Next walk is
July 28, 2018 

Free City Walks around Seattle

Come walk with us. We are leading free fun and interesting urban nature walks in the greater Seattle area.

SAVE THE DATE. Our next walk is set for July 28, 2018 in Fremont. More sign-up details coming soon. 

You can get all the details for our walks by subscribing in the box on the left side of this page. Share with your friends. They are free and fun!


A Sweet Little Guide to Nature Me For You


A Simple Way to FEEL MORE JOY in your life

© Cary Given/Given Photography 2016



Journal Archive

Next City walk with Nature Me - October 31

WALK THIS WAY. Seattle's Beautiful Washington Park Arboretum Come walk with us! We are leading free, fun and interesting urban nature walks around the greater Seattle area. See details below for our upcoming October 31 walk. Description: This gorgeous walk starts and ends at the south end of Washington Park Arboretum near the Japanese gardens. (Check our option below about the Japanese garden add-on.) The arboretum is a 230-acre outdoor gallery of sorts. The north end of the park spills into Lake Washington with Marsh and Foster Islands making up that part of the park habitat. From there, it stretches south through a beautiful land of plant collections.

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Next city walk with Nature Me - September 19

Come walk with us. We are leading free, fun and interesting walks around the greater Seattle area. See details below for our upcoming September 19 walk. Description: This gorgeous walk starts and ends in the Belltown neighborhood. We'll stroll through Olympic Sculpture park with its massive outdoor sculptures and then on to the adjacent Myrtle Edwards park with its paved path along Elliot Bay. You'll see panoramic views of the harbor, Olympic mountains and downtown Seattle . The walk is approximately 3.5 miles, so depending on our pace it will take about 2 hours. The terrain is a mix of asphalt, dirt trails, and a little up and down, so wear comfy shoes. (Tennis shoes work great.) Our intent for this walk is really more about discovery and connection with nature in an urban setting than fitness. The exercise is just a bonus! And, just so you know, it's not a formal tour, we explore right along with you.

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7 ways to get the most out of your walk

Walking is one of the simplist ways to get some exercise and clear your mental clutter. Here are some simple things you can do to get more out of your walk. 
  1. Set a simple intention before you start your walk such as...
    • I will be aware of my surroundings
    • I will notice all of the flowers, animals, birds, trees or gorgeous views (choose one or two)
    • I will be present and let my thoughts float on by
    • I will embrace the season
  2. Feel your body. Your feet. Your strong legs. Set your posture. Shoulders back and arms loose. Thanks your body for giving you the physical stamina to do this.
  3. Start out positive...approach your walk with a sense of adventure, curiosity and discovery.
  4. Find a pace that feels right for you. If you are with others, set your pace together.
  5. If something is going on that you need to process mentally, give yourself 5 minutes, then let it go. you'll be amazed at the insight or clarity that will come later.
  6. Along the way look for things you've never noticed before and find interesting.
  7. Expect nothing but the best on your walk.

Are you looking for someone to walk with or a fun, interesting walking route? Then come join us for our monthly walks! We post the details in the sidebar to the right of this post or you can get them delivered to your inbox by signing up in the box to the left of this post.

Interested in our Walk This Way urban nature walks. Read here to find out why we are creating these city walks.


Still time to join us for our next urban nature walk in Fremont!

It's not too late to join us for our next FREE Urban Nature walk in Fremont! It's set for August 28 at 10 am. We have a great walk designed that leaves from Gas Works park, winds through the "Center of the Universe," aka, the quirky Fremont neighborhood, follows part of the Burke-Gilman trail along the ship canal and Lake Union and ends with a nice stroll through Gas Works park that has panoramic views of Seattle and Lake Union. As an option after, we can head to the Essential Bakery cafe for coffee and/or refreshment. It’s about three blocks from the parking lot.

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How to create your own signpost

Red-shouldered hawk. © Cary Given/Given PhotographySometimes we all need a little loving guidance or reminder to give us a few moments of inner peace or relief. Here is a simple technique to help you do just that.

Create your very own signpost.

Choose something of our natural world that speaks to you--it might be a specific flower, bird, or tree. Or maybe the smell of evergreen, seeing a crescent moon or getting buzzed by a hummingbird. I think you get the idea. Then attach a personal message to yourself to it. A message that sparks something within you a profound sense of peace, relief or inspiration. Make it very relevant to your life. Keep your message simple and uplifting. Messages centered on gratitude, self-love, uniqueness, balance, vitality, and compassion are among many examples.

My signpost is a hawk. Every time I see a hawk, I remind myself that I am strong and I am standing sure-footed right where I am. It's a simple message that works for me. And even though I live in the city, we have regular visits to our backyard from a Coopers hawk. Every single time I see that hawk, it's a time when I need to be reminded of that reassuring message. 

As your life expands and grows, you can change your signpost to something more relevant. Just know that every time you see your signpost it will feel magical. 

We would love it if you would create a signpost and share with us, if you feel so inclined. Do you have other simple rituals that you use to help ease your way? Tell us! And if this post resonates with you, please share below.  


New! City walks with Nature Me

I love to walk so I had an idea. Why not create part urban and part nature walks that I could share with other women. So I recruited my awesome daughter Tiffany, who also loves walking, to help me design and lead free, fun and interesting walks in and around the greater Seattle area. So without further ado introducing our first Nature Me "Walk this Way, " which will explore Fremont and Gas Works Park. 

WALK THIS WAY in Fremont


This is a really fun and interesting walk through Fremont, part of the Burke-Gilman trail and Gas Works Park. The walk is approximately 3.5 miles, so depending on our pace will take 1.5 to 2 hours. We will start and end at Gas Works Park and have plenty of time to enjoy some of the cool and interesting sights along the way. The terrain is a mix of asphalt, dirt trails, and a little up and down, so wear comfy shoes. (Tennis shoes work great.) Our intent for this walk is really more about discovery and connection with nature than fitness. The exercise is just a bonus!

Date and Time: Friday, August 28 at 10 am

Where: Fremont. Meet at entrance to Gas Works Park

Optional: After the walk we will gather at a nearby coffee house for feedback and conversation.

Here's what we experience when we walk:

  • fresh, fun and uplifting 
  • full of discovery and newness
  • an easy way to connect with others
  • a nice blend of urban and nature 
  • a great way to get moving
  • a fun way to explore city neighborhoods

Sign-up: Send email to (Sorry, I don't have an email link here...working on that!)

Space is limited, so sign-up early. We will send you a confirmation with final details.

Walk on and happy summer!


Becci and Tiffany


P.S. We have more walks coming--one each month, so to get updates, make sure you are subscribed to Nature Me. You can subscribe in the box to the left of this post! And please feel free to share with the button below.


Get a taste of nature's goodness with fresh herbs 


Summer is the season for fresh herbs. Their smells are intoxicating. Their flavors spicy and pungent. And colors so beautiful! 

And I love knowing that beyond adding wonderful flavor, herbs are packed with vitamins and other essential things that our bodies need. So in an effort to get us cooking with more herbs, here are a few tidbits and tips. 


Sage is a versatile herb with soft fuzzy leaves. Its earthy, peppery taste is classic in turkey and chicken stuffing. Try frying big leaves as a garnish for pork dishes. It's yummy with mashed white beans and lemon juice. Top crostini with feta, prosciutto and sage or top roasted asparagus with sage and shaved parmesan. Add it to any of your stuffed squash recipes for a lovely fall dish. 

Its goodness: It has good antibacterial and astringent properties. A cup of sage tea with lemon goes a long way toward helping fight off a cold or sore throat. It's a good herb tea for helping dry up breast milk when weaning. Extracts of sage are often used in skin care products due to its ability to heal the skin. It has positive effects on memory and concentration.


Basil is highly aromatic and has a subtle licorice flavor. Add to a mix of olive oil, feta cheese and kalamata olives for a simple appetizer topping. Sprinkle on thick sliced tomatoes that have been drizzled with olive oil as a simple summer side dish. Toss in green salads, fresh bruschetta and final stages of pasta. For ease in preparation, stack several leaves, roll like a cigar and cut thin strips cross-wise. 

Its goodness: Basil is known to protect you from unwanted bacterial growth, is an anti-inflammatory food, has essential cardiovascular health nutrients and strengthens your immune system.


Thyme is a low growing woodsy herb with a minty, peppery, pungent flavor. It's good when combined with other herbs such as parsley and sage. Slow roasted thick-sliced roma tomatoes (overnight in oven at 200 degrees) brushed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves are outstanding! Add these tomatoes to gourmet subs or mix with white beans and basil. Thyme has long been a mainstay in soups and chicken dishes. Try adding a few sprigs to rice when simmering for a nice herby flavor.  

Its goodness: Thyme has high antioxidant levels, is a source of B-complex vitamins, and as tea it helps relieve coughs, sore throat and bronchitis symptoms.


Dill is a pungent tasting herb and used to flavor many foods. It's good in chicken, soups and seafood rubs. And who doesn't love a big fat crunchy dill pickle! My partner makes the best egg salad ever and his secret is a teaspoon or two of dill!

Its goodness: Dill contains many antioxidants and essential oils. It's rich in many vitamins including vitamins A & C and folic acid. All are essential for enhancing metabolism.



Rosemary is an evergreen herb with a strong pine-like flavor. I have a giant 15-year-old plant in my backyard that needs little maintenance and is covered with small lavender flowers in early spring. I can't roast a pan of potatoes without throwing in a little rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Mix it with coconut oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper and rub it all over a whole chicken for roasting. You will never roast a chicken any other way. It's a pretty garnish for a roasted vegetable or fish platter. Put several sprigs in a tiny vase of water on you window sill and they will stay fresh for at least a week.

Its goodness: Rosemary alleviates muscle pain, improves memory, boosts the immune and circulatory systems and promotes hair growth. 


Mint is mostly known for its aromatic smell. Try sipping a cup of mint tea when you need a little pick-me-up. For the ultimate in fresh, my daughter adds it to a fruit salad with a squeeze of lime. Same goes for a delicious summer fruit beverage. A friend taught me to add a few leaves to a smoothie made with tropical fruit and cucumber. Love this! It's also a great herb in summer cocktails. Think mint julep or mint margaritas.  

Its goodness: Mint is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients. All good things that help prevent disease and enhance metabolism. It contains many essential oils in its leaves including menthol. The herb is used in various ways to help relieve fatigue and stress. Peppermint tea is wonderful for digestion.  


Tarragon is one of my favorite herbs and classic in French cuisine. It has a distinct anise flavor, so I don't usually combine it with other herbs. It's wonderful in frittatas with goat cheese and bell peppers. Jazz up a sauteed chicken breast by adding tarragon and lemon juice to the drippings and reduce for a couple of minutes. So, so delicious. I love it on grilled halibut with a bit of lemon juice, too. 

Its goodness: Tarragon is high in vitamins, potassium and other nutrients. Like most herbs, it has many antioxidants and helps with digestion. It has elements that support overall cardiac health. 


Chives are onion-like in flavor, but much milder. They are of the allum bulb family, but you just use the top greens, which kind of look like blades of grass. You can use these in many dishes instead of onions and their bright-green stems add nice color. Chives are good in egg dishes and tasty in salads and dressings. Add them to your favorite potato salad or mix up cherry tomatoes, feta, olive oil, herbs and chives. They are awesome in mashed potatoes. To cut, I put them in a coffee cup and snip with scissors. (You can do this with most herbs.) It's much quicker than chopping and helps maintain their delicate shape. 

Its goodness: Chives contain many antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. It has properties that reduce cholesterol, and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral elements. It helps decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. The leaves are packed with B complex vitamins and minerals such as zinc and calcium. 

Now it's your turn. Do you have any favorite herbs and suggestions on how to use them? Share with us in the comment section below! 


PICTURE IT WELL: be the one who has moxie

Black-crowned Night Heron. © Curt Given/Given Photography 2015This year switch up your resolutions. Instead of setting them based on what you haven't done like getting fit, cutting down on TV, or starting a new hobby, try this. Set them based on what you want to become. I read somewhere that the top three things women want are to be more courageous, to set strong boundaries and to not take stuff so personally. So what do YOU want to become this year?  A woman who takes more risks, knows her limits, or walks away from master button-pushers? This year, be the girl who has moxie! Happy New Year! 

PICTURE IT WELL photos from symbolize some aspect of well-being. The brief text is meant to inspire you and demonstrate the uplifting power of nature.  


Creating space 

Find your path to joy

A peaceful way

Letting go

See the abundance in your life

Dig into your roots

Play it up in the new year

Do one thing

Reflect for growth


5 easy ways to practice gratitude in nature 

Spruce, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014The holiday season is a wonderful time of year. Filled with well wishes, lots of merry and maybe a little craziness. Taking time to feel grateful about big and little things in your life during the next few weeks is the best way to change craziness into calm and truly feel the spirit of love and giving. Here are some of my favorite ways to practice gratitude outdoors.

1. Start a gratitude journal. Visit your favorite outdoor setting regularly to capture your thoughts. Write down the things in your life that you are grateful for--big and small. It will shift your perception, helping you to see old things in a new way. And you will soon find out that your life is pretty perfect as it is. No more striving. Just appreciation for what you have now. 

2. Look at the night sky and thank your lucky stars for all of the blessings in your life. Do this often and you will start to feel  a "bigger than you" presence.

3. Explore someplace new outside. We just got back from a wonderful trip to Death Valley National Park. What an amazingly expansive beautiful place. Throughout the trip I felt that I was meant to be there and so grateful that I was. I felt joy and wonder everyday as we explored the park. And, I am still carrying those feelings now. You don't have to travel that far...explore a new park, foot path, forest trail, beach or other green space near your home. Go with a sense of adventure, joy will bubble up, and you will naturally feel thankful that you are in that place in that moment.

4. Take children on a nature walk. You will catch their natural exuberance. They will ask you questions, show you what they discovered, and thank-you for taking them. And you will be grateful for making the choice to share the experience with them.

5. Take a gratitude walk. Check out this link to a post I wrote earlier about a super easy activity that will keep you balanced and appreciative of all the goodness in your life. 

Now it's your turn. What are you grateful for? Do you have any special ways that you practice gratitude? Please join the conversation and share in the comments below.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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10 ways to flourish this fall 

Silver Falls State Park, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2013Fall is my favorite season for many reasons. The gorgeous autumn colors, cool nights, and warm crisp days make it easy to be outside. I find myself naturally nesting and clearing inside and out. Insight and clarity seem to come easily, maybe because the busy summer months have slowed down and I take more time for reflection. And I always seem to find some area around the house to clear out--whether it's in the house or outside in the garden, the action symbolically helps me make room for personal growth. Exactly what the fall season is all about.

Here are a variety of ways for you to celebrate fall and maybe get a little clarity along the way.

1. Make it a season for change. The fall season holds a wonderful energy that helps shed the old and prepare for the new. You see evidence of this everywhere in our natural world. Take some time to reflect on what you would like to change or create in your life. It can be as simple as taking your dog for more walks or complex as moving to a different place. The secret is to set the intention first. Write it down. Then take small, consistent daily actions toward whatever you want to change. Know that you are doing your best. Act as if you've done enough and watch your results grow. (Remember to plan the most enjoyable path to your goal.)

2. Plant something. According to every nursery owner I've talked to, fall is an excellent time to plant. You'll find great bargains at nurseries this time of year with full selections of perennials and lots of other ideas for fall planting. The soil is warm so plants have plenty of time to establish roots before winter. Consider planting shrubs that will feed the birds through winter such as serviceberry. Plant Coral Bells, conifers, or grasses for color in your garden all winter long.  

3. Take a walk around your neighborhood with the kids. Look for signs of fall near your home. Ask your kids to find plants that still have flowers and seeds. Then look for trees with leaves that are changing color or dropping. Look at the distinct shapes of leaves. Gather a few to rub in a journal or trace later for fun. Are birds around? See if you can identify them. Look at the sky. What color is it and what are the cloud patterns. You get the idea...note as much detail as possible and revel in the beauty of it all. Your kids will love it. 

4. Visit a farmer's market. I've written about farmer's markets many times here in the Journal because it's such an enjoyable thing to do any time of the year. Autumn market stalls are not only loaded with the late summer harvest, the colors and smells are incredible. An absolutely wonderful way to spend a weekend morning. 

5. Make a big pot of scratch soup. Everyone deserves healthy, delicious meals. Tap into the nourishing bounty of your veggies from the market to create a delicious pot of hearty soup. This is an easy, satisfying thing to do, even for those who are kitchen challenged. Think of it as creating a flavor of love! 

6. Drink beer. Help craft brewers celebrate the hop harvest by quenching your thirst at a tasting room or joining one of the many brew festivals happening right now. My favorite--pumpkin beer. Even purists love these thick, spicy, malty ales. What's your favorite?

7. Take a hike. Fall hiking is one of the most spectacular, mood-boosting activities you can do. This time of year, lush green forests are laced with brilliantly colored hardwoods such as maple, birch, cottonwood and aspen. And the yellow needles of tamarack (eastern U.S.) and larch pine trees (western U.S.) will stop you in your tracks. Here in the northwest early to mid-October is your best bet for beautiful color.

8. Take a fall drive. An absolutely tried and true way to get your fall foliage fix. Be sure to stop along the way to immerse yourself in the earthy smells and colors. Stomp through some leaves, sit on the ground or take photos with your phone for a lovely look back later in the week.

9. Meditate in nature. My niece, Morgan Elizabeth, has created several free short guided meditations to help you transition through change. One of her most recent guides you through an imaginary storm that is helpful if you have challenges, obstacles or feel stuck in your life. Check it out. Journey Through the Storm Meditation

10. Visit Yellowstone National Park. I know...this is big, so I saved it for last. Maybe a little too late to plan for this year, but it is one of the most gorgeous, awe inspiring, breath-taking fall vacations you will ever take. I've done it many times and it never ceases to amaze me. The days are crisp and clear. Brilliantly colored aspens set against blue-blue skies. Frost covered bisons snorting clouds of puffy breath. Steaming geysers. Rutting bull elks corralling their big harems. Non-existent crowds. Incredible wildlife and scenery. Just to give you a hint of what's to morning I crawled out of my tent to find that I was surrounded by several rutting bull elk with about a dozen wildlife photographers snapping away. Awesome!

Here are 7 more ways to make the most out of fall

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Enjoy your fall!


PICTURE IT WELL: a peaceful way 

© Cary Given/Given Photography 2014
When your thoughts are rattled from needless worry, doubt or stress, change your focus. Studies show that taking a walk, picking up a good book, exercising, or simple deep breathing can help ease your brooding. Really, any simple, engaging activity works. Choose one you love and watch those thoughts calm down and disappear. In addition to the immediate payoff, make this a regular practice to serve your long-term emotional well-being and soon you'll be on a path to peace. 

PICTURE IT WELL photographs symbolize some aspect of emotional well-being. The brief text is meant to inspire, get you thinking, and show you the healing power of nature.

More Picture it Well posts

Letting go

See the abundance in your life

Dig into your roots

Play it up in the new year

Do one thing

Reflect for growth


Discover the secrets of Olympic National Park's seashore

Olympic National Park, Copyright © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014By Rebecca Bailey

Here's an article about near-perfect beach destinations in Washington State. Now through fall is the best time to explore these off-the-beaten-track places. I know you won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

A beautiful, primitive seashore lies within the boundaries of Olympic National Park in Washington State. It is a place of lasting impressions. Its pounding surf, intertidal communities, beaches, and wildlife tell a wonderful tale. Although access is via remote roads or trails, with a little pre-planning, travelers can experience this seaside wilderness first-hand.  

The park’s protected coastline spans nearly 75 miles, starting in the south near Kalaloch on Highway 101 and ending in the northwest corner of the state near Ozette Indian reservation. Sea stacks, headlands and islands mark the landscape, providing important habitat for a diversity of plants and animals that flourish in this ecosystem.

Beaches are numerous and each is different from the others. For visitors, that means a wealth of choices along this coast. And since they are all gorgeous, there’s no such thing as a bad beach. Access may determine your choice. Generally, the park’s harder-to-access beaches are located at the north end of the coastal strip.

Rialto Beach

Centrally located is Rialto Beach, a small scoop of land that is easy to access. Bounded by sea stacks to the south and rugged headlands to the north, this beach has magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll want to spend at least one morning or evening here because the light is the stuff of fairy tales. Sunsets are classic—brilliant pinks streaking the horizon. In the morning, white-gold light illuminates the foamy surf. 

Anytime of the day you can see brown pelicans flying north. These prehistoric looking birds are capable of amazing twisting dives as they plunge into the sea for fish. In the summer, it is common to see several big groups flying just a few feet above the water. 

Rialto’s shore is a popular gathering and feeding spot for many birds. Ruddy turnstones work the rocks and Sandpipers and other shorebirds probe the sand for small crustaceans. Gulls and crows congregate everywhere. Surf scoters bob along, their clown-faces surprising and delighting visitors.    

Directly behind this beach is a coastal forest of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, western red cedars, Douglas fir and alders. Beach logs from the forest lay every-which- way creating a haphazard fence between the forest and ocean. This natural playground inspires children and adults to build forts, create beach art, and climb around the fallen and washed up logs. (Remember to dismantle anything that you build to keep it looking natural.)    

Nearby, a picnic area with a paved walkway, restrooms and a parking lot are sheltered behind a pile of beach logs. And just down the road, the mouth of the Quillayute River dumps into the ocean. Here you might see river otters, merganser and harlequin ducks and bald eagles. 

Second Beach

Directly south of Rialto, via highway 110, Second Beach offers its own breathtaking views with several sea stacks scattered across the horizon. They come in all sizes and shapes, topped by windblown trees and colonies of nesting birds. 

Here, after less than 30 minutes of moderately easy walking with a short descent to the beach, you’ll feel like you’re visiting a remote island. Few people are around due to limited parking at the trailhead. 

This beach is great for exploring tide pools. The north end has a rich intertidal community with hundreds of tiny sea creatures living in rocky pools of water. Plan your visit during low tide to discover their hidden world. Sea stars, mussels, anemones, barnacles, and hermit crabs are among the many creatures you might spot--all fighting to survive the heavy wave shock from changing tides.  

For a good stroll, head south. The beach is long enough to get a good pace going. Stop every so often to scan the water and sea stacks for swimming and hauled out sea lions, seals and other marine mammals.

Throw in a glorious sunset and you’ll never want to leave. However, if you do stay to watch, you will a need a flashlight for the walk back or plan to spend the night. Some beach areas require reservations to limit overnight campers and they all require a backcountry permit, so check with the park service first.  

© Curt Given 2014Cape Alava Beach

For something different, drive to the northwest corner of the park and walk through a coastal forest to Cape Alava beach. The 3.3-mile (one-way) trail begins at the Lake Ozette ranger station, and is mostly on a gently rising and falling sturdy cedar boardwalk. At the end, wooden stairs help with the short descent to the beach. 

These forests appear all along the coast, but perhaps nowhere as lush. Bottle-green sword ferns, salal and skunk cabbage creep over and along the boardwalk, while giant Western red cedars and hemlocks tower overhead. About halfway to the beach, you’ll come across Ahlstrom’s Prairie, which was the site of a Scandinavian homestead. Here you may see grazing black-tailed deer. 

Cape Alava offers one-of-a-kind beauty, with its rugged headlands, sea stacks, tide pools, islands and wildlife. Sea lions and seals swim along the shore, or warm themselves on flat jutting rocks. For a good view of these playful creatures, bring binoculars. You can see unusual piebald deer with large patches of white fur. Surf scoters, grebes, murres and other ducks bob and dive among the waves. Use binoculars and spotting scopes to see nesting and flying birds around the sea stacks, which are part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.  

A low tide will bring pairs and groups of raccoons out to forage for food in the tide pools. Be wary though. They are abundant on the coast, love human food, and often raid unattended backpacks or picnic baskets. This is a popular backpacking spot, so if you stay over night, you will want to hang your food at least six feet above the ground and six feet away from tree trunks. 

The Ozette Indian archaeological site is located here. Washington State University excavated the site during the 1970s. It’s now closed and buried. Most of the artifacts found during the excavation are on display at the Makah Cultural Center in Neah Bay. 

For a longer hike, you can do a 9.3-mile loop by hiking three miles south along the beach from Cape Alava and returning to the Ozette ranger station via the Sandpoint trail. 

Tips and what to bring

When taking extended hikes along the coastal beaches, several points are passable only at low tide. It is critical that you carry a topographical map and know how to use it. Tide tables are available at ranger stations and visitor centers.  

Likewise, before you hike to any beach, it’s a good idea to check trail conditions on the park website. Routes can be closed or in poor condition. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, and wear sturdy shoes because trails are often uneven, slippery, and muddy. Save your flip-flops for the sand.

To make your trip more enjoyable bring a field guide to help you identify some of the outstanding sea birds found along the Washington coast and binoculars are essential for wildlife viewing. Restaurants are sparse, so pack lots of food and water. Park campgrounds fill fast and most are first-come, first-served. Camping fees range from ten to eighteen dollars per night. Accommodations are available in the park, Forks, Port Angeles and at local bed and breakfasts. Admission fee into the park is $15 per vehicle for a 7-day visit. 

For more information about all of the park beaches and other places in Olympic National Park, visit the Olympic National Park website.

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April 22 is Earth Day: 3 simple things you can do

Chinese Mountain Ash, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014I love Earth Day and I still remember the very first one on April 22, 1970. 

I was a student at Winston Churchill High School in Eugene Oregon and our entire school scoured the city for trash in public areas. The big find of the day--an old toilet that some really boisterous senior boys found and hauled back to our school's giant pile of trash. 

Kids in our school were among the 20 million Americans who demonstrated support of earth sustainability through action on that day 34 years ago. 

It was the beginning of our modern environmental movement ultimately leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Soon after passage of acts to protect our air, water and endangered species followed.

Today, as we all know, ongoing sustainability efforts are critical to keep our great big earth healthy. And there are many easy things we can do to support this effort. 

Here are three easy things you can start doing right away. Remember, small changes make big results. 

1. Set your mower blades high. Skip the golf course look and leave your grass 2 to 3 inches high. This will make your lawn healthier and help it retain moisture--so less watering. 

2. Scoop your poop. It's a change that is becoming more widespread, but picking up after your dog does it's daily thing helps keep our water sources clean. Otherwise it's just untreated raw sewage running off into our storm sewers, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. 

3. Use canvas shopping bags. The benefits of using a canvas bag for your groceries is far reaching from saving paper to eliminating the use of plastic bags. Some stores even offer incentives for using your own bags. It's an easy habit to create and makes you feel good every time you do it. 

Do you have ideas. Share with us and share with your friends by clicking the share button below!

For lots more ways to "save the Earth," check out Jonna Yarrow's book 1,001 Ways to Save the Earth. It's a tiny little book, but packed with helpful ideas about simple changes we can make in our everyday lives. Not preachy at all. 

For fun things to do on Earth Day, read my previous post, Earth Love.

Happy Earth Day!


Want inspiration? Visit a botanical garden

Camelia Bush, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2014The other day a friend of mine enthusiastically commented on how great it feels to have a day to yourself. No demands or anyone telling you what needs to be done.

Really empowering.

I whole-heartedly agreed and was inspired to begin planning.

For my day, I chose to get into the newness of early spring by wandering through the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

This is an absolutely delightful way for anyone to spend a few hours. No need to be a botanist or even an avid gardener to enjoy a botanical garden. And now is the perfect time to see and be inspired by all the seeds, flowers and leaves that are beginning to sprout and bud. 

Botanical gardens are found in many urban areas, but an arboretum, large park or conservatory are also wonderful places to explore.  

If you need more convincing, this activity is a great mood booster, leaving you refreshed, full of new ideas and inspired to take action. For a peek at Bellevue Botanical Garden, see intro and link to the article and photos below.

Do you have any inspiring activities that you love to do this time of year to share with other readers? What's your favorite thing to do when you have time to yourself? 


Read about my lovely day at Bellevue Botanical Garden in the Puget Sound Urban Nature Series...

I sit in the middle of a tiny forest, feeling like I am miles from civilization. Surrounded by big old trees, singing birds, blooming plants and giant woodpecker holes, it is easy to get quiet, calm and settled. I feel soothed by the wooded surroundings. (Bellevue Botanical Garden article, continued)

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'Tis the season for Snow Geese and other wintering birds

Snow Geese, © Curt Given 2010It was unexpected. The rise of feathered chaos as a huge mass of white birds lifted off in unison from a farmer's field accompanied by their crazy cacophony of honking. Conversation was impossible. I laughed out loud, knowing it was a one-of-a-kind moment. 

I was standing along a rural road in the Skagit flats area watching a thousand plus flock of snow geese feed and rest in a farmer's field. I can only guess that the flying chaos was caused by some unseen predator. 

Every winter I take this fun little day-trip, really an adventure, which always reaps BIG rewards.

The best part is that you can do it in a few hours and end the day feeling quite satisfied while enjoying a cozy dinner at one of the charming little cafes or brew pubs in La Conner, Bow-Edison, Conway or Mount Vernon.

So, bundle up, fill your thermos and pack your sense of adventure for a glorious day of viewing some pretty spectacular birds that spend the winter in the Skagit flats area, located about 90 minutes north of Seattle, just east of Mount Vernon.

Snow geese, swans, snowy owls, and eagles are at the top of your list. 

Snow Goose, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2014Approximately 65,00 snow geese make epic migrations from the Canadian and northern Alaska tundra to spend the winter here in Washington state. Two other distinct populations of snow geese migrate to eastern and central areas of the U.S., as well.The geese begin arriving in November and stay until late March. 

And, as you can imagine, they put on quite a show. 

These splendid birds congregate and feed in large areas of the Skagit flatlands, which is a large floodplain of nice fertile land. The flats are made up primarily of farm fields, brackish marshes, creeks and tidelands that border Puget Sound inlets. And the birds love it.

The area is marked with many crisscrossing farm roads and huge flocks of snow geese can be seen in the fields anywhere along these roads. See where to find the birds below.

The geese spend their nights in the bays near La Conner. For an extra thrill, you can stand on the dikes that border these bays and watch group after group of geese fly inland to rest and feed for the day. Quite a beautiful sight at sunrise.

Tundra swans, Skagit flats, Washington, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014A great number of trumpeter and tundra swans spend the winter in the flats, too. About 10,000 of these migrate from northern areas. These graceful birds congregate in smaller groups, but are no less fascinating to watch. It seems to me that they really love foraging in the mud. Their beaks are often covered with long tendrils of muddy grass. If you're interested in distinguishing the difference between a tundra and trumpeter swan, check out Sibley guides.

Snowy Owl, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014As you cruise the farm roads, you might be lucky enough to spot a Snowy Owl. These are large beautiful birds whose feathers are mostly white, helping them blend into the frosty ground. They migrate here from the arctic tundra. You can often find them sitting in a farmer's field or perched on a piece of driftwood near water. They stand perfectly still, usually sleeping from their nocturnal activities.

Bald eagle calling, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2014Although Bald eagles and hawks are common in the Skagit flats, it feels anything but common when you spot one. Their wing spans and flying talent are always amazingly acrobatic. You'll probably see eagles and hawks throughout the flats as you cruise the roads.

Hope you are inspired to take on this little's so worth it.

Where to find the birds

Start by taking exit 221, Conway/La Conner and drive west about .2 miles to Pioneer Highway and Fir Island Road. Turn right onto Fir Island road and cruise the next 5 miles looking for geese and swans. Good viewing can often be seen at the Fir Island Farm/Hayton Reserve and the Snow Goose Produce Market. Your chances are pretty good at seeing wintering flocks somewhere in this area. If not, continue to cruise other Fir island roads, including Moore and Polson. Overall, you can explore the grid of roads that are bordered by Mount Vernon to the east, La Conner to the west and SR-20 to the north. 

Once you've found the geese and swans, head to the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for some great eagle viewing. (Although you may have seen one by now because they fly all around the flats.) But for a nearly sure thing, head north to SR 20. Cross the highway at the Farmhouse Inn onto Bayview-Edsion Road  and head north for several miles to the reserve.

You can watch for all kinds of waterfowl as the road follows Padilla Bay or get out and walk the Padila Bay Shore Trail. Once you reach the interpretive center you may see eagles in the tall trees across the road from the center.

This is a great place for a restroom stop and the center has awesome displays. If you still have not seen eagles, try the March Point area. Head back to SR-20 and turn right (west). Follow a few miles to March Point. You can often see eagles perched on old pilings out in the bay or tall trees on the point. 

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Happy Birding!

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