The Human/Nature Connection: Haven

Essay by Deborah Kidd, marketing manager; Photos by Cameron Karsten.

From glacial mountaintops to old-growth giants, Washington’s nature offers dramatic departure from our daily lives. Diverse landscapes across our state lend endless opportunities for escape. Whether we are hiking in the forest, cruising a lake, even a glancing out the window on a daily commute, the beauty of nature around us provides a canvas for reflection.

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Washington’s winter forests present a frosty palette. Evergreens and snowy white drifts are abundant, and the sky can be a misty gray, sometimes a vibrant blue. Hikers lend splashes of vibrancy, a bright orange beanie or purple paths dotted on a digital map. Laughter and shared stories provide warmth, and in quieter moments slushy steps are the only sounds.

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Nature in our neighborhoods can transform a moment or mood, and a fleeting glance of blue and green can help define our day. Deep in urban environments, nature’s riches are less accessible but just as essential: The river that cuts through downtown Spokane, birdsong in a Duwamish park along industrial corridors. Such sanctuary strengthens our spirits, bodies, minds and communities.

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Vibrant blooms are the backdrop as visitors pass the afternoon in Spokane’s Manito Park. A pair of friends escape from city streets via grassy paths toward a manicured English garden. In the humid greenhouses, tropical and exotic botanicals inspire awe. Tendrils curl and stretch to sip moisture from the air, and in the hush a couple angles a smartphone to capture the colorful bursts.

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Where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the power of the Pacific, relentless surf shapes massive rocks. Father and son follow footsteps of their Makah ancestors along the bluff above, treading no particular path yet attuned to the life of the forest around them. Here are salmon berries, which arrive like clockwork each Spring, here is a licorice fern with its edible, medicinal root. Massive stands of Sitka spruce once neighbored bustling longhouses. To today they oversee a quiet landscape that prompts reflection on time and tradition.

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To grow beauty is both a job and a dream. Foxglove and zinnia demand close attention, but they reward with colorful splendor. A gardener digs into the earth on her flower farm in the Methow Valley, shepherding shoots into a new and welcoming home. Her young son at her side, she brings life and beauty from the earth to support her family and to one day brighten a local celebration.

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The Tieton Canyon offers dramatic displays in any season. As months pass in this recreational corridor, Garry Oaks change their costumes and the river ebbs and swells. Green and yellow lichen color copper basalt columns, impossibly high until a thrill-seeking climber takes them on. Farther south, where basalt frames the Columbia River, climbers clamber up Frenchman Coulee. Awaiting the brave? A bird’s eye view of glacier-carved, ancient plateaus below.