MEET THE PEOPLE OF AMES LAKE
Our neighbors share their stories
By Leslie Brown
“Ames Lake was a wonderful hidden surprise!”
That’s how Hillary Leviant and her husband Dan felt when they first found Ames Lake. They had been house hunting for a while and loved the idea of living on a lake in a calm and quiet environment. They also wanted to be in a community where they’d feel good about raising their daughter Lily, who was barely a year old. Ames Lake was truly a wonderful surprise.
Hillary remembers the day in 2013 when they finally found their property on the Lane. She couldn’t stop smiling, looking at the lake and imagined Lily growing up here, playing on the water. She said to Dan, “Welcome home, Honey!” Two months later they closed on the house.
Paige Hanley and her husband moved to Ames Lake in 2005. Their house in West Seattle had been invaded while they were sleeping – it was finally time to leave. And since her husband worked in Redmond, Ames Lake seemed like the perfect spot.
While living here, Paige said she’s developed a great appreciation for gardening. For the first time in her life, she understands how much care and dedication it takes to have beautiful yards such as those in Ames Lake.
Paige admitted she might be biased, but her dog Gracie is “the perfect black lab.” They take short morning walks together on the south end of the lake, while her two cats, Tabitha and Napoleon, watch from the window. On the weekends she tries to go hiking on one of the local trails.
Although this isn’t her favorite Ames Lake experience, Paige said she has fond memories of the crazy snowstorm we had here in February of 2019. She was supposed to fly to Cabo at the end of that week, and nothing was going right. The swimsuits she’d ordered couldn’t make it here in the snow. Their dishwasher was fried from a power surge. The snow slid off their roof and completely covered their front stairs. It took hours to shovel out the driveway. But they made it, and now Paige enjoys thinking back to those wild Ames Lake days.
Even after living in here for five years, Paige still loves driving home, transported to this beautiful private retreat.
Molly Jensen and her husband Max found their first house in Ames Lake in 1998. The house was farther out than they wanted, but they loved the idea of being in the woods, away from city life. It also worked for both of their commutes - between the Boeing offices for Max and the EEU (Experimental Education Unit) at UW for Molly.
Ames Lake adventures
When they were growing up, both Max and Molly spent a lot of time outdoors skiing, camping, backpacking, sailing, and mountain biking. When they moved here, the Jensens embraced the adventures of Ames Lake, there was so much to explore right outside their front door.
As their daughters grew up, they hiked on the tree farm weekly with the family dogs. Seasonal changes often brought different kinds of adventures, like collecting and raising tree frogs, climbing trees, collecting berries, and building forts. The tree farm was the best science classroom, outdoor gym, soul space, and natural learning environment for every family member.
Molly and her daughters were part of the original Ames Lake playgroup. Along with the other kids in the Plat’s Southeast Quadrant, they meandered between the houses and the moms let each other know where everyone was. As the girls got older and Molly’s career shifted focus to traveling as a pediatric therapist, the girls began figure skating 5-6 days per week. There were less opportunities to connect with neighborhood friends.
Now that the girls are in their early twenties and mostly away from home, Molly and Max are enjoying new friendships with some of the bright and adventurous neighbors who live at Ames Lake.
A close community
Molly has enjoyed the close community and pioneering spirt of Ames Lake. In the windstorm of 2006, when everyone was without power for eight days and Ames Lake Drive was covered in trees, neighbors came out with chainsaws and hot chocolate. Everyone checked in with each other and shared resources to get by. There was an active phone tree within the mom’s group to share the 5:00 am employee notices from the school district, and on snow days, this was often used to coordinate sledding and hot chocolate parties.
The Jensen family activities have been focused on sports, outdoor activities, and travel. Their daughters Maren and Kaija learned to ski at Powder Pigs when they were very young, while Molly taught there for a year.
Both girls continue to ski and snowboard. Maren now works at The Summit during the winter and is also a figure skating coach. Kaija skis at Big Bear in California, when she has time and money, and works in San Diego.
Molly loves to travel and has seen many parts of the world through work and pleasure. In 2017 and 2019, she and Max hiked the Camino Primitivo (Northern Spain) and Portugal.
Taking time to visit former exchange students during these trips has taken her and her family to Germany and Norway, while they also explored the Swiss Alps, Tuscany, the English countryside, and Iceland. The most memorable family vacation was to New Zealand.
To sum it up
“I still love living in this retreat-like setting,” Molly said. “Moving out to Ames Lake was certainly a wise decision.”
MEET JARED AND ERIC
“We became smitten with Ames Lake.”
Jared Flieller and Eric Kinzler came to Seattle for work in 2011. They lived in a few different cities and neighborhoods but wanted to be closer to the trees and water.
In 2016, they attended a 4th of July party in Ames Lake and immediately became smitten. Originally from Texas, they couldn’t believe there was such a beautiful, pristine, quiet area so close to work and other amenities. At that moment they knew they wanted to make this area their home. And in September of 2020, they finally moved here.
Jared said that since that time, he and Eric have become friendly with some of their wonderful neighbors on the southwest side of the lake. They’re looking forward to meeting others in the community as well.
They have a dog named Oliver (featured in Dogs of Ames Lake), as well as a cat named Bo. Oliver loves taking walks around the lake and going for hikes by the tree farm. But Bo is a homebody and doesn't like leaving the house.
Since moving here, they’ve spent time hiking around the area. They’re also excited about kayaking and swimming in the lake when it gets warmer. As Jared said, it’s hard to stay inside in such a beautiful place.
Jared and Eric like to start their day with a cup of coffee while gazing at the beauty of Ames Lake. Jared said it’s been magical to watch the seasons wash over the lake - from the amber and red foliage in the fall, to the soft snow covering the trees in the winter.
They can't wait to build some wonderful memories here.
In 1991, Jim and his wife moved to Ames Lake. The beauty of the lake and the community were a welcome change from urban Los Angeles, where he lived for 10 years. Plus, LA was not the place to start a family.
Originally from Burien, Ames Lake felt like the Seattle Jim had grown up in during the sixties and seventies.
Jim and his wife now live on Ames Lake Lane. They have two daughters in their twenties. One still lives here and attends the UW. Most of their neighbors have been here as long as or longer than they have.
In the early nineties, Jim remembers when the lake was frozen solid. They were having an evening skating party. At the time, they had a water trampoline and a hot tub, but no dock. So, Jim decided to make one. He dug small holes in the ice, then put wood posts down into the mud. It was an ice dock!
When he first moved here, Jim discovered the local roads and trails. He still goes cycling there, along with running, mountain biking, and walking the dog. He also enjoys backpacking in the remote regions of Washington.
There are more families in Ames Lake now, more dogs, more party boats, and more traffic, but still a relatively small amount of people. It’s also a friendlier environment than it used to be, he told me.
Jim feels lucky they moved here all those years ago. He still thinks of Ames Lake as more old world, with a simple and safe feeling about it. It has always kept its charm.
Tara Holliday moved here 12 years ago when she got engaged to Dave Beecher, a long-time Ames Lake resident. They live in the SE quadrant.
Tara loves how quiet it is here and feels lucky to have quick access to the lake, where she and Dave can take their paddle boards and kayaks. Sometimes they even put their dog, a Min Pin mix, on a paddle board with them!
Some history of Ames Lake
Tara and Dave have always enjoyed the history of this area and learned a lot through neighborhood stories and chats.
Dave likes to tell this story: the Snoqualmie tribe used the lookout from the tree farm over Tolt MacDonald Park to mount a siege from that bluff, and they made use of Ames Lake as their water source so they could keep a siege going for an indefinite period of time.
A lifetime community
There are so many things Tara likes about our community. She appreciates how friendly everyone is and that people often wave to each other when walking or driving around the lake. Over the years, Tara and Dave have made several friends and acquittances here.
Tara also enjoys all the community-related activities - the wine and art gatherings at the beach, helping with the community lots, picking up neighborhood trash, and being involved in community conversations. Recently, she joined the community book club.
This year Tara and Dave plan to put their kayaks into the water so they can enjoy the holiday boat parade.
Ames Lake is and will be their lifetime community!
MEET KATHY & SCOTT
Kathy Perry and her husband Scott moved to Ames Lake in 1988. Scott was on a bike ride when he stumbled onto Ames Lake. Originally from Burien, he lived on a lake as a child and always dreamed of owning a lake home one day.
There was only one house for sale on the lake back then. It was located on Ames Lake Lane and they decided to buy it and have lived there for many years. Ten years ago, they built their current house just four doors down. (Maja and her family now live in their previous house.)
Their two boys, Forrest and Connor, were both born and raised in Ames Lake. When they were young, they had friends over almost every day in the summer. They would swim all day, wrestle on the water trampoline, play badminton on the lawn, and whiffle ball on the Lane. At the end of the day, they built a fire and toasted marshmallows. Those are great memories, Kathy said.
Kathy and Scott have always had dogs here. When they first moved to Ames Lake they often walked with their dog around the lake and rarely encountered any cars. (What a piece of history!) Currently, they have a chocolate lab named Timber. Kathy and Timber go running on the trails above here almost every day. Scott and Kathy feel lucky that the tree farm just behind here.
Some of their most cherished experiences in Ames Lake include summer evenings on the pontoon boat and chatting with their neighbors along the way. They’ve also enjoyed 4th of July here. Kathy said every year the fireworks have gotten much bigger and better. One year there was a spectacular display of fireworks all synchronized to music!
Kathy also remembers ice skating on Ames Lake. The first time was in the early 90’s when they skated and built a big bonfire on the lake with neighbors. Then there were all the big snowstorms. It meant parking their car by 40th Street and walking to and from there for work every morning.
There was also the windstorm in December of 2006. It knocked out their power for over a week and the house was freezing. Despite living out here for 32 years, they still don’t have a generator!
Kathy and Scott love the uniqueness of their surroundings, the ever-changing beauty of the lake, and all the wonderful people they’ve met here.