Skagit Dispatch

Not all who wander are lost

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

During a meandering drive through the rural outskirts between Sedro-Woolley and Mount Vernon last Friday, my tour guide took seemingly random turns on bucolic roads I hadn’t known existed until then—and am still not entirely convinced were real.

“Where exactly are we?” I queried as we passed everything from fruit orchards to grassy fields full of grazing goats, pastoral cul de sacs, farm stands, hay balers in action, and a U-pick pumpkin patch with arrows pointing the way to fall fun.

“I’m not exactly sure,” he answered, “but we’re heading in the right direction.”

I wasn’t too worried about his lack of clarity. In the years we’ve been traversing the back roads of Whatcom and Skagit counties together, my bearded beau has never gotten us so turned around that we’ve been forced to pull over and seek shelter for the night.

His talent of wandering without getting lost—and sans a GPS—has come in handy during the pandemic, when seeking seasonal splendor via occasional day trips has helped break up the monotony of months upon months spent mostly at home.

I’m going to suggest another outing to him soon, one I hope will be focused on sourcing colorful gourds for both decorative and culinary purposes—while simultaneously inhaling some farm-fresh air into our gills and taking in the socially distanced sights.

I think we’d have a difficult time locating the pumpkin patch we happened upon during our recent drive, but a newsletter I recently received from the La Conner Chamber of Commerce pointed the way to a “Valley Harvest Loop” they’ve put together to highlight the “cornucopia of the harvest” to be found in the Skagit Valley.

With a reminder to bring along face masks and hand sanitizer while undertaking your search for the perfect pumpkin—and to stay home if you currently live in an area with a community spread of COVID-19—their map includes locales starting closest to La Conner and branching out from there.

First off is Hedlin’s Family Farm (http://www.hedlinfarms.com), which can be found simply by taking a right turn at the roundabout when you enter the historic waterfront town.

“Be sure and time this so you can get a bite to eat and stroll down the boardwalk along the Salish Sea waters of the Swinomish Channel,” organizers say. “Enjoy a flight of wine (or a local beer) on the deck of La Conner Sips—where kids and dogs are welcome.”

Their map also includes a nod to Christianson’s Nursery, (http://www.christiansonsnursery.com), which doesn’t boast a dedicated pumpkin patch, but was the scene of the recent weigh-off for the annual Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Contest, an event that sees local and regional growers competing for the burliest gourd in the land.

After perusing and purchasing annuals or perennials to add to your quarantine garden at the longtime nursery on Best Road, make your way to Gordon Skagit Farms (http://www.gordonskagitfarms.com) on McLean Road (pictured). It’s there you’ll find the award-winning 1,924-pound pumpkin that took home first place at the Sept. 18 pumpkin-growing contest. The behemoth submitted by Joel and Mari Lour Holland of Sumner outweighed the second-place contestant by nearly 1,000 pounds, and is a weighty wonder.

After choosing U-pick pumpkins that are a little less likely to bottom out your vehicle, consider sticking around to check out Gordon’s corn maze, finding the perfect backdrop for a family photo, or grabbing a bite to eat. The autumn market helmed by third-generation Skagit farmers will be through October, so plan accordingly.

During the same time frame, The Harvest at Tulip Town (http://www.tuliptown.com) will feature not only a U-pick pumpkin patch at its 30-acre spread on Bradshaw Road, but also an all-weather pumpkin market, a corn maze, hay rides, photo ops, tasty snacks and a beer and wine garden. They’ll be following recommended health guidelines to keep visitors safe, so do your part to stop the spread of coronavirus by maintaining distance from others and wearing a mask.

That’ll also be the protocol at Schuh Farms (http://www.facebook.com/schuh63), which recently opened its pumpkin patch to the public and also boasts a corn maze, hay rides, tractor and barrel trains, produce galore and baked goods.

This is the final stop on the suggested Valley Harvest Loop, but don’t let that stop you from seeking out other pumpkin- and farm-focused locales that might not be on your radar. Even if you lose your way along the way, it’ll still be an adventure.

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