I love fall. I love the crisp mornings, the falling leaves, and cozy feeling of scarf around my neck. I am lucky that my birthday lands right in the midst of my favorite season. A couple months ago I began to hear about the Apple Hill Region of Northern California, just east of Placerville in the Sierra Foothills. An area of over 50 farms and ranches; it is a blend of apple orchards, fruit growers, christmas tree farms, and wineries.
Apple picking is THE quintessential fall outing that I hadn’t enjoyed in years. Unfortunately, it felt like it was just a bit too far to do a day trip with 2 small children. So when I started to think about how I wanted to celebrate my birthday in late October, the idea of spending a couple of nights in area during my favorite time of year seemed perfect.
I was able to find a great house for rent through airbnb.com; a 2 bedroom cottage on a 42-acre ranch, complete with horses, sheep, and chickens. We were south of the Apple Hill region by about 30 minutes in the heart of Amador County, outside a tiny town called Fiddletown. It is an area I had not been to before, the heart of Gold Country, and it was such a lovely and quiet place to be. It is dotted with small towns such as Plymouth, Sutter Creek, and Amador City, to name a few. Most of these old gold mining towns still center around rambling Main Streets that hold a charm of a time long ago. Few tourists, kind and welcoming merchants, and beautiful weather came together to give us a much needed 48-hour respite.
Staying on the ranch turned out to be such a wonderful experience for all of us. The kids were able to visit the sheep and chickens every morning as the sun came up. I was able to wander the property, enjoy the sunrise, and watch deer and wild turkeys get a start to their day. Our hosts were so accommodating, leaving us a bowl of eggs and a bottle of Barbera, made from the small vineyard on their property. Ranch life in a region steeped in California history sure left us considering, “WHAT IF”? A pile of rusted relics and a depression in the rocks outside our gate left by Native Americans, likely from grinding acorns, reminded us that we were not the first, nor the last, to enjoy this land.
We spent our one full day in Apple Hill. I was ready to go; I had advice from friends and fellow bloggers, and the “Apple Hill App” fired up on my phone. On our 1st stop I was dealt bad news: the you-pick apples had come to an end early in the region, a couple weeks prior, due to a short season. After about 30 minutes of extreme disappointment and reassessing our plans, we decided to make the most of it and visit several orchards. We drank fresh apple cider in the wooded picnic area at Bolster’s Hilltop Ranch. We ate homemade corn dogs and hot apple cider donuts at Rainbow Orchards. We watched cows eat pumpkins for lunch. We sat on the beautiful hillside outside Kids Inc., while Jake and I enjoyed a bottle of their hard cider. We visited the family farm animals; while Jake & Alex went through the corn maze, Molly and I snuck down and picked the remaining grapes off the vines to eat, until our hands were sticky from finger to finger. We bought bags of all different sorts of apples, and topped it all off with a small apple pie to take back to the ranch to enjoy later in the evening. It turned out to be a lovely experience, and even though I didn’t get to trudge through the orchards and pick my own apples to earn all that I indulged in, I think my 39 years earned me these few.
We hope to make this an annual tradition, and I encourage you to visit Apple Hill and make it yours too.
You can find out more information about Apple Hill as well as Amador County in the links below.
Official Apple Hill Website, www.applehill.com
If beer is your preferred beverage, we had a really nice experience at Amador Brewing Company in Plymouth. Here is the link to their Facebook Page for more information.
Photo Credit: All photos by Adrienne Schell