Madrona Business Spotlight: Switchback Travel

switchbackSwitchback Travel occupies a quiet corner on 34th Avenue and Pike Street in Madrona, but visit the travel company’s website and find yourself among fjords in Norway, glacier-blue lakes in Patagonia, and looking out over jaw-dropping vistas from the peaks of the North Cascades in our own backyard. An underlying theme of adventure threads throughout Switchback’s catalogue of detailed travel guides, focusing on where to hike, ski, climb and more in locations as varied as the well-tracked American West to Tierra del Fuego in the southernmost reaches of Argentina. Not only that, but the site’s extensive selection of product and gear reviews ensure you’ll know which tents will keep you dry, which shoes will hold up on your trek, and which camera to capture it all with.

Switchback founder David Wilkinson set out to create an online destination for travel guides that don’t follow the traditional guidebook formula, and prioritizes quality and length of content over quantity. “We aim for articles that are longer than the norm, have writing that is more polished, and are written by people that truly are experts in the field. Instead of publishing articles as fast as we can, we try to make sure they are written and designed the right way,” Wilkinson wrote in an e-mail. For example, readers can follow contributor and accomplished climber Chris Kalman up and down the peaks of the Andes in the Cochamó Valley in Chile through his three-part journal, or read about photographer Cody Duncan’s personal journey to the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

The site is easy to navigate and every page brings one stunning photograph after another, which was part of Switchback’s design strategy. Wilkinson says, “I was always someone who grabbed a travel guidebook and went straight for the photographs in the middle, so photography and good user experience both were big priorities.” There is also only one ad per page, which is a refreshing departure from travel sites running endless ads for car rentals and hotels.

Although the site, which was founded in 2011, now has a global reach (a third of its readers are in Europe), Wilkinson says he is enjoying the office’s tucked away location in Madrona. The neighborhood was the first place he visited in Seattle, and he says “There is a lot more in terms of business here than most people realize, with start-ups, design studios, small businesses, etc. Madrona is a vibrant community and I’m happy to be a part of it.” So, give the Switchback crew a wave when you’re in the neighborhood, and visit the site for endless travel inspiration!

2nd Meeting On Madrona Trees and Sidewalks With SDOT Tonight

SDOT Madrona

The second community meeting addressing the Seattle Department of Transportation’s “Healthy Trees and Safe Sidewalks Management Plan” for the Madrona corridor will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. tonight, April 29, at the Madrona K-8 School library.

According to SDOT, the plan will use input from the SvR Design Company to assess how to best maintain accessible sidewalks while preserving trees and expanding our urban forest. Tonight’s meeting agenda will review what was covered in the initial meeting regarding the tree and sidewalk assessment process along 34th Avenue; and will then center around what specific solutions can be used to address the conflicts between the trees and the sidewalk infrastructure on 34th between Union and Cherry streets.

Spread the word about tonight’s meeting to ensure SDOT has as much input from Madrona community members as possible! Any questions or comments, please contact Jennifer Wieland at

Bike Lane Added to Madrona Drive to 34th Avenue

East Denny WayIf you been driving around Madrona along 34th Avenue, East Denny, and/or Madrona Drive you have noticed the temporary markings for the new bicycle lanes.  Well, Seattle Department of Transportation have the new permanent markings for the lanes on the streets now.  It looks pretty good, but I would not want to open my driver’s side door if I was parked on the east-side of the street where 34th Avenue meet East Denny Way – it is tight and there is little visibility.  Nevertheless, bicycles will now have more room whether traveling from Madrona, Denny Blaine or Leschi when coming up the steep hill on Madrona Drive, along East Denny, and up the incline on 34th Avenue until they get to Pike Street and the Madrona Business District.

Madrona Tree and Sidewalk Update

The Seattle Department of Transportation are moving forward this weekend with the half block project on 34th Avenue near East Marion.  The original plan was to remove the three trees between the sidewalk and street.  Due to Madrona neighborhood input, the project will go forward but some or all of the trees MAY be saved.  Here is the email from a representative from Seattle Department of Transportation:

Given community interest in the sidewalk at the south end of the 900 block of 34th Avenue, I want to share with you the current status of this weekend’s sidewalk repair work.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) recently received a Safer Sidewalks, Mature Trees (SSMT) committee proposal that identifies new options for repairing the sidewalk and retaining the trees.  SDOT needs time to evaluate this proposal, but also wants to improve the sidewalks as soon as possible.

Our current plan for this weekend is to remove the existing sidewalk, evaluate the condition of the roots on the three trees to see how we can best improve the sidewalk over what is there now while retaining the trees.   Our next steps will be based on what we discover in the field and our evaluation of SSMT’s proposal. Portions of the sidewalk will be closed during this weekend’s repairs, which are expected to be completed on Sunday. SDOT crew members will be available to safely escort adjacent homeowners through the construction site if necessary.

We appreciate the community’s engagement in this project and your patience as we consider the additional resident input.

What to do with the Madrona Neighborhood Trees?

Madrona TreeTuesday night at the Madrona Community Council monthly meeting there was a lively debate of what to do with the trees growing along 34th Avenue in our Seattle neighborhood.  A group of Madrona residents have been working this summer on a comprehensive plan to help save the trees while making the sidewalks safe and came to present their plan to the Madrona community.  While much of the meeting was spent talking about 3 trees slatted to be taken down this Saturday across from Madrona Playground on 34th Avenue near East Marion, the main focus of the plan was to try to repair our sidewalks and still save as many of the 29 trees slatted to be taken out by Seattle Department of Transportation.  The Madrona Community Council made no recommendations at the meeting other than to encourage that the plan be widely distributed to the Madrona businesses, Madrona homeowners, and other interested parties and then have another meeting in the future to continue perfecting the plan. will post the plan in the next couple days for your review.

Save the Madrona Neighborhood Trees

Madrona TreeThere has been a lot of debate in Madrona regarding the trees that line the main Madrona neighborhood streets.  The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has already cut down 6 trees along 34th (near Spring) and have plans to cut down 29 more trees along 34th Avenue and Union. Obviously cutting down 35 trees will greatly change the look Madrona Business District and surrounding area of the 34th and Union corridor.  Personally, I want as many trees saved as possible but there are two distinct sides to the debate.  There is the side that wants new sidewalks and are fine if that means the trees are removed and there is the other side that wants to keep the Madrona neighborhood trees while fixing the sidewalks.  There is common ground on fixing the sidewalks, but that seems to be overlooked since there is a deep divide on the value of the trees.

The good news is no matter what side you stand on, there are places to be heard.  For example, there is a 1 question, 10 second survey created by Aly Frei:  In addition, for those who have time on late notice there is a meeting tonight, Monday April 16th, with SDOT at Verite Coffee / Cupcake Royale at 6:30 PM.  The meeting was put together by a committee dedicated to save the Madrona neighborhood trees, but everyone is welcome.

Madrona – New Sidewalks But Trees Being Removed

Madrona TreeAs I blogged back in September the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is in the process of replacing the sidewalks in Madrona but at the cost of removing some of the beautiful trees that line our neighborhood streets.  It is somewhat ironic that a Seattle neighborhood that is named after a tree cannot find a way to save the existing trees when fixing the sidewalks.  The SDOT moved quickly on its first phase of the sidewalk project and was able to plant one tree in a half block on 34th where there used to be 4 or 5 trees.  The SDOT does plan to replace 2 trees for every tree they remove, but while the new trees will be “nearby” as seen in the previous link that does not mean along the street where they were.  There is still time to come up with ideas to save future trees, but the SDOT will continue with replacing sidewalks and remove trees along the Madrona streets without these alternative ideas.  If you want to get involved, contact the Madrona Community Council or come to the next meeting to voice your opinion.  Meetings are the first Tuesday of the month, 7:15 PM, at the Madrona Shelterhouse located in the northeast corner of Madrona Playground.

Madron Community Council Agenda, Tuesday, February 7th

Madrona Community CouncilThe Madrona Community Council meets monthly at the Madrona Shelterhouse located in the brick structure directly east of the tennis courts (5 feet from the tennis courts) at the Madrona Playground.  The meetings are open to the Madrona neighborhood and the general public.  This months meeting is Tuesday, February 7th starting at 7:15 PM – meetings are generally the first Tuesday of the month at 7:15 PM at the Madrona Shelterhouse.

This month’s Madrona Community Council Meeting agenda is as follows:

Please join the meeting if any of these subjects are of interest to you.

Madrona Shelterhouse

Madrona Shelterhouse

UPDATE: Comments Requested on Madrona Sidewalk Project

SDOTI previously blogged about the proposed sidewalk project in Madrona.  The City of Seattle is giving Madrona residents an opportunity to give them feedback before starting on the sidewalk.  Following is the information they asked me to pass along:

SDOT [Seattle Department of Transportation] seeks input on our planned sidewalk repair project on the 900 block of 34th Ave. (Thanks for your earlier post on this.)

There are 2 public events to learn more:
1. Public presentation and Q&A Tues., Oct. 4, 7:15 p.m.
Madrona Community Council Meeting, Madrona Playground Shelter House (just south of E Spring St)

2. Drop-in hours with project manager Thurs. Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m. – noon
Cupcake Royale (E Spring St and 34th )

Today nearby residents and businesses are receiving flyers on the project and we are placing posters in neighborhood shops.

The poster which will be place in Madrona businesses’ windows and the flyers which will be handed out to Madrona residents and businesses have more information about the project, but the things that stuck out to me are:

  1. The plan includes the removal of nine trees from the sidewalk since the sidewalk has been deemed to narrow for trees to grow, but SDOT plans to plant two trees in the Madrona neighborhood for each tree they remove.
  2. SDOT is considering similar future sidewalk repairs within two blocks north and south of this project in the future.
  3. If work moves forward as planned  it will begin mid-October 2011, so within a couple weeks.

Film Crew in Madrona Tonight

Madrona MovieThere was a film crew taking shots of the Madrona Business District on 34th Avenue near Union tonight.  The crew was filming in front of Molly Moon’s and Hi Spot when I was passing by.  I asked a man what the movie was, he said he was hired to do still shots, but did not have a lot of details.  I will let you know if I learn more.