Saturday, October 27, 2007

Apple Hill Adventures

We have a place in the nearby Sierra foothills that we visit every fall. It is one of the things that our family loves about fall. We always plan to go together as a family, but most years we go three or more times. Any of our out-of-town relatives that visit in the fall always want to go there. So, in our home, Apple Hill is synonymous with autumn. We went up yesterday, as Jared's sister and her boys were in town, and the weather was perfect--plus we avoided the weekend crowds. Fun was had by all. Below is an introduction to some of our favorite spots to visit at Apple Hill, so if you don't care, just scroll down to look at the pictures and leave me a comment anyway!
Apple Hill is a group of orchards, ranches, wineries, and farms that have come together to market themselves as a tourist destination. Each place offers something slightly different, although in September and October you are sure to find many places offering pumpkin patches, corn or hay mazes, and even a petting zoo. Everywhere you go you'll find appley treats. The apple cider doughnuts at Rainbow Orchards are almost always our first stop. They don't make them until you order them, so they come out piping hot, which is good because it slows you down as you inhale them. Their apple cider is also the best because it is made on site (you can get apple cider at any of the farms, but many of them don't make it fresh on the premises.) Rainbow has a beautiful orchard that you can picnic in or wander and take pictures as we did last fall. I like to buy my apples (20 lbs at a time) here, even though they are slightly more expensive than Abel's (later) because they are nice quality, crisp apples.
We also like to visit Honey Bear Ranch, were they roast a pig outdoors everyday (my apologies to my veggie readers); the food there is wonderful--the owners used to be caterers down in the valley and moved to Camino for a lifestyle change. The kids like their watermill and koi pond; some times they have a kiddie craft table where they can make a peanut butter pinecone birdfeeder for $2 or something along those lines (since my kids are craft starved, they absolutely love that kind of thing when the opportunity comes up.) And their apples are organic!
Jared's favorite treat to have at Apple Hill is the walkin' pie at Kids Inc. It is supposedly a single serving pie although I don't think I could eat a whole one and I'm a pretty good eater if no one is watching! They have a pumpkin patch and a great hill for rolling down if you are so inclined. They also have a nature trail, though I don't recall the walk. It's been a couple of years since we we took it.
Plubell's Family Orchard is another spot we love to take the kids. I don't think we've ever eaten there, but they have a great pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, a nature walk that we enjoy, and tractors and tire swings for the kids to climb all over. (This is Gabriel, my nephew, on the swing.) They also have nice spots to picnic if you've brought your own food.
A popular spot is High Hill Ranch, although frankly I think that it's too crowded to be worth it. They do have amazing apple fritters, but as you can only eat so much in one day, there are plenty of other farms to visit. They have a stocked pond for fishing, a fudge kitchen, cider mill, and lots of other stuff, but it is always teeming with people.
Able's Apple Acres is always either our first or last stop. This is where I go if I'm in the mood for good apples that are inexpensive. They seem to run a bit smaller and a bit more picked over than Rainbow's, but that may be because they are a more popular destination. They have pumpkins but not much of a patch, pony rides, a hay maze, and a big hill for rolling down. Also some cheesey photo ops, if you're into that--which my kids are. No orchard to wander, but lots of good food including about a dozen varieties of caramel and fudge apples, some apple oatmeal cookies to die for, fudge, and of course (just like everywhere else) frozen unbaked or freshly baked apple pies. They also have several kiosks outside with various crafters and local artisans but I've never found anything at those that I even considered buying.(This photo was taken three years ago, on the last weekend before Ian was born, on our family outing to Plubell's.)
Needless to say, visiting Apple Hill every year is something our kids look forward to and I try to save some calories for weeks ahead. It definitely feels like fall there and we always come home with a big box of local apples and tummies full of things we shouldn't indulge in very often. I highly recommend it!


Anonymous said...

Hi Michal,
Enjoyed your pictures. We love to go to Apple Hill also. It has become a little family tradition. My favorite spot is Rainbow orchards for the apple donuts, they are the BEST! Not many people seem to know about them. I hope we make it there soon.

Michal said...

yes, those apple cider donuts are indeed the best. i've noticed that they are cropping up at other ranches, but no one makes them like rainbow.
get up there before the rain comes! although we've been plenty of times in the rain and it's not a total bust.

The Duffy's said...

Hi Michal, I just wanted to let you know that I love this "Apple Hill" post. I live near Lake Tahoe and go to Apple Hill once or twice a year in the Fall. I always check this post of yours to make sure we hit all the spots that you talk about. You have a beautiful family! Aimee