Fall has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and fall colors are beginning to appear along the Skokomish River. Now is a great time of year for a trip to Hunter Farms. Hunter Farms is located in Union, Washington, in the Skokomish River Valley.
From Seattle, perhaps the best way to begin the trip is to take the Seattle-to-Bremerton ferry. The ferry trip takes about 60 minutes and the ferry route winds through the beautiful Rich Passage: the Rich Passage separates Bainbridge Island from the Manchester areas of the Kitsap Peninsula. At the Bremerton End of the route, the ferry passes the picturesque Manette Bridge, which spans the Port Washington Narrows, and passengers are treated to a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains.
Seattle to Bremerton Ferry
State Route 3 connects Bremerton to Belfair. Belfair is a great place to stop for breakfast and, perhaps, a walk along the Theler Wetlands. Belfair is located at the east end of the Hood Canal. The Hood Canal separates the Kitsap Peninsula from the Olympic Peninsula.
Hunter Farms is about 18 miles from Belfair. From Belfair, take State Route 106, which connects Belfair to the Olympic Peninsula and U.S. Route 101--the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula. SR 106 winds along the south shore of the Hood Canal and through Union, Washington. At Union, the Union Bay Cafe is a great place to stop for a break. Hunter Farms is at 1921 East State Route 106, just minutes from Union.
Hunter Farms is a family business--and is a working farm. If you stop by the general store, you are quite likely to meet Bill Hunter, his son Bill Jr. (JR), or other family members working in the store or around the farm. Bill, age 80, still puts in a full day working around the farm; he can tell the fascinating story of the farm from the difficulties of running a dairy through the war years (WWII) to the present farm operations--from personal experience. The farm actually began in the 1880's.
Bill Jr. (JR) Hunter
In October, as the days begin to cool, Hunter Farms is a beacon for sportsmen and sportswomen. The Skokomish river runs through Hunter Farms and it is Coho (Silver) salmon season at this time of year. In the fields, hunters are flushing out pheasants. It's also the season of The Pumpkin.
Fishing For Coho Salmon At Hunter Farms
A Successful Pheasant Hunt At Hunter Farms
Each year, Hunter Farms hosts an event called the "Pumpkin Patch." This year, preparations for the event began at the end of September by clearing out a huge barn. For antique lovers, antique trucks and wagons are left on display in the barn. Using a semi-trailer truck of 100-pound bales of straw as well as several 1200-pound bales of hay, JR and a crew of four laid out a maze. JR moved the 1200-pound bales of hay around with a forklift; the 100-pound bales of straw were all moved into place by hand. Parts of the maze were covered in order to create dark crawl-ways; other parts of the maze were left open to the dim light inside the barn. The finished maze has just the right amount of spookiness for the Halloween season. JR and crew also set up a fun slide at one end of the barn. Putting the maze together took a couple of days of heavy work; and at the end of the event, both the maze and slide will be taken down. For the kids, the maze and slide are just the start of the fun.
JR And Crew Laying Out The Maze
JR And Crew Building The Slide
After the barn was set up, wagons were put together for rides to the pumpkin patch. The wagons will later be hitched to farm tractors. Rides to the pumpkin patch begin at the barn. Families can ride from the barn through the farm and to the pumpkin patch where they can select just the right pumpkins for the season. It is a joy to watch the children run from the trailer to the patch in order to hunt for their own special pumpkin. Many varieties of squash have been planted in the pumpkin patch and these can be used to decorate homes for the season or to make great pumpkin pies.
One of the Wagons Used For Rides To The Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkin Patch — Ready For The Pumpkin Hunters
It is just a short walk from the pumpkin patch and past a corn field to the Skokomish river where, most likely, visitors to the farm can see a fisherman or, perhaps, a river otter. Visitors often see geese, eagles, and many other wild animals during the trip to the pumpkin patch. On nice days--and a sunny, fall day at Hunter Farms is as nice as it gets in Washington--the local Shelton model airplane club, the Sanderson Field RC Flyers (SFRCF), also fly their airplanes on a grass field near the pumpkin patch. Watching the planes adds extra excitement during the trip to and from the pumpkin patch.
SFRCF Club Member Darcy Niebeling Launches His Yak-54
After a visit to the pumpkin patch, there is more to see at the barn, greenhouses, and store. On one side of the barn, there is a "zoo" of farm and other animals. Along with common farm animals--hog, chickens, goats--there are also two reindeer with spectacular racks of antlers. When Bill feeds the reindeer, he is careful to watch out for the sharp antler points. There are also several llamas in the "zoo."
Reindeer And Friends Waiting For Breakfast
Although the peak of the growing season has come and gone, visitors can still see an enormous variety of plants in the greenhouses at Hunter Farms. Among the plants there is large variety of cacti, herbs, and the display of ripe, hot, red peppers is especially eye-catching.
Hot Peppers In A Hunter Farms Greenhouse
At the store, and for a treat back home, visitors can purchase farm-fresh produce including several varieties of sweet and tender corn. Inside, and along with the staples of a country store, there are many gift items available. One area of the store that is almost impossible to pass by is the ice cream counter.
Fresh Squash Ready To Take Home
Seasonal And Other Gifts From Hunter Farms
At the end of a visit to Hunter Farms, and armed with a favorite beverage or an ice-cream cone, visitors can complete their trip in several ways. Time permitting, a lovely route back to Seattle is to take the E Purdy Cutoff Rd, which begins right across the street from the store and follows the Skokomish river. Turn north on U.S. Route 101, and enjoy the ride along the western shore of the Hood Canal. A good place to eat along the canal is the Hungry Bear Cafe at Eldon or the Logger's Landing Restaurant in Quilcene. North of Quilcene, take SR 104 over the Hood Canal Bridge and then either the Kingston or Bainbridge Island ferry back to Seattle.
An alternative route would be to drive back through Olympia to Seattle. Take the E Purdy Cutoff Rd and, instead of turning North, turn South towards Shelton and Olympia. At Olympia, follow State Highway 5 back to Seattle.
Like many families, if once you visit Hunter Farms, you will want to visit the farm again during other seasons. There is much to see at Hunter Farms, in the Skokomish River Valley, and along the Hood Canal. Visiting Hunter Farms during October is becoming a tradition for many families—generation after generation. Watch for a slide show about Hunter Farms coming soon at Select Digitals—and don't forget to take your camera on your visit the farm.
You might also enjoy these articles about Hunter Farms:
"Flying Over Hunter Farms" This article has many images from the author's first October visit to Hunter Farms as a member of the Sanderson Field RC Flyers (SFRCF).
"Hunter Farms In Flash: Flash Slide Shows Of Hunter Farms" is a series of flash slide shows of Hunter Farms. Except for a few images taken in June, 2009, all images were taken either at the end of September or in October, 2009 (except for a very few taken in October, 2008). The accompanying text also explains how the images were processed and displayed in a flash slide show.