Exploring Soos Creek Botanical Garden and Heritage Center

I recently visited a botanical garden I had not been to before: Soos Creek Botanical Garden and Heritage Center, located in Auburn, Washington. I must say that I was awe-stricken with the beauty and size of the garden, which is actually made up of several gardens, each with their own particular types of plant species. The main trails are well manicured with gravel, with gentle sloping in some areas. As an alternative, one can walk the long, rolling green area between the two main trails, which actually connect together. Other natural, side trails loop through small forested areas, as well as some rather steep trail steps that lead down to Soos Creek at the far end of the trail. This particular trail section is suitable only for those physically fit and able to climb up and down stairs. I did not negotiate this part of the trail at this time, but plan to in the future. In fact, I had not realized that the garden was so big, and I didn’t have the time to explore all of it on this particular day.

Right now, the usual summer blooms are absolutely gorgeous, especially the Hydrangeas. If you love Hydrangeas, this garden has lots of varieties and colors of Hydrangeas—some of the most beautiful I have ever seen!

Here are some species of Hydrangeas blooming in the garden, to include Mophead, Lacecap, and Panicle.

Here are a few other flowers species I encountered during my stroll through the garden.

Dahlias

Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus

Cosmos

Black Eyed Susans

Globe Thistle (Echinops)

Clematis

Pond Garden

The garden also has over 100 hybrid varieties of Rhododendrons, which I’m sure are absolutely gorgeous in the springtime! There are also many species of flowering trees and shrubs, many of which flower in the spring as well. Also, I’m looking forward to visiting the garden during the autumn season to view the changing leaf color of the many species of deciduous trees in the garden.

Also located on the garden grounds is an aviary that holds doves, peafowl, cockatiels, and parakeets—something you don’t see in most gardens!

As well, there is the Soos Creek Heritage Center, devoted to the history of the early settlers of the area. Here you will find a collection of photos, maps, and artifacts dating back many decades ago.

The garden is open on a limited basis and by donation. Please check their web page for details.

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

 

 

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Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park

It’s wildflower bloom time in Mount Rainier National Park. There are hundreds of species of wildflowers in the park, and the most concentrated areas of them are in the subalpine Paradise Meadows. The image above shows colorful Magenta Paintbrush in the foreground.

This particular hike took me higher in elevation than I’ve ever attempted before, approaching the alpine region where one encounters snowfields to cross. This is where I stopped, as I did not want to risk any slips or falls on the slippery, melting snow. I encountered many groups of hikers, all geared up to trek to the mountain base camp, Camp Muir. Mountain climbers from all over the world come to Mount Rainier to train for other mountainous expeditions. It is a mountain to be taken very seriously. Because it is so tall (14,410 ft). the mountain creates its own weather; conditions can change in the blink of an eye. Every year, many climbers require rescue and some even perish.

So here are a few snapshots I took, looking behind me as I ascended. The first image show part of the Tatoosh Range, which is in the opposite direction. The second image shows the Nisqually River Valley. The headwaters of this river form from the Nisqually Glacier.

Here is a magnificent view of the mountain from the Glacier Vista viewpoint. Hike up a bit further to see equally magnificent views of the Nisqually Glacier.

Along the way I encountered lots of wildlife. Amidst the craggy rocks lives the Hoary Marmot. You can hear them calling to one another with whistling sounds. They don’t seem to be afraid of humans, either.

Another very common sight is the very cute Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel.

Another denizen of the subalpine regions of the park is the Blue Grouse. You have to be keenly observant and have sharp eyes to see these guys, as they blend into their environment. I happened to spot this guy in the distance, milling around in the foliage. What attracted my attention was some sort of quiet, peeping sound I was not familiar with.

One last view of the mountain!

If you want to attempt any high elevation hiking in the park, even if just for one day, please be prepared with the proper gear: hiking boots/shoes, trekking poles, water, energy bars, hat, outer wear, sunscreen, whistle, first-aid kit. And, please check weather conditions before heading out.  Enjoy the summer and your national parks!

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

 

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Lavender Festival Weekend

This year’s Sequim Lavender Festival, in Washington State, was held at Carrie Blake Community Park, instead of the usual street fair in downtown Sequim. It is a large, lovely park, complete with an outdoor, music performance stadium. All the usual arts and crafts vendors and lavender product vendors were present along with plenty of food and outstanding music performers. As well, driving maps were available for the free lavender farm tours. A few of the larger farms have their own venues each year and do charge a nominal fee to attend; otherwise, one can visit many of the farms anytime during the summer to purchase lavender and to peruse their gift shops.

I had spent practically a whole day attending the festive and then drove around the rural community of Sequim, visiting some of my favorite lavender farms. There just wasn’t enough time to visit them all. The area is known as the “Lavender capital of North America.” The regional micro climate is similar to Provence, France, and is ideal for growing lavender. Drive into town this time of year and you can literally smell lavender in the air. It is wonderful!

This first set of photos was taken at Martha Lane Lavender. There are ample photo opportunities here with their lovely lavender fields and gazebo.

This second set of photos was taken at Washington Lavender Farm. This residence has its own B&B, with a separate building for the lavender gift shop. This is a beautiful farm situated on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along with an opposing view of the Olympic Mountains. What a perfect setting!

A newcomer to the Lavender Festival this year is Troll Haven Castle. This is an unusual and unique setting for a lavender farm, albeit a small one. It is not located in Sequim, but quite a few miles from it, in a secluded area. It is a private, rental residence with its very own purple castle. Yes, you read right! A purple, medieval castle, complete with statues of trolls and dragon gates. You cannot go inside the castle though. This area is for its rental residents only. But, the adjacent farm headquarters was open to the public this weekend. Inside were a few vendors, with a small lavender garden located behind the building. If all goes well this year, they hope to be back with a bigger and better venue during next year’s Lavender Festival.

 

I wish I could have stayed for the whole weekend to take more time to visit the area and all the lavender farms. As well, Olympic National Park is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s a beautiful and scenic region! And the drive along Hwy 101 and more is breathtaking! The lavender farms and gift shops will be open throughout the summer months.

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Go Fly a Kite!

Yes, literally! I attended a kite flying festival on the coastline beach this past weekend at Grayland, Washington, sponsored by the Westport Windriders. Even if one is not a kite flyer, the assortment of kites of all different shapes and sizes riding on the breeze will bedazzle both young and old. There were tigers, teddy bears, snakes, horseshoe crabs, octopi, jellyfish, parrots, sharks, a dragon, and the ever popular, giant arch kites. What a fun, photo opportunity!

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After I had my fill of sand and kites, I drove to Westport, just a few miles down the road, and stopped off at Westhaven State Park to watch the surfers. The locale is a haven for surfers, and this weekend was no exception, with the weather forecast calling for exceptionally warm, sunny weather.

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And if kite flying and surfing is not your thing, then how about a visit to the the very popular Westport Winery Garden Resort, for a little wine tasting or for a bite to eat? Well, actually, the winery is not located in Westport, but some miles up the road along Hwy 105. On your way there, if you like Oysters, stop at Brady’s Oysters for fresh oysters and other fresh seafood. And if you like smoked sausages, Bay City Sausage. They also have smoked salmon, smoked turkey legs, and a variety of cheeses. I remembered to bring along my travel cooler to bring home with me some of these delicious food items. I also packed some items, to take back with me, from the Westport Winery’s Sea Glass Grill. I absolutely love their four layer Trail Mix Carrot Cake with pineapple, dried cranberries, almonds, and Amaretto cream cheese frosting. Not your cup of tea? Then how about their four layer lemon sponge cake with lemon curd and lemon zest cream cheese frosting? Mind you, it does have a bit of a bite to it!

When at the winery garden resort, take a stroll among the beautiful gardens. Lots of beautiful, summer blooms are exploding with color! One of my favorites is the lavender garden. What a lovely place for an intimate wedding gathering!

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There are several other garden types to stroll throughout the resort grounds, along with many garden sculptures created by local artists. If you’re visiting the greater Seattle-Tacoma area, it’s definitely worth the time and mileage to visit. It’s a very pleasant drive, once you leave the busy freeway corridor.

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Point Defiance Park Summer Gardens

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Summer’s always beautiful in Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, Washington. If you love flowers, you can take your choice as to which garden you want to enjoy. There are several located just within the park’s entrance, and all of them are connected to each other, except for the Native Garden. And now with the new traffic circle just completed at the entrance of the park, traffic flow has greatly improved and is safer for both cars and pedestrians entering and leaving the park. And as always, visiting the park is free!

Below are some photos of flowers in the garden that I took within the past week.

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022Golden Leaf Fuchsias

033Acanthus and Japanese Painted Fern

043Pink Zinnia and Eryngium (Sea Holly)

057Blue Poppy

060Black and Blue Salvia

062Monkshood

065Black Leaf Dahlia

078Hostas

070Rose Mallow Hibiscus

124Sunflower

 

More flower varieties will be blooming throughout the season. Come visit Point Defiance Park this summer! There is something for everyone! There is a zoo and aquarium, hiking trails, a marina, a walking beach, kayaking, tennis courts, Fort Nisqually, and, of course, picnic areas.

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

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