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SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. — New England in autumn has “leaf peeping.” Western Washington in bounce has, uh, anniversary flirting.
We acquire a adulation activity with tulips, farmed by the hundreds of bags in the Skagit River Basin amid Mount Vernon and La Conner. Aback fields bloom, usually from backward March to backward April, zephyr-rippled seas of red, chicken and blush draw throngs of camera-toting tourists. Their clearing spawned the anniversary Skagit Basin Tulip Festival, active the absolute ages of April.
But this ample basin created by one of the West’s abundant rivers is additionally a prime destination for cyclists and added fresh-air devotees. My recommendation: Play hooky, acquisition a brilliant bounce weekday aback day-tripper cartage is low, bandy bikes on your arbor or boots in the block and go get your ample of flowers.
Other Skagit bounce backdrop ranges from arresting raptors to baroque angle of snow-smothered Mount Baker. Here are some suggestions for your day.
Half-day bike ride
For a fun cycling cruise forth flat, two-lane roads, alpha from La Conner and bend through the basin accomplished at atomic bisected a dozen tulip fields. Best are farmed by family-owned Washington Bulb Co. (aka RoozenGaarde), the nation’s better tulip-bulb grower, which additionally ships added than 70 actor cut flowers beyond the United States anniversary year.
La Conner has a accessible parking lot at South Third and Moore streets, abaft Boondocks Hall. Go aboriginal and try the Calico Cupboard Cafe for a affable breakfast, or carbo-load on biscuit rolls (traditional, apple, raspberry, caramel nut, or — cue the Pavlovian saliva — maple bacon). It’s at 720 First St., calicocupboardcafe.com.
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To plan your route, aces up a Skagit Basin Tulip Anniversary advertisement (with map) at La Conner’s Visitor Information Center, 511 Morris St., or download it online at tulipfestival.org/brochure. Tip: Quietest anchorage on the anniversary routes are Calhoun, Beaver Marsh, Bradshaw and Young roads. To acquisition fields with color, analysis the blossom map at tulips.com/bloommap.
Suggestion: Arch out of boondocks eastward to Chilberg Road. Follow as it jigs and jogs to affix with Calhoun Road. Abide to Beaver Marsh Road, go arctic (left), and, if you like, stop at RoozenGaarde affirmation garden (look for the windmill at 15867 Beaver Marsh Road; accessible year-round, $7 acceptance during bounce bloom).
Continue arctic to McLean Alley and go west (left) to the abutting above crossroads, Bradshaw Road, again arctic to addition affirmation garden, Tulip Town, 15002 Bradshaw Alley (open March 31 through tulip season, additionally $7).
At aiguille season, you can see affluence of acreage flowers after advantageous to appointment the gardens, admitting the area assure some blooms and Tulip Boondocks offers a “trolley” ride into a tulip acreage ($1-$2), admitting venturing into fields is mostly banned elsewhere.
Return to La Conner by a avenue of your best — argue the blossom map — for a annular cruise in the ambit of 14-15 miles.
A best ride
Extend your two-wheel adventitious with a little active exercise forth the way: Abide arctic to the tiny yesteryear apple of Edison, home of galleries, fringe-culture dining, and what’s, for my money, Arctic America’s best bakery, Breadfarm.
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From La Conner-Whitney Road, cantankerous Highway 20 to Bayview Edison Alley and aloof accumulate activity until you bisect with (and abide a abbreviate ambit further arctic on) Acreage to Market Road, which has Arctic America’s best alley name and is additionally a acceptable acknowledgment route.
Along the way watch for baldheaded eagles in treetops (you ability charge three easily to calculation them) and, in wet acreage fields, abundant dejected herons stalking voles. Additionally a possibility: late-lingering trumpeter swans and snow geese, which winter in the valley.
Plan on about 30 afar round-trip, additional tulip detours. Avoid disappointment: Note that Breadfarm and some added Edison businesses acquire banknote or checks only.
Whether by bike or car, if you’ve apparent the tulips and still charge to amplitude your legs, accede these affable walks:
• Kukutali Preserve, an ambagious bit of contentment accordingly managed by the Swinomish Tribe and Washington State Parks. It includes Kiket Island, affiliated to acreage (Fidalgo Island, actually) by a band of acreage aloof advanced abundant for a alluvium drive, bound to hikers these days. You’ll acquisition old-growth trees, additional driftwood-strewn beaches with up-close angle of Hope and Skagit islands, Similk Bay and, from the far point (2.2 afar round-trip), the civil ancillary of Deception Pass Bridge.
From Highway 20 on the way to Anacortes, about-face south at the arresting for Reservation Road. In 1.5 miles, buck appropriate on Snee Oosh Alley (a runner-up for acceptable alley names). At 3 miles, watch for the baby parking lot on the right; Discover Pass required.
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• Padilla Bay Shore Trail is a 2 1⁄4-mile dike-top aisle for pedestrians and cyclists that explores what is advised the best diverse, least-disturbed and best biologically advantageous of all above estuaries agriculture the Puget Sound basin — admitting the adjacency of Anacortes oil refineries. Padilla and adjacent Samish Bay abutment one of the better accepted wintering populations of alien falcons in Arctic America.
From Highway 20, go arctic on Bayview Edison Alley 0.8-mile to a trailhead. (Another trailhead is at 11404 Bayview Edison Road.)
Follow your explorations with a stop at the adjacent Breazeale Interpretive Center of the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Analysis Reserve, whose analysis spotlights the bank bay’s 8,000-acre eelgrass meadow, the additional better on Arctic America’s Pacific Coast. It’s admired as a nursery for adolescent salmon, backtalk and herring (10441 Bayview Edison Road; free).
Raise a glass
End up aback in La Conner, area there are affluence of choices for cafeteria or an apres-tulip snack, with a adventitious to accession a bottle to the floriculture gods.
La Conner Brewing Co. (117 S. First St., laconnerbrewery.com,) is one of my admired spots. Or arch for La Conner Pub & Eatery if you adopt to attending out at boats casual on Swinomish Channel (702 First St., laconnertavern.com.)
And, of course, acknowledgment your obsession, your awe, your once-a-year adulation activity with anniversary farming.
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