Sunday was a perfect day. It was in the mid-60s, with a light breeze and bluebird skies, conditions that are almost unheard of in mid-April in the Pacific Northwest. And the perfect weather coincided with the height of blooms in the Skagit Valley tulip fields. For a few weeks in April or May, Skagit farmlands are abloom with hundreds of acres of tulips in every color. Conditions were so perfect, in fact, that the entire state of Washington and most of British Columbia decided that Sunday was the day to tour the tulip fields. Country roads that see little traffic for 11 months of the year were suddenly congested with cars lined up bumper-to-bumper, creeping along stop and go, for stretches up to 6 miles long. Maybe not the perfect way to spend the day, after all.
In lieu of the autocar, we opted for our trusty two-wheelers. We parked our vehicle just off the freeway, right before traffic came to a standstill, and cycled a nice 20+ mile loop through the fields. We zipped past nearly a thousand cars idling, waiting to turn at country road intersections. Traffic was so slow that we didn’t feel any danger about collisions; the greatest risk was riding into a car door that might suddenly be opened by a bored passenger who realized he could walk faster than he was moving in a car.
The thrill of passing so many people in cars was enough to make it fun for me, but even better was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about parking. Parked cars lined the shoulders of these backcountry roads for miles, requiring tulip enthusiasts to walk up to a mile from their car back to the fields in bloom. Our bikes gave us the freedom and compactness to park ourselves wherever we chose.
We paid the $5 admission to tour the 3.5 acre Roozengaarde gardens, where dozens of varieties are planted every year to showcase the myriad of colors and forms. While we locked our bikes to some shrubs amidst a sea of people, one woman said, “Bikes! What a great idea. I used to own a bike…” Without missing a beat, Joshua whispered, “They still make them, you know.”
Touring by bike also gave us the opportunity to move at our own pace. We were riding on the shoulder of the road, moving slowly when we chose, which gave us time to notice beautiful surprises. These red tulips in a sea of yellow would have been missed by any cars passing by.
We lingered long enough to catch the evening light, which filtered through the petals, making them radiant.
Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist, or only occasional, I highly recommend cycling through the Skagit tulip fields. And the time is NOW. The fields probably have 1-2 weeks of bloom left. You can do routes as short as 13 miles, up to 30 or more, and the roads are entirely flat, so the cycling is easy. Plan for a weekday evening to enjoy the best light and avoid the worst traffic.
Photos by Charis Weathers, Gwen Weerts, and Josh Eastlund.