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As we passed the Gothic style brick buildings of the University of Washington and the bustling shopping center adjacent to it, it was hard to imagine a massive green space like Magnuson Park being anywhere closeby. We were en route to the second-largest one in Seattle, a hub for dog-walkers, nature enthusiasts, college students, and tourists alike. In just a short span, a row of grocery stores and gas stations became the quaint neighborhood of Windermere, and we hooked a right turn onto the NE 65th St. entrance of the park. Though Magnuson is known for its plethora of sports fields and athletic activity, we came to find the 350 acre space rife with peaceful nooks and places to shift from scattered to grounded. Like Discovery Park to the west, Magnuson offers stunning views of Mt. Rainier, rocky beaches, and picturesque trails. Though we encourage you to explore the park for yourself, we hope this guide helps you find a restful spot that truly feels like a getaway.

LAKE SHORE PROMENADE

We encourage you to enter from 65th street, if you're coming here for the purposes of rest, as the entrance slightly north takes you directly to the sports fields and tennis center. It's fascinating how the noise seems to disappear when you enter these parks. It's as if Seattle has a noise dimmer that gets toggled on when you cross over from the urban metropolis. As you take Lake Shore Drive down, you'll enter the waterfront area, which always has ample parking. We noticed an elderly man with bulky headphones humming and ambling along the path, a woman pushing her baby in a stroller, and a girl seated, buried in her book. Not to mention the folks nestled up, rocking back and forth in hammocks. It was honestly refreshing to see people captivated by the moment instead of their phones. Doing a scan of the horizon, we noticed the Cascade mountains poking up from the tree-laden Eastside. But the real spectacle was snowy Mt. Rainier to the South, partially obscured by the clouds but too dominant to go unnoticed. There's something simply profound about sitting on a bench looking out over the water and watching the tide ripple slowly over the rocky shore. There are a lot of spots in Seattle where you can find a similar scene, but they don't always come with the same level of tranquility.

LOCATION

KITE HILL

We found the most heavenly oasis of Magnuson Park to be slightly north of the waterfront: an elevated overlook known as Kite Hill. (And true to the name, someone was actually flying a kite!) Interestingly enough, this area isn't a naturally occurring hill, but a mound of 40,000 tons of runway debris from the now-defunct Sand Point Naval Station. Real hill or not, this area is beautiful and gives you an even clearer view of the lake. It was here that we promptly laid our Rumpl Blanket down and breathed in a sense of gratitude. While this hill doesn't necessarily offer privacy at all times, it's an ideal spot if you're looking for rest or enjoy the feeling of wide-open spaces. Whether you live in a cramped apartment building or house without a backyard, you can roam and get re-acclimated to everyday wonder, with Mount Rainier saying hello in the background.

LOCATION

THE TRAIL SYSTEM

Walking is a form of silence and solitude, and it's also incredibly beneficial to your mental and physical health. Reports have shown that even walking ten minutes per day can prevent over 110,000 premature deaths per year. Health benefits aside, there's something about walking that's (literally) grounding and restorative. Cars and public transportation can save time while also making us less aware. When's the last time you drove completely in silence – no podcast, music, or phone calls? Walking the many trails of Magnuson Park is a balm to your soul and a time where your mind can wander to prayer, gratitude, or even nothing at all. It's a time where the rhythmic crunch of the pavement beneath you becomes white noise, and your body readjusts to a time without constant interruption or productivity. Though many of these easy trails lead into the busier areas of the park (such as the Sports Meadow or Sand Point), walking them furthers the feeling of solitude. We only passed a few people on the trails, and found it cool that such an expansive trail system exists not far from civilization. The primary trails you can take are the Magnuson Waterfront Trail, Warren G. Magnuson Loop, and the Beach Walk and Frog Pond Trail. For the purposes of rest, solitude, and time, we recommend the latter. The Beach Walk and Frog Pond Trail is a two-mile loop that you can easily complete if you only have 30 minutes. The widely paved trail offers a variety of spots to veer off-trail and find a bench or beachy overlook.

LOCATION

SILENCE & SOLITUDE

Each part of Magnuson Park 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 Magnuson Park, which include:

1) Picking 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 Magnuson Park and when it's practical do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch?

2) Start small & build

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 Magnuson Park 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. We also mentioned places to sprawl out, sit by the lapping waves of the water, or cozy up on a bench. Depending on how you're wired, you may prefer an active, sight-filled area, or a more low-key, simple spot. However you recharge, the beauty of Magnuson is that it offers the best of both worlds. Walk, journal, pray, and maybe even lay down for a nap all in one visit?

5) Bring a blanket

The landscape of Magnuson Park is quite diverse, with Kite Hill and the surrounding waterfront. For Kite Hill in particular, 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

Magnuson Park 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, consider the opportunity to start today. Retreat from the pressure of now and enter into the timeless expanse of Magnuson Park.

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