[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

[This Is Growing Up] So You’re Looking To Relocate?

There’s very little in life that’s equally exciting and daunting as dating in Los Angeles, but apartment hunting in the city of Angels most definitely comes in at a close second.  I moved down from Santa Barbara in the Summer of ’08 and instead of putting in the effort to look for the best fit, I chose to negate crucial steps and was left wanting instead of feeling like I was home.  Over the five years I’ve been here, I’ve moved twice and each time has been a unique learning experiences.

Prime example: I’ve learned the hard way what my creature comforts are and what I’m willing to sacrifice for an adorable abode.  Do you need a dishwasher; do you enjoy living by yourself; do you need covered parking, do you have easy access to multiple freeway systems; do you absolutely have to have a pool?  These are just a few of the things you should figure out pre-move, so you don’t spend the entire lease complaining about the have-nots instead of celebrating the awesome amenities.

Spring Cleaning isn’t just for Spring

Beyond where you’re going – you should also be aware of where you’re coming from and the baggage you’ll be bringing with you.  Speaking of what you’re bringing with you, this is an excellent time to pair down what you already possess – do you need four surfboards?  Some would argue yes – but not everyone.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘pack rat‘ but then again, I don’t know anyone that would volunteer themselves as a hoarder; maybe I’m a little hypersensitive because my step mom was a professional organizer…or there’s the fact my room was so messy that she wouldn’t let the house cleaners touch it!  At the time, I thought her thinking was backwards but the wiser I become with age, the more I see her point: cleaning your apartment is not the same as putting things in their place.

Check Yourself, and Your Inventory

What I’ve discovered is that my step-mother is incredibly wise and on point, so I’ve adopted one of her most basic rules: a place for every thing, and everything in its place.  If you’re suddenly discovering that you have an overabundance of plates + knives but no cups or forks, you’ll find yourself in the middle of an incredibly awkward space planning issue at the most inopportune times – date nights, pre-partying, etc – you get the idea.   Take inventory of what you have and take notice of what you’re missing – if you do a little digging on Yelp, I bet you’ll even find some inexpensive and funky ways to upgrade your household inventory.  The Melrose Trading Post in the Fairfax District runs every Sunday, rain or shine, and always delivers the best in antique and unique household items, clothing and jewelry.  If you’re a little to the East, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is open the second Sunday of every month – I’ve never been but I’ve heard that it’s a fabulous way to lose yourself on a beautiful afternoon.  Another great resource are restaurant supply stores – you can buy quality kitchenware at beyond affordable prices.

Closet Math – Less is More

For being an intuitive math person, it took me an awful long time to discover that closet math is incredibly different from normal math.  You’d think that more is…well, more!  But  take into consideration how often you run into something torn, faded, a little on the small side (or large side, pick whatever koolaid you’ve been sippin’ on), or you’d simply like to slap the you from two years ago who thought that pattern actually looked good – every time you notice those pieces of clothing, you’re been deterred from that good shit!  Often, and especially for myself, I’m gifted with clothing and accessories from my closest confidants and feel guilty holding onto it.  Then I have to think about it this way –  if it’s not going to good use (and it’s not from immediate family), gift it and pay it forward; I promise it’ll be well received.  If you’re not into gifting – hold a yard sale, or walk a bag or ten over to your local goodwill.

Next time you get ready, take a good hard look at your wardrobe – some of it’s seasonal, so you can rotate it between your main closet and a hall closet or storage;  on the other hand, some of it might require you to go through some form of separation anxiety.  Either way you play the game, you’ll open up space and be able to see things much more easily; not only can you get ready in a flash but just watch as your make some new, expert outfit pairings.

Making Moves

Here we have the under-appreciated  art of apartment hunting.  Instead of focusing on what I might’ve definitely wrong, I’d like to share a couple things that have gone right for me.  Moving itself is primarily about one thing and one thing only: location, location, location.   In a major city, especially one as big as Los Angeles, it’s important to understand what you’re near – and what’s absolutely  BFE away from – you.  I found a phenomenal website – and iPhone app – called Lovely and it’s by far the best apartment hunting website around.

Do you value your time, or do you value the money you’re investing?  Granted, you can move in a year…but that could be a very long year.  Being near a freeway is important and considering how congested traffic is, being near a bunch is better.  Everyone loves being able to walk to the beach but not everyone can afford the cost(…for now).  So take the time and think about the things you’re willing to give up and what you need to live in comfort. Some places have covered parking, some have parking garages – and some people drive for twenty minutes every night.  If you’re into fitness and walking like I am, you might want to know what’s close by and convenient so head over to Walk Score and see how “walkable” your new (or current) neighborhood is; you might be surprised at the results.


Last but definitely not least  is the power of lists.  I’m a special breed – I have lists of lists, and lists everywhere: old school written post-its, text messages to myself and a great app for all my devices called Evernote.  It lets me take my lists digitally wherever I go and it’s perfect for anything like packing lists, recipes, bucket lists and – you guessed it, apartment criteria.  This way, you literally can’t avoid jotting down your thoughts on the kitchen in your coworker’s new pad and how badly you wish you could walk to a farmer’s market every Sunday.