This past weekend, Mike and I ditched the sweltering coast and headed for the foothills. A drive up winding roads scattered with auburn leaves took us to a quaint hilltop dotted with family-run orchards. As we pulled off to the side and parked under the shade of a gangly pine, I drew a deep breath of crisp mountain air and readied myself for some apple-picking.
The century-old Willowbrook Orchard is a gorgeous little farm bustling with gaggles of laughing children, trees groaning under a bounty of apples, an absurdly fat pig and her sidekicks “Comet” and “Flopsy”, and the cutest little shed packed with jars of honey, apple butter, and home-made jams. The Swansons are charming folks, delighting in showing visitors around their orchard, telling jokes and lending a hand over at the cider press.
After sharing a cup of just-pressed apple cider, we gathered up our little satchel and took to the trees. Mike spotted a few bountiful branches and we managed to rustle up some beautifully lush fruit.
Setting off past the berry thicket, in search of a mothership tree, Mike got side-tracked admiring a plump little friend…
With our sack full of big ol’ winesap apples and our arms growing weary from wrestling with wild branches, we paid for our bounty and headed down the road again.
Passing by a few farmstands and a tempting sign for a “Corn Maze”, we came upon a huge craft fair and village. Little shops selling hand made knick-knacks lined the paths, a restaurant terrace was packed with families lunching in the sunshine, and an older gentleman manned the petting zoo, offering children little cups of corn kernels to feed the little lambs and reindeer. Mike and I perused the scene for a little while before being completely overwhelmed by the unmistakable scents of fresh-baked apple pie. Following our noses, we came upon a bakery heralding “Mile-High Apple Pie” which we lined up for immediately. A few minutes later we were handed a fantastically huge slice of warm pie, mounded with vanilla bean ice cream. Our two tiny little plastic forks wittled away at this delicious monstrosity until there wasn’t a crumb left.
Bellies happy, lungs full of fresh air, and smiles still glued to our faces, we got in the car once more and headed home.
Now I just have to cook up something deliciously autumnal with all these apples!