It can be easy to get lost in the splendor of the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum and completely miss the hidden gem called Foster Island that sits just north of the park. Upon returning to the main parking lot (near Broadmoor), we noticed a sign that said "Foster Island Trail." Curiosity fully piqued, we ventured down a forested path snaking under 520 Bridge and crossed over into a tranquil oasis. Where are we? Immediately, we couldn't get over the feeling that we had found a hidden treasure. Save for a few fishermen and the occasional dog-walker, we hardly encountered anyone. Chatting with our friends later in the day, we realized virtually no one had ever heard of this heavenly place. Foster Island is a quaint extension of the Arboretum offering both visually-inspiring trails and quiet, restful enclaves. The whole area feels like a slice of the Everglades, full of lush water plants, lilly pads, and marshy bogs. While it may not boast the magnificence of Discovery Park, it doesn’t need to. It's the quintessential getaway to build into your daily rhythms, right in the middle of Seattle, easily accessible by bike or foot, and close to the University of Washington campus. Whether you're a university student, resident of nearby Capitol Hill, or traveling in from the East Side, this is an ideal spot for a daily or weekly reprieve.


After walking about half a mile (just past the 520 Bridge), we came to a wide clearing with a rocky shore jutting out. Foster Point, as it's known, offers panoramic views of Union Bay and the Olympic & Cascade mountains in the distance. Benches are staggered across the shore, providing ample spots to simply take everything in. We came at sunset, a popular time, yet aside from us, there were probably no more than ten people total. Perhaps the most refreshing part about Foster Island is the lack of urban structures or skyscrapers (minus UW's Husky Stadium) in the distance. You're simply surrounded by a calm blue bay with water that glimmers in the sunshine. There's something about water that's inherently relaxing. You can almost time your deep breaths with the rhythmic push-pull of the current, as a balmy freshwater breeze fills your nostrils. In a city dominated by technology and innovation, it was refreshing to see the occasional kayaker or fisherman tread slowly across the water, clearly enjoying a slowed-down, measured pace. We watched as the sunset bathed the entirety of Foster Island in a warm glow, illuminating the swaying trees and people laying below them. People seemed completely at ease, and unless you count fishing, there wasn't any sense of hurriedness or bustle. In our opinion, this spot's appeal comes primarily from how spaced out everything is, and how "secret" it feels. You don't have to worry about some massive group causing an interruption, and the area is safe, quiet and peaceful. We genuinely felt a sense of calm simply transitioning from the cramped Seattle streets to wide open space.



As we jotted due west of Foster Point, we stumbled upon a series of metal boardwalks strategically placed throughout a sea of countless lily pads. The path takes you through an undeveloped sanctuary in Foster Island for wildlife like frogs, ducks, Canadian geese, and great blue herons. The boardwalks eventually lead to a fork in the road, in which you can go right and climb up an elevated boardwalk with a bench atop it, or stay left to continue on the trail. We went right and climbed a short staircase to get to the elevated overlook. Once again, we were the only ones there. It was yet another reminder that Foster island offers so many spots to get off the grid and have your own personal nook. Silence is crucial to contemplation, and these spots certainly offer uninterrupted bliss, which is surprising given how close it is to a major freeway bridge. (It's worth noting that if you value quiet, you probably don't want to come on a Saturday afternoon in the Fall during a UW Husky home game. Unless the sound of fans cheering and the marching band blaring soothes you, of course.) After a few minutes of stillness on the platform, we u-turned back to the trail and continued heading west. Admittedly, we can only sit for so long before getting a bit restless and eager to move. Research affirms that there's a certain kind of silence, solitude, and focus that comes from walking and taking everything in. If you're one of those people that feels recharged by moving, this is an ideal little trail. You aren't constantly bumping into people, so you can really take your time and go slowly. Along the way, there are tiny nooks and benches just off the trail to stop, rest, and take in said quiet.



Though you can technically take the Arboretum Waterfront Trail all the way to the northern part of the Montlake neighborhood, Marsh Island is the last "green space" you hit before entering into residential areas. As its name would suggest, you'd probably want to avoid this area on a soggy day, as some areas can become easily muddy. We had no issue trekking through, as the trail's metal boardwalk runs throughout most of it. Marsh Island doesn't offer as many benches to simply plop down on, but it is an excellent spot to stoke your sense of wonder and adventure. In a non-sketchy way, the forest is dark in places but gradually opens up to stunning views of the university. For nature-lovers, Marsh Island will certainly delight your senses. Plants like willows, alders, madronas, pines, maples and oaks surround you, and less common water-dwelling plants like reeds and cattails dot the boardwalks.




Think of Foster Island like a three act story. You begin at Foster Point to sit, pray, or simply just be. Next, you travel down a beautiful, lightly-trafficked pathway to contemplate the wonder and beauty of God's design. And lastly, you end up with a sense of adventure as you journey through the mysterious and intriguing forests of Marsh Island. Each part of Foster Island provides opportunities for us to develop rhythms of reflection, contemplation and simply being present with ourselves. As we’ve previously discussed, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. A report from Yale University revealed, “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Long before science made these discoveries, we find that Jesus was adopting these rhythms, often getting away into the wilderness. Modeling what would later be known as silence and solitude, what happened in the wilderness became the fuel for him to return back and engage with the culture around him. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. Seattle naturally attracts motivated tech entrepreneurs and digital nomads alike. But both creating apps and checking off bucket lists can wear on you over time. So following Jesus in modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the weariness of 24/7 connectedness and hustle culture. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into Foster Island, which include:

1) Pick a time

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The busy nature of modern life increases the need for intentionality. So consider where you will regularly visit in Foster Island and when it's practical do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch? Which part of Foster Island is most accessible to you?

2) Start small

When it comes to getting away, sometimes we can get a bit excited and shoot for the stars. But remember that habits are formed by starting small. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. Rather than saying we’re going to visit Foster Island for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes to an hour at least once a week. And build upon that.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. So while you might use your smartphone to navigate to some of these locations initially, try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out once you get there. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

We've cited both spots of contemplation and trails you can wander through. If you like to be active, consider engaging your body by walking through the Waterfront Trail in Foster Island. As you navigate the winding trails, take in all the sights and sounds.

5) Bring a blanket

As we mentioned earlier, Foster Island is partially so majestic due to the spaced out nature of the area. Consider buying a blanket or small camping chair and using it to rest as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

Foster Island is so beautiful and diverse that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. You'll have no problem finding your own little quiet spot amidst this quintessential getaway.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, consider the opportunity to start today. Retreat from the pressure of now and enter into the timeless expanse of Foster Island.


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