You know it’s springtime in Washington State when you are seized by an overwhelming urge to battle tourists and traffic in the fertile farmland of Skagit County.
Much of the year, this rural area about an hour north of Seattle is fairly calm and civilized. But the when the daffodils and tulips come out to play, we all head towards the burgeoning bulb fields like moths towards light.
We go by car, by bike, by trike, by bus. We intermingle with tourists from all over the world, particularly Japan. We stop to take pictures of everything in our REI sombreros and high tech windbreakers. In a way, it’s hilarious, but it is a glorious backyard to have, and you’ll soon see why. (Click on any photo to get the full effect.)
When you arrive in the valley, you immediately start scanning for fields in bloom. You first find fascinating old barns and gorgeous vistas.
Oh, what’s that? Look, a bright band of yellow! You’re getting closer.
A view to the east, towards the Cascade foothills, down an endless path.
Patriotic donkeys! These are some of the absolutely adorable miniature donkeys of JF Ranch. You can read more about this breed on their website, Miniature Donkey Information. These guys are so cute and evidently are native to Sicily and Sardinia.
Aaahhhh… daffodils… billions and billions of fluffy bursts of joyous sunshine…
The area’s Tulip Route is clearly denoted by road signs. One of the more popular places to traipse around the tulips is at Roozengaarde on Beaver Marsh Road. The colors make you ooh and aah before you even get around the hedge and in the front gate. Tulip Town is another popular stop.
Roozengaarde provides a taste of Holland and a little Dr. Seuss as well. Looks like the windmill and tree had a stern chat one night. Also, I don’t know who that guy is, but he was in a lot of people’s photos… Roozengaarde Man.
I will look at them in a box, I will look at them with a fox, I will look at them with a mouse, I took some home to put in our house…
Two bluegrass musicians provided atmosphere as flower lovers followed the winding bands of color. Roozengaarde changes up the layout every year and is the largest bulb producer in the U.S., with a thousand acres of daffodils, tulips, and irises.
Many people posed by this angular tree that stretched out its arms like a protective mother hen over its multihued neighbors.
Mm hmm. I saw Fabio (again, joke for those who know about the other Fabio incident). Roozengaarde has a display of their many varieties of tulips in alphabetical order. This fiery, fringed fellow was one of many with colorful monikers.
When you snatch the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave… -Master Po
Roozengaarde also has a Ninja tulip.
The wonders of tulips planted in perfect OCD order (right to left). Although, as I have been told, if you’re truly OCD, you’d call it CDO.
Beyond the gardens, the real treasure, the fields…
Look what magnificence springs up from the ground… Around the time I took this photo, I saw a little girl who was about 2 1/2 walking down a row nearby. Boof. Suddenly she was gone. Thankfully her mom quickly snatched her from the mud.
There was a whole field of daffodils, and then these renegades, happily growing right on the beaten path. “Bloom where you’re planted,” they said.
Coming back into the formal gardens, you find yourself at The Edge. Now I can say I’ve been to the edge and back. This called for some U2, Until the End of the World.
Happy, happy, happy people on a 70 degree day under a marshmallow sky…
More bounteous beauty…
Here I was trying to capture the plants growing on this unusual tree just before the exit. I wound up with something very Lothlorien. But that’s okay; Tolkien Reading Day was just March 25th.
More roadside scenery. In places like this cars park all over the sides of the road and we scamper like locusts on the edges of the fields.
It is said that twelve Highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion. Here we have just two Bò Ghàidhealach who calmly surveyed their audience while chewing their cud. Click here to learn more about Highland Cattle.
On a sharp curve I was delighted to find artist Christine Sharp (C. Sharp), a founding member of the Kirkland, Washington arts community, spreading her thoughts out on canvas. You can view more of Christine’s unique landscapes on the Sharp Art Gallery Facebook page.
It was interesting to watch tourists not dressed for the occasion trying to navigate these deep, slippery ruts in order to have their picture taken in the tulips.
People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. -Iris Murdoch
You will find stands like this selling flowers all over the valley.
Further down the road I found members of the Russian invasion. Swans and snow geese come to north Snohomish and Skagit Counties every winter to feed in the farmland. Tens of thousands of them can be seen both on land and in the air. See Swans and snow geese are here for the winter (The Herald), as well as the official website for the Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival.
When you visit Skagit County, you usually visit La Conner as well. It’s a favorite weekend getaway for Washingtonians, full of interesting shops like Nasty Jack’s, below. Their art galleries, antique shops, home decor stores, brewery, museums, and restaurants are all easy to walk to and they have some nice lodging options.
La Conner sits on the Swinomish Channel, an 11-mile band of saltwater that divides Fidalgo Island from the mainland. Ever caught a ferry in Anacortes? Anacortes, another wonderful place to hang out, where my great-great-grandfather built a hotel in 1915, sits on the northern part of the island. It’s a gateway to Guemes and other islands, including the San Juans.
On the other side of the channel from La Conner is the Swinomish Reservation. You can see some of the tribe’s pavilions, built to resemble traditional cedar hats, in the background.
Northwest Coastal-type art on a building for rent. The nearby Swinomish are Coast Salish.
Swans and geese and… some other cute guy (fifth from the left) enjoying food and fellowship. If you are in a fairly quiet place, you can turn off your engine and listen to them talking to each other. It’s fascinating.
Up Valentine Road on the south side of the valley is the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, the oldest in Skagit County. It is beautifully cared for and some of the headstones have been painstakingly repaired. It is a place for quiet contemplation and respect, not somewhere to let the dogs out of the car or for kids to run around.
In these plots you will find graves ranging from those of well-known Skagit County pioneers like the Andersons and Chilbergs right up to the present day. Visit Magnus Anderson, carpenter, farmer and host at Fir (Skagit River Journal) for their stories.
In keeping with the agricultural theme, I noted this marker for a well-loved man, Russell Nelson, who evidently was an excellent farmer (see the emphatic last line). What a fitting memorial!
She’s still there. The plight of this history-rich old building makes me sick. Some might remember my detailed post on the Pleasant Ridge School from last year. The schoolhouse was built in 1891 and in service until 1930. Since then efforts to save her have fallen through, and she’s been slowly rotting away in this field. There’s now even more clutter, including a dilapidated travel trailer, encroaching upon her from the house next door, which is likely part of the same parcel.
It will soon be too late for this grand dame, and I sincerely hope that she can be saved from the ravages of time. It is shameful that this iconic piece of Skagit County history is in this condition. She needs a champion.
The view north from the corner of Pleasant Ridge where it rejoins the main road.
Stopping at the Snow Goose for seafood, vegetables, wine, yard art, flowers, and a whopper of an ice cream cone is a tradition for area residents and visitors alike. Almost 50 flavors, from both the Lopez Island Creamery and Cascade Glacier, are served in huge handmade waffle cones. Many people pose for photos with their monster treats along the roadside. There are other farm stands to stop at too, including Pleasant Ridge Farm, which has awesome local cider.
Avian aerial acrobatics! These shots represent just a portion of how many birds were actually present. It was amazing to watch against the swirling cerulean sky.
You will find many old barns and farmhouses in Skagit County. Undoubtedly each has many stories to tell. You can even go on a tour of historic barns in the area– check out this Historic Barn Tour guide.
Just west of I-5 is the small town of Conway, in which the Fir-Conway Lutheran Church has been serving the community since 1888. The current building was dedicated in 1916. It’s kept in beautiful shape and there were men outside working on it as I took this shot.
Going through Conway means stopping and seeing what Tony Stinson’s up to. You might remember his giant hammer from my 2012 post. Tony is a carpenter who can make… just about anything.
Conway is well-known for its Pub and Eatery, the Conway Muse, and its antique shops as well. Be sure to stop into Kitty Jean’s Antiques behind the post office as well. Her compassion for animals is remarkable and unless you stop by you won’t see why.
You can find more information on the Skagit County Tulip Festival’s official website. For us locals the festival is about flowers, farms, food, art, animals, birds, supporting area businesses– many things. But the crowning glory of springtime in the Skagit Valley is the menagerie of daffodils and tulips that blanket the earth like broad sweeps of the Master Painter’s brush.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
-William Wordsworth, I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud
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