Pear season

The gold grows on trees at this time of year ― but you've got to leap to get at it. You won't regret the effort once you've bitten into the sweet, mild goodness of a ripe pear and let the juice dribble down your chin.

Westerners have access to the nation's freshest, most succulent fruit―beginning now, local farmers' markets are loaded with the season's bounty. But even better is a road trip straight to the source: Here are three top destinations.

Oregon's Hood River Valley contains the largest pear-producing county in the U.S. www.hoodriverfruitloop.com

In the western Colorado town of Palisade, pear harvest begins in mid-August and lasts through mid-September. www.palisadecoc.com

California's Lake County, about two hours north of San Francisco, is famous for the quality of its Boscs and Bartletts. www.lakecounty.com  ―Lora J. Finnegan