[Seattle Sights] Get Your Fill of Wonder in Woodland Park Zoo’s Butterfly Garden

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.Maya Angelou

Nestled soundly and sweetly against Green Lake and taking over half of Woodland Park sits the fantastic Woodland Park Zoo. Open year round, the Zoo itself is truly equal parts nature park and equal parts animal conservation with 92 acres of grounds to cover and 10 distinct areas to whimsically wander between. The first time I visited, we tried our damnedest to see it all (in true Fire Sign fashion), but quickly realized it was preventing us from really enjoying each section in it’s entirety. So, upon our return I swiftly ushered us over to Molbak’s fabulous Butterfly Garden and am still infinitely glad that I did.

Able to exist in a menagerie of different habitats, butterflies are considered an indicator species that give us a litmus test on the health and quality of our ecosystems. Around the globe, there are over 17,000 species – with approximately 750 of them around the United States.

Featuring over 500 variations and 15 different species of butterflies, Molbak’s Butterfly Garden boasts butterflies from all stages of development in a fantastically floral arena, from chrysalises to their mature form. And wrapping all around the garden are the most wonderful and aromatic plants and flowers, from the Egyptian Star-cluster, Sea Holly, Daisies and more. For a look into all of the unique variations they have, check out this cute little cheat sheet for the identification of flora, fauna and ‘flies from the Zoo.

Pro Tip: take some extra notes from the plant identification, because everything within the Garden was planted specifically to engage and attract the butterflies buzzing around – which means as you plant more of these flowers around your place, you should see an uproar of butterflies! My personal favorites include but are in no way limited to the Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails, American Ladies and the Zebra Longwing (above) and the Monarch Butterfly (to the right)

For more garden inspo, right after you exit the Butterfly area, take a meandering moment in Pollinator Patio to take in all the ways to encourage pollinators in your own yard!

Still fairly new to the city, the Zoo has easily become one of my favorite places to visit and I’m proud to say that we are now not only members of the Seattle Aquarium, but members of the Woodland Park Zoo! 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!

With so much to see and enjoy, it makes more sense to not try and jam it all in with one session – not to mention, the animals aren’t all out at the same times, so there’s a good chance that even if you try and visit certain exhibits, you won’t get to see all the animals on one day anyways. That happened to us with the Jaguar – the first time, she was asleep; but on trip two, we had a wonderful experience!

For more on the Woodland Park Zoo and their esteemed Butterfly Garden, visit their website and socials; or if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit – I promise you, it’s worth it.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Seattle Sights] Wildlife and Wanderlust in Union Bay

All good things are wild, and free.

Thoreau, Walden

Hiding around every corner of Seattle, from the coastline into the heart of the city in all directions are glorious amounts of open, public green space. The Trust for Public Land ranked Seattle as the 11th best city for parks, and fourth on the West Coast – and I wholeheartedly agree. Boasting over 485 natural areas and parks – and growing, city parks come in at around 6,400 acres, with a whopping 96% of Seattle residents able to walk to a local park in ten minutes or less.


Befit with sports fields swimming pools, marshes, rivers and beaches, BBQ pits, boat launches, a plethora of winding paths and a menagerie of wildlife, the local lore at the parks just keeps me coming back for more, and more. With a new sense of childlike wonder and amazement since moving up to Seattle in February, I’ve made it a goal to explore and enjoy as many of the open spaces as possible; and I can’t wait to share my favorites with y’all – of course!

Just a hop, skip and a little run from our home, the University of Washington sits in pristine location – and features multiple parks on site, each with a stellar view of Mt. Rainer and the waterfront. From the North East, you’ll first meet Yesler Swamp which is managed by the Center for Urban Horticulture. Back at the turn of the last century, the area used to be known as the Yesler Sawmill, until it was bought by the University. After the sawmill burnt down in the 1920’s, the area went unchanged for almost seventy years until a graduate student project revitalized the area and turned it back into a nature preserve.

The swamp is full of critters, including plenty of ducks, geese, egrets, blue herons and even beavers!

Winding across the walkways and into the heart of campus, you’ll get dumped out at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soset Garden and Fragrance Garden; and yes, it is indeed a delectable smell!

University of Washington, Center for Urban Horticulture

If you’re willing to take the path less traveled, there are some neat graduate projects standing in the woods – you’ll just have to go out on a limb and find them! My favorite is this little stained glass booth, perfect for meditation or journaling in the midst of the woods.

And now, you’re well on your way into Union Bay on a variety of different foot and bike paths. From there, you’ll get a fantastic view of Mt. Rainer and Bellevue, not to mention the UW Football Stadium and Lake Washington. The paths are lined with native plants, and as Spring keeps making headway – there have been so many more blooms, including these wild roses which are abundant with all sorts of bees.

As I dive deeper into nature and wildlife photography, I’ve been depending more on my telephoto lens, and believe you me – animal are fucking difficult to capture, let alone for a crisp snap.

It’s curated my patience, knowing that I will definitely not get the photo I want in one shot; it’s made me slow down and listen to the sounds of the world, which happen to be an excellent giveaway if you’re tracking down an animals. With the beaver above: if I hadn’t heard branches crash into the water, I would have never known he was around. Lastly, it’s inspired me to grow, mentally, emotionally and physically – to carry around a Canon 6D and four lenses at all times, to know when to use which lens and which settings to find quickly. I have an infinite amount of respect for others in the same field.

Last but certainly not least, for all the ornithophiles out there; these photos are for the birds! How many can you identify for yourselves?

Falcon chased by a smaller bird
Hummingbird
Song Sparrow
Blue Heron + Duck
Red Winged Blackbird

Do you have any tips or tricks to getting stellar nature photography? Is there one centralized location near you that you can literally find all the flora, fauna and furry friends? Let me know in the comments below!

For more on Union Bay and Yesler Swamp, peep these links:

Yesler Swamp | Union Bay Natural Area
University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture

[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!

 

[LA Life] Life’s a Beach at Leo Carrillo + Point Mugu

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In Los Angeles, the weather of choice from about March through October is sun, sun and more sun; and I’ve heard that the only remedy is to give in – indulge in the afternoon, frolic in the sunshine, stick your toes in the dirt or the sand – wherever the day takes you, and if absolutely necessary – take a mental health day when you’re feeling at your best, but instead let’s just agree to call it a ‘Because I’m Awesome’ day, because – well – we’re awesome, duh. Anyhow!

The other week, after realizing we’ve spent all the time we could with our A/C unit and the kitties, Danny and I did a quick about face, packed our beach bags and in a seemingly unprecedented move we left the East Side for the day, in search of sandier pastures where we could relax with the ebb and flow of whimsical, diamond encrusted waves.  Only about an hours drive sans traffic from the forever away East Los Angeles, there are ample beaches to bounce between with your choice of rough and tumble rocks, rolling sandscapes, and a sprinkling of pastel wildflowers.

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It can’t be just me that’s entranced by the the undulating consistency of the waves, with their half dangerous, half powerful and all inspiring nature, or the strength of the sun’s rays, dancing to and fro about our bodies like stars in a solar system. There’s something so calming about dipping your toes in the water, something so innately ingrained in all of humanity’s motion.  Considering how much of our bodies are actually made out of water – it makes sense that we feel so at peace in it, and then ten fold when you think that our first moments were floating within our mother – the same way we float within mother nature.

For my full photo album, head over to my Flickr and show some lovin’ 

For more on Leo Carrillo Beach or Point Mugu, head to their socials – or just get off your beach bum and head there yourself.  Trust me, so worth it!

Leo Carrillo Beach:  Website | Yelp 

Point Mugu: Website| Yelp

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[LA Life] Enjoy an Intellectual Double Date with the Natural History Museum and California Science Center


Living in Los Angeles for the past eight years, you could say that I’m a bit spoiled from a cultural perspective – but to be honest, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  This city eats, sleeps, breathes and oozes keen artistic history and introspection, with interest piqued around each and every corner.  No matter your age, or the last time you went, museums have the innate ability to inspire a sense of childlike wonder and amazement to come out and play.  From Contemporary Art to Modern Art, archaeology and cultural history – museums provide a birds eye view into the beauty of the past and an intelligent projection of the future. Plainly put – a day wasted at the museum is simply never a waste.  

Most museums in the area are essentially one stop shops – The Broad sits downtown and houses contemporary art, the Getty and Getty Villa are vast and stunning anthologies of history – but sit alone and secluded; but then there’s Museum Row in West Hollywood and the library of museums at Exposition Park, each home to several stunning venues of nuanced interest.  Museum Row plays host to the LACMA, the Tar Pits and it’s museum as well as the Craft Art Museum and Peterson Automotive Museum while Exposition Park houses the Natural History Museum, California Science Center, USC Fisher Museum of Art and the California African American Museum. Since I used to live near the Tar Pits, I’m a bit biased – and some could argue spoiled – so an adventure West didn’t really strike my fancy; but a double date with the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center? Sign this kitten up for a dichotomous day-adventure, stat!

Exposition Park sits in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, and is surrounded by the University of Southern California.  My friends and I know the area best for the incredible music concerts, Massives and raves held at LA Memorial Colosseum over the last decade like Electric Daisy Carnival, Camp Flog Gnaw, How Sweet It Is, Nocturnal Wonderland and so many more.  I don’t know whats more grown up than getting your knowledge on in the same place you got your PLUR on, so two points for us – at least. Spanning 160 acres, Exposition Park evolved from privately owned fairgrounds and a racetrack into a cultural center for young Los Angeles at the turn of the last century.

First things first, let’s talk some pro tips. The directions might tell you to enter the parking lot at Expo Park via Exposition, save yourself a headache and come in on Vermont with some cash, parking is $12 and they don’t accept credit cards. When visiting the Natural History Museum – save yourself some time by purchasing the tickets online; you can even do it while you’re waiting to get in.

World’s Largest Ammonite

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much for artistic museums, less the Getty Villa and some incredible architecture; but historical fossils and technological progress always find a way to pull at my heart strings. Hands down, my favorite part of the NHM is the Gem and Mineral Hall. Each corner of the room sparkles with a technicolor glow with vibrant greens and blues which don’t make sense as minerals, iridescent shimmers and even some stones from outer space.  Indoors you can wander and wonder through the Dinosaur Hall, American Mammal Hall, African Mammal Hall, Marsh environment and Insect and Bird exhibits.  If you take the adventure into the great outdoors, you’ll get a prime view of Expo Park’s esteemed Rose Garden (more on that later!), the edible garden and a pollinators garden; easily one of the most tranquil areas on the grounds.  In about three hours, we managed to meander through the entire breadth of the Natural History Museum, leaving no stone unturned (pun, slightly intended) – and with the perfect amount of time to visit our second stop!

The California Science Center is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Natural History Museum – providing a wonderful contrast to the artifacts that you were just musing over. Olus, it’s free to get in and explore – while certain flight simulators and IMAX movies will cost ya between $5 and $12..  There are ample learning centers around the building, but before I get into that: there are also a good amount of food options to choose from! Though the NHMLA does have a quick service deli and sit down restaurant on their bottom floor, their food was no match for the Science Center’s food court.  But, let’s get beyond our stomachs. The Cal Science Center eagerly explores global ecosystems and gets in a fair share of hands on learning.   Stand in the splash zone or explore tide pools, stand in the middle of a hurricane, play with sound waves and wrap your head around the capsules that we sent humans to space in for days at a time (they’re tiny!).All the museums in the area open at 10 in the morning and close at 5pm,  but it’s no reason to leave straight away.  Take a stroll through the historic Expo Park Rose Garden and stay for sunset, you can thank me later.

For more on the Natural History Museum Los Angeles, the California Science Center and the Exposition Park Rose Garden – check out their social channels.

Natural History Museum: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

California Science CenterWebsite | Facebook | Twitter 


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[Oh, Snap] Eagle Rockin’ and Eagle Walkin’ v9

Over the last few days, the air has been vibrant with floral fragrances and the coquettish dancing of birds, bees and butterflies while temperatures have sky rocketed back into the 90s.  No, Summer isn’t quick on our heals and Spring isn’t exactly just around the corner – it’s simply another mid-February heat wave in Los Angeles.  Half my mind is wrapped up in the sheer beauty of nature right now, while the other bemoans the fact we haven’t had a good rain in quite some time.

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The year itself is accelerating at a rapid pace, while a proverbial bullet train of emotions, feelings and thoughts trace geometric patterns in my mind.  I’ve had friendships ebb and flow as trust has been simultaneously instilled in and and removed from those who have one way or another, proven themselves to me.  I refuse to be sad or remorseful over the loss of people in my life – while intentional or not, the lessons that I’ve learned and the mechanisms that have inspired my maturity and growth are tantamount to my self understanding in the same way that the love, support and friendship of others have lifted my spirits.  As with pulsating tidal waves on a brilliant seashore, the push and pull are one in the same and it’s the totality of myself that I’m truly in awe of at this point.  The resilient, bounce back of personality and perseverance of passion – it hasn’t left, instead the flames have been fanned higher.

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