Travel Diaries Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail Header Image

Walking the Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail

Recently I took a trip to Seattle to visit my friend Steven. He’s lived there for a little while now, and while spring isn’t the best time to get outside and do things, he was excited to show me around.

Sign at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA Trail along Lake Washington

One of the first places he took me is the Washington Park Arboretum, which is super pretty. My favorite part of the trip was the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along the edge of Lake Washington.

Map and information about the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The trail is a 1/2 mile long. Most of it is pretty muddy and the parts that aren’t are floating walkways that allow you to walk across the water from Foster Island to Marsh Island.

Steven walking along the muddy Arboretum Waterfront Trail in the marsh along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The Arboretum Waterfront Trail is in the largest wetland in Seattle, hence all the mud. The floating walkways give beautiful views of Lake Washington, but a lot of the trail is actually in the marshes on the lake’s edge. Willow and birch trees hide the lake from view in these areas, but there’s still plenty to see. If you watch carefully, you may spot some dragonflies, marsh wrens, or even a turtle.

Sign showing prohibited activities on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The marsh is a fragile environment, so bikes, runners, and dogs are not allowed.

Since the trail is all mud and floating walkways, it’s not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers and you should be prepared to get a little dirty.

Holly standing on the steps of the raised observation platform overlooking Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

There is a raised observation platform on Foster Island as well as several other platforms on Marsh Island, but they don’t look very well maintained. Steven assured me that the observation platform was *probably* safe, but the wood looked like it would give way at any moment, so I didn’t want to risk going all the way up to the platform. Even getting on the steps was tricky, since there was a mud pit in front of the platform and the bottom step was missing.

A bench in the marsh on Marsh Island in Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The benches along the trail looked just as dilapidated and unsafe as the platforms.

Save This Trail sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation for the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

At the end of the trail is a sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation asking for help in preserving and improving the trail. If you’ve used the Arboretum Waterfront Trail, be sure to take the survey about how often you go, your favorite activities, and how to improve the trail, or email garrett.farrell@seattle.gov with how you would like to see the trail preserved or improved.

Travel Diaries Header Washington Park Arboretum Seattle

Exploring the Washington Park Arboretum

Recently I took a trip to Seattle to visit my friend Steven. He’s lived there for a little while now, and while spring isn’t the best time to get outside and do things, he was excited to show me around.

Steven at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA.

One of the first places we went was the Washington Park Arboretum, right next to Lake Washington.

History

The Washington Park Arboretum was established by the University of Washington’s Board of Regents and the City of Seattle in 1934. Originally named the University of Washington Arboretum, it became the Washington Park Arboretum in 1974.

The Arboretum was originally designed by James Dawson and Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. of the Olmsted Brothers firm as an ordered taxonomic system. The plants were ordered from most primitive to most advanced in order to help students and scientists study plant evolution. However, this system did not take into consideration the needs of the different plant types and many of the plants and trees ended up in environments they could not thrive in. In 1947, director Brian O. Mulligan stepped in and moved many of the plants to more suitable environments.

Through the years, more and more gardens have been added to the Arboretum.

In 1949, Mulligan added a winter garden, now known as the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden, featuring cedar and fir trees, along with Chinese witchhazel, daphnes, rhododendrons, and many more plants that thrive in winter.

The Japanese Garden was completed in 1960 and is one of the best Japanese gardens in North America. In addition to the beautiful garden itself, the Japanese Garden also offers the experience of a tea ceremony. It is the only part of the Arboretum that has an entrance fee.

Pacific Connections Garden Sign at Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

My favorite part of the Arboretum is the most recent addition. The Pacific Connections Garden features plants from Cascadia, Chile, China, Australia, and New Zealand. The New Zealand forest alone has almost 10,000 plants. The garden also has an audio tour that can be found on the Pacific Connections Garden page on the University of Washington Botanic Gardens website.

The Arboretum is currently jointly managed by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, the City of Seattle, and the Arboretum Foundation.

Environment & Wildlife

The 230 acre park is home to one of the Northern Hemisphere’s biggest collections of temperate trees and plants.

Work on the park’s newest trail, the Arboretum Loop Trail, has uncovered a stretch of Arboretum Creek that previously flowed through pipes underground. This and other restoration work done during the project has helped create more habitats for wildlife in the natural wetlands.

The Arboretum is a great place for bird watching. The wet and temperate environment provides a home to hundreds of bird species, including my favorite, the American Coot, as well as Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Trumpeter Swans, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Pacific Wrens, and many others.

Hiking

Holly Walking on a trail at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The Washington Arboretum has several miles of trails throughout its 230 acres, most of which are paved.

The Arboretum Loop Trail, which opened in April, is one of the best ways to explore the Arboretum. The 2 mile trail is entirely paved and features several bridges over Arboretum Creek. The restoration work done during construction of the trail has helped increase the wildlife activity in the area, as well as allowing visitors to see previously hidden plants.

Hours & Fees

Most of the Arboretum is free to visit and is open all day. The Visitors Center is open from 9am to 5pm daily.

The Japanese Garden at the southern end of the Arboretum does have an entrance fee, which is $8 for adults, $6 for Seattle residents (have your ID!), and $4 for children, senior citizens, college students (have your ID!) and disabled persons. Admission is free on the first Thursday of every month from 3pm until closing and anytime for children 5 or younger.

The Japanese Garden opens at noon every Monday and 10am Tuesday-Sunday. It closes at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm or 7pm depending on the month. Guided tours are at 12:30pm every day April through October and are included with the price of admission.

 

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Hiking Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Last weekend I took a trip to the coast and ended up visiting the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach. If you follow my blog (hit the follow button on the right if you don’t), you know that I love hiking and exploring new places, so I was super excited to discover Bolsa Chica. I haven’t gotten to do as much exploring in California as I’ve wanted, so a trip to Bolsa Chica is just what I needed.

History

Bolsa Chica has a tumultuous history. The earliest known inhabitants lived here 8,000 years ago, but not much is known about them. Since then, other Native American groups have moved in, later to be culturally dominated and killed by diseases brought by Spanish colonists and missionaries.

It was one of these Spaniards, Joaquin Ruiz, who gave the land its name. His sister had inherited land from her father-in-law and given Joaquin 8,000 acres of her inheritance. She had named her land Rancho Las Bolsas, The Purses, so he called his small tract of land Rancho La Bolsa Chica, The Little Purse.

In the 1800s, when California became part of the United States, Spanish land grants were required to be registered. Many Spaniards had to take out loans to pay these registrations that they could not repay, and so lost their land. A portion of Bolsa Chica was lost in this way and sold to some Los Angeles businessmen for a duck hunting preserve. The tides made for poor hunting, so a dam was built across one of the channels. In a short while, this dam transformed the salt water marshes into fresh water ponds, devastating the local ecology.

In the 1900s, Bolsa Chica was the site of oil and natural gas drilling and later an artillery battery during World War II. In 2004, efforts began to restore Bolsa Chica to its original conditions. More than 500 acres have been restored thus far.

Environment & Wildlife

Bolsa Chica is a salt marsh wetland. It is also a seasonal estuary, where the ocean tide and the river current flow into each other. Salt water enters the wetlands throughout the year at several points. During the rainy season, freshwater flows into the wetlands through a flood control channel. The meeting of salt water and fresh water creates brackish conditions in several areas of the park.

One of the main draws to Bolsa Chica are the birds. Hundreds of bird species frequent the reserve, so you’ll be sure to spot something cool during your visit. I saw plenty of sandpipers and other water birds fishing, but my favorite birds were the hummingbirds. There were several flitting among the flowers along the path. I got as close as I could to get some pictures before the moved on to the next flower.

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There’s plenty of life in the water as well. Since Bolsa Chica is on the ocean, marine life abounds. Be sure to bring polarized sunglasses so things in the water are easier to spot. I saw a school of smelt, which looked really cool with the sun reflecting off their bodies as they swam. I also spotted a little stingray, which I was excited about because I’ve never seen one in the wild before. If you’re lucky, you may also see a shark or a guitarfish or even an octopus hiding behind the rocks.

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Of course, you’ll always see animals on land when you hike. I saw plenty of rabbits and ground squirrels running around. They do blend in with the brown dirt and grass really well, though, so you have to have a good eye to spot them. I don’t often see wild lizards, so I was very excited to spot a western fence lizard.

Hiking

There are 5 miles of trails at Bolsa Chica. I hiked along the Mesa Trail and part of the Pocket Loop Trail. The trails are very well maintained and mostly flat, so it isn’t a strenuous place to hike as long as you stay on the trails.

If you go off the trails, there are rattlesnakes, black widows and poison oak to contend with. Bolsa Chica is also home to some rare and endangered plants and animals, so staying on the trails can prevent damage to the plants and the animals’ environment.

A trail map of Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve can be found here.

Saline Valley Death Valley Sand Dunea

New Year’s in Saline Valley

My boyfriend, Bryce, and his friends have a tradition of camping in Saline Valley for New Year’s. This was my first year going with them.

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It was getting dark as we headed into the desert, and the view of the joshua trees against the sunset and the mountains rising up in the distance was beautiful. Saline Valley is surrounded by mountains, both from the Sierra Nevada Range and the Inyo Mountains. As we drove in over washes that made the road almost impassable (completely impassable to 2-wheel drive vehicles), I was told that when it gets cold, the three passes into the valley can become snowed in and visitors can be trapped in Saline Valley for up to a week while they wait for the snow to melt. We lost phone service almost immediately after leaving Lone Pine, the last town before the valley, so a week trapped in Saline means a week with no way to contact the outside world.

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As we drove through the mountains via South Pass, Bryce and his cousin George talked about hearing about a car that had flipped on the way in, as well as a Jeep Cherokee that had caught fire and been abandoned. When we arrived at our campsite, Bryce’s cousin Doug and his wife Dana told us they had heard about a car flipping on North Pass as well. The car that had flipped on South Pass was gone by the time we drove in, but we passed the burnt out Cherokee. It was still there when we left four days later.

Saline Valley has historically been home to nomadic communities. The original inhabitants were the Timbisha Shoshone and their ancestors. Petroglyphs from these ancient peoples can still be found in parts of the Valley. Some of our group had hiked to find some of these petroglyphs before and Bryce’s cousin Doug was able to show us where they were. It was amazing standing in a place and knowing that thousands of years before, other people had stood in that place and made these markings on the rocks.

Salt mining began in the valley in the early 1900s. Bryce had pointed out some salt flats as we drove into the desert. Most of Saline Valley is a dry lake, part of which is still a salt marsh. A tram had been built to carry the salt from the valley over the Inyo Mountains to the Owens Valley on the other side of the mountains. The remains of this tram, the steepest ever constructed in the United States, is still in the valley along with other remnants of the salt mining operation.

Much of the salt flat is solid enough to walk on if you’re careful. If you step wrong, it’s easy to punch through the salt to fall into the water and mud beneath. Bryce and I had fun finding salt crystals in the footprints of people who had stepped through the salt. As the salt forms into crystals, other minerals are drawn out, giving the crystals layers of colors beneath the white salt.

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In more modern times, the hot springs in the valley drew hippies who built the tubs at the campground we were headed to. Water is piped from the sources of the springs to the four tubs for visitors to soak in.

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The upper springs at the north end of the campground has the Volcano Pool and the Wizard Pool. Wizard Pool is named after Wizard, who was camp host, a permanent resident and caretaker of the valley, until his death. I heard the pool was named after him because he once spent an entire day soaking in it and drinking beers without ever getting out.

The lower springs at the south end of the campground has the Sunrise Pool and the Crystal Pool, the spout of which is surrounded by crystals found nearby. There’s also a grassy area next to the lower springs, along with a koi pond and another small tub.

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I was the only first-time visitor from our group, so I was shown where the showers are to rinse off in and where the footbath to rinse your feet at each pool is. I had been told that most of the visitors to the springs were old timers who had been coming for years, but they clearly weren’t the secret oasis they once were. There were more young people than old timers and many seemed not to know the rules about showering and rinsing your feet to keep the hotpots clean for everyone.

The spirit of the original builders of the oasis prevails in the modern day and most people soak nude in the hotpots, though there are still many who choose to wear swimsuits.

Though secrecy of the hot springs’ location is encouraged to protect them from an influx of tourists and people who won’t respect the communal atmosphere, I heard plenty of rumors of famous visitors through the years. The most legendary of these was Charles Manson, who several people told me had visited with some of his followers.

Most of Saline Valley became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994, which brought new regulations to the springs. While before there had been many people who were permanent or semi-permanent residents, now there is a 30 day per year limit on how long visitors can stay. The exceptions are camp hosts, like Wizard. The current camp host is Lizard Lee, who oversees the care and cleanliness of the springs.

The annexation into Death Valley National Park created a controversy for the springs. The improvements of creating the hotpots with water piped from the sources and the green space and pond would not have been allowed had it happened as part of a national park. However, these improvements were created and became a beloved part of the valley before annexation. There have been suggestions of dismantling the hotpots and green spaces and returning the springs to their natural state, but for now it seems those plans are on hold.

I’m lucky that plans for dismantling the hotpots have not yet been put into action. Spending the new year surrounded by friends and strangers all brought together by a sense of community and a love for the desert and the springs was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what new adventures lie in store for me this year that will lead me back to Saline Valley.

Thanks to George and Bryce for contributing photos to this post.

Traveling the Northwoods

This weekend my boyfriend, Bryce, and I are going Up North. My family’s cabin is in one of the towns just north of Minocqua, WI, so we will be doing plenty out on the lake. Unfortunately, it’s getting cold early this year, so we probably won’t be doing much swimming.

Kayaking is one of my favorite things to do at the cabin, so I’m sure we’ll take plenty of trips around the lake. There’s so much wildlife to see no matter the time of year. At the beginning of the summer there were some loons nesting on the lake. There are also beavers and sometimes otters who live on the lake and eagles who next in the trees on the shore.

The woods are great for hiking, even with all the mosquitos. Northern Wisconsin is home to white deer. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of one. The white deer are just regular white tail deer with a genetic trait that makes them all white instead of brown.

On Friday we will probably head a few towns over to Manitowish Waters to eat at Little Bohemia Lodge, where John Dillinger had a shootout with the FBI in 1934.

There is so much to do in the Northwoods and it’s a beautiful place to visit. Every lake is different and it’s so fun to explore them all. If you ever get a chance to spend a weekend Up North, I encourage you to do so.

Planning a Dream Roadtrip: The Glass Beach

A very long time ago I saw a picture of a glass beach. It was so beautiful, with red, green, blue, yellow, brown and clear glass pebbles spilling out of the ocean. The glass beach is in MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg, California. Ever since I’ve learned about it, it’s been my dream to go visit it.

There are three glass beaches in Fort Bragg. The sites were used as dumps from the 1900s to the 1960s. When the dumps were closed, the metal trash was removed and the biodegradable trash broke down. The broken glass was tumbled in the water until it became smooth and pebble-like. The water deposited it back on the beach along with other sand and rocks to create the glass beach.

I’m hoping to visit the glass beach during my trip to California this fall, while it still exists. The beach is slowly disappearing because of people taking the glass as souvenirs. Taking glass from the beach is not only ruining the park for others, it’s also illegal Since the glass beach is in MacKerricher State Park, everything in the park is protected and it’s against the law to remove anything, including the glass.

The glass beach is what began my goal of taking a roadtrip down the west coast and it’s the most important stop to me. I’m excited about finally being able to visit it after dreaming about it for years. It may not be part of a roadtrip this visit, but in a few years when I do drive down the coast, visiting the glass beach will be essential. I only hope that it will still be there.

Hiking Roche-A-Cri State Park

If you follow my YouTube channel, you know that I hate the Wisconsin DNR website. A lot of the hiking areas on the site don’t have maps or information about what kinds of plants and animals are in the state parks.

They did a little bit better with Roche-A-Cri State Park in Friendship, Wisconsin. There’s even a map of the park showing all the trails.

The first stop I’m going to make on my trip to Roche-A-Cri is at Ship Rock. Ship Rock isn’t in the park, but it’s a wayside on Highway 21 just east of the park. There isn’t much to see there, but I’ve driven past Ship Rock several times and I’ve always wanted to stop to get some pictures.

At Roche-A-Cri Park, I plan on hiking the Mound Trail, which is 0.3 miles. There are stairs up to an observation deck on top of Roche-A-Cri Mound. Since the mound is a State Natural Area, you can’t leave the stairway and observation deck in order to preserve the area for everyone to enjoy.

After the Mound Trail, I’m going to take Chickadee Rock Nature Trail, which is another 0.3 miles. This trail is also handicap accessible.

At Chickadee Rock, I’m going to go right on the Acorn Trail and go back around the mound to see some petroglyphs. The Acorn Trail is 3.55 miles, but I won’t hike the whole thing.

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Hiking Devil’s Lake

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Wisconsin. It’s known for the beautiful pink quartzite bluffs that overlook the lake as well as all the activities the park has to offer. Camping and swimming are some of the most popular activities. The park also has 29 miles of hiking trails, including sections of the Ice Age Trail, and the bluffs make Devil’s Lake one of the best rock climbing areas in the midwest.

My boyfriend, Bryce, and I are planning a day trip to Devil’s Lake this sunday. We’ll just be hiking and maybe swimming, since rock climbing isn’t my thing.

The last time I was at Devil’s Lake was last October, when I hiked the Balanced Rock Trail with a group of other hikers. The fall colors were out in force in October, so I’m excited to get some sunnier pictures this trip.

 

This time I want to do the Potholes Trail, which is extremely difficult and steep, but has amazing rock formations, making the hard climb worth it. The trail is only .3 miles, but the difficulty of it means it should take about two hours to hike.

Planning a hike at Effigy Mounds National Monument

My boyfriend has a friend visiting from California this week, so we’re planning to take her hiking at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

An effigy mound is an indian mound shaped like an animal. Most of the ones at Effigy Mounds National Monument are shaped like bears and birds, as well as a few that are just rectangles or circles grouped together to make patterns. The effigy mounds were built by various peoples collectively known as the Mound Builders during the Late Woodland Period.

Bryce and I had taken Rascal and Moky there a few weeks ago. We hiked in the North Unit of the park, out to Twin Views and back around the loop to Fire Point and Eagle Rock, which is just over three miles. This time we plan to go all the way to Hanging Rock at the end of the trail, which is a seven mile hike.

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It’s free to enter the park and dogs are allowed on the trails, but not in the visitor’s center. I recommend looking around the visitor’s center before hiking in the park. There is a lot of historical information and information about the animals and plants in the park that will give you a better understanding of what you’re seeing.

The mounds themselves are too big to capture in one photograph, at least from the ground. The trails are well maintained, so it’s clear what areas you should walk on. The grass on the mounds is left longer so it’s clear where they begin and end.

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All of the overlooks have beautiful views of the Mississippi, so if you stop for a few minutes, you can watch the boat traffic go by.

There’s a lot of wildlife to see in the park. Bryce and Rascal and Moky saw a turkey bumbling through the brush while I was distracted by a dragonfly, but I’ll have a better eye out this time.

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Getting all the way out to Hanging Rock is going to be tiring, and we’ll be leaving really early in the morning, so I plan on taking some RuckPack energy shots. They’re healthier than normal energy drinks and energy shots because they use natural ingredients and rely on nootropics instead of lots of caffeine to keep you going. Use coupon code BB026 to get 20% off your order here.

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Visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

My boyfriend, Bryce, has a friend visiting this week, so we’ve been trying to find things for her to do in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area.

One place that he and his parents have been before is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe just south of La Crosse. I was excited to go since I have never been there before.

The various parts of the shrine were built and dedicated throughout the 2000s and 2010s. It’s extremely beautiful and peaceful. I don’t know very much about Catholocism, but there are plenty of plaques and people working at the shrine to explain things.

We started the day at the Pilgrim Center where we had breakfast in the Culina Mariana Café. After breakfast, we walked up the Meditation trail. Our first stop was the Votive Candle Chapel, which looks amazing both on the inside and the outside.

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Votive candle chapel

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There were several devotional areas along the Meditation Trail. My favorite was the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Devotional Area. The map we had gotten from the Votive Candle Chapel told us that Saint Kateri was the first Native American to be blessed. Someone had left rosary beads next to Saint Kateri’s right knee.

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

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We arrived at the Shrine Church right as a Mass was starting, so we didn’t have the chance to look around much, but it was very beautiful. The fresco and chandeliers in the entryway were amazing.

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Fresco and chandelier inside the Shrine Church

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Be sure to walk around to the back of the Shrine Church during your visit. The architecture is amazing from both the front and back.

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Shrine Church from behind

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Our next stop was the Memorial of the Unborn, which is very moving. The Memorial includes a mausoleum in which children who were not brought to full term are interred. The Mother of the Unborn Devotional Area has a statue of Our Lady of Guadelupe, who is the Mother of the Unborn, holding three babies.

We walked the loop that showed the Stations of the Cross and Bryce told us what each of the Stations was.

The Rosary Walk led us to the end of the Meditation Trail. There are several arcs with artwork to help you pray the Rosary during the walk.

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Rosary Walk

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