[Wander Washington] Searching for Swimming Holes along the Skykomish

When we first moved up to the Pacific North West a year and a half ago, one of the first things my husband said to me was: “Now, how do we get to those swimming holes?!” Both of us born and raised in California, myself from the Bay Area and him from the High Desert in Southern California – most of our aquatic adventures had been to the beach, or a community pool, or with water balloons in the backyard on a long, hot afternoon. When we lived in Oregon, we lucked out – our new neighborhood friends told us about a stellar iPhone app, aptly titled Oregon Swimming Holes. Now, there are some fantastic applications for Forests in the Pacific North West, as well those for Wildflower, Plant and Fungi Identification – but so far to date, I haven’t seen any remnants of anything similar up here; which initially felt disheartening – but then, we turned it into an adventure; making notes on maps, dropping pins and doing some research.

It wasn’t until weeks later, wrapped in a vibrant conversation with a local that we were slyly informed of where the getting was good. And now that I understand Washington, and Seattle, more and more, I think I know why there isn’t an app that’s easy-peasy, lemon squeazy: they want you to pioneer your own life, to be a maker of your own moments. Washington and Seattle are rich with a strong craft and small business community, and within that – there are strong notions of being able to do for your self, and make it self sustainable. If being told “It rains a lot!” is enough to deter you from either visiting, or moving, you’re probably not going to have a good time; but here’s a hint: it really doesn’t rain a lot! It’s actually beautiful most days, and if you don’t like the weather – just wait thirty minutes. Anyhow, I digress. So, we took their advice – pack up a picnic basket, grab a swimsuit, and take the 2 East; then, enjoy!

So, we took a Summer drive along the winding Skykomish River and let our wanderlust guide us the rest of the way. All along the freeway, there are hidden nooks and crannies where you can hop out of your car, and into the refreshing, roaring waters. Pro Tip: if you’re unsure where to stop, just look at where the other cars along the way are, then plan accordingly and don’t be afraid to double back! I recommend a solid pair of water shoes, as I managed to slice my foot pretty well on the side of a rock – but besides that, my only other piece of advice is to give yourself a whole day and really enjoy marinating in a magical slice of wilderness.

As we gallivanted along our route, a spotted sky gave way into gradients of bright blue, echoing the vibrancy of the lush forest against the rushing Skykomish. It felt like Fern Gully, or even Avatar – and could make you believe that fairy tales were real. Descending down to the waters edge, you could see to the bottom of the river as the water cascaded over, around and even through some of the ancient pieces of rock that were lodged in the river.

Walk in nature and feel the healing power of the trees.” – Anthony William

From Monroe to Gold Bar, Index, Baring, and the town Skykomish – as you head towards Eastern Washington, it feels like there are an infinite amount of places to get lost for a few hours, so that you can rediscover yourself at your core.

Where do you turn to find your next big adventure? Do you ask around, find an app, research in a magazine or just wing it? Let me know in the comments below!

[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!

Tunnel of Vines

[Seattle Sights] Wanderlust at the Woodland Park Zoo

Admittedly, it wasn’t until these last few weeks, being stuck inside with my thoughts, my books and crafts, camera lenses and unpublished blog posts, husband, mother in law and cats – that I finally realized: I have taken far too long of a hiatus from writing. It’s like ideas oozing out of each and every part of my brain right now, almost like the dam of my mind has been reopened and can’t stop pouring out experiences, learnings and epiphanies that are ripe for sharing; as I gallivanted through my memories – I realized I never shared the entirety of one of my favorites – the Woodland Park Zoo.

Hailed as a winner of multiple awards for Best National Exhibits by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and only second in number received to New York’s fabled Bronx Zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo encompasses 92 acres of public spaces and exhibits in the heart of Woodland Park, with over a thousand animals and three hundred species, not to mentioned over thirty endangered and five threatened. And to boot, the park is equal amounts nature as it is plants – bringing to life over 50,000 shrubs and herbs, 7,000 trees and over a thousand different species of plants.



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Boasting several different park entrances, you can make each visit equally unique by switching your style up and diving into a new arena. From the African Savanna to Tropical Asia and the Tropical Rain Forest, the Northern Trail and Temperate Forest to Australasia, the entire world seems to exists in the extreme microcosm of the Woodland Park Zoo.

My ultimate favorite: Molbak’s infamous and seasonal Butterfly Garden. With dozens of varieties of butterflies, this area is full is wonder and beauty – with hundreds of butterflies flying around you, it feels like you’re in a whimsical sort of wonderland. Any way you spin it, each adventure to the Woodland Park Zoo is unlike any others – I’ve collected a few of my favorite snaps from my last visits, enjoy!



On your way out, a great spot to soak up some final sunshine is over in the Rose Garden. The perfect setting for an afternoon or sunset stroll once the park has closed down, there you’ll find incredible landscaping, fragrant blooms from all over the world and a lovely reflection pool. Ever-changing with the seasons, the Rose Garden is a solid bet any time of year.


With over a dozen distinct eco-systems and geographic zones to roam through, and a diverse cast of characters within – you shouldn’t stress about fitting it the whole Woodland Park Zoo in during one visit, plus – let’s face it, the animals keep vastly different schedules than us and are often asleep during the day, which can make it hard to find them. The more times you visit, the more you’ll be able to take in – plus, it feels good to support a great cause, so I’m all for forking over the money for my membership. 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!

For more on the Woodland Park Zoo and my favorite – their incredible seasonal Butterfly Garden, visit their website and socials; or once this stay at home order is lifted – if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit – I promise you, it’s worth it.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Wander Washington] Chasing Waterfalls on the Snoqualmie River

Catching Reflections in Cle Elum

With the turning of the Seasons here in Washington, Spring is kicking herself into a beautiful full bloom; and as we’re making it through another week of Stay in Place orders in Washington, I know I’m not the only one who is simply itching to get out of her home, back into the great outdoors, and lap up the wonders sprinkled around this fantastic state. Leaving California, one of the big motivators was proximity and access to nature – and let me tell you: up here in the Pacific North West – we’ve got that down.

The last grand adventure that I took, was with my family for my father’s birthday; we took a day to ourselves and gallivanted out of Seattle proper and to the East on Highway 90. Our journey took us along the Snoqualamie River, South of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest into whimsical wonderlands just off of the beaten path; each bit lush with greenery, teaming with fungi, with offerings of waterfalls and scenic views at the end of each and every trail.

Snoqualmie Falls

We kicked off the day with a stop at Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington’s most fabled tourist attractions. A member of the National Register of Historic Places, Snoqualmie Falls gained most of its notoriety by being prominently featured on the hit series Twin Peaks. The Falls offers a quick walk, descending down through old growth trees and a temperate rain forest and down to the rushing river below.

We visited in the beginning of October, which was lovely with the mix of light wind, succulent sunshine and the tiniest dusting of snow on the mountain ranges nearby. I was told the best seasons to really get the full effect of the Falls are between the end of Autumn and beginning of Spring as the water levels in the area rise.

From there, we headed further East towards North Bend. Under the ever shifting blue skies and shifting autumn leaves, we found ourselves pulling off at almost turnout we could to explore the abundant little nooks and crannies along the way, finally stumbling upon one of my still favorite finds.

As you duck under the canopy of the tree grove and into what feels like Avatar, you’re greeted by colorful fungi and the delightful sound of rushing water.

Inching closer to the sound, you’ll find a narrow trail with spritzes of water tumbling towards your direction. Finally, low and behold – the breathtaking beauty of Franklin Falls. As you descend downwards, closer and closer to the waterfalls – rainbows cascade from the spray and you’re immediately enveloped in a magical mist. There’s simply nothing like it.

After a few moments reveling in the rainbows and raindrops of Franklin Falls, we were off, off and away again, still due East – but this time with a vastly different intention: food. In Ellensburg right off the highway sits the Aardvark Express, a fantastic Korean-Mexican fusion foodtruck boasting some damn fabulous bowls; I highly suggest the Hurry Curry Bowl for any first timers.

With full stomachs and happy hearts, we were back on the road – this time coming home due West, but with just a few more stops to make on the way back.

The first was on the back-end of Snoqualamie Pass in the vastly different landscape of Cle Elum, The Heart of the Cascades. With several hikes and water features, including lakes, the area is the perfect summer spot for camping, recreation and outdoor activities, as well as water sports and boating. Maybe it was the time of year, or just where we decided to take our pit stop – but the landscape started to feel more and more like the desert of Easter Washington than the lush vegetation of the more Western regions.

Finally, last but certainly not least – we took ourselves wandering along the river in Olallie State Park in search of the infamous Twin Falls waterfalls, which contrary to what the name states – actually boast five fantastic falls, serene swimming holes and a cacophony of birds chirping their way through the woods.

Lately, I’ve been reliving my adventures through my photos because of the one two punch of ‘stay in place’ orders and park closures. When this current Coronavirus chas is over, I’m almost positive there will be a flood of people out to all of the parks and open areas – so please, be conscious of your physical distance, and please don’t go out if you’re sick However, if you’re anything like me I know you’re feverishly plotting your next outdoor adventure – where’s the first place you’re planning on visiting once you can? Let me know in the comments below!

For more information on the trails mentioned, peep the links below:

Snoqualmie Falls: Website | All Trails

Franklin Falls: All Trails

Cle Elum: All Trails

Olallie State Park, Twin Falls: All Trails

[Wander Washington] The Magic + Majesty of Mount Rainier

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

Whether you’re coming into Seattle or exiting the city stage left, there’s one piece of nature that simply towers over the rest, sitting pristine and pretty at 14.1 thousand feet above sea level. We know it now as Mount Rainier, but past indigenous tribes proudly remember and revere it was Tahoma, or Tacoma.

Located about sixty miles southeast of Seattle, the spectacular – and active! – stratovolcano has become a larger than life icon of the Pacific Northwest landscape. Made of alternating layers of lava, ash and pyroclastic ejecta flows, Mount Rainier effortlessly towers over the rest of the Cascade Mountain Range with 26 major glaciers and 36 square miles of permanent sparkling snowfields, earning its status as the most glaciated mountain peak in the contiguous United States. At the top of the summit, the geothermic heat spewing from a duo of volcanic craters prevents the rims from getting snowed in or iced over, forming the world’s largest glacial cave network of ice-filled craters.

While the current top formation of Mount Rainier is estimated to be approximately 500,000 years old, the mountain and the entire Cascade Volcanic Arc is considered part of the ‘Lily Formation’ and spans from roughly 840,000 years old to a whopping 2.6 Million years old. Many eons and moons ago, it’s purported that Rainier was around 16k feet high – but with increased volcanic activity around 5,600 years ago around 3600 B.C., the volcano erupted, removing the top 2k feet and causing the northeast side of the mountain to collapse. Now known as the Osecola Lahar – or mudflow, a wall of mud, rock and debris over 100′ high cascaded over land and into the waters of the Puget Sound, nearly 50 miles away. Though small eruptions have happened since with a frequency of every few hundred years, the last major eruption of Rainier was about 1000 years ago – to which many geologists say, we could be due for a ‘big’ one, and it could be absolutely disastrous to the whole planet.


“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”


Home to dozens of roaring rivers, reflection ponds and lavish lakes, the spectacle of the park shimmers and sparkles in full color from every which direction. Boasting assorted entrances, a plethora of unique micro-climates, and dozens of viewpoints and over 130 interpretive trail descriptions – you can essentially guarantee a completely new trip with each visit. I happened to fall in love with the park in a little under six hours, but with multiple lodges and camping spots on site, not to mention the vast amount of hotels around the base of the park, you can completely make a weekend of your visit while you marinate in every last inch of wildlife.


“Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”


With the velocity and veracity of shifting weather patterns, not to mention changes in altitude as you traverse the mountain – it’s also entirely possible to experience every season within a full days adventure. During our stay the other weekend, we were greeted by ambient low level clouds, only to peter out into gloriously clear sunshine at Sunrise Ridge, then a hail storm as we etched our way around the mountain, followed by an intense game of hide and seek with a bog of fog, and finally one of the most glorious lightning storms I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting under. That said – word to the wise, pack enough extra clothing that you can be warm and dry if the rain starts in, or have a tank top and shorts for when the sun finally manages to break through the day.


For more on Mount Rainier, head to their website or social channels – or simply pack a bag, and plan a visit!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

[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