you enter the Aquarium, you’re greeted with an expansive view thanks to the ‘Window on Washington Waters’. Boasting a 120,000 gallon tank, the Window encompasses the entire 20′ by 40′ wall and includes over 800 different types of fish, and ecological features created to replicate the seascape around Neah Bay, which sits directly across from the US-Canadian border of British Columbia in Northern Washington.

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As you wind your way around the corridors, you’re greeted with touch tide pools galore and exquisite views of Moon Jellies glowing under a color-changing black light. And then, a coup de grâce of the waters – the Giant Pacific Octopus. Clocking in around 150 lbs with a tentacles that span over 20′, they can change color and texture in a heartbeat; along with having eight arms that can act independently of each other and the main brain these blue blooded beauties have nine brains and three hearts. Last but not least for the main hall, you’ll reach the Pacific Coral Reef and Tropical Pacific viewing stations with an array of luminescent biodiversity, including varieties of fluorescent coral and fish with vivid colors to match!

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As you exit the double doors and head outside towards the pier and a stellar view of Elliot Bay, Puget Sound and the mountains of Olympic National Park, you’ll be greeted another one of my favorite exhibits, that I unfortunately for you but great for me spent too much time enjoying to take photos of, the marine mammals! Featuring a full menagerie of river otters, sea otters, harbor seals and northern fur seals – come on and get your fill of adorable animals dashing and diving through the water from the outside – and then shimmy your way indoors for an underwater view; and, a visit to the fabled underwater dome, boasting an inspired 360º  view of Puget Sound marine life in a 400,000 gallon tank.

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One of my favorite things about the Seattle Aquarium – how incredibly knowledgeable and helpful every single docent and volunteer was! There’s nearly no signage throughout the venue, which means interaction (or, improvisation!) is necessary to figure out how to get around, or simply what gorgeous creatures you were spying on.

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If you’re not on the spontaneous side and are planning your visit to the aquarium, snag your tickets online and save yourself a little bit of money. Or if you’re ocean obsessed like me and already have the intention of returning – make sure you get a year long pass; it can pay for itself in two visits – and it comes with a ton of snazzy perks, like early admission, special members only (read: 21+) nights, and discounts in the gift shop as well as the restaurant.

Open daily from 9:30 to 5pm, there are plenty of exhibits to get lost in and plenty of sea creatures to discover. Whether it’s for an afternoon outing, or an all day adventure – the Seattle Aquarium is a perfect way to spend some time under the sea.

For more on the Seattle Aquarium and their humanitarian ecological efforts, head to their social media channels; or just dive on in for an afternoon under the sea!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[Wander Washington] Bounding Through Bellevue Botanical Garden

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Moving up to Seattle, one thing that I wasn’t prepared for is the mammoth amount of biodiversity that the entire state has to offer. On a Macro Level, Washington State has an incredibly unique and diverse ecological footprint. The West Coast oscillates between a Mediterranean Climate over the Summer and a blustery, Marine West Coast Climate over the Winter. Nestled on the top North West corner, the Olympic National Forest is home to 4 distinct rain forests, the Hoh, Queets, Bobchiel and Quinault; the Hoh Rain Forest ranks as one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States, let alone the North West. On the flip side of the Cascade Mountains, which act as a rainshadow, Eastern Washington boasts a vast high desert featuring a dry, arid climate that includes the Juniper Dunes Wilderness and Channeled Scablands, both carved out of land that acted as a flood basin during the last Ice Age until multiple cataclysmic floods washed through the region. All things this girl is excited to explore!

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Dropping into a micro level, Seattle proper is an oceanic seaport city that sits comfortably between Elliot Bay, Lake Washington and the Puget Sound which provide some sanctity from extreme heat and cold, while the geoclimate features a wonderful range of local flora and fauna. Moving at the end of the Winter Season means that we’re prepping for the glorious weeks of Spring then Summer, and you best believe this California Kitten is ready to frolic in the succulent sunshine. But, rain, shine or clouds – every second I can, I’ve been exploring nooks and crannies of the area with a sense of childlike wonder and amazement: the weather has ensured everything is lush and lavish, with parks on literally every corner. Not to mention, the myriad of bays, cuts, rivers, sounds and lakes give way to infinite amounts of waterway views. Every day, you could explore a new partition of the area – and lookup parks, or gardens, and find you’re surrounded by enough to have to make a game time decision; and that’s exactly how we happened upon the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

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Just a hop, skip and a jump over the freeway from Seattle proper by bridge sits an urban oasis sprawling over 53 acres of gorgeous landscaping; complete with both restored and natural wetlands and woodlands, alongside expertly cultivated and curated gardens. We came across it quite by accident and in the middle of Winter, the landscape gave way to vibrant flowers, and buds just itching for the right amount of sunlight to get their bloom on; and I can’t wait to visit again on purpose and revel in the flowers’ maturation.

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Back in 1981, a couple by the name of Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded over seven acres of land, as well as their home, to the city of Bellevue in hopes of creating an arboretum and public park in the heart of the city. A little over three years later, the Jewett family were inspired to create a Botanical Garden on the property; with the city, and the Shorts, approval, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society was launched to create the Garden itself, while the city added ten additional acres to the already blossoming landscape. Fast forward to 1989, and Bellevue managed to incorporate 19 more acres of land surrounding the Shorts estate – bringing the acreage up to 36; and finally, in 2006, the Botanical Gardens reached their current 56 acres with assistance of the city.

Now one of Bellevue’s most popular destinations, the Botanical Gardens has a menagerie of habitats, from woodlands and meadows, to natural wetlands and gorgeous display gardens, like the Japanese inspired Yao Garden, the Lost Meadow Trail and fuchsia, dahlia and rock gardens. With ample space to stroll, and lose yourself in this delicious slice of nature.

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This garden is such a hidden gem, that even though we were there to gallivant through it on a Sunday, it felt like we were the only ones there; it was glorious! What are your favorite hidden gems in your city?

For more on the Bellevue Botanical Garden, head to their social channels or simply pay them a visit – I promise, it’s a worthy afternoon and you will not be disappointed.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Yelp | Instagram

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[Self Discovery] Falling for Autumn

 

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower 
– Albert Camus –

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As of this past weekend, Summer officially gave way to Autumn and up here in the Pacific NorthWest, we’re experiencing all the Fall colors in all of their glory.  There’s a cornucopia of shades springing out from all the flora and the fauna; flowers, trees, bushes, ivy – you name it, it’s changing – and essentially right in front of your eyes. Sunflowers, Rhododendrons and Roses are shedding their vibrant petals, much to the late season chagrin of bees and hummingbirds.

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With our recent move up to Oregon, some of the top comments we’ve heard across the board are about the abundance of unfavorable weather and consistent rainy, grey skies;  neither of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing yet.  Instead, I’ve taken full advantage of the sunshine, with the Canon 6D in tow and gotten to know the new neighborhood.  Not to mention, Fall is an excellent time for letting go and turning into oneself to rediscover what makes our inner fires burn brighter. watching as leaves descended in a dizzying dance to the ground, it felt like I was letting go of my past, and shedding my seasoned skin for a chance to refresh the soul and hibernate the spirit, only to emerge refreshed next Spring.

Here are some of my favorite snaps of the change in season; can’t wait to share more!

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For more on the beauty of Fall, or just Corvallis, check the Flickr Album!