I’m looking forward to my second childhood, since I enjoyed the first one so much. So, I’ve decided to start it early under the guise that my youngest daughter and seven grandkids need to have lots of fun together. 

Rachel, River and Marcus take a little break in a BIG chair.

For the past couple of years, our family has made it a tradition to drive from our house across the Columbia River and south of Hood River, Oregon just a couple of miles to the Packer Orchards Pumpkin Patch where there is so much more than just pumpkins. We spend a couple of hours goofing off and being silly and Packer Orchrds makes it all super easy with a multitude of fun do-it-yourself activities. Off the top of my head, I’d say there were no less than a dozen different activities on the farm. Each one is hands on and interesting in its own way. Just for grins, I’ll recap the fun our family had just last October. 

Nope, I haven’t grown an inch since last year

It seems that each year the first thing we head to is the Corn Maze where I spend most of my time trying to circle around and sneak up on the kids. I’ve got the advantage on them because they are giggling and making noise all through the maze so I listen for them and then sneak on up from behind. I’m pretty sure that the only purpose for this section of corn is to turn it into a maze. It’s a pretty good-sized maze.

As a kid, I can remember building a hay-fort or two but have you ever seen a stack of hay turned into a fire-truck? Yep, that was one of the cool features of 2019 and my grandson Marcus was delighted. I wonder if the Packer family sits around all winter dreaming up fun hay creations. The hay slides were an extreme hit with the kids (and me) also. Nothing like utilizing some huge culvert pipe and a pile of hay to build a playground!

A great side product of having a corn maze is, well, corn. Lots of corn. Just the kernel. Unbelievable amounts of corn kernel. Picture a sandbox that is about fifty feet across and 18 inches high. Then, fill it with corn. There you go! It is a very interesting sensation to get buried in corn and something that I would highly recommend for anyone. There were lots of small excavation toys in with the corn and the kids had the time of their life using the equipment to bury me. Next year, I’m bringing a snorkel.

Success! The perfect pumpkin.

Of course, they have pumpkins at the Packer Pumpkin Patch (say that five times really fast!) and this is where we got to watch the kids exercise their decision-making skills. Some needed a perfectly round pumpkin, some a certain shade of orange. I’d have thought they would all want the biggest one in the patch but they seemed to prefer smaller ones. Packer Farms provides wheel-borrows to help get your pumpkins to the retail center for purchase but be warned, the kids will think that they are required to fill the wheel-borrow all the way to the top and they are really big wheel-borrows.

The farm is more than a vegetable stand operation and they have one of the coolest farm retail stores ever, complete with samples! This is a great place to pick up some Christmas gifts that are local, unique and very tasty. Jams, honey, fudge, dips and plenty of knick-knack items. They even have a bakery! Of course, one of the reasons I love the Packer Farms and other small business outlets is because just like our family run whitewater rafting company, they are a family making a living together and their lives are very dependent on the weather. I sort of get where they are coming from and love spending time and a few $ at their establishment. 

Enjoy a visit to Packer Orchards from Spring to late Fall and get a taste of hometown country fun with my neighbors. Info on their family farm and a schedule of fun events can be found on the Packer Orchards website.

As always, never hesitate to hit me up with questions about fun things to do in the Columbia River Gorge, and if you need a great whitewater ride down the White Salmon or Klickitat Rivers check out our website at ZooRaft.com.

Your friend in the Gorge,

Mark Zoller – MarkZ@ZooRaft.com

Mark Zoller is a whitewater guide on the White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers since 1985 who lives in and loves the Columbia River Gorge