[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
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

[Self Discovery] My Favorite Ways to “Treat Yo’self”

My words have been perpetually jumbled and I’ve pressed delete more times than I wish to recall. It’s been a trying week, and the more I dive into the minutiae of my life – the deeper I sink into this reality of a writer’s block. Not only is it real, but it’s really frustrating.  In the last seven days, I’ve seen more doctors than friends and have had my body groped more times by strangers in white coats than my boyfriend. Suffice it to say, I haven’t been the in the brightest mood.  What I’ve forced myself to remember is that at the end of the day, things can happen to you and around you, but they’re just things. Good and bad are human attributions that have a permanent ability sway our emotions.  Things are what they are; if you take the facts and remove all falsities, the truth you find shall set you free.

There’s been an Instagram hashtag going around – #100HappyDays and though at a basic level I appreciate the notion, I think it’s absolutely 100% ridiculous.  Each and every day is what you make it, but if you go around with your ‘Happy’ blinders on in perpetual search of it, and think that including words like ‘blessed’ and ‘thankful’ while posting daily pictures to your social media accounts are poignant ways to display your affinity and zest for life – you’re doing it wrong.  Happiness isn’t a beautiful butterfly, or mystical creature, that you need to hunt and capture day in and day out; instead – if you live each and every day with the intention to be the best version of yourself and push yourself to evolve from the amazing person you are into the fabulous person you want to be – happiness will become you.

And this brings me back to my mood from earlier – the more deliberate myself over my doctor’s dictation and mull over, the more removed I’ve become from my emotional state.  The only self remedy to get myself out of this über funk, is to treat myself like I know I deserve.  Here’s the thing with life – being that it’s what you make it, once something pushes you into a bad mood, it’s up to you as an individual, and only you, to at the very least find a way to bring yourself back to neutral.  If you bring math into the equation, and you’re at a low – one of the only ways to balance that out is to do something positive for yourself – and that’s just to get back to neutral.  To boost your mood, get out there and try something lavish, extravagant and or over the top – like they gleefully gush on Parks & Recreations – ‘Treat Yo’self’. So, below are some of my favorite ways to pamper, divulge, devour and marinate in the beauty of the world – and leave all those anxieties, woes and worries deep in the dust.

Change your passwords to positive affirmations: I’m not saying to change all your passwords to “ILoveYou143” but if you start including things about you being awesome, or the day being great, or changing the world in your work passwords – you’ll find yourself repeating a daily positive mantra, which truly goes a long way in pushing towards a positive outlook.

-Indulge in a lengthy Bubble Bath: Try out some scented Epsom salts for a delicious scent, and I highly recommend putting some oil in the tub (you’ll thank me later!)

– Find a new hiking trail and take your camera on an adventure

Take a good book to a lush and lovely park: Sometimes, one of the best ways to escape this world is to engulf yourself in another. I used to love reading anything and everything for fun but over time, I’ve gravitated more towards non-fiction science books – great for learning and expanding your mind, but they’re not exactly easy or quick to read.  Instead, when I’m feelin’ down and out I grab a trashy beach read, or anew psychological thriller, and head down the rabbit hole between the covers.

Upgrade your wardrobe with a snazzy new find: Retail therapy is real, and if you don’t trust me now – go out and just buy that fabulous coat/dress/jacket you’ve been yearning for and tell me you don’t adore staring at it in your closet.

– Find some live music and dance your cares away

– Wine and dine yourself and indulge in your favorite meal (*cough* sushi *cough*)- 80% of your body’s serotonin receptors are in your GI tract – if they’re not being stimulated, neither are you – so head to your favorite local spot and get your chow on.


Flower bomb your neighborhood and go back and water it: Make sure you remember where you planted them, so you can water them – and occiasionally take pictures while you’re strolling through your hood, and appreciate the beauty you’ve deposited in the world

-Visit a museum on a topic you love

Get some stand-up comedy in your life: These guys are paid to make you laugh; let ’em do their job!

– Breakfast for dinner (because why not?!)

20140703-140635-50795404.jpgHead to Sephora for a free makeover

Pick a new penpal and send a handwritten letter; whens the last time you got one? I know they make my heart incredibly happy

– Find a tranquil location and take a nap


– Donate your old clothes, books and movies

Volunteer at an animal shelter: Bonus points if you take one home!

What’s your favorite way to get out a slump – or just treat yo’self right? Let me know in the comments below!