Arboretum Offramps to Nowhere

Engineering megaprojects often seem unstoppable.  With the notable exception of the current attempt to dig a tunnel under the Seattle waterfront, these things usually progress in a pretty visible and inexorable way.  Turns out this is not always the case.

In 1972, voters backed the City Council’s plan to cancel the R.H. Thompson expressway, which was to be a third north-south freeway link cutting through the heart of Seattle.  Planning for this freeway started in the 1950s and by the time of the vote, concrete had already been laid in places.  With the cancelation, all work stopped but some elements of the freeway that never was were never removed.

Offramp Edge


Three ramps still dot the Washington Park Arboretum, mixing with the trees and the edge of Lake Washington as a sort of monument to what was.  For years they’ve been there, hiding in plain sight of the active bits of Highway 520 that pass nearby, but as I found out from The Stranger, the upcoming Highway 520 replacement project will finally see these ramps removed.

I’ve always known these things were here – in the summer, people dive off them into the lake.  Driving by, you can often see their barricaded lanes and abrupt endings, but I’d never taken the time or figured out how exactly one gets atop these fantom spans.  It turns out it’s not so hard.  Parking at the edge of the Arboretum, you hike down a foot-warn path and into the shade of some overhanging trees and brambles.  The edge of the construction is abrupt – you’re scrambling up five feet of solid concrete, to stand atop several lanes of proto-freeway.

Arboretum Offramp Entrance

Once atop, only a few barricades and an overhanging tree block you way.  The part that surprised me most was that I always assumed that these things were forbidden – I mean – they’re bits of freeway, not hiking trails, but the upside of the fact that nobody ever planned to just *leave a piece of freeway in a park* is that nobody ever planned to leave a piece of freeway in a park.  There are no signs and no fences.  You just do, or don’t do, what you want.  Clearly people have been doing what they want for a long time.



Glass shards in the gutter


Beer bottles and cans lay thick.  Without any sort of cleaning, the smashed glass in the gutter almost looks like beach sand.  People have been drinking here for a real long time.

Bottles and cans on the freeway


Arboretum Offramp Seattle

As you hike up the hill, the road bends and you’ve got a view across the Montlake Cut toward the back of Husky Stadium and the University District.  Something feels very wrong about being up here, but at the same time, the view is great.  Looking down toward the lake, it’s all peace and tranquility.   Probably the best part of the ramps is that at the end of the day, they’re surrounded by the Arboretum.  I’m glad they never built the thing – that they would have cut a swath freeway-wide through these parts of Seattle seems completely ridiculous in retrospect.

Lilypads from the Freeway

Turning around, it’s back down into the darkness.  I’m glad I saw it – they won’t be there much longer.

Tree Covered Offramp

One Last Collage

One last TtV Collage for everyone.  This fence is also from the same set as before.


To be honest, I don’t think the subject itself is that great – I guess I can assure everyone I don’t have a fence fetish.  The part I do like about this is the layering of the images.  I’ve been messing around trying to figure out if it’s best to layer the pictures from one side to another, top to bottom, or what.  As far as I can tell, it all depends on the picture.  I think the symmetry of the layers works here, but then again I took it so of course I think it works.  I’ve gotta say though – this stuff is pretty easy and fun.  If you’re so inclined, it isn’t hard – try it!

Composite Tree

Here is another TtV collage from the same set as this guy.  I’m still thinking about the layout that I like best.  Something linear with a slight curve like the last post looked really good to me, but there is something about the vertical and slightly haphazard orientation here that I like as well.  Just like everything else, an interesting subject doesn’t hurt.


An improvement?  I’m not sure.  If you like this one I have another one of the fence in the background.  Maybe I’ll post that next.

A Path With A Twist

I think maybe, just maybe, I’m getting the hang of these Through the Viewfinder collages.

TtV Path Collage from UW Arboretum

Last time I tried this I think it was sort of interesting but didn’t work for me.  It seems that having one element moving through all of the pictures really helps.  You’d think alignment would be easy, but the perspective quickly warps looking through these old cameras and everything gets fuzzy at the edge of each picture so even lining things up is hard.  Also, just like with panoramas, having the same aperture throughout is pretty key.  So what do you think?  This is a nice quiet path, down in the arboretum.

Native Americana, via View Master

UW Arboretum Totem Pole, TtV

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I’m sure it’s the grainy quality and the vignetting around the edge of the picture, but this shot of a totem pole I found in the UW arboretum reminds me of something from a ViewMaster disk.  I’m thinking it would be titled something like “Indians carved these elaborate poles before we wiped them out and took their stuff”.  This one stands watch over the Montlake Cut.  When cruising by in a large yacht, I’m sure it’s fun to look at.

I like the angle in this shot a lot – one of the things about Through The Viewfinder is that you’re holding a periscope shaped device in front and below you, so for once, getting a low angle looking up at the subject is relatively easy (nothing is exactly easy with the contraption).  Until my DSLR gets a movable live-view LCD, this is about the only way I have to take shots from this angle.

R2-D2’s Day Job, Through The Viewfinder

Through The Viewfinder Trashcan Shot

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It’s an old joke, but other than a place to toss my junk, this trashcan bears a striking resemblance to something familar…  Another run-of-the-mill sighting in the Arboretum, but lots of colors, textures, and depth.  One of the fun and challenging parts of TtV is getting the focus the way you want it.   Your subject is through your camera lens, down a cardboard tube, and reflected in a ground glass prism, but then there is also the distance between the front of the prism and the subject, so focal distances are measured in several directions.   It takes a lot of twisting and bending.  You look funny.  If security was around, they’d probably run you off.  Make sure you look extra harmless.

Spring, As Requested

TtV Flower from the Arboretum

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The seasons are changing for real.  Today I wore a light jacket and got hot – hot, I say!  That means something around here.  Also around here, there are flowers.  I took this picture in the Arboretum – a great place for finding things like this.  I’d tell you what kind it is, but this is a photography blog, not a botany blog.  Also, we’re back to TtV (Through the Viewfinder) – something I have fun with but also something you requested back when I asked.  Happy yet?