For those visiting the northwest Washington area – or for locals looking for a new daytrip experience – put Bloedel Reserve on your list.
Located on Bainbridge Island, west of Seattle, the reserve is a 150-acre wonderland of forest and flowers, established by Virginia and Prentice Bloedel and opened to the public in 1988.
When my family visited Bloedel Reserve for the first time this April, none of us knew what to expect. I had pre-purchased our timed entry tickets (you can’t just show up and buy them), and we waited as an attendant opened the gate and directed us where to park.
The two-mile walk through the estate is on a wood-chipped path. They also have an accessible route, which I considered taking since I was recovering from a torn calf muscle, but I limped my way along by going slow.
The path started us off across a lonely field, but then the sounds of nature captured everyone’s full attention.
First, we heard owls hooting; then, frogs croaking in chorus. The timed-entry tickets meant we were the only people on the path. We were alone in nature.
As we walked deeper into the reserve, it was like being Alice exploring Wonderland. Nothing was as it seemed. At first glance, we were walking through a meadow, like you might find in lots of places in Western Washington. But looking closer, it was artfully planted with daffodils. The gardener’s hand was hidden. Forest paths reminded us of woods near our home but seemed to have more flowers. It felt like every native plant in Washington was blooming around us.
When the forest path ended, a large pond, mansion and lawn appeared. I love historic homes and being able to explore the downstairs of the Bloedel residence was my favorite part. I scraped my shoes off on the boot brush out front, but still felt guilty for walking on the carpet. But that’s what visitors are encouraged to do; walk right into the Bloedels’ former library and gaze out the window at the jaw-dropping view.
From there, we headed off to experience the formal Japanese garden, which was absolutely incredible. That area alone was worth the price of admission. Luckily, we saw it before the weather turned.
Bloedel Reserve would be a beautiful place to visit in every season. If you go, wear sturdy walking shoes, purchase your ticket ahead of time and get ready to be awed. You can find more information at bloedelreserve.org.
Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as @JenniferBardsleyAuthor. Email her at email@example.com.