Fall is in the air! Oh, when I think about how I used to let the seasons slip past me, I want to travel back in time and shake myself.
“Stop thinking about boys! Stop worrying about whether or not you will get married someday. Look at the world around you, Heather! Get your head out of the clouds, go outside, and enjoy the clouds – and the beautiful leaves, and the cool breeze, and the autumn smells!”
Since there is nothing I can do about the years I spent in La La Land, I can make up for lost time now by throwing open the windows, crunching through the leaves on an afternoon walk, drinking warm apple cider, and taking advantage of the Fall festivities happening all around me!
Apples = Fall!
Nothing says “It is fall” quite like an apple orchard! During Mom and Dad’s recent weekend visit, we had the pleasure of visiting Charlottesville’s Carter Mountain Orchard with my brother-in-law (David) and sister-in-law (Vanessa). This hot spot has been on my places to visit list for several years now, and Saturday I was finally able to experience it (and its famous apple cider donuts), for myself. What better year to go than during my Year of Experiences?! Plus, I am so glad I was able to go with some of my favorite people. ~smile~
Our orchard day was a bit of a last minute arrangement. Earlier in the month, David, Vanessa, and I planned to surprise Eric with a trip to the orchard for his birthday; but, since it had rained several days in a row, we figured the orchard would be a muddy mess. So, we made up for it with a day of games and Ethiopian food. ~smile~ With Mom and Dad coming specifically to enjoy the fall mountain colors, inspiration struck! Why not try the orchard again?! David and Vanessa happened to be available, so we met up at our house the next day and carpooled (boys in one car, girls in another) to our happy destination.
She’ll Be Sliding Down the Mountain When She Comes!
Having heard horror stories of how busy Carter Mountain Orchard is on Saturdays, we were not 100% sure we would even be able to get in; so, we were pleasantly surprised to see traffic moving when we reached the base of the mountain. We slowly began creeping up the hill, bumper to bumper, and enjoying the beautiful trees on both sides of us. As we continued climbing, we reached some steep sections and my poor little Camry did not handle it well.
With so much traffic, and us riding the break all the way up, there were many stops and starts. Several times I held my breath, said a prayer, and hit the gas knowing that if I did not hit the accelerator hard enough, I would slide into the car behind me; but, if I pressed it too hard, I would crash into the car in front of me. At one point my mom exclaimed, “I’m glad I used the bathroom when we stopped for gas!” It was a bit of a nerve-wracking climb, but we giggled all the way to the top. Squealing tires and all, it was a fun hike for my car.
Photo Opportunities Everywhere!
When it comes to photography, you simply cannot go wrong on a mountain top. Regardless of the season, there is always something majestic about standing above the town below and seeing for miles in all directions. We just happened to have the privilege of being atop a mountain during the awesome-est of all seasons. ~smile~
My artistic, nature-loving sister-in-law whipped her camera out at the base of the mountain, took pictures all the way to the top, and then found excuses to take several more as the day progressed. Our fun was sufficiently documented.
Apple Donuts, Apple Cider, and Apple Pie – Oh My!
What we were not prepared for was all the walking. Wow! By the time we finally reached the top of the mountain, the parking lot was full; so, they had us park single file next to some grape vines. We wrapped up in our jackets (as it was a bit blustery) and then started our trek to the festivities.
If you are a lover of apples, plan to visit an orchard, if you have not already – preferably one that offers more than the opportunity to pick your own fruit. This orchard had a charming country store that sold apple salsa, apple jams and jellies, apple cider, and apple butter along with several other treats and crafts. Outside the store were bins filled with beautiful apples, in case you did not want to pick your own from the trees.
In a neighboring building, folks were lined up in droves to order apple cider donuts, apple pies, and lunch items. We purchased a dozen donuts… and I wish I could tell you we shared them. Nope! We finished them all off ourselves (‘ourselves’ meaning Eric and myself – and Ramsey had her share too). Thankfully, it did take us a few days to finish all twelve, but only because we were practicing restraint!
Word to the wise – if you ever do buy their donuts, reheat them in a toaster over. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Even days later they are fabulous warm!
We also purchased an apple pie, but I think our eyes were bigger than our tummies. We are still working on it and have most of it left to go!
Apples are Sweeter When You Pick Them Yourself!
This is not necessarily true. ~smile~ Before we made our purchases, we grabbed some bags and headed further up the mountain to pick some apples. We walked and we walked and we walked. We finally stopped in front of the Fuji trees because, let’s face it, Fuji apples are indeed the best apples on the planet (well, at least Eric and I agree on that ~smile~). When we finally committed to a row of trees, we came face-to-face with the reality of our shortness (versus the apples which had already been picked without ladders). There were apples on the ground and apples way high in the trees, and there we were with short legs and no ladders.
So, we tried another section – Stayman apples. Same problem. Short legs, no ladders. ~smile~ That is when we unanimously decided to buy our apples from the bins outside of the country store (for just a little bit more – which Eric and I thought worth it after we were at the apple trees to pick apples ourselves!). Next time, we can either come earlier in the season or bring an apple picker with us! They exist and they are not terribly expensive. And, they beat climbing on each other’s shoulders!
Sometimes Crowd are Okay – Even for This Introvert!
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of crowds; but, somehow an army of fall-loving people enjoying God’s creation on top of a mountain did not seem so bad. Not to mention, we all survived the porta-potty situation! Such traumatic experiences bring people together. ~wink~
Adorable children with ice cream cones wandered by, mothers with strollers meandered past, and autumn crispness filled the air. It was just a bright, sunshine-y, apple-y day!
Coming down the mountain was a bit easier than climbing up. We ended our orchard day with a trip to Noodles and Company (yummy!) and Trader Joe’s (also yummy) followed by a time of sweet fellowship and conversation on the ride home. All in all, it was a terrific day I will remember for a long time!
Experiences Can Bring Families Together!
It was such a blessing to spend the day with my parents and the family God gave me ten years ago. Sometimes it is a challenge to unite two families, but on Saturday it felt completely natural. Dad even exclaimed, “There’s my other daughter!” when Vanessa walked through the door that morning. It blessed my heart to know we are all morphing into one, happy family.
Some of my happiest times with family have involved getting out of the house and doing something new. During those outings, we find there is so much more to our loved ones than what we see around the Thanksgiving table. We can either keep our families wrapped tightly in a comfortable box, or we can challenge them and see how they rise to the occasion. Venture outside of your “normal” with your loved ones and try something completely out of the ordinary. There is nothing scary about going to an apple orchard, but I do not recall my parents and I exploring one when I was a child. We had a tremendous time last Saturday, and it was a blessing to make some new memories with them, my hubby, and David and Vanessa.
Bundle up, pack a picnic lunch, and drive to your nearest apple orchard before fall turns into unbearable winter! If you do not have an apple orchard near you, find the nearest Fall attraction and go! Such places create avenues for some beautiful photos and warm memories.
We hope you and your special someone will remember this Fall as one of the best seasons ever! Eric and I are heading out to do some horseback riding in a few days – and last week I drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway with a friend. On Halloween, we are carving pumpkins (though, not your normal Halloween spooky/scary patterns) and sipping cider! Fall is out there waiting for us to enjoy it! Enjoy it together. Jump in some leaves and make some memories!
What Fall experiences have you and your sweetie enjoyed together so far this year?