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Monday, January 19, 2015

No. 303 2015 Washington State Discover Pass Free Days

Washington State Parks and Recreation turns 102 this year.
List of 2015 “Discover Pass Fee free days” in 2015 when visitors are not required to display the Discover Pass to visit a Washington State Park. 
  • Jan. 18-19: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • March 19: State Parks' 102nd birthday
  • April 4: Saturday Spring Day
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • May 10: Sunday Spring Day
  • June 6: National Trails Day
  • June 13: National Get Outdoors Day
  • Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • Sept. 26: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day

In 1913 Washington State legislature creates the Washington State Board of Park Commissioners. The first two were formed from donated land in 1915 : The John R. Jackson House, a pioneer heritage site near Chehalis, and the Chuckanut State Park. In 1947 the State Park Committee was renamed to the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission and given the authority to oversee the state park system, purchase land and collect fees. 


As of June 2011 there are 117 State Parks covering 138,000 acres which includes uplands, lowlands, aquatic and marine life areas. The Washington Department of Natural Resources owns an additional 3,000,000 acres throughout the Evergreen State. 
If you plan on visiting and exploring Washington State-managed land this year outside of the Fee Free Days you will need to have a Discover Pass. Fine for not displaying the pass is $99. 
Here is a list of some of my favorite State Parks 
Click on the links below to learn more about each park

North Sound State Parks

Bay View State Park 

Western Washington

Seattle Area State Parks

Southern Washington 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

No. 302 Bald Eagle Viewing along the Skagit River

Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Federal and state government agencies, along with private organizations, successfully sought to alert the public about the eagle's plight and to protect its habitat. The 1972 ban on DDT has enabled eagles and other birds of prey to once again begin producing young. Unfortunately, recent extensive human use within preferred eagle habitats has resulted in disturbance and reproductive failure and abandonment of important areas.

Copyright Puget Exposure Photography

In 1994, the bald eagle was reclassified from "endangered" to "threatened" in the lower 48 states. There are currently about 4,500 nesting pairs and 20,000 total eagles in the lower 48 states. Although they have made an encouraging comeback, only public awareness of their situation, strict enforcement of protective laws, preservation of their habitat and support for environmental conservation programs can ensure a successful future for our national symbol.

Bald Eagles are also known as "baseballs" by experienced eagle watchers because from a distance that's what the eagle's white head looks like. It's amazing how an experienced eagle watcher can spot eagles from a distance. When searching for Bald Eagles look for the white "baseballs" in the trees along the river. Eagles can also be spotted taking advantage of the tows churning up stunned fish as they move up and down the river, riding chunks of ice, or kettling (soaring) the thermals in the afternoons.

Copyright Puget Exposure Photography

The 8,000-acre Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area is dedicated to habitat protection, conservation and educational efforts. This special area is an example of the Forest Service working with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to conserve natural resources along the river.
Bald eagles are seen from late December through early February. During this period the Eagle Watchers Program, sponsored by the Forest Service and North Cascades Institute, provides hosts at designated sites along the river who assist with viewing these magnificent birds. You can also learn more at the annual  Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival or at the Skagit River Interpretive Center.


1. DO plan on arriving early. Bald eagles are most active in the early morning hours. The best time for eagle watching is from sunrise to 11 am when eagles feed along the area’s rivers. In the afternoons they may be seen catching updrafts and soaring ("kettling") overhead. They leave the river in late afternoon to congregate in night roosts in sheltered timber areas nearby.
2. DO keep noises low and movements slow. Winter is a difficult time for eagles. They need to conserve energy to keep warm and flying burns up energy. It is important that they are not startled or frightened into flight. DO obey all signs regarding Eagle Rest Areas.
3. DO call a Visitor’s Center to find out if eagles have been spotted and where they are most active. For the Skagit River region call 360-853-7626. or visit their website at
4. DO check the weather. Eagles like clear, cold mornings. Eagles will roost on rainy days and will be found soaring on windy days. More eagles will be seen when the rivers are frozen than when the water is clear.
5. DO dress accordingly. Wear layers so you can shed your outer clothing as the day heats up. Bring a hat or earmuffs for your head and gloves or mittens for your hands. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
6. DO bring binoculars or a spotting scope. If using a scope, a tripod is useful. Eagles fly amazingly close to the Great River Road, but even a small pair of binoculars can dramatically enhance your experience.
7. For photographs, keep the sun to your back or to your side and use a telephoto lens.
8. DO be patient. You are more likely to see eagles if you have time to spend.
9. DO observe proper eagle watching etiquette. Many people use the area’s single lane roads to get from here to there as promptly as possible. If you're admiring the view at twenty miles per hour, pull over when someone's behind you. DO respect private property. Use public areas along the river and be courteous to local land owners. DON'T  park on narrow highway shoulders. There are many parking areas along the area routes for parking. DO remember to buckle up. State law enforcement officers vigorously enforce the Click It or Ticket program.
10. The bald eagle is protected by a number of state and federal laws, each with stiff penalties. For example, the Eagle Protection Act, which protects bald and golden eagles, combined with the Criminal Fines Improvement Act of 1987, can cause violators to spend two years in jail or be fined up to $10,000 on a misdemeanor charge.  It is illegal to pursue, harm, harass, take or attempt to take, possess, sell, purchase or transport either eagles, eagle pans or their eggs without a permit. If you find a feather, look at it, take a picture, but do not pick it up.

2014/2015 Eagle Counts:

December 10th    Newhalem to Marblemount: 107
                           Marblemount to Rockport: 37
                           Rockport to Sedro-Woolley: 50
                           Total: 194

Puget Exposure Photography provides this photo for the public to view. Media requiring a high-resolution version of this or a similar photo for publication should contact me. Users may not manipulate or use this photo in commercial materials, advertisements, emails, products, or promotions without licensed permission. Please do not use my images on blogs or websites without my permission. Contact me if you would like to license and image. Thank you.

Friday, December 5, 2014

No. 301 Save Big on 2015 Whale Watching Tours

2014 was an incredible season.  From christening the Island Explorer 4 to seeing whales every day since May 2014, this year will go into the record books.  Check out the whale report to re-live all of the 2014 tours!   View the Whale Report 


Save 50% off the regular ticket price now through December 24th, 2014 .
You can take advantage of the huge savings one of two ways:
  1. Call or stop in to purchase a gift certificate to put under the tree. This would also make a great gift for yourself if you are unsure of when you would like to join us for a trip.     OR
  2. If you already know when you'd like to go whale watching, book your 2015 tour online with the promo codes below and instantly receive the incredible savings.
With this great deal, you have the choice to depart out of any of our three departure locations:
  • Everett 3 hour guaranteed whale watching tour - March 7 through May 8
    • Adults -- ONLY $34.50 + taxes (regular price $69)
    • Children -- ONLY $24.50 + taxes (regular price $49)
    • Book for a specific date online with code HOLIDAY1
  • Anacortes (April - October) or Port Angeles (May - October) guaranteed whale watching tour 
    • Adults -- ONLY $54.50 + taxes (regular price $109)
    • Children -- ONLY $24.50 + taxes (regular price $49)
    • Book for a specific date online with code HOLIDAY2
Hurry! This deal expires on December 24, 2014 at 3PM - call 1-800-465-4604or book your 2015 tour online to take advantage of 50% savings!

Whale Watching Reviews and Highlights 

Naturalist trade microphones for dock lines
Island Explorer 4 Arrives in Everett, WA

New to Island Adventures in 2014, the Island Explorer 4 is the little sister to the Island Explorer 3. She is 85 ft long and 24 ft wide, with a full walk around lower deck, spacious upper viewing deck, galley with hot food and beverage for purchase, his and her restrooms, over 300 sq. ft. of outdoor rail viewing space, and has comfortable booth style seating in her indoor heated cabin.

Male Orca Whale Breaching Puget Sound Island Adventure Tour from Anacortes, WA

Based out of Anacortes, Washington, only 90 minutes north of Seattle and 90 minutes south of Vancouver, BC. Anacortes is located on the mainland and is known as the “Home Port” to the San Juan Islands, providing the perfect departure point for our Orca Whale Watching & Wildlife Cruises.
Island Adventures operates a 101 ft. long, 24 ft. wide, 2 story, 99 ton whale watching vessel called "Island Explorer 3." The vessel has a range of 750 miles but daily wildlife excursions are limited to 5hr & generally are 60-90 miles in duration. 
Port Angeles, WA Tour

Humpback Tour from Port Angeles, WA 

Introduced in 2014 Island Adventures adds a new destination for marine life viewing in the Puget Sound. Island Explorer 4 departs   Port Angeles, WA in late summer for humpback whale sightings 

Monday, December 1, 2014

No. 300 Wildlights at Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo
Entrance addressesSouth Entrance address: 750 N. 50th Street, Seattle WA 98103
West Entrance address: 5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle WA 98103

See the Zoo brighter than ever during Wildlights nightly from November 28th through January 4th 5:30pm to 8:30pm (Closed Dec. 24 & 25)
Tickets Adults (13+) $9.75    Children (3-12) $6.50       Toddlers (0-2) FREE
Tickets can be purchased online here or after 5:30pm at the gates.

Philadelphia Toboggan Company No. 45 carousel (1918), December 2014
Trails and trees are lit up with thousands of LED Lights 
A bear tries his luck at catching a jumping salmon 
Tigers crawl down the trees. Tiger Exhibit to arrive in 2015

While the rest of the Zoo Animals are sleeping the Day Exhibit, which houses reptiles and amphibians is open nightly to get some relief from the cold and warm up under the hot lights. 

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No. 299 8 Walks to Burn Off Thanksgiving Carbs in the Seattle Area

Here's 8 easy to moderate walks/hikes that can balance out the Turkey Day meal and experience the pacific northwest outdoors around Seattle.


1. Discovery Park -

The site is one of breathtaking majesty. Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park offers spectacular view of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. The secluded site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams.

East of Seattle
 Kirkland, Washington

2. Juanita Bay

Juanita Bay ParkJuanita Bay Park is a 110 acre open area that features paved trails, raised boardwalks, open lawn areas with benches and picnic tables. The park is at the bottom of Kirkland's north hill and surrounds the northeast shoreline of Lake Washington. Just steps away from Kirkland's Marke Street begins this Urban WIldlife Habitat. The seemless mix of tall trees, green space, wetlands, marsh, and lake water provide protection and large selection of food source to sustain a large variety of animal

3. Waverly Beach Park

Waverly Beach ParkWaverly Park is one of those hidden lake side parks that only locals seem to know about. It is a few blocks off the main road which makes it hard for passers by to easily stumble up on this waterfront park. Located at the bottom of a hill his park offers nearly 500 feet of waterfront on 2.76 acres of prime waterfront real estate right on Lake Washington. Features public dock, picnic tables, benches, restrooms, children’s playground, open lawn areas, on-site parking, enclosed swimming area, fishing area, and windsurfing area. During the summer months a privately run refreshment stand serves up drinks and ice cream to cool off.


4. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie FallsSnoqualmie Falls is a 268 ft (82 m) waterfall on the Snoqualmie River between Snoqualmie and Fall City, Washington,USA. It is one of Washington's most popular scenic attractions, but is perhaps best known internationally for its appearance in the cult television series Twin Peaks. More than 1.5 million visitors come to the Falls every year, where there is a two acre (8,000 m²) park, an observation deck, and a gift shop.

5. Northwest Railway Museum

The Snoqualmie DepotThe Snoqualmie Depot was constructed in 1890 by the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. It was used by successor companies Seattle and International Railroad, Northern Pacific Railway, and the Burlington Northern Railroad. The Snoqualmie Depot is open 7 days a week year 'round (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day; there is limited access during Day Out With Thomas and Santa Train events).

North of Seattle 
6. Arlington 
Centennial Trail -

Started in 1989 during Washington State's 100th centennial celebration, the Centennial Trail is a 30 mile long paved pedestrian walkway. At 12 feet wide, slight grade this trail is popular for walkers, hikers, dogs, cyclists and even riders on horseback with the flanked grassy path running parallel to the trail. The Centennial Trail runs from downtown Snohomish to the north to the Skagit Valley County Line. With future plans to expand and connect it other popular area trails in the north and the south such as Woodinville's Burke-Gilman Trail. Since 2011 Snohomish County has added 9 miles to the Centennial Trail which runs through the towns of Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Marysville and Arlington as a "Rails to Trails" project repurposing a former Burlington-Norther Railroad line.

3. Everett 

7. Spencer Island -

Spencer Island Foot BridgeSpencer Island lies in the heart of the Snohomish River Estuary, an ecosystem formed by mixing a freshwater system (the Snohomish River) and a saltwater system (Port Gardner Bay). It is one of the best places in the Snohomish River Estuary to view waterfowl and shorebirds such as ducks, heron, hawks and bald eagles. If you watch your steps you might see some small and larger mamals such as river otters and deer. On clear days the snow capped tops of the cascade mountain range and Mount Baker are visible to the east and to the north. The island is co-owned by Snohomish County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Snohomish County owns the south half of the island, while WDFW owns the north half.

4. Gold Bar 

8. Wallace Falls State Park

Wallace Falls State ParkWallace Falls, named after homesteaders Joe and Sarah Kwayaylsh members of the Skykomish tribe, is a 4,735 acre forest land on the western slope of the North Cascade Mountain range in Snohomish County. The park has three back country lakes, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake and Wallace Lake which are connected via the Wallace River. The river trickles, snakes, gurgles and plunges its way through the park until the valley basin. Some where within the park there has to be a waterfall worth of a title right? Well there are more than 9 waterfalls in the park. Some small some larger, some are running year round while others only run in late winter/early spring with the snowmelt run off. The 4 falls that are more easily accessible can be found along the Woody Trail, a 2.3 mile / 3.7 km long dirt trail that is well maintained and well marked. After recent rain fall, the trail might be come very muddy and slippery in spots. There are numerous switch backs and steep inclines that have tall raised steps. At 6'1 I did not have much trouble navigating the steps and switch backs, but those shorter might have more difficulty with the high steps. 2.3 miles may not seem like much, just remember its 2.3 miles each way (5.6 miles round trip) and its up and down hill sides with incremental elevation gains of 500 feet in short distances. Proper footwear and good to better conditioning is required to make it a safe and enjoyable hike. We made Wallace Falls into a mid morning hike and returned to the trailhead in about 3 1/2 hours with stops along the way