Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Apple Picking in Flat Rock, NC

One of the main reasons we chose to go to the mountains for our most recent vacation was to go apple picking. We had never done this before and it looked like a lot of fun for the family. We chose Sky Top Orchard, as it was in very close proximity to Hendersonville where we would be gem mining that morning.

It is called Sky Top Orchard for a reason. The drive up the mountain was stunning. When we reached the top, we were met with a gravel parking lot full of cars, a playground full of happy children, school buses from both North Carolina and South Carolina, and apples trees galore. This was a very large apple picking operation. Not what we were expecting at the top of this very steep and winding road leading to the top of the mountain. The smell of freshly baked apple cider doughnuts won us over, even though we knew they were off limits for our family.

We got out of the van and headed into the "apple stand" to figure out how to begin our quest for apples. An older gentleman gave us a map of the orchard with all apple varieties listed on various different rows and circled the ones which were currently being harvested. These, of course, were at the far end of the orchard. He informed us that it would be a 12 minute walk. We gathered a few baskets and found a wagon and began our apple picking adventure.

After quite a walk up and down various hills, we had finally arrived. Pink Lady apples were currently in picking season. The trees were filled with apples and the ground was covered with just as many apples as there were still left in the trees.

Bridget trying to decide how to conquer the apple trees

George picking his very first apple.

Bridget, George, and Daddy had a great time picking apples. I picked a few, but kept my camera handy while also keeping an eye on Liam who was on the ground.

Super Daddy, with Liam in one arm, helping George pick an apple from high up in the tree

George, proud as can be with another freshly picked apple

The view from under the apple tree

Liam spent most of his time either trying to pull the wagon or playing with the apples. He soon discovered that they were edible. I watched him very carefully as he took his first ever bites of an apple. He did great! I was put at ease by the lovely sound of his new molars crunching on the juicy bits of fresh apple. He loved it and couldn't get enough. He had both baby slobber and apple juice dripping down his chin.

Liam eating his first apple

A mouth full of apple, "crunch, crunch, crunch".

When the special apple picking tool on a stick wasn't enough, Daddy invented a new apple picking gizmo: the George. It requires great strength and the ability to lift approximately 40 pounds up over your head while being hit in the face by apple tree branches and leaves. George was a good sport and made a great apple-picking duo with Daddy.

An apple-picking duo high up in the tree

The walk back to the apple stand to purchase our apples was a long one. We now had a cart of heavy apples and 5 hot individuals. George did a great job helping Daddy pull the wagon up and over the never-ending hills (were there this many on the way in??) while Bridget pushed the wagon from behind. I was amazed at how much energy they had left after picking so many apples. Not once did they complain and want to be carried, not that their complaining could have done much. My hands were already full with Liam and Daddy was pulling the heavy wagon. Half way back up the hills, we stopped for a short rest. The children were rosy cheeked from the hard work (with the exception of Liam who enjoyed his ride on my hip the entire way) but willingly sat for a picture in the orchard with our baskets full of apples.

We made it back to the apple stand and made our purchase. We only picked the Pink Lady apples (which turned out to be 2 "pecks" worth). We bought an additional 1/2 peck of pre-picked Granny Smith apples for homemade apple pie, two gallons of freshly made apple cider, and 3 apple cider slushies to help cool us down.

(While waiting in line, we learned that they only accept cash, so I had to run to the car to get my wallet as my husband thought he may not have enough in his. We're not cash people, but I'm glad we had enough to cover our goods. I felt this is very important to note in case we make another trip to this same orchard in the future.)

Our apples and apple cider. Cider slushies not pictures; they didn't last long.
The apple slushies were great and it was Liam's first ever taste of apple juice/cider. He finished almost the entire slushie himself. While Liam was drinking his slushie, Bridget and George played in the playground while Daddy loaded the apples into the van. He confessed to me on the 5 hour drive home that while I was in the playground with the kids, he purchased himself an apple cider doughnut. This was after I had confessed that I was about to buy him one as a surprise but had left my wallet and keys in the van. He's a sneaky one, but I'm glad he was able to get himself a treat. By the way, he did say that it was delicious.
I did not get to sample the fresh apple cider until the day after we got home. It is the best apple cider I have ever tasted. Store-bought cider tastes almost fermented and powerful, but this fresh apple cider was amazing and easy to drink. I'm beginning to think that two gallons may not have been enough.

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