May 25, 2012

Wildlife and Rest Stops

Living in a city, you might think that I am bereft of wildlife and wilderness — that my world is surrounded by concrete rather than green trees and fluttering birds — but Seattle, the Emerald City, is aptly named for many reasons.

First, all the rain (especially of the past winter and spring) makes everything green and I’m not just talking green green — I’m talking green in all its variations from the soft minty green of new growth on a cedar tree to a green so dark at first you might think it’s black.

But wildlife and wilderness aren’t just about green though it is the green that makes me breathe deeply.

Wildlife is also found with the birds and the critters who scurry throughout the underbrush — rabbits and squirrels and mice — and though we don’t have many large animals like deer or bears, we do have coyotes and their scent wakes up my nose every time I catch a whiff.

But even the birds and other critters can’t embody wildlife or even wilderness to me. Unfortunately, I can’t really describe what wilderness is. All I know is that my tail wags more excitedly when I am racing through the woods, hiking on a long trail, splashing in the lake, or throwing myself into an ecstatic roll in the scent of something wild in an open field.

Sure, there is concrete in Seattle and there are tall buildings and wires and loud trucks and garbage cans, but there are also places in between what we traditionally think of as a city filled with wildlife. You just have to know where they are and how to get there.

As a dog dog walker, I’ve spent the past four years exploring the nooks and crannies of our urban wilderness and while I have certain places that I prefer over others, mostly what I want in life is to be outside, off leash, exploring under a canopy of trees, splashing along a shoreline, or racing like the wind across a grassy field filled with wildflowers.

More than wanting it though, I know my body and my spirit needs it. I need to see the green of trees and the blue of the water and the array of colors provided by the flowers and the birds and the light through the green. I get really grumpy if I can’t experience the wilderness and at times, when our schedule isn’t so full, we often take to the mountains to expand our wilderness experience.

We didn’t get to do that this week, but we did get to explore some of my favorite haunts. And I got to explore them with all my friends.

I could spend the rest of this blog describing my favorite places and while I don’t mind sharing, what I’ve realized is that most of the places I like were all surprises to me. For instance, there’s a little trail that you’d never notice — short and sweet — but it connects one area with another and if you know how to access all the trails in those two areas, you can spend a good half hour exploring. We found it by mistake. We took a route we’d never really taken before and there it was, a trail head tucked under some bushes.

When we start a new trail, we always get our bearings to make certain we don’t get lost. I know that you might think it’s impossible to get lost in a city, but we’ve done it — turned around one too many times and lost track of the sun. I don’t mind when we get lost because it just means more time in the woods, but sometimes it makes Gretchen’s feet hurt, so I try to keep track of where we started and where we’re headed.

Luckily, this hidden trail that we found by accident isn’t hard to navigate because the lake is below it and so, if we get twisted around, we just look for the water through the trees and we know exactly where we are.

Though sometimes, Gretchen gets lost in thought and this can make even well-known trails a mystery. This happened the other day when we were on the trail that slopes down a steep hill and I wanted to go right and Gretchen wanted to go left. I held my ground and when Gretchen realized her mistake, she laughed and said, “Oh Rubin, where was my head?”

This also happened at Seward Park the other day when we decided to do our normal trail route backwards. Not that we walked backwards (there’s a challenge) but we started where we normally end and worked our way back to where we usually started (which was the new end).

Confused? So were we! But all the trails at Seward Park go either up hill or down or eventually do so if you get turned around you can just head up or down the hill and you’ll find the main path or the path by the lake.

If we’re going to get lost, Seward Park is one of my favorite places to get lost.

Some trails are far away. We drive to Seward Park for instance, though sometimes we walk to the far away ones. There’s a trail that goes up from the lake that takes a good 45 minutes to walk to and then, when you get there, it’s a climb up and up and up. Sometimes we’ve done this one in reverse as well, but even then, the whole walk — there, through, and

back- takes a good 90 minutes and if we stop to take photos or explore more deeply, we can get distracted for a long time.

My friend Paige lives in a whole different neighborhood and so when we go to walkher, we explore the many trails and wooded areas around her house. And let me tell you, some of them aren’t easy to find! Still, we’ve found a lot of them and once we’ve romped through them, we’ve even gone to more open spaces and played chase — one of our favorite games.

But wilderness isn’t just on trails. We went to the Farmer’s Market this week and there were all signs of wildlife there! We took Monty with us and he helped us shop and oohh and aahh over the mushroom growers who sold mushrooms in kits.

And we met other wildlife just like us there as well!

Not only does Seattle have lots of green spaces, but they also have lots of public gardens. Tyson and I checked out some of those. Mostly we liked the red truck, but it did make a cool garden as well.

And we found other red trucks too…not working trucks, but reconditioned trucks that a lot of city folks like to work on so they think they are not living in the city…

Sure, it’s still the city where you’ll see distinctive city things (I call them rest stops!)…

…but it’s also an urban wilderness and I’m one privileged dog to be able to explore it all every day!

Have a great weekend,


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