When I asked one of the educators I work with what I could see traveling from the Spokane airport to where I would be working in Priest River, Idaho, he immediately said, Green Bluff! And he couldn’t have been more “right on”!
Green Bluff, about 15 minutes from Spokane (Travel north on US Hwy. 2, take a right onto N. Day Mt. Spokane Road) is an area of approximately 12 square miles boasting more than 30 farms and family businesses. Green Bluff Growers, an association designed to help farmers with agriculture tourism, began in 1902, and now, with seasonal events and festivals, attracts thousands to its bluff. Two loops, the West and the East, invite you to meet the families who open their homes and farms during festive times: Apple Festival, Cherry Festival (with its annual Cherry Pickers’ Trot), Blooms on the Bluff, Holiday Memories, etc. (Click here for info on what’s happening next.)
Our trip coincided with the Apple Festival, thus giving us four great stops where fall meets fun in the Inland Northwest. So here are our recommendations for what to do and see if you get to Green Bluff.
Pick Apples & Plums at Hansen’s Green Bluff Orchard #14
We have to admit, even in our senior years, this was a first for us: the chance to pick our own apples and plums. Owner Karen Hansen greeted us as if we were royalty, showing us around her family’s homestead decorated for fall and pointing out where to pick which apples.
We made good time of it, too. Karen’s son Derrick (a sizable young man, as you can see) carried a conical shaped basket into the orchards and invited us to come along.
First, we picked the biggest juiciest plums we’d ever seen. And Derrick told us that some would be dried for prunes. (He may have lost money on us since we downed several before ever plopping them into our bucket! But hold on: we were forced into it! Arm-twister that he is, Derrick ENCOURAGED us to eat these purple delights right from the branches!)
Then we found the apples. Oh, my. There’s nothing like looking up into trees laden with ripe, red fruit. So we just helped ourselves to Hansen’s finest. As you can see, these are naturally beautiful, unspoiled by the wax that’s applied to them in grocery stores. Just pure fruit from a picturesque orchard.
Families come for the fresh-from-the-farm experience, and we’re told that on the weekends, thousands edge their way along the streets just for the one-to-one experience of grabbing a favorite apple from the tree itself!
Hansen’s is closed now, but will re-open the day after Thanksgiving when you can select and cut a Washington state Christmas tree you pick out yourself!
Hansen’s Green Bluff Orchard, 8215 E. Green Bluff Road, Colbert WA 99005; 509-238-4902. http://www.HansensGreenBluffOrchard.com
Chew on Fine Caramels from Ellie’s Edibles #37
Part of the fun of stopping along the loop roads is meeting the people who own/manage/run their businesses. And thus it was with Ellie. We were immediately smitten with her kind manner, soft speech, and genuine desire to provide the world’s finest caramels (She says car-mel; I say car-a-mel!) with the freshest add-in ingredients. Like huckleberries, a fruit similar to blueberries but indigenous to the whole Northwest area, I suppose.
I knew I’d like the best-seller — Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels — made with imported sea salt and cooked right here in Ellie’s kitchen. See? she said. Even though they melt in your mouth after that chewy goodness mushes down, they don’t stick to your teeth.
Mmm, we agreed. And can we sample just one more to make sure?
Another seasonal best seller — Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Caramels — was a take-home purchase along with Huckleberry Caramels. But a lot of these didn’t make it home. We moved along the Lewis and Clark Trail for a couple of days afterward chewing on Ellie’s divine (truly, they are) caramel creations. (And, by the way, Ellie ships.)
Ellie’s Edibles, 17909 N. Dunn Road, Colbert, WA 99005; 509-238-4973. http://www.divinecaramelcreations.com
Pick Out a Pumpkin at Harvest House & Orchard #6
Now, we’re not all backwards in Tennessee. We do have pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and hayrides for young and old. But Beck’s Harvest House may have the biggest bunch of pumpkins we’ve seen to date. Shipping out pumpkins in enormous boxes is just the norm around here, and the on-site Pumpkin Land is for those who want to select that special “big ‘un” right from the field.
Not only that, if you come to Beck’s Harvest House, you’re in for a corn maze treat. Here’s an aerial view of this year’s maze Witch Way featuring a broom-riding lady and a maze to amaze! (I was almost thankful we didn’t have time to “maze-it.” Pretty sure I’d need the helicopter rescue team to get me out of this one!)
Beck’s Harvest House, 9919 Greenbluff Road, Colbert, WA 99005; 509-238-6970. http://www.becksharvesthouse.com
Feed an Alpaca at Supersuris Alpaca Ranch #30
Feeding an alpaca wasn’t on the list of things to do while visiting the Inland Northwest, but now that we’ve done it, it’s one opportunity we’re privileged to have had. Supersuris Alpaca Ranch holds some of the most prized alpacas in the world, according to owner Nancy Walker who has raised many of them from birth. Her love of these shaggy, yet so-soft creatures was something we picked up immediately as we first watched her call them by name and then feed them at the fence.
Bert took a turn offering grass to one of the more human-friendly ones. And then he petted that mop-head critter. Really soft, he announced.
In the barn, alpacas perked up their ears and focused their eyes — on us — watching cautiously and keeping their distance with little ones in tow.
Nancy works with breeders in Peru to identify the finest alpacas for purchase and breeding. And then engages knitters around the world to craft shawls, sweaters, and blankets she sells under the name of Colca Andean Fashions at the ranch in Green Bluff. Winning awards seems to be a frequent occurrence for Supersuris. Nancy’s immense display of ribbons fills at least two full walls.
Supersuris Alpaca Ranch, 16219 N. Day Mt. Spokane Rd., Mead, WA 99021; 509-238-3191. http://www.supersuris.com
Colca Andean Fashions, 16219 N. Day Mt. Spokane Rd., Mead, WA 99021; 509-475-5110. http://www.colcafashions.com
Note to travelers: If you’re planning to go to Green Bluff during any of the festival times, try to avoid weekend traffic. Check out the map and suggested driving routes where the least traffic occurs.
But by all means, if the weekend is your only chance to go, just go. You don’t want to miss Green Bluff. (I’ll be back in December, just in time to see holiday decorations and the magic of Christmas everywhere! Can’t wait.)
If you want to read more of our adventures in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, just click on the Inland Northwest page at the top of this post. And we always love your comments.