Griffin Athletic Fields

Griffin Athletic Fields TrailWe checked out the Griffin Athletic Fields and trail on Steamboat. Imagine playing baseball, soccer or football in a clearing in the woods. That’s what it felt like. I had the “build it and they will come” feeling.

There are three fields and a small playground with playground equipment. The fields have a large paved lot and there is a portable toilet. Dogs are permitted on a leash and dog parents need to pick up after their dogs. There are several signs reminding people that dog access is a privilege, not a right. So please, keep your dogs leashed and pick up after them.

There’s a trail through the woods that is quite beautiful and we enjoyed a quick hike. We will go back and try to cover more ground next time. If it weren’t for the sound of traffic you would forget where you were.

Griffin Athletic Fields TrailLocation: 6924 41st Avenue NW, Olympia

Hours: Most Thurston County Parks are open 9 am to dusk

Go outside and play!


Today’s weather: Warm-ish but a little rain, nothing terrible. Even pulled out my sunglasses for the midday dog walk!

A little nature therapy

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We visited the Yashiro Japanese Garden in Olympia this week. The garden was completed in 1990 as a joint project of the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association and the City of Olympia. It’s one of the many parks and trails maintained by the City of Olympia. It’s just under three-quarters of an acre tucked in beside the Olympia Municipal Court on Plum Street in downtown Olympia. We’ve driven past it several times and we finally arranged a time to stop and check it out.

Even in early February, the park was quite beautiful and the hellebores were in bloom! Actually, a number of plants had buds and I felt like we were standing at the edge of early spring. The park is a small but tranquil oasis.

The park was designed by Robert Murase, a landscape architect. Born in San Francisco in 1938, Murase was a third-generation American of Japanese descent. When he was just three years old, his family was imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II. After his family’s release at the end of the war, they returned to San Francisco. Murase later earned a landscape architecture degree from UC Berkeley. Murase furthered his study at Kyoto University in Japan.  When Murase passed away in 2005 his colleague John Nesholm called him a “poet of stone and water.”

Learn more about the sister city association. This website also lists volunteer opportunities for those interested in helping to maintain the park. (I thought the origins of the modern sister city concept was interesting.)

Location: 1010 Plum Street SE
Admission is free, hours are dawn to dusk. Download a park brochure and map.

Nature = joy. Get outside!


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Today’s Weather: What a difference 5-10 degrees makes! It’s drizzly today but not cold. Makes me happy. 50°F for the morning dogwalk! 52 at about noon.


State Bird of Washington

Whenever I move to a new place, I always try to learn the local birds. One of the first birds we saw when we moved here was a bald eagle which feels to me like winning the bird watching lottery. A very large owl landed on a tree in my yard and took an uncomfortable interest in my dog. Since then, I am cautious even though my dogs weigh in at 50 lbs. or more. That owl looked like he wanted to earn his badass merit badge.

The state bird of Washington is the Willow Goldfinch also known as the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). The goldfinch was selected as the state bird by school children in 1951 (1). I recently bought a Nyjer thistle seed feeder and I am glad to know there is somebird that will enjoy. (I realize I should have done that the other way around. I got excited.)

I read an article that suggested feeding birds in the winter so they will help you would with pests in the spring and I thought that sounded like good advice. I love birds, my parent’s influence, I think. When I was younger they were part of the rare bird alert calling tree and would go out and look for rare birds. I thought that was pretty nerdy but now admit that I might do the same thing. Only now, we would just text the rare bird alerts. There is some controversy about bird feeders but I listen to my birder mother’s advice and feed birds in the winter. The rest of the year, I try to provide plants that offer food and protection to my bird friends. And it looks like the goldfinch population has benefitted from humans and their feeders.

Special thanks for the goldfinch photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash.

Be kind to our bird friends.


PS Please support free access to information by supporting the Wikimedia Foundation.

  1. McAuliffe, Emily (2003). Washington Facts and Symbols. Capstone Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7368-2277-0.

Going native

Backyard trees.

Going native in the garden is a good idea for multiple reasons. First, native plants are better suited to your growing environment. They grow well in the soil, temperatures, and rainfall that you have. Second, some native plants out-compete invasive species. Invasive species can create a dangerous monoculture of undesirable plants that damage the ecosystem in multiple ways (erosion, outcompeting important plants, attracting pests, increasing fire risk, clogging waterways and more). Third, native plants support the ecosystem and help your part of it remain in balance with the surrounding areas. This can be especially important if you live in an area adjacent to forests or other naturalized areas. Non-native plants, even if they aren’t invasive can jump the perimeter of your property.

Sound complicated? It’s not really and there’s a great organization that helps landowners in Thurston County. The Thurston Conservation District promotes non-regulatory and voluntary stewardship, a fancy way of saying that they help people do the right thing on their property. The Thurston Conservation District has been around since 1947. A conservation district is a legal subdivision of state government that administers programs to conserve natural resources. These conservation districts exist in almost every county in the United States. Their services are free and they are committed to meeting the needs of local land-users for the conservation of soil, water and related resources.

To aid in conservations efforts, the Thurston Conservation District holds an Annual Native Plant Festival & Sale the first weekend of March each year. The 2018 sale will be Saturday, March 3  from 10 am – 3 pm. This is a great opportunity to purchase low-cost native plants for your yard.

You can also pre-order plants online until January 31 and pick them up the day of the sale.

Learn more about the Thurston Conservation District and the goals of the TCD in their strategic plan. It has some pretty interesting data if you want to learn more about Olympia and land use over time.

Top 10 Most Wanted Noxious Weeds in Thurston CountyIt’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the list of plants that are considered noxious weeds in Thurston County. If you have any of these on your property, I urge you to remove them and replant with native plants. We are doing battle with the dreaded blackberry in our yard. I think we can get the rest of it out this year.

Love your town.


Today’s weather: Drizzly and a little gloomy but warmer with temps in the mid-50s. The rain backed off long enough for me to help fill potholes on our gravel street and I was able to clearcoat the little library and its post AND I filled our green barrel with all of the little branches that came down in the wind over the last several days.

Jake’s Robust Bell

Jake's Bell

I mentioned in another post that I have a pepper plant named after me. Several years ago, I planted a pepper plant that yielded very sweet peppers. My friend Darrel is a master propagator so I gave him some seed I’d collected. And when I say seed, I actually mean two seeds. Honestly, it was a last-minute inspiration to keep the line going when I realized that he had the skills and I did not. I remember he looked at the seeds cupped in his hand and said, “No pressure.”

If you have ever started plants from seed, you know that 100% germination is unlikely. But Darrel has mad skills and an enviable light table for seed germination. This year marks the seventh generation of Jake’s Robust bell pepper. I hope that it will make its debut in my Olympia garden this spring after being carefully germinated on my less impressive but still enviable light table. Since Darrel gardens in Phoenix, he’s ahead of me on the seed starting and transplanting schedule and his peppers are setting fruit. That’s his photo.Yep, in January. Gotta love Phoenix. I hope to have a similar photo around June.

Follow the garden on Instagram: @letskeepgrowing

Spring is coming!


Today’s weather: it feels cold again today. It was in the upper 30s on the first dog walk. It rained a bit this morning but it looks like it will just be cloudy for the rest of the day. It was nice enough to hang out in the yard for a bit today.

Hidden Gem: Frye Cove

Frye Cove

Looking for a quick and easy hike that will surround you with nature? Check out Frye Cove on Steamboat Island Peninsula. Frye Cove is a Thurston County Park.

Frye Cove is a 67-acre park located along Eld inlet. It has over 2 miles of hiking trails plus restrooms and picnic areas. We walked through the park in about 45 minutes and would have done a second loop if we had more time. We will definitely be going back!

Apparently, it’s a popular spot for weddings and I can see why. It’s so beautiful–a perfect forest setting. Even “magical forest” doesn’t quite do it justice. Everywhere we go in Olympia, we feel like we are walking through the pages of The Hobbit.

Frye Cove

Rating: Easy. We saw people of all ages at the park.

Frye Cove Park is located at 4000 NW 61st Ave, Olympia WA 98502. The entrance to the park is easy to find. The park is open 9 am to dusk. Frye Cove allows dogs on leash. Please respect the leash laws and always pick up after your dog.


Today’s weather: It rained in the early morning. It stopped raining later in the morning, just in time for a long dog walk. The rain picked up again after the evening dog walk. Temps in the mid to upper 40s today.

Burfoot Park

The beach at Burfoot Park

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Burfoot ParkWe checked out Burfoot Park, a Thurston County Park. This 50-acre park includes saltwater beach frontage on the Budd Inlet near Boston Harbor. From the park, you can see the Washington State Capitol and the Olympic Mountains. The park is right off Boston Harbor Road and is clearly marked.

There’s a large green space with picnic tables and playground equipment. With a few parking areas, there is plenty of parking. The park includes three picnic shelters that can be reserved online. One of these is really in the woods–not your typical city park shelter. There are also bathrooms with sinks and flush toilets. Nothing fancy but an upgrade from port-a-potties and outhouses. We also saw several joggers running the perimeter of the green space.

Dogs are permitted but need to be licensed and on a leash. For everyone’s safety and comfort, please observe leash laws even if your dogs are friendly. Burfoot Park is open year-round, 9am-dusk.

There are several marked trails: we took the trail marked “Beach.” We could not find a trail map at the park, but I’ll update the post when I find one.

Location: 6927 Boston Harbor Rd NE, Olympia WA 98506

Difficulty Rating: Beginner+
I am truly a novice hiker and parts of this trail down to the beach and back were challenging especially because it was wet and a bit muddy. I noticed a couple of hikers had poles and that seemed like a good idea. I recently started the 9-minute workout from the New York Times, so a couple of muscle groups complained. We saw small children to senior citizens during our visit. 

What to see: Definitely worth the trip down to the beach. Even with low visibility, we could see the Olympic Mountains.

How long does it take: We walked down to the beach and back at a leisurely pace in about 40 minutes, taking time to enjoy the beach.

We are trying to visit every city, county and national park in the Olympia area this year. It’s beautiful here! Get outside!


Weather report for Jan 2: 35°F and cloudy at 11 am. No rain!