Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple Adventures

Bowen was in town this weekend, and since it was a beautiful Indian Summer of a Saturday, we decided to seize the day and go Apple picking!

Ahh apple picking, we were thinking. What a relaxing, enjoyable, delicious activity to do in the fall. We planned to go an a hike in the afternoon, so this would just be a brief stop off before that. I'd driven by that "Pick your Own Apples" handpainted sign on the way to Monticello and some of the vineyards in the eastern part of town (only about 5 minutes from my apartment) and figured it would be an easy thing to do. Well, clearly we needed a slap in the face, because apple picking was neither brief nor easy. It was a whole-hearted adventure.

Turns out that not only had we chosen the Disneyland of Apple Orchards, we'd done so during their "Apple Harvest Festival" weekend, which also coincides with the Saturday two weeks before Halloween (i.e. ideal pumpkin purchasing time). So, there was nothing leisurely about this.

As we made the turn by the sign, we were met by a man in the road who handed us a map. "A map? How cute," we thought to ourselves, "we'll know where to find which kind of apples," not realizing that this was the first sign of many that this was more than a "cute" day at the orchard. As we wound our way slowly up the mountain (it took about 15 minutes, very windy), we started to realize that there were a heck of a lot of cards coming at us, on their way down the mountain. They were coming in droves by the hundreds, and we just could not figure it out. How many people could really be apple picking that there was this fast of a turnaround?? Ha.

Turns out, it was a complete zoo. Think Playland on a sunny Saturday in July. Took about 20 minutes to find a parking spot, weaving through the hundreds (literally) of cars and thousands (literally) of people. Strollers, wagons, babies, grandparents, families of 20, you name it, they were there. It was packed. Who were all these people? I have no idea and still cannot figure it out. They must have been coming in from all over the state! It was a holiday weekend, so all of the UVA students were out of town, plus there was a UVA football game going on, so all Charlottesvillians who enjoy UVA football were there. These people, whoever they were, there were a lot of them.

The festival was huge. 200 person lines for hot dog stands, doughnut stands, hayrides, bathrooms, tent vendors, pumpkins, everything!! You could barely navigate the place. We grabbed our bags and ran into the orchards, trying to hunt for apples as far from other people as possible.

Luckily, the actual orchards were fantastic. They were only semi-crowded, and if you went just a little bit farther into them than the other families, the apples were abundant. Oh, right, the apples. They were delicious!! We tried every type they had (we each probably ate 9 apples in 2 hours) and picked our favorites -- Golden Delicious, Fuji, York, and Granny Smith. Each apple was juicier than the last, and there's something about eating them while wandering the orchard picking them that makes them taste just that much better.

We ended up with 4 pounds of apples and avoided all lines. One of the highlights of this place (Carter Mountain, by the way) is the view. You are way up on top of the mountain, overlooking Charlottesville. It was absolutely stunning! All in all, the drama was well worth the wholesome fun. We really had a great time and will certainly be laughing about the completely unbelievable crowds for years to come. I honestly had no idea that apple picking could be comparable in hecticness to the Bronx Zoo. Well, the Bronx Zoo with a very southern twist.

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