May 28, 2019
Butterflies are magical. They have amazing color, seem to float effortlessly, visit so briefly and are scarce and fragile. From your child’s first exposure to The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, to their first live butterfly sighting, they likely have been enchanted with metamorphosis and the acrobatics of butterflies.
The Tropical Butterfly Garden at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle is a great place to view many species of butterflies, rain or shine. Washington also has regional demonstration gardens that you can visit for ideas about plants that attract butterflies and to see some butterflies flitting about.
To support your child’s interest in butterflies, and to get some great nature time, you might consider growing a butterfly garden. You also can buy a live butterfly garden kit to learn about metamorphosis. There are many conservation projects to preserve butterflies and their habitat and there are projects to document the wild butterflies that you see that you can connect to online. Also, you can find region specific guides to identify the butterflies that you see, both in books and online resources with lists of caterpillar and butterfly supporting flowers for each species of butterfly. Additionally a field trip to a lepidopterarium (butterfly house) at zoos that conserve and display butterflies can be amazing.
If you decide to plant a garden to attract butterflies, as a side benefit, you will likely attract bees and some hummingbirds as well. You can plant during the fall and spring. Butterflies love the sun, so locate a sunny spot that gets 6 hours of full sun and is sheltered from the wind to plant your flowers, if possible. Butterflies need nectar, full of energy rich sugars to support the energy it takes to fly. Flowers that are brightly colored, and fragrant and have flat flower heads with multiple florets and short tubes to reach the nectar are preferred, as well as native plants that they have evolved with (mock orange, elderberry, spirea, yarrow, aster, yellow alyssum, daisy, coneflower, heliotrope, sweet William, zinnia, garden mint, oregano, thyme, honeysuckle, twinberry, statice, catmint, bee balm, tall verbena). Container plants butterflies love include: fuchsias, sweet alyssum, garden sage, dianthus, and lavender
Mating can occur anywhere, but reproductively successful females don’t venture great distances from host plants to lay eggs that will turn into very hungry caterpillars. Most adult butterflies lay their eggs on or near host plants to meet the nutritional needs of the caterpillars that hatch. Breeding grounds require larval/caterpillar plants. These plants are sometimes partially or completely consumed so you might want to locate them on a patch of wild growth on a corner of your property (maple, alder, native black hawthorn, bitter cherry, oak, willow, manzanita, rhododendron, oceanspray, red twig dogwood, rockcress, madrone, pine, douglas fir, bleeding heart).
Butterflies also need places to take in water and trace minerals from patches of wet sand or soil
Butterflies warm their blood and flight muscles by basking with their wings open to the sun. During the morning or cooler days, a few large stones or rocks that hold heat in sunny areas or rocks in a bird bath can help them keep warm serving ask basking sites.
Hibernation sites in the winter are usually in downed branches, wood, thick undergrowth and brush piles. So,no need to keep your yard too tidy! Also, it is best not to use insecticides, and keep cats indoors when butterflies are out, since cats love to eat butterflies.
Have a lovely time observing your garden and the creatures that visit!
Here are some butterfly-related links that may be helpful:
May 14, 2019
Hiking with kids can be a wonderful adventure and an opportunity to create great learning experiences. Getting out in nature helps ground the soul and also might provide a chance for quiet conversation with your kid. Hiking provides an open space for creative play which all children (and adults) benefit from. Additionally spending time in nature naturally shifts our focus to the outside world and is a healthy form of stress-management.
Here is a list of 20 amazing hikes to do with your kids:
Washington Park Arboretum – This park hosts over 230 acres of lush and diverse greenery with miles of bike paths, hiking and running trails. Located in the Madison Park neighborhood of Seattle, you can get in a quick afternoon hike. Stop by the Graham Visitors Center to get information on hikes at the information desk. Stroll through Azalea Way toward the Seattle Japanese Garden at the south end of the park. You’ll pass through the Woodland Garden, Japanese Maples and Asiatic Maples along the way.
Schmitz Preserve Park – Head to West Seattle for this 53.1 acre park full of old growth trees. The 1.7 mile round trip loop is perfect for little legs and sunny days.The park is easy to miss as you drive down Admiral way toward Alki Beach so keep an eye out. There are a few entrances to the preserve just off the bridge with plenty of parking nearby. Formed from land donated to the city between 1908 and 1912, the preserve’s land was luckily preserved before being completely logged. Take time to find the alligator carved from fallen old growth wood and peer high up into the tops of trees. Meander along the mostly maintained trails but more adventurous explorers might enjoy finding the smaller trails. The park does not have any trail signs so printing a trail map in advance is advised. Strollers are not advised due to the muddy nature of the trails in the Spring.
Carkeek Park – Located in the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle, just north of Ballard, Carkeek Park features over 220 acres of lush forest, wetlands, meadows and an amazing beach with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There is also a yearly outdoor art exhibition with art placed within the woods. Hikers can find over 6 miles of trails with a few being ADA accessible which means they are perfect for stroller hikes. Take time to explore the restored salmon spawning population, urban streams and the Pipers Orchard featuring apple trees in 29 fruit varieties. The easy beach access with a bridge over the train tracks will delight children.
Seward Park – Located in Southeast Seattle, Seward Park provides space for the perfect afternoon. The 300 acres of forest land is home to eagles’ nests, old growth forest, an amphitheater and a native plant garden. There is also a 2.4 mile bike and walking path, perfect for an afternoon hike. Hikers will be delighted to find old growth trees with some older than 250 years. The park features such tree species as Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks, Pacific Madrona and Alaskan Cedar.
Discovery Park – The largest park in Seattle has some of the best hiking trails. With over 11 miles of hiking trails, Discovery Park located in Magnolia has a path for everyone. The most popular one is the Discovery Park Loop Trail which is a designated National Recreation Trail with 2.8 miles in length and an elevation change of just 140 feet. The loop takes hikers through both forest and open meadows and can be explored by both hikers and runners year-round. Sitting high on the Magnolia Bluff, Discovery Park offers spectacular views of both the Cascades and Olympic Mountain ranges, as well as Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. The over two miles of protected tidal beaches allow for a good walk to the Discovery Park lighthouse.
Cowen/Ravenna Park – These two parks merge to form a contiguous wooded ravine with plenty of hiking trails. Park flora include Douglas Fir, Maple, Red Cedar and Western Hemlock. There are over 3 miles of trails which traverse through a 0.75-mile stretch of ravine with depths as deep as 115 feet.
Snoqualmie Falls – This hike is perfect for the entire family and features a short, wide gravel trail. Visitors can either hike to the railed Falls Viewpoint or continue down the walkway past the visitor center. You’ll descend 250 feet in about half a mile which provides a nice challenge on the way back. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a stunning view of the 1000 cubic-feet of water per second that flows from the Snoqualmie River into the 268-foot drop of Snoqualmie Falls. The energy created from the falls provides electricity for Puget Sound Energy from the hydroelectric plant that has been in place since 1898.
Tiger Mountain – Located in Issaquah, Tiger Mountain is packed with easy, family-friendly trails. covering more than 15 miles of forest exploration. There are plenty of trails on this mountain but two kid-friendly ones are the Bus Trail and the Around the Lake Trail. The first is wide and flat with plenty of space for kids to burn off energy. The wheelchair accessible trail is also great for those hiking with strollers. The Around the Lake Trail loops around Tradition Lake for a mile and a half. The dense forest foliage is idea for wildlife spotting.
Franklin Falls – This is the perfect hike for those with young children. Located in Snoqualmie Pass, Franklin Falls is a quick 2 mile round trip loop with three separate tiers of falls and a total drop of 135 feet. The last drop of 70 feet provides amazing photo opportunities. This trail is accessible in all seasons but gets icy in the winter. The thick canopy of coniferous trees provides a nice, cool hike on hot summer days. This trial has been extensively worked on by the WTA which means it is safe for even the smallest of hikers.
Annette Lake – You’ll find mountain views and a waterfall in North Bend’s Annette Lake trail. The 7.2 mile trail is suited for older children with longer attention spans. The hike provides a steady climb in elevation and provides views of Granite Mountain and Humpback Mountain. Backpack camping opportunities are also available for those looking to extend their hiking to an overnight adventure.
Little Si – Little Si a nice short day hike with stellar mountain views. The 4.7 mile hike has 1,300 foot elevation gain and is a popular trail. The rockier trail has steep inclines on either end but are amazing trails. These trails get busy quick so head out early for the best adventure.
Tradition Lake – Located in Issaquah, the Tradition Lake Loop is a gentle three miles. The lake views, waterfowl and song birds provide a great hike for even the littlest of hikers.
Heather-Maple Pass Loop – The Heather-Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades is long but offers up awe-inspiring views. This trail is one to hike in all the seasons as the changing views provide a different hike each time. The 7.2 mile trail loop features lakes with golden larches and alpine meadows. This hike isn’t accessible in the winter when the North Cascade highway is closed but get up there soon after the road opens to catch amazing Spring views.
Blue Lake – Blue Lake is located in the North Cascades and is full of granite peaks, forests, wildflowers and a refreshing mountain lake featuring deep blue water. This hike is doable for almost all hikers with a short elevation gain of 1050 feet. See if you can spot the old dilapidated log cabin along the trail and keep your eyes open for mountain goats.
Granite Mountain – This steep 1000-feet of elevation gain per mile is not for the novice hiker. The views of Kaleetan Peak, Crystal Lake and Mount Rainier make this a more than worthwhile hike though. Check the weather before heading out as the debris-filled avalanche chute makes this trial a danger in winter and early spring months. Fall provides beautiful foliage views and the Granite Mountain Lookout offers up fantastic views.
Nisqually Vista – Laying two hours south of Seattle, is the Nisqually Vista Trail with wonderful mountain views. This path is fully paved up to the overlook and begins with a climb up stone stairs. The final viewpoint features the Nisqually Glacier which has receded greatly in recent years. Check out fairy pond for wildflower spotting. The Nisqually Vista Trail features Pacific silver fir, subalpine fir, and mountain hemlock, along with gorgeous views of Mount Rainier.
Pinnacle Peak at Mt. Rainier – This 2.5 mile round trip hike provides spectacular views on a clear days with a dramatic close up of Mount Rainier and Paradise. To the south can be viewed Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. This is a great hike to spot pikas and marmots.
Denny Creek – This is the perfect hike for families featuring a gentle grade. The natural water slide area at Denny Creek provides lots of fun and relaxation for families. Located in Snoqualmie Pass, the 3 mile round trip trail has little elevation gain.
Gold Creek Pond – Gold Creek Pond’s short 1 mile path is paved and is a smooth, easy surface for stroller hikers. The views are unsurpassed with lots of trailside vegetation. and is easy to access from Snoqualmie Pass.
Tumwater Pipeline Trail – Located in Stevens Pass, the Tumwater Pipeline Trail is a winter wonderland for kids learning to snowshoe. The easy 2.4 miles are a delight anytime of year but provide ample space for snowshoe adventures in the winter. Just west of Leavenworth, the Tumwater Pipeline Trail runs along a beautiful river for great views.
By Rebecca Mongrain