[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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[Seattle Sights] A Pleasant Post-Apocalyptic Walk Through Gas Works Park

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“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn’t exist. It’s that simple, and we can’t afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife–nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” 
― Alan Weisman, The World Without Us

Ever since moving to Seattle just a few weeks ago, it’s as if someone has toggled a switch in my personality; or maybe, it’s simply been unswitched. Much like a piece of electronics that you have to turn off to get working again, it feels as though my brain, soul and heart desperately needed the peace and quiet of Corvallis to get back into a roaring, working mode. After ten years of a go-go-go lifestyle in Los Angeles, it felt not just good – but necessary – to get back to basics; to remove the external noise and exorbitant amount of influences and return to my personal baseline. It’s a baseline that’s devoid of self-doubt and low-esteem, yet eager for adventure with an open mind and wide eyes, ready to swallow scenery and waft in wanderlust from each and every corner of this beautiful, new state – both figuratively and literally.

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After falling head over heels for the city during the week of new years eve, it took us less than two months to get a job in the city and find a new place to call home. And now after two weeks of living here, it truly feels like home. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the world around, and instead of fighting against the current we’re giving into the ride; so far, it’s been a beautiful one. The weather has been in our favor with the sun shining down and barely any clouds in the sky; it’s a brisk Spring, but it’s clear and lovely. Now that I’ve gotten to know the area a bit better, I’ve made a point of gallivanting around and exploring the greenery the city has to offer; one of my first stops – the post-apocalyptic looking Gas Works Park located in near the Fremont area, on the North Shore of Lake Union.

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A former coal gasification plant from Seattle’s Gas Light Company from 1906-56, Gas Works Park has seen a splendid second life as a refurbished public play area – and is possibly best known as the location of the glorious paintball fight with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You (because, childhood). Both a Seattle and Washington State landmark, Gas Works Park spans well over 20 acres, the park boasts a stunning landscape featuring f rolling, green hills – culminating in Kite Hill, which – you guessed it – is great for flying kites, ample shoreline and a panoramic view of Downtown Seattle.

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Now that the coal aspect is defunct, the industrial pieces have been preserved, as well as “taken back”, by nature. Once you can look past the chain-link fence, pieces of metal that once roared into animate life all their own now feature vines, shrubs and trees weaving and winding their way through what’s left of the plant, and various amounts of graffiti art tagged around every corner. As the sunlight shifts and shines through the complex, the air breathes life into a scene that at one time was anything but truly living; making it easy to fathom that plenty of post-apocalyptic entertainment, ranging from TV shows like Incorporated and movies ranging from Divergent  to The Hunger Games, garnered their inspiration from scenes such as this. With ample room for roaming, running and recreation, Gas Works Park is a wonderful romp of urban decay sprawled in the midst of a booming tech economy.

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Though the water’s chemical makeup doesn’t bode well for swimmers, you can kayak or paddle board your way through Lake Union and take the area in, in all it’s splendor.

What are some of your favorite haunts in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below! For more on Gas Works Park, head to their website and socials:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

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[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge

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Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.

One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.

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Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.

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For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.

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Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.

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Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian  arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.

For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!

What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!

Website | Friends of the WLF Refuge | Facebook | Twitter

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[Self Discovery] The Serenity of the Sea

 “My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean’s edge as I can go”
— 
Henry David Thoreau —

Summer in SD

Ever just feel the need to get away? Not to necessarily escape from life, but to take a midweek vacation from all the humdrum stress of your vocation and whatever else might be plaguing or mentally exhausting you.  Lately, there’s been this large itch to jump in the car and not be home – maybe it’s the incredible heat waves we’ve been having in Los Angeles proper, maybe it’s the fact I’ve formally lived in Los Angeles for a decade now; irregardless, lately I’ve had this distant itch that I’ve needed to scratch from sandier locations.

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I work from home and have been working from home for the last five or so years.  It’s a wonderful life, but at the same time – it can make for some stir crazy mornings and cabin fever-esque afternoons.  Thankfully, for the last few weeks, I’ve been blessed enough to tag along while my dad goes on a few work trips down to gorgeous and sunny San Diego, and every now and again I’ve also been jumping in the car with Danny and working from anywhere that cell phone service exists along the Southern California coast.  From Santa Monica, to Long Beach, San Pedro down to Orange County and San Diego – the California Coastline down here has a bevvy of beautiful beaches, ripe and ready for adventures.

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With seventeen miles of coastline and nearly 5000 acres of land, San Diego boasts an incredible amount of beaches per capita, each with their own unique charm, from Ocean Beach to Encinatas and back to Moonlight Beach – you simply can’t go wrong as you bounce from one sandy piece of heaven to the next.  Yes, of course beaches will be crowded – have you met Summer in SoCal?! – so be sure to head there with plenty of time to spare and plenty of sun and sand to be had.

Travel up the coast a bit and you’ll hit the beautiful beaches of Orange County and Newport, including the stunning 1000 Steps Beach.  But I’ll be honest, the only version of the OC I like is the show – and it’s primarily because I can put it on mute. Anyhow, just a hop, skip and a jump up and you’ll reach shores of San Pedro and Angels Gate Park, where notorious scenes from my all time favorite movie were played out in the 90’s.  Can you name the movie? I won’t give it away!  Nestled between two coastlines in a sprawling green park that overlooks the coast, you’ll find the fabled ‘Koren Friendship Bell‘ in all of its vibrant glory and impeccable hand crafted detail.

Los Angeles itself is known as much for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as it is the menagerie of beaches against its coast.  Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Point Dume – you simply can’t go wrong.  Now, it’s definitely a personal decision, but Danny and I typically off for the off the beaten path locations with less people – the more of a tourist trap it is, the less peace, quiet and space you’ll have, you know – if you’re into that sort of thing.

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“Don’t underestimate the healing power of these three things:
music, the ocean, and the stars.” 

Hypnotically beautiful with brooding turbulence underneath, the Ocean water mimics the human condition: meeting new highs and pulsing lows, bringing rocky baggage ashore and washing herself clean of the past, pulling new ideas back undertow and ingraining them in her personality. Summer in SD

It’s as if the waters have found themselves in the midst of mindful meditation that you can’t help but immulate: with this wave – I’m breathing in, with this wave – I’m breathing out.

 

No matter the mood or emotion I bring to the water’s edge with me, it’s always washed away and I’m left feeling rooted, as the soles of my feet and tips of my toes edge their way in and around millions of grains of sand that each have thousands of years of stories to tell.  Twisting my head to and fro to see as far as the eyes can see, I’m inexplicably drawn to the cascading of blues that measure where the sky and sea are drawn together in an almost hand painted gradient.  It’s here, that I shed my snakeskin of the past to the salt and air and become again.

Where do you go when your soul needs to refresh?

 

[Traveling Tales] A Weekend Jaunt to Santa Barbara

“Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.”

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For as vast and varied as Los Angeles is with its multitude of museums, live music on damn near every corner and a menagerie of personalities, there are just some times that you need the elixir of another town, to be able to drink in the libations and life of a new location. Southern California, with its little bit of everything, is an adventurers wet dream with ample amounts of snow, surf and everything in between.  Travel a few hours south of Los Angeles, and you’ll end up in Mexico – go East and you can jaunt out to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs, West will take you to the Pacific Coast and adventure just a little up the 101 and you’ll hit one of my favorite places ever: Santa Barbara.  I should premise this by saying I’m incredibly biased, I spent five lovely years in Santa Barbara pursuing my college degree and each inch of that town is crawling in marvelous memories – but admittedly, it’s been far longer than that since I’ve been back. So, the other weekend when Danny was itching to get out of town, I knew exactly where we needed to go.  After booking a great hotel through CheapTickets at the last second Friday afternoon, on Saturday we were off, off and away on a whirlwind landmark and culinary tour of my old stomping grounds.

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After a leisurely drive up the coast, our first stop on Saturday was the new(ish) Santa Barbara Public Market.  apparently it’s been around for a few years, but it’s definitely new to me since the last time I visited town! Originally, I had planned to stop by the Big Eye Raw Bar started by my college friends’ husband (ps. it looks delicious), but the tacos from Corazon Cocina looked so heavenly that it would have been a sin to pass them up.  UntitledA few laughs and micheladas from The Garden later, and we were off, off and away to stroll State Street in search of The French Press. From what I’ve been told, its one of the best coffee shops in America – and damn, they were so right; I loved it a latte – pun very intended.   Taking the long way back to the car, we stumbled into the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, something I didn’t even know existed – let alone in Santa Barbara, but very worth getting sidetracked by.   Boasting a wide array of original documents and technological advancements, we took a serene stroll through eye opening artifacts and inventions before checking into our hotel, which truly felt like more of an oasis than I would have ever known from the photos.

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Walking in, we were met with an unexpected blend of blooming flowers, lush ponds, as coy fish, ducks and geese unfolded in front of us.  The scene only got better as the sunset began her magic.  Oh, and it wasn’t just ducks – there were ducklings hanging out on lillypads and it was literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  I may or may not have spent half an hour chasing them around with crumbs to get the perfect photos, and of course make a few furry friends along the way.

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When dinnertime came about, we had only one decision to make: Mexican or Fish-centric.  Santa Barbara is exceptional when it comes to both, boasting some of the best authentic Mexican food at La Super Rica, a small hole in the wall family business that has the best meats, as well as the uni that’s imported the world over.   Stretching from Isla Vista into downtown, hitting the coastline, is Santa Barbara’s main squeeze: State Street.  The closer you get to the ocean, the more populated everything is – and rightfully so when you can take a romantic walk on the beach after a hearty meal and the further you get from the water, the less packed you’ll find your haunts.  Deciding to get fishy with it, we ventured over to Edomasa and chowed down on some exceptional late night sushi.

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On Sunday afternoon, we gallivanted down the length of State Street and onto Sterns Wharf for some views and a kickass meal of the freshest of sea food before we hit the road back to Los Angeles. The oldest working pier in California, Sterns Wharf boasts plenty of shops and sightseeing right over the ocean; it’s magnificent.  Formerly a buying station for local fish in the 80s, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Corporation sits at the very end of the pier and has been cooking up a storm for the last two decades with literally the best seafood you could catch – and they do!  We chowed down on fresh oysters, dungeness crab cocktail, rock crab, uni shooters and this kitten had her first cioppino.  Full of crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels – it was a dish I wouldn’t have ordered for myself, and I’m so glad Danny insisted we try it – delicious!  I would have taken photos of the food, but I confess I was too busy eating it all.

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Coming back down the coast, we stopped in Summerland to take in the fresh sea air just one last time before heading back into Los Angeles and reflect on a weekend well spent.  If you ever have a weekend to spend in Santa Barbara, here’s some of my must visit places in no particular order:

Sushi, Upper State St: Edamasa
Sushi, Lower State St: Arigato
Mexican Food: La Super Rica
Seafood: Santa Barbara Shellfish Co, Enterprise Fish Co
Views: Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
Coffee: The French Press
Smoothies: Blenders
Beach: Butterfly Beach
Dancing: Eos

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[LA Life] Meandering through LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art

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Dotted around the city like technicolor sprinkles on an urban cupcake, the museums of Los Angeles offer a unique artists perspective on time, culture and society.  The Getty Villa gives a wonderful retrospective of Greco Roman art and architecture while the Getty proper itself is almost as well known for their immaculately groomed gardens as they are their vast collections of classical, modern and post-modern art. Venture into the Fairfax District and the La Brea Tarpit extension of the Natural History Museum thrusts you backwards through time as the LACMA descends into global contemporary and modern art, and Peterson’s Automotive Museum drives you through the history of the modern car.  Then there’s downtown, with The Broad, a menagerie of museums at Exposition Park and last but certainly not least, the Museum of Contemporary Art.  First, that’s not even all – and that doesn’t cover the incredible amount of art galleries and spaces like Gabba Gallery, The Container Yard and Hauser and Wirth, providing hundreds of avenues, indoors and out, to peruse a vast array of art and creativity.

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One thing about art, one of the great things, like Alex Grey says in ‘The Mission of Art’,

“The artist’s mission is to make the soul perceptible. Our scientific, materialist culture trains us to develop the eyes of outer perception. Visionary art encourages the development of our inner sight. To find the visionary realm, we use the intuitive inner eye: the eye of contemplation, the eye of the soul. All the inspiring ideas we have as artists originate here.”

Each and every one of us is a visionary of sorts, with our own unique lens to observe the world with; within that, we’re all artists just waiting to find our catalyst for creativity.  The art at the MOCA is wonderful, inspired, controversial and pensive – it makes you stop, think and smell the artistic roses – so to speak.

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The MOCA is in close proximity to art galleries, wonderful graffiti and a lot of yummy restaurants – including a branch of the famed Lemonade right outside their lobby.For more on LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, head to their socials – or just take a journey downtown!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp| Twitter

For more photos, head to my Flickr album!

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[LA Life] Journey to the Other Side of Angeles Crest Forest

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Adventure is out there, and whether you hear it or not it’s constantly calling to all of us to come, play and enjoy it in all of its splendor. Sure there are some things we’re indebted to – our health, our jobs, and family ties – but if every single person just spent five minutes a day immersed in the the world’s splendor, we’d be a hell of a lot happier of an international tribe. Admittedly, it took me a few years (okay, maybe over half my life) to have come to this realization, but better late than never, especially with nature.  Thanks to the industrial revolution, our society has been in this go-go-go-faster mode ever since the 1800’s and now that it’s been compounded by the technological revolution of the 21st century it’s as if we’re all the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, running as fast as we can in the city just to stay in place:  rents are going up while our paychecks aren’t, cities are becoming more impacted, skyscrapers are raised twice as fast as affordable housing and artist lofts are razed.

To be fair, it’s only been a recent course of history that humans have found themselves sitting in front of boxes, inside of larger boxes inside of office boxes that they’ve traveled to from their home boxes.  Ah, yes – it’s true evolution has been kind to us in some respects like sturdy homes, soap, the vastness of technology and the industrial revolution – but the end result is that us humans, who used to hunt and gather, and roam the open plains for plenty of exercise, sunshine and Vitamin D, have been relegated to a life that for the most part mirrors a well fed, indoor pet.  So the truth of the matter is that we need the tonic of the wilderness, the blustery winds and mountain peaks, the roaring rivers, smoldering saturated sunsets, and the glorious natural white noise of animals calling, trees rustling and the radiant sun shining down to ground our souls back into their natural habitat.

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The good news: nature isn’t going anywhere – and she’s always on time. Every now and again when I feel like my soul has strayed from it’s path, immersing myself in the wilderness is the surefire way to get back on track. A quick jaunt over the hill and through the woods in Los Angeles, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of the Angeles Crest Forest.  Sprawling over 700,000 acres, the Angeles Forest includes 10 lakes and reservoirs, several dozens mountains, a handful of rivers, five distinct wilderness areas – meaning you can visit time and time again, and never take the same path twice.

 

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With trails upon trails upon trails featuring amazing hikes, waterfalls and mountain peaks, small furry creatures and soaring birds with swooping wingspans – the Angeles Crest Forest tops my list for quick mountain getaways and stay-cation day-cations. Snow bunnies can rejoice in a selection of Ski and Snow Resorts in the Wintertime including Mt Waterman Ski Lifts and the Buckhorn Ski and Snowboard Club, and in the Summer those resorts turn into fantastic hiking trails. For those wanting something more, the are a host of great campsites scattered throughout the forest – some have unreal lookouts, and some are more shrouded with trees and natural shrubbery, most are first come first serve but it would behoove you to make a reservation ahead of time if you have a location picked out or a big enough group that you want to grab a lot more land than usual.  If glamping is more your speed, there are several hotels and Air B’n’B locations with stunning views of Southern California and the contiguous mountain ranges.

 

Where are your favorite places to go when you need a dose of nature?

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway and all of the amazing turnouts it has to offer, head to their website – or better yet just take the trip yourself!

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