Saturday, October 1, 2011

How Bout Them Apples?

Cameo Apples - Justus Orchards
Hendersonville, NC - September 17, 2011

For a city girl, who religiously eats an apple a day, I hate to admit the fact that I've never picked apples before.  Considering I have distant relatives who actually OWN an apple orchard and the fact that I make FREQUENT visits to one of our local orchards further compounds the unusual fact that I've never been to a u-pick orchard and picked them myself.  That is, until a few weeks ago.  Check another one off the bucket list.  

Mr. B and I set out Friday afternoon, September 16, for a much needed weekend roadtrip to our "go-to" spot of choice, Boyd Mountain Cabins in Waynesville, NC.  This trip was a last minute decision after a particularly hectic Friday and I was thrilled to find the Little Cosby cabin available due to a cancellation.  It is late enough in September that the leaf peepers are starting to travel and I wouldn't have been surprised to find no availability anywhere.  To get something exactly where we wanted to be was a gift!

Temps Friday evening in Waynesville were in the low 50's and after a fine dinner at The Sweet Onion, we enjoyed our first fire of the season in the wood-burning fireplace.  On Saturday, we meandered across a short section of the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for fall.   And we found it.  Or maybe I should say, we found evidence it was on its way!

Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina
September 17, 2011

But we had a destination in mind and after a quick stop at Looking Glass Falls.....................

...............we found ourselves in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

North Carolina is the seventh largest apple producing state in the US.  85% of those are grown in western North Carolina with 150 apple orchards in Henderson County alone.  I had done my research using the Farm Fresh, North Carolina book that I've mentioned previously and chose Justus Orchards as the place I wanted to visit.  Their picking schedule indicated they had Cameo apples which are my favorite and not easy to find in Tennessee.  They also had a variety called Candy Crisp, with which I was not familiar, but sounded yummy and I was intrigued.  

So we arrived and we picked!   I LOVED the philosophy of the folks handing out your baskets and answering questions.  Here's what they said, "pick one off the tree, eat it, if you like it, put some in your basket."  Always with a smile and sending you off into the orchard with a hearty, "have fun!"  All I wanted was apples to eat, so we only picked 1/2 peck, but the Cameos are to die for and the Candy Crisp are delicous beyond description.  Turns out, the Candy Crisp variety was first grown in the Hudson Valley area of New York State.  Normally, I'm not a fan of yellow apples, but these are EXCELLENT!  Crisp and sweet.  So yummy!  Can't resist sharing a couple of pictures of our adventure in the apple orchard...............
Yep, that's me!  Farmer Sharon sits atop her tractor!

You get the impression there weren't many people here.  Wrong!  The place was very crowded and obviously extremely popular.  The red covered area to the right were several picnic tables.  The orchards were off to the left.

And yes, they had the best fried pies I've ever tasted and fresh apple cider doughnuts that literally melted in your mouth.  I would like too say I didn't indulge, but that wouldn't be honest.  However, we did make the conscious choice to only eat doughnuts while sitting at the picnic tables.  We brought none home with us which was a switch from year's past when at least an extra dozen would've left the orchard with us, but probably never made it home!  Our tribute to healthier eating!!

After leaving the orchard, we took a quick trip through our summer home.  Some people call it Biltmore Estate - we call it our second home.  We've had season passes for many years and although we rarely visit the house during tourist season, we take full advantage of the hiking/walking path, gardens, winery grounds, etc.  There is so much more to Biltmore than a big house!!  We knew it was a tiny bit early for the mums to be blooming, but hoped we might see the last of the roses.  As it turns out, the mums weren't even planted yet, but look what we found...................

Aren't they just exquisite??

It had been a long day, we'd traveled a lot of miles, so quite content with our day's activities, we headed back to our oasis at Boyd Mountain and spent a very quiet evening in front of another fire reading, talking and just enjoying relaxing.

This morning, we headed back home the long way.  Who needs interstates???  Back up on the Blue Ridge Parkway going in the opposite direction of yesterday with our first stop at the brand new Oconoluftee Visitor's Center at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There is a 1.5 mile riverwalk starting at the visitor center and meandering along the river that is just beautiful.  We enjoyed walking it and got some exercise at the same time.

Oconoluftee River Trail - Cherokee, NC

After that, it was another hour and a half across the mountain and we were home.  It was a short trip not too far from home, but we felt as if we'd been away for days!  

And by george, I got to pick apples.

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