Adventures at Apple Hill: Part 2 — Apples ripe for the picking at Apple Hill. Family memories made to last a lifetime.
Last Saturday my husband, David, and I decided to take the drive for some Adventures at Apple Hill. From our house in South Reno, NV to Camino, CA it’s roughly 2 hours, so it may seem like a long venture for some apples, pumpkins, and baked goods, but most Northern Nevadans agree, it is definitely worth the trip. I hadn’t been to Apple Hill in nearly a decade, so I was looking forward to the adventure. Plus, this was my son’s first time of what will hopefully be an annual event, so I felt the twinges of a new tradition in the making. With excitement in the air and the fingerlings of a cold front on the way, we hopped in the car and drove to Camino that is near Placerville, California to visit Apple Hill.
As Will mentioned in his previous post, Apple Hill isn’t just one orchard, but a community of orchards, collectively known as the Apple Hill Growers Association. In total there are over 50 farms, orchards, wineries, and markets dotting the landscape of Placerville. This makes it impossible to walk from one attraction to another, so plan on either driving and parking or catching a ride on the convenient Apple Hill Shuttle, which is essential if you want to partake in some of the excellent adult libations along the way. You see, there are a couple wineries and brewery at Apple Hill as well. The ride is free and the bus arrives at marked spots every 15-20 minutes, so it is a great option if you know you’re going to be drinking during your visit or if you just want to be green and save on emissions, it being California and all.
While I love wine, my reason for this two hour drive was simple; I wanted to pick apples. It’s important to note that not all orchards allow you to wander through the trees to pick your own apples. The orchards that do are called “U-Pick” orchards and are marked not only on the Apple Hill maps, but usually with a big sign in front. According to my most recent count, there are eleven orchards in Apple Hill that allow U-Pick and are designated on the map legend with a “UP”. I was adamant that the only places we stop were the ones that granted my family and I permission to meander through the tree lanes to fill my own bucket.
David wanted to start on the East side of Apple Hill, as it was the first from our direction. Therefore, we settled on Hangtown Kid Apple Orchard (#15).
It was a pleasant surprise that Hangtown was also organic, which we found out as we wandered the apple trees. The trees were smaller, which made it easy for my son to pick apples himself. We asked the growers, a very sweet husband and wife team, and they explained they grow dwarf Fuji apple trees, which apparently produce a sweeter apple. One taste and there was no doubt; these apples were delicious. After walking and picking for roughly 15 minutes, we brought our 15-20 apples to the growers and I was ready to shell out the cash. Imagine my surprise when the total costs came to $3! Just think, if you had purchased roughly seven to eight pounds of organic Fuji apples at a local grocery store, you would be paying a minimum of $10-$15 dollars, maybe more. With that happy news, we went to their sister orchard across the street to pick out some pumpkins.
I have actually never been to a pumpkin patch that was a real pumpkin patch with pumkins still on the vine. Usually, the pumpkins have been cleaned, stems trimmed, and they are piled on the ground just waiting for someone to pick them up.
This pumpkin patch was authentic. Pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, and colors were randomly sprawled about the place. Some were still green while others were white and of course, your traditional token orange pumpkins.
Hangtown Kid Apple Orchard (#15)
After trampling through vines and allowing C to go a little overboard with the mini pumpkins, we finally found the perfect ones. For six pumpkins it came to $17. Not too shabby.
At this point, I was starving, so our next destination was lunch. We stopped at Bodhaine Ranch (#68), mainly because there was a large wooden sign on the front that mentioned apple-smoked sausage dogs. Yummy! After some imaginative parking by my husband, we walked in and ordered some of the best sausage and apple dogs I have ever tasted. In true Apple Hill form, instead of regular condiments, we were given apple sauce. We also ordered an old-fashioned apple pie slice to share. Now, I should preface this by saying I make a mean apple pie and sadly, I wasn’t overly impressed with this one. There were crates of apples for sale that looked delicious, but we didn’t drive two hours to shop like a grocery store, so we moved on to the next U-Pick farm. David also informed me he wanted fudge, so our goals were in place.
Bodhaine Ranch (#68)
We up to this point we stuck on the east side of Apple Hill and decided to head west. This ended up being a mistake. I’m not sure if it was the time we tried to get to the other end or an accident ahead, but we ended up only moving 500 yards in twenty minutes.
Defeated, we pulled a u-turn and headed back to the east side and to Apple Ridge Farms (#20) where I saw a sign that said, “fudge kitchen”. Thankfully, the kitchen was fully stocked with every type of fudge imaginable and they gave out free samples, a dangerous thing to do in a fudge shop. Should find yourself stopping by, I highly recommend their mint and cookies & cream flavors.
Apple Ridge Farms (#20)
It was starting to get late in the afternoon, so we decided one more stop and then time to head home. I chose my last U-Pick, Denver Dan’s Apple Patch (#14). Denver Dan grows mainly Fuji and Golden Delicious apples but after I implored about my beloved granny smiths he told me he has one tree in the front. Fortunately, that one tree was bursting with fruit and I quickly filled a large bucket of perfect grannies. We ended up getting a few more Fujis and called it a day at Denver Dan’s Apple Patch.
Apple Hill is a must for families and children young and old in Northern Nevada. There is something so special about enjoying simple delights like picking apples. And, if fruit cultivation isn’t your thing, Apple Hill offers delicious food, merchant fairs, petting zoos, children’s activities, wine and beer tasting, and much more. I hope you take time to visit Apple Hill this year. You won’t regret it.