One of the many benefits of living in Whatcom County is that we live close enough to cherry pick the absolute best time to make the short trip down Interstate 5 for the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
The tough part is actually finding that "perfect" time.
When will the most tulips be in bloom? When will there be the fewest people with cameras you'll have to elbow out of your way? When will the sun be out? When will the fields be dry enough you won't have to lay a sheet of plastic in the back seat to save the interior of your car from a day of kids splashing in mud puddles?
The answer to most of those questions, as always: When Mother Nature says so.
But we are getting close — at least in terms of seeing the most flowers in bloom.
All the early tulips currently are blooming, Tulip Town assistant farmer Matt Usyk said Monday, with the "mids" just starting to come into bloom. All told, Usyk estimated about a third of the Tulip Town fields are in bloom.
"This weekend should be near the peak," Usyk said. "This weekend and next are usually the best."
Cool temperatures accompanied by little sunshine have pushed back the blooms this spring, Usyk said, but if the cooler weather continues, it could make for a longer season.
"It's hard to tell," he said. "If the weather stays like it has been or even cooler, we might see the season run into May. But if it gets warmer, we could see it end the last week of April. It depends what the weather does the next few weeks. ... Today is supposed to be a good day. We should see a lot more color after today."
The Roozengaarde Bloom Map, which was last updated April 7, had similar reports.
"April has arrived as have the tulips — and rain — plenty of rain! " the map site said. "Pink, purple, and orange blooms are now flowering in our field at RoozenGaarde, and this field has been 'lit up" on our bloom map. We are still early in the tulip season, but there is now color to be seen."
When you do go, tulipfestival.org suggests considering going on a weekday to avoid the high volume of traffic that flocks to the fields on sunny weekends.
Also consider attending some of the events throughout Skagit County during the festival, a list of which is available at tulipfestival.org/events.
Judging by social media, the fields last weekend appeared a bit wet and the skies cloudy, but there were plenty of flowers to make spectacular pictures.