Tulips and State Parks and Bridges, Oh My!

Oy. It’s officially been a whole month since I last posted. Between hosting two siblings, celebrating birthdays, and some crazy work hours, I’m either too busy or too exhausted to write! I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a full-time traveler (yet)!

Anyway, to continue my posts on the ever-beautiful State of Washington, today I’m taking you to two well-known locations just an hour and a half outside of Seattle.

When I told my mom last spring that I was coming up for an impromptu visit, she immediately started looking up fun new locations for me to visit and share here. The one I was most excited about was easily the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Google the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and you’ll see why I was so excited to drive for over an hour just to see some pretty flowers.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival by Beautiful Washington
Image: Beautiful Washington

Endless rows of brightly-colored flowers, set against a backdrop of clear blue skies and distant mountains. The tulip festival is an annual event, held every spring, complete with art shows, food and wine tastings, and more. I grew up hearing about the festival, and seen countless blog posts and articles about it, but somehow, I never made it up there myself. People come from all over the country just to see the tulips, and the people who organize the festival are pros by now! This year marked their 32nd festival. Our visit fell on April 30, the very last day of the season. Michelle and I put on some lovely spring dresses to celebrate the occasion, and Mom drove the three of us out to see the glorious tulip fields. Because the festival is so spread out, it is necessary to visit with a car. I kept my eyes peeled for the rainbow fields, but after several miles, the only fields we saw had already been picked clean.

Headless Tulip Stems at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Washington
Decapitated tulip stems

I was a little disappointed that we had missed out on the season’s blooms. And by “a little disappointed,” I mean heartbroken. I was really looking forward to walking between the rows, finally seeing the colorful fields for myself, and taking advantage of the insane photo ops. Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending! The day wasn’t a total bust. We pressed on to our next destination.

Deception Pass was supposed to be a side stop, something to do if we had some extra time after the tulip fields. With no tulips in sight, Deception Pass became our main destination. I knew the location’s stunning bridge from childhood camping trips, and I was eager to re-visit it as an adult.

Deception Pass State Park Map from the Deception Pass Park Foundation
Image: Deception Pass Park Foundation

Deception Pass is a strait connecting the Puget Sound with the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island. Officially mapped in 1792, sailors at first overlooked the strait, and believed Whidbey Island to be a peninsula stemming from the mainland. Later explorations by the same crew led them to fully discover the pass, which was then named for the way it had deceived them.

The Bridge Over Deception Pass, Washington State
The bridge over Deception Pass. If you look carefully, you can barely see the second part of the bridge, which spans the smaller Canoe Pass.

Deception Pass Bridge was completed in 1935, and effectively connects the two islands. Technically, it consists of two bridges, anchored in the middle over tiny Pass Island.

Deception Park Bridge Stats, and Michelle and I Laughing on the Bridge

The bridge spans just over a quarter mile…a walk we took on while wearing lightweight, girly little dresses. And let me tell you, it is windy up there. Michelle and I couldn’t stop laughing and squealing every time a passing truck blew up a particularly large gust of wind. We walked across one side of the bridge, our hands pinning our skirts down, and decided to do a little exploring of our own beneath the bridge.

Michelle Exploring Beneath Deception Pass Bridge in Washington State

I love to get off the trail when hiking. Stupid, yes, but how can a restless heart resist? There was a small rocky trail carved out from previous off-roaders, and we stuck to it for the most part. We strolled down to get closer to the water and gape at the bridge from below, then headed back up for our return trip across the bridge.

The View From Pass Island at Deception Pass State Park
The view from Pass Island.

Now that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, I treasure views like this more than ever. I loved standing on the bridge and taking it all in, flimsy dress and all! Before returning home, we decided to take a quick hike down to the beach.

Deception Pass Bridge from North Beach
The bridge seen from North Beach

I hated beaches like this when I was growing up. Where was the sand? It’s hard to go running along the shore when the beach is comprised of rocks, pebbles and driftwood, and I very rarely dared to enter the chilly water. Beaches like this one are used primarily for fishing, and in this case, seeking shelter from the wind and cold. It was a lovely place to take in the whole of the bridge, and appreciate the undeniable beauty of Washington State.

We left Deception Pass with plenty of time to kill, so we stopped in Skagit Valley and paid a visit to the “Tulip Festival Administration” building, in the hopes that we might still see some flowers. The man who helped us explained that most of the tulips had already wilted and been cut for the season, but some tulips might still remain at a plot called RoozenGaarde. He gave us a lengthy brochure, packed with information on accommodations, events, and even places to eat!

Mint Green Windmill and Topiary at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival's Roozengaarde

We picked up a few snacks, and drove past countless empty fields before we finally arrived at our destination. I had the oddest feeling that I’d seen RoozenGaarde before. Mom confirmed that while I personally had never been, she had in fact visited when Michelle was much younger, and I probably recognized it from photos.

Since we arrived on the very last day of the 2015 festival, workers were already clearing the fields. They simply cut the tulip heads off and tossed them into landscaping bins.

Gardeners Clearing the End of Season Tulips at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Note the awesome warning sign.

I may not have been awed by colorful fields stretching as far as the eye can see, but I did get to see several tulip varieties before the day was over. It was easy to imagine how breathtaking the spot could be when it was in full bloom, and I had fun strolling around and taking photos with my mom and sister.

Michelle and I With a Bunch of Decapitated Tulips at RoozenGaarde
This is an accurate depiction of what the fields actually looked like by the time we got there.
Forced Perspective of the Beautiful Tulip Fields at RoozenGaarde
The very same patch. I still got some decent pictures, thanks to some tricky angling!

Various Blooms Seen at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival's RoozenGaardeVarious Blooms Seen at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival's Most Popular Site, RoozenGaarde

Finally, it was time to head back home. We drove in circles for a while, following the recommendation of a local who said he knew a fast and easy route back to the highway. We passed an adorable little roadside farmer’s market, and while we had no time to stop in, I vowed to return and sample some fresh berries and just-baked bread the next time I’m in the area. We did eventually find the freeway, based off of the route the local had marked on our festival guide map, and returned home to Redmond. The day may not have quite gone according to plan, but it was one of the most memorable days of my trip home.

Michelle Laughing on Deception Pass Bridge, and the Nearly Empty Tulip Fields at RoozenGaarde

That’s one of my favorite things about travel. I can plan all I want, and things will never be quite what I imagined. But most of the time, the laughs had along the way (and in this case, squeals of embarrassment) are even better than anything I could have planned. I hope to return in a couple of years and see the festival in full bloom!


This post was named in honor of my sister Michelle’s new blog. She is currently serving a mission in Jacksonville, Florida for the LDS church, so she won’t be appearing in many blog posts for the next year and a half. I love her clever blog name: Name Tags and Gators and Bugs Oh My!

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