[Seattle Sights] Choose Your Own Adventure at the Washington Park Arboretum

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the most phenomenal things about living in the Pacific North West is the vast variety of accessible nature. From diverse deserts and wanderlust inspiring waterfalls, to rich coastlines and island hopping through the San Juan Islands – Washington has a bit of something for everyone. Seattle and it’s surrounding areas – doubly so. From Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish to the Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountain Ranges and hidden parks in nooks and crannies all over – there’s a reason we call it the Pacific North Wonderland.

When my husband and I first moved up to Seattle, we found ourselves in an living over in the Sand Point area near the University of Washington. At the time, we didn’t know much about Washington or Seattle proper, but the area seemed a keen pivot point for getting to anywhere and everywhere throughout the Sound. Whether we ventured North and East on an adventure to dip our toes in watering holes, or South and West to Seattle proper, we could find ourselves surrounded by a symphony of succulent scenes. To me, the irony always was that our favorite park wasn’t in a far reaching corner of the state – it was actually just a hop, skip and jump around the corner at the University of Washington.

Sitting on land with a complex history, the Arboretum grounds were homebase to the Coast Salish tribes of Washington, with several villages around the area. As time, and colonialism, went on – the area shifted to ownership by the Puget Mill Company which unfortunately logged some of the largest trees in that region. As we shift into the 1900s, the land was transformed into was one of Seattle’s original city parks. In 1903, landscape architects for the region – the Olmsted Brothers – drew up a plan for the Seattle Parks and Parkways, with Lake Washington Boulevard at the crux of their idea. Fast forward to the 1930s, the incredible Washington Park Arboretum boasts an incredible variation in vegetation with one of the largest plant collections in North America.

Spanning over 230 acres of luscious vegetation, you can take the 3.5 mile walking loop around the edge of the park or you can dip the main roads, ebb and flow around the Arboretum Loop Trail and discover your own way through the heart of the park. Just like a choose your own adventure novel of eons past, each time at the Washington Park Arboretum is a unique experience featuring the mercurial nature of our weather, and the chosen blooms of the day.

Playing host to vast collections of rhododendrons, camellias, larches and lindens, oak trees, Japanese Maples, magnolias and azaleas has earned the Arboretum international bragging rights. Open daily from dusk to dawn, the Washington Park Arboretum is workout friendly, run friendly, child friendly and dog friendly. From the northern tip of the park on Union Bay’s southern shoreline and into Foster Island on down through the incredible and everchanging landscapes of the Arboretum, every inch of the park is immaculately drawn together for an unreal experience any time of year.

In the Summer months, bright blue skies overhead and a menagerie of birds grace the scene as the floral aroma wafts from every corner. Head there in September to watch the leaves shift their hues from vibrant greens to magnificent reds, yellows and oranges in what I consider ‘Seattle’s Second Spring.’ In the Winter, if you time your visit just right – you can see the grounds covered with a fairy dust of snow, making it seem like you just walked out of a story book. And Spring – well, Spring is a whole new shade of wonderful at the Arboretum.

My personal favorite spots at the Arboretum are the reflecting ponds during all seasons, the Giant Sequoias and the rhododendron glen in the Springtime. But you honestly can’t go wrong no matter which turns you take. With over 10,000 trees and more than 40,000 plants, each visit truly is it’s own unique and unforgettable journey. For those that simply can’t get enough of the Washington Park Arboretum, try the Seattle Japanese Garden located just across the way for a wonderful experience – more on that in a later post!

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What’s your favorite park in your neck of the woods? I’m always looking for a great adventure – and maybe I’ll pick yours next; drop them some love in the comments below and share some geographical gems of your own!

For more on the Washington Park Arboretum at the University of Washington, scope out the park with an incredible and interactive bird’s eye view, then head to their socials for the full 411.

Website | Arboretum Foundation | Facebook | Twitter | AllTrails

Photo Credit: Daniel Leist Photography

[Oh, Snap] Celebrating Mother Nature on Earth Day

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”

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Angeles Crest Highway, California

As the saying goes, ‘The Earth Without ART is just EH’; and mother nature is the most wonderful of artists. I feel blessed by the treasures I’ve discovered, places I’ve uncovered and experiences I’ve been able to share. I hope on this Earth Day, you get to go and enjoy the wonders that this world has to offer. Though many of us spend the entire year in reverie of what Mother Nature has to offer, Earth Day gives us a moment to pause and take stock of the wonder, seductive beauty and technicolor menagerie this planet offers us on the daily. Now living in my third state in less than five years, I’ve had a unique opportunity to roam and road trip through the entire Pacific Coast and Western part of the United States. In honor of Earth Day and National Park Week, I’m excited to share some photos of this beautiful planet we get to call home.

Originally from the south Bay Area, I went to college in Santa Barbara then moved down to Los Angeles for a good decade. Between the memories of music festivals and downtown, West Hollywood and beach days in Santa Monica – there are equally fond memories of getting out into the great wilderness that the area had to offer. From the Southern tip of California to the North, bouncing from the dry desert to the coast, from rugged highways to ridge tops and frequenting parks throughout the Sequoias and Big Sur, San Francisco and the Angeles Crest Highway.

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Big Bear, California

I spent a good part of my 20’s as a music journalist, it was awesome – and involved a lot of traveling. Even while gallivanting from state to state to cover the next festival, we made it a point to stop and smell the roses – no matter how far off the beaten path they were. On the way to Global Dance Festival in Colorado, we were lucky enough to travel through Zion and Bryce Canyons; take the backroads through Colorado and breathe in the fresh air of the Rockies.

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Roaming through Utah
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Zion National Park
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Red Dragon Canyon
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Dixie National Forest, Utah

And on the way to Shambhala in Canada, we made sure to take the most scenic of the routes and hiked Multnomah Falls in Oregon, and were taken back by the beauty of Osoyoos, the Wine Country of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

Moving to Oregon a few years back changed my life for the better, and the slowness in their pace of life now seems more normal where the one I was living in California finally felt frenzied and anxiety induced. Not knowing a soul besides my family, we took trips to different corners of the state almost every weekend -tip toeing around the tidepools, hiking to the top of Cape Perpetua, and making Yachats, and the Oregon Coast, a home away from home. An unexpected perk was how the daily scenery of Corvallis poured on the charm, ushering in a warm Autumn that truly felt and looked more like Spring.

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Oyster Bay, Oregon
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Darlingtonia Botanical Garden, Oregon

Going on my third year in Washington, I find myself in awe more times than not – the variety of nature, flora and fauna, of daily weather; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. One day, we’re in a snow storm – the next, sun dances through the flower blossoms and the sweet floral aroma of Spring effuses itself into each moment. With Mount Tahoma, we have the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States – with the Cascades and their waterfalls descending into the East as desert land; meanwhile in Olympic National Park, Washington is home the only rainforest in the greater 48 and we can’t not talk about the most adorable islands I’ve ever visited in the San Juan Islands.

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San Juan Sculpture Park, Washington
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Richmond Beach Trails, Washington
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Though I’ve only been out of the United States a handful of times – Costa Rica and Mexico – I feel lucky to have seen much of the western part of our country by car. Admittedly, some times I can get a bit sad when I visit some parks – there’s trash everywhere, and a view that was once magnificent is overrun by the mistakes of man: plastics, forgetfulness, and arrogance. However, I’m grateful for my family andthe conscious festival community for instilling good practices; like ‘leave it better, leave it beautiful’ (thank you, Do LaB) while picking up after yourself and others. To combat the trash pileup, my husband and I invested in some trash pickers and have been taking garbage bags with us while we’re out and about; and let me tell you: it feels good to be good to our planet.

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Seal Rock, Oregon

There are hundreds of ways to respect the planet – but it’s a conscious decision that you have to continually make. Choose eating sustainably to benefit the local ecosystem and biodiversity of plant and animal life while ensuring you’re getting the right type of nutrition. In our culture of overconsumption, it’s tantamount we reduce our dependence on single-use plastics; take reusable bags to the store, ask for paper bags (I use mine for cat litter) and I mean, do you really need that straw?

Look for corporations that are making the switch to alternative and renewable power sources like Solar Energy and Wind Turbines over traditional power sources like Nuclear Power and Electric for a more sustainable future. When it comes to transportation, we’re battling the ‘Cult of the American Car’. Sure, we’re a country where people are fervent collectors – especially when it comes to our vehicles, but we are close to having more cars than people – with only 8% of people without access to one. But there are also trains and planes, in addition to automobiles – with public transportation coming in hot as a $74 Billion a year industry. By converting to renewable energy, even just in the United States, would add jobs and help save the environment.

The Earth was not ours to inherit from our parents, it’s ours to give to generations that haven’t even been born yet. It’s a good time to pick up a new practice, even if you’ve been doing your part. So, what are you doing that’s going to preserve the sanctity of nature and life on this planet?

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Point Dume, California
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[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] 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?

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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!