[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

[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at LA’s Best Botanical Gardens

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With the weather we’re blessed with in Southern California, it’s no surprise that we spend the better part of our lives outside.  Beyond the fact my wardrobe is perfectly equipped for it ( my daily uniform consists of a tank top, cut offs and flip flops – thank you, working from home), there’s an impressive amount of outdoor activities to partake in.  You want wine tasting? You don’t have to go to Sonoma or Santa Barbara, just head to Santa Monica or Malibu – skiing and snowboarding are only a few hours away at Big Bear, and the beach is equidistant in the opposite direction.  Fun, sun, snow, sand – we’ve got it all, and then some.  Now that Summer season is in full swing, I’m finding it near uncomfortable to be stuck indoors with so much amazing weather, so when it comes to daily adventures –  it’s time to start thinking outside the box – or at least, outside the home – for some fun day trips and day-tes in the area.

Though Los Angeles can come across as a completely concrete jungle, once you’ve found the right nooks and crannies you’ll realize it’s anything but! From the West in Santa Monica to the East in Pasadena, Los Angeles has been blessed with a gregarious amount of green space throughout the city, and it’s only right that as residents we get to revel in it.  The fabled Griffith Park Observatory offers up acres and acres of fresh green space smack dab in the middle of the city and it feels like you’re on a wild safari when you’re trying to trek towards the Hollywood Sign, while assorted areas like Ernest E Debs Park and NELA’s Lincoln Park provide a pop of vivaciously contrasting greens in the heart of residential neighborhoods and burrows.

Even though I’ve lived in LA for over eight years, I’ve realized that here’s still so much to discover and uncover.  There’s simply so many options to choose from that I have a hard time narrowing it down – after all, they all have their je ne sais quoi moments of sheer bliss, utter beauty and vivacious blooms.  Between the neat little retreats and hidden gems with sincere botanical beauty, I’ve definitely made my way through a pretty solid chunk of what the city of angels has to offer and I’m eager to share my favorite botanical gardens and nature nooks with you.



The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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The trifecta of artistic expression, creation and perfection – The Huntington boasts a bevvy of fantastic art collections, a wonderful library rich library and of course – a delectable amount of shrubbery, flowers, trees, flora and fauna.  There natural areas are broken out by region, and you can take a leisurely stroll through a Japanese Tea Garden, a Chinese Garden and even a banzai exhibit, which is even cooler when you realize you’re staring at tiny Sequoias and Redwoods – it’s actually unbelievable.  With over 120 acres to revel in, it’s easy to get lost – and even easier to not see absolutely everything the park has to offer.  Good news – you can get an annual pass and visit whenever you want.  Seeing as the park spans the globe, there are always wonderful specimens in bloom.

Check their website for the latest exhibits as well as their Summer hours, from my knowledge the venue is open from 10:30 to 4:30 every day except Tuesday.

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA

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The Descanso Gardens

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Though I’ve only visited in the Winter (which in Los Angeles just means it’s below 60), the Descanso Gardens boast a stunning landscape that includes a Lilac Garden, a Japanese Garden, California Natives and a sprawling 5 acre rose garden.  Open year round and only $9 for adults, botanical gardens offer a menagerie of courses and programs, and host a wonderful series of summer concerts.

1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge, CA

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Los Angeles County Arboretum

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Located off in Arcadia on the East Side of Los Angeles sits one of my absolute favorite venues, and every time I go I’m absolutely astounded by the fact it exists within Los Angeles county.  Just one stroll around the LA Arboretum, in through the tall bamboo shoots or the indigenous South American trees, and you’ll feel instantly transported into a new land.  Each corner and every inch of the park is impeccably maintained and absolutely stunning to marinate on.  Plus, the third Tuesday of every month is free!

301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA

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Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

Located off the beaten path, in the residental neighborhoods of Pasadena is one of the city’s unique hidden gems.  The Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is a stunning piece of throwback landscaping and architecture built by the one and only  Kinzuchi Fujii in 1935, not to mention – the last standing one he ever created.  Over 80 years later the two acre span is more beautiful than ever with a teahouse, relaxing areas to sit and meditate in and an active coy pond. The venue is tiny, only about two acres, but there simply so much to see that you could be there all afternoon.

270 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, California 91105

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Arlington Botanical Gardens

One thing about the wonderful botanical gardens in the area – is you more or less have to pay for them.  Great news about the Arlington Botanical Gardens, is they’re open to anyone, any day, for Free.99. The Arlington Botanical Gardens stand as the only public open space in Pasadena and it offers a great arena to walk and relax among it’s community maintained garden, or the rich array of Californian and Mediterranean trees, bushes, flowers and succulents with a wonderful amount of benches scattered among them – so bring a book, get comfortable and get into your R&R.

275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

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I’ve by no means gone to all of the local gardens, but I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to visit a great number of them and be awe struck by their beautiful, blooming bounties.  Also, if you couldn’t tell – I effing love reflection shots!

What are your favorite Botanical Gardens and Open Spaces – in Los Angeles, or your favorite city?

Let me know in the comments below!

[Oh, Snap] Arlington Botanical Gardens

Whether you’re a country cat or a city kitty, one thing’s for sure – Los Angeles has a little bit of something to offer for every type of adventurous personality out there. For the best in shopping and people watching head out to  Venice Beach or the Fairfax District, Hollywood boasts some of the trendiest tourist traps around and Downtown LA is home to Chinatown and the Fashion District – perfect for ballers on a budget.  To boot, there are also tons of museums for all ages and minds – the Natural History Museum downtown is perfect for any science and history buffs, near the La Brea Tar Pits you’ll find the LACMA, the Architecture + Design Museum, the Craft + Folk Art Museum and the Peterson Automotive Museum, last but definitely not least are the Getty and it’s sister museum – the Getty Villa – which I had a chance to finally visit last January.  A handful of the museums require some sort of paid admission (or a “donation”) to enter – thankfully, some like minded and fabulous people have compiled a list of ‘Free Museum Days‘ in and around LA county; genius!

Beyond the museums that the city of angels has to offer, there are amazing places to take leisurely strolls, discover street art and take in the nature – urban and authentic – that graces our city.   One of the craziest things about the vegetation in LA (and I learned this thanks to a nasty bout of allergies a few years ago): most of the trees, plants and flowers in LA aren’t indigenous to the area – chances are they’ve been imported from South America,  Australia or a Mediterranean style climate. Flowering trees like the African Tulip and Sweet Acacia are native to Africa but found scattered throughout the city; other trees, like the Olive Tree, were imported from Italy.  There are a few fantastic botanical gardens scattered around the city, but when there’s so much free stuff to enjoy – why bother paying?!

This past Saturday, my boyfriend and I were craving an outdoors-ey adventure and had contemplated going to the Getty or Huntington Gardens over in Pasadena.  The more we researched, the more we realized how many free things were truly at our fingertips so we shifted our sights to the Arlington Gardens – the hours are more flexible, parking is easy and – yeah, it’s free!  From the second we walked in, we knew we’d be making our way back at a later date with books and bottles of wine in tow.  The park is open from dawn until dusk and has literally dozens of park benches, tables and chairs for people to set up and soak in the environment in.  Each and every direction we turned showed us something new to take in and appreciate.  According to the signage there are roughly 35 different areas of plants, flowers and vegetation and it changes throughout the seasons.  The grounds are maintained by Better and Kicker McKenney and they do an absolutely fabulous job of keeping them gorgeous.  Without further ado – here are some of my favorite snaps from the weekend – if you’re ever in the Pasadena area make sure you plan a visit here!