October 25, 2017

Riverton has a rich history in agriculture. Lander once had the handle of “Apple Valley.” But it may still surprise you to learn that you can get the full pumpkin-patch-corn-maze-decorative-gourd experience in the heart of Wyoming.

I was raised very much in the Zone 3 hardiness area of the cowboy state, so even I was surprised to realize I could go wander in a field full of fresh vines and squash to select my jack-o-lantern-to-be. This fall, I finally decided to try my hand at fresh pumpkin selection.

I started at the Squaw Creek Pumpkin Patch just outside Lander. My fellow pumpkin huntress and I pulled up to the quiet patch tucked up against the red and tan rock cliffs that define this stretch of Wind River Country; the sun was low in the autumn sky but the gate was wide open. The plot was free of people and flush with orange and white pumpkins. Steve Baumann, who also happens to be the county planner, made his way up the dirt road to us as we scouted through the fence.

Squaw Creek Pumpkin Patch view from gate
We arrived a bit late in the season, but the field was still overflowing with orange gourds.
A view of the Wind River Mountains with pumpkins.
The evening setting couldn’t have been more perfect for these already-glowing pumpkins.

After encouraging us to go ahead and select our favorites, he put in some work on his crop while we strolled and browsed.

Steve advised us that he was the official pumpkin hauler, so after we selected our choices—two classic orange and one small white—he hefted them to the car with a grin. They now decorate our two front porches in true Halloween style.

A few days later, I determined that though I was the proud owner of perfect, local pumpkins to welcome autumn and winter to Wind River Country, I hadn’t taken home pumpkins with which to fill my seasonal pies.

Having heard wonderful reviews of the SonHarvest Seasons pumpkin patch with all its harvest festival-esque extras, I grabbed a pumpkin-spice latte for the road and headed northeast of Riverton.

SonHarvest Seasons farm sits on Hwy. 26/789 between Riverton and Shoshoni. The parking lot held half a dozen vehicles when I arrived, and I was surprised at the popularity of this destination for 1 p.m. on a Monday. But as is often the case in Wind River Country, I wasn’t crowded despite sharing the space.

Squash selection at SonsHarvest
The squash selection at SonHarvest was impressive and informative.

After checking out the harvested gourds in straw-bale divided heaps and reading their helpful labels, I took a lap around a small section of the pumpkin patch. Peering over the field I could see pumpkins stretching all the way up the hillside across from me. A family could spend delightful hours here (it was 61 degrees that day) seeking out the perfect jack-o-lantern canvass for each member.

I as temped by the corn mazes, but I decided I must return next year with a buddy … and maybe a compass. Maybe it’s the NOLS grad in me that had me second-guessing my initial plan to conquer the big maze alone.

Taking pictures along the way, I made my way back to the tents and admired the decorative corn before getting some advice on the ideal pumpkin varietal for pie.

Decorative corn on a table in front of the pumpkin patch
The colors of the decorative corn were stunning.

I selected two, then decided I couldn’t resist the idea of their harvest raspberry jam with clove and added it to my spoils (I was right to bring it home. I still haven’t told my husband it is in the fridge because I’m not prepared to share that perfectly autumn preserve with anyone. Move over, pumpkin spice!).

Last night, I baked my first homemade pumpkin pie, from farm to foil plate. I can’t personally vouch for the outcome on the taste buds, as it is a gift pie for friends, but I can say without a doubt this is the most fun I’ve ever had preparing a dessert.

This Thanksgiving I (and hopefully the friends who receive this pie) will give thanks for living in the Warm Valley region of Wyoming: Wind River Country.

Posted in Notes From the Field