Local Wonder | KUOW News and Information

Local Wonder

Local Wonder solicits questions from our community and then listeners vote on the question that they want KUOW to cover. Reporters will investigate the story and present it on air and online. Local Wonder is guided by listeners and their curiosity about Seattle, our region and the people who live here. What do you wonder about Seattle, the Puget Sound region or its people?

A biker on the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Flickr Photo/King County Parks Your Big Backyard (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/TEXi8A

If you live in Seattle and own a bike, you’re probably acquainted with the Burke-Gilman trail. But are you acquainted with Burke and Gilman?

Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, right, and his wife Melinda listen to the speech of France's President Francois Hollande, prior to being awarded of the Legion of Honour at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Friday, April 21, 2017. Philant
AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, Pool

Seattle has a rich history of big giving that goes back to the middle of the last century. As a communications officer at the Gates Foundation, Local Wonder listener Anne Martens knows a lot about philanthropy but she wanted to know more about the role giving has played in Seattle's past. We sent KUOW's Marcie Sillman to report the story.

This image is a close up of the standing timber on the south end of Mercer Island.  The image is generated using a side scan sonar towed behind a boat about 20 feet off the bottom. The trees are visible mostly from the shadows they cast.
Courtesy of Ben Griner of Coastal Sensing & Survey

At the southern end of Lake Sammamish, just off Greenwood Point, several jagged, gray logs stick up from the water. They’re the only visible sign of an ancient, perfectly-preserved underwater forest that’s been sitting at the bottom of the lake for over a thousand years.

Jewish children protest the so-called Muslim travel ban at Sea-Tac International Airport.
KUOW File Photo/Liz Jones

Airports were in chaos in January, hours after President Trump issued an executive order barring people from seven Muslim countries. 

Skiers in the Methow Valley, which gets almost as much sun as Las Vegas or Phoenix.
Courtesy of Brian de Place

This winter was one of the rainiest winters on record in Seattle. That got KUOW listener Tom Donnelly wondering, “How far from Seattle would you have to travel to get a full day of sunshine?"

We too were desperate to know.


FLICKR PHOTO/Ed Suominen(CC BY-NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hTZt4V

Jeannie Yandel speaks with KUOW's Morning Edition host Emily Fox about a question she is trying to answer as part of our Local Wonder series. The question was posted by listener Tom Donnelly. He asked, "How far and in what direction do you have to travel away from Seattle to get a full day of sunshine?" Yandel also speaks with State Climatologist Nick Bond about where to find sunshine in the state.

A 1960s sign from an old flophouse in Pioneer Square in Seattle.
Flickr/Matthew Klein (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4PF4Bn

It’s not an easy time to find an apartment in Seattle. You’d be hard pressed to find a one-bedroom on Capitol Hill for less than $1,400 per month — and rents for similarly-sized apartments in swanky new buildings regularly soar upward of $3,000.

columbia center gif
Courtesy of ESI Design

Capitol Hill resident Steven Sieden can see the Columbia Center from his bedroom window. The 76-story building is like a monolith, dominating his view.

Late one night a while back, he noticed it “sending out messages.”

Mitch, a worker for a marijuana farm in Skagit Valley in 2013. The farm doesn’t exist anymore.
Daniel Berman

We followed the money trail from one bag of weed. 

On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders were officially welcomed back to their home field for the first time after winning the championship last year.

The team may play under one championship banner now, but when they stand for the national anthem many players face a flag that is not their own.


Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier, circa 1920s, probably when more people said Warshington.
Flickr/Seattle Municipal Archives https://flic.kr/p/cydqbs (CC BY 2.0)

We’re a quirky bunch out here in Washington state. We eat cream cheese on our hotdogs. The western part of the state freaks out when it snows. We don’t pay income tax.

A construction crane at the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Kiewic (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/MLM8np

Yellow and orange cranes loom over Seattle’s landscape like an army of gentle dinosaurs.  

The bridge at Deception Pass, between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Islands. It got its name from Captain George Vancouver, who felt deceived by the width of the waterway.
Flickr Photo/gemteck1 https://flic.kr/p/6aoQAH (CC BY 2.0)

Anyone who has road-tripped around Washington state might have noticed a depressing trend: Cape Disappointment. Point No Point. Deception Pass. Foulweather Bluff. Useless Bay. Point Defiance. Obstruction Island. Massacre Bay. Destruction Island. Dismal Nitch.

Violet and Norward Brooks in front of a house they struggled to buy due to discrimination.
KUOW Photo/Caroline Chamberlain

The results of the recent presidential election has revealed stark divisions in this country.

This is especially clear in Seattle, where we’re notorious for being one of the most progressive cities in the country.


A Seattle tour map from 1965, two years after the U.S. Postal Service introduced ZIP codes. The ZIP codes were based on mail flow at that time.
Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives: https://flic.kr/p/8k5eCd

If you’ve ever had a reason to look up Seattle’s ZIP codes — and yes, being bored at work is a valid reason — you might have noticed some super-tiny codes downtown.

The pink bacteria clinging to this Seattle bathmat is Serratia marcescens, which loves damp, soapy environments. It's mostly harmless.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

You see them when you slack on cleaning — mysterious pink rings and streaks that form in your toilets, sinks and bathtubs.

Excavation equipment has just begun digging for the next phase of Amazon's headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As a general contractor who does small house remodels in Seattle, Chris Spott knows how to get rid of a pickup truck load of dirt. 

The King County ballot has a stub at the top you must tear off.
KUOW Photo/Jim Gates

Voting is hard. Your ballot is packed with decisions – some tougher than others. You have to parse the wonk, find the right-colored pen and sweat over whether you actually need a postage stamp.

For King and Snohomish county voters, there’s one more step: You’re asked to tear a stub off the top of your ballot before placing it in the security envelope. Or else … what?

Flickr Photo/Javacolleen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seattle has a rat problem. Rat sightings in Seattle are double the national average. Population growth is part of the problem; so is the weather.

That’s meant good business for Adam Truitt, owner of Pest Fighter.

Adrienne Bailey, 62, recalls when black people in Seattle had to buy or rent homes with the help of benevolent whites, who were known as shields.
KUOW Photo/Jamala Henderson

When you drive to north Seattle from south Seattle, you may notice that the city becomes a lot more white. That’s because north Seattle is 69 percent white, according to Census data. South Seattle is just 28 percent white. Of non-whites in the south end, Asians make up the majority at 36 percent.

Listener David Newman asked the Local Wonder team to look into why Seattle seems so segregated. Our first stop was the Ship Canal, that skinny waterway near Husky Stadium that connects Lake Washington with Puget Sound.

Sylvia and Ernie would have made a prettier pie, but this one, made by a crust novice, was amazingly delicious.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

My parents almost always have a pie in the cupboard: apple in the fall, pumpkin in the winter, rhubarb in the spring and blackberry in the summer. My mom makes the crust. My dad makes the filling. I’ve never had a pie approaching the quality of theirs.

Growing up in Seattle I spent summer evenings like this picking blackberries.

These days I spend more time trying to fend off blackberry vines in my garden.

If you’ve tried to do that, you’ve probably found that following one long blackberry vine to the source leads to another heading a different direction.

Matthew Streib, who lives in the University District, makes his way around Green Lake on his old roller derby skates. He says it's frustrating when people walk into the "wheels" lane.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

“What’s the right way to go around Green Lake?” Isaac Chirino of Shoreline asked KUOW’s Local Wonder.

Boy, people REALLY care about this one.

People like Carolyn Frost.                                                             


Mt. Rainier peeks between two houses in Orting, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

When geologist Carolyn Driedger talks about Mount Rainier, she feels like she’s trash-talking.


Douglass Brown was walking down Titlow Beach in Tacoma with a girl he liked when he saw a giant thing – that looked like an octopus tentacle – emerge from the water. He ran, screaming.
Illustration by Tom Dougherty

Douglass Brown was 15 when he saw a giant tentacle emerge from Puget Sound.

He was in Tacoma, walking down the beach with a girl he liked. Then he looked out at the water.

A classic Craftsman in Seattle's Mount Baker neighborhood. Most of the neighborhood was developed in the early 20th century when architecture was in its heyday.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Look around almost any Seattle neighborhood and you’ll see them: Modest one-story homes, with large, covered porches and eaves that shield wooden siding from the rain.

They’re Craftsman-style bungalows, and you’ll find hundreds of them here, from Wallingford and Ravenna to Mount Baker and over the bridge in West Seattle.

Tony Johnson of the Chinook Tribe is fluent in Chinook Wawa. He stands at Chinook Point near the mouth of the Columbia, a key spot for the fur trade 200 years ago where strangers met and needed a common language.
KUOW Photo/Dwight Caswell

Chinook Jargon was a trade language that once ruled the Northwest. But when was it used, and how many people spoke it? Listener Michelle LeSourd of Seattle asked KUOW's Local Wonder. 

chocolate lw
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Listener Beth Ann Johnson asked Local Wonder about Seattle's chocolate industry, and reporter Ruby de Luna agreed to report. (We know. Tough assignment.)

Ericka Frodsham, 36, stands outside a motel on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. She is homeless, living out of motel rooms.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Earlier this month, when photographer Mike Kane went looking for a Seattle woman to share her story of being a prostitute on Aurora Avenue North, he heard about Ericka Frodsham.

Ericka Frodsham is one of 50 to 60 prostitutes who work on Aurora Avenue North, known as a track. This is one of two tracks where prostitutes work in the Seattle area. Photographer Mike Kane followed her one evening, separately from the story below.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Why is there so much prostitution on Aurora Avenue in North Seattle? Beth Quintana, who lives in North Seattle near Aurora, asked KUOW’s Local Wonder project, so we sent reporter Posey Gruener to find out.

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