A Tsunami of Color: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

I love it when I have a day off in April and can make it up north for the Skagit Valley Tulip Fest. Considering how bleak and grey the winters are here in the Pacific Northwest, this festival is a great way to herald the coming of spring. It’s not just a splash of color, it’s a veritable tsunami that goes on for miles and miles.

If you can gaze upon the hundreds of varieties of flowers, not just the tulips and daffodils, and not smile, you are the love child of the easter bunny and the grinch. Such a treat for the eyes is rare and precious and not to be dismissed.

If you are ever in the Western Washington area during the month of April, pack your sunscreen, hat and water, and make the effort to check it out. If you’re not, I’m giving you plenty of advance notice for future years. It’s worth the trip. Even the valley without flowers would be stunning, thanks to the gorgeous views of the mountains.

Having said that, I’ll leave you with photos that my husband and I took on this glorious visit. Enjoy!

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Doin’ the Cascade Loop (Sort Of) Part One

During the last bit of our Roamin’ Holiday, we decided to drive the Cascade Loop here in Washington State. No day trip, this. It would require an overnight stay somewhere. I had mixed emotions about that in this era of pandemic, but I was also itching to go somewhere, anywhere, and do something, anything. So off we went.

This road trip is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I’ve done bits and pieces of it, but never the whole thing, and I can now say that it’s highly recommended. It was a refreshing getaway that increased my love for this state.

The first thing to do is check out this awesome website that’s dedicated to everything related to the Cascade Loop. It breaks down the loop into 9 regions, and is full of amazing photographs, recommendations as to where to stay and what to eat and what to do, and it also goes into great detail about the history of each region. They even offer a free guidebook, which I dearly wish I’d had.

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One of the first things they recommend is that you drive the loop counterclockwise, as you get to see more spectacular views that way. Oops. We didn’t do that. That’s what I get for not doing my homework. Maybe next time. We also skipped the first region, Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, because we had just explored that area a few days before.

Since we were choosing to skip that leg of the journey, we decided, instead, to take a brief detour to explore Camano Island, the next island to the east of Whidbey. It’s a lot smaller than Whidbey, and has fewer amenities. It seems like a quiet, rural community. It did have a few intriguing shops, galleries, restaurants, a grocery store here and there, and some wineries. All but the grocery stores were closed due to the pandemic. We felt bad about not financially supporting this community, but in these viral times, we decided it was more socially responsible to remain socially distant. But Camano also has several parks, beaches, and fabulous views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, so it was still well worth the drive.

We picked up the Cascade Loop again in Skagit Valley. This is farm country. I love this area particularly in April, when the tulips are blooming and there are vast swaths of color in the fields. It makes me feel like I’m back in Holland again. I love looking at the farm houses and the barns, and imagining what life would be like out here. Quiet, but hard work.

I love the little town of La Conner, with its quaint little waterfront shops, and the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, housed in an amazing Victorian mansion. But again, those things are for healthier times.

Hamilton is probably full of tourists in normal times. We had the whole small town to ourselves. Sedro-Woolley is a loggers paradise. Apparently they host an annual Loggerrodeo. That sounds intriguing.

In fact, there are a plethora of festivals at different times of the year, all along the loop. It is a good idea to plan accordingly. But keep in mind that the North Cascades section is shut down in the winter, due to snow. We took our trip in May a few days after the road opened. A lot of places close down in the winter.

The North Cascades section is probably my favorite part of the loop. With its mountains and valleys and waterfalls and lush greenery, it reminded me a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Well, sort of. Here, the mountains are taller and more jagged, the valleys are deeper, and the predominant trees are evergreen, not deciduous. But you get the idea. There are also 300 glaciers along the route. Hard to imagine that I’d never seen a glacier 6 years ago. The lakes and rivers are spectacular as well. There are a lot of camping and hiking and fishing opportunities here.

We passed through the town of Concrete in about 5 seconds. As you can probably guess, it used to be a cement production center. I just love that there’s a town called Concrete somewhere on earth.

Coming down from the mountains and entering the Methow Valley, we were feeling kind of peckish, and decided to stop in for some takeout pizza. One thing I’ve learned is that you can always count on pizza, even in a pandemic. We ate a lot of pizza in our travels. This time it was East 20 Pizza in Winthrop.

I hope to visit Winthrop more extensively in better times. It feels like you’ve been transported back to the wild, wild west. You can walk along its wooden sidewalks and explore tons of cute little shops. It’s also known for its fine dining. But alas, every single thing was closed while we were there, except the pizza place. I half expected to see tumbleweeds piling up in the corners. What a sad state of affairs to find ourselves in.

Then we continued on to the town of Twisp, where we spent the night. Can I start off by saying that I adore the name Twisp? I’d move there simply to be able to say Twisp multiple times a day. It sounds like a cross between the sound a potato chip makes and a squirt of honey in your mouth on a hot day.

We stayed at the Idle A While Motel. What a blast from the past. These buildings were built in the early 1900’s for the forest service. And now they have been converted into individual motel cabins along with a two story strip of rooms that looks like your typical 1950’s cheap motel. You could kind of tell that about half the place was occupied by seasonal residential types, but it was clean and felt safe, and they allowed pets, so I was happy. That, and we were able to do our check in over the phone, and I sanitized the place obsessively before and after.

Internet was sketchy and it was a bit chilly out, so we hung out and watched cable TV that evening. We watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which was filmed in 1963, and it now seems quaint, like the hotel, rather than scary, as it seemed to me as a child. (Given our setting, I’m kind of glad they weren’t showing Psycho.) After that, we drifted off to sleep.

Here are some photos from our travels. More about day two in a day or two!

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival 3.0

This year, I’ll have had the distinct pleasure of experiencing Pacific Northwest springs for 4 years in a row. After the dreariness of winter, it’s such a delightful gift. To celebrate it, I’ve gone to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival for 3 out of the 4 springs. Each experience was unique.

The first year I blogged about the area in detail. I went alone. Because of that it was bittersweet, but it gave me the chance to really focus in on the surroundings. I still had a lovely time.

On year two, I went with a dear friend, and had even more fun. She is an amazing photographer, so the experience was even more of a visual treat. And we had a great lunch afterward.

This year, I went with my boyfriend, and we visited Tulip Town. It was absolutely stunning and romantic and a pure delight. I can’t imagine a better way to revel in the pure joy of spring!

Each festival experience was different. Each was wonderful. I’ll be going back again and again, without a doubt.

Without further ado, here are some of the pictures that we took on that glorious sunny day this time around. Enjoy!

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Exploring Washington State—The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

As far as I’m concerned, when you can combine a day trip with the ancient Japanese custom of Hanami, or flower viewing, you’ve got the ingredients for one delightful experience. So this past Monday I did just that. I wasn’t disappointed.

About an hour north of Seattle lies the Skagit Valley, which is kind of an ugly name for an absolutely gorgeous farming area. It’s rather disconcerting how abruptly you go from booming metropolis to wide open country, dotted with barns and cows, surrounded by stunning mountains. I always seem to breathe easier when my horizons expand, and I can feel my blood pressure drop accordingly.

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I picked the perfect time for this trip, because it’s the height of tulip season, and that’s one of the things this valley is best known for. Hence the tulip festival. Two farms in particular, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, as well as many smaller outfits, allow you to explore their flower displays. At first I planned to hit them all, but when I went to Roozengaarde I became overwhelmed with the stunning beauty there. They lay out their tulip beds in artistic displays, and of course all the varieties shown can be purchased. And talk about variety! Thank god I’m renting, because if I owned a home, I’d have come away with a truckload of bulbs. You can also order them on line.

It was really hard choosing what to do next, because there’s this 26 page brochure on the festival, and there are so many things to do in that valley that it boggles the mind. Zip lining, even! I’ve always wanted to do that! But it will have to wait until I’m more financially secure. (Sigh.)

I didn’t want the other farms to feel like they were some sort of tulip chore after the sensory satisfaction that is Roozengaarde (even saying the name is fun), and I already decided that the Tulip Festival will be an annual event for me, so I chose to explore the delightful towns of Mount Vernon and La Conner instead.

La Conner, in particular, enchanted me. With a population of only about 800, it’s a sleepy little artsy community with a main drag that is meant for tourists. Art galleries, restaurants, museums and shops galore are laid out for your viewing pleasure.

I had some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever eaten at La Conner Seafood and Prime Rib, and sat at a table with a gorgeous view of the river, with Mount Baker in the distance.

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Then for dessert I went across the street to the La Conner Sweet Shoppe, and had chocolate and sea salt covered caramel which nearly made me swoon. I also visited the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum, which is so amazing it will get a blog entry all its own.

I suspect I’ll be exploring this area for years to come, but no words can ever adequately describe the beauty I encountered. So without further ado, I’ll share some of my photos with you.

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